One decade ago, when Southampton Town was trying to adopt its 400+ Sustainability Plan, we remember hearing again and again from a chorus of naysayers who thought the plan was a United Nations plot to curtail individual rights.

We’ve been heartened over the past month by the comments we’ve heard from people who’ve been critical of Southampton’s new Climate Action Plan — not because we don’t believe time is of the essence in transitioning away from fossil fuels, but because the plan’s detractors aren’t arguing against the fundamental science that’s shown we need to do a great deal of work to retain a livable world.

They aren’t bullying the town into rescinding its membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives by saying participation in the group is “treason,” as happened a decade ago. We’ve come a long way.

They’re instead saying they want to be involved in the process and help to build community consensus around the most effective local solutions. We’d like to take them at their word. As individuals, we all have an ability to markedly reduce our contribution to the greenhouse gas crisis. As a community, we have even more tools at our disposal. We need to work together.

Yes, there certainly could have been more community outreach — meetings with Citizens Advisory Councils, public presentations and input sessions — before the plan was adopted Dec. 21. But nothing yet requires the town to implement any of the hundreds of recommendations in the plan. That community outreach can certainly happen now, and in the months ahead. It will be up to the new Southampton Town Board to make that happen.

What struck us most, in reading the plan, was how much the action items are in line with the science of Project Drawdown, a global movement behind practical solutions to remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere — solutions that can be undertaken on personal, local, regional, national and international levels. 

This has been a source of inspiration for many local climate activists, including the folks at the Carbon Crew Project, which is inspiring people to make and implement their own Personal Climate Action Plans (Visit carboncrewproject.org for more information on how to get involved with a community that is making Personal Climate Action Plans).

The costs associated with making personal transitions to more energy-efficient fuels are not insignificant, and it is important to include regular people in the discussion — people who can’t see themselves, say, driving a Tesla, or (god forbid) a Prius. 

Electric cars are well on their way to being cost-competitive with gasoline-fuels cars, and even without the federal government promising to change the $7,500 EV tax credit to a point-of-sale rebate in 2024 (few cars will qualify this year anyway), they will soon come well within reach of people with modest incomes.

The $4,000 tax credit for used EVs purchased from dealers, also slated to be converted to a point-of-sale rebate in 2024, has received little fanfare, but far more used cars qualify for this credit than new ones. And the cost of operation of an EV is far lower than a gas-powered car, from repairs and oil changes to simply the cost of fueling it.

As people file their taxes this spring, they will become more familiar with new tax credits to electrify their homes and make them more efficient, and PSEG-Long Island is rolling out rebates that will also help make retrofitting your home more affordable. You don’t need to make these changes today, but it’s a powerful thing to know these tools are available if a major appliance or your heating or hot water system breaks and needs to be replaced. And there are ancillary health benefits from not having the products of combustion in your home.

Decarbonizing doesn’t work if it is only for the wealthy, whose carbon footprints are often far larger than middle and working class people. And that’s a point that we’d like to see climate activists take to heart. Saving energy should also enable people to save money and improve their health. It should not be a divisive issue, and it doesn’t require that we make huge personal sacrifices.

We can’t get all the way to decarbonization without some technologies that are still far from perfect, as this year’s controversies over Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) made clear. By the time you read this, New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s BESS task force might have already issued its recommendations for how to make these facilities safer, and BESS may well be coming to communities here. But lithium-ion batteries are not the future. They’re actually on the way out. Better and safer battery technologies are on their way in, and we’re hoping the state task force pushes the industry toward those technologies in its recommendations.

Capturing carbon remains an elusive goal, but one that’s necessary to get to net zero. But this is an area that people here can really get their heads around. From kelp farming to making and using compost, helping along natural processes are going to be a big part of the solution, right here in our backyards.

The transportation sector in such a rural area is a thorny one, but new on-demand bus routes and the widespread adoption of ebikes, as well as support for bike trails, are also part of the future. Trains need to be a part of the future, too, as does transit-oriented development, in the right places. We need regional solutions to our traffic problems, which transcend the boundaries of towns.

We are heartened to see the Town of Riverhead learn from Southampton’s planning effort, and we hope Southold Town will take advantage of the insights Southampton Town has gained in the work it has done this far, and even of the missteps in the public roll-out of Southampton’s plan.

We need to confront this problem as a region, and there truly is no time left to waste.

East End Beacon
The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

4 thoughts on “Editorial: Moving Beyond Carbon: Let’s All Make A Plan

  1. Dear Beth,

    What a great editorial saluting Southampton’s excellent Climate Action Plan and encouraging us all to get involved on a community level and make our own plan. I agree with your comment that making a personal plan not only saves money, it is also healthier, and makes you feel you are living more aligned with Nature (and not spending money on trying to change Nature!). I have found this to be true from personal experience. Using natural landscape techniques of leaving the leaves, and rewilding all or parts of your property saves lots of money. Also composting either in your backyard or with a kitchen appliance. Savings here as you are making your own garden fertilizer, and studies have shown that people who compost automatically start wasting less food. Lot’s of money is thrown away each year on wasted food — 30% of our grocery budget. Love that you mention the science group Project Drawdown, which has a new guide for governments, communities and individuals on effective science-based climate action. And love that you mention we can get help making personal plans with Carbon Crew!

  2. Beth, I appreciate the positive attitude in this editorial! We all can truly make an input, and benefit the community, our own small plots of land and the birds, butterflies and other creatures who share our habitat.

    PS – Happy Birthday!

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