Attendees divided into seven working groups to discuss topics addressed by the Sustainability Task Force, which made recommendations for action and projects in a report last year. The subject areas were economic development, transportation, land use and livable communities, water management, materials management, energy and agriculture and forestry.
For background, organizers provided participants with information about goals previously outlined in the Mohawk Valley Regional Sustainability Plan and recommendations from the Oneonta 2030 Task Force.
During group discussions, participants spoke about the challenges of transporting goods, produce and people. The differences between public and private modes of transportation were mentioned. The rail yard was referenced as a possible site for development of transportation options, or community projects such as composting.
Participants also suggested more collaboration is needed among educators, schools, businesses and municipalities to find ways to save energy, support economic development and encourage entrepreneurship.
In the agriculture and forestry group, participant Rebecca Morgan, director of the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship, said questions about sustainability applied also to livelihood, such as the ability to pay bills.
In the past decade, Morgan said, as traditional dairy farming has declined, there has been an increase in smaller-scale diversified farming, which is “a good sign.” To sustain such developments, however, commercial kitchens and marketing support are needed, she said.
Leon Beach of Oneonta signed up to work on energy-related topics. The summit was a good event and might help raise awareness and concerns about sustainability, Beach said. Ignorance and apathy about resources, energy consumption, rain forest devastation and other issues are problems, he said.
“I think the whole world is in trouble,” said Beach, a representative with Viridian Energy, a green energy supply company.
In a keynote address, Neil Murphy of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry warned about the impact of global warming and rates of energy consumption. Options exist to capture solar energy, among other alternatives, he said, and younger generations are innovative thinkers who can provide ideas to help.