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Almanac Archive for July 24, 2017

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Quote of the Week
"In the house I grew up in, (1800 square feet, one story, 3bed/2ba, four people) my sister had to deal with my practicing the violin, and I had to deal with my sister’s incessant horror movie binges at top volume, and we all had to deal with my dad when he got way too into surround sound."
--"McMansion Hell" creator Kate Wagner, explaining her belief that giant houses are actively "bad for the spirit"

If you missed the VCS take on McMansions and the local issue of big houses, see the bottom of our previous Almanac.
The Art of Conservation

Between the Lines, by Kayla Oliver, one of six Special Distinctions awarded in the 2017 edition of our high school art contest. View the rest of the entries, then check out our Winners' Gallery, complete with written descriptions by the artists themselves!
Conservation Calendar

Guided Walk: Edgartown Great Pond
Wednesday, July 26, 9:00 - 11:00 am, Edg.

Join Sheriff's Meadow Foundation for a guided hike through their King Point and Armour Preserves on the Edgartown Great Pond. Pre-registration is required, contact SMF for directions, (508) 693-5207 or email

Saturdays at Sengie
Saturday, July 29 (and August 5), 9:30 - 10:30 am, Oak Bluffs.
A Felix Neck program that explores a different aspect of Sengekontacket Pond each week. From the birds above to the creatures below the water's surface, this program includes hands-on activities for all ages. Free, sponsored by Friends of Sengekontacket. Meet at the Little Bridge on Beach Road, on the pond side. For more info, call (508) 627-4850 or see Felix Neck website.

Island Ecology Class: Weeds and Invasives
Thursday, Aug. 3, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm, West Tisbury.
Island ecologists Kristen Fauteux of Sheriff's Meadow and Julie Russell of MV Land Bank lead a one-day course on identification and management of common invasive species and yard weeds. At the Polly Hill Arboretum, $60 for the public ($50 for PHA members, $40 for staff of local conservation groups). Pre-registration is required, call (508) 693-9426.  

The Climate Change Crisis
Sunday, Aug. 6, 6:00 - 8:00 pm, Vineyard Haven.
Enjoy local farm-to-table appetizers and seafood and hear WBUR's On Point radio host Tom Ashbrook interview Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator for President Obama. The interview is expected to cover climate change and related issues. The event is at the M.V. Shipyard, tickets are $75, see WBUR website for tickets and more info.

Guiding Birding Walks

Tuesdays, 8:00 am, Chilmark.
Birding walks led by Soo Whiting, carpool meets at Chilmark Community Center, $10 per person
Saturdays, 9:00 am, Oak Bluffs. Birding walks led by Robert Culbert, carpool meets at the MV Regional High School, $30 adults, $15 under 18
Bring binoculars, a hat, insect repellent, and appropriate footwear!
Local News

Tonight: Saving Farmland for the Future
Photo by Brendan O'Neill

At the Agricultural Hall tonight (July 24) at 7:00, President of the American Farmland Trust John Piotti gives a talk on the current state of farmland preservation, and the economic and demographic forces that threaten to undermine recent gains in conservation of farmland.

Partly due to land conservation, a major revival in farming is underway in the northeastern USA. However, not all the news is good; Mr. Piotti will explain farming's ebbs and flows over recent decades, and how we can work to ensure a sustainable future for our food supply while preserving our agricultural land.

Reflecting the broad importance of agriculture to our local way of life, tonight's talk is co-sponsored by 10 organizations, including VCS. For more info on the event, and the broader status of agricultural conservation on the Vineyard, see this story in the Gazette.

Global Environmental Threats: How Medical Models Can Help Us Understand Them
Another exciting collaborative event will be this Wednesday (the 26th), when VCS and the Polly Hill Arboretum bring Dr. Eric Chivian to the Island to discuss how medical modeling can help society understand and address global environmental threats. One example from his talk will be tick-borne disease, such as Lyme. The talk begins at 5:30 at the Arboretum's Far Barn, and has an admission charge of $10, or $5 for members of VCS or PHA.
The founder and former director of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, Dr. Chivian has a long history of environmental activism, co-founding the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and as a scholarly writer/editor (see below). In 2008, he was named by Time magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World." Today he leads a new non-profit, the Program for Preserving the Natural World.

Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity
Photo by Art Wolf, cover image of Sustaining Life

The eminent Harvard biology Professor Edward O. Wilson once said about ants, “We need them to survive, but they don’t need us at all.” The same, in fact, could be said about countless other insects, bacteria, fungi, plankton, plants, and other organisms. This fundamental truth, however, is largely lost to many of us. Rather, we humans often act as if we are totally independent of Nature, as if our driving thousands of other species to extinction and disrupting the life-giving services they provide will have no effect on us whatsoever.
The above passage opens this scaled-down summary by Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein of their full 500+ page book, Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity (E.O. Wilson also wrote the foreword of the full book, which can be previewed on Amazon). It’s a strange sort of truth, seemingly self-evident and almost obvious – yet with relatively little impact on stemming the destruction of biodiversity by people who ought to know better.
The “ecosystem services” perspective argues that nature provides essential goods and services to all (albeit free of charge, which may explain the lack of appreciation). As two prominent medical doctors, Chivian (who is speaking here this week – see above story) and Bernstein focus this view squarely on the effects on human health; academics such as Wilson and the late Steve Kellert (a former VCS board member, see our interview here) broadened the idea to include their concept of biophilia.

In addition to these valuable perspectives, though, VCS would like to encourage consideration of the perhaps radical concept that there is an inherent value to nature, regardless of any connection or benefit to humanity. Further, with our outsized power to alter the Earth’s ecosystems comes a moral imperative to do right by the natural world, as best we can understand right to be.
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Copyright (C) 2017 *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.

Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.