Friday, April 19, 2024

I’m about to begin 11th grade at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where every day we try to prepare for our futures through education and personal development. Many of my peers are beginning to consider what they want to do after high school and beyond. How do we want to spend our lives? How can we secure a safe and thriving future for ourselves?

All of these questions seem impossible to answer when I consider the headlines of the past few weeks: deadly flash floods, hurricanes, ongoing wildfires and yet more record-breaking heat. As a young person, my future simply seems to be disappearing into a murky doomscape of climate catastrophe. It’s clearer than ever that the climate crisis is happening, and without radical change, it will only get much worse.

To prevent the climate crisis from hurting the place we all call home, Cambridge needs to take bold climate action now. Introduced by city councillor Quinton Zondervan, the green new deal zoning petition is a targeted policy designed to help our city actually reduce emissions while promoting economic and racial equity.

Cambridge already pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but our emissions have in fact increased. More than half of our current emissions come from large commercial buildings, according to the Cambridge Sustainability Dashboard. These are the same developments that contribute to gentrification and inequality in our city.

The green new deal zoning petition provides a way to tackle these issues at the same time. Under the policy, new commercial buildings will have to pay a fee based on their lifetime emissions. That money will go to “energy-efficiency projects and fund green jobs training programs with direct benefit to low-income and minority communities.” Considering how crucial affordable housing is, the petition won’t apply to new housing.

When I return to CRLS in just a few days, I want to be able to look forward to the new year with hope and determination. What do I want the future – my generation’s future – to be like? Certainly not a world where we live with constant disaster, trying to make a life while our planet shudders and dies around us. Instead I see a society built on reciprocity with nature, green communities and environmental justice. This isn’t some idealistic fever dream, but a tangible goal we can work toward using specific policies such as this zoning petition.

I’m a member of the Sunrise Movement, a youth climate movement, because I want to fight for that vision. Sunrise Cambridge endorsed the petition because as young people, we know that our futures are on the line. We’re excited by innovative, intersectional policies such as this. If we want to choose that bright, sunny, ecological future, we should start here.

Sign on in support of the petition here.

Miriam Stodolsky, Arlington Street