Paint the Town Green
Celebrate Arlington’s Path to a Sustainable Future
Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 3-5 p
Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA
I planted sugar snap peas on St. Patrick's Day this year, and four days later it snowed. It wasn't what we'd expect of the second day of Spring, but the weather this year has been anything but common. The pea planting was as much a hopeful gesture as anything else - a way to reassure myself that something edible will indeed emerge from the ground again, just as we will emerge from this heavy dose of winter.
The mailmen may be the only people in Arlington who know it's time to start thinking about the garden, as they deliver seed and garden supply catalogues to frozen gardeners who have probably forgotten how to call a spade a spade. But all it takes is a quick daydream about the taste of a fresh summer tomato with basil to get me to load soil into peat pots and start raising this year's vegetable garden. I claim complete amateur status when it comes to gardening, but that's the main point: it didn't take much effort to get myself up and going and self-sufficient with vegetables for two from June through September. Hopefully it'll inspire some similar experiments around Arlington.
One of the first things I did after moving here a few years ago - long before the furniture arrived - was to dig up the yard. I am not a huge fan of grass and am definitely not a lawn guy, particularly because they require attention but you can't eat them. At first I had plans to turn the entire place into a big terraced garden complete with paths and maybe a fountain or two. Then I discovered how hard it is to dig well-established grass, and my grand visions shrank. A lot. I started with two 11-foot by 6-foot raised beds, which I staked out, dug, and framed with untreated spruce 2X12s from Home Depot. In the second season I added a third.
I filled the beds with a few cubic yards of compost from Boston Bark that were dumped smack in the middle of our driveway. I was pleased until I discovered that the dump truck hadn't been cleaned out before it was loaded with compost, and so right at the center of the magnificent pile was a full two cubic yards of concrete mix. Boston Bark did come back, shovel up the mess, and provide a new load sans concrete but I would have rather seen them get it right on round 1.
The arduous digging of sod.
The compost - with a special concrete filling.
While this was going on, the seedlings watched from inside. Although I'd raised the odd cactus or two in my day, this whole vegetable thing was new territory for me. I tried all sorts of containers, from peat pots to cardboard egg cartons to old yogurt containers. In the end, although they're a one-shot deal, I like peat pots the most because they can be placed in a waterproof dish and watered from below. The peat will soak up the water and dampen the soil, which is a great way to avoid abusing your seedlings during watering.
Another suggestion is to label your seedlings clearly with something other than a post-it note. It's a bit of a surprise when you separate a bunch of tiny tomato seedlings only to find out later that they were actually...basil. In the first year I pre-seeded tomatoes, zucchini, kale, leeks, broccoli, parsley, and basil indoors on April 1st. Later I planted beans, swiss chard, marigolds, and a bunch of salad greens right in the garden. I liked this initial set, with the exception of the leeks, which looked like blades of grass when I transplanted them into the garden and took forever to mature into pitiful stalks.
All of my seeds came from Seeds of Change, which I chose because they are from organic plants. I've generally liked their supply, but their seed packs are pretty expensive and I've had problems with items backordered (summer doesn't wait around for the seeds to arrive) or canceled altogether (a couple of times without any warning).
The first set of seedlings.
A tomato gets a transplant.
All planted and ready to grow (Bed #1).
Tomatoes and salad greens (Bed #2).
My first year was the summer of 2009 when everyone's Ark filled with water from June 1st to July 15th. Irrigation wasn't necessary, and the cool-weather crops such as lettuces and broccoli did well. I did install a soaker hose (seen in the photo) but used it rarely, and found that by September it had rotted and had several holes, making it completely worthless. In 2010 I sprung for a drip irrigation system from a company called Irrigation Direct. The weather was warm and dry and with the system on a timer, all I really had to do was harvest, eat, and repeat. (Less work is always good, because unfortunately I am not a full-time yard gardener.)
I'm a fan of planting densely because it means less weeding, and this appears to work as long as crops are rotated from year to year. I border the beds with marigolds, which help deter pests, and interplant a lot - one plant of this, one row of that, and so on. The only pesticide I use is Bt, which stands for Bacillus Thuringiensis and is a naturally-occurring bacteria that takes care of cabbage moths on the kale and broccoli. In June the basil has been decimated by June bugs (go figure) so I cover them at night - problem solved. I was told that nocturnal investigations are the best way to figure out what's eating your plants, and this has been mostly true. Neighbors come in handy, too: ours told me he spotted a squirrel running away with one of my tomatoes in its mouth. I considered it my contribution to the squirrel fund in exchange for free acorn cleanup services the fellow provides in the fall.
From seedling to garden jungle in a matter of weeks.
Rows offer the illusion of order and method.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and even though many of my techniques were experimental and haphazard, when the sun shines in Arlington things really start growing. We had more salad greens than we could eat, and managed to can a bunch of tomatoes in the form of salsa. Butternut squash has lasted through the winter in the basement, and I think there's a loaf or two of zucchini bread still in the freezer.
It may seem a long way off, but soon we'll be in shorts and t-shirts and I'll be feeling lucky that there are 200 fewer square feet of my lawn to mow than when I moved in. If luck smiles on me again this year, I'll be feasting on another chaotic pile of plants that are as local as it gets.
1 ½ lbs of zucchini.
A late-season harvest: tomatoes, squash, beets, and everything else.
Summertime on a platter.
Climate Change News
Sep 23, 2018 | 04:37 am
New paper by award-winning American physicist, Amory B. Lovins, reveals energy efficiency as a bigger, cheaper resource than expected. Distinguished American energy expert Amory Lovins Tuesday published what may be the most important findings for climate change since Lord Nicholas Stern published “The Economics of Climate Change” in 2007. Current climate change thinking argues that the world has to use energy at least 3% more productively each year in order to stay below 2 degrees. Amory Lovins argues that the world’s ability to sustain such rapid savings (slightly above the 2015 peak of 2.8%/y) is far greater—and can prove even more profitable—than had been thought. In the paper, titled How Big Is the Energy Efficiency Resource?, Lovins shows that the potential for energy efficiency has been massively understated and its cost overstated, by analyzing not whole buildings, vehicles, and factories, but only their individual parts, thus missing valuable ways to help the parts work together to save more energy at lower cost. Lovins shows a pathway to staying well below 2 degrees is more achievable that any current climate scenarios assume or suggest. “In the same way that no one expected the cost of solar and wind to plummet, driving faster adoption that cuts their cost further,” Lovins explained, “we have overlooked the ability of modern energy efficiency to do the same thing.” The paper cites strong empirical evidence that the scope for energy efficiency is actually severalfold larger and cheaper than had previously been thought. Unlike renewable energy, whose[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Sep 23, 2018 | 04:21 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Sep 22, 2018 | 05:52 am
What do you first think when you see a picture of a burning car on Twitter? Tesla of course, since that’s the public service announcement the media has drilled into our head. Also, you know, a gas tank can’t catch fire and blow up. And even if gas was flammable, cars wouldn’t be catching on fire every day, ya know?From one of our newest reports, here are a few quotes about fires (note that ICE = internal combustion engine, which is the thingie that burns gasoline or diesel in a “normal” car):“ICE cars are fundamentally more exposed to fatal fire risks than their electric counterpart.”“Even in case of collision, ICE vehicles are more likely to catch fire than hybrid vehicles.”“ICE cars are fundamentally more exposed to fatal fire risks than their electric counterparts, as the deadliest fires are mostly due to flammable liquids located in the engine area.”Read more at ICE Car Death Watch Trolls the TrollsRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 22, 2018 | 05:45 am
China’s largest lithium producer, Ganfeng Lithium, said on Friday that it had signed a three-year deal to supply Tesla with lithium hydroxide for batteries—another lithium supply agreement for Tesla as it tries to stay ahead in raw materials sourcing before the coming massive EV competition from legacy carmakers. The top Chinese lithium producer will supply around one-fifth of its production to Tesla under the deal between 2018 and 2020, according to a filing by Ganfeng Lithium with the Shenzhen stock exchange as carried by Bloomberg. The agreement can be extended by another three years, Ganfeng Lithium said. In May of this year, Tesla entered into an agreement with Australia’s Kidman Resources Limited. The Australian company entered into a binding deal to supply Tesla with lithium hydroxide for an initial term of three years on a fixed-price take-or-pay basis from the delivery of first product. The deal also has two 3-year term options for renewal. If Tesla’s Nevada factory reaches battery production equivalent to 35 gigawatt hours by late next year, Tesla may need 28,000 tons of lithium hydroxide from late 2019 onwards, according to forecasts by industry consultants Benchmark Minerals, quoted by Bloomberg. Read more at Tesla Signs Lithium Supply Deal with China’s Biggest ProducerRead more...
- Climate Change News Sep 22, 2018 | 03:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 07:15 am
In North Carolina, the #2 solar state, Florence was the first extreme weather test for much of its renewable energy. Nuclear and coal ash had flood problems.Faced with Hurricane Florence's powerful winds and record rainfall, North Carolina's solar farms held up with only minimal damage while other parts of the electricity system failed, an outcome that solar advocates hope will help to steer the broader energy debate.North Carolina has more solar power than any state other than California, much of it built in the two years since Hurricane Matthew hit the region. Before last week, the state hadn't seen how its growing solar developments—providing about 4.6 percent of the state's electricity—would fare in the face of a hurricane.Florence provided a test of how the systems stand up to severe weather as renewable energy use increases, particularly solar, which is growing faster in the Southeast than any other other region.Read more at Solar Energy Largely Unscathed by Hurricane Florence’s Wind and RainRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 06:30 am
ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum join ten other major fossil fuel producers that say they recognize the goals of the Paris climate deal. ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum have joined a global group of oil giants aiming to limit their climate impact. According to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), its three new members recognize and support the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the temperature increase below 2C. As a first gift, they will be contributing $100m to the group’s climate fund. Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil said: “Our mission is to supply energy for modern life and improve living standards around the world while minimizing impacts on the environment. This dual challenge is one of the most important issues facing society and our company.” Created in 2014, the OGCI comprises 13 oil and gas companies and aims to minimize the impacts of greenhouse gases through investments and research into green technology. The group funds research into cutting emissions related to the production of fossil fuels. It advocates for carbon capture mechanisms and more efficient transport engines as ways to decrease emissions. Exxon, Chevron First US Companies to Join Oil and Gas Climate AllianceRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 05:45 am
Model 3 sedan has been awarded a five-star rating by the U.S. auto safety agency NHTSA in tests that are standard for cars in the United States. The agency has been investigating crashes involving other Tesla models, which have raised questions over the functioning of the automaker’s auto-pilot system. The company’s shares were up 1.7 percent at $304.27 in early trading on Thursday. The agency started the 5-Star safety ratings program in 1993 and Tesla's Model X and Model S, which has been the subject of at least one NHTSA investigation, have both received the top rating in the past. The ratings provide information about crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles. Read more at Tesla Model 3 Gets 5-Star Rating from U.S. Safety AgencyRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 05:05 am
Along coastlines, some homes that are currently high and dry could be flooded as seas rise over the next century. The threat may be several decades away, but the real estate market is already responding.Ryan Lewis of the University of Colorado is part of a team that analyzed hundreds of thousands of coastal real estate transactions over a decade.They compared the sale prices of homes that were similar in almost every way: same size, same zip code, and the same distance from the beach.Lewis: “The difference is either one house is slightly higher than the other, or one house is protected by natural features.”In other words, two identical homes – one more likely to flood in the future, and one less. The analysis found that more vulnerable properties sold, on average, for about seven percent less.Read more at Sea-Level Rise Is Already Hitting the Real-Estate MarketRead more...
Climate Change News
Sep 21, 2018 | 04:10 am
Targeted engineering projects to hold off glacier melting could slow down the collapse of ice sheets and limit sea-level rise, according to a new study published in the European Geosciences Union journal The Cryosphere. While an intervention similar in size to existing large civil engineering projects could only have a 30% chance of success, a larger project would have better odds of holding off ice-sheet collapse. But study authors Michael Wolovick and John Moore caution that reducing emissions still remains key to stopping climate change and its dramatic effects. "Doing geoengineering means often considering the unthinkable," says Moore, a scientist at Beijing Normal University, China, and a professor of climate change at the University of Lapland, Finland. The term 'geoengineering' is usually applied to large-scale interventions to combat climate change. But instead of trying to change the entire climate, Wolovick and Moore say we could apply a more targeted approach to limit one of the most drastic consequences of climate change: sea-level rise. Their "unthinkable" idea is glacial geoengineering: making changes to the geometry of the seafloor near glaciers that flow into the ocean, forming an ice shelf, to prevent them from melting further. Some glaciers, such as the Britain- or Florida-sized Thwaites ice stream in West Antarctica, are retreating fast. "Thwaites could easily trigger a runaway [West Antarctic] ice sheet collapse that would ultimately raise global sea level by about 3 meters," explains Wolovick, a researcher at Princeton University's Department of Geosciences, US. This could have dramatic effects to[…]Read more...