A question on the environment to all City Council candidates

Jay Mason of 350MA of Greater Lowell, a local group that advocates local action and policies on the environment and sustainability, believes that these policies must be addressed at the local level. He has submitted a question that he hopes all candidates for Lowell City Council will answer. His question, and some valuable background information, follow. Any candidate who cares to respond can email his or her answer to this question to me at DickHoweJr@gmail.com and I’ll post it on this site.

350MA of Greater Lowell is a group of concerned citizens from all walks of life who believe that the City of Lowell has a responsibility to act responsibly in serving its’ inhabitants. Setting a sound environmental platform for sustainable policy and action is important locally as well as nationally to mitigate the harmful effects of global temperature rise caused by increased carbon emissions. Lowell can and should set an example of environmental stewardship that can demonstrate leadership in the Merrimack Valley and beyond. (To find out more about 350MA of Greater Lowell, be sure to visit (and to “like”) the group’s page on Facebook).

The Lowell Sun and our candidates for city council have an opportunity to take politics to a higher level tonight! The Sun is hosting a Candidates Forum at Lowell High School (starts at 630pm) and has requested questions from the community. While there are a multitude of important issues such as taxes, public spending and the quality and direction of our public school system it is time for Lowell to recognize the aspect of environment and sustainability in our local politics.

With that in mind, here is the environmental question that 350MA of Greater Lowell would like all candidates for city council to answer:

Climate temperature is rising with alarming consequences in local and worldwide weather patterns. Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2-degrees F, with winter temperatures rising twice as much. Fossil fuel use has been cited as a primary cause in climate temperature rise. Would you support a motion to ask the City of Lowell to enact a binding motion to eliminate such companies from future city investment and make a statement that Lowell supports the move away from fossil fuel and toward sustainable energy sources?


Living in the United States of America, arguably the best and freest country in the world, we tend to take our clean air, water and food delivery systems for granted. The standard of living most of us were born into shelters us from the cold, hard realities of a vast and much larger world population. Our vision is clouded by the privileged position we find ourselves living in. Global warming and climate changes have started to shake the roots of our existence however. The results of these higher temperatures are seen in the form of droughts, floods and events like hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy. The global temperature rise has begun to crack the foundations of our exquisite standard of living in ways we can’t yet really even imagine. After Sandy, we saw strange sights not familiar to us: water sheeting onto the highways of New York, massive torrents streaming through the NYC subway tunnels and the flooded wreckage of a roller coaster sitting off its’ pier, broken and apart in the waters of the Jersey Shore. These images merge in our collective memory with those we saw in Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’- glaciers once white and majestic now (2003) barren and empty, polar bears balancing on a tiny sheet of soggy ice flow. The story is on-going and deserves our attention. Only now the images are closer to home and more focused.

95% of the global scientific body -per the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC- 220 scientists from 62 countries who met to issue a report last month) have agreed that our current temperature rise is caused by man-made actions. Higher temperatures cause more erratic and more severe weather conditions. Warmer air holds more moisture and can result in intense drought conditions in some areas while other locations might see heavy rains and flooding. This trend has increased in the recent past and continues to intensify. The dollar cost of intense storms just in the US has been sobering. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina did $146 billion of damage to New Orleans. The startling facts are a concern for our nation and our communities. But what can we do? We feel powerless. We can’t move mountains. We can barely get our legislators to keep our nation’s checkbook out of default. But we can make change. We only have to realize that we have the power to make change. And it should start right here at home.

The local environmental group 350MA of Greater Lowell is hoping the Sun will ask the following question at the Candidates’ Forum at LHS, tonight, reflecting a level of interest and commitment on the growing policy issue involving divestment of public funds from fossil fuel companies. The City of Lowell has an opportunity to show Leadership in the region with respect to setting environmental policies. Like Berkeley, CA and Providence, RI have done, the city can commit to no future investments being made in these damaging companies and be noticed and respected for taking a stand on local initiatives that promote sustainability both here in Lowell and across Massachusetts. I hope The Sun (and the candidates) can recognize the gravity of this opportunity to go beyond potholes, chicken coops and Bernie’s appointments and contribute to a national-level interest whose solution remains grounded in grass roots efforts and a populist culture.

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