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Almanac Archive for November 28, 2018

   The Conservation Almanac
             Environmental news from the Vineyard Conservation Society
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Quote of the Week
"Over longer time scales, the human influence dominates"

While that statement might well refer to almost anything on Earth, this quote is from the just-released 4th National Climate Assessment, specifically in regard to predicting future climate change with any precision.

In the short run, uncertainly in the models and basic science limits the ability to make exact predictions, but over the long run all that really matters is what we do. See also this figure — where the orange blob, "scenario uncertainty," refers to the question of what sort of scenario is operating, i.e., what people do.
B.Y.O. Spotlight
We will be using this space to highlight programs and promotions from local businesses that help encourage and reward the B.Y.O. spirit. If you see something while you're out, or are a business owner who is already doing something great, let us know!

Now at Cronig's:
B.Y.O. for Bulk Foods!

Cronig's Market has now made it easy to B.Y.O. container for bulk foods like beans, grains, dried fruits and nuts, and everything else in their many bulk bins. Check out the instructions, and look for the new scale and printer located just inside the entrance to their down-Island store.

It's a great, simple way to reduce the use of thin-film plastics, one of the most difficult materials to recycle on our island.
Winter Walk at Wakeman

Maeve Moriarty, Emily Houser, and Finn Moriarty (L-R) try to keep their shoes dry during our November Winter Walk. See the rest of the photos or learn about the revolutionary history of the area known as "Red Coat Hill".
Conservation Calendar

One Big Home: Film Screening & Discussion
Saturday, Dec. 1, 3:00, West Tisbury.
The West Tisbury Library hosts a free screening of the film One Big Home, followed by a discussion with those involved in the passage of a bylaw regulating house size in Chilmark: Thomas Bena, Jessica Roddy, Chris Murphy, Joan Malkin, and Steve Bernier. Refreshments will be served.

Note: Background on the VCS perspective on "high impact residential development" can be found in this 2013 newsletter. Scroll to page 10 for a short story on the Chilmark bylaw, then to page 11 for our testimony to the MV Commission.  

Guided Walk at Polly Hill

Saturday, Dec. 8, 10:00
am, West Tisbury.
Join PHA staff for a look at plants in the winter landscape, when they display unique foliage color, textures, structure, cones, and berries. Meet at the Visitor Center and dress for the weather. $5 (free for members), no pre-registration required. For more info, call (508) 693-9426.

Book Talk: The Nature of Martha's Vineyard
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 7:00
pm, Vineyard Haven.
The Vineyard Haven Library hosts a slideshow presentation and signing session for Suzan Bellincampi's newly released book, The Nature of Martha's Vineyard. The book is a retrospective of her newspaper columns from the past two decades, illustrated with photographs by Tim Johnson. Refreshments will be served, for more info see Library website or call (508) 696-4210.
Take Back the Tap

Do you need that bottle of water? A handy flowchart.

Two years ago, following on the heels of the campaign to ban single-use plastic checkout bags, VCS began working on what we saw as the obvious next step in waste reduction. When considering all the factors, it was the enormous number of single-serving, disposable plastic water bottles that, after plastic bags, were the next most egregious and unnecessary source of waste.

However, the issue of disposable bottles presents a different sort of challenge than disposable bags. Plastic bags could be seamlessly replaced with alternatives that are not only better for the environment, but also better at the core function of a bag: getting your stuff home from the store. We were confident then, that should it pass at Town Meeting, the bag ban would grow to be overwhelmingly popular.

Unlike plastic bags, though, much of the public today has a sincere preference for bottled water. The realization that we must decrease the demand for bottled water is the conceptual underpinning of the “Take Back the Tap” initiative. Our research revealed that the factors motivating people to buy bottled water generally fit into two categories: quality and convenience. To address concerns over the taste or cleanliness of tap water, we began educational efforts (such as the “Tap Water Challenge” during Zero Waste Week at Tisbury School). However, it is the second issue — convenience — that may pose the greater challenge. Life moves quickly, even on Martha’s Vineyard, and to keep pace, we have grown to rely on a degree of convenience unimaginable a century ago.

This is why we believe the most important accomplishment to date of the Take Back the Tap program has been the installation of water bottle refill stations across the Island. These machines get at the root of both sets of motivators, quality and convenience, by providing chilled, filtered water — not just for free, but also more quickly than buying a bottle from the store or vending machine. Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, refill stations were first installed in all of our schools, and more recently we have been expanding into other high-traffic public places. Stations can now be found at the Boys & Girls Club, the MV Ice Arena, the Agricultural Hall, the Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury Libraries, and the Edgartown and West Tisbury Town Halls, with more locations still to come. The goal is to create a highly visible network that will immediately decrease the need for bottled water, while over the long haul demonstrating to residents and visitors alike that we are very fortunate to have excellent drinking water on our Island — we should be using it!
Next Winter Walk: Sunday at Waskosims Rock 
Photo by Brendan O'Neill

Our next Winter Walk will be a special collaboration with the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank at their Waskosims Rock Reservation. This Sunday (Dec. 2) at 1:00 pm, Land Bank Ecologist Julie Russell and VCS Executive Director Brendan O'Neill will co-lead an interpretive hike at this jewel of the Vineyard's conservation land, sharing insights on the ecological features and land use history of the property, as well as how it came to be saved from a much different fate than what we see today.
VCS involvement at Waskosims, an area located in the heart of the Mill Brook Watershed in Chilmark and West Tisbury, began over 40 years ago with the sponsorship of a study to test the feasibility of permanently protecting the land. Over the years, VCS advocacy fended off various subdivision plans, and established a protected Special Place designation for 22 acres, including Waskosims Rock itself. In 1990 the Land Bank stepped in, purchasing 145 acres of the property for $3.5M, conserving the land in perpetuity. Since then, MVLB acquisitions have expanded the Waskosims Reservation to nearly 185 acres. 
Parking will be off of North Rd., about one mile from the State Road end. Watch for the yellow flags and VCS signs on the south side of the road. Please dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes, and be prepared for a walk of 1-2 hours. We hope to see you on Sunday!

The MV Land Bank is a public governmental entity created for the purpose of acquiring, holding, and managing protected lands. The Vineyard Conservation Society is a private non-profit membership organization pursuing its environmental protection mission through advocacy, education, and land preservation.
An Environmental Perspective on the Grass Debate

The politically complicated – and unfortunately divisive – question of whether to use natural grass or artificial turf on our Regional High School’s athletic fields has resurfaced. Though the issue may have appeared settled last year when the High School adopted a 10-year grass-only policy, that decision has not precluded the School's Facilities Sub-Committee from “discuss(ion) of all options for amendments to policies” (see meeting minutes and Gazette coverage).
VCS recognizes that these decisions are complex and involve the consideration of many factors that are outside of our environmental protection mission, including student health and safety, athletic competitiveness, and, of course, the financial impact any of the proposed projects would have on Town budgets and tax assessments. Our chief objection to artificial turf is, in contrast, fairly simple: at a time when so much is being done to reduce plastic waste and pollution on our Island, it would be disappointing to see a contradictory addition of one or more enormous plastic carpets. These would periodically need to be hauled off-Island, disposed of, and replaced, all the while shedding microplastics into our groundwater and oceans – just like the bags and bottles our Island is working so hard to keep out of the natural environment. For more detail on the environmental perspective, please see our written testimony to the School Committee.
The Vineyard Conservation Society is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving the environment of Martha’s Vineyard through advocacy, education and the protection of the Island’s land and water.
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Copyright (C) 2018 *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.
Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.