During the summer of 2021, residents of Tewksbury smelled the smoke from wildfires out west. We suffered through an unusual number of hot days and nights, and our vacations were deluged with rain.
This summer was not an anomaly; this is our climate now. The Earth’s temperature has risen by 0.14° F (0.08° C) per decade since 1880, and the rate of warming over the past 40 years is more than twice that: 0.32° F (0.18° C) per decade since 1981. 2020 was the second-warmest year on record based on NOAA’s temperature data, and land areas were record warm. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005. From 1900 to 1980 a new temperature record was set on average every 13.5 years; from 1981–2019, a new record was set every three years.
For more information on how our climate has changed go to https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature.
As concerned as most of us are about climate change and the legacy we are leaving behind for our children and their children, it is difficult to find an “on ramp” to fighting this overwhelming problem. Recently, the town of Tewksbury has been presented with an opportunity to act locally while thinking globally. Tewksbury has been presented with a proposed development of a pristine area of Ames Pond. Proponents of this development claim that it should be allowed because it will include affordable housing and comply with Massachusetts State 40B requirements.
This proposal to add over 300 apartments to an isolated area of town is unsustainable for many reasons, the biggest one being its location. This development is only accessible by automobile. If one adult resident per apartment drives to work in the morning and returns home at night, we are looking at at least 600 car trips a day. Transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions.
Adding to the climate change aspect of this development is the financial wisdom of putting affordable housing in an isolated location. Yes, we desperately need affordable housing, but we need it near transportation hubs and bus routes. For vehicles driven 15,000 miles a year, average car ownership costs were $9,561 a year, or $797 a month, in 2020, according to AAA.
To put affordable housing in a location where each adult, and maybe some teenagers, will have no choice but to maintain a car is not creating affordable housing. Tewksbury should take this opportunity to reject a development that is environmentally unsustainable and focus on creating affordable housing that is truly affordable.
Some say there is no recourse. I disagree. Byfield just said no to a 40B project that would have affected wetlands. Tewksbury could go to the state and argue that this development is not in line with the Massachusetts climate change legislation and ask to include carbon accounting. We could call on our state and federal delegations to help preserve this land. There is always something that can be done.
Linda Darveau, Tewksbury