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Commentary

Trim Tabs for 2024

Some small changes in habits to consider for the upcoming new year will make a world of difference.

It’s that time of year when the new year is ringing in and the big ball in Time Square is about to drop. And we traditionally make resolutions. 
 
This year ACES suggests trying something different. After all, most resolutions don’t even reach the end of January. Instead, let’s plan some fresh fun for 2024. And maybe in a boating area like ours, the term “Trim Tab” will resonate.
 
Trim tabs are small devices connected to the trailing edge of a larger rudder on a boat [or aircraft]. They help steer by using the force of water to turn boats in a given direction. Applying that concept to our environment, here are a few analogous trim tabs - small efforts that make larger changes easier.
  
1. Eat buffalo chicken fingers more often than hamburgers. Raising beef has a high carbon footprint, much worse than chicken. In general, try to eat more food items this year that are not beef. Enjoy more turkey, arancini (tasty Italian rice balls), falafel, and veggie burgers. Even peanut butter is a great source of protein.

2. Daydream of spring. On the first bad weather day of January, go online and explore what you might like to plant in your garden this spring. Make them pollinator friendly plants. After all, who doesn’t want more flowers and butterflies in their life ? Check out ACES Pollinator PowerWorks project if you're up to do more. https://www.aces-alliance.org/post/the-pollinator-powerworks-planting-bee-friendly-gardens

3. Go shopping. That’s right, go shopping for something vintage for your wardrobe or your home at a nearby consignment or thrift store. It might even make you richer, like that woman in the news last week who paid $4.00 for a glass vase in a thrift store only to discover it was a valuable art piece form Italy worth over $100,000 ! She and her partner are going to use the money to renovate an old farmhouse they just bought.
 
4. Renovate a property worth saving like the lady with the Murano glass vase. Well, maybe it’s best to start smaller by fixing what you’ve been meaning to fix. Stitch that button back on or bring that broken rocking chair to a ‘Repair Cafe’ or refinish your Auntie’s old side table to put your tea on as you read a classic book. 

5. Borrow and swap books. Stop by occasionally at one of those “Little Libraries” that are all around our area and put in a few books you’ve already read and pick up a couple of others to try. Perhaps expand your world by picking some books on topics you don’t normally read. If they look good on that like-new side table you’ve refinished, use them as decorative items. 
 
6. Cook something simple in a crockpot, such as barbeque chicken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Sgf-RZayss. You’ll double dip on the brownie points. First, your household will love your initiative to make dinner, and second, you won’t be using a gas stove!  Gas stoves use fossil fuel, primarily methane in addition to other gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. These harmful greenhouse gasses make Earth heat up.
 
So, with a nod to our nautical culture and to ring in a new year, ACES invites you to adopt some little changes - trim tabs - of your own to help the environment. Let’s have some fun doing some interesting and maybe new things to help Mother Earth this year that will ensure a Happy New Year 2024 for all. Our Youth Corps team members ask that you send any of your “trim tab” ideas to us at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org

Commentary

COP28 and vintage gas stations

We've talking about transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels, but what do we do with all these gas stations?

Although a historic COP28 deal agreed mid-December to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels, it may be a bit too early and a bit too optimistic to talk about re-purposing gas stations. Yet the scale of the transition and the opportunities it engenders deserve serious consideration.
 
According to information from the 24/7WallSt.com website, most experts estimate that there are about 111,000 gas stations in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that they employ 908,000 people.
 
That’s what is being scheduled for big changes at COP28. “Humanity has finally done what is long, long, long overdue,” said the European Union’s climate commissioner, Wopke Hoekstra. “Thirty years we’ve spent to arrive at the beginning of the end of fossil fuels.” Delegates at the UN conference agree to a ‘historic package’ of climate measures, although the specific phrase ‘phase out’ was omitted.
 
Earlier on a Wednesday, the latest draft of the document calling on the world to wean itself off planet-warming fossil fuels was discussed by delegates after an outcry over a previous proposal forced the summit, which was meant to end on Tuesday, to be extended.
 
Finally, on that Wednesday almost 200 governments at the United Nations climate conference approved an agreement calling for the world to transition away from fossil fuels, sending an unprecedented signal to the global economy that governments are intent on cutting back on coal, oil, and natural gas in the fight against global warming.
 
But like all change, this one will bring new challenges and opportunities. One quirky one to think about creatively is gas stations. They will need to be recycled into something else, like bike shops, corner parks, homes, and neighborhood cafes, all providing EV charging services. 
 
It will be a lumpy and fraught transition, but a necessary one for the planet. And it’s a transition that is going to affect greater Newburyport and require planning and civic leadership on our agenda. 
 
Moving away from fossil fuels can present a complicated transition from a zoning perspective. For example, witness the plan to build four residential units at the former State Street Mobil station that could be headed for City Council approval early 2024. The 49-year-old gas station closed in May 2018. In a city like Newburyport with a dire shortage of housing of all kinds, this seems like a logical choice, especially for this prominent site on High St. 

 
As some in the city engage in re-visioning Storey Avenue as a potential mixed use ‘village’, there are several gas stations which are ideally located to be involved in such a transition when the time comes. Some of them have a large enough footprint to replace with a small apartment or condominium building. Some of them may be ideal rapid recharge stations for EVs coming off Rt 95. And why not a casual dining/pub like we see at the Park Lunch, to which the folks of that neighborhood can walk?
 
Whatever unfolds in greater Newburyport with the transition away from fossil fuels and towards EV’s, it will present a lot of interesting and potentially fun or contentious choices for our civic dialog.

ACES Youth Corps team members urge you to add such ideas to your repertoire of conversational topics with friends and offer any ideas pro or con to this conversation to ACES at: acesnewburyport@gmail.com To learn more about ACES as an alliance and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

What Would Noah Do?

Significant insight into Newbury's sewage and rivers

In mid-November the Boston Globe ran an article about something we in the lower Merrimack River valley are all too aware of. 

 
Quoting John Macone, a policy expert with the Merrimack River Watershed Alliance the article talked of record rainfalls and record amounts of sewerage overflows into our riverine region. In fact, the amount was 1.5 billion gallons so far this year. Part of that sewage overflow was driven by the amount of rain itself, the largest since 2011. Part of that number reflected both growth of population and land clearing, mostly in NH as well as the aging infrastructure of treatment plants and storm water management systems.
 
And on December 11th MRWC noted in a CSO Alert that: The rainstorms that passed through the region Sunday night and early Monday morning triggered discharges of partly treated and untreated sewage into the Merrimack River in Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, and Manchester. The discharges came from overburdened sewer systems in Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell and Manchester that are not able to handle the amount of effluent that flows into combined sewer/street drain pipes during heavy rainstorms.
 
With climate scientists speaking of more frequent and larger rain events in our future, how can the cities and towns of the Merrimack valley prepare for inevitable, predictable flooding when arrives at our doorstep ? 
 
Maybe our title reference to Noah might be able to help us figure that out. The Genesis flood story is among the best-known stories of the Bible. In this account, Noah was inspired and labored faithfully to build an Ark, ultimately saving not only his own family, but mankind itself and all land animals, from extinction when the flood came. In other words Noah came to understand a flood was coming and built an Ark, a really big boat, to save mankind and all its animals. Expressed in modern terms he understood the threat and he responded by building the technology needed for human survival. And he included all the animals in his planning. 
 
In the Merrimack valley we are slowly realizing the threat of more frequent flooding and leaders from both states are trying to figure out long and short term responses. At the Federal level with 4 US senators and 5 Congressional Representatives serving communities in the Merrimack valley there is an emerging recognition of the long term threats and money is beginning to be allocated for rebuilding sewer systems for example in Manchester NH. 
 
State politicians have been aware of the problems and have been leading the work for a number of years. For example in 2019 then State Senator, now MA Auditor Dianna DiZoglio and NECC President Lane Glenn and State Reps from along the river kayaked and camped from the start of the river in New Hampshire to its end at Plum Island to draw attention to environmental conservation of and recreational access to the Merrimack. 
 
Locally Newburyport Mayor Reardon and Senator Tarr have been participating in meetings with The Merrimack Valley District Commission along with ACES Board member and river expert Lon Hachmeister. They are developing concepts that can be funded to get going on the evermore urgent task of preventing river flooding and sewer overflows.
 
Its big complex of ecosystems with many tributary rivers and streams like the Pow Wow and Shawsheen it will take holistic planning to prevent loss of life and property from climate induced flooding. The Merrimack River watershed covers 5,010 square miles across 200 communities, with almost 2.6 million people. It’s big and needs big bold ideas to protect it.
 
So how do we build our equivalent of an Ark? First, we need planning boards to slow down development occurring close to the river along with setting aside more conservation land. Second, we should consider expanding natural water storage systems. Maybe by subsiding farmers and other landowners to dig or expand farm ponds and wetlands. Of course, longer-term we have to fix our aging municipal water and sewer systems. 
 
The biblical flood story is one of several similar flood stories passed down from fertile crescent cultures. Maybe ancient stories last so long because they have kernels of insight that people refer back to for guidance. So it may be old advice, but the Merrimack valley needs to start plan and building its equivalent Ark. And sooner rather than later. Our Youth Corps team member ask that you share any other observations with us about ways to help rescue the river and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

In the News

City takes look at circular economy

Taking sustainability to the economy

NEWBURYPORT — The Recycling, Energy and Sustainability Department got an up-close-and-personal look at the concept of the circular economy when Mind the Chain CEO and founder Peyton Laine spent some time in the city this week.

Mind the Chain is a software company currently working to develop a supply chain and material assessment software platform that applies circular economy methodologies to product and reuse development.

“It’s a more-holistic approach,” Laine said.

Laine lives in Germany and her visit to City Hall was coordinated by the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards, (or ACES), which is a local network of organizations and individuals dedicated to the planet’s climate and environmental health.

The circular economy, according to Laine, focuses on including businesses and the materials they produce in sustainability models, where it is not a separate entity but integrated into companies’ and communities’ economics.

“We’re looking at products and systems from a design phase and having a better view on the next life for the materials,” she said. “We’re also looking for new business opportunities to use what we have, maximize its life and then circulate and regenerate both products and business.”

Laine pointed to plastic water bottles as one product that can benefit from being engaged with more responsibly by both the companies that produce them, as well as their consumers.

“Although the city of Newburyport doesn’t engage with this directly, the water bottles that are in the city, like Nestle and Aquafina, could benefit from understanding what their recycling options are and what the repercussions are, so that materials can be optimized,” she said.

“Brands have a responsibility to the consumer and the consumer only has so much that they can do. The circular economy also encourages consumers to recycle and doesn’t force them to do it.”

Laine met this week with the city’s Recycling and Energy Manager Molly Ettenborough in an effort to potentially help envision fresh ways to mitigate waste generation and promote a more sustainable future.

“In this work, energy is interconnected with materials, water and social causes,” Laine said. “You have to be a generalist to some degree and also be a specialist.”

Ettenborough said her meeting with Laine was enlightening.

“We were introduced to Peyton by Cristin Walth, who is our local waste-zero expert,” she said.

“We all know the old adage, ‘reduce, reuse and recycle,’ and there’s many things that can be done,” she added. “But some of the things that are happening in the recycling or waste world are that companies are taking more ownership over their products.”

Ettenborough added there’s a lot of pressure on companies now to look into how their products can truly be recyclable.

“Recycling is not the answer to this, it’s ‘reduce, reuse and recycle,’” she said. “But the big thing right now is plastics. There are so many types of plastics and we know that Plastics 1, 2 and 5 are recyclable all of the time. They have high value and are able to be sold.”

She continued, “The other plastics, it depends on the market. If the oil market is high, then they have great markets for that plastic. If the oil markets are low, then there is no market for them and they get used as biofuel.”

Since plastic is not biodegradable, Ettenborough said consumers want change.

“It ends up on the beaches, in the waterways and on the side of the road,” she said. “Because of that, people are demanding corporations be more responsible.”

Mayor Sean Reardon also expressed enthusiasm for Laine’s visit, saying in a press release that her insights and proven track record in waste reduction through circular economy frameworks align perfectly with the city’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Commentary

Clothes & Climate Conundrum

What is fast fashion?

The Boston Globe ran an important series of articles during the week of Thanksgiving focused on the theme of ‘fast fashion’. Written by Kimberly Atkins Stohr, it explored both the climate and the social impacts of the clothing and retail industry. The issue caught the attention of many local environmentalists and is now being highlighted as a way to help the environment.

So, what is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. (The Good Trade: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-isfast-fashion/). If you are unaware of the term, you may be surprised to learn more. By producing low quality, knock-off versions of runway designs, the fast fashion industry exploits workers in low wage countries, often leaving environmental degradation in its wake with dyes spilling into waterways. One startling data point shared in the Globe series was the fact that over one hundred years of clothing fiber can be found in landfills and even in our closets. Used clothing is one of the principal sources of waste worldwide. And as the story goes, we can do better. These cheaply made, trendy pieces have resulted in an industry business model dependent on huge amounts of consumption driven by heavy advertising. The harmful impacts of this practice affect the environment, garment workers, animals, and ultimately, consumers’ wallets.

Here’s one statistic that might surprise you: the carbon footprint of one new cotton t-shirt is about 15 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. This includes growing cotton using fossil fuels, shipping it to be spun into fibers, then shipping to another factory, likely in another country, to be woven into cloth. The cloth is then shipped to be made into shirts, then dyed, then shipped again over the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast where it is offloaded and shipped one last time via diesel power trucks to local the local East Coast.

If you want to be stylish without harming the environment, here are three tactics to consider: First, ‘shop your closet’. You know there is a lot in there you probably haven’t worn for a while, so why not dig it out, try it on, and if it still fits, get creative to up-style it? Maybe mix and match with other items you already have or buy something new to create a fresh new look to what you already own.

Second, swap with friends and neighbors by offering clothes you won’t be wearing and ask if they might have anything that can help you refresh your style without buying something new. And third, go ‘thrifting’ with friends. According to the fashion blog, "Minimize My Mess" (https://www.minimizemymess.com) “Thrifting generally means buying affordable and unique secondhand items that have been donated to thrift stores. However, thrifting is also sometimes used as a blanket term for buying preowned items - whether from thrift stores, online, at consignment stores, flea markets, vintages stores, garage sales, estate sales, etc. It is a popular way to reduce waste and promote sustainability by giving new life to pre-owned items, as an alternative to them ending up in the landfill.”

How can you start? Check out your local thrift, consignment, and secondhand stores in our area. Bring a friend along. It’s not about being cheap, even though it does save you money. It’s about being a fashionable yet environmentally attuned human. If you’d like, send ACES a picture of your new finds at acesnewburyport@gmail.com and they may even publish it in their newsletter! And if you’d like to participate in the City’s or ACES’ waste reduction efforts, we’re always here to listen and help!

Molly Ettenborough is the manager of Newburyport’s Recycling, Energy and Sustainability Office and can be reached at mettenborough@cityofnewburyport.com Our Youth Corps asks that if you care about issues like these and would like to learn more and possibly do a bit more or have any questions, please send an email to acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

Historical Perspectives on the Great Marsh

Whats evolved in the community for our great marsh

On October 23, 2023, around two hundred people gathered at The Governor’s Academy for the History and Cultures of the Great Marsh Conference, a partnership between the Museum of Old Newbury and The Governor’s Academy. The construction of the Alfond Coastal Research Center at the Academy, dedicated to research in the marsh ecosystem, provided the initial impetus to gather, but the human relationship to the Great Marsh, past and present, was, and is, our particular focus.

The Great Marsh is key to understanding the human experience in this area. Marsh land provided crucial animal forage. The ditches that wind through the marshland to this day were cut to maximize the production and transport of hay. Marsh land was a valuable commodity to be bartered and bought. In at least one case, land was traded for an enslaved woman. Dr. Tricia Peone spoke about the history of enslaved labor in the Great Marsh, while Gordon Harris led the group through a detailed history of the transition from common to private land ownership. The Museum of Old Newbury contains images, art, and artifacts related to life in Old Newbury. Since the Great Marsh was so integral to life in this community, it is well-represented in our collections, from bog shoes – wooden discs strapped to the feet of horses and oxen to help them walk on the spongy ground –to photographs and paintings. American art expert Monica Reuss highlighted art inspired by the marsh, sharing breathtaking images that speak to the relationship humans have with this unique landscape. Of course, the experience of Indigenous people in the area is foundational to any discussion of the history of the Great Marsh, and Dr. Christoph Stroebel opened the day with information about tradition, trade, and language over time, including an acknowledgement of how much Indigenous culture has been lost through colonization.

If the purpose of history is to educate and contextualize, the afternoon sessions of the conference were about action. Rich Clyborne of The Gundalow Company joined Russ Hopping from the Trustees of Reservations and Geoffrey Walker, sportsman and wildlife activist, for a discussion of how the Great Marsh is used today, and how the human intervention in the marsh continues. From climate change to invasive species, destructive agricultural practices, pollution, and marine litter, the Great Marsh has suffered at human hands. The rallying cry of the day came from Peter Phippen, representing the Great Marsh Partnership. The initiatives led by the Great Marsh Partnership are addressing the greatest threats to the marsh. As sea levels rise, the Great Marsh will perform an increasingly vital role in storm protection, as it provides a natural carbon sink and flood mitigation system. Russ Hopping demonstrated how one organization, The Trustees of Reservations, is doing vitally important work to revitalize and restore the part of the Great Marsh entrusted to their stewardship.

The History and Cultures of the Great Marsh Conference provided a place to learn how we have lived with the marsh and address the best path forward. We encourage anyone who is interested in becoming involved in healing the Great Marsh to reach out to Peter Phippen at peterdphippen@gmail.com.

On a personal note, I am grateful to all the speakers and attendees at the conference for their questions and their passion. I understand everything through the lens of history – it is my natural processing speed. To love the Great Marsh, for me, is to understand all the lives it has lived. This is one way that the Museum of Old Newbury serves this community. If you have any historical artifacts that could amplify this connection, please contact me at: bethany@newburyhistory.org

ACES Youth Corps team members encourage you to contribute to a future history for the Great Marsh that increases its sustainability. Please share any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit the health of our planet and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

Future Thanksgivings Threatened by Climate Change

How climate change could affect our holidays.

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1621, the Wampanoag contributed their ingenuity in preparing New England’s first autumn harvest feast.
 
Traditional feasts like ours are threatened by climate change and we really need to begin addressing the problem. There is a coming crisis of food security challenges that has implications for local agriculture and fisheries.
 
When severe rainstorms hit New England in July, the Boston Herald noted that over 1000 acres and 75 farms had their crops destroyed in western MA. Vermont farms also suffered from flooding. When severe rainstorms pummeled New England this summer, crops across Massachusetts and Vermont were devastated.
 
As noted on the last World Food Day, climate change is endangering staple crops worldwide. In addition to drought and floods, we are witnessing decreases in beneficial insects and big increases in insect pests, along with mold or mildew on crops. By increasing regional food production, the carbon impact from growing and importing from outside our region can be mitigated. An array of solutions are needed to help us on this path.
 
First, we can “buy local” food. Join a CSA or ask your local supermarket to source more produce and meats locally. School boards and cafeteria managers should prioritize locally grown food. 
 
Secondly, state departments of agriculture have an important role to play. They have to think in supply chain modes. Does New England have enough canning, packing, and processing capabilities? Can solar powered vertical farming ideas be brought to inner city locations? What tax and land management incentives are best? Can alternate crops and protein sources be expanded and promoted? For instance, follow New York’s lead in allowing for forest farmed venison, and promote the farm raising of rabbit and geese as is done in Europe.
 
Any discussion of food in New England must include seafood. As lobster populations migrate north, how will the fishery adapt? Ocean farming of kelp and mussels, aquaculture, and harvesting of sea vegetables will grow in importance. Some chefs are educating the public of the great taste of less well known and often underutilized species. Can well-regulated aquaculture gain a favorable place in the Gulf of Maine? 

New England had a robust dairy industry until President Reagan signed the Food Security Act in 1985 which encouraged industrialized agriculture toward the west and Midwest. That one law reduced food capacity in our region dramatically. It should be revisited by our Congressional delegations.
 
Lastly the region’s governors should consider holding an annual New England Food Security conference to get testimony from experts, with the goal of protecting us from global supply chain shocks that are likely to worsen over time.
 
ACES team members would like your thoughts on this issue. Are you a restauranteur or chef? Do you raise some of your own food or keep backyard chickens for eggs? Drop us a note with your ideas on how individuals and communities can manage this threat at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. Let’s work together to ensure our food remains as diverse and local as possible and to fortify our traditional values against global food insecurity.

To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Photo credit to Porter Gifford
Commentary

Environmental Activism at The Governor’s Academy

A recent Governer's Academy meeting sets impacts towards centering activism towards our community.

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest educational opinions about fostering
environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and
Environmental Stewards.

On the 10th of October, the first collaborative meeting between ACES and The Governor's Academy, located in Byfield, took place. The school's Environmental Club, alongside the Govs Green Initiative, came together with the ACES team, a group equally dedicated to ecological stewardship. The convergence was held at the newly opened Bill '67 and Peter '71 Alfond Coastal Research Center, a state-of-the-art building that capitalizes on the Academy's unique location on the Great Marsh and Parker River and deepens the school's commitment to experiential and place-based learning. We extend our gratitude to Erika Mitkus, Director of the Bass Institute, for her assistance. With her guidance, we aim to make the most of this regional resource, which promises to be instrumental in advancing our sustainability efforts.

One of the most notable outcomes of this meeting is the Sustainability Conference. Designed to unite environmental clubs from the surrounding schools, the conference is poised to reinvigorate the momentum that many of these clubs lost during the pandemic. Through this initiative, the Academy is looking to re-engage students with the environmental challenges of our time and equip them with the tools to enact change.

The Governor's Academy and its students are dedicated to sustainability, particularly evident in the launch of the Govs Green Initiative in the fall of 2022. Sparked by a group of environmentally minded students, this initiative is rooted in the belief that young leadership is key to a sustainable future. The student-led initiative has turned the spotlight on the Academy’s existing green features, like the Organic Garden and its green-certified dining hall. In combination with Environmental Club, (E-Club) their ambitions go far beyond raising awareness; they seek to transform understanding into action, to morph the campus into a place where sustainability is both practiced and preached. Since its inception, the initiative has taken commendable strides, organized Earth Week, and immersing the school community in environmental issues and solutions through a series of events and hands-on experiences. 

The Govs Green Initiative hopes to keep expanding, creating change at both the Governor’s Academy and the greater Newburyport area. With this, the team of students aspires to also establish a sustainability pledge into the Academy's strategic plan. This pledge would be a precursor to a series of tangible changes on campus, including the development of a nature walk, a sustainability conference, and a program aimed at helping students establish internships and learning opportunities with local environmental organizations.

As the academic year unfolded, environmental youth-leaders including Todd Santos ‘24, Miffy Wang ‘24, and Sophia Mikelinich ‘24 are prepared to propel these initiatives further. The establishment of Govs Green and E-club aimed to illuminate the sustainability on campus are critical in this juncture. They envisioned a partnership with ACES that could spark inspiration and ignite new environmental strategies.

This collaborative meeting has since become a catalyst for support from the wider Newburyport community. It has been an immersive step towards a greener future and a central component of the Academy’s ongoing approach to community involvement. This ongoing effort not only contributes to the present but also lays a solid foundation for the Academy’s environmental activism in the future.

This meeting became a concrete foundation of support from the greater community of Newburyport. This approach has continued to help us in centering our activism towards our community and fostering a stronger hope for the future.

ACES team members encourage you to take advantage of supporting all youth engaged in environmental
stewardship and activism. Please share any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit the health of
our planet and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com.To learn more about ACES and its
Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

Insights on the Gaia Theory

The Gaia Theory and our impact on the globe as a whole

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The Gaia hypothesis, named after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth, proposes that the Earth and its biological systems behave as a huge single entity. This entity has closely controlled self-balancing feedback loops that keep the conditions on the planet within boundaries that are favorable to life.
 
Essentially, it suggests that organisms co-evolve with their environment. That they influence their non-biological environment, and that environment in turn influences changes in living things by evolutionary processes first observed by Charles Darwin in the Galapagos islands.
 
James Lovelock first formulated the ‘Gaia Theory’ and was a world recognized British scientist and inventor who said Earth is a self-regulating system and he died in 2022 on his 103rd birthday. He was intellectually connected to Newburyport in a way. His ideas and inventions led us to understand chemical pollution as influencing biological systems. And Rachel Carson, whose early writings included a monograph pamphlet about sparrows in the Great Marsh gave credit to his insights for her work and thinking. One of his inventions measured tiny amounts of chlorine-based chemicals in the air, leading to the discovery of toxic chemicals in food, water, and soil. His invention provided evidence used in Rachel Carson’s influential 1962 book, Silent Spring, according to the New York Times.
 
While initially referred to as the Gaia hypothesis, the term established nowadays is Gaia theory. His idea at first was based on observation, but still lacked a scientific explanation. The Gaia Hypothesis has since been supported by several scientific experiments and provided several useful predictions, and hence is properly referred to as the Gaia theory. In fact, wider research proved the original hypothesis wrong, in the sense that it is not life alone but the whole Earth system that does the regulating. 
 
So what? How are busy families supposed to think about these ideas? Should they? For one thing its a cause for hope, because it means that the whole earth its living and its non-living elements are pulling together to rebalance our global eco-systems. 

 
Too much heat in the atmosphere means more heavy rain events. And one such event distributed the excess moisture in the atmosphere over the Arizona and Nevada deserts. Do all those muddy pictures from the Burning Man arts festival reflect some Gaia-like behavior? Does that new vast lake, called Tulare, that was formed in California in the spring of this year mean something about global interconnectedness? 

Early in the public dialog about the Gaia hypothesis, some sensationalist media headlined it as a pagan nature worship type of thing. It's not. But references in Genesis giving man dominion over the creatures of the earth are well balanced by the Noah story in Genesis with the Ark helping preserve biodiversity.
 
In our time, the Catholic Church has focused on our interdependence and need to cooperate with God’s gifts. For example, in his 2015 encyclical, LAUDATO SI’, Pope Francis echoes the words Saint Francis of Assisi reminding us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. Our Sister, Mother Earth. 
 
In Newburyport the FRSUU Church, as well as Immaculate Conception parish and others, have active and thoughtful environmental missions that many of our friends and neighbors work with. And according to World Jewish Relief organization the story of Creation with which the Torah opens describes “that humans are placed into the Garden to work and protect it”. 
 
It’s clear that whether one sees oneself as spiritual or scientific, or both we can all work to help recover and restore the Earth. All ACES team members ask you to consider helping the environment in a faith community, a school community, or with an ACES Ally - https://www.aces-alliance.org/alliances Please share any other observations with us about ways to help restore the earth and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org

Commentary

Environmental Sustainability and Libraries

How to get libraries involved in our climate movement...

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

If we wish to continue providing access to resources and information to subsequent generations, libraries must recognize our responsibility in promoting and practicing environmental sustainability. At the Newburyport Public Library, we integrate the principles of environmental stewardship into our daily activities and the experiences we offer to the public. Our lighting system is motion-activated to mitigate the use of unnecessary electricity. Additionally, our computers are set to timers that provide power only during the hours in which the library is open. These automated technologies allow us to conserve energy without negatively impacting a patron’s experience.

We are also grateful to have a librarian trained in how to mend damaged books to lengthen their shelf life. It would be logical to assume that a book that has been separated from its binding is no longer in acceptable condition to circulate, but our librarian can reattach bindings, affix errant pages, and perform other mending tasks that preserve our collection. Our semi-annual book sale is another opportunity to extend the lives of books in lieu of discarding them. Every March and October, the Friends of the Library graciously host the sale that rehomes hundreds of donated items and saves them from the trash bin.  It is truly a community event with the proceeds supporting the Friends group and the library itself.

When building our curriculum, our Programming Librarian pays special attention to events that educate patrons on local environmental issues. In August, we hosted a virtual event that discussed practical tips on how to make children’s birthday parties and their school lunches eco-friendly and low waste. We also hosted a program where an education and policy specialist from Merrimack River Watershed Council reviewed how sewage pollution is affecting the Merrimack River and offered suggestions on how community members can take action to help resolve the issue. In July, the Community Science and Coastal Resilience Manager for Mass Audubon presented a discussion on the effects of climate change and how to mitigate and reverse them. As institutions that support self-directed education, we strive to build a curriculum that brings awareness to issues that impact the local environment.

For further opportunities to research environmental stewardship, patrons are encouraged to peruse our online catalog and borrow items of interest. Newburyport is a member of the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium which allows our patrons to access resources from a network comprised of 37 partnered libraries. We also provide access to the Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy database that offers authoritative content from national and
global publications to enhance one’s learning journey.

Regardless of how our patrons choose to engage our resources, we hope they see value in our efforts to support sustainability and environmental stewardship. We will continue to seek input from our users to strengthen our relationship and reflect the issues and concerns that impact our dedicated community. ACES Youth Corps team members encourage you to take advantage of all the resources about environmental sustainability in our libraries. Please share any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit the health of our planet and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

Preservation Conserves Energy

A new perspective into the value of our old homes...

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

If you live in an old house, congratulations! You have invested in "embedded energy" a concept which encapsulates the energy used to produce something, like a building, with the length of time it has existed. The older the building, the more embedded energy it holds. The means of production for that building, such as hand tools, physical labor (both from animals and humans), and locally supplied materials made it a very low-energy-created object when it was built and that continues today. 

 
New buildings require shipping manufactured materials from all over the world, using gas and oil and electricity. Construction methods today use power tools and heavy equipment that use fossil-fuel energy. Manufacturing processes use all of these with the additional use of machines making the products being manufactured and shipped, etc. Old houses used sustainable materials, such as wood and locally sourced lime, fieldstone, and bricks.
 
As an example, a house built c. 1800 would have been framed with local trees, cut down by hand and shipped on rivers, shaped by hand tools and erected by human workers. The woodwork was handmade and unique to each house; plaster and mortar were made from lime extracted from local pits mixed by hand on site and applied by humans with hand tools. Foundations were laid out with local stone moved by oxen on carts and set by masons. Roof shingles were carved out by hand from timbers and nailed on. Nails were made by blacksmiths. The old-growth wood used lasts hundreds of years longer than farmed wood does today, as the natural, slow-growing wood contains less water and air and the growth rings are tight together. Windows made from this wood can last hundreds of years while new, manufactured windows must be replaced at about twenty years, causing more manufacturing, shipping, and energy use. The same is true for siding, trim and woodwork.

Re-use of old materials can aid in repairing and replacing problem areas of older buildings. A new industry of salvaged materials, which are also high in embedded energy, has sprung up to help sustain older buildings and can be tapped for repairs. There are establishments locally that can provide many styles of doors, hardware, woodwork, bricks and other stone products, trim, flooring, etc. These are better choices for old buildings than modern manufactured materials and will last longer. They are of higher quality and are usually handmade, sometimes unique. 

Protecting older buildings and re-using them in adaptive ways adds to the sustainability of our communities and keeps new energy use lower. The amount of energy that was used to produce an older building was based on not using much fossil fuel, while new buildings rely on materials manufactured and shipped from all over the world, containing chemicals and non-local ingredients.  
 
Sustainability and re-use of old objects, including buildings, helps slow the use of fossil fuels and helps to keep the environment healthier. Since greater Newburyport has many existing older structures which can help create a more sustainable community, it becomes important to recognize the embedded energy levels we already have and to keep those structures functioning to foster a sustainable future.


The "greenest" building you can have is one that is already built. We can keep and re-use our beautiful old buildings and help the environment as well. Next time you envision a home improvement project, try to get creative by finding and reusing existing items, like maybe an old mantel piece. It can be unique, beautiful, and reduce a little bit of our carbon footprint. 
 
Linda Miller is Co-President of the Newburyport Preservation Trust
 
ACES team members encourage you to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve what already exists. Please share any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit the health of our planet and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com .To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

INSPIRING JUSTICE FOR THE MERRIMACK

Local efforts towards climate and environmental justice.

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

PEG CENTER

The PEG Center is one of Newburyport’s treasures, bringing our community together to follow a moral compass pointed toward social justice. While all of the PEG Center’s efforts have had profound reverberations, perhaps the most immediate one focused on the theme of climate and environmental justice. Living as we do, right on the shores of the Merrimack River, we recognize it as a source of inspiration and joy. The PEG Center’s recent art exhibit, “A River Runs Through Us,” celebrated the history and beauty of the Merrimack, but also sent a clear message about the urgency to protect it. The show ran in conjunction with the speakers’ event, “A River Called Justice.” Here are two responses from community members who were deeply moved to heal our environment by both the art and the speakers:

The exhibit included an array of artwork, both traditional and contemporary. The Merrimack River, with its long history of impacts, was depicted in old photographs on loan from museums, libraries and historical societies. Other mediums included metal and wooden sculptures, fabric sculptures from textiles made by toxic processes, and wooden assemblages combined with old tools and artifacts. Mosaic totems expressed warnings and hope for the future; scanned ocean floor charts became 3-dimensional reliefs showing the impact of global warming and human interference; a mineral boring appears alongside a posted public action to resist fracking.

This show provoked my inner thoughts and feelings. Initially, I felt anxious, yet also determined to return to face the ultimate message—we can have hope as long as individuals and groups commit to healing our planet. I encourage everyone to visit the PEG Center to experience the power of art as a catalyst for change.

Beth Reiter Blanchard

It’s my recurring question: Am I making the world a better place if my individual actions don’t create immediate change? At the recent PEG Center event, “A River Called Justice: Evidence, Experience and What We Can Do,” hosted by the Women In Action Huddle, I heard faithful activists assert their mission: working together to create significant change through unfailing devotion to a shared principle - that all people deserve an environment supporting their health, safety, well-being, and dignity.

Lesly Melendez, The Executive Director of Groundwork Lawrence, spoke of making Lawrence a cleaner, greener, healthier place to live. Informed by people whose voices have historically not been heard, this organization works to combat environmental degradation.

Dr. Neenah Estrella-Luna spoke of environmental justice as a civil rights issue, encouraging each of us to “turn the mirror on ourselves” and do what we can in response to what we see.

Judith Black performed a one-person drama depicting environmental injustice in the daily lives of marginalized people, who suffer disproportionately from health-related issues. Her moving monologue pitted the urgency of a child's health against the lethargy of an economic engine too preoccupied with profits to care.

These three speakers delineated the real effects of climate change on people's health, including physical and emotional wellbeing. Their words challenge us to make another life better, showing compassion for people in need, suffering, forgotten and overlooked… even if that makes us uncomfortable.

Of course, listening alone is not enough. The PEG Center and Huddle call us to action, while educating us around inequities, injustices and entrenched disparities in our collective treatment and attitudes towards marginalized communities. Sometimes we may feel that our one small act isn’t making a difference. However, even the smallest motion can manifest profound changes through the “butterfly effect,” one flap of our wings at a time until we’ve created a massive wind of change.

We are all participants in the social fabric of our world, and the PEG Center offers each of us a path towards making a difference.

Ann Haaser

Ann and Beth are members of the PEG Center and Huddle team and may be reached via info@thepegcenter.org

ACES Youth Corps team members encourage you to take actions that will contribute to the health of the Merrimack River. Please share any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit the health of our waters and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com .To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

Advancing salt marsh sparrow conservation

The wildlife of our great marsh and the battles they endure

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service understands that one may not care (or know) much about a saltmarsh sparrow. Chris Elphick, a conservation biologist who has dedicated most of his career to researching the small pale bird, doesn’t care much about an individual sparrow, either. He’s only partially joking. “In my mind, at least,” Elphick said, “saltmarsh sparrows are [part of] this chain, and they're telling us what's going to happen in the future to other species. Trying to figure out what's going on with saltmarsh sparrows will better help us think about what we can do for those other species.” 

Thankfully, we have come a long way in our perceptions and treatment of salt marshes over the decades. Once thought of as wastelands or areas needing to be reclaimed for livestock, farming, and development, as well as draining to manage mosquito populations, we now know that salt marshes are among the most productive and biodiverse habitats on the planet. Among their many benefits include protecting infrastructure, sequestering carbon, improving water quality, and providing essential fish nursery habitat. In the case of the Great Marsh in our own backyard, it is also a critical stronghold for a globally imperiled species: the salt marsh sparrow.

Due in large part to habitat loss and sea level rise, we have lost over 80% of salt marsh sparrows since 1998, and populations could collapse within 50 years. We in The Great Marsh – which supports half of the Massachusetts population and 5% globally – have a unique opportunity to make an outsized contribution for this imperiled species, and to bring the lessons learned elsewhere throughout the sparrow’s breeding range from Maine to Virginia.

Together with our partners, we have developed and successfully piloted a comprehensive suite of low-tech, low-cost solutions that will not only improve salt marsh sparrow habitat but will also restore natural hydrology, reverse marsh loss, and provide pathways for marshes to adapt to future climate impacts. Collaborations are ongoing to plan, design, and implement landscape-level projects across ownership boundaries, with Great Marsh partners recently having received 3 grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to advance restoration of over 3,600 acres of salt marsh, remove 5 upriver dams and 2 tidal restrictions. Benefits of this work will reach far beyond salt marsh sparrows; the proverbial canary in the coal mine, healthy sparrow populations mean healthy
marshes, and healthy marshes provide ecosystem services for everyone.

If you want to learn more about the refuge’s future plans for advancing salt marsh sparrow conservation, along with a host of other upcoming biological priorities, please join us for one of two open houses at 12:30pm and 6:00pm on Wednesday, October 11, at the refuge visitor center (6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport). Refuge staff will be on-hand to field questions and take comments on our draft Habitat Management Plan and Environmental Assessment, the public comment period for which extends through October 28. The plan outlines the long-term vision for the refuge’s biological program and includes proposals to restore three freshwater impoundments back to the salt marshes they once were, introduce prescribed fire as a habitat management tool, combat invasive plants, and protect threatened and endangered species.

Matt Hillman is the Project Leader of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex and can be contacted at matthew_hillman@fws.gov.

ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to consider learning more about the great work of the Refuge team. Please share any other observations with us around the species you value and want to perpetuate and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

Nurturing Our Bodies and Our Planet

This is a shared responsibility as, in an age where our lives are fast-paced and interconnected, the importance of taking care of both our bodies and the environment cannot be emphasized enough. As a physical therapist, I witness daily the impact of neglecting our bodies, and I can't help but draw parallels to the consequences of neglecting the environment. It's time we recognize the profound interdependence between personal health and the health of our planet, and acknowledge that both demand our attention and care.

Just as our bodies require consistent attention to maintain optimal health, our environment also requires constant care. We've seen the devastating effects of pollution, deforestation, and climate change on our planet, which echo the detrimental effects of neglecting our own bodies. Just as a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions, our disregard for environmental preservation can lead to irreversible damage to ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and altered climatic patterns.

Consider the concept of sustainability. Just as a well-balanced diet and regular exercise contribute to a healthy body, sustainable practices—like reducing waste, conserving energy, and promoting renewable resources—contribute to a healthy environment. Just as we aim to nourish our bodies with wholesome foods, we must nourish the planet with responsible choices that ensure it's longevity for future generations.

Furthermore, the direct connections between personal health and the environment cannot be ignored. Air quality, for instance, impacts respiratory health. Poor air quality resulting from pollution not only harms the environment but also increases the risk of respiratory illnesses in individuals. By advocating for cleaner air, we safeguard both our health and the planet's well-being.

Engaging in physical activity to keep our bodies fit and strong mirrors the necessity of actively participating in conservation efforts to protect our environment. Just as exercise helps prevent various health issues, responsible environmental practices can prevent the adverse effects of climate change. Purchasing less plastic is like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and provides just as much accomplishment and sense of well-being.

Humans, nature, and health are all interconnected. Engaging with nature—whether through hiking, gardening, or simply spending time outdoors—has been shown to reduce stress, improve mental health, and foster a sense of well-being. By valuing our own health and seeking a connection with nature, we cultivate a stronger commitment to preserving the environment that nurtures us.

Inaction in either realm, be it neglecting our bodies or disregarding the environment, can lead to irreversible consequences. Just as chronic neglect of our health can result in compromised quality of life, ignoring the degradation of the environment can have far-reaching implications for future generations.

In conclusion, the importance of taking care of both our bodies and the environment is undeniable. As a physical therapist, I encourage everyone to recognize the intertwined nature of personal health and environmental health. Just as we strive for well-being through exercise, proper nutrition, and self-care, we must also commit to sustainable practices that protect the planet. By nurturing our bodies and our environment, we embark on a journey toward a future characterized by vitality, harmony, and shared responsibility.

Samantha Kennerson is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Samantha Kennerson Physical Therapy, which provides services in clients’ homes in areas north of Boston. She can be reached through her website: https://samanthakennersonpt.com/ ACES Youth Corps team members encourage you to reflect upon the parallel of a healthy body and our planet and be pro-active about both. Please share any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit the health of our planet and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com .To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org

Commentary

Be Part of the Electrification Revolution

What is happening that will reduce our reliance on fossil fuel power?

When record-breaking heatwaves in Europe and North America this summer sent energy demand soaring, renewable energy kept the lights and the air conditioning on. California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, has largely managed to avoid blackouts with the aid of wind, solar, and batteries. Currently, 45 percent of that state’s energy comes from renewable sources.

Solar energy helped keep Europe cool, too. Solar provided almost a quarter of Spain’s electricity this July. In the same month Sicily met nearly half of its excess demand with solar energy. Belgium used solar power to cover more than 100 percent of the extra energy needed during summer spikes in power demand.

Renewable energy’s success in Europe and the U.S. is tempered by results in Asia, where power grids have labored to keep up with surging demand despite heavy investment in renewable energy, leaving millions of people to suffer rolling blackouts in extreme heat. The region’s struggles offer a cautionary tale, reminding us that to be effective, renewable energy must be fully integrated into a nation’s power grid. 

An ever-bigger obstacle to the electrification revolution is the $7 trillion in subsidies world governments gave to the fossil fuel industry last year. This to an industry that recorded record profits in the same year. 

The IMF estimates that eliminating these subsidies would prevent 1.6 million premature deaths annually, raise government revenues by $4.4 trillion, and put the world on track to reaching global emissions targets. And economists have already figured out a Nobel-prize winning solution: taxing carbon pollution and putting the money back in taxpayer’s pockets. 39 countries have already done it, including Canada. So, why do we keep paying these subsidies? Politics. 

Contact your CitizensClimateLobby.org chapter to learn how citizens are claiming the political power we need to take on these big issues.

You can help at the local level, too. We encourage you to look at the numerous incentives in Massachusetts, in tandem with President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, that make electrifying your home and vehicles more affordable. 

To help you navigate the many options, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Northshore created a help information sheet which can be found at https://tinyurl.com/Electrify-Massachusetts

You may not be able to implement all of these options today and we recognize that our cities, states and nation need to do more to make them affordable. But whatever you can do will help this peaceful revolution succeed. Contact me or another team member at CCL Northshore to learn more about our electrification initiative and
the other work we are doing to build a healthy and sustainable world. You can reach us at opportunities northshoremass@citizensclimatelobby.org

ACES Youth Corps team members encourage you to promote and lobby for more renewable energy and electrification. Every bit counts, and your contributions and choices are important. Please provide any thoughts about other opportunities to benefit our environment and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

What is Green Infrastructure?

The green infrastructure of this summer...

There are a lot of references in the news to ‘green infrastructure’ and it’s a term that’s a little bit misleading to some. After all, when we say infrastructure, we historically have meant sewer plants, bridges, roads, and power plants. The things that are referred to as green infrastructure are generally smaller and include natural elements as part of their function.

Think of green infrastructure as a little green friend. A good example of green infrastructure is a pollinator garden that doesn’t take any lawn mowing etc. and absorbs water and attracts butterflies and flowers and bees to pollinate our farms. Or for instance planting a row of evergreens on the north side of your property to buffer winter winds and deciduous trees on the south side of your property to allow for winter sun while providing summer shade.

Green infrastructure refers to a set of natural or nature-based features and systems designed to provide ecological, economic, and social benefits to communities and the environment. They can include community gardens as Amesbury’s splendid example and our region’s excellent vegetated rail trails that enhance biodiversity and improve air quality. One concept is to use natural processes like rain gardens, bio-swales, and permeable pavements, reducing the strain on traditional drainage systems and minimizing pollution.

With the Merrimack River and our harbor nearby, concepts like ‘living shorelines’ are often considered a part of green infrastructure. Living shorelines are typically small-scale interventions to create places along the shorelines which will capture silt and allow vegetation and a variegated surface below the water for fish and other small creatures to prosper.  

As an example, Oyster beds are sometimes used by seaside communities as a green/gray strategy to protect shorelines and improve water quality. These can reduce the reach of waves and dampen their impact. Oysters also clean the water and sequester carbon in their shells and are a perfect natural solution for many environmental problems. 

Elevated berms such as at Newburyport’s Waterfront Park also protect the shore and at the same time adding trees and Adirondack chairs as the city has done makes it an especially attractive tourist draw. Small picnic gazebos like the bandstand behind the West Newbury town buildings can be considered green infrastructure. They provide shade and shelter to allow outdoor recreation on hot days and reduce the need for air conditioning. The countryside in warmer climates often have grape arbors or vine trellises over their patios. And in Boston the Rose Kennedy Greenway hosts a variety of green infrastructure designs including a walking colonnade, the vines growing over it along the water and beehives safely positioned in small patches where pedestrians can’t reach.

Permeable pavements are another small-scale intervention that can help keep greater Newburyport green.  Used for driveways, parking lots and rail trails with open patterned block instead of black top, water can be absorbed rather than running off. Perhaps builders can be encouraged to offer these.

ACES Youth Corp team members suggest you stay in touch with any micro-interventions involving green infrastructure being planned. Check out local opportunities for green infrastructure to help heal the planet. Please sign up for our monthly free newsletter and share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org .

Commentary

The Future Stewards of Our Planet

A very real look into the future.

Someone recently asked me a very interesting question. If I were able to give my 10 year old self one piece of advice about conservation, what would it be?  This is a deeper question than I am used to answering, but I was surprised when the answer popped into my head immediately. I would tell my young self to not only think about preserving pristine habitats, but also consider returning nature to the many places from which we have expelled Her.
 
When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, the impacts of our rapidly growing human footprint were obvious enough, but, like everybody else who was concerned about the loss of nature, I focused 100% on saving the bits of nature that had not yet fallen to the bulldozer. Never once did it occur to me that I could rebuild an effective habitat right in my yard. I didn’t know anything about native plants vs non-native plants, or about how many caterpillars were required to support breeding birds. But I did know that little ponds supported lots of very cool creatures, because there was such a pond in what would soon become my new neighbor’s yard. I used to visit that pond nearly every day and enjoy the pollywogs, dragonflies, water-beetles, and frogs that lived there. In fact, I was there the day a bulldozer came and buried the pond, along with all my creature friends.  
 
I mourned the loss of the pond that had been filled in to make my neighbor’s backyard, but why didn’t it occur to me that I could grab a shovel and dig a new pond in my own backyard?  My parents would not have minded; in fact, they probably would have helped me. Instead, I mindlessly mowed our yard each week, as well as the yard next door that had once held my favorite toad pond. What a lost opportunity! It would be four more decades before I realized that saving the nature that remained in our world would not be enough to prevent our current biodiversity crisis. We would need to protect nature where there weren’t a lot of humans, but we would also have to restore it where there were a lot of humans; where we lived, worked, shopped, and farmed, because
there were a lot of humans nearly everywhere.  
 

And this is why I wish there had been a book like the young readers version of Nature’s Best Hope when I was 10 years old. If I had owned such a book, I could have helped fight the loss of biodiversity even as a young boy. I would have learned the critically important roles that plants play in our ecosystems and that not all plants play those roles equally. I would have learned that the plants we decorate our yards with are usually from other continents and that they do not support the animals that help run our ecosystems nearly as well as plants that evolved right here. Like most boys of my time, I really liked snakes and turtles and salamanders, but the young readers version would have taught me that it is insects that run the world, not snakes and turtles, and that it takes certain native plants to support healthy populations of those insects. Most of all, I would have learned that when you plant native plants, the birds, bees, and butterflies, as well as the reptiles and amphibians that I loved at the time, would return because there was something there to eat.
 
Our kids are the future stewards of planet earth. If they don’t know that; if they don’t know what good stewardship is; if they don’t love the natural world they must steward for their own good, they will be lousy stewards. We have been lousy earth stewards for far too long; we can no longer afford to destroy the natural world we depend on. It is my hope that the young reader’s version of Nature’s Best Hope will arm a new generation with the knowledge necessary to help change our adversarial relationship with nature to the collaborative one that will sustain us in the future.  

This important perspective appeared in the current issue of the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI) Journal https://www.gulfofmaineinstitute.org/gomijournalsummer2023. Doug is the chair for entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware and author of Nature’s Best Hope. He can be contacted at dtallamy@udel.edu.

ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to consider the significance and importance of developing and supporting stewards for our future generations. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and visit our Initiatives page.

Commentary

Red flag, Black center square, Danger!

The time to prepare for a big storm is now!

In US maritime warning flag systems, a red square shaped nautical flag with a black square on the inside is used to warn of hurricanes. If one flag is used, it indicates a storm warning, while two flags indicate a hurricane warning. When a hurricane is headed our way, we urgently need the equivalent flags to go up over all the coastal town apparatus of Essex County. 
 
Hurricane season was declared to have begun on June 1st by NOAA. And almost as soon as that day passed a tropical storm formed and was named Arlene. NOAA says this hurricane season is likely to be normal. But normal is not good really. In the case of greater Newburyport with its beaches and barrier islands the damage can be substantial when one hits us. Of course, the right word is ‘when’ not ‘if’ because we have always had big storms and with climate change the big storms are bigger and longer lasting.

It’s too bad that ’normal’ has come to mean so much destruction of life and property in the last few years. It is critical that everyone understands their risk and heeds the warnings of state and local officials. Whether you live on the coast or further inland, hurricanes can cause serious impacts to everybody in their path. 
 
It’s a good reminder that we need to be thoughtful about short- and long-term preparedness. Here in greater Newburyport, we’ve already taken some actions locally, to prepare for long-term protection against sea level-related harm from big storms. Newburyport is dealing with the bulkhead along the boardwalk and upgrading City storm water structure, citizens have been planting dune grasses, and Federal money has helped by replenishing sand on beaches. 
 
We all know the comments that ensue when ‘everybody’ is in Shaw’s or Market Basket at the same time stocking up on water and tuna fish. But good preparation also includes knowing your evacuation plans if that becomes necessary. More importantly, ACES advisors advocate that you take seriously and act on public safety recommended evacuations and don’t put fire and police at risk to come get you off Plum Island or Salisbury Beach. It’s good to have that extra water (big bottles), but better to be out of harm’s way if that becomes necessary.

We’re balanced on the edge of a ‘Climate Cliff” !  Climate change is real. 100-year floods are expected to recur every 9 years, on average, under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario and every 21 years under a low emissions scenario per a Massachusetts Wildlife report” Our response individually and collectively to climate change has become a priority for elected leaders to plan for and this season, right now, it’s our job to plan for when the next big storm hits our community and be ready to protect your family and your property.

The time to prepare for our next big storm is now.

ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to consider the value of being prepared for the
wellbeing of our future generations and sign up for ACES’s free newsletter to stay in touch with
climate and environmental actions you can take locally to preserve and protect our Earth, our
homes, and our families. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at
acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives,
visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

A Youth Environmental Activist’s Reflection

A Youths perspective into the communities work facing the climate crisis.

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards

In fall 2022, I joined an ACES team to promote clean-up events organized by others. By December, I decided to coordinate a school-based beach cleanup for Earth Day. In mid-February, with spring approaching, I initiated planning and focused on NHS students and compiled event requisites. Through Zoom meetings, we clarified logistics like location, communication, supplies, and timing. Despite initial options being unavailable – Plum Island Reservation and North End – due to prior cleanups and construction, I secured a private parking lot near Plum Island's center. This generous owner allowed both of his lots for the event.

To finalize the permission for the location, I met with the Newbury, MA Town Select Board to present plans and petition for approval. The PowerPoint presentation outlined the need for the clean-up, the methods and safety procedures to be employed along with the plan to properly dispose of the waste. The board graciously approved authorization for the clean-up.

On April 7th, 2023, the successful beach cleanup event happened. In spite of challenging weather conditions – including wind and chill – around 70 participants gathered to clean up the beach and remove trash and debris. The event took place within a 4-hour window and achieved its objective of raising awareness about the importance of maintaining clean beaches, even those that may appear initially clean. The strong local support, including students from Newburyport and Triton, Senator Bruce Tarr and his Colleague Kristin McDonald, as well as community environmental activists, contributed to the success of the cleanup effort.

Various other partners and sponsors supported this endeavor. ACES advisor/mentors provided excellent advice, principal Andy Wulf ensured NHS communicated the opportunity to students and parents, Northeast Planning Associates provided biodegradable gloves and bags to ensure that the cleanup was conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner. Mello Disposable Group generously donated two dumpster trash bins, while the Interact Club (Advised by Jill Moran) helpfully organized and motivated students to participate in the cleanup.

Ultimately, participants filled almost an entire 5x7 trash bin. Items collected included glass, cans, wires, Styrofoam, traps, clothing, and even syringes. The cleanup not only improved the aesthetic quality of the beach but also highlighted the need for continued environmental stewardship in the community. I was pleased that a result of this project was a message to the community that pollution remains a pressing issue requiring consistent attention. As an upcoming NHS senior, I will go off to college remembering that this project provided me with a real experience of organizing an event, developing teamwork, communicating clearly, and having the collective result being of benefit to my overall community. Going forward, I look to help other youth have similar experiences for their growth.

Reflecting on the event's outcome, I believe all participants served as ambassadors for our clean environment. Moreover, news coverage amplified the event's impact, igniting discussions about beach cleanliness and ecological rejuvenation. These triumphs inspire hope for ongoing youth engagement, fostering positive transformations within our community and environment.

Nolan and all ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to, in your own way, find things you can do to help clean, protect and enhance our Mother Earth. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

In the News

Tree walk opens at Atkinson Common

An announcement of the new addition to our town of Newburyport. One that will teach and bring generations closer to nature.

NEWBURYPORT — Visitors curious to know just what kind of tree they’re looking at when walking through Atkinson Common no longer need to ask now that identifying markers have been placed throughout the popular park.

Local environmentalist and Parks Commission member Ted Boretti loves the wide variety of trees at Atkinson Common. But he was also aware that most people do not know all of the park’s species of trees and was looking for a way to come up with a system of signs.

Boretti said the idea was hatched after running into Art Currier, a member of the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards – or ACEs, a few years ago.

At that meeting, Currier suggested to Boretti that he could get some help with his endeavor by becoming a mentor for local high school students who want to help the environment.

Now that he had a plan, Boretti attended an ACES event and recruited four Newburyport High School students to help him create what is now being called the Atkinson Common Tree Walk.

“There had been a tree walk already piloted at the Indian Hill Reservoir over in West Newbury,” he said. “So we hoped to sort of replicate that program in Newburyport at Atkinson Common.”

Audrey Langley was one of the four NHS students, along with Emma Low, Claudia Cummings and Lyza Marino, who worked to research, design and deploy the new interpretive tree walk signs. Each sign provides in-depth facts on a tree’s ecology and its impact on society by way of QR codes that take visitors to a special ACES website.

Langley said she and her three friends have long been fans of the city’s trees, ever since climbing on many of them near the waterfront as young children.

“Trees kind of hold meaning for us and we wanted to get involved in the Newburyport community and its environment,” she said.

Port Signworks, a local company, was chosen to make the signs which, according to Boretti, cost only $560.

“I know there are some people who are venomously opposed to an abundance of signage in parks and in public places and we were trying to be very sensitive to that,” he said. “I think the kids did a great job of creating elegant, informative signs that were unobtrusive and aren’t really going to diminish a park user’s experience.”

Boretti said Atkinson Common was selected for its bucolic setting and variety of trees, 14 species of which have been identified and cataloged.

“Atkinson Common is considered the most arboretum- like of all of Newburyport’s parks,” he said. “You’ve got your red oak, your Eastern white pine, your Eastern hemlock but then it also has some more interesting species like the sycamore tree and the sourwood tree and the seven- son flower, which is actually a tree originating in east Asia.”

Langley and her friends were honored for their contributions during a special tree walk-through recognition ceremony at Atkinson Common on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m so excited to see it come to fruition,” Langley said. “I’m excited to see my name on it and I’m excited to see Claudia, Lyza and Emma’s names. It has been this file on my computer for so long and it’s so cool.”

Boretti said his student volunteers did a fantastic job creating the tree walk.

“They came up with the design for the signage after meeting with the graphic designer. They did all the research. They were able to decide what kind of information is going on the sign and what kind of information is best reserved for the website,” he said. Langley, who is kicking off her college career at Northeastern University next week, said she was happy to leave a little piece of herself in her hometown.

“I love Newburyport and I’ve been here my whole life. So, for my name to be more permanent in one of the parks is meaningful to me, for sure,” she said.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
Commentary

Environmental jobs are about to boom

The facts are: Green jobs — jobs that need green skills — are found in a wide range of sectors, from healthcare to construction. Green talent in the workforce has grown almost 40% in the last seven years. Demand for green talent is already outstripping supply.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines green jobs in two ways. First, those in businesses that produce goods or services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. and second, jobs in which workers duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or using fewer natural resources.

With the bipartisan passage of recent infrastructure acts at the national level, lots of money and energy is just starting to flow into these areas. In our immediate area, the new waterfront park expansion work, dredging of the river, planting trees on our parks and on our rail trials are all examples of green jobs.

“Indeed” the online hiring platform breaks down green jobs into some categories to explain them further. They are: Energy: Individuals in this industry focus on creating, installing, and funding renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.

Agriculture: Careers in agriculture involve protecting the environment and food sources by developing safe, eco-friendly techniques and resources. Agriculture sectors can also include organic farming, also known as ecological or biological farming.

Construction and manufacturing: Individuals in this industry may determine environmentally friendly processes and materials for manufacturing products and building structures.

Transportation: Green transportation professionals may include those who create, manufacture, or operate sustainable vehicles.

Waste management: Green jobs in this sector typically include those related to recycling, such as coordination and collection.

Policy: Professionals who influence environmental policy and regulation often work in government agencies or nonprofits, where they may create or take part in initiatives to affect change.

Research: Environmental science and engineering roles involve conducting research, completing studies, and developing green processes for various industries.

Consulting: Business professionals can pursue environmental consulting to help companies become more sustainable by evaluating, changing, and monitoring their operations.

To these job categories, Greater Newburyport has many traditional conservationist careers such as roles in waste management and water purification, positions at the Parker River Wildlife Reserve and Audubon, and in many of the activities and roles associated with eco-tourism such as whale watching, boating and fishing economic clusters.

Soon to be a much bigger set of jobs for coastal areas will be those associated with servicing the emerging offshore wind energy developments from land side engineering and management offices, parts depots and operations of service and delivery boats to the wind farms.

In addition, Massachusetts needs to install 45,000 new electric vehicle chargers in the next few years that will need engineering, planning, electrical and construction skills to achieve. Add to those jobs the enormous growth in MassSave subsidized insulation, heat pump purchase and insulation and building conversion away from natural gas heating and towards electric heat.

According to Nexus PMG, a large infrastructure projects developer, many people assume that a college degree is necessary to have a successful career in this field. But trade and vocational schools can be equally wise paths. For those who want to direct their energy to combating climate change, a trade school like Whittier Tech or Essex North Shore can be a great option.

The facts of the matter are: Green jobs — jobs that need green skills — are found in a wide range of sectors, from healthcare to construction. Green talent in the workforce has grown almost 40% in the last seven years. Demand for green talent is already outstripping supply.

“We expect to see millions of new jobs created globally in the next decade driven by new climate policies and commitments,” says LinkedIn chief executive Ryan Roslansky. For example, as of 2022 the number of jobs in renewables and the environment in the United States increased by 237% over the previous five years. In contrast, oil and gas jobs have only grown by 19%.

Many in ACES Youth Corp are setting their sights on such roles and planning HS trades and college choices based with these in mind. ACES believes that the “Future is Green” and encourages anyone who is looking to choose or further expand their career horizons to investigate environmental jobs. They are the jobs of the future and for the long term.

ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to share this message with others who may be thinking about their future work. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail. com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance. org

Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Commentary

Respecting Mother Earth

As is said, “Take care of Earth and she will take care of us.”

Native Americans and Yankee farmers, like me and some of my ancestors, share a certain sense of honor to Mother Earth. Though separated by many centuries and very different cultures and histories, we do our best to respectfully treat the Earth and its creatures as almost a part of our families.

As a former teacher and high school principal, I retired to the role of running the 106-year-old Maple Crest Farm in West Newbury. We’ve been working for several years to bring it back to its full productive glory using sensible and Earth-friendly techniques.

The farm is adjacent to Indian Hill Reservoir, one of Newburyport’s water sources. We work at protecting the reservoir and follow versions of what the native Americans taught the Pilgrims by using variations of companion planting and avoiding monocultures. The Native Americans diversified and used the earth reverentially and in season. and we try to maintain the same “Love the Earth” attitude and ethos as they did.

We host two schools, River Valley Charter School and Heartwood Nature School, which bring kids to our farm fields and woodlands for active environmental learning programs. Two Newburyport high school student interns created a Tree Walk at the Indian Hill Reservoir exhibiting numerous native tree species in their original spots with well researched and executed infographics. Come by and take a walk and learn about these trees.

Two years ago, while on a Military Vehicle Preservation Association convoy traveling to the upper peninsula of Michigan, I visited the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in Saint-Ignace, Michigan, where I found a Native American author I’ve come to respect. His name is Nakoma Volkman, and he wrote this piece titled “Gift of the Earth.”

“Earth, Mother Earth, Gaia, is a blue gem of a planet, floating like an island in the primal sea of dark, sparkling space. A living organism in the sense of being a self-regulating body. We can understand her better by knowing her birth and growth. Earth is a very unique and life supporting paradise within an immense universe or cosmos … . In Native American spiritual terms, we say Father Sky, Grandfather Sun, Mother Earth, Brother Moon and so on. All things are family, relatives, connected, dependent. Earth grew from the spinning gases and dust of the Sun as did the other planets of the Solar System, forever circling.

The sun and spinning Earth create our day and night, dawn and dusk, our annual seasons. All life upon the Earth shares the same shoreline with the sky. Our precious planet sustains life, nurturing an amazing variety of species. Each has a birthright to inhabit Earth maintaining dignity.

Everything that grows has a lust for life, a surge to survive. Understand their struggles. All of nature is our cradle and benefactor. Benefit them in turn. Abuse none.

Earth has a delicate balance not to be tampered with. She can survive without our interference. She has all the exact amounts of elements for life to exist.

It is an honor to call Earth our home, to reverently live each day with appreciation for its gift. Be conscious to take responsibility for her care and that of all life upon her. Mother Earth is a masterpiece, to be admired, respected, cared for and revered.

As is said, “take care of Earth and she will take care of us.”

The last 400 years have been centuries of exploration and exploitation of Mother Earth. It helped the human family prosper, but also caused harm to the Earth. We can’t continue to exploit the Earth and water resources heedlessly. Our future generations need our help to heal Mother Earth.

Farmer John Elwell can be reached at johnelwell@verizon.net ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to, in your own way, find things you can do to protect and enhance our Mother Earth. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@ gmail.com. To learn more about ACES and its initiatives, visit https:// www.aces-alliance.org.

Commentary

Young People Need Solutions-Oriented Climate Education

Climate and sustainability action is all about planning for the future, and with that, Sage focuses on the need to educate future generations.

Gen Z isn’t getting the education we need to survive and adapt to a climate-changed world. When I was sixteen, I left my Advanced Placement Environmental Science class having a full-on panic attack. In a lecture on topsoil collapse, my teacher had told us that the world had 100 years of agricultural soil left (which was not accurate). When I asked him what we could possibly do about that, he replied that real change would require international cooperation in away that has never happened before. 

There are many impediments to transformative climate policies, and I was unwittingly experiencing one of them. It turns out that the problem-focused, panic-inducing AP Environmental Science class I took is the only standardized curriculum offered in the United States’ public school system, and only to high school students at select schools. 

When I started at University of California, Berkeley the next year, I realized very quickly that “doomsday sermon” would be the theme of my environmental education. So I started teaching a class of my own design called Sustainable & Just Future. By my last semester, I had broken the record for the largest student-led course in the university’s history, twice. This program, which has now enrolled over 1,800 students and counting, is popular because it offers what our professors failed to: hope, a path forward, a solutions-oriented vision for the future. 

Gen Z isn’t getting the education we need to survive and adapt to a climate-changed world. At the same time, 59 percent of young people are “very worried” or “extremely worried” about climate change, and millions have already lived through powerful climate-related disasters, some of which have wiped out entire communities. The existential threat of climate change has pushed us even further away from our textbooks, as thousands have committed to skipping school every Friday to protest climate inaction, waving signs that read, “Why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated?”

If adults want to get young people back into the classroom, they’re going to have to make some changes to the education they’re offering us. To do that, we need solutions-oriented environmental education that’s accessible to all. We could start children off with hands-on projects like gardening or foraging in elementary school, so they’re raised with essential life skills like food growing and plant identification. We could turn our public schools into havens for regional biodiversity, working to restore native species. 

By the end of high school, young adults should have a robust understanding of humanity's relationship with the Earth and the limitations of the resources that it can sustainably offer. An advanced curriculum would include a deep look at the environmental implications of the materials our lives are made of, always through a social justice lens. Who does the mining? Who does the harvesting, the sewing, the truck driving, and how must the system change to work better for them?

The goal of such an education system would not only be to revive the deep ties that we have to the places that raise us, but to also inspire people to be active participants in their ecosystems. A curriculum like this could drastically change our global society within a very short span of time. As children learn, so too could their caretakers and communities. And the next generation of people would have a drastically different set of priorities from those who came before them. We could have a school system that helps young people grow up well-equipped to adapt to a climate-changed world. It’s true that we need more than a handful of educated activists and scientists; we need billions of people working together to meet the challenge of the ecological crisis. A better world is possible, and the environmental revolution must start with education. It’s time for my generation to take control of our own education and demand that we have access to the information we actually need.

This column first appeared in February 2023 in The Progressive magazine. Sage Lenier, the founder and Executive Director of Sustainable and Just Future, can be contacted at hello@sustainableandjustfuture.org

ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to consider the significance and importance of this foundational approach to education for our future generations. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Project

Atkinson Common Tree Walk

Atkinson Common was given to the city in 1873 by Eunice Atkinson Currier, and was transformed into the park it is today by the Belleville Improvement Society. This park is home to a wide variety of tree species. It is used by walkers and bikers, and provides courts for tennis players.

Atkinson Common was given to the city in 1873 by Eunice Atkinson Currier, and was transformed into the park it is today by the Belleville Improvement Society. This park is home to a wide variety of tree species. It is used by walkers and bikers, and provides courts for tennis players.

Due to its abundance and variety of trees, Atkinson Common is the most arboretum-like of all Newburyport’s parks. The many trees found here do not just provide a pleasant place to visit. They are also working for us! They create the oxygen we breathe, clean the air of pollutants and greenhouse gasses, provide cool shade and act as natural air conditioners, filter and clean water, capture and store rainwater after storms to reduce flooding, stabilize soil to prevent erosion, and provide vital food and habitat for animals.

Tree Species

American Sycamore

Platanus occidentalis

The New York Stock Exchange was founded on the “Buttonwood Agreement” because it was signed under a sycamore tree located on Wall Street.

The American sycamore typically grows 75 to 100 feet tall, with some as tall as 140 feet, making it the largest deciduous tree in North America. The trees are easily identified by their mottled, scaly bark, which is brown on the outside and peels away to show a lighter inner bark color. They are often found with other deciduous trees and are native to Eastern North America. 

Sycamore trunks grow larger than any other native hardwood trees, reaching diameters of 11 to 15 feet. As the sycamore becomes older, its cavities are used as nesting habitats for birds. Smaller cavities are also used as dens by tree squirrels, bats, and other mammals and if the holes become large enough, they can house a black bear.

The American sycamore’s size and ability to withstand city environments has led it to be used primarily as a shade tree. Sycamore wood is used commonly for industrial purposes but not as much for furniture because the wood is very coarse and tough to work.

If climate change causes there to be more intense wet seasons, sycamore trees may suffer. Sycamore trees are prone to an infection called anthracnose and the fungus that causes this disease in the trees thrives in wet weather.

Cherry

Prunus serrulata

Looking at this cherry tree and the others across from it, you may notice some are slightly different in shape. Atkinson’s landscapers mistakenly mixed upright cherry trees with lateral cherry trees, and the close proximity of the two highlights this error.

Most Kwanzan cherry trees are grafted. This means that the branches of the naturally occurring cherry tree have been attached to the trunk of another cherry tree species, most often a 4-foot-tall bird cherry rootstock tree. They are grafted for multiple reasons; some are grafted to provide a healthier trunk, while others are grafted for a more aesthetic appearance.

Kwanzan cherry trees grow throughout most of the United States, excluding the northernmost parts. They grow at a rate of roughly one to two feet per year, and they can reach a height of 30 to 40 feet at maturity, with spreads of, also, 30 to 40 feet. The tree is fairly drought-tolerant, but it has a preference of moister soils with full sun exposure.

It is most recognizable by its flowers, blooming a deep pink color from April through to early May. The beauty of the trees often makes them the focal point of landscaping, and they last for 15 to 25 years. However, the tree produces limited to no fruit, decreasing its benefit within ecosystems.

Though cherry trees are sensitive to pollution, it is believed that a single 25-year-old tree has the capability to absorb 20 pounds of carbon emissions. The cherry trees in South Korea have the ability to absorb 2.4 tons of carbon, which is equivalent to the emissions of six thousand cars every year.

Eastern Hemlock

Tsuga canadensis

This tree is commonly confused with the hemlock flowering plant that killed Socrates, a famous Greek philosopher from Athens. However, this tree is not poisonous, and its needles have been used to make a tea which has a high level of vitamin C. Also, the hemlock’s seeds are commonly eaten by various birds.

The hemlock grows across the entire United States and can reach a height of 40 to 70 feet, with a spread of up to 35 feet. To attain this size, the tree grows at roughly one to two feet per year. It grows well in moist soils, with lots of water. Additionally, it does not do well in drought conditions.

The tree plays an important role in the water cycle of the ecosystems it is a part of. Hemlocks clean water by inhibiting nutrient runoff. Because the trees live alng lakes and streams, they regulate the amount of water going into these bodies. They shade the area below their canopy, cooling the temperature for animals and fish.

Currently, the trees in the eastern regions of the United States are being “eaten” by an invasive insect originating in Japan called woolly adelgids. The bugs suck the sap out of the hemlocks, diminishing the levels of energy, nutrients, and minerals fed to the tree. There are only female woolly adelgids in North America, but, because they reproduce asexually, the inscets don’t need a mate to reproduce.

Due to changes in climate, there have been less “freezes” to kill off the bugs in harsh temperatures. This increases the amount of woolly adelgids in existing ecosystems, and expands the insect’s population into the north, thus causing more harm to the hemlocks.

Eastern White Pine

Pinus strobus

Take a look up in the canopy of this tree and you’ll see a hawk’s nest. A redtail hawk has nested in this pine tree for several years and, as a predator, it is likely the reason why you don’t see many squirrels in Atkinson Common.

This type of pine is known as a white pine because of the white color of its sap when it dries. You can also identify a white pine by its long, green needles, which come in clusters of five, corresponding to the five letters of its name, W-H-I-T-E.

Eastern white pines, also known as northern white pines, range from southern Canada through the northeast United States, and down the Appalachian Mountain range to the north of Georgia.

Old growth white pines were the tallest trees east of the Rockies. 400-year-old trees stood 200 feet tall. One tree in New Hampshire, located where Dartmouth University is now, grew as tall as 240 feet. Maine’s dense stands of old growth eastern white pine made it the “lumber capital of the world” in the 19th century. Today, Maine is still known as “The Pine Tree State.”

These tall, straight trees were a perfect source of timber for European colonists. England declared that the largest trees be marked as the property of the King, to be used as masts for the Royal Navy. By the end of the 1800s, nearly every stand of old growth white pine in America had been logged.

Mammals like bears, deer, porcupines, and squirrels, as well as several species of birds and insects, use the eastern white pine as a home. The trees provide shelter as well as nourishing seeds, bark, and needles.

Eastern White Pines thrive in cool and humid climates. As the climate warms and ecosystems change, the range of the Eastern White Pine is expected to expand north and westward.

European Beech

Fagus sylvatica

On this European beech, someone has carved the name “Fred” into the trunk. These messages are commonly found on beech trees since they have such thin, smooth bark . However, carvings can cause damage to the tree bark and therefore disrupt its ability to transport nutrients. Bark plays a vital part in protecting the tree against the heat and the cold as well as a barrier from insects. 

European beeches grow outwards and develop a wider trunk more quickly, therefore appearing older than their actual age. Since these trees have such wide branches, some have been supported by cables across the canopy to help keep the branches upright and prevent them from falling. 

The European Beech tree can grow to be around 50 or 60 feet tall. They are mainly found across Central to Western Europe, and have been found across America as a result of planting in parks and public spaces like Atkinson Common. The differences between a European beech and an American beech include that the European beech’s leaves are shorter and more of a purple or bronze color. 

These trees produce sweet beechnuts that are enjoyed by chipmunks, squirrels, blue jays, and deer. Beeches can be used to make tonics that can help soothe poison ivy and relieve pain. Also, beechnuts can be ground into powder to help with headaches.

Climate change, particularly droughts, have impacted the European beech’s growth rate and lifespan, as well as causing leaf loss and dried leaves. This disrupts its habitat and negatively affects the surrounding animal and plant species. 

Green Ash

Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Starting in 2018, Newburyport began spending thousands of dollars on inoculating the city’s ash trees against the Emerald Ash Borer. Ashes are threatened by this invasive beetle from Asia. The larvae of the beetles feed under the bark of the trees. This disrupts the tree’s ability to transport certain nutrients necessary to its survival.

The bark of the green ash is smooth and gray when the tree is young. As the tree grows, its bark becomes cracked. The leaves of the tree grow in leaflets, typically ranging in number from seven to nine. The tree can grow to roughly 60 feet in height, with a canopy spanning 25 feet.

Green ashes are largely used as ornamental trees throughout Northern America. Their common use as decorative trees originated in the 1950s following the loss of American elms, which decreased dramatically in number due to Dutch elm disease.

According to climate change models, it is believed that the green ash will not be impacted by increasing temperatures in the foreseeable future. In a study done by researchers at Penn State University, it was found that the green ash can survive an increase in temperature of seven degrees fahrenheit.

Norway Maple

Acer platanoides

Norway maples are some of the only trees in Atkinson Common that are being actively removed by the Parks Department due to their invasive nature. Over thirty trees have been removed from the park this year alone.

The species was introduced to North America around 1756 and by the 1800s, it was a popular ornamental tree in North America. Due to the it’s tolerance of pollution, the Norway maple has become the most frequently planted tree in towns and cities. 

Unfortunately, Norway maples cast dense shade and outcompete other species for light, reducing biodiversity in the forests and woodlands that it invades. Native insects, birds and mammals do not thrive in Norway maple forests.  Stands of Norway maples are known as “green deserts.” They are illegal in New Hampshire and may become illegal in Maine in five years or less, and are banned from being sold for decoration in stores and plant nurseries.

The Norway maple is a large shade tree usually growing 40 to 60 feet tall but can grow up to 90 feet or more. In order to identify the norway maple from a sugar maple, you can take a leaf off of the tree and if the stem bleeds a milky white sap, it is a Norway maple.

Norway maples are found on both the western and eastern sides of the United States. It ranges from Canada in the north and down south to the Carolinas, but it is a native plant in continental Europe and the Caucasus region.

Many local maples are likely to suffer from climate change. As native species decline, the opportunistic Norway maple is likely to expand its range, take over more forest, and increase its invasiveness. 

Norway Spruce

Picea abies

Norway spruces can be found in clusters throughout Atkinson, as well as commonly appearing throughout the city of Newburyport as a whole. The Norway spruce is thought of as the “Christmas Tree” and has been displayed in Rockefeller Center during Christmas time.

The wood from this tree is a popular choice to use when creating soundboards for instruments. It has low density and a high modulus of elasticity that gives it good acoustic qualities needed for instruments like guitars and violins.

Norway spruces grow to be 40 to 60 feet tall and 25 feet wide, and can live to 300 years. They grow at a fast rate, at about 1-2 feet per year, making it the fastest growing of all spruces. The needles can grow up to an inch long and fall off after two or three years. Norway spruces can live under the shade from taller trees until they grow older and surpass the height of the surrounding trees.

These trees originated from Europe, but as people emigrated they brought trees with them to plant in their new home. So, these trees now cover areas across the Northeast United States and in East Canada.

Climate change can affect the Norway spruce by making it more vulnerable to drought and strong winds from storms. Also, increasing temperatures puts pressure on these trees. This can impact the lifespan and the population of these trees.  

Red Oak

Quercus rubra

Red oak wood is durable and often used in timber industries. The wood is commonly used for kitchen cabinets and hardwoods because it is porous, allowing the stain or paint applied to it to soak in and hold the color.

Red oak trees can tolerate some air pollution and strong winds. They are also able to resist rock salt which can make them a popular tree to be planted along a street. They are one of the harder trees that can withstand different conditions.

A red oak tree can reach heights of 60 to 80 feet, growing at a fast rate of almost 2 feet per year when they are young, and can live to around 200 or 300 years. They grow best in full sun but can tolerate shade as well. These trees produce acorns that are enjoyed by squirrels, blue jays, turkeys, and many other animals.

During the Civil War, when there was a lack of conventional medicines, red oak trees were used in different ways to treat illnesses. The bark was used to help reduce fever and relieve pain. Also, the acorns could be boiled before eating.  

Red oaks are declining in parts of the United States due to droughts as a result of climate change. Although, they have also adapted and thrived with changing factors such as increased rainfall and longer growing seasons. This could result in them becoming a dominant tree species and pushing other trees out of their habitat.

Red Pine

Pinus resinosa

These straight rows of red pine trees were likely planted by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers that worked in Atkinson Common during the 1930s. Both the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps were known for planting millions of red pines during that era.

The red pine is a relatively large and long-lived tree, reaching up to 130 feet and living as long as 500 years old. The needles of this tree grow in bundles of two and extend four to six inches from the branch. Its long straight trunk and scaly red bark make it a handsome tree, but it is prone to disease and insect infestations, such as from the Saratoga spittlebug, which make them difficult to maintain.

The red pine is native to the greater New England region as well as the areas surrounding the Great Lakes. Because of its relatively low genetic variation, dendrologists believe that this species has been through a near-extinction in its recent evolutionary history.

Due the long and straight nature of their trunks, red pines were often used for utility poles, cabin logs, and posts. They are also a common source of timber for railroad ties, construction lumber, and pulpwood for paper. Just as eastern white pines were a valuable source of lumber for Maine, red pines were a primary source of lumber for Great Lakes states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

Seven-Son Flower

Heptacodium miconioides

This shrub-like tree is native to China but has quickly gained fame amongst Western horticulturalists thanks to its decorative potential. Today, only nine populations of this rare tree remain in the wild where it is threatened by habitat loss.

The seven-son flower first drew the attention of the west when it was discovered in China by British explorer and plant collector Ernest Henry Wilson in 1907. It wasn’t until 1980’s Sino-American Botanical Expedition that western botanists were allowed to explore China’s forests alongside their Chinese colleagues, where they rediscovered the tree.

During the three-month expedition, American scientists catalogued hundreds of species, including the Zen magnolia, Hubei viburnum, and seven-son flower. They brought it back to America where it became beloved for its beautiful and fragrant flowers.

The seven-son flower is characterized by its notable bloomings which, despite what the name might imply, only contain six flowers in each grouping, The seventh “flower” is actually a continuation of the branch that holds the six flowers around it. Also notable is the tree’s exfoliating bark, which appears to fall away from the trunk in ragged strips.

Sourwood

Oxydendrum arboreum

The Sourwood tree is one of the last trees to bloom, as its flowers appear in late summer. These sweet-smelling white flowers droop down and resemble lilies of the valley.

The honey produced from a Sourwood tree is very popular and regarded as one of the best honeys. Although, this is only true for Sourwoods at a certain elevation. The process for making this honey includes transporting and releasing bees in the area of Sourwood trees so they can pollinate the flowers and then create honeycombs to be harvested.

Sourwood trees are native to North America and appear mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the United States. They are most abundant in the central Appalachian Mountains with elevations of around 5,000 feet, and have been found to reach its largest size in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. It can grow to be 40 to 60 feet tall, and can live up to 100 to 200 years if planted in ideal conditions.

The sap of the Sourwood has been used to treat fevers, while the bark has been used to treat mouth pains. The leaves have been used to make tea as a thirst quencher for mountain climbers.

Sourwood trees can be impacted by climate change because they are vulnerable to air pollution. They could be unable to adapt to this and be damaged and harmed as a result.

Sugar Maple

Acer saccharum

This allée of sugar maples was planted in the 1930s as a pathway to the new stone tower that was built by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers in 1936. The Belleville Improvement Society is currently planning a project to restore the tower to its original glory. 

The sugar maple tree grows to a height of 60 to 75 feet and a spread of 40 to 50 feet at maturity. Their leaves have 5 lobes, with three large, main lobes and one smaller lobe on either side. Sugar maples are deciduous, which means that the trees lose their leaves each fall as it gets colder.

These trees can be found throughout New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and the middle Atlantic States, through the western edge of North Carolina to the southern border of Tennessee. 

The sugar maple provides food and shelter to a large number of organisms, and mammals such as moose, porcupine and snowshoe hare commonly eat its bark, twigs, and fruit. Sugar maples also have important interactions with fungi, which aids in water and nutrient absorption for the trees.

The maple tree is the best tree for maple syrup production and trees are tapped in early spring. The sap is boiled into a thick syrup or undergoes further processing to produce maple sugar. Sugar maple was also a main source of sweetener for Native Americans and early European settlers.

Climate change is affecting the health of maple trees, impacting their growth and decreasing the amount of sap they produce as well as its quality. Maple syrup producers are already reporting earlier and less predictable tapping seasons caused by changes in weather conditions.

Tulip Tree

Liriodendron

In 1863, at Old Ordinary Tavern in Hingham, Massachusetts, a tulip tree was planted by Henry Augustus Wilder, son of tavern-keeper Abiel Wilder. The tree grew on the property for 157 years, but, sadly, the tree was scheduled for removal in 2020 due to the risks it showed to the Tavern and nearby homes. According to an article in The Anchor written by Deirdre Anderson, the tree “has provided wonderful shade, colorful fall foliage, and botanical interest with its uniquely shaped leaves and tulip-shaped flowers…”

The tulip tree grows throughout the entire United States, and it can tolerate drought well. The flowers of the tree bloom in May and June, with colors of green, yellow, and orange. It reaches roughly 70 to 90 feet at maturity, growing more than two feet every year. Tulip trees thrive with full sun exposure, and it matures into the shape of an oval.

The wood of the tree is used to make furniture, instruments, and cabinetry. It is among the tallest of the North American hardwoods, making it a valuable and ideal for structural components of woodwork, as long as the wood does not split.

If climate change were to increase the severity and frequency of drought conditions, the trees would respond poorly, damaging the population.

Commentary

A variety of senses and biodiversity

A summary of some of the beautiful and surprising characteristics of the millions of animals we share our planet with and just why they are worth protecting.

The variety of creatures on Earth is truly amazing. Their beauty, grace, and speed as they live out their lives. Their sizes range from the microscopic up to the largest mammal ever – the blue whale. What we may not think about is how diverse their sensory equipment is and how they have stretched the edges of their species category in so many ways. Some of these characteristics reveal the importance of saving the species and their contribution to biodiversity.

For instance, bird migrations may be facilitated by magnetism, according to Florida-based Crew Land and Water Trust. Some birds possess cells in the cone of their eyes that include iron oxide crystals which may give them the ability to sense magnetic fields. It appears that birds that are sensitive to magnetic fields have light-sensitive pigments in their eyes, known as cryptochromes. These serve as magnetic sensors distinguishing different magnetic fields through color changes. This capability enables them to be like a compass, distinguishing north and south as they migrate.

The platypus possesses a bird-like bill, flipper-like limbs, and a flat, beaver-like tail. With its mash up of traits, the platypus may be considered one of the strangest mammals on Earth today. Along with echidnas, this semi-aquatic animal is one of only five mammalian species that lays eggs. These monotremes, as egg-laying mammals are known, share another characteristic. They have a so-called sixth sense: electroreception. The bills apparently allow them to detect, with their eyes closed, the tiny electrical field surrounding living creatures, such as, their prey of worms and crayfish in muddy and dark waters.

Bats are another fascinating group of animals. They are one of the few mammals that can use sound to navigate --a trick called echolocation — using sonar. Of some 900 species of bats, more than half rely on echolocation to detect obstacles in flight, find their way into roosts and forage for food. According to Scientific American most bats produce a complicated sequence of calls combining different sound components. Although low frequency sound travels further than high-frequency sound, calls at higher frequencies give the bats more detailed information--such as size, range, position, speed, and direction of a prey’s flight.

Research on baleen whales, filter feeders, has discovered a new organ. It’s possible that whales can sense things that no other living creatures can. Scientists have discovered a grapefruit-sized mass of vessels and nervous tissues located in whales’ chins, and they believe it’s an entirely new kind of sensory organ. It’s possible the organ is what allows these massive creatures to eat using a lightning-fast mouth movement called “lunge feeding.”

A study’s lead researcher, paleobiologist Nick Pyenson, notes this sensory organ is just one more thing that makes whales like “mammals from space.” It’s not about sensing temperature, it’s not taste, it’s really about movement and pressure and closely aligns with nervous system and bone structure to precisely time swallowing krill.

“In blue whales, jaws can be up to six meters long, and those jaws open and close under water in less than 10 seconds,” explains Pyenson in an interview with io9. Speed is important, “especially if you want to capture a big swarm of krill before they disperse.”

Our call to action this week is to help everyone focus on your senses and preserving biodiversity right here where we live. Consider these opportunities:

Know your bird neighbors — Have a bird identification book handy to learn about your neighborhood birds’ habits.

Support pollinators — Add native plants to attract pollinators to your yard. Plus help them live and don’t use toxic herbicides and pesticides on your lawn.

Compost – Reduce the production of methane gas via your own compost bin and start composting at home or use free drop off or subscribe to a Black Earth Compost program.

Support bats — Make or buy a bat house to provide a home for these insect eating friends

Connect with our ocean’s mammals – Consider a whale watch to gain insight into the beauty of the wonderful creatures of the ocean.

Commentary

Trains, Buses, and Trails

A simple guide to making your transportation more efficient, pleasant, and above all, less wasteful.

One of the pleasurable and relaxing things you can do is to take public transit more often. We know that might sound odd given all the headlines about old equipment and schedule delays over the last few years but all that appears to be getting better. 
 
Newburyport is in a good location to take advantage of low cost and low parking fee transportation options. Maybe it’s taking the train North Station to see a doctor at Mass General or Tufts. Or better yet taking the kids to a Bruins game. Friends have been taking the train to Boston almost every other month on the weekends and look for and attend many interesting fairs, art shows and especially the Italian Saints festivals in the North End. The Peabody Essex Museum, a national treasure, is only a half hour away by train from Newburyport and the Public Libraries have low or no cost passes to enter the Museum. 
 
Newburyport’s Mayor Sean Reardon will be helping improve our state transit systems as a newly appointed member of the MBTA Advisory Board. And Newburyport was praised on WGBH News last week while commenting that the Newburyport/Rockport line is a great bargain, especially with ticket prices to Boston dropped dramatically to only $2.40 through August 31 !


And all MVRTA bus rides are free! Yes free. In addition to the buses’ new festive and modern ‘trade dress’ colors, they have changed their name to MEVA a new branding that combines an abbreviation of Merrimack Valley with a linguistic echo to the Spanish meaning “I go”. And according to their web site they serve our northeast corner of Massachusetts with over 1 million miles of scheduled bus routes along with elderly and disabled transportation. And they measure themselves online on 8 measures of performance from on time routes, miles driven, revenue, maintenance expenditures, etc. While we hear about the “T” problems as one of the oldest systems in the country and its needed repairs, our local bus public transit, MEVA is modern, fit, and free and while its public awareness and informatics can be improved, it is a wonderful service.!
 
Of course, like everything in this decade, there are Apps to make it easy. You can get train tickets ahead of time if you want and all sorts of information by checking online. 
 
Next week some residents are headed to the Harvard Museum’s free exhibit of noted watercolor artists. They will get there by a morning train to North Station and taking the Green Line from there to Park St station then the Red Line to Harvard Sq in Cambridge. After the exhibit they plan a casual bite in Cambridge and then retracing their air-conditioned and free WIFI route back to Newburyport.
 
Destinations like Salem for the Peabody Essex Museum, Beverly for the Cabot Theater, the Encore Casino, or Boston for a Celtics, Bruins, or Red Sox game are all on the menu with the MBTA. As are the options with MEVA like the Haverhill arts district, an Italian pastry run to Lawrence, or Lebanese specialties in Methuen.
 
And while we are emphasizing trains and buses, let’s not forget our extensive - and enviable – Coastal Trails Coalition’s network of rail trials in our area. Why not take a walk on the rail trail behind McDonalds on Rt 110 in Amesbury for a beer at brew pub in downtown Amesbury? Or walk in the expanded shade of the newly planted trees on the Newburyport rail trail? In Newburyport, do you know you can walk from Atkinson Common to the Whittier Bridge/RT95 rail trail on cute little side streets that are not busy like Moseley Ave or Merrimack St?
 
The message here is simple: explore your mobility options and have fun doing so.
 
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
 
1. Driving a car into Boston is wasteful of time and money when there are better public transit options
 
2. Inexpensive and fun adventures await using public transportation.
 
3. Taking a train to Boston or Salem can be a great first date with plenty of time to chat and get to know each other.
 
4. As you know, our planet’s climate is in crisis and public transportation can help reduce emissions.
 
ACES Youth Corps team members ask you to consider the options of riding a train or bus or walking for their benefits. Please share any other ideas for the wellbeing of future generations and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

Photo by Quin Engle on Unsplash
Commentary

Localize for the environment

We all need to help mitigate climate change by adopting a personal resolution about localizing our lives. Growing, making, sourcing, and buying as much as possible locally –localizing – as close as possible to home is a climate virtue.

Mike Bloomberg, the UN special envoy for climate ambition and solutions and founder of Bloomberg LP (and owner of Newburyport/ Boston Radio station 106.1 FM) interviewed at COP27 recently said “From flooding to extreme heat to wildfires, we’re already experiencing the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Local leaders have built serious momentum through the #RaceToZero campaign, but the work is far from done.”

Mike is right about local action building momentum in dealing with climate change but more needs to be done. That’s why we all need to help by adopting a personal resolution about localizing our lives. Growing, making, sourcing, and buying as much as possible locally –localizing – as close as possible to home is a climate virtue. Why? Because transporting things from far away is harmful for the climate. and the destruction of natural environments, whether forest or prairie, for industrialized farming is harmful. For those of us living in New England there are ways to increase the amount of localization of our spending and consuming that can be good for the planet. In fact, we have some remnant skills and places where we always did things locally before. And we can choose to do so again.

Historically, New England was very self-sufficient in its food sourcing with exceptions like citrus fruit, tea, and coffee. We raised our own meats and dairy and caught our own seafood. Now after the 100-year rise of industrial agriculture in the south and west, we’ve outsourced food production to the lower labor cost, but energy and chemical intensive global system.

But now a better paradigm is emerging as many new innovations extend our growing seasons using solar power and LED lighting make growing many crops possible year-round. So called vertical farming, where old factories or new buildings are equipped to grow floors and floors of vegetable and fruit crops indoors and in winter. Companies have retrofitted old shipping containers which did duty transporting furniture from Asia into growing rooms parked next to restaurants and supplying herbs and greens and mushrooms for the chef to choose. Some of these containers are actively growing food in Boston under the Southeast Expressway just blocks from the South Boston Broadway MBTA station.

Beyond food, we have history here as makers. A history of making cloth, clothes, and shoes. Furniture and silverware were made in greater Newburyport. We made beer and we made rum. We made carriages and we made silverware. The Merrimack Valley was the epicenter of worldwide textile and shoe manufacturing. Massachusetts was a premier furniture design and making region. We still can grow that business cluster. We are now making craft beers and ciders all over the region as well as rum, vodka, and whiskeys in several north shore communities.

Sourcing locally also means trying to buy what is already here, like secondhand and vintage tools, furniture, and clothing. When we buy used items, we save the transportation and manufacturing climate costs it took to make it and get it here. It’s here already and a new one won’t need to be made again.

Buying locally instead of online creates jobs for your neighbors or yourself and it avoids lots of surplus packaging that needs disposal. If you consider a local retailer ordering and receiving say 12 blouses in a single large box that creates a lot less wasteful plastic and paper debris than 12 packages from Amazon.

Lastly, buying things grown and made locally is good for your social life because conversations at Cider Hill, Maple Crest Farms, Colby’s farm stand, the Newburyport Farmer’s Market or Gentry’s keep you connected with the community and that’s good for our mental health as well. The same holds true for art from local artists at local art galleries; such as, the PEG Gallery.

Our Youth Corps asks you to please try to do a bit more localizing of your purchase choices and little by little we can make the climate better, locally, together. Please share any thoughts about a project or practice that could foster more local purchasing and send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

In the News

Environmental groups urge state to reduce beach pollution

Environmental groups are calling on state officials to take steps to stop sewage overflows and pollution runoff amid newly released data showing pathogens posing health risks at more than half of the state’s beaches. At least 30 Massachusetts beaches exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety threshold for fecal bacteria on one-quarter of days tested last year, according to the groups. One of these was Sandy Point on Plum Island.

Environmental groups are calling on state officials to take steps to stop sewage overflows and pollution runoff amid newly released data showing pathogens posing health risks at more than half of the state’s beaches.

In 2022, 274 Massachusetts beaches were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one testing day, according to Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center’s latest report on bacteria testing. That’s nearly half of the state’s public beaches.

At least 30 Massachusetts beaches exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety threshold for fecal bacteria on one-quarter of days tested last year, according to the groups.

At King’s Beach in Lynn, bacteria levels are often hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe for swimming, prompting frequent shutdowns for swimmers. Tests of King’s Beach water found unsafe bacteria levels on at least 60 out of 96 testing days in 2022, or about 63% of the samples, according to the report. Sandy Beach on Plum Island tested for unsafe levels of bacteria on at least 12 of 16 testing days last year, or about 75% of the samples, the report’s authors said.

John Rumpler, Environment Massachusetts’ clean water director and co-author of the report, said pollution is “still plaguing too many of the places where we swim.”

“While past infrastructure investments have resulted in cleaner water in many places, we still have work to do to stop the flow of pathogens at some of our beaches,” he said.

Nationwide, at least 1,761 out of 3,192 beaches tested in 2021, or 55%, had at least one day on which fecal contamination reached potentially unsafe levels, according to Environment America.

Environmentalists blame stormwater runoff, combined sewage overflow systems, suburban sprawl, and in some communities manure from industrial livestock production for the contamination, among other causes.

The report makes a number of recommendations to protect beaches from pollution, such as tapping into federal infrastructure funding to close off combined sewer systems, like those along the Merrimack River, that often discharge raw and partially treated sewage into waterways during heavy rain events.

Beach water pollution can cause a range of illnesses in swimmers, including skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, respiratory ailments and other serious health problems, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which monitors water quality in the state.

For senior citizens, small children and people with weak immune systems, the results can be fatal, according to state health officials.

The incidence of infections has been increasing over the past several decades, and the numbers are expected to climb with coastal populations growing. Nationwide, an estimated 57 million Americans become sick each year from swimming in polluted waterways, according to federal data.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhinews.com.

In the News

Money is available to clean the Merrimack

President Biden’s infrastructure bill included close to $50 billion for communities to improve and expand their sewage treatment operations and clean-water facilities. Now is the time for elected officials and clean-water professionals in the Merrimack Valley to launch the complicated process of obtaining some of this funding.

Those concerned about pollution in the Merrimack River should be aware that billions of federal dollars are available now to help clean the waterway. President Biden’s infrastructure bill included close to $50 billion for communities to improve and expand their sewage treatment operations and clean-water facilities.

It is the largest amount approved to clean rivers, lakes and the oceans since the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Now is the time for elected officials and clean-water professionals in the Merrimack Valley to launch the complicated process of obtaining some of this funding.

The 117-mile-long Merrimack is regularly fouled by combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that take place after heavy rain. Communities, including Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Nashua, New Hampshire, and Manchester, New Hampshire, emit CSOs.

A CSO occurs when stormwater from heavy rain reaches a community’s sewage treatment plant. The plant can’t absorb both sewage and stormwater, so the entire amount is released into the river. Hundreds of millions of gallons are sent into the river each year.

This is alarming, since the Environmental Protection Agency says that close to 600,000 residents get their drinking water from the Merrimack, including those in Lawrence, Lowell and Andover.

The EPA monitors these emissions. Indeed, the above communities are under “consent” agreements to make improvements to their riverside plants.

But with the exception of Manchester, they have been slow to generate funds to rebuild or expand their treatment plans.

Now is the time. Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury do not emit CSOs but they feel the effects. CSOs, which sometimes include human fecal matter, arrive in Newburyport Harbor. It is a significant detriment to summer activities like boating and fishing. (Swimming should be avoided after heavy rain). and this pollution is a threat to the prosperous tourist trade that has developed in recent years.

Regarding funding to limit CSOs, federal funds are being administered by the regional EPA through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Government agencies are generally the applicants.

Local residents interested in spurring the process can contact congressional representatives Lori Trahan and Seth Moulton to urge their cooperation. Trahan, who represents the Lowell area, has been especially active in working for a cleaner Merrimack.

Gov. Maura Healey, who has ties to Newburyport, can also be contacted, as can Sens. Warren, Markey and state senators and representatives.

Closer to home, Newburyport is a polluter when it comes to surface water runoff. Scores of pipes throughout the city collect rainwater with butts, oily dirt and fertilizer residue, and send it into the river. Several of these pipes are visible when one walks on the Clipper City Rail Trail.

City officials should increase their existing program to limit these streetside emissions.

Also, the EPA recently has announced that “forever chemicals” are present in American rivers, and they can cause cancer. So local officials and hydrologists should learn more about the so-called PFAs to determine if they are detrimental to those who use the Merrimack.

Many residents of the Merrimack Valley know the river is polluted but they don’t know what to do about it.

Right now is a good time to approach local, state and federal officials to urge action to obtain funding to clean the river. Billions of dollars are available for cleanup, the most since 1972.

It appears that big-time funding for clean water comes along only about twice in a hundred years. Now is the time to pursue it!

Dyke Hendrickson is a resident of Newburyport and the author of five books focusing on the Merrimack River and/or Plum Island. He is also running for the Newburyport City Council.

Commentary

Ecopreneurs wanted!!!!!

The innovative approach to decades of climate change through a circular economy.

Ecopreneurs are entrepreneurs whose business efforts are not only driven by profit, but also by a concern for the environment. There is also significant money being made by innovating in the things and processes that are causing much of the global harm to our earth from our 1st industrial revolution. That highly productive human surge forward also produced some toxic side effects due to its waste products and means of production. But now most countries are recognizing the dire threats of climate change and are taking steps to reduce greenhousesgases and pollution. This is shoring up and otherwise protecting vulnerable civic infrastructure. And design and innovation are playing a big part in that effort.

As the Ellen MacArthur Foundation writes in its introduction to the “Circular Economy” “we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place.”

They along with the EPA and others offer a solution framework based on three (3) principles that tackles global challenges: Climate change, Biodiversity loss, and Waste -Pollution. It starts where we have begun working locally on its first principle; by eliminating waste, recycling, composting, and buying vintage, furniture, clothing, and decor. Greater Newburyport people and businesses have started in this direction as people begin to bring their own shopping bags, recycle, and compost and many shops offering vintage and secondhand home goods and fashion.

The 2nd principle of the Circular Economy is to circulate products and materials at their highest possible value driven by design of processes and products in an innovative way. We need entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs to tackle this aspect of the challenge. 

Take the simple example of wooden skids. Look behind and around our industrial parks and you’ll see lots of disused and damaged skids. Can a small firm offer to pick them up for free and in disassembly line process separate the runners and blocks, remove nails. Some pieces can be made smooth and converted to vertical planters, flooring, or wall paneling. What can small scale house builders do to recirculate and repurpose the demolition materials before replacing an old 50’s ranch with a modern 4-bedroom home? Can small subcontractors arise to fill that need. While preservation and good maintenance of existing buildings is the first and best step as the Newburyport Preservation Trust advises, how can the parts of that be conserved and reused in some way. There is a small business near Cider Hill Farm that concentrates on ‘architectural salvage”, the timbers and corbels and panel doors of the past. 

The 3rd principle of the circular economy is to help regenerate nature. Locally we have ACES Allies like The Trustees, Greenbelt, Audubon, and each community with parks that have set aside and manage lands to preserve nature. Local farmers fertilize with their livestock manure to use less chemicals in their fields. We can plant trees and pollinator gardens.

It’s a simple concept, the Circular Economy. And it has many niches people can make their mark by starting a business. Eco-product retailer, Eco-friendly landscaping, or maybe design software or an online marketplace to help preserve, reuse, repurpose, and design new ways to keep the circle going. You can find more on the Circular Economy here: https://www.epa.gov/circulareconomy/what-circular-economy

ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to consider what you might do to create pathways for the circular economy and the wellbeing of all generations. Possibly become an “ecopreneur” around what you value and want to perpetuate. Send us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

“Raising awareness on the most pressing environmental issues of our time is more important than ever.”

Leonardo DiCaprio

American actor, film producer, and environmentalist