Opinion: Our climate commitment

Published: 10/11/2022 6:01:41 AM
Modified: 10/11/2022 6:01:30 AM

Ann Podlipny of Chester is a member of the NH Network.

It’s remarkable that all of us have the capacity “to stop burning things” as climate activist Bill McKibben wrote in his essay, In a World on Fire. Though climate action can feel overwhelming at times, ordinary people continue to face the challenge.

Sharon Lavigne of RISE in St. James Parish, Louisiana, in partnership with the LA Bucket Brigade, Healthy Gulf, No Waste LA and others, reversed the Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality’s decision (LDEQ) to issue air permits that Formosa Plastics needed to build its petrochemical complex.

The decision forces LDEQ to abide by the Clean Air Act and fully assesses the environmental impacts of the toxic pollution (potentially emitting upwards of 13.6 million tons per year of greenhouse gases) that the company would have greatly exacerbated in an overburdened Black community.

We residents of New Hampshire are burdened to a lesser degree by an obsolete, inefficient ten-year energy policy that continues to rely on fossil fuels with no goals or timelines for reducing emissions. According to NHPR, New Hampshire is the only New England state without a statutory mandate for greenhouse gas reductions and has the lowest renewable energy requirements in the region. Bills like HB 172 to establish greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and a climate action plan have consistently failed to pass.

HB 1454 to expand the protection of New Hampshire’s waters beyond a minimum 20-foot buffer required between landfills and lakes, rivers and wells has been vetoed for several years as have net energy metering proposals. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a state policy requiring electric utilities to get electricity from clean sources (wind/solar) is only 20% in contrast to Maine (RPS to be 80%) and Vermont (RPS to be 75%) by 2023.

In this current climate of resistance, we must encourage residents to enforce the top three goals outlined by NH DES (Dept. of Environmental Services). They include reducing the quantity of solid waste generated, reducing the toxicity of the solid waste stream, and maximizing the diversion of residential, commercial and industrial solid waste from disposal. This extensive and challenging work invites us to take small actions. A recent Guardian article pointedly states that 80% to 90% of Americans completely underestimate the true level of public support for transformative climate policies.

Remember the sea turtle suffering from a plastic straw stuck up its nostril? He became a global rallying cry. This video initiated a break free from plastics movement that educated the public about the extent of plastic waste dumped in oceans worldwide and the myth of plastic recycling, namely, the justification for continued plastic production with all its harmful environmental effects that deplete resources needed for alternative energy systems.

The impact of a turtle in pain taught us to remain conscientious, aware of and engaged in our immediate surroundings. In a recent My Turn (Monitor, 9/14) titled “Paving Paradise in Pembroke,” Katie Duryea mourned “the lovely, ancient, giant maples” cut down mindlessly to widen her town road.

“These mature trees with their wide canopies reduced cooling costs for our homes. They provided food and shelter for native animals. They turned red and gold in the fall and ornamented our streets,” she wrote. Despite their irreparable loss urban tree planting programs in Manchester, thanks in part to “tree huggers,” are growing beautifully.

Ed Yong (Atlantic July/August 2022) reminds us we creatures are bound together in “our blinding, blaring world” citing the seas that no longer offer silence. Tankers leave wakes of sound radiating for miles; shipping fleets have tripled and move at higher speeds; humpback whales stop singing, orcas stop foraging and right whales become stressed. 90% of seabirds have swallowed the millions of tons of plastic humans have dumped into waterways and fish have become equally contaminated. Runoff from farms, mines and sewage fill water with ‘clouding choking algae’ that obstructs vision, creating blindness ‘like turning off the lights in the lake... in short, we have upended the worlds of other animals; senses that have served them well for millions of years are now liabilities.”

Our common sense knows the climate crisis is real and our senses note metaphorically the slightest shift in air currents and ripple effects. The useful daily actions to which we commit enhance our landscape and have far-reaching effects. Yong concludes, “Wonders exist in a backyard garden where bees take the measure of a flower’s electric fields, leaf hoppers send vibrational melodies through the stems of plants and birds behold the hidden palettes of ultraviolet colors on their flock-mate’s feathers. Wilderness is not distant. We are continually immersed in it.”

Let’s continue the ongoing struggle and oppose another environmental threat on our doorstep, the proposed asphalt plant designated for a Nashua neighborhood. Let’s demonstrate that local action is always possible, essential, and determined to nurture and protect.

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