by Christian Alexandersen, Times Staff Writer Carroll County Times
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has made it clear it believes there is a distinction between “sustainability” and “environmentalism.”
On Jan. 12, the new, five-member board unanimously voted to terminate its membership with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an organization that provides technical consulting, training and information services to support local government in the implementation of sustainable development at the local level.
Board President Doug Howard, R-District 5, said the definition of sustainability has changed over time to no longer just focus on protecting and preserving the environment, which is now environmentalism. Sustainability, Howard said, now includes broad, over-reaching restrictions on local governments that impact the free marketplace.
Making that distinction between the two is an important goal of the commissioners, Howard said.
“We have got to be very careful about making good, solid arguments about what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it,” Howard said. “My concern is that when you try to make these points, you’re getting close to the level of terminology that unnerves people or turns them off.”
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said the organization advocates a form of environmentalism that intersects environmentalism and socialism. The organization, he said, seeks to inject government into all forms of people’s lives including land use, farming, transportation, home construction and food production.
Doctrine held by the organization states that land should not be viewed as a resource for private property owners, but rather the land needs to be controlled by the government and other stake holders for the greater good, Rothschild said. Since that doctrine is not shared by the board, Rothschild said commissioners believed they should terminate their membership with the organization.
“I care about our environment,” Rothschild said. “But I believe the last great hope to save our environment rests in capitalism and not big government.
“Capitalism breeds the kind of creativity and ingenuity which leads to cost-effective solutions,” he said.
Chief of Staff Steve Powell said the previous board had paid an annual membership fee of between $1,600 and $1,800 to be a part of the ICLEI.
John Modica, a member of the county’s sustainability committee, said it is up to the board to determine how it wants to direct sustainability effort in the county. Being a member of ICLEI, Modica said, doesn’t force the county to follow any particular environmental standards.
“Completely rejecting sustainability all together is completely archaic,” Modica said. “We’re too advanced to not plan for the future.”
Modica said ICLEI offered various tools that the county could use to plan for the future. Terminating that membership, Modica said, will now put the burden of finding those tools onto the county.
The commissioners’ decision to terminate its membership with the organization is one in a series of moves that makes a distinction between environmental stewardship and sustainability, Rothschild said. During the Jan. 12 board meeting, the board also unanimously voted to eliminate the county’s sustainability coordinator positions.
The post had been left vacant since the former Sustainability Coordinator Neil Ridgely took a buyout offered by the outgoing board of commissioners in November. The county’s sustainability committee, Modica said, has been disbanded since Ridgley’s position was eliminated.