December 25, 2011

Reporter Darryl Fears did an excellent job of describing the havoc wrought by self-styled Tea Party activists in Virginia [“Climate-change fight intensifies in Virginia,” news story, Dec. 18] as they oppose the civic planning that has been part of U.S. society since well before Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase.

Their disruptive tactics deny citizens their rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, revealing the activists’ interest in themselves rather than our Constitution. These attacks can impose real costs and can have tragic consequences for the communities they say they are trying to protect. Good planning is vital to dealing with challenges such as the combination of land subsidence and rising sea levels in Hampton Roads. In every state across the country, engaging citizens through local planning is essential to rebuilding local economies, creating jobs and improving people’s lives.

Planners welcome critics to civic engagement, but fearmongers’ undemocratic tactics cannot be allowed to cause a community to abandon planning for its future.

W. Paul Farmer, Chicago

The writer is chief executive of the American Planning Association.

It is troubling to see citizens whipping up conflict and undermining local efforts to prepare for the effects of rising seas, but it is even worse to see the media giving this fringe minority face time. I was first convinced of the seriousness of climate change while studying at the College of William and Mary, and I now work professionally to fight it. I am thankful that local and federal government bodies base their decisions on science and take this threat seriously. The Navy’s $840 million dock repair highlights the immediate importance of responding to rising sea levels, including addressing the root causes: fossil-fuel energy sources and the emissions they produce.

Public input is essential to making local land-use and spending decisions. But when misinformation rules and citizens attack a planner trying to protect his community, these citizens risk becoming pawns in a political game.

Hannah Wiegard, Richmond

The writer is an organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.