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Roots in the Future

Preserving the Planet for Posterity

In one of his short stories, writer Spider Robinson, known for his Callahan’s Bar science-fiction stories, has a character make an observation about our connection to our family. “Everybody's got roots in the past,” Robinson's character notes, “but they's all got roots in the future, too.”

I thought about Robinson’s observation last month during Brookline Town Meeting. I’ve been an elected member of Town Meeting for over a decade. Most of what we do is relatively straightforward. For example, we pass the budget every May, after the Selectmen, Advisory Committee, and town departments have spent months planning it out for us to consider. After all, when you get right down to it, governing is mostly about figuring out where you will get money from and what you will spend the money on.

But sometimes Town Meeting passes bylaws or resolutions that generate a little more discussion beyond the confines of our members.

We don’t often get political in this column; after all, it’s called The Brookline Parent, not The Brookline Politician. When we do talk about politics, it’s mostly about how Nomi and I balance my being a local politician with raising Muffin and Squeaker. But last month, Town Meeting considered two warrant articles that will have a direct effect on how we live life in the town. Article 8 was filed to add to the town bylaws a prohibition on polystyrene food or beverage containers. Article 9 was filed to add to the town bylaws the requirement that plastic shopping bags handed out by our stores be either compostable or degradable. In short, the two articles were written to ban the common Styrofoam cup you might get at the coffee shop and the plastic bag you might get at the supermarket check-out, and they are set to go into effect at the end of 2013.

Both articles passed with overwhelming support. Town Meeting voted 169-27 to ban polystyrene containers and 142-53 to ban plastic bags. And, as a member of the Town Meeting Green Caucus, which formed to support a sustainable future and improved quality of life for the community, I voted in favor of both articles.

The fact is, I’m worried. Climate change is a real problem for our planet, and it’s getting worse. I asked Jack Hankin, who used to live in Brookline and now writes the Planet Diary website, about the current scientific evidence for climate change. He directed me to NASA’s website on Global Climate Change and noted that nine of the top ten warmest years on record have been since 2000. The greenhouse gases we are pouring into the atmosphere are causing the average global temperature to rise, leading to a melting of the ice at both poles and more intense weather patterns. Just look at the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy two months ago. Those of us living in Brookline dodged a bullet.

Nomi and I try to do our part to fight this trend of global temperature increase. As frequent readers of our column know, we got rid of our car a few years ago and have mostly relied on public transportation ever since. Some people would say that what any one person does would have no impact whatsoever. I’d suggest that those people re-read Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss.

Those of us in the Green Caucus supported the bans for a variety of reasons. For me, though, the main reason to support the ban is that every little bit helps. Some might say that a ban on these products won’t do a lot to combat global warming, but the bans will improve the environment. Plastic bags and polystyrene cups litter our land and oceans and devour natural resources in their production and disposal. The ban will make Brookline a cleaner place to live. And I’m hoping that the ban will inspire other municipalities to follow suit.

The writer J. Michael Straczynski, who created the TV show Bablyon 5, once said that if we do not create the future, others will create it for us. I’m proud that last month I took a step to create a slightly better future for my children.

Because, in the end, I want there to be a planet for them to enjoy.

This week’s column is written by Michael A. Burstein.

Janna Silverstein December 07, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Here in Seattle, we've banned the use of plastic bags altogether, and it's been a great change. The use of fabric totebags has gone up--everyone uses them now, and the reduction of waste is noticeable and beneficial. I commend you for endorsing this kind of action locally where you are, and hope the town takes it up as willingly and enthusiastically as Seattle has. It's a good thing.

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