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Almanac Archive for Oct. 22, 2020

The Conservation Almanac
     Community Art Project Celebrates Shorelines
          Who is Responsible for Climate Change?
                MVC Election Gives Voters a Voice on Sustainability 
Love It. Protect It. MV  
VCS community art project launches with an appreciation of "Shorelines"

In celebration of nature, open spaces, and our sense of place as an island, we are excited to announce the launch of our first community art project, titled “love it. protect it. mv.” All are invited to join with VCS to honor our extraordinary home through the visual arts, written thoughts, and any other form of expression.
Coming on the heels of summer, the first theme for this virtual gathering of art and ideas will be “Shorelines.” For more info on how to participate click here. The project is truly open to all, with no age or skill level requirements. In these challenging times, we can all benefit from a greater sense of connection with nature!

Local artist Anna Lowell Finnerty kicked off the project earlier this week with her painting "Pocha Pinks," shown above. In her words:
"𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐧 𝐎𝐜𝐭𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝐤𝐚𝐲𝐚𝐤 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐧 𝐏𝐨𝐜𝐡𝐚 𝐏𝐨𝐧𝐝. 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐦 𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐮𝐦𝐧 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐛𝐥𝐮𝐞 𝐬𝐤𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈 𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐈 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐜𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐮𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐬. 𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐞, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐕𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐲𝐚𝐫𝐝'𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐝 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫 𝐚 𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐥 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞, 𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬. 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐢𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐧𝐣𝐨𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐲. 𝐈 𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐞 𝐦𝐲 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞."
Thanks, Lowely!
Let's Play the Climate Change Blame Game!
     Or better yet, let's not . . .

Earlier this month we shared this map, illustrating the level of personal responsibility Americans have for causing – and therefore fixing – global climate change.

Historically, the United States as a nation has also contributed the most to total carbon emissions, a full quarter:


But is this truly fair? In recent years, emissions in the USA (and Europe) have begun to decline, while they continue to increase in China, India, and elsewhere in Asia. Today, with China's lead in total emissions (at first caused by their large population) actually growing (due to increasing per capita wealth), some in America conveniently lay the blame – and responsibility for action – across the ocean.

recent article in Vox presents ten of these charts, packed with data but easily comprehensible, to delve into this question of responsibility for addressing the existential crisis of our time. The piece is highly recommended. I can’t improve on writer David Roberts’ takeaway message, so will quote at length:

"In this mess of a situation, the answer to the question of responsibility for climate change is always yes, and. Yes, North America and the EU ought to acknowledge their historical responsibility for emissions. They ate up most of the carbon budget, developing in a way that is now off limits to the world’s billions of poor people. In exchange for this good fortune, they have an obligation to help the emerging economies of the world shift to sustainable development and increase their resilience to the climate damages.

And China, India, and other developing nations have a responsibility to see that, for better or worse, they are in the climate driver’s seat in the coming century and that every bit of fossil-fueled development bakes in more suffering later in the century.

North America and the EU owe the world some room (and some help) to raise their standard of living; the rest of the world owes it to itself to try to decouple welfare from material consumption and waste."

In this political season, what I can add to this is the observation that an important part of the question, the relationship between personal and governmental responsibility, differs across nations. Of course individuals can make a difference through their personal choices, but effective action will require the power and coordination of government. In the democratic nations of Europe and North America, personal responsibility includes an ability to choose our government, and direct its response, in a way not available to the individual in China (and much of the rest of Asia).

One more figure is in order here, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index:


Even in, to use their term, the “Flawed Democracy” of the USA (ranked #25, and just missing the cutoff for a nicer shade of green), citizens maintain a significant right to choose their leaders. Especially at this moment of political reckoning, despair in the face of crisis is not an option. If you are fortunate enough to have a voice, use it.

Local Races Give Island Voters a Voice on Sustainability
Clearly, the upcoming federal election is critical in determining whether our country will take action to address climate change. For Vineyarders, though, our most important votes on climate change and other environmental issues are in the races for local office, where the outcome remains in doubt. (All of our federal elections are non-competitive, including the Senate race led by Green New Deal co-sponsor Ed Markey.)

Arguably, the government entity with the most influence over whether the Island will chart a sustainable path is the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. The MVC serves as our regional planning agency (largely accomplished through the work of their professional staff), but in addition has significant regulatory power. Through their votes on Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs), the elected and appointed Commissioners represent the people in weighing the oft-competing interests of sustainability vs. immediate economic gain.

The MVC very rarely denies a DRI proposal. (More often they are approved with conditions that seek to mitigate the impact on the environment and/or housing affordability.) Recently, though, there was one notable exception that we can use to call attention to the importance of the DRI process: the outright denial of the proposed “Meethinghouse Way” subdivision (on which VCS offered testimony).

All but one of the candidates running for election this fall (actual ballot at right, click to enlarge) participated in that decision. The three Commissioners from Tisbury were divided, with Clarence (Trip) Barnes and Josh Goldstein voting to approve, and Ben Robinson voting in opposition. Other members on the ballot (Christina Brown, Fred Hancock, Doug Sederholm, Linda Sibley, and Jim Vercruysse) also voted to deny the proposal, contributing to its 10-4 defeat. (New candidates include Jeff Agnoli from Edgartown and Jay Grossman, who is mounting a write-in campaign from Chilmark. Jeff recently led neighborhood opposition to the Meetinghouse subdivision, and Jay is a member of the Island Climate Action Network.)

Because of the particular rules of town representation on the MVC, this fall’s election is deceptively complicated. Nine candidates appear on the ballot running for nine spots, creating the impression that your vote is meaningless. Not so! There is in fact one competitive race: all three candidates from Tisbury are currently serving on the Commission, but only two (at most) can be elected this fall. Voters in all six towns have equal stake in the actions of the Commission, and as such all votes are pooled Island-wide. With the choice among the three Tisbury candidates as the only seriously contested race, all Islanders may wish to focus on that decision.

Voting mechanics for MVC elections
  • Nine seats are up for grabs at the general election. In addition, each town gets to appoint one member, adding another six. The County appoints another one, and the State five (although only one is allowed to vote), for a total of 17 voting members.
  • The top vote-getter in each town automatically wins a seat. After that, the next three highest totals win an at-large seat, with the exception that no more than two may come from any given town.
  • All votes are tabulated Island-wide: a vote from an Aquinnah voter counts toward determining the top vote-getter from Edgartown, and vice-versa.
  • For strategic voters, it is often more effective to vote only for those candidates you most support.
  • Specific to the 2020 election, the choice of candidates from Tisbury is truly competitive, while both candidates from Edgartown and West Tisbury will almost certainly win seats, barring exceptionally vigorous write-in campaigns.  

Fall Special Town Meeting Update

Two non-binding resolutions, a pledge to work toward 100% renewable energy (from the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee) and a voluntary ban of polystyrene plastics (from VCS),  are winding their way through a series of fall Special Town Meetings. West Tisbury went first, approving both easily, and now Aquinnah is up next, with a meeting set for Nov. 14 at 1:00 in the fire station parking lot.  Oak Bluffs has also tentatively planned a  Special Town Meeting for the same date, with details TBD.

To learn more about these two resolutions, please see the top story from this previous Almanac

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