Re-imagining Salem: From Fossil Fuels to a Green Future

November 18, 2019. Salem, MA.
SAFE, Re-Imagining Salem: From Fossil Fuels to a Green Future. Speakers from left: Marjorie Kelly, Mayor Kim Driscoll, Jenna Ide, Sonia Hamel, Cindy Luppi, and Moderator Cindy Keegan
© 2019 Marilyn Humphries

 On Monday, November 18, over 100 residents from Salem and surrounding communities gathered at Salem’s Community Life Center to imagine responses to the climate emergency that could not only keep our city the vibrant place we all love—but make it better.

The forum, hosted by SAFE, along with the Salem Sustainability, Energy, and Resiliency Committee, Clean Energy Future Massachusetts, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and 350 MA Northshore, took off from the premise that, if the state legislature passes a carbon pricing bill, state funds will be available to communities like ours to invest in a sustainable future. So what would we like to see?

Mayor Kim Driscoll and Director of Capital Projects Jenna Ide kicked off the evening with an inspiring presentation of what the city has accomplished thus far—from bike lanes to electric vehicle sharing to solar arrays and moving emergency infrastructure out of harm’s way.

Mayor Kim Driscoll kicked off the night.

Sonia Hamel showcasing ideas from around the world.

Presentations from Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action; Marjorie Kelly, a SAFE board member and expert on what communities are doing to build economies that work for everyone not just the wealthy few; and Sonia Hamel of Hamel Environmental Consulting pointed to real world examples of building resilient and livable communities. From scaling renewable energy to reducing reliance on gas and oil infrastructure for heating our homes to literally buying out the fossil fuel companies to wind them down —an idea Marjorie Kelly called “quantitative easing for the planet”– the presenters challenged the audience to think big.

Following the presentations, audience members engaged in discussions at their tables, talking with each other about:

1) What’s special in Salem, and what will we lose if we don’t address the climate crisis?
Answers: Our beaches, walkability, historic buildings

2) What ideas did we find most exciting or most urgent?
Answers: protecting our coastline, geothermal microgrids, off-shore wind energy, green transportation, a zero-waste city.

3) How do we integrate the principles of a democratic economy—building community, encouraging broad-based ownership, valuing the place where we live—into change going forward?
Answers: Consider environmental justice at each step along the way as we build toward a sustainable future. Consider working with Salem’s anchor institutions—the university, hospital, and museum—to strengthen our local economy, create more jobs, and reduce commuting.

These are only a few of the many ideas generated. A second meeting, January 27, will dive deeper into the proposed solutions, and what commitments we can all make to building Salem’s green future.

All photos by Marilyn Humphries, (c) 2019.

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