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Almanac Archive for January 17, 2013

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Quote of the Week
"It's obvious that the key problem facing humanity in the coming century is how to bring a better quality of life - for 8 billion or more people - without wrecking the environment entirely in the attempt."
-- E. O. Wilson
Conservation Calendar

Menemsha Hills Brickyard Walk

Sunday, Jan 20, 1:00 pm, Chilmark.
A guided hike of the brickyard at the Menemsha Hills Reservation with staff from The Trustees of Reservations. Free for TTOR members, $10 for the public. For directions, see property webpage.

Girls in the Woods
Thursday, Jan 24, 2:30 to 6:00 pm, Sassafras in Aquinnah.
Outdoor program for girls age 8-14 is from bus pick-up until 6 p.m. at Sassafras Earth Education. For more information, email or call 508 645-2008; for directions, see website.

Hearing to Discuss New Cell Phone Tower near Tisbury Great Pond
Thursday, Jan 24, 7:00 pm, at the MV Commission building, Oak Bluffs.

Verizon and a West Tisbury private landowner are pursuing plans to construct an 80-ft tall cell tower on the Doane property located near the Town Cove extension of the Tisbury Great Pond. The plans submitted by Verizon include curious renderings of tower designs, including a camouflaged "monopine" that they apparently believe would fit right in with our native pitch pine habitat. The M.V. Commission will discuss the proposed tower at their meeting on the 24th. Documents relating to the proposal can be found at the MVC calendar page. The MVC’s Oak Bluffs offices are located at the Stone Building, 33 New York Avenue.

Panel Discussion on Stream Restoration and Dam Removal at Mill Brook Pond

Wednesday, Jan 30, 5:00 pm, at the Howes House, West Tisbury.

The tradeoffs between restoration of freshwater habitat and the preservation of historic, if artificial, ponds is at the heart of the discussion about stream restoration and dam removal. On Jan. 30, West Tisbury selectmen host an information forum featuring two stream restoration experts and the civil engineer who prepared the cost estimates for removal of the Mill Pond dam. For more information, contact Prudy Burt at 508 696-3836.

Land Bank Walk

Sunday, Feb 3, 1:00 pm, Ocean View Farm, Chilmark.
Land Bank staff lead a guided walk at the Ocean View Farm Reservation in Chilmark. The walk will last about 1.5 - 2 hours. Rain or shine, dress for the weather and wear sturdy shoes or boots. For directions and more information, see website (parking is at the Fulling Mill Brook Preserve) or call 508-627-7141.
Help Our Ponds
50 Gallons at a Time

Through the winter, the Lagoon Pond Association is offering a special price of $75 for the "Ivy" rain barrel through their purchasing program. Collecting rainwater from your rooftop helps protect our water supply from runoff while supplying a convenient source for watering plants around the house.

Pick up and installation demonstration will be on April 20, 2013 at the VCS Beach Clean-Up after party (time and location TBA). For more information and ordering, see the Lagoon Pond Assoc. website.

Almanac Hiatus

A short note in closing: By the time of the next expected edition of the VCS Conservation Almanac, we expect our Communications Coordinator Jeremy Houser will be enjoying a few weeks of leave due to the arrival of his family's first baby. So, while the Almanac will see a brief hiatus, don't forget to check our website and facebook page for answers to your conservation questions.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Local News

A Stroll Through the Katama Fog

Sandplain grassland lies between the runways and taxiways of the airfield. Can you spot the VCS Winter Walkers? (Photo by Brendan O'Neill, click for full-size)

Around 35 people joined VCS for a very educational walk through the foggy Katama Airpark, home to both a historic airfield and a prime example of the globally threatened sandplain grassland ecosystem. Thanks to ecologist Matt Pelikan from The Nature Conservancy, who shared insight into TNC's restoration work at the site and the important relationships between the flora and fauna of this habitat. Click on over to our website for the detailed history of the conservation of this property and, if you missed it, a slideshow of Sunday's walk.

Vineyard Economy in Eye of Coming Storm

The interactions between climate change and the economy are complex. It's routinely argued by opponents of any action to reduce emissions that such measures would "destroy" the economy, while mitigation advocates point to the job-creating aspects of carbon-free energy. But interactions with the economy go beyond what we do (or fail to do): the effects of climate change will themselves directly impact all aspects of any economy, pre-industrial or modern, global or local.

In the 14th installment of her series on local climate change impacts, Liz Durkee writes about the economy, from a distinctly local perspective:

"On the Island, during a long era of climate stability, we built homes, businesses, roads and utilities on shifting sands, on top of eroding banks, and in expanding floodplains. Now more than ever our economy is shaped by nature’s whim.”

Wastewater Management Takes Center Stage on Cape Cod. Are We Next?

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod met this week with the editorial board of the Cape Cod Times to present a consensus statement – from three dozen organizations – outlining their joint strategy on wastewater management on the Cape. The groups argue that
"Nutrient loading of Cape Cod’s groundwater, ponds, and coastal waters caused by human activity and waste is the region’s number one environmental priority. Immediate action . . . is necessary. . . . Delay will add to the environmental damage, the cost of remediation and the cost of necessary infrastructure."

It seems that public awareness of the wastewater problem is greater on the Cape than the Vineyard; for example, the topic was the subject of an entire half-hour program on the local NPR station this morning. However, this may be due to the fact that, on the Cape, any solution is going to require a significant degree of additional public sewering that will be tremendously expensive. With sufficient effort it may not be too late for our Island to avoid, at least for the foreseeable future, hitting this point of no return/no alternative through a combination of smart, localized improvements to wastewater infrastructure and measures that reduce other nitrogen inputs to our ponds, such as lawn fertilizers.
Other News

The Worst Almanac Entry on Record

Good graphs like this one make their point clearly and emphatically, but without exaggerating the underlying numbers. They also are sometimes kind of dull to look at, at least compared to their flashy, misleading brethren. (From the U.S. Global Change Research Program)

Climate Central is one of the best sources on the web for up-to-date information on climate science presented in an accessible way. True to form, a recent piece laying out the details on 2012’s status as Warmest Year on Record is almost uniformly excellent. Particularly fun is the interactive figure at the top in which you can click any state to see a time series of annual temperatures, and even zoom in on any part of the graph for more detail.
But, as pointed out by the Monkey Cage, the Climate Central piece does contain one completely unnecessary, and generally awful, graph. It’s not even clear that any graphic at all is needed to convey the simple fact that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S., and about 1oF warmer than the next hottest, 1998 and 2006. It’s not so bad that the years are out of order, and only somewhat misleading (but common, and necessary to some degree to avoid huge graphs with tiny print) that the scale on the y-axis is constricted such that small differences look huge. But the thing that really brings it all together is the silly 3-D effect that causes the horizontal lines to fan out from left to right, such that by the right edge of the graph (where 2012 conveniently lies), 1.5 degrees of warming over the 1921 average translates into a bar three times the size!
In a touch of (surely intentional) irony, the headline of the Monkey Cage piece is similarly terrible, suggesting this might be the “Worst Graph on Record.” It may be bad, but it’s not even in the same league as what comes out of climate-denial organizations. (Though perhaps we should be encouraged that 120% of the public has an opinion about anything climate-related. How they came about those totals explained here.)
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Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.