Patricia Ramsey: No more ‘business as usual’ about our climate

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thank you for publishing the op-ed by Darcy Dumont and letters from Felicia Mednick, and Anne Perkins in the Oct. 11 Bulletin. They eloquently support the urgent message of “No more business as usual!” that came through loud and clear from young people all over the world during the Climate Strike.

Getting beyond “business as usual” is challenging — I get it. Most people (including me) who care about climate change live lives full of contradictions. We save time by driving our cars instead of taking public transportation — even on our way to climate meetings. We buy cheap food and clothing that have traveled from afar via fossil-fueled transport. At the town level, short-term savings often take precedence over climate concerns in debates about school buses and building efficiency.

The council’s recent decision to purchase a diesel school bus rather than an electric bus is a classic example of “business as usual” and violates Amherst’s commitment to moving to 100% renewable energy. It also has far reaching implications. If Amherst — a town full of climate activists and experts in green technology — decides to keep buying diesel buses, what message does this send to other communities and to bus manufacturers?

Discussions about new town buildings will intensify soon, and no doubt they will be heated on many fronts. It may be tempting to bypass or compromise the zero-energy bylaw (passed in 2018) to follow the “business as usual” practice of reducing construction costs. I hope that all of us will support decisions that favor the long-term energy savings of zero-energy buildings and take advantage of the pioneering construction and energy technology already in place in a number of local buildings.

So here is an outrageous suggestion: Let’s totally blow by “business as usual” and pass bylaws that hold private developers to the zero-net energy standard. We are all living on a planet in crisis, and everyone need to step up. Adhering to our 100% renewable goals and net-energy bylaw and avoiding the rut of fossil-fuel expediency will require a lot of mental, financial and political effort from all of us. It is going to be tough.

However, as Darcy Dumont describes in her vision of Amherst in 2030, these efforts also have the potential to bring people together, support the development of new technology and related jobs, and over the long term save the town money.

During World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “These are no ordinary times.” Her words echo across the decades as we face the threat of extreme disruption due to climate change. May they inspire all of us to join together and commit to “No more business as usual!”

Patricia Ramsey