The legacy of environmental action of several of our current town councilors is admirable and cannot be overstated given the accomplishments they’ve made. Nevertheless, it is important to state that on November 5th, Watertown now has an opportunity to elect a pure professional in the environmental field to serve on the Town Council. I have formally studied environmental issues and policy throughout my academic preparation and I have worked as a true practitioner in natural resource conservation projects for my entire professional career.
Currently, I am employed by the natural resource conservation service (NRCS). The NRCS is an agency of the USDA that works with private landowners to conserve valuable natural resources like soil health and productivity, water quality, wildlife habitat, air quality and to mitigate climate change. In this job, I often work collaboratively with similar state agencies, non-profit organizations and regulators. I also work with people. These are normal people who use their land like you and me but who realize that if they don’t take small individual actions, their land will not sustain itself for future generations to continue these uses.
NRCS was a logical place for me to land professionally
because I have always had a passion for balancing environmental issues with basic
human needs and realities. My Master’s degree
program was called 'Geographic Information Sciences for Development and the
Environment'. This program cultivated
within me a desire to advocate for more transparent and systematic methods for
government management of natural resource dollars and policies. I believe that
participatory methods that are data-rich, yet simple and understandable
are the fairest way forward for sustainable land-use planning. Such decisions are more defensible to the
public and allow collaboration in areas where viewpoints may initially compete.
Before NRCS, I was employed for 7 years
by Winrock International where he I helped to build a GIS program that is
well-respected in the international community for many of these reasons. With Winrock, I worked as a GIS and aerial
photography consultant and trainer in different parts of the US, Africa, Asia
and Latin America. In this way, I was also involved in many of the world’s earliest
carbon emissions offset projects and I helped to shape analytical trends in GIS
for this field.
My Bachelor's degree is from Suffolk University but almost two years of that degree were spent in off-campus service-learning projects. Work and residence on the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reservation, in Spain and in Quito, Ecuador were part of my academic program. While this degree focused on predominantly cultural and political issues, it did plant in me the seeds of future study and analysis of land-use change and trends over time. After leaving Suffolk in 1997, I spent 3 more years in Ecuador as a US Peace Corps Volunteer. There, I bore witness to wide-scale social changes that resulted from dramatic environmental transformations at the hands of corporate agribusiness and forestry companies. I also made many friends and learned life-long lessons about social inequality and the insidious effects of poverty on community development.
You must be asking yourself, “After all of this, what is he doing running for Town Council in Watertown!??”
Well, my friends, after all of this work, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that environmentalism starts at home. There is no greater voice to environmental issues than that of those affected directly by them. I want to represent us in this way and to use what I’ve learned in the discussion of our important environmental issues. I believe deeply that local actions can affect global changes and our great beginnings of work on renewable energy, community gardens and alternative transportation solutions are steps in the right direction that I would push and push towards implementation and acceleration as a town councilor. All of these have wonderful local benefits while also affecting global climate change issues that we all need to consider. I am converting my own home to a solar-house and lowering my electric bills without any up-front costs to speak of. The town can do this as well and I would like to push for quick action in this area ‘while the iron is hot’. Massachusetts’ legislative environment has never been friendlier for solar projects right now and is emerging nationally for this.
Lastly, our most compelling environmental issue locally is the contamination of our water bodies. The Charles River is the biggest of these and I think that it is the one that we can most-easily be cleaned up. Through my work on the town’s Stormwater Advisory Committee, I’m also learning that some relatively-small actions that we take as a town to address these issues may save us from bigger and more expensive fixes down the line that will be imposed upon us by the state or federal regulators. In the same way as solar energy projects, the right decisions for the environment may likely be the right ones for our financial well-being. This isn’t even considering how much nicer it will be to live in a town with a cleaner environment. I care about that, also. For the last 3 years, I’ve been organizing a team of over 30 volunteers on Earth Day to clean up trash from the riverbank areas near our Squibnocket Park on North Beacon Street. This was part of work that I have been doing as a member and chairman of the 'Green Sanctuary' Committee at our church. This committee works to promote environmental issues and energy efficiency to all of Watertown.
Thank you for considering me for one of your four votes for Councilor At-Large on Tuesday, November 5th. Environment is one of my three strategic priorities for me in my vision for a clean, safe and prosperous future Watertown. To hear it from someone else, read on...
“I was Aaron's advisor at Clark University where he was earning his Masters [degree]. Aaron is one of the most remarkable students I have encountered in my approximately 10 years of teaching. I recommend Aaron strongly for involvement in any project that requires someone to think clearly, to work efficiently, to take initiative and to use GIS in a sophisticated manner.
I have known Aaron since Spring 2000, when he was fresh back from his Peace Corps Service in Ecuador. He was a History major and was new to GIS, so at first I did not know how he would perform in our intensive […] program. I suggested he take an Introductory course in GIS during the summer before the GISDE program, which he did and earned an 'A'. Ever since, Aaron has stunned me with how fast he catches on to a variety of concepts. He is quick not only at the technical aspects of GIS and computer programming, but also at the biological aspects of climate change, the social aspects of natural resource exploitation, the legal aspects of data ownership, and the business aspects of project design.
Entrepreneurial spirit is one of the main reasons why Aaron Dushku will excel in whatever project he chooses to pursue. While performing extremely well in Clark's demanding GISDE program, Aaron has maneuvered his way into a variety of high-profile GIS research projects that extend well beyond Clark University. For example, he is one of the main modelers for the world's largest carbon offset project. Through this project, he has worked with top scientists, major business leaders and influential policy makers to implement and to critique the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. I think his work will have substantial influence on international agreements to manage greenhouse gasses. In the process, he has found niches in giving GIS workshops throughout Latin America. On top of that he has given high-profile presentations at workshops to manage global climate change. It's simply remarkable for someone at his stage in his career.
[...] He is fluent in Spanish and he is comfortable traveling on his own in Latin America, due in part to the fact that he makes friends easily. He has the knack for how to network to get things done. [...] He quickly understands the needs of any particular project then devises a plan to accomplish the necessary goals, so he requires very little guidance. These are the types of skills that will make him an excellent professional.
Clark University's programs in Geography and International Development are consistently ranked among the top in the country. Clark University's GISDE program is unique in its emphasis on the integration of grass-roots community activism with sophisticated digital technology. We pride ourselves on the quality of our students. Aaron is a superb example of this quality. You should give him the opportunity to put his skills to work. If I were to bet on one Clark Masters graduate to attain future fame, I would bet on Aaron. On top of all of that, he is a pleasure to work with. I give him my highest recommendation.”
-R Gil Pontius, Jr, Assistant Professor
Clark University, 2002