How we are addressing climate change in Boston

By Mayor Martin Walsh

This year is shaping up to be one of the strongest years in Boston’s history. We’ve continued to add 20,000 new jobs each year, and we’ve brought unemployment down below 4 percent. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve made a plan to ensure that the benefits of Boston’s booming economy are enjoyed by everyone who calls this city home. We’re making record investments in affordable housing, sidewalks and bike lanes, community policing, libraries, and schools. Through our BuildBPS plan, we are making bold investments in our educational infrastructure, so that every school has the resources to provide a comprehensive, 21st century education for Boston’s young people.

I am proud of the progress that Boston has made this year in so many areas, but there is one area of concern which impacts our future more than any other: climate change. It’s an urgent priority, and one which Boston must take aggressive steps to address if we hope to continue down this path towards a more prosperous, equitable, and resilient society.

The science is clear: climate change has given us hotter and more volatile weather; it has amplified the frequency and impact of severe storms; and it has increased the rate of sea level rise. Just look at what other cities have faced. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy inflicted $70 billion worth of damage and caused the deaths of 71 people. It brought Lower Manhattan’s financial sector to a standstill. Last year, Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion of damage and 68 deaths in Houston and Southeast Texas. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and caused over 3,000 people to lose their lives. These disasters, which uprooted so many lives, stand as dire warnings of what could follow a failure to act. But I have faith that with a plan, and the partnership of our Boston community, it is a challenge we are capable of overcoming.

That’s what we’ve set in motion with our “Resilient Boston Harbor” vision. It’s a roadmap for how we’ll protect the City’s residents, homes, jobs, and infrastructure against the impacts of rising sea level and climate change. It lays out strategies along Boston’s 47-mile shoreline that will increase access and open space along the waterfront while better protecting the city during a major flooding event.

Resilient Boston Harbor builds on Imagine Boston 2030 and uses the City’s Climate Ready Boston 2070 flood maps and coastal resilience neighborhood studies to focus on Boston’s most vulnerable flood pathways. The strategies laid out in the plan include elevated landscapes, enhanced waterfront parks, flood resilient buildings, and revitalized and increased connections and access to the waterfront. The strategies will require collaboration and funding between federal, state, private, philanthropic and nonprofit partners.

We must anticipate consequences generations down the road, and work proactively to counteract them. With the help of experts and our communities, we have tailored plans specific to the unique condition in each of Boston’s neighborhoods, and at each point along our city’s coastline.

The solution comes not in the form of flood walls and barricades, but a system of beaches, parks, trails, and open spaces. The system will bring 67 new acres of open space to our city, and adapt 122 acres of idle space along Boston Harbor, connecting the existing Emerald Necklace with a revitalized waterfront, and bringing our city closer together. By prioritizing green space over concrete barriers, we are ensuring that our investment in a more resilient city doubles as an investment in public health, access to green space, and the ecological preservation of our city and Boston Harbor. By investing proactively, we will preserve and strengthen the character of our coastline, something that has contributed so much to our success as a city

The impact of these improvements will touch every part of our city, through the creation of new green spaces, and the resilient renovation of existing ones. Moving forward, the City of Boston will dedicate 10 percent of all new capital spending to resilience projects. We will harness the power of public-private coalitions, philanthropy, and partnerships with neighboring communities, because meeting such ambitious goals requires us all to contribute.

Our city can’t counter the impact of climate change on our own, and this plan represents the first steps towards addressing a problem that will not disappear anytime soon. But the Boston we know is built on a legacy of bold leadership. The Boston we know is built on promises of a better future. Getting there has not always been easy, and it won’t be easy now. But our city sparked the uprising which became the American Revolution. We built the first public schools in this nation. Our hospitals revolutionized health care. We filled the Back Bay. We built the Emerald Necklace. We cleaned up our harbor.

History shows that when Boston speaks up and steps up, the nation listens. When we harness the power of our communities to come together for a greater cause, the nation follows.

I know we can do it again.

For more information on Resilient Boston Harbor, please visit: boston.gov/climateready.

Thanking veterans today, and every day

By Mayor Martin Walsh

Every year on Nov. 11, we remember the armistice, signed on Nov. 11, 1918, that ended the First World War. One hundred years later, it can be easy to forget why we celebrate this day of all days, as the living memory of that war fades. The fact is, thousands of young men from Boston’s neighborhoods, and from all across our country, put their lives on the line to defend our allies in the Great War. Today, the legacy of that courage and sacrifice is alive all around us — in the men and women in our neighborhoods who continue to serve our country; the families who continue to sacrifice; and veterans who continue to make Boston the great city that it is. It is essential, this year and every year, that we acknowledge and thank these honored members of our community.

More than 22,000 veterans call Boston home. They embody a commitment to service that doesn’t disappear when they hang up their uniforms. When they come home, veterans continue to serve their community as leaders, parents, teachers, mentors, first responders, and more. Their valuable contributions make Boston a better place, and we should be thanking them each and every day for that.

It’s also important for us to remember that veterans and their families often face unique challenges. Many deal with deep wounds, both visible and invisible. Since I was elected Mayor, I have worked hard to make Boston a city where veterans truly thrive, personally and professionally, throughout their lives. I believe that we need to show our veterans that we are grateful every single day. And one of the most important ways we do this is by showing vets that they can ask for help, and that they will receive it. It’s what we owe them in return for all they have given us.

These are the values behind some of our most ambitious work in the City of Boston: from ending chronic veterans homelessness to improving access to supportive housing, healthcare, recovery services, employment programs for vets with and without PTSD, and much more. A question I hear all the time from residents is, “How can I help?” One of the simplest, and most powerful ways that every member of the Boston community can help support our veterans is simply saying “thank you.” And that’s exactly what we do through Operation Thank a Vet.

Over the last few months, our goal has been to personally reach out to all 22,000 veterans in our city. We wanted to make sure each of them knows about all the resources that our city has made available to them. We’ve connected with thousands of vets so far, but we have thousands more to go. That’s where you come in. On Saturday, Nov. 10, we will go door to door delivering thank you packages and information about opportunities available to veterans. By joining us as a volunteer, you can help us reach our goal. And most importantly, you will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives— connecting those who have served their country with a community who is ready to serve them and their families.

A century ago, the events of Nov. 11 gave people hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future. This week, we’ll recognize those among us who have continued that mission and put their lives on the line in the name of those same values. In Boston, we never forget the sacrifices people made for the good of our community. We know that our strength comes from our willingness to lift our neighbors up in good times and hard times. And we will always be grateful to our veterans, not just on Nov. 11, but every day.

If you are a veteran who would like to be connected to services in Boston, please reach out to Boston’s Veterans Services, https://www.boston.gov/departments/veterans-services, email [email protected], or call 617-241-VETS (8387).

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