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Sustainability in Concord

By Bob Andrews

A year ago ConcordCAN filed a Town Meeting article that called upon the Town to adopt “sustainability principles or guidelines designed to promote the conservation of resources and sustainable practices in the activities of Town government.” The article required “that all Town Departments, Boards and Committees consider those principles or guidelines when conducting their activities and carrying out their responsibilities.” Our goal was to spark development of a broad framework for measuring progress toward municipal sustainability.

ConcordCAN’s article was supported by a vote of Town Meeting in April, 2011. The Board of Selectmen officially adopted a set of four sustainability principles in July. The Town Manager was instructed by to use these principles as guidelines for all municipal decision-making and to report back annually to the BOS and the Town. We are now awaiting the first report. Meanwhile,Town Meeting is around the corner. One thing you can do to prepare for Town Meeting, is to take stock on your own of municipal progress on sustainability goals.

To conduct your assessment, review the four sustainability principles adopted by the Town, look closely at the Town Meeting Warrant, and ask yourself how well the printed article appears to take the principles into consideration. Then come to Town Meeting prepared to ask questions of the proponents of important articles about how they believe that passing them will make this a more sustainable community. If you believe that one or more of the four principles has been ignored or violated, go to a mic and share your concerns with other Town Meeting participants.

If you didn’t memorize the four principles the BOS adopted in July, they are as follows:
¥Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels, extracted underground metals, and minerals.
¥Reduce dependence on chemicals and other manufactured substances that can accumulate in Nature.
¥Reduce dependence on activities that harm life-sustaining ecosystems.
¥Meet the hierarchy of present and future human needs fairly and efficiently.

There are a number of articles on the warrant that appear, at face value, to have been framed with sustainability in mind. Article 32, for example, calls upon the town to adopt a bylaw that would ban the sale within Concord of single-serving bottled water. Articles 33-37 all reflect the goal of adding new, locally based alternative energy resources to the Town’s energy portfolio. Article 1 of the warrant for the Special Town Meeting also deals with alternative energy. All of these articles, and more, raise complex issues about what is truly sustainable. Really thinking about them in relation to the four sustainability principles adopted by the Town will help you decide how to vote.

Just as an example, installing one or more new ground solar installations on the old landfill will, on the face of it, help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels; but is the project that is planned one that will also avoid adding harmful chemicals or other manufactured substances to our environment? Could it in any way harm life-sustaining ecosystems; and will it meet current and future human needs fairly and efficiently? Is it reasonably economical; and will it disproportionately affect disadvantaged people in an adverse manner?

If you think these are important kinds of questions to ask, come to the Sustainable Concord Coffee on April 17, 7:30-9 AM, at the Harvey Wheeler Community Center. The topic is “Town Meeting Articles and Sustainability.” Join us in hearing about the articles and discussing how they further our goal of becoming a more sustainable community.

Bob Andrews is a Concord resident and member of the Steering Group of ConcordCAN.