Kaatscast: the Catskills' premier podcast!
Aug. 4, 2020

People, Places, Possibilities with Sustainable Hudson Valley

People, Places, Possibilities with Sustainable Hudson Valley

There are a many conversations these days about the future, and understandably so. We are in the midst of four distinct crises: accelerating climate change, a pandemic, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and a wakeup to systemic racism.

Kaatscast is collaborating with Sustainable Hudson Valley on a series called “People, Places, Possibilities," to explore aspects of this new reality, and––without minimizing the downsides––to consider the opportunities that arise simply from the pace and scale of change.

In this episode, we speak with Sustainable Hudson Valley's Executive Director, Melissa Everett, about the organization's goals, and where we stand as a region. Stay tuned for future interviews in this special series, right here on Kaatscast!

For more information, visit https://sustainhv.org

Thanks also to the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce for their continued support of this podcast.

 

--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/kaatscast/support

Transcript

Welcome to cats cast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. This week, the first in a new series in collaboration with sustainable Hudson Valley. It's called people, places, possibilities. And you can follow this series right here on cats cast. These days, there are a lot of conversations happening about the future. And understandably, we are in the midst of four distinct crises, accelerating climate change, a pandemic, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and a wake up to systemic racism. All while civil society and the rule of law seem to be unraveling. Sustainable Hudson Valley's new podcast series people places possibilities, explores aspects of this new reality. And without minimizing the downsides, considers the opportunity that arises simply from the pace and scale of change. Sh V's mission is to speed up, scale up jazz up and leverage progress against climate change and create communities where people and nature thrive. That means all people, black lives matter whether they are facing police violence or put at risk and extreme weather. We'll hear from advocates and strategists on climate justice, and share just how they are tackling that critical issue. Back in the spring, when New York went on pause, a member of sh V's board mused Mother Nature called she says Go to your room. And even though the pandemic itself is a sign of ecosystems out of balance, nature is benefiting in some respects from the slowdown. At the peak of the shutdown, worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions had fallen 17% compared to last year at the same time, the canals of Venice were cleaner than any time in modern memory. But these games should not blind us to the tragedy that is taking place, and they will only continue with new policies and practices. Remote working has been tried by workplaces that had never considered it. And the majority of employees say they would like to hang on to the option. What do companies need to do to integrate this option successfully into their business models, work from home school from home zoom culture, and reopening restaurants reclaiming the parking spaces around them. Underlying all these new normal features is the theme of relocalization of production, labor, social life and stewardship. With it comes re envisioning place. What are some strategies for placemaking that promote resilience and self reliance while creating more opportunities for interaction, culture and play? New York and the nation are considering new approaches to directing recovery funding to support green jobs and clean energy, recycling based industries, water conservation, regenerative agriculture, and more. In future podcasts, we'll interview policy leaders at the forefront of these efforts and show how you can participate. We hope these conversations will bring people together around a new sense of possibility and inspire leadership. After all, every one of us is impacted. Whatever our circumstances, our habits structures are disrupted. We cannot go back to the way our lives were period. We need to imagine a better new normal, that is worth investing time and care into creating. And together, we need to act. Melissa Everett is executive director of sustainable Hudson Valley. I spoke with her about sustainability, resiliency, and some of the changes we can expect to see right here in our region. Hi, I'm Melissa Everett, I am the founding executive director of sustainable Hudson Valley. I've been growing that little organization since 2007. Our mission is ambitious it is to speed up, scale up jazz up and leverage the work that's already underway to deal with climate change. So it's about promoting renewable energy and waste reduction and efficiency, but also regenerative activities from you know, agriculture to forestry. So we really work across the spectrum. Where are you based? And what's the geography of the area that you serve our offices in Rhinebeck? We're most active in Ulster, Dutchess, orange, Rockland Putnam counties. We try not to ignore Columbia green and northward, it depends on the issue. For example, electric vehicles. There are great advocacy groups in New York City and up in Albany but not so much in the middle. So we try to cover that A Broader geography on that issue. You know, we think that if you tackle climate change, right, you tackle a lot of other issues. It's not just energy, its transportation, its buildings, its materials, recovery, recycling. Everything kind of revolves around that. What is the biggest challenge facing this region? Would you say that it's climate change, you know, when you look at the temperature rise projections, and what has happened so far, it's Risen One degree centigrade. Now, if all goes well, it will rise another degree centigrade by 2050. I'm a gardener. I freaked out by how hard it is to keep plants moist. Because of the evaporation. I think that every aspect of just everyday heat in a separate from extreme weather, heat stress, heat stroke, not good for health, especially in urban environments, not good for agriculture. And so we've got a lot of work to do just to learn how to produce our food and how to stay healthy. In this context, there's an annual survey about public attitudes on climate change. 60% of the country describes themselves as either concerned or alarmed. So it's not a fringe issue. And you know, we, we are a small organization now, but we think it's time to grow. And we think people are ready for leadership in a way different way. When people hear sustainability, they often think about living in a green way Planet Earth, the air, we breathe, the animals and plants. But sustainability covers a lot of ground, right? It's about human rights. It's about job opportunities, it's about equity. Can you talk a little bit about how broad that term is? And yeah, and that's why it is so satisfying to, you know, bounce into my office every morning. It's about innovation. It's about learning to enjoy, and faster, coherent change. organizations that are making the biggest advances in sustainability are usually the ones that are the best at learning. They're the best at research, they're the best at cultivating talent. They're the best at creating healthy workplaces. So they're attractive places to be. Our office landlord actually is a wealth advisor who is deep into environmentally and socially responsible investment. And he points out that with the economic collapse, the funds that have done the least bad and that are bouncing back the best, are socially and environmentally screened. Because they are already they're vetted for risk. And so resiliency comes into it big time. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship of sustainability and resiliency and the work that you're doing? Thank you for that question. We're doing everything in our power to help everyone around us imagine that we can scale up renewable energy faster than anybody thought that we can energize the electric vehicle market, that we can invest in regenerative agriculture, do all this all the stuff that we need to mitigate the worst of the climate change impacts. resilience, to me starts with the ability to execute really ambitious stuff really well. And you know, that same skill set of, you know, strength adaptiveness communication, skill, and passion also come into play when we are responding to disasters, preparing for disasters, or when we are getting better at withstanding the stresses of a changing climate that I was talking about earlier. And I think that part of the work we need to do is on ourselves to make ourselves physically resilient and emotionally resilient. And then we can be about inspiring and and nurturing other people. Do you think that this region is more or less resilient, based on where we are for any particular reason? Interesting. The Northeast is really lucky. Because we're not the desert, and we're not the Arctic and you know, we're not the deep south and we have better kind of weather and have typically had plenty of water and those things are handy. There are a lot of institutions that are devoted to sustainability. You know, a Culinary Institute of America is way into it. the Hudson River estuary program, which has been you know, administering cleanup of the river for a generation, lots of scientific research, lots of higher education, sustainability work. So I think there is An amazing network of smart, active people who are doing great things. Great. So just to backtrack a little bit, a little bit more about your organization, where does the funding come from? We get a chunk of funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority NYSERDA. And we have some wonderful faithful donors. And, you know, we kind of like pass the cookie jar every now and then. I mean, we do some grants, but but it's mainly just donors who get us and love us and our favorite state agency. And then let's just talk a little bit about some of the projects and campaigns, what would we know some of the things that you've been doing or what are some things we can look out for you might have seen solarized Hudson Valley, which was a three year education and group purchase program with some of the greatest graphics and events and really fun stuff we had, you know, solar bration with the solar powered chorus, drive electric Hudson Valley is what it sounds like we've been orchestrating test drives for EBS, we've been helping car dealerships to figure out how to sell Evie is rather than being scared of them, which is not as simple as it looks. We have a group purchase program now where folks can get 5% off rooftop solar easy plugs, energy storage, air source, heat pumps, heat pump, water heaters, and insulation and air sealing. All of our partner contractors are giving donations to COVID related charities for every buddy who steps up, we're also helping to coordinate a regional climate action planning process. And the partner organization there's called the Hudson Valley Regional Council, they are Council of Governments made up of counties, the state has set a very ambitious goal of having a carbon neutral economy by 2050. And so we are organizing the non governmental organizations and you know, business associations and all this folks that have something to do with that. We don't have funding for this yet. But we're determined to really do some planning about what the region can do. The other thing, really excited about is we worked with marble towns, so high falls and stone Ridge are in their plan for the transition to 100% renewable energy, it's going to involve you know, not just local government. But every buddy, it's it. You know, we've figured out some tips and tricks to encourage everybody to replace when they have to replace their car or their boiler anyway, replaced with renewable options. We're going to have technical assistance pledge campaign, town board is excited about it. They're great local leaders we've been able to work with, I'm very pumped about that. And what can we do as individuals? Do you have suggestions for participating in the kinds of initiatives that you're discussing, I would start with deep breaths and nurturing yourself because nothing is sustainable. If you're not in good shape, I would encourage you to look at our group purchase program and see if you're ready for solar, or a heat pump or any of that stuff. And we have energy coaches who can help you. I would encourage you to plant pollinator friendly stuff if you have a yard and rain gardens. And I would encourage you to educate yourself like crazy on this stuff. Because it is just the richest field. And when you have climbed a few steps up the learning curve, you'll know what your best thing is that you can do, like nobody else can do. This is the first of hopefully, quite a few podcasts that we'll be producing with you. Can you give us a hint of some of the topics or people that we can expect to hear from in the future? Absolutely. Yeah. Cynthia nicaean is a public space planner. She works for the framework called placemaking. And we're going to talk with her about all of the restaurants that are claiming street space to expand their their service areas and how that could be the beginning of a fresh conversation about downtown's and the relationship between people and cars. That is a long time coming. We're going to hear from john Lyons who is experienced in the whole field of remote work, and how to help companies continue that and make it successful. And more. Thank you so much, Melissa, I'll talk to you soon. Thank you Brad. Okay, this is fun. People places possibilities is brought to you by sustainable Hudson Valley. More from sh V in future episodes, find out more and get involved at sustain h v.com. Thanks also to our sponsor, the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, providing services to businesses, community organizations and local governments in the central Catskills region. Follow the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, and sign up for a weekly email of local events at Central catskills.com. Cats cast is a production of silver Hello audio. Please don't forget to subscribe, and we'll see you again in two weeks. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai