Measuring True Impact Takes Time

The Long Tail: Doing the Right Thing Now Brings Remarkable Returns Later

John Kassel


The clean-up of Boston harbor has been key to the city’s economic resurgence.

This past year CLF and our partners declared victory in two of our most long-fought, complex cases: Vermont Yankee, one of the nation’s oldest nuclear power plants, and Brayton Point, New England’s largest coal-fired power plant, both announced their retirement.

These victories took time to achieve – and it could be years before we fully appreciate their true value. I was reminded poignantly of the long-term impacts of our work just after New Year’s, when the New York Times published an article lauding the clean up of Boston Harbor as a tipping point for Boston’s economic resurgence over the past two decades. A generation ago, when CLF took on Boston’s massive industrial polluters, forcing them to clean up their toxic sludge, we knew that the impacts could be momentous for this city. Painful though it was for Boston and its polluters to take responsibility for their decades of negligence, 30 years later, the payoff has been huge.

The lessons of Boston Harbor are many, but the ultimate takeaway is pretty simple: doing the right thing now, even if it’s costly, delivers remarkable returns later, and ensures true sustainability over time.

Even today, it may be 20 years before we see the full payoff of our efforts to restructure New England’s energy systemenforce storm water and pollution controlsfight ocean sprawl and protect habitat, and strengthen the region’s local food networks. But we believe that our work in these areas over the next 12 months is every bit as likely to result in the kind of transformative change for all of New England that the harbor clean up created for Boston.

With climate change making our work more urgent than ever before, every one of our projects is designed to help ensure that people and communities across New England can thrive — today and for decades to come. It’s my pleasure to tell you about this work over the months to come. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


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