Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Quinton Zondervan, president of Green Cambridge, urges use of renewable energy during a Monday rally at City Hall. (Photos: Marc Levy)

After four hours of meeting, the City Council passed Monday’s bunch of policy orders without a word of discussion, including one urging the city and state to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. But that order was a lock to pass anyway – six of nine councillors had helped lead a rally for it on the steps of City Hall beforehand.

“We absolutely can do this. We have the technology. We have the infrastructure. We just need to deploy it and we need to set the goal and get ourselves there,” said Quinton Zondervan, president of Green Cambridge and of the Climate Action Business Association and a candidate for council in the upcoming election.

Members of Green Cambridge, as well as of 350 Massachusetts, Mothers Out Front Cambridge, the local Sierra Club and the business association helped write the order passed Monday, which asks the city’s state legislative delegation “to do everything in its power” to hit the deadline, now 18 years away. People active in those groups formed the bulk of the few dozen people at the rally.  Statewide, the groups have been acting as a coalition called Mass Power Forward.

Participants cheer before ending the Monday rally.

Global effort

Cambridge has long been a leader in sustainability and resiliency, and officials and residents were at the rally Monday to renew that commitment and intensify it, said city councillor Jan Devereux, who sponsored the order with vice mayor Marc McGovern.

“We’re all appalled, dumbfounded, by the backward policies coming out of Washington,” Devereux said. “The anti-science, anti-reality policies are underscoring more than ever that individuals, cities and states are crucial to fighting on the front lines against climate change.”

The event had other things to accomplish, including a moment of silence led by Susan Redlich of the Massachusetts Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action “for all those who have been murdered or injured for defending Mother Earth, and for all those who are suffering from the terrible heatwaves now in India and Africa, and the thousands homeless in Peru from the intense flooding and the farmers who cannot feed their communities because of changed climate conditions.”

Signs for use at future rallies were available to participants.

There was also the introduction of a uniting symbol – a peace symbol in a circle colored with the blue of sky and ocean and the green of plant life – by environmental activist John Pitkin. “We didn’t have a way of showing, ‘We are all in this together,’” Pitkin said. “Now we have a way.”

The signs available at the rally, bearing the words “We are all climate people,” could be used at People’s Climate March events scheduled for Saturday in Washington, D.C., and Boston, organizers said. In fact, there are hundreds of sister marches planned around the globe.

Local action

Devereux used some of her time speaking at the rally to remind participants that there were climate-focused events in Cambridge as well, such as a 3 p.m. Wednesday meeting of the council’s Health and Environment Committee on a number of matters related to Cambridge’s trees. Monday’s council meeting brought news that the budget for the upcoming fiscal year adds a second arborist to city staff, and that the Department of Public Works will begin a master plan for Cambridge’s urban forest in the fall, including hiring a consultant “to develop a strategic plan to protect, enhance and expand the City of Cambridge population of trees.”

After a resident expressed alarm during City Council public comment over the roughly 200 trees on or around the soon-to-be-remade Volpe acreage in Kendall Square, councillor Dennis Carlone said he’d been told by developer MIT of techniques showing 80 percent success moving and replanting even mature trees. Carlone, who attended the afternoon climate rally, listed several places within Cambridge that “are just screaming for trees” and reminded city staff that “studies indicate that we are way behind in open space per capita.”