Bluedot Living loved Climate Week back in May. Because our spring issue was already in production that week, we couldn’t report on Climate week for the magazine. But our intrepid columnist Geoff Currier was on the ground. Or rather, in the backseat of a Nissan Leaf, in the convoy of electric cars that cruised to the Grange on Climate Week’s final day.
Not that long ago, you probably couldn’t find 30 electric vehicles on the entire Island. But on May 14, 2022, more than that number of EVs and hybrids got together to form a procession that traveled from the Edgartown School to the Grange Hall in West Tisbury to draw attention to the climate crisis and our ever-evolving solutions to it. I had the privilege of riding in the lead car with Kristi and Alan Strahler — it was Kristi who originally conceived of the idea for the event.
We drove in the Strahler’s 2015 Nissan Leaf. Alan sat in the passenger seat, calling ahead to apprise the police of our progress. Kristi drove, and I sat in the back seat like a duffle bag, peppering Alan and Kristi with questions.
Both Kristi and Alan are retirees who transitioned from being seasonal Island residents (since 1989) to full-timers in 2016. Kristi is a former nurse, specializing in operating room care, and Alan is a former professor from Boston University’s Earth and Environment Department.
Alan explained to me that in 2018 the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) hatched a committee called the Climate Action Task Force to look at what could be done on an Island-wide basis to deal with climate change. And they were able to get a grant from the state to fund the development of the Climate Action Plan, now called The Vineyard Way. Reps from Island climate and energy committees, as well as many other Island organizations and the staff of the MVC, participated in developing the plan.
“Climate Action Week has been in planning since March of 2021,” Kristi said. “It was originally planned to coincide with the Glasgow Climate Summit, which was held in November, but unfortunately Covid hit, so the celebration had to be rescheduled to the week of May 8.”
Kristi, who participated in 2021 in the education subcommittee of the Task Force, realized something dramatic had to be done to underscore the mission of the Climate Action Plan. She imagined an EV parade culminating at the planned Climate Week finale event at the Grange Hall. Kristi presented her idea to Liz Durkee, MVC climate planner, and Liz thought it was a great idea.
Kristi got Erik Peckar, general manager of Vineyard Power, on board, along with Richard Andre, president of Vineyard Power, and they agreed to sponsor the event.
While the idea of a parade received broad approval, there was some discussion about what the parade should be called. As one person pointed out, to call it a parade seemed to imply that there would be onlookers, but practically speaking it’s not like there would be many people lining the streets on the back roads of the Vineyard in May. So Kristi suggested that the term “parade” be changed to “convoy.” Jed Katch, who was driving his Nissan Leaf (see Currier cruising with Katch) in the “convoy,” remarked to me later that one of the things he liked was how some people lined up by the side of the road in Chilmark to cheer on the EVs.
“Since January,” Kristi said, “there have been programs being staged on all aspects of responding to climate change.” The list of activities and events only intensified over Climate Week to include presentations on oyster farming, native flowers, composting and regenerative gardening, and energy-efficient homes.
As the convoy approached the Grange Hall, it was evident that the news of the fair had spread, and the parking lot was rapidly filling up. Kristi drove around the Grange Hall to park to the right side of the building with 35 cars behind.
Kristi said that the convoy had two mandates: to draw attention to the fossil-fuel climate crisis and to underscore electric cars as a solution to the problem. The other reason was to have fun. And stepping out of the car, it was immediately evident that this was the fun place on the Island to be. A bluegrass band played fiddles on the front porch, there was plenty of great food, and people were milling about the grounds enjoying each other’s company, exchanging information about EVs, and taking a close look at the cars in the convoy, which included a few Chevy Bolts, Tesla Models 3 and 4, a BMW 318i, and several Nissan Leafs, among others.
Adjacent to the parked EVs, Vineyard Power’s Richard Andre and Luke Lefebvre manned a table where they explained the economics of buying and driving electric vehicles.
Inside the Grange Hall, there was a boatload of tables set up to dispense information on climate change. Kids roamed around, eying the status of artwork and essay competitions.
Upstairs at the Grange Hall, the room was set up for speakers, including a presentation on the MVC Climate Action Plan and speakers from the MVRHS Environment Club. There was also a film presented by the MV Film Festival.
On balance, everyone I talked to seemed to agree that the day had been a big success, and at a time when the waters are getting hotter and the storms are getting stronger, it was a good day to take an EV ride in the right direction.