Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Questions to and about the Cambridge Climate Congress

Marilyn Wellons sent the following letter on January 17, 2010, to the Cambridge Chronicle, which has posted it online.

To the Editor:

Will the Climate Congress yield any positive changes in city policies? Its Draft Recommendations call for some actions to undo what has led to the increase, not reduction, in carbon emissions since 2002. Most notable among these policies has been the ever more refined sacrifice of all other values to increasing the tax base and feeding the city's contractors. What may have passed for long-run strategy now stands as short-run perversion of the public good.

Exhibit A: In order to provide needed playing fields for our schools and youth groups--without taking property off future tax rolls--the city has paid to remove, then install, 7 acres of dirt and grass on state parkland at Magazine Beach. What are and will be the emissions of trucking and construction, the new chemically grown and maintained sod, the swales to try to keep its toxic runoff from the river?

The Climate Congress Draft recommends a "Holistic Land Strategy"--the "optimal integrated usage of green open space . . . . providing nature preservation for people and animals." Rather than increase such open space, the city destroys it.

Exhibit B: At St. James Episcopal Church in North Cambridge, the Planning Board and Historical Commission are allowing the congregation and a developer to build condos on the church's garden.

In addition to its value as a carbon sink, the garden and its mature trees are a public asset. A 1987 Preservation Restriction Agreement for $600,000 between the church and the Massachusetts Historical Commission and subsequent preservation funds have protected the structure, garden, and sight lines of the historic landmark. On January 7, 2010, the Commission Chair noted its ongoing eligibility for Community Preservation Act funds.

By the city's calculus, however, our very investment in historic preservation here is reason to allow the destruction. At the January 7 hearing, the Commission agreed that enough public money has been spent. And so the garden and sight lines will be destroyed for condos, to increase the tax base.

Exhibit C: Trees are carbon sinks until cut down, whereupon they become carbon emitters. At Fresh Pond, Vellucci Park, Harvard Motor Inn, Squirrel Brand, LBJ apartments, Cambridge pays contractors to cut down healthy trees and replace them with saplings. This policy appears in no calculation of our carbon footprint I've found.

What are the odds the Climate Congress can change the regime's perverted calculations? Any takers?


The Cambridge Climate Congress will meet on January 23, 2010, to consider Draft Recommendations from the December session. The final recommendations will be addressed to the City Council, calling for Policy Orders on the city's response to climate change.