My Turn: Mind the gap

  • Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg  AP PHOTO/PAUL WHITE

Published: 5/4/2021 6:53:48 AM

I watched a Greta Thunberg video last week entitled “Mind the Gap.” It was brilliant and directly rebuffed FirstLight CEO Alicia Barton’s “My Turn” in the Recorder on April 23.

The gap, as Greta sees it, is decades of missed and mis-investment to deal with Climate Change and restore our environment, and the lack of leadership from our politicians and corporate CEOs to think beyond the short term.

Ms. Barton claims in her column that FirstLight is investing $130 million in Northfield Mountain’s pump-storage facility over the term of the new license (four to five decades) that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is about to give her company. This is true if her company is only looking to its short-term goals and not to what stakeholders have advocated for the past 18 years of the relicensing process.

The problem is no one is thinking anew or looking at the big picture. If Climate Change is our planet’s existential threat, why not begin to address it by rethinking your individual business model and budget, your state and federal regulations, and how people can make a difference together for the environment and humanity.

Here is a suggestion for FirstLight and FERC that could be implemented before the license is finalized. Reallocate some of the $130 million budgeted for “fish passage, eliminating fish entrainment, improving recreation opportunities, and better supporting host communities” to building a new lower reservoir. This would separate the pumped storage from the river.

The reservoir alone would reduce most of FirstLight’s ongoing damage to the Connecticut River, and accomplish the goals that environmentalists have sought, and FERC has regulated for decades, because it focuses on river restoration first and foremost — the primary reason for regulating FirstLight’s use of our river.

Additionally, it would enable FirstLight to save money and move forward — away from the old model that it has operated under for decades into a new model of budgeting and investment to help the company make a profit and the world to address Climate Change.

As Greta espouses in her “Mind the Gap” video, we are the solution to Climate Change. This will only be true, if we the people get active and work with our leaders to think anew about their companies, communities, states, and nations, so they realize that leadership includes investment in and stewardship of the earth. As we used to say, decades ago, “Think Globally and Act Locally.”

Whit Sanford is a rural conservationist. She was a board member of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, attended UMass to earn her master’s in regional planning and was associate director of the Connecticut River Conservancy from 1993-2005.




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