Our Opinion: Facing realities of climate, environment

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On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker went to Beacon Hill to make the case for his bill providing $1 billion for improved climate adaption infrastructure. On Monday, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and state Sen. Adam Hinds, both Pittsfield Democrats, met with residents to discuss environmental issues. We can be proud that environmentalism is taken seriously in the county and the state. That's not the case everywhere.

At Monday's Berkshire Athenaeum forum sponsored by the Environmental League of Massachusetts, Floridian and part-time Berkshire resident Bob Hildebrand praised state and local efforts to ban plastic bags, which decay into toxic waste that is harmful to people, animals and creatures that live in the water (Eagle, June 18). He drew rueful laughter when he observed that Florida is belatedly embarking upon a five-year study to determine the fate of plastic bags. That's a state seeking to avoid acting on a crucial environmental issue — which is by degree preferable to a climate change-denying Trump administration that has been undermining and eliminating environmental laws and regulations.

Climate change is a reality according to both tangible evidence and the studies of reputable scientists around the world, and the governor's bill acknowledges that reality. While those infrastructure needs are primarily along the Atlantic coast, where communities are already confronting rising ocean levels, climate change will impact the Berkshires, requiring upgrades in culverts and stormwater runoff systems and the engineering studies needed to design those upgrades and other measures to adapt to increased flooding. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has filed a similar $1 billion measure to be funded by borrowing. Gov. Baker's plan to raise funding through an increase in the excise tax paid on real estate transfers from $2 per $500 of assessed value to $3 would have the advantage of being self-sustaining but an initiative that benefits everyone would be paid for by a few.

Residents at Monday's forum in Pittsfield expressed support for solar energy along with concern about large solar power projects that change the character of residential neighborhoods or lead to the cutting of forests to make room for them. Putting more solar panels on rooftops is an important goal, as explained by Rep. Farley-Bouvier, and strict regulations must be applied to the location of solar fields and their impact upon forests. But as Sen. Hinds said, there must be enough flexibility to allow farmers to diversify and solarize acres of their fields. Large-scale solar projects must have a rule in reducing fossil-fuel dependency.

In Sunday's Eagle, Rep. Farley-Bouvier made the point that the environmental needs and contributions of the state's two largest state parks, both located in the Berkshires, are overlooked. Three Department of Conservation and Recreation rangers are located in Berkshire County, home of the October Mountain and Pittsfield state forests, compared to 33 at the Statehouse. (The DCR provides security at Boston sites on land classified as parkland.) The governor is proposing welcome funding for trail upgrades but funding is needed for more rangers to oversee and protect the state forests located in the Berkshires.

The environment is everybody's business and responsibility. From the grass-roots level up, all must do their part in its protection and in adjusting to failures to provide that protection.

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