Published: 3/10/2021 4:35:16 PM
The former Sunderland Public Library trustee now representing the 19 communities of the 1st Franklin District led a virtual climate change panel discussion sponsored by the library and the Sunderland Energy Committee this week.
State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, spearheaded Monday evening’s discussion, aimed at keeping people informed about environmental legislation in Boston. Blais was joined by, among others, state Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, Joan Meschino, D-Hull, and Liz Miranda, a Democrat whose 5th Suffolk District includes parts of Dorchester and Roxbury. Also in attendance was Aaron Falbel, the library’s acting director and a Sunderland Energy Committee member.
Blais mentioned Gov. Charlie Baker sent a climate policy bill back to the state Legislature, with amendments.
“Like many of you, I had hoped this legislation would have been signed into law by now. But we will get there, with your support,” Blais said. “The message that you have sent is loud and clear — addressing this climate emergency is the challenge of our times and we must act now.”
Meschino spoke about the bill she filed to create “a 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap” that consists of “the critical updates to the (state) Global Warming Solutions Act.” She said her district is made up of all coastal communities.
“If there is a huge storm going on, you’re probably seeing one of my towns on Channel 5,” she said. “I filed the 2050 roadmap because we need a plan to decarbonize, to achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals that we had set for ourselves in 2008, as part of the Global Warming Solutions Act.”
Meschino said the issues pertain to public safety, public health, and social, racial and environmental justice, as well as the economy.
“This bill is, at its core, an economic bill,” she said.
More information about the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap can be found at bit.ly/2OGuFFq.
Miranda, sitting in for state Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents the 1st Suffolk District and had a family obligation Monday evening, said hers is the most minority district in the state, and that environmental injustice most adversely affects people of color.
“The greatest correlation with toxicity has been race,” she said before contrasting Roxbury and Boston’s affluent Back Bay, which are a mere five bus stops away from one another. “We have five times the asthma rate and …. we were disproportionately affected with COVID-19.”
Madaro said 40 percent of Massachusetts residents who died of COVID-19 were Black or brown. Miranda and members of her family were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in 2020. She was still speaking when her feed was cut off due to her new office’s technical difficulties, which Blais said her constituents know “all too well out here.” When she returned, Miranda mentioned that more than 50 percent of her constituents are foreign-born, often putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to fighting for environmental justice.
“What we found is that projects were continuously being built in our community without the proper engagement of our community,” she said. “You can’t fight something that you don’t see happening.”
Miranda also said hers and Blais’ districts are similar in that inner-city and agricultural communities are often overlooked by many.
“Rep. Miranda, you’re amazing,” Blais said. “And, seriously, what you’ve been able to accomplish … is nothing short of extraordinary, and I am honored to be working alongside you.”
Meschino mentioned there is a growing rate of asthma among schoolchildren.
“So if we electrify our bus fleets, then that’s two times a day that your child is standing at the bus stop not getting a regular dose of particulate matter,” she said. “And so you will see, as we start to do some of these things, the cost benefits … might show up in other sectors — for example, public health.”