From coast to coast communities are experiencing the devastating environmental and financial effects of extreme weather events. Droughts, hurricanes and flooding have wreaked havoc on communities as close as New Jersey and left homeowners and small municipalities in financial crisis. In response, both states and municipalities are recognizing the need to adapt to the reality of extreme weather and plan accordingly—to protect their finances and maintain their quality of life. Acting early, individuals and communities can begin to make their infrastructure more resilient and their natural resources less vulnerable, ultimately saving landmarks, homes and millions of dollars.
For individuals and communities a two-pronged approach is necessary: reduce carbon emissions and prepare for extreme weather. Can we both reduce carbon emissions and develop plans to deal with the effects we are already seeing?
Forward-thinking members of the Lexington League of Women Voters have formed the Climate Change Community Conversation Steering Committee and are joined by other concerned town officials and community groups to address the resiliency of our town and the ways in which Lexington can both forestall the worsening of the problem and address the reality that is already here. As organizer Jeanne Krieger says, “It’s here, now we have to deal with it.” The League is sponsoring their second Community Conversation on Tuesday, February 26th so the community can gather together and explore these issues together.
Building on the success of last year’s event on the topic of What Does Community Mean? (which has resulted in a report and series of recommendations), this discussion event will follow the same format. Town Moderator Deborah Brown will preside over the evening and keep things on track. Pam Hoffman who also worked on last year’s successful event says they want participants to attend with an open mind. “We want to create a warm, welcoming, open and safe feeling for the evening. People will be greeted and randomly assigned to a table. There will be snacks and coffee and we will be working in small groups.”
The evening will kick off with a short talk from Anne Kelly an environmental lawyer who has worked the legal end of environmental issues in Massachusetts and is currently an advisor and policy expert for Ceres, an organization focused on developing global sustainability.
After Kelly’s remarks each small group of participants will work together to record observations and ideas that they will share with the larger group at the end of the evening. “This is a dialogue. There’s no right or wrong. We’re not looking for answers or solutions,” Hoffman stresses. “We’re going to start with this question and discuss it in small facilitated groups: What do you love about Lexington and could that be impacted by changing climate?”
“Unlike the first Community Conversation,” says Jeanne Krieger the main organizer of the event, “this Conversation is not in response to a Selectmen’s appointed task force, but rather stems from a feeling on the part of the League [the League of Women Voters], members of several town committees and citizens’ organizations that Lexington should consider the impacts of climate change in a more systematic manner.”
The Climate Change Community Conversation Steering Committee represents a variety of organizations throughout town ranging from the League of Women Voters to the Lexington Bike Committee, LexFarm and the Lexington Sustainability Committee. That’s because climate change and extreme weather will have an effect on every aspect of community life from heating and cooling our schools, siting and planning new construction, creating more efficient community transit and protecting our natural surroundings to recreation and tourism. Lexington also has a special responsibility to protect its historically significant landscape for future generations.
“We are all living with the impacts of climate change,” Krieger says. “We want to encourage people to share their observations—however big or small—to listen, talk and learn.”
Ultimately, Krieger hopes to provide the Selectmen and other town agencies with a report summarizing the recommendations from the Community Conversation session. “We will request to be on the Selectmen’s agenda and distribute it to all attendees,” she says. “Between the report and the warrant article, I expect there will be a fairly clear set of actions that might well include the call to develop a Climate Action Plan.”
For now, the group wants to hear from as many citizens as possible. “We want to bring in people from all different aspects of the community.” Hoffman says. “Most people are just beginning to think about this and we want them to know that they are not alone.”
Krieger, who has devoted years of service to the town and has served as the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen comments, “There are things we can do as individuals and as a community to slow this process and protect the town. We have accomplished much to make Lexington a green community. With a focused effort we can use the talents and resources of the community to make even more progress on this difficult issue.”
As Lexingtonians we have always been on the leading edge of advancement and change and here is another opportunity for our community to lead the way into a better future.