Posted on behalf of Linnea Palmer Paton, Worcester Outreach Coordinator for Students for a Just and Stable Future.
Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved Cape Wind in an announcement with MA Governor Deval Patrick, a strong supporter of the project. The nation’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind is a victory for renewable energy production in Massachusetts and in the United States. It shows the true potential the Commonwealth possesses, and gives us a glimpse of our clean energy future. Yet while Cape Wind is a step forward towards a just and stable future, it is only a baby step. If we truly intend to prevent rapid climate change, we need to do much more.
Speaking against Cape Wind, the Barnstable Land Trust says that “there is no other part of our community that offers more sweeping vistas, wildlife diversity, and a place of refuge from the steady march of development.” Yet, at the same time, it is our energy consumption here in Massachusetts that has driven coal, natural gas, and other energy development in other regions of the United States. And it is our consumption – the burning of fossil fuels to drive our single-passenger cars and heat our homes – that is setting the world up for rapid climate change. It seems that we, as Americans, are willing to reap the benefits of development as long as the side effects are ‘elsewhere.’ It is easier to ignore the consequences of our consumption than it is to acknowledge that these fossil fuel power plants are usually located in low-income, minority areas and that these people that are the least empowered to stop pollution in their community suffer the most. It is easier to conveniently forget that it is our energy consumption that is causing climate change that will lead to more droughts and extreme weather events, not only in poor countries where people depend on agriculture to sustain themselves, but here in the United States as well, than it is to take responsibility and act.
When natural disasters struck Louisiana, Indonesia, and Haiti, the world poured their hearts out to help these people in need. But what if the disaster didn’t happen all at once? What if it happened over several decades? What if the changes were slow and insidious? What if by the time it became obvious that something was very wrong it was too late to stop it? That’s climate change: a silent, creeping cancer. What if we knew that with early detection (which we have) and prevention (which we could have) we could avoid the worst? Wouldn’t everyone do all they could to lead the effort? After all, a little prevention goes a long way.
Having grown up at an Audubon center and having read the likes of Aldo Leopold, David Brower, John Muir and others, I am extremely sympathetic to the call for historical and environmental preservation. I am also deeply concerned about the consequences of my actions. And right now, I don’t like what I see. I know that the cost to the environment – the humanitarian, ecological and economic costs of climate change – are not factored into the price of the electricity I use in my house or the price of the gasoline I use to drive to work. I also know that while I have enjoyed the benefits of cheap energy, somewhere, someone else suffered. And to me, that is unacceptable.
Massachusetts already has some of the most aggressive climate policies in the United States. But these policies are not consistent with the most up to date science. These policies would only achieve too little, too late.
We not only can do better, but we must do better if we are to prevent rapid climate change. Yes, community participation in the planning, siting, and development process is important. Yes, the ecological integrity of the area for the proposed development is important. Yes, sensitivity to the historic and cultural roots of the area is important. But our responsibility for causing climate change, as citizens of the most consumptive country on earth, is important too. And it’s time we stepped up and took that responsibility by decreasing our consumption of fossil fuels.
And that is why I am standing with the Leadership Campaign. I want to see electricity used more efficiently. I want to see it produced locally and, more importantly, produced from clean, renewable resources. I want to see Massachusetts show the United States what responsibility looks like. I want to see us adopt policies like the “Act to Create a Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force” that aggressively pursue the prevention of rapid climate change. I want to see 100% Clean Electricity for Massachusetts within the next ten years!