More than 80 people attended the kickoff meeting of the Southeastern Massachusetts Council on Sustainability on Thursday, June 18, 2009 at the Fall River ATMC. Attendees included representatives from education, business, agriculture, environmental groups, foundations and local governments. The purpose of the Council is to provide education, advice and assistance on the broad issue of sustainability in Southeastern Massachusetts.
The Council formation is a collaboration of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMD) to improve regional cooperation and share information among different groups working on sustainability concerns in southeastern Massachusetts.
Susan Jennings from the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability and Anthony Garro, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, both from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, welcomed the group. Professor David Chapman made a presentation on the process used to develop a logo for the Council. Susan Peterson, Chair of the SRPEDD Commission, presented an overview of sustainability in southeastern Massachusetts.
After introductions of attendees, the assembly broke into smaller working groups and made introductions in preparation for their first subcommittee meetings. The Council has five subcommittees so far, but more may be added. The five subcommittees are: food and agriculture, economic development, energy, natural resources, and transportation.
The origin of the Council began at the time of SRPEDD’s 50th anniversary. At that time, the planning agency received a grant from the Island Foundation to form a Futures Task Force to look ahead and identify actions to keep the region competitive and healthy over the next 50 to 100 years. The Futures Task Force Report (available online at www.srpedd.org) identifies global challenges such as climate change and the decline of fossil fuel supply that must be addressed at local and regional levels.
Between July 2008 and March 2009, SRPEDD and UMD co-hosted a series of regional exchanges on sustainability that brought a wide audience together. Many volunteer committees, municipal departments and private groups are simultaneously working on renewable energy development, energy efficiency, smart growth, natural resource management, waste management, local food markets and other sustainability activities. The series of exchanges generated interest in dealing with future trends in a coordinated way, to eliminate the need to “reinvent the wheel”. A goal of the Council is to coordinate efforts among different entities in the region. The Council is an opportunity to stretch limited resources as all of these entities share knowledge and best practices and form partnerships to address issues at a larger geographic and functional level.
SRPEDD is a public agency governed by a Commission comprised of local officials and delegates representing mayors, selectmen, planning boards and at-large members. SRPEDD’s mission is to plan for the future of southeastern Massachusetts that includes expansion of economic opportunity, protection of natural and historic resources, and development of excellent physical and cultural amenities.
The UMD Office of Campus and Community Sustainability’s primary goals are to establish academic programs that advance the knowledge of sustainability; increase the grants funds and research opportunities awarded to the University; and forge partnerships to become a regional center for conversations and events spotlighting sustainable practices and technologies.