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Our New Neighbor! December 5, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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We have a new neighbor on the hill across the river:

This beauty sprang up last week atop our local ski area, and is expected to produce enough electricity on a yearly basis to offset the ski area’s total usage.

I think that’s pretty cool.

But wind generators are not without their detractors, including environmentalists who decry the impact of not just these imposing wind turbines, but the accompanying network of access roads and transmission lines which make their construction, maintenance and connectivity possible.  This is surely an issue warranting consideration in our vanishing wilderness areas, but I think less so in an area like this one with a strong human presence and plenty of rarely traveled field and logging roads.

A more commonly expressed concern, however, has to do with the effect of wind turbines on the “viewscape.”  We live in a relatively undeveloped area, The Berkshires being famous for their established rural beauty and bucolic landscapes.   As a photographer I value the pristine ridges and free-flowing rivers, and will need to be a bit more creative to avoid signs of civilization in my work.

And where land values are high, in towns like New Ashford and Hancock, our wealthy neighbors are adamantly vociferous in their objections to seeing these harbingers of development on “their” ridge lines.  The Berkshire Wind Project has survived well funded efforts to quash it, but is finally being realized as a ten-turbine facility:

That’s not a great photograph, but you get the picture – there’s an undeniable visual impact.

But consider if you will the alternatives.  Would the fine folk of Hancock rather see their ridge devoured by “mountaintop removal mining,” with the toxic tailings dumped into the ravines and valleys which comprise the headwaters of the brooks which feed the rivers which fill their beautiful lakes?  Perhaps they’d prefer a nice domed nuclear generator on that shoreline, with cooling towers and a host of swaths cleared for powerlines to go this way and that?

Oh, right – Not In My Back Yard! Shades of Cape Wind, the big wind farm in the works off of our iconic island of Nantucket.  Even the Kennedy family, those defenders of progressivism, choked on the prospect of something which would interrupt their pristine ocean views.

I, for one, would much rather look across the river to a ridgeline wind turbine than a coal-fired power plant complete with its mountains of coal and tall, belching stack.

It’s also worth considering, I think, that wind and solar installations can be built with a frequency and on a scale which doesn’t require massive commitments of land for transmission lines as do larger scale means of generation, with the concomitant power losses inherent in pushing the juice across the country (beware, for that reason, of schemes to build massive wind and solar farms in the Southwest or out on the Plains – this model is being pushed by our existing power giants as a way to ensure that only they can handle the job, and will have devastating environmental impacts.)

We all need to accept that, barring a paradigm shift which would allow us to be satisfied with a world where “growth” wasn’t the over-riding goal of our existence, there will be changes. It’s up to us to decide which changes we’ll accept, both for our own lives and for those who come after us.

The North Quabbin Garlic And Arts Festival! September 17, 2007

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
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So here it is as promised, the Full Report:

I drove out to Orange (the Town that Rhymes with Nothing) this afternoon to see what was shakin’ at the annual Garlic Festival.

When I got to the point on the skanky little back roads where the traffic was stopped and there were cars parked along the road, well, I parked along the road and started walking.

Little did I know.

A mile and a half of steep hills later, I passed under this banner:

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You and me both, pal!

So I paid the lady FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS and went in.

And as advertised, it was a huge conflagration of Hilltown Hippyheads, all tye-died and squinty-eyed, dreads and birkenstocks and braided armpits…

It was cool.

And colorful:

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That’s a rare uncrowded moment for Teh Camera.

There were two stages, powered entirely by solar panels and doing quite well, thank you. I got there just in time to catch the end of an exciting show by the Bamidele Dancers and Drummers:

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Kicked my ass, they did. And I loved the Festival motto, strung proudly across the top of the stage, and the solar panels down front!

A short walk took me to the “Family Stage,” a less amplified venue where Teh Chilluns was being indoctrinated with socialist concepts like inclusiveness and sharing, i.e. they were invited up front to dance:

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Fuckin’ socialists are gonna be the ruination of America.

But beyond the overt objective of providing food and fun for the community and the covert objective of poisoning our kids with the devil-cultures of Places Not American, there was a serious and, dare I use the term, hopeful aspect to this Hill-town Hoe-down. A major theme, evident wherever you looked, was that of Green and Sustainable Living. From the numerous kiosks espousing the local production of biodiesel fuel from post-consumer restaurant oils

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to the information available about solar hot water and photovoltaic panels, to the extraordinary job the organizers did to ensure that the festival’s footprint would be minimal:

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That’s right, read the small print on the yellow sign. The clear “plastic” cups and the disposable tableware, all made from corn starch, and all compostable! Turns out there are quite a few options for compostable tableware, plates and cups and spoons and forks and so on.

Funny how we in America only know about the petroleum-based alternatives, eh?

At any rate, last year’s festival, with thousands of attendees, generated one small bag of trash. It will be interesting to learn how we did this year.

Oh, and because garlic is a Wonder-Food and second in my esteem only to pussy, we mustn’t forget to honor the only Super Hero in attendance at this year’s festival…

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Garlic Man!!! …and Clifford the Tofu Pup.

I’m still struggling with the realization that I had a half-hour conversation with a bulb of garlic and loved every minute of it. This guy was a hoot, the real deal, the cat’s ass, and underneath it all, a fine architect. Who’da thunk?

But finally, with the sun sinking low and my wallet growing thin, it was time to seek out the object of my culinary curiosity, the Fabled Food of Fanatics, the Gastronomic Non Sequitur known as…

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Check the lower left, if you dare…

YES, GARLIC ICE-CREAM!!! And here it is Folks, about to go over the lips and gums and down the hatch:

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And I’m here to tell you peeps, it was… well, it was kind of…

interesting.

Quite the arresting juxtaposition, sweet home-made ice cream (and Bart’s is quite good) laced with small chunks of toasted garlic.

I recommend that you don’t miss it, but don’t run over any puppies in your rush to get there.

So all in all a great afternoon of music, people watching, heightened environmental awareness and sensorial adventures.

I’m already looking forward to next year!

And a parting thought from the fine folks who kept our collective footprint so unbelievably small:

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True Dat.

An Afternoon of Sunshine, Music and Garlic Ice Cream! September 16, 2007

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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So I’m off to the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in not-too-distant Orange, Massachusetts.

Yeah, Orange. The Town That’s World Famous For Almost Having A Pearl Jam Concert. But that’s another story.

This Festival has thousands of visitors, features lots of local growers and excellent live music. Perfect for a sunny afternoon, non?

But more importantly, it’s nearly entirely powered by solar and renewable energy and recycles or composts just about everything they generate (last year they ended up with one small bag of trash for the whole shebang!) They also have shuttle busses from local “population centers” (huyh, right!) and encourage car pooling, bike riding, etc.

With an agenda like that, how can a guy say no?

So I’m off. I’ll bring back a full report.

And some garlic ice cream. 😉