Peggy Kurtz typically avoids the spotlight preferring that issues get the attention but lately that has been difficult for her. The Nyack activist and environmentalist has just been honored by the Nyack Center and Rockland County and will receive a similar tribute from the Town of Clarkstown next month.
Kurtz is a founding member of the Rockland Water Coalition, president of the Rockland Sierra Club and an advocate for water quality, climate change, global warming, energy use and recycling.
“What drives me is not only the problems but the positive vision,” said Kurtz.
County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef presented Kurtz with the 16th Annual Outstanding Environmental Volunteer Award on Tuesday at Kennedy-Dells County Park in New City.
“Peggy Kurtz has made a name for herself as an environmental activist in our community by working tirelessly to protect our natural resources,” said Vanderhoef. “On behalf of all Rocklanders, thank you to Peggy Kurtz for her commitment to our Rockland environment.”
Vanderhoef noted Kurtz was instrumental in getting the county to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. Rockland was the 11th county along with Clarkstown and two other local towns and several villages to commit to the initiative. A Serviceberry tree was dedicated in her name during the ceremony.
Kurtz was recently honored along with three others by the Nyack Center at its annual Women of Leadership and Vision Brunch.
County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell thought the Nyack Center award was appropriately named for Kurtz, who she described as a woman of vision and action. She presented Kurtz with the Distinguished Service Award from the legislature. Next month, Clarkstown will recognize Kurtz with its Environmental Excellence Award. She helped organize the town’s 2011 Environmental Summit in 2011.
Kurtz said her current focus is on desalination and global warming.
“For me, desalination is a climate change issue,” she said. “Desalination uses highly energy intensive technology, which would lock us in long term to substantially increased energy use. This is so wrong at a time when it is absolutely urgent that we reduce our carbon footprint.”
Kurtz believes options to the proposed desalination Hudson River water treatment plant have not received serious consideration. She noted the coalition has laid out much of the groundwork for a sustainable water policy.
She advocates for a unified approach to global warming especially in light of increased concern about climate change following Hurricane Sandy.
“I would like to see an ongoing group led by the county, pulling together the towns and villages and other sectors, sharing ideas,” she said. “I'd like to see a central Office of Sustainability supporting those efforts, helping to pursue grants, providing training. We've begun the process on climate change, but we need both a climate action plan and a climate adaptation plan.”