STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 17, 2015…..Henry David Thoreau is not often invoked during oversight hearings, never mind during a House Bonding Committee discussion of a state secretariat’s capital plan.
But, on Thursday, the author famous for “Walden” became part of the conversation between the committee and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, a conversation that largely focused on the long-term returns the state expects from EEA’s $236 million capital plan.
In detailing some of his secretariat’s planned capital projects, Beaton told the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets of the project to build a new visitor center at Walden Pond in Concord, a building that will generate enough renewable energy onsite to offset its total energy consumption.
“Henry David Thoreau was an idol of mine as a child. I’ve read ‘Walden’ on the shores of Walden Pond on a number of occasions,” Beaton said. “With my background in energy efficiency, to have a net-zero visitors’ center that is visited by 500,000 people a year in that spot is just truly an exciting opportunity for the Commonwealth.”
The connection to the environment that he gained, in part, through his readings of “Walden” and being able to visit the very location of Thoreau’s minimalist lifestyle is something he wants EEA to provide for the next generation of environmentalists, Beaton said.
“I operate under a philosophy that if you’re not giving the next generation the opportunity to get outside, whether it’s simply in a park to be breathing in that fresh air, whether it’s at an urban agriculture program, hiking to the top of Mount Greylock, whatever that experience is, if we are not providing that as much as we possibly can to our next generation, they’re never going to have that burning desire inside them to want to protect the environment,” the secretary said.
Beaton went on to say that the decisions EEA makes go “so much further beyond a shingle on a roof of a facility or a stripe down the middle of a road” and provide the “critical link” to help residents enjoy the state’s natural resources. He used as an example investments agencies in his secretariat make in urban farming programs, which he said have fostered the important connection between children and the environment.
Committee members, who also questioned Beaton about the EEA’s capital spending plan, tended to agree that the money in the plan is well-spent to encourage future preservation.
“Truly the funds that are administered by your secretariat … should be investments not only in the future of land preservation, but in the future preservation of the land ethic,” Rep. David Vieira (R-East Falmouth) said, referring to Aldo Leopold’s philosophy of biotic preservation. “As you do your day-to-day job, I just want you, in the back of your mind, to think, ‘I’m not just building a roadway, I’m building public access for the next generation to continue the land ethic.’ And with that we’ll all be in good hands.”
Copyright 2015 State House News Service