Founding Statement – Why a Peekskill Sustainability Network?

Hi! Thanks for being here. If you’re reading this, you’re either a) a Peekskill resident, b) a community activist, c) an environmentalist and/or nature enthusiast and/or gardener, or d) all of the above – and that’s great, because that’s who this platform is designed for. (If you’re only one or even none of these things, feel free to stick around and get involved, anyway).

Background

My name is Chris, and my wife Lis and I will have lived in Peekskill three years this coming April. I’ve been concerned about climate change for as long as I’ve understood the consequences of the problem, and that concern has informed my graduate studies, my work, my hobbies – it even played a role in us moving to Peekskill (the tightknit, walkable downtown; the ability to raise our family with an appreciation for and close proximity to nature; the privilege of having a backyard to grow food and make compost; etc.). I have a background in urban sustainability and I’ve sat on the city’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) since shortly after moving here.

In 2019, members of the CAC submitted the proposal “Peekskill 2030: Road to Resilience” in the Peekskill Community Congress, a community-wide event for presenting, voting on, and then implementing beneficial grassroots projects. “Peekskill 2030” proposed the creation of a city task force made up of a cross-section of Peekskill residents and stakeholders, charged with creating a 10-year plan for making the city more resilient, sustainable, and prepared for the future. The idea resonated with a lot of people, but unfortunately not enough to make the Top 3 projects.

This was a shame and a missed opportunity, and in many ways the Peekskill Sustainability Network is an effort to rekindle that conversation. But whereas Peekskill 2030 centers around a formalized city task force and depends on close involvement with City Hall, the PSN is meant to be more informal, grassroots, and neighbor-led. I’m not opposed to working with and through government, but I’m interested in what we can get done independently, at the household, block, and neighborhood level.

Purpose & Format

The PSN will hopefully serve two purposes: 1) to amplify and support sustainability, environmental, and mutual aid work that’s already taking place in and around Peekskill, and 2) to serve as a big tent and online gathering place for likeminded individuals to propose ideas, request support, share information, and organize together. We’ll also collect useful resources on things like energy efficiency upgrades, organic gardening and urban farming, suburban rewilding and habitat restoration, and more.

Hopefully, the actions that members are inspired to undertake on their own, and the collaborative projects that develop as a result of our discussions, will eventually start to constitute something like the vision outlined in Peekskill 2030: a cleaner, healthier, and more resilient city – not to mention a support network of neighbors with similar interests and concerns.

I’ve already listed a few of my own ideas here as a way of jumpstarting the conversation, but my hope is that this project list will grow as more people share their thoughts, gravitate towards ideas they like, and start collaborating together in the real world. These conversations can start in the Forum and on the PSN’s social media channels, before eventually shifting to in-person gatherings in a post-COVID future.

I’ve chosen this Forum format, at least in the beginning, because I like the archival quality of a message board and the ability to revisit and add to ideas over time. It’ll also allow people to drop in and contribute on schedules that work for them.

Why Now?

The short answer is, If not now, when?

If you’re here and reading this, you likely don’t need to be reminded of the extreme urgency with which we need to address climate change and transform the way our society functions. As the scientists, environmentalists, and a few brave politicians have been pointing out, we might have as little as a decade to take the kinds of actions necessary to avert irreversible and potentially catastrophic impacts. In other words: we needed to get to work yesterday.

The longer answer: The past ten months of the COVID-19 pandemic have hammered home just how fragile so many of our systems are – from food, to housing, to healthcare – and just how important strong community bonds can be in difficult times. Climate change threatens to push all those systems and more to their limits, making the insecurity we’ve seen throughout COVID an ongoing, long-term problem that only gets worse. Every forward-thinking city and community should be thinking about these challenges, and laying the groundwork now for their own food security and climate resilience.

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday March 11, 2020

The good news is, I think Peekskill can meet these challenges – I wouldn’t have chosen to live here if I didn’t. My hope is that the PSN can connect other Peekskillers who feel the same way, and who are committed to being an active part of this undertaking in whatever capacity interests them.

If you’re interested in learning more and getting involved, you can read our Community Guidelines here, then register for and start using the Forum. Or, send me an email at info [at] sustainablepeekskill [dot] net. Finally, you can also follow us on Twitter.

I’m looking forward to hearing from and working with you!

Published by Chris

Chris Barrett is a writer and non-profit professional based in the Hudson Valley / NYC.

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