Jamaica Plain Gazette, Opinion, 9/9/16

All of the patches of brown grass around Jamaica Plain have got me worried. Worried about our businesses. Yes, our businesses. This summer we have seen record rainfall lows and temperature highs. Thanks to climate change, our entire region is in a serious drought. As detrimental as that has been to our vibrant green spaces, it stands to cause significant problems for our local economy.

Drought is just one symptom of climate change with the potential to harm businesses. Rising sea levels, extreme weather, and other natural disasters could damage communications and transportation infrastructure or destroy commercial property, grinding businesses and the economy to a halt. We know from experience how bad it can be. The winter of 2015 showed us that intense storms can cripple businesses big and small.

But what do those big-picture problems mean for JP’s neighborhood businesses as we go through this drought? Unfortunately, they can mean a lot. Just ask small businesses in California, a state that has been in the throes of a serious drought for years. Restaurants in Fort Bragg, California, are no longer allowed to use water to wash dishes. Disposable plates and flatware were mandated as part of emergency measures the community took last fall. The idea of steak on paper plates and pinot noir in plastic stemware can’t have diners flocking to Fort Bragg for a meal.

Farmers in Stockton, California saw significant reductions in their crop, dairy, and livestock revenues because of the drought. There was even a shortage of cattle as farmers were force to sell down their herds due to a lack of water and edible grass. Jamaica Plain may not be a big farming community, but we rely on farms not far outside the city to supply food to our grocery stores, farmers markets, and restaurant. Those brown patches don’t bode well for them.

We know that the effects of climate change, like droughts, threaten our well-being and in some cases our safety. They also threaten our economy, from Main Street to Wall Street. We can add protecting our neighborhood business to the long list of reasons why we must take on the daunting challenge of addressing climate change. If we want to ensure that our local economy continues to grow we need to do more, before patches of brown grass are the least of our worries.

Sebastian Zapata

Jamaica Plain resident
Program Director
The Alliance for Business Leadership