A 501(c)(3) non-profit citizen’s organization dedicated to thoughtful planning and policies for sustainable growth, stewardship of our natural, cultural and historical resources and the protection of the rural character of our region.
Bring your recyclables to the Transfer Station on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2017 to help us green and clean Madison!
Recycle up to 4 rimless, passenger vehicle-size used tires per household for free (no tractor tires, please)!
Free tree seedlings (white dogwood, indigo, white oak, white pine or sugar maple) for the 1st 150 vehicles.
Enter the sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes from local businesses, including Orange Madison Cooperative, MWP Supply, Inc., Yoder’s Country Market and Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. (you must get your tickets at the event, but you do not need to be present to win).
Wendell Berry to Speak at CLF 20th Anniversary Celebration
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The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) is kicking off its 20th Anniversary Celebration next week with events featuring award-winning author and farmer Wendell Berry and investigative journalist and author Eric Schlosser. Members of the media are invited to attend the events below or watch the live stream at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/johnshopkinsu
The World Ending Fire: A Conversation with Wendell Berry
Eric Schlosser, author and investigative journalist, and Wendell Berry, award-winning novelist, poet, and farmer, will discuss Mr. Berry’s writings and ideas about a wide range of topics, including agriculture, agrarian life, the pleasures of good food, and our food system.
When: Wednesday, December 7, 2016, at Noon-1 PM (EST)
Where: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
615 N. Wolfe Street, W1214 (Sheldon Hall)
Notes: This event is not open to the public and space is limited. Please direct media RSVPs to email@example.com. The event live stream can be viewed here.
The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age
Wendell Berry will premier a new essay, “The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age,” during the 17th Annual Dodge Lecture. The Dodge Lecture was established in 1999 to honor Dr. Edward Dodge and his late wife Nancy for their generous support of the Center for a Livable Future.
When: Thursday, December 8, 2016, at 12:30-1:30 PM (EST)
Where: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
615 N. Wolfe Street, E2014 (Sommer Hall)
Notes: This event is open to the public, but space is limited. Please direct media RSVPs to firstname.lastname@example.org. The event live stream can be viewed here.
Since 1996 the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has been addressing some of the most pressing issues in the food system while advancing public health and protecting the environment. As an interdisciplinary academic center based within the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Center is a leader in public health research, education, policy, and advocacy that is dedicated to building a healthier, more equitable, and resilient food system.
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Humans are biological creatures and we do best when we are in alignment with our environments. Ultimately, as noted in an earlier post, this comes down to the question of whether we are creating an egosystem or an ecosystem:
An ego-system is structured to satisfy shareholder wants and to privatize decision-making. Financial capital is valued above other contributions, costs are not fully disclosed and transactions lack transparency.
In the ecosystem, all stakeholders are committed to the shared wellbeing of the community. All forms of capital are valued, all costs are considered and transactions are transparent.
Are we creating and valuing our communities in ways that recognize & emulate the natural rooted patterns of thriving? Or using models that utilize the ‘greenwash‘ model in which the appearance of a commitment to community-focused solutions is used to cover up the fact that the true outcome plays out in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiative. In other words, are developers claiming biomimicry when, in truth, they are practicing biomockery?
The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat.
But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.
An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.
The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.
“Bayer in the U.S. is known largely for its pharmaceuticals, with scientists who developed modern Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer.” And you might need a little of both to process the company’s latest deal; a massive $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto. Here’s more on the deal that could reshape the world’s food supply. (If Bayer/Monsanto’s pesticides make you sick, don’t worry. Bayer/Monsanto has a drug to help you. Synergy!)
Bayer in the U.S. is known largely for its pharmaceuticals, with scientists who developed modern Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer. But the deal would pivot the 117,000-employee company more towards its farm-targeting business in agriculture chemicals, crop supplies and compounds that kill bugs and weeds.
The film Unbroken Ground explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing.
Enjoy this full length feature and join us in finding a solution to the environmental crisis through food!
The Land Institute is a non-profit research, education, and policy organization dedicated to sustainable agriculture based in Salina, Kansas, United States. Their goal is to develop an agricultural system based on perennial crops that “has the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops”
The scientific, economic and anecdotal evidence to support the use of wood fuels for thermal energy is widely available, yet most Virginians are unaware that wood heat is feasible on an institutional scale. Why is that – a lack of information, misinformation, or something more?
The Virginia Community Wood Energy Program (VCWEP) explored potential barriers to increased thermal energy in rural Virginia through conversations and questionnaires with potential users operating public and private facilities. Those conversations offered the following insights to perceived barriers and potential opportunities regarding the state of community wood energy in the Commonwealth.
Individual Perception Barriers to Wood Energy:
Over the last 45 years, the real price of wood energy has actually declined. Woodchip prices have increased at less than the rate of general inflation over the decades, unlike oil and gas prices. Although few interviewed disputed the actual cost advantage of wood versus conventional heating fuels, the cost of boiler conversion and the on-going personnel costs of operating biomass boilers were recurring concerns.
The boilers needed for biomass heating varies, depending on the type of fuel. Biomass boilers do require additional storage and handling equipment compared to conventional liquid and gas fuels, but the fuel cost savings realized using biomass fuel pays for the boiler conversion costs.
Modern biomass boilers are commercially available for use in schools, office buildings, hospitals, and other institutions. They utilize automatic feed systems and advanced computerized controls to maximize the efficiency and performance of the equipment, minimizing operating costs, including personnel.
Virginia supports over 180 saw, chip, pulp and pellet mills that produce sawdust, wood chips and pellets as a primary or by-product. Even so, the reliable supply of fuel was a concern.
In fact, wood chips are a commonly sold commodity for pulp and paper production, and Virginia is currently exporting the majority of the wood pellets produced here to New England states and European countries, because the demand is there. Increased local demand would keep energy dollars local and reduce the carbon footprint associated with exporting.
Consulting foresters are available throughout the Commonwealth, who can help locate sources of fuel and negotiate supply contracts. Farm-based biomass fuels (native grasses and timber) are another growing sector of the supply market. By increasing local demand, farmers are offered an option that creates new markets and revenues, and may consequently save open land from development, in addition to keeping energy dollars local.
Concerns about potential air pollution and deforestation were commonly expressed environmental concerns.
In fact, commercial-scale boilers are able to combust biomass cleanly, with no visible smoke or odor, thanks to computer controls and other developments. Biomass combustors are permitted by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and must meet all requirements for air quality. Woodchip boilers with modern emission controls have virtually no visible emissions or odors and emit far less particulate matter (PM) than home wood stoves.
Burning wood for energy also has a positive impact in moderating global climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) buildup in the atmosphere is a significant cause of global climate change. Fossil fuel combustion takes carbon that was locked away underground (as crude oil and gas) and transfers it to the atmosphere as CO2. When wood is burned, however, it recycles carbon that was already in the natural carbon cycle. Consequently, the net effect of burning wood fuel is that no new CO2 is added to the atmosphere.
The latest research out of Virginia Tech shows that the forests of Virginia are growing at least twice as fast as they are being harvested and can support increased utilization. Using waste products from timber harvests and sawmills for wood fuel offers a productive use for low-grade woody material. Sawdust and wood chips from sawmills are a waste that must be disposed of and are typically sold. Biomass removal after harvest operations generate additional revenue from material that would otherwise be open burned for disposal or left to decay. Improving forest health through thinning, invasive species management, and wildfire fuel load reduction operations comes at a cost to landowners.
Wood fuel markets can generate additional revenue from timber harvests for landowners, or at the very least offset the cost of forest health operations, thereby incentivizing landowners to actively manage their forests and to keep their forestlands as forest. Rather than causing deforestation, the sustainable removal of biomass can improve overall forest health and reduce the incidence of uncontrollable, devastating fires.
Systemic Barriers to Community Wood Energy
Since wood has been a source of heat for generations, most everyone is familiar with domestic wood heat, and many understand that biomass is a viable energy source for institutions and public facilities. Facility managers interviewed were generally aware that modern technologies allow for boilers to deliver safe, efficient and reliable heat. However, many public officials were unaware of the potential for biomass energy to improve community wellbeing through the creation of sustainable, local jobs that consequently contribute to healthy forests and diversified wildlife.
Institutional wood energy is a multisystemic, community-based alternative that impacts local economies, ecology and society. Everyone is understandably interested in utilizing fuels that save on the costs of heating; however, the economic benefits of keeping energy dollars within the community through sustainable jobs that also protect our environment strike chords throughout the community, including municipal planners and local leaders. Although the stable cost of wood per BTU over the past 45 years alone offers fiscal incentive, the added value created when wood energy is viewed systemically adds significantly to the overall savings.
Community systems begin with people – the systems reflect the needs of the people and once created, systems impact the lives of citizens within that system. Energy is often viewed as an external, uncontrollable cost, and energy choices are often a reaction to current although volatile markets and supply availability. Once energy consumption is viewed as a conscientious measure taken to improve the overall health and wellbeing of local citizens, environment and economy, the benefits are more than economic and indeed redefine costs/savings systemically.
A primary barrier to the increased use of thermal energy in rural Virginia may then be our incomplete picture of this community resource within the context of community systems. Perhaps we need to “re-package” energy as it relates to the whole community. For instance, while community planners are focused on generating jobs to boost local economies by adding businesses, sustainable jobs may be a natural byproduct of their energy systems. However, planners are typically not involved in discussions and decisions regarding local energy options. Likewise, county administrators are charged with managing multiple systems within a community, but may not play a major role in determining the heating systems for their schools. School superintendents typically defer to facilities and maintenance managers to recommend the best options for their schools, but they may not be charged to take into consideration how that system impacts the larger community.
The benefits and savings of modern thermal energy run deeper than the traditional analysis of cost per BTU. Communities are multisystemic – energy is yet another gear within a system that generates community well-being. Thermal energy offers more than an economically stable energy source. Sustainable jobs, healthier forests, cleaner air and a more diversified wildlife may be welcomed side-effects that not only reduce costs but contribute to healthier citizens.
“Our true destiny…is a world built from the bottom up by competent citizens living in solid communities, engaged in and by their places.” David W. Orr
“It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to…the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility…and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future.” Robert F. Kennedy
Betty J. Dixon
Social Science Consultant
Virginia Community Wood Energy Program
A Program of the Center for Natural Capital – a 501(c)(3) charitable organization
130 W. Main Street
Orange, VA 22960
(540) 672-2542 (office)
The Center for Natural Capitol provides consulting and commercial services spanning four channels – energy, rivers, landscape, and people. Brian Becker is the Program Manager of the Virginia Community Wood Energy Program. Betty Dixon is a Social Scientist Consultant to the Program. Frank Kilgore is an attorney and conservationist in St. Paul, VA.
“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”
As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results…
The public hearing on the proposed permit (VPA00076) took place Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Madison County High School. The Virginia Water Control Board will render a final decision to deny or approve (or approve with amendments) the application during its next regular meeting on June 27th. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am.
General Assembly Building, House Room C 9th & Broad Streets, Richmond, Virginia 23219
Only those citizens who spoke at the hearing on June 8 and/or submitted a public comment by June 17, 2016 will be permitted to address the Water Control Board on June 27.