Climate justice conference Saturday

The changing climate isn’t only a serious environmental crisis. It’s also an issue of social justice, say Co-op Power and other organizers of a Western Massachusetts Climate Justice Conference planned for Saturday in Springfield.

The conference, with the theme, Growing the movement in our communities is intended to bringing together people concerned about climate change, public health, jobs, economic justice, food and transportation.

Urbanized areas, which include Greenfield and Turners Falls, have an older housing stock, a higher proportion of renters and a higher concentration of a population that’s older than the state average. Residents of those areas tend to spend a higher proportion of their income to heat and cool their homes.

They’re also less able to take advantage of energy-efficiency measures, including more efficient appliances, while their landlords may simply pass on higher heating and cooling costs as part of their rent. They may also have less control over lowering their utility bills.

Lower income communities are more apt to suffer the injustice of siting of new power plants, such as the wood-fired biomass facilities that had been proposed for Greenfield, Russell and Springfield, said Michael Kocsmiersky, a Greenfield Community College Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency instructor who will take part in a conference workshop on “local clean energy expansion.”

Other workshops will look at food and agriculture, “livable and sustainable communities,” community organizing and more.

“The relevance to Franklin County, Greenfield in particular, would be in upgrading the rental housing stock,” said Tim Holcomb, a community organizer for Greenfield-based Co-Op Power. “That’s a huge challenge across the entire energy-efficiency effort, and that’s going to require tenant and landlord cooperation and involvement.”

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