Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship. This is an introduction to future columns sharing the perspectives of our youths about the future and the importance of stewardship. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.
Post-COVID, post-election, with a battered economy and in the face of looming climate disaster, motivation is high worldwide for more dramatic climate action.
A “green reset” is happening at every level and in every corner of the political, business and nonprofit ecosystem as it regards climate. And it’s a really needed one.
In general, the U.S. and other countries can do this by leveraging the pent-up demand for upgraded and new forms of infrastructure and the jobs that they generate. Building that new infrastructure will be a great investment opportunity and it will generate good, new jobs. Jobs that may require new job skills.
A big investment in much-needed new infrastructure, designed with green needs in mind, will energize community colleges and high schools to work with employers and business groups along with trade unions to invent new forms of apprenticeships for young America.
Working to alter the course of climate degradation isn’t harmful to our economy. Rather, it’s the way forward to better jobs and a better economy. New investments in our economy can have a big payback both financially and in terms of climate.
Locally, Newburyport has climate and environmental challenges of its own. Consider rising seas, a river that floods when moderately big storms hit. Consider the vulnerability of Plum Island and our sewer and water systems.
Fortunately, our city leaders have worked to address some of these issues with upgraded sewer systems on Plum Island and coastal armoring underway at our wastewater treatment plant.
The mayor and City Council have reduced streetlight electricity costs, purchased solar power at greatly reduced rates, encouraged the community to adopt renewable energy and recycle and compost, upgraded storm drains, banned the use of disposal plastic shopping bags, fixed sidewalks, and built biking and walking paths.
But there is a lot more to do. Small things like forming rain gardens in the new waterfront park spaces to buffer storm surge overflow. Bigger things like preventing saltwater intrusion into the Artichoke Reservoir.
Intergovernmental things like working with the state and the Merrimack Valley Region Transit Authority to plan for “last mile” circulating minibus bus routes throughout the city usable by schoolchildren and home office workers alike.
We need negotiations with business like pressing utilities to fix the gas leaks all over the city. They may not be explosive, like in Lawrence, but they certainly add to global warming and affect the air we breathe.
The city has many opportunities — working with building and mall owners to provide bicycle racks and bus stop wind shelters. And why not make space for community gardening, maybe along the entry to the Senior Center?
As a new generation of aspiring politicians emerge on the local scene, we might ask them what they see they can do to create this needed “green reset.”
How can they help make every neighborhood safe for biking and walking? How can they encourage and zone for walkable destinations like corner stores, coffee shops, meeting places and lunching in the neighborhoods as many more people telework and are in town during the day?
As a new generation of Newburyport youths emerge to lead in their own right, what are the things they might do to encourage their peers and parents to address climate change?
What are the new green jobs they might aspire to pursue? How can the community arrange apprenticeships and internships to help them get started? How can we, as a community, support them? Please watch for future ACES columns that will present their perspectives.
Let’s encourage our local political, business and education leaders to see their roles in a wide-angle way, through a wider aperture that takes climate and the environment into serious consideration. Let’s push the big green reset button now for Newburyport.
As President Joe Biden has written, “The undeniable reality of climate change is exacting an incalculable toll on lives and livelihoods in every community across the country. It is a challenge that requires us to act immediately.”
Ron Martino is an ACES adviser and lives in Newburyport.
This column was coordinated by Aces Youth Corps member Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about ACES, visit www.aces-alliance.org.