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December 06, 2016
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Climate Smart Community Pledge—emphasis on ‘community’

But it’s important to note that Sullivan is competing with other counties for the Mid-Hudson money, and the level of commitment the area shows can help amass points toward receiving funding, increasing the chances of any applicant getting money. With every new signatory, the chances of this state money coming into our county get better.

Signing the pledge also provides a basis for collaboration among towns and villages in forming buying groups, paving the way for cost savings via bulk purchases of systems and equipment such as LED streetlights and solar PV systems. But joining forces does not mean every town needs to sign an identical pledge. One of Cochecton’s complaints has been that parts of the document just don’t seem relevant to its particular situation. The Town of Lumberland addressed this issue simply by modifying the pledge before adopting it, and other towns can do likewise.

But perhaps the most powerful potential benefit of an all-inclusive effort to move the county toward a sustainable lifestyle, thrifty with both resources and money, is indirect: that all-important marketing tool, branding. Branding is how an area establishs a unique identity that will give it an edge in attracting customers and investors and increase the perceived value of its goods and services, making them easier to sell—and at higher prices.

As evidence of the potentially grim impacts of climate change mounts, the themes of “green” and “sustainable” are becoming increasingly saleable, and could serve as the centerpiece of a new county identity. We could brand ourselves as a rural retreat that is no backwater, but a pioneer, working proactively to preserve open spaces and resources like its fisheries, recycling its resources, generating local energy, constructing zero-energy buildings and making innovations in energy-efficient, low-emission transportation. That’s an identity that could be immensely attractive to tourists, second-home purchasers and entrepreneurs from nearby metropolitan areas—bringing in money, and generating jobs.

The possibility is there. But in order to achieve it, we need to bring together Sullivan County’s disparate townships and start working together toward a shared goal. The Climate Smart Community Action Pledge provides such a goal. It has the potential to lead the way toward a more prosperous future, and one geared to the realities of a century in which the canny use of natural resources will be the key to success.