Bravo for Beavers
What a great article ["The Flood Control Squad," August 25, 2011]! And perfect timing, as beavers are being discussed as an excellent tool for salmonid recovery! Just last week Brock Dolman [director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center's Water Institute, which is a founding member of the California Beaver Working Group] presented on this at the state capitol.
We need millions more beavers to help us with our salmon, water and wildlife. Your article is a great reminder of our next steps.
Heidi Perryman, Ph.D
President and founder, Worth A Dam
More Solar for Massachusetts
At a time when state budgets have been cut to the bone and municipalities throughout the state are facing Draconian cuts in education, services and social programs, there are still ways to alleviate some of the pain. One current program, the Massachusetts Municipal Solar Tariff, enables towns and cities across the state to purchase discounted solar energy with no up-front costs. This initiative has been remarkably successful and only a small fraction of the approximately 200 megawatts of solar power allocated remain available.
This program has single-handedly enabled dozens of cities and towns to purchase solar power at a savings of 10-15 percent (and more, in some instances). The beauty of this program is that it does not even require that cities erect solar panels on roofs of existing structures, or even on land in their own town. As long as the solar power is generated within the service area of their local utility, they can qualify. Consequently, townships where roof structures may be inadequate and/or installation of solar panels not practical or feasible can still take advantage of this cost-saving and job-creating effort.
We would urge those municipalities that have not taken advantage of this program to do so immediately. We would urge people throughout the state to contact their local mayors, selectmen and legislators and encourage them to request this discounted solar power. In addition, based on the success to date and the tremendous need, we feel the state should extend the Massachusetts Solar Municipal Tariff by an additional 200 megawatts to enable many more towns and cities to take advantage of it.
This one initiative helps each town and city save thousands of dollars a year without spending a cent; prevents layoffs at the local level; creates hundreds of local jobs throughout the state; is beneficial to the environment by reducing carbon emissions; and helps reduce this country's dependence on foreign oil. We hope that all residents of Massachusetts will join us in calling for the continuation of this most worthwhile state action.
Joseph P. Grace, CEO
Schools Should Offer Veggie Option
With the start of a new school year, parents' attention is turning to school clothes, supplies, and lunches. Yes, school lunches.
Traditionally, the U.S.Department of Agriculture had used the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for surplus meat and dairy commodities. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of American children consume excessive amounts of fat, only 15 percent eat recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, and one-third have become overweight or obese. Their early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, raising their risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
But the tide is turning. In recent years, Hawaii, California, New York, and Florida legislatures asked their schools to offer daily vegetarian options, and most U.S. school districts now do. The Baltimore public school system offers its 80,000 students a complete weekly break from meat.
Last December, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to replace junk food in school lunches and vending machines with more healthful options. In January, the USDA announced the first new school lunch guidelines in 15 years.
Parents should continue to insist on healthful plant-based school meals, snacks and vending machine items. They can consult www.vrg.org/family, www.healthyschoollunches.org, and www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/.