Can Gloucester and Cape Ann take the lead in developing a clean energy based economy? Can we do it with a goal of reducing our collective carbon footprint by 100% in a decade?
A growing group of Cape Ann citizens has been working now for over a year on developing a plan with the assumption that the answer to those questions can be a resounding, yes!
Climate change, caused by a growing amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, is an existential threat to our many species of life on our planet, including our own. The threats to our Cape Ann fisheries by ocean acidification, to our lower lying areas by sea level rise, and to our flora and fauna everywhere are well documented. We must strengthen our systems to be more resilient, both locally and beyond. As we all learn more about the growing threats, we must collaborate to lower our own carbon footprint ( the amount of greenhouse gases we each produce) as much as possible, both to reduce the source of the problem as much as we can, and to serve as a model for others.
The name of our initiative, Towngreen2025, is a program of the newly launched independent non-profit, the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation (GMF), which is affiliated with the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church. Candace Wheeler, Chair of the Clean Energy Commission of the City of Gloucester, and I are the Co-Chairs of Towngreen2025. Building on the success of the three wind turbines in Gloucester, we, with the help of many volunteers on various Towngreen2025 committees, are planning a ten year campaign to lower the carbon footprint of Cape Ann as low as possible.
The developing plan includes many strategies. Efficiency is the easiest, first step to achieve the goal, and is something that all of us can help with soon. Using efficient lights and appliances, carpooling, and insulation, are all examples of increasing energy efficiency. Other strategies are: individual home and business solar installations, (well under way); larger solar fields (in the planning stage); and other clean energy options, such as tidal energy systems.
There is no question that the technology needed to achieve our goal already exists. Many other communities in many countries have made significant progress and there is much to learn from others. As we learn, we can unite behind feasible local plans that have tangible and cost effective benefits to all of us. Individuals can lower their own footprint and their energy costs at the same time. The benefits to the City and towns of Cape Ann are many: Gloucester’s brand as a city of innovation will deepen; ecotourism to Cape Ann will thrive; local generation of battery stored energy for our public safety infrastructure will happen; energy costs should go down; and a more business friendly environment will attract job generating investments.
As Pope Francis made clear recently, this effort is also an ethical imperative, as all of us must work together to take care of our home planet. It is the only home we have.
TownGreen2025 is also planning to fund a curricula development effort to bring K-12 climate change units to Cape Ann schools. We will have partnerships with other non-profit organizations in this effort; including Reforest the Tropics, that could allow us to offset some of our footprint through the sequestration of carbon via an innovative tropical forest planting strategy.
The Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, MA, is one of the world’s leading climate change “think tanks”. After a recent visit by us to their center, they signed a letter of support for funding that included this statement: “By using all the clean energy options available, including solar, wind, and superinsulation, AND, by aggressively wedding those strategies to tropical reforestation, the goal of Cape Ann being carbon neutral by 2025 is achievable.”
Thanks to our new partnership with the Gloucester Daily Times, this is the first in a regular column on Towngreen2025 plans and accomplishments. Many more details on our plans, and the strategies that local citizens and businesses will be using and developing with us, will be featured at our Clean Energy and Sustainability Fair, on November 7, at Gloucester High School, from 9-4PM. Please come, learn and join the team.
About the author: Dick Prouty recently retired as the Executive Director of Project Adventure, (Beverly, MA), which he led over 30 years, to be the global leader in experiential and adventure education.