We all must face the challenges of climate change — together

Communities must address climate change with techniques that include clustered development — like the proposed affordable housing development in Putney. But such changes will require ongoing discussion, engagement, and compromise — from everyone in the community.

BRATTLEBORO — Vermont is facing two serious and interrelated challenges: reducing carbon emissions, and providing housing that is energy efficient, safe, and available -housing not only for those of us who already live here, but for those who are fleeing climate catastrophes, for those fleeing political (and often lethal) turmoil, and for others we are inviting in with our culture of community.

The pace of the influx is only going to grow as climate change and other pressures worsen. Already we are seeing housing becoming unavailable, prices becoming unaffordable, farmland being lost to real estate projects, and more.

In meeting this need, it is critical we make sure we can protect precious forested land, wetlands, flood plains, and agricultural land for many reasons, carbon fixation being one of them.

Balancing open space with housing will require communities across the state to collaborate and create strategies that address individual and community needs. Smart growth includes clustered development that allows land preservation.

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In December, members of 350Brattleboro were invited to share with the Putney Affordable Housing Advisory Committee ways in which housing that is well thought out, affordable, and clustered allows us here to reach our commitments of reducing carbon emissions while allowing all Vermonters, especially those who have been traditionally marginalized, to be included in a safe, healthy community.

The benefits of building efficient, affordable new housing in a downtown location and grouping units together include:

• resilience in times of weather emergency

• increased interaction and community building

• inclusion and diversity of community members

• easier options for walk/bike infrastructure and public transit

• sharing of resources

• better efficiency with new construction and shared walls

• the option for solar energy and electrification of appliances and heating systems.

Creating solutions means building community and making sure voices are heard. We acknowledge there are people who feel their voices have not been heard regarding the proposed Windham & Windsor Housing Trust's new affordable housing development in Putney.

We acknowledge and agree that those involved in a project such as this must address concerns - like affordability, fear of crime, and changes in landscape - and do so in a healing way.

We ask those who organized the Zoom planning meetings to respond directly and openly to what has been shared to date, acknowledge, take accountability for, and address the issues that these community members faced when attempting to be part of the solution.

We also encourage community members - especially those who organized and signed the petition - to recognize the challenges we are all facing because of climate change and political marginalization.

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These challenges require ongoing discussion and engagement. There are no perfect solutions. All choices involve some kind of balancing of effects and consequences.

350Brattleboro, an independent volunteer organization, works in collaboration with 350Vermont. Our work focuses on creating community around climate justice. This includes both broad and specific approaches: education, collaboration, inspiration, and protest.

A present focus of both 350Vermont and 350Brattleboro includes the task of a Just Transition toward climate mitigation - principles in a framework developed by the Climate Justice Alliance - and adaptation as the state works to meet its legally binding goals of emissions reductions by 2030.

To do so, we know we as a state must tackle challenges such as transforming our transportation system, the way we build and retrofit houses and other buildings, the way we function as communities, and what we do with our forests and farmland.

Crucially, we must meet these challenges with the equity and inclusion that a Just Transition requires. This is going to take all of us.

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Our three volunteers who spoke at Putney's virtual housing meeting were asked to share general ideas rather than provide testimony on a specific project. We support any effort that works to address the impact that segregation has had on all of us.

We must avoid exporting the effects of pollution, resource depletion, and seawater rise to already marginalized communities (poor folks, refugees, et al.), especially in the second-whitest state in the country. We must not remove ourselves from the consequences of climate change. Part of mitigating climate change requires mitigating disparity.

Focusing on a Just Transition can bring us to ways that are least damaging to all involved given the realities of how little time there is to make significant change now.

We can try to do so collectively, so that no one community or group has to shoulder the burden of responding to challenges such as the climate crisis and the housing crisis on its own.

And we can hold the state accountable too, to its commitment through the Climate Action Plan to a Just Transition.

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