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News Briefs: Berkshire Young Adult, Age-Friendly survey; Pittsfield picketing; Williams College climate change plan

The survey focuses on what brings young adults to the region and what drives them away, what young adults value, and what can be done to make the Berkshires more attractive.

Young adult, Age-Friendly Survey results

Lenox — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission will be releasing its Young Adult Survey results and its Age-Friendly Survey results on September 17 at 7 at the Lenox Town Hall auditorium, 6 Walker St., as part of its regular Commission meeting.

The public is invited to attend and find out the results of the recently completed Young Adult and Age-Friendly Surveys. A discussion will focus on what brings young adults to the region and what drives them away, what young adults value, and what can be done to make the Berkshires more attractive to young adults. A discussion of the Age-Friendly survey will center around priorities, concerns, opinions, and thoughts on making Berkshire County a more livable community for people of all ages. Some of the work already underway to respond to opportunities and challenges raised by the survey results will also be presented.

–E.E.

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Pipeline picketing in Pittsfield

Pittsfield — There will be an informational picket line held by citizens opposed to the Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline project every Tuesday from noon – 1 p.m. in front of the Berkshire Gas office. Berkshire Gas’ parent company, UIL Holdings, has invested in Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC which is proposing a massive 428-mile 1460 PSI fracked gas pipeline beginning in Pennsylvania and traversing New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Many western Massachusetts and nearby Rensselaer County, N.Y., communities would be negatively impacted in terms of economics, health, safety and the environment.

Contact Bob Connors at (518) 781-4686 for more information.

–E.E.

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Williams College climate change plan

Williamstown — The Williams College Board of Trustees and President Adam F. Falk announced an ambitious plan this week to address the urgent issue of global climate change by reducing the college’s greenhouse gas emissions even further, achieving carbon neutrality, and investing significantly in sustainable-energy and carbon-reduction projects and the enhancement of the college’s educational efforts related to the environment.

The plan comes after months of study and consideration by the board, prompted by student activism and a broad-based community effort to urge the college to assume a leadership role in the fight against climate change, as well as by the work of the college’s Campus Environmental Advisory Committee and Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. In December 2014, the board received a petition from a group of alumni, students, faculty, and staff asking the college to divest its endowment of a set of 200 companies having large coal, oil, and gas reserves.

“We will invest, not divest,” Falk said. “Climate change is a crisis of great urgency and a global scale, and all of us — institutionally and individually — have a moral responsibility to take meaningful, substantive action toward a solution.”

Falk noted that, as a result of a long-term evolution of its investment strategy completed June 30, Williams does not have direct holdings in any companies, including those 200, nor does it have any plans to acquire any such direct holdings.

The college will not, however, abandon its overall investment strategy to comply fully with the divestment petition. Instead, the college will seek to advance efforts to address climate change through a comprehensive set of initiatives and investments of as much as $50 million over the next five years.

“President Falk and the trustees have thought deeply about how we can ask more of ourselves and most effectively invest the college’s human and financial resources in this complex challenge,” said Michael R. Eisenson ’77, chairman of the Williams College Board of Trustees. “This plan represents a leadership response to climate change that we believe is worthy of Williams.”

The college will, in an effort to address the concerns of the divestment proponents, provide donors with a way to direct annual gifts to support sustainability efforts specifically and to direct major gifts to the endowment to a fossil fuel-free investment fund. Employees of the college will be able to invest their retirement savings in a low-carbon vehicle within Williams’ TIAA-CREF plan.

That work builds on existing educational efforts that included the April dedication of the college’s Class of 1966 Environmental Center. This year the center will officially begin its pursuit of the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous and advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment.

William Moomaw ’59, a chemist turned policy scientist who has spent the last quarter-century working on climate issues — including serving as lead author of five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports — said of the college’s approach: “The Williams trustees have decided to divest from the use of fossil fuels starting immediately rather than to divest from fossil fuel stocks. Their decision to invest continuously in direct action that exceeds national and international climate goals addresses the most urgent need to reduce climate-altering emissions rapidly. The divestment movement has triggered a thoughtful, comprehensive response that integrates climate change actions into the educational and societal mission of the college by engaging students and the larger college community.”

The full statement is available online.

–E.E.

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