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Quote of the Week
"It’s so focused on our community. It’s helping children learn
more about their community so that they can become more active in it.”
--Wren Robertson, while helping her daughter paint their favorite Island places
(quote from the Vineyard Gazette story
on Living Local)
What Do You Want to Protect?
Scenes from Living Local
(see story at right)
Final Outdoor Farmers' Market
Saturday, October 11, 9:00 to noon
, West Tisbury.
Fresh picked produce from local farms, flowers, delicious baked goods
and prepared foods from Island kitchens and more. This Saturday the 11th
is the last outdoor market at the Grange Hall. Starting on the 18th the
market will be held inside the Ag Hall one hour later, from 10 to 1.
For more info, see website
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 3:30 to 4:30 pm, Oak Bluffs.
Kids (age 2+, with parent) can make their own dinosaur footprints at
this craft workshop hosted by the Oak Bluffs Library as a prelude to
National Fossil Day (see below). Call (508) 693-9433 for more info.
National Fossil day
Thursday, Oct. 16, 4:00 to 7:45 pm, Oak Bluffs.
Come celebrate National Fossil Day with this program exploring the world
of marine and paleobiological research. Many presenters will be
displaying their fossil finds and be available for discussion. Bring
your own fossils to show or just come and see what others bring. All
ages welcome, a great free event for all. At the Oak Bluffs Library,
call (508) 693-9433 for more info.
Guided Birding Tours
Saturdays, 9:00 to 11:30 am, starting at MV Reg. High School.
Visit birding hot spots with your guide Robert Culbert. Carpool will
depart from the high school faculty parking lot at 9:00. Cost is $30 per
adult, $15 for under 18. For more details, call (508) 693-4908.
FARM Institute Fall Programs
Saturdays at Katama Farm in Edgartown.
Kids programs at the FARM Institute are every Saturday in October. Wee
Farmers (age 2-5) from 9:30 to 11:00, $15 per session, must be
accompanied by adult. For older kids, it's "Farmer for a Day" from 1:00
to 3:00, $35, may be accompanied or not. For more info, call (508)
|Monday, October 6, 2014
Living Local 2014!
Confused? Read on!
A child climbing a tree with orange
ear-muffs . . . three stick figures arm-in-arm at the top of a blue hill
. . . a tiny brown boat on the water: these are just a few of the
images that folks came up with when VCS asked “What is your favorite
thing to do outside on the Vineyard? What would you most want to protect?”
VCS set up at this year’s Living Local Harvest Festival with a large map
of the Island -– initially blank, except for outlines of the major
ponds. We were curious to see how the map would evolve, hopefully into a
patchwork of individual scenes creating a colorful whole. We posed the
questions and supplied the tools –- crayons, watercolors, sharpie
markers, etc. -- and kids of all ages (and even a number of adults)
created and shared the images of what they held close to their hearts.
Entering our 50th year, VCS has been reflecting on what we
have accomplished as an organization and, more important, what we would
like to accomplish in the years to come. But the internal discussions -–
where things stand now, where things are headed, and what VCS should do
about it –- raised another type of question: What does the broader
community think about the natural environment of Martha’s Vineyard? What
do they hold dear about this island? What are their wishes for the
The exercise at Living Local was one simple way of engaging the
community to begin to think and reflect in this way. Watching people’s
enthusiasm to sit and spend a moment creating an image for our map made
clear how strongly people feel about their connection to this place and
their favorite spots. Like many things that come out of a community
effort, it was the finished map with so many colors and shapes -–
beaches and flying horses and worms coming out of apples –- that was the
most stunning image of all. (See also this image from earlier in the day)
One of the individual drawings, though confusing at first, is
noteworthy. Last week, before the first person sat at our table of art
supplies and blank cards, the map was partially filled with drawings
made by West Tisbury’s first graders (thanks to Katy Kurth and Tessa
Wall!). If it was a popularity contest for the first graders, then
Menemsha, South Beach, and the State Beach bridges easily won the day.
But one of the student’s cards was a seemingly abstract shape made of a
simple green line. At first it was a mystery, but upon closer look it
was clearly the familiar cowboy hat-like outline that we all know so
well, with the mirror image curls of Chappaquiddick and Aquinnah and the
jutting pair of Chops at the top. On the back, in phonetic spelling
dancing around the card was written “I love all of Martha’s Vineyard.”
Most of us have our favorite places, but when it comes right down to it this is probably a sentiment felt by us all.
Special thanks to Samantha Look and Signe Benjamin for contributing
to this piece, and for doing the lion's share of the legwork for the
Ambitious Lawsuit Seeks to Monetize Environmental Cost of Wetland Loss
Projected land loss by 2050, referenced to a map from 1932. (Graphic from Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act Program.)
In the last edition
of the Almanac, we looked at a new addition to our scientific
understanding of how eutrophication leads to wetland loss. In short,
apart from the well-known impacts of excessive nitrogen and phosphorus
on water quality, over-fertilization of coastal waters can actually
cause the physical destruction –- a collapse, really –- of salt marshes,
at least in Massachusetts where the study was conducted. Fortunately,
the solution to this problem is clear, and (at least conceptually)
simple: reduce nutrient inputs to natural levels and the disappearance
of salt marsh will slow, stop, and eventually reverse. If only
environmental science could always produce results with such clear
prescriptions for public policy and human behavior!
On the coast of Louisiana, though, wetland loss is a much more
intractable problem. The situation is extreme: the state has lost nearly
1,900 square miles of land (about 19 Martha’s Vineyards!) to the ocean
in the past 80 years. There are multiple causes
and none of them have easy solutions. The river sediment that builds up
the delta has been greatly reduced by dams, some as far upstream as
Montana. At the other end, what sediment remains in the Mississippi is
no longer free to spread across the land during regular floods because
of the many levees. Worse, the oil and gas industry has cut countless
canals through the marsh, promoting saltwater intrusion that kills
wetland vegetation. Author John Barry describes the first two of these
situations as taking a block of ice out of the freezer to melt; the
third issue he likens to “stabbing that block of ice with an ice pick.”
Finally, all of this is happening against a backdrop of climate change
and sea level rise (making the ice block analogy even more accurate), so
when coastal marsh is lost to open ocean it is exceedingly unlikely to
By comparison, the cure for what ails the Vineyard’s coastal waters
seems relatively simple: some combination of increasing aquaculture,
controlling the spread of more and ever-larger septic systems due to
development, and resisting the culture of huge, bright green lawns can
accomplish a lot on our small, self-contained island. But fixing the
Mississippi River Delta? Removing levees to allow routine flooding of
land inhabited by millions of people (un-develop New Orleans?) and
tearing down hydroelectric dams across half the country are tall orders,
to say the least.
Faced with those sorts of challenges, author, historian, and activist John Barry is pursuing a different approach, what New York Times Magazine has called “The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever.” It is
extremely ambitious in scale – Barry is seeking enormous monetary
damages from the oil and gas companies for their role in the destruction
of Louisiana’s coast – but it’s not actually unrealistic. There are
formidable political headwinds (the state government is overwhelmingly
beholden to the oil industry), but the facts of the case, even by the
industry’s own admission, don’t look good for them. At present, the
industry seems most interested in circumventing the legal system by
lobbying the legislature instead – a pretty strong indictment of how
they view their chances in court. For the whole story, see the Times
article, which is a truly excellent read.