Measuring a meltdown: Man displays ruler showing potential sea level rise due to global warming

  • Vinny Valetutti of Florence raises a banner that shows potential sea level rise due to global warming in an empty lot on King Street in Northampton, Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Vinny Valetutti of Florence stands beside a banner that shows potential sea level rise due to global warming in an empty lot on King Street in Northampton, Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Vinny Valetutti of Florence secures the rigging of a banner that shows potential sea level rise due to global warming in an empty lot on King Street in Northampton, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2020 6:50:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For about a month, Florence resident Vinny Valetutti has been going to a parking lot off King Street to display a giant, 30-foot-long ruler. Why? He wants people to understand the seriousness of the sea level rising due to climate change.

“I chose to focus on this one thing, because I think it’s the most serious of all climate effects,” said Valetutti, 74, who was inspired to act by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. “I figured I had to do something about global warming.”

A retired engineer who has done car repairs and plumbing and electrical work on his own property, Valetutti has a penchant for putting things together. “Anything technical interests me tremendously,” he said.

To create the display, he had a print shop put the ruler on a giant banner; he designed its support, which a steel welding shop made out of steel. Valetutti bought a telescoping flagpole from which to hang the ruler, put together a hoisting arrangement for it and purchased a utility trailer to cart it around.

The banner has hash marks at every foot, and the marks at 11 feet and 22 feet are in red, highlighting how much sea level will rise if 5% and 10% of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melt, respectively.

Since the peak of the last ice age, sea level has risen about 400 feet, Valetutti noted, and for it to rise significantly again, “Mother Nature, based on what she’s done in the past, only has to do a tiny amount more.”

The potential impact could be “economic disaster far greater than COVID-19,” he said.

While sea level has been relatively stable for most of the last 2,000 years, it is rising faster now than it has in the past 6,000 years, according to a 2016 study led by the Australian National University. As of 2018, sea level was 5 to 8 inches higher on average globally than it was in 1900.

Valetutti said that he had planned to take his display to communities down the East Coast. However, the pandemic put a stop to that, and he has only displayed the giant ruler in the King Street parking lot, across from Florence Savings Bank, eight to 10 times. He hopes to be invited to display the ruler elsewhere.

Valettuti said that a number of people honk their horns as they drive past and that around a dozen people drive up and talk to him each time he displays the banner. He also gives out fliers with information on climate change and its effects to passers-by.

“It’s been a very positive response,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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