Our place on this small green planet

By Valli Geiger | Nov 03, 2019

I attended a day long workshop on rising sea levels that was put on by the Island Institute. What I learned was that we are in uncharted territory and don’t know how this will play out. The sea has risen here 8” since 1880. It is expected to rise between one to four feet by 2100, just 80 years. Most scientists expect this will happen gradually with time to mitigate, adapt and retreat. But there is a second hypothesis which has recently gained ground: that a portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet gives way, raising sea level six feet in one year. How do you plan for that?

In a presentation by Charles Colgan, former economist for the state of Maine, he said there are three responses to rising sea levels:

1. Mitigation - actions taken that reduce and curb greenhouse gas emissions. It addresses the causes of climate change.

2. Adaptation - actions taken that reduce vulnerability to the consequences of climate change. It addresses the impacts of climate change.

3. Planned Retreat - Abandon or relocate what cannot be saved if it stays where it is.

He went on to say, "there is not enough money in the world to adapt. We must mitigate.” How does every single soul on the planet and every single member of our community take action, do our part, big or small to mitigate? Our governor has pledged that Maine will be carbon neutral by 2045; Rockland has pledged the same. How do we get there as a community? As a state? As a nation? As a World?

We can start with ourselves. What drop in the bucket can we each contribute according to our means, our talents, our energy and our abilities? How do we each decrease our own use of fossil fuels? Maine has the highest percentage of dependence of all states on oil for heat. How do we use less? How do we switch to renewable energy?

We have old, leaky housing stock. We have many elderly on fixed incomes with minimal resources to tighten, renovate or switch heat sources. But many of us have some resources to change.

Step 1: If planning an addition, renovation or new house, use passive solar principles, just taking advantage of south facing light will cut 25% on your energy bills. Create an unobstructed south facing roof line for future solar panels.

Step 2: Tighten and insulate. Consider new double or triple glaze windows or contact Window Dressers for inexpensive custom made plastic inserts that cut down drafts and leaks from old windows. Insulate your basement ceiling. Roxul is a sound proof, fire proof possibility. It doesn’t mold and resists moisture. Efficiency Maine has rebates and low income loans available for these projects.

Step 3: Electrify your house: As you swap out appliances go for those that use less water and less energy. Front loading wash machines use about 20 gallons less water with each load. Hybrid clothes dryers use five watts of energy per load versus 25 watts for conventional dryers. Choose a dish washer that air dries and uses less water. Think about Induction stoves to get away from natural gas. If you have two cars, think of having one that is electric only, used for around town and short trip driving. If you have one car, think about buying a hybrid, it provides high mileage and the ability to take long trips.

Step 4: When it rains, find ways to hold onto the first inch of rain. Create swales, water gardens, plant bushes, trees, gardens. Think about permeable paving rather than asphalt. Storms are growing stronger and dropping more water in a shorter period of time. How do we slow it down, give it time to go back into the ground, find its way into our water shed rather than into the harbor?

I know we can do this if we figure out how to do it together. What can the city do? Neighborhoods? Volunteers? Not-for-profits and business. How can we help each other fill our bucket?

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Nov 09, 2019 13:56

As to Councilor Geiger's suggestions, she omits saying she sold her "old, leaky hosing stock" to our current mayor, keeping land on which to build her "green home." While this is meritorious, the majority of Rockand's housing stock is 19th C. housing built in dense neighborhoods and mostly occupied by an ageing population. (Maine has the oldest demographic in the country.) Our elderly residents, by and large, are on fixed incomes, thereby limiting their abilities to go green. If a home owner switches out fossil fuels for passive solar panels, they are penalized by the state by increased property taxes. Our local legislators would do well to advocate for either a property tax abatement or no increases should the home owner install solar panels. Geiger asks, "What can the city do?" So far, nothing. Except what appears to be practicing ageism. Elderly home owners are not anti-green. But they do not want to be the targets of criticisms about their "old, leaky housing stock", which characterization has been made here and at council meetings. Councilor Geiger and other councilors have been enthusiastic proponents of "tiny houses" as solutions to housing shortages in Rockland, thereby further increasing neighborhood densities, never mind that any housing is expensive in Rockland. If our young people cannot afford rentals, they would be hard pressed to afford a home, no matter the dimensions. Rodney Lynch has written an excellent letter-to-the-editor in which he suggests Rockland should encourage more well-heeled out-of-staters to move to Rockland for their seasonal or year-round homes, thereby increasing revenue. All over Rockland one can see this already happening, especially in the South End. The city has contracted to have all properties re-assessed, which will likely result in higher property tax assessments. This would be good for the high-end homes and likely oppressive for residents of limited means. Finally, while we all should try to mitigate climate change as we can afford to do so in our homes and town, we have a president and his administration who are fossil fuel fans and are doing all they can, as swiftly as they can, to reverse environmental policy gains. While all politics is local, our city government would do well to actually come up with solutions. Otherwise, more and more Rockland native homeowners will feel like Sisyphus rolling that property tax rock uphill.

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