Mickey Rathbun: A sustainable Jones Library?

  • Jones Library JERREY ROBERTS

Wednesday, September 22, 2021
A sustainable Jones Library?

This summer’s devastating fires, floods and heat waves have driven home the reality of climate change. As we deal with these disasters and prepare for the inevitable ones to come, it is imperative that we adopt sustainable practices in all facets of our lives. These changes must happen now.

In June 2021, the town of Amherst adopted an ambitious new Climate Action Adaptation and Resilience Plan. The plan provides that “climate action, equity and resilience remain at the center of all municipal decisions.” The proposal for the redesign and expansion of the Jones Library should not be exempt from this assessment. What seemed like a reasonable plan 10 years ago when the redesign was first proposed may no longer be consistent with the town’s current sustainability goals.

Facing the imminent threat of climate change, leading architects worldwide have put sustainability front and center in their work. Acknowledging that the greenest buildings are those that already exist, architects are repurposing existing buildings to reduce the environmental costs of new construction. These include the cost of destruction, removal and disposal of demolished buildings, as well as the cost of new materials.

The estimated 1,660 tons of debris created by the present library plan would fill approximately 400, 22-foot-long dumpsters. What effect will such large-scale demolition have on air quality? Where will this debris end up, and how much energy will it take to transport it to its eventual destination? These are just a few of the sustainability questions to consider in evaluating the present Jones Library plan.

Amherst should not kick the can of climate change down the road. This is not a question of supporting the Jones Library. We can come up with a plan for a better library that is consistent with the town’s sustainability policy if we drop the angry “Yes/No” rhetoric and work together for a positive outcome. If we fail to do that, the new climate plan is just a hollow promise.

Mickey Rathbun