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Almanac Archive for March 16, 2015

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Save the Date:
Saturday, April 11

The 23rd Annual
Earth Day
Beach Clean-Up 

Join VCS for a great family event and annual tradition. This year we expect to clean over 20 of our beaches -- look for a complete list on our website soon!

If you would like to volunteer, please give us a call at the office (508-693-9588), or email.

Quote of the Week
“It’s really about utilities’ fear that solar customers are taking away demand. These customers are installing solar at their own cost and providing a valuable resource: additional electricity for the grid at the times when the utilities need it most. And it’s all carbon-free.”
Angela Navarro, Southern Environmental Law Center, regarding the ongoing campaign to impose usage fees on owners of rooftop solar panels.
Conservation Calendar

Backyard Mushroom Cultivation

Tuesday, March 17, 1:00 pm, Vineyard Haven
Meeting of the MV Garden Club featuring a guest talk from North Tabor Farm on how to grow your own mushrooms. $10 (free for Garden Club members), at the Wakeman Center on Lambert's Cove Rd.

Free Food and Farming Films
Wednesdays, March 18 and 25, at 6:30 pm, Oak Bluffs
The Farm Project, a high school program from Island Grown Schools, hosts two films on food and agriculture: Greenhorns (Mar 18) and Fed Up (Mar 25). At Alex's Place (YMCA), on the Edg/VH Road. For more info, see Alex's Place.

. . . and Further Farming Films: The Future of Farming
Saturday, March 21, 9:00 am, Chilmark
The MV Film Festival features five short films Saturday morning, telling the story of oyster cultivation on Cape Cod, the Vineyard's own seed library, urban farming in Detroit, an artisan butcher, and hopeful young farmers in Maine. Followed by a farmer's breakfast at the Hay Cafe. More info and tickets at MVFF.

Webinar: Invasive Plant Management

Tuesday, March 24, 1:00 pm
Sustainable Forests Roundtable offers a free one-hour webinar on best management practices for invasives. The course is worth 1 credit hour for the Society of American Foresters. More info and instructions at website.

Healing Fragmented Landscapes with Native Plants

Saturday, March 28, 2:30 to 3:30 pm, West Tisbury
Natural habitats on the Vineyard have become overly segmented due to development and landscape alterations. Join Tim Boland of Polly Hill Arboretum for a free presentation at the West Tisbury Library on how to use native plants around your home to help heal our Island's landscape.

Signal Hill Walk
Sunday, March 29, 1:00 to 3:00 pm, Chilmark
Sheriff's Meadow and TTOR co-host a walk at the Signal Hill Conservation Restriction property. The hike features scenic views from the (relatively) high land between Squibnocket and Menemsha Ponds. Free, but space is limited, so preregistration is required: email or (508) 693-7662.
In Season Recipe

Pea Shoot Pesto

It was way back in February, amidst all the snow and ice, that Island Grown Schools featured the simple pea shoot as their Harvest of the Month. But following such a long and cold winter, it seems even more appropriate now as spring comes rushing in. Chef Robin's recipe choice this time is very simple: gather some pea shoots, Parmesan cheese, and kitchen essentials, put in the food processor, and enjoy a fresh spring pesto! :
Monday, March 16, 2015
Local News

New Fertilizer Restrictions Now in Effect

Going green is not always the best thing for the environment.

Last year at Town Meeting, voters of all six Island towns approved a new bylaw that would regulate the sale and use of lawn fertilizer. Importantly, the regulations apply to everyone: not just professional lawn care companies, but homeowners as well. With spring right around the corner, we want to make sure everyone knows how to stay in compliance with the law while maintaining a healthy, non-polluting lawn.
To that end, VCS in partnership with the MV Boards of Health has prepared an informational brochure for homeowners. It will be distributed to local garden supply stores this spring, but you can get a sneak preview right now. There will also be a 1-day class this Saturday (Mar. 24) from 10 am to 4 pm at the MVRHS Performing Arts Center. The course is $35 for personal enrichment, or $85 if you plan to take the exam to become licensed (and licensing itself is an additional $100). Space is limited, so sign up today.
Intended to protect our waters from nutrient pollution, the new bylaw (full text here) was created by the MV Boards of Health in consultation with the MV Commission, using input from elected officials, local landscapers, golf course managers, UMass Extension scientists, and many members of the community, including VCS.
Fifty Tips for Protecting Our Island's Environment

As we celebrate our fiftieth birthday, VCS plans to share fifty tips to help all of us work more effectively toward that goal. Special thanks to Linda Jones for her work on this feature.
As picnic season approaches (yes, it's out there somewhere!) it’s easy to slide into the careless use of disposables, often without even thinking about it. This year, consider at least one new habit: cloth napkins, even for the outdoors! The ultimate 'recyclable' item, one can have a lot of fun with them. Try cutting out everyday napkins from old clothes – mixing up patterns and fabrics, maybe pull some threads to 'fringe' them. Better yet, find something recyclable for the young folks to make napkin rings out of too, like used ribbons braided together! Bon appétit!
Other News

New State Measures Seek to Discourage Alternative Energy

Georgia welcomes a new member into the sin tax club.

Two current efforts to discourage the use of alternative energy are quite interesting for their strategy and sheer audacity. Possibly a move to split the coalitions that support environmental policy, and definitely one to put people’s values into conflict, these efforts share a common theme: that adopters of more efficient or renewable energy technology are saving themselves money, but imposing a “free rider” cost on society.
First, as reported in the Washington Post, intense pressure from electrical utilities and the fossil fuel industry has swayed the public utility boards in several states to begin allowing the utilities to impose fees upon homes with rooftop solar panels. (It is truly an amazing story that we can’t do justice here, so please read the WaPo article.) Second, a recent state transportation bill in Georgia contains a provision that should raise eyebrows among environmentalists: a $200 per year usage fee for “alternative fueled” cars (mostly electric cars, but technically anything but gasoline). The bill was thought to be controversial because in total it amounts to a tax increase, but it sailed through the House easily and should soon pass the Senate.
The “free rider” logic of these measures is not completely without merit, and the rationale is broadly in the public interest. Most users of rooftop solar remain connected to the grid and count on it to still be there for them on cloudy days. Drivers of electric cars completely avoid gasoline taxes that fund the roads on which they drive (though this does require the acceptance of the premise that earmarked revenues can ever truly be walled off from the general budget). And in both cases, these technologies may save the user money in the long run but have upfront costs that make them less accessible to the poor. The industry backers of these measures claim that they are not motivated by profit, but rather a concern that costs for public infrastructure are being shifted onto the people who can least afford it.
The problem is that the argument is so narrow and short-sighted as to become very silly when examined at all. For starters, if owners of roof-top solar panels are free riders, so is anyone who makes an effort to lower their electricity usage while remaining connected to the grid. So, all of you moochers need to start pulling your weight and tear out that extra attic insulation right now! And please, for the sake of society, crank up that electric hot water heater to its highest setting!
Second, at least in regard to Georgia’s use tax for electric vehicles, the size of the fee ($200) provides a clue that this is not simply a pure-of-heart effort to recover public revenue lost to tax-dodging drivers. The new excise tax on gasoline will be 29.2 cents per gallon, so the usage fee represents the unpaid tax on about 685 gallons of gas. Which, if we take a conservative guess at the fuel economy of a typical electric car if it were to run on gas instead – say, 35 MPG – corresponds to about 24,000 miles driven per year. That's quite a lot of driving (78% more than the average number of miles driven in the US), mostly in cars that are lighter and less damaging on average to roads and bridges. This makes it fairly clear that apart from raising revenue the new tax is intended to actively discourage the purchase of these vehicles.
Finally, the big one: the use of fossil fuels is itself the ultimate free rider problem. Climate change, air pollution, foreign policy that treats oil availability as a national security issue: those are also costs borne by society. Perhaps those costs are harder to quantify than that of maintaining roads or the electrical grid, but they are obviously much greater. But today we still have no carbon tax; instead we have taxes on electric cars and user fees for solar panels.
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Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.