Following the public presentation of the city’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment study on March 17, we asked two of the group of FPRA members who attended, Alison Field-Juma and Peggy Barnes Lenart, to reflect on what they had heard. Both are members of our flood study group. The presentation slides may be found online.
What are your initial impressions of the preliminary findings of the climate change assessment? We are not surprised, but are dismayed that our communities will be facing these kinds of threats. That said, we are very pleased that we now will have some good information to use in building resilience.
What are your greatest concerns as a Cambridge resident? We are concerned that Cambridge strengthen rather than erode its community. Good infrastructure, public engagement and spaces, and planning–that is the basis of social resilience. We rely a lot on regionally-shared resources–such as public transit, dams, food distribution systems, and the electrical grid–that need shared commitment to solutions. Cambridge needs to be fully committed to this so that it can take a leadership role. The study shows how much is at risk for our city and the region as a whole if we don’t do this.
What steps would you like the city to take next? This will be a great step forward if the city moves quickly to engage the communities within Cambridge and our neighboring towns and cities in the problem-solving, and puts the framework for action in place without delay. We are in the midst of a building boom and it would be very unfortunate if the buildings and infrastructure currently being rapidly planned, permitted, and built go ahead without taking this good information into account in our growth planning. This may take the form of new or revised ordinances, policies, guidelines and decision-making processes. In this regard, the Getting to Net Zero Task Force is finalizing its recommendations to be brought to the community and City in a public forum on April 8th at 6:00 pm at City Hall. Approval of as short timelines as possible for the recommended actions is urged. We would also like information on what residents of vulnerable areas can begin to do right now to increase the resiliency of their homes and prepare for the “new normal.”
What are your long-term goals for Cambridge in relation to the climate change assessment? There are a lot of things that the City can do right now that are the “no regrets” actions, such as proactive stormwater management and heat island reduction by increasing green space, that will affect the long term. What we build now is what will either survive or fail in the future. We have a tremendous opportunity to think creatively and do things differently. Look around — there are lots of solutions out there.
We have the obligation — and now the information — to require developers, residents, and our city government to do just that.