Book Sparks Climate Think Tank

Mattapoisett Library Director Jennifer Jones has found a way to not only give local residents a platform to discuss climate-change issues but useful, easy-to-understand information on various aspects of the topic.

            As Jones recently shared, “In January 2021, I applied for a grant from the Richard & Ann J. Prouty Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, to fund a sustainability initiative for the library. We were awarded funding in May.” Currently, she said, the library is acquiring materials, along with hosting programs through April. One important initiative the library has begun is to encourage recycling which also runs through April.

             As a resource material, Jones said, “I looked for a title that would be a good book for a community-wide discussion, and upon finding ‘Regeneration Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation’ by Paul Hawken, I thought it would be suitable because climate change is an important topic of interest for this area.”

            Jones said she contacted the creators of the website for the book. The result was Jones was able to purchase and distribute (at no cost to interested parties) copies of the book now being used to jumpstart local discussion and possibly even inspire local solutions.

            “I figured there would be some in the community who would be very interested in climate change and sustainability,” she said, admitting that the pandemic has made communication a bit more problematic. By hosting virtual gatherings, people have been able to come together and share their thoughts and ideas.

            On January 8, Jones held a remote meeting. Focusing on various chapters in the book which range from sea-forestation to the sustainability of various types of forests, from human impacts on the planet to energy use and alternative sources, the group tackled food production and the food industry.

            Jones began the discussion by stating that “big food” (a term used for processed-food production and factory farms) contributes 9 percent of methane immersions globally. A shockingly high number, all agreed.

            The group talked about waste in the food industry with several participants saying their work at food pantries where businesses donate vast amounts of food is an example of over-production and fear of expiration dates. They were alarmed to consider the amount of food that is merely thrown away. Jones said that the library is collecting non-perishable food in lieu of fine payments through the end of January, one small step in assisting food distribution to those in need.

            Others in the Zoom meeting thought that a community garden might be useful in helping people who cannot easily travel to the grocery store to get fresh vegetables during the growing season. This led to questions on the possible use of space at the now town-owned Holy Ghost grounds located off Park Street. Nathan Ketchel, a member of the Planning Board and of the Master Plan Committee, said that during their discussions a community garden was suggested as well.

            As they continued to drill more deeply into topics, there came a point where most agreed that politics and pressure on congressional and House of Representatives leaders stymied efforts to find new ways to produce and distribute food. When Jones asked if there were ways that local people could impact policymakers, one participant asserted that politicians are “owned” by lobbyists. It was noted that the For The People Act, first introduced by John Sarbanes in 2019, sought to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws and create new ethics rules.

            The group continued in this vein, discussing local politics and the lack of public interest or input in such matters as zoning bylaws and the efforts on the part of the League of Women Voters to engage the public in government issues that impact local communities.

            “People need to understand what it is to be a citizen,” one participant implored. There were other thoughts and questions regarding the planet’s ability to sustain life, given the growing numbers of humans from approximately 374,000,000 in the 1500s to nearly 8,000,000,000 in 2021.

            So just what can people do in a small town such as Mattapoisett, besides identifying issues and brainstorm ideas?

            The Mattapoisett Congregational Church is currently collecting plastic shopping bags in an effort to gather 500 pounds of the material. The church has found a program that accepts the plastic for repurposing, and in return, the church will receive a park bench that will be placed on its grounds for all to enjoy. A drop in the bucket, but that is 500 pounds of plastic that won’t be thrown away or burned.

            “I hope that this group will continue on discussing the topic and bringing awareness to it throughout Mattapoisett, whether it is at the library or as an independent group,” said Jones, who said she has a program, “Native Plant Gardening for Wildlife,” scheduled with Joy Marzano in February. “I am working on more ideas using grant funds, hopefully in partnership with local groups. That was one of the major points of the initiative, which we titled ‘Start Locally, Live Sustainably.’”

By Marilou Newell

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