Climate Action Now!

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – May 1, 2017
Tom Benevento, Opinion

A lasting memory I hold dear from my childhood is a time when my parents took me to the coast of Maine where I discovered sea stars along the rocky tide pools. They inspired me with appreciation for the diversity and beauty of life. After college, I went to those same coastal areas and taught marine ecology to 5th- and 6th-graders. They too were inspired by the beauty and magic of sea stars and knew that those experiences will be lasting memories for them. More recently, Princeton University confirmed that sea stars are dying rapidly due to warming oceans. My heart sank at the loss of such magnificent creatures.

During the past 10 years, I have worked on the Haitian-Dominican border with rural farmers. I have seen them suffer from food insecurity as their lands become drier and hotter. In desperation, one farmer told me he had nothing to feed his family for six weeks except mangos found in abandoned trees. Drought shriveled his corn.

Last year was the hottest on record with searing heatwaves of 123 and 129 degrees in India and Kuwait. Human activity’s effect on our climate is no longer subtle. It’s plain as day, note climate scientists from Penn State University. Concern is growing world-wide. Solutions are achievable.

Stanford University carefully mapped a plan for the United States to go renewable in 15 years. Here, 180 solar panels were recently installed on Gift and Thrift in an afternoon. The Renew Rocktown campaign helps residents get energy assessments to save money and energy. The Northend Greenway is moving forward. Solar co-ops are popping up around town.

Political candidates who took strong stands for the climate won in Harrisonburg, a sign that the community is ready for the next step. We must make a city climate-action plan focused on energy efficiency and renewables, sustainable transportation, regional food and waste and water reduction. Roanoke, Blacksburg, and Richmond have plans and are retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, reducing waste, and saving millions of city dollars. These actions have enormous benefits beside those affecting climate. They offer huge cost savings, improve health, air quality and urban livability, and create happier communities.

The time is right to take our future seriously, and make the positive changes we and our children deserve.

Mr. Benevento lives in Harrisonburg.

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