Hadley climate panel adopts code of conduct, moves past resignation

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 11-13-2023 3:27 PM

HADLEY — Identifying participants for a speaker series on how farms can deal with a changing climate, and determining whether solar arrays might be appropriate for the town’s former landfill are tasks the Hadley Climate Change Committee is undertaking.

At the committee’s meeting Thursday evening, the first following the resignation of an expert on climate science prompted by contentious meetings over the summer, members got back to focusing on their work to finding local solutions to the climate crisis. First, however, members discussed their signing onto a code of conduct adopted by the Select Board for people serving on town boards, as well as best practices for running public meetings.

The signing of the code of conduct and discussion of public participation at public meetings followed the concerns that arose at the August meeting, when Susi Moser, a member in the environmental studies department at Antioch University who has worked with the IPCC and on the the federal government’s third U.S. National Climate Assessment, used an obscenity in responding to a member of the public and subsequently resigned.

Select Board member Randy Izer, a former town moderator, offered advice on how the committee should still take public comment. While public comment is not mandated by the state, it is appropriate to have the input due to the nature of the discussions, Izer said.

“There are people who disagree with you wholeheartedly and they’re entitled to that,” Izer said, adding that people have their own truths and no one should be forced into thinking in a certain way. “Ultimately arguing isn’t going to get anybody anywhere, except mad at each other.”

The meeting brought out a number of people to observe the committee’s work, including some from neighboring towns there to offer support for the committee.

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Leverett resident Ellen Drews, who has managed Astarte Farm on West Street in Hadley for the past four years, said that she has worked through two serious droughts and had to make changes to the crop plan at the vegetable farm due to the increasingly unpredictable weather.

“I kind of think our traditional frost dates are a thing of the past,” Drews said.

Drews said she wants Hadley to continue to take leadership on climate change, and would support a speaker series with experts, having attended a climate change adaptation meeting for farmers last January. Drews said that everyone is looking for more resources to deal with climate changes.

Hadley farmer Wally Czjakowski said he agrees with his brother, Jack, who co-chairs the committee, that climate change is happening, based on the experience on his Plainville Farm and talking to other farmers who have lost tobacco crops in recent years.

“It’s a whole different world,” Czajkowski said. “Things are changing, but not for the better.”

Those who have offered a counterpoint to the committee’s work were also on hand, including resident Susan Melchin, who said she appreciated that members now comply with the code of conduct, which will ensure transparency.

“I am relieved that this committee has finally signed off on the code of conduct,” Melchin said.

But she also asked that the committee engage in a back and forth interaction, which she characterized as necessary because members have influence over policy that is being made.

“I believe you would further confidence in your committee by allowing them to ask questions, particularly if you’re going to make decisions that affect their lives,” Melchin said.

The committee, though, is only advisory, Select Board member Jane Nevinsmith said, and can bring advice on policies to the Select Board, while decisions are made by Town Meeting.

The suggestion of a speaker series with experts on climate was taken to heart by Jack Czajowski, who said “droughts that were unimaginable” and “floods that were unbelievable” have been occurring.

Hadley is not an outlier in dealing with climate change, he said, but rather is in step with Massachusetts. Standards set for middle school earth and space science courses requires that the role of human activities in raising Earth’s temperatures be taught.

“It’s the state law, it’s what teachers have to do, it’s not debatable,” Czajkowski said.

Czajkowski also pointed to the committee’s encouragement of the town becoming part of the state’s Green Communities program, the second community in Hampshire County to join the program. Though he said it was sad the town hadn’t pursued membership earlier, now it is eligible for state grants that can cover the cost of energy efficiencies and upgrades and other cost savings.

Izer said such money is critical for the town. “That $140,000 would not have happened if it wasn’t for this committee,” Izer said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenetcin.