Anne Perkins: Demand a carbon neutral library

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Do all of your Amherst readers know that the Jones Library does not belong to us — in other words, to the town? It is an independent building owned by its trustees and served by town employees.

Yet we Amherst voters are being asked to support a major renovation and addition to the Jones Library. Because it is not a town-owned building, library trustees are able to ignore the zero energy bylaw that was passed by Town Meeting. All new (or majorly renovated) buildings owned by the town of Amherst must be zero energy, also called carbon neutral. They cannot use fossil fuels in their operation.

The Jones is able to ignore that bylaw because it’s not owned by the town. The Jones designers say that the building is “zero-energy ready,” but those words are empty. To become zero-energy, the building must be designed and constructed to that high standard from its inception. Because the design is some 10 years old, it does not meet current carbon neutral standards.

Here’s the thing. Our planet is in crisis, which I believe the people of Amherst understand. Given the horrendous fires, floods, hurricanes, heat waves and hard rains we’ve seen, I believe it is unethical for Amherst to be involved in voting for the construction of a building that uses fossil fuels. Whether it’s a town building or not.

We have some fine examples of zero-energy buildings in town. So we can circle our wagons and pretend not to notice what’s going on outside of our little town. We can spend money on a glorious new library that is not carbon neutral, not zero-net energy, wasteful of the materials in the existing building.

Or we can say a resounding “No.” We are planetary citizens and we will not support a new library until it meets current sustainability standards.

Anne Perkins