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Pushing Green Transport in the Pioneer Valley

Pushing Green Transport in the Pioneer Valley

From Pioneer Valley Relocalization Project
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“Whatever the nature of water, the fish will be the last to know.” — Chinese proverb

Highways and roads are an expanding universe. Distances to work, shopping, entertainment, and services become ever greater. By design, the interstate highways and the exurbs they promoted have foisted car dependence on us.

This must change because cars are the most money- and energy-wasteful, most CO2-spewing mechanized transport there is, and we must reduce CO2 since we’re in a crisis concerning possible runaway climate change. This dictates immediate responses from communities having the imagination and will to act. Also, oil production worldwide has peaked, and by 2020 gas could be $20 a gallon. Our region’s political leaders are charged with addressing town needs, and these crises are surely needs. What should they do? Transport emits 25% of our C02, so green transport is mandatory. Note these mpg per person figures: car with one person (25), car with two (50), bus (4-50, passenger dependent), train (40), carpool (85), walking (230 equivalent), biking (650 equivalent). An average car carries only about 1.1 people.

We must return to living in close proximity so we bike or walk to town, and take convenient buses and trains in and between towns. Reducing car use will catalyze the building of new landscapes we need—in-town living, walkable town centers, off-road bike paths—like in European towns. We need 1) frequently running, well-filled, multi-purpose buses with weatherized bus stops for those without cars—which cost $7,000 a year—and also for car owners 2) small buses and pre-sign-up vans serving hub and outlying towns and bus end points 3) hub town-administered carpooling. We need big structural changes to reduce car use, not parking meter tweaking and more cab licensing.

Reducing reliance on cars requires new thinking. First, let’s realize we don’t even acknowledge how artificial is the asphalt built environment that dictates car dependence. We unconsciously use it— as unconsciously as fish use water. But unlike fish, we can change our behavior. Amherst and its neighbors had practical trolleys, but car companies bought them and others across America to scuttle them. We could reintroduce a train between Northampton and Amherst. The single passenger car simply must be replaced by convenient alternatives. Ironically, the car inculcates hyper-individualism in us, undermining the calm democratic thinking required to reduce car use.

Second, in-town bus service has been designed for students and those without cars—the underclass and elderly. Car owners must begin taking buses, and they would if buses went four times an hour as in Europe instead of four times a day, if bus stops were weatherized, and if buses’ end points were linked with bike paths and van service. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) in concert with our towns has not been imaginative enough in motivating people to leave cars. An educated, then engaged public would lead to cooperating towns forging the necessary green transport infrastructure. Our region is not unique in its transport unconsciousness—it’s the same across America. But it might be in our local genes, given our progressive population, to actually do something. Truly, a jolt of some kind is necessary, like the famous and healthy Daniel Shays rebellion here that unified the country’s previously uncoordinated thirteen colonies.

Third, PVPC’s funding mechanism is part fare, part subsidy borne by town budgets, rendering funding inconstant as budgets become whims of town politics. Without funding constancy and an understanding that transport is a community necessity, planned change will not occur. The Northampton-Hadley-Amherst core is a cultural-economic unit in reality, but not in transport governance. Same for Amherst-Pelham-Leverett-Shutesbury. This simply must change. Please be conscious that money not sent to Exxon Mobil for gas could be sent instead to towns for better schools, policing, fire protection, libraries, and swimming pools.

We beseech you, whatever your town, to call all the following municipal executives. Tell them you want green transport change ASAP: Amherst (259-3002), Hadley (586-0221), Northampton 587-1249.

GREENFIELD, MA – The Greening Greenfield Energy Committee (GGEC) released its annual Energy Use Report Card today, and set a new goal for its 10% Challenge  

“This report card shows that our 10% challenge is working in some ways and not in others” said Becca King and Susan Worgaftik, co-organizers of the 10% Challenge and members of GGEC. “Greenfield’s oil heating users are doing a great job, but our other uses of fossil fuels show we have a lot of work to do.”

On average, since 2007, people using heating oil have cut their oil use by 131 gallons and are saving $500 each year. “Remember, this is average usage. Some people like Phillip & Esther Johnson, our Green Heroes for November 2011, cut their oil use by 970 gallons (from 1420 gallons to 450 gallons) for an annual savings of $3,744, by taking the advice of a free Mass Save energy audit, and installing a new heating system,” said Nancy Hazard, the GGEC member who compiled the data for the Report Card.

Natural gas users did not do so well. They use about the same today as in 2007. “We suspect that natural gas usage has not dropped because it is less expensive than oil,” said Hazard.

“Electricity use is also very stubborn,” noted Hazard. “In fact, usage has increased so that on average, we spend $26 more than we did in 2007.

“We can and must do better to reach our goal of cutting energy use and climate change emissions by 80% by 2050, ” said Hazard. “Since science has proven that global warming is caused primarily by human activity, and we know that the cost of fossil fuels will go up, now is a great time to explore what each of us can do.  Our utility companies are offering free energy assessments, air sealing, and $2,000-$3,000 toward insulation,” says Hazard. “We should all take advantage of this.  It is a great opportunity to make changes at a reasonable cost.  It takes persistence, not sacrifice.”

GGEC aims to expand both the number of households taking the 10% challenge to 1600, which is 20% of Greenfield’s households, as well as increase the energy savings achieved by each household.  1124 households have already taken the Challenge, so they are looking for another 476 households who want to cut their energy costs, use less fossil fuels, and get a free lawn sign.

In Greenfield, renters, landlords, and homeowners can get assistance to find the financial incentives that are right for them by calling Energy Smart Homes at 413-772-1389. Other people in Massachusetts should call Mass Save at 1-800-944-3212.

To join the 10% Challenge and find out simple things you can do, GGEC events and more, please go to

Detailed graphic.

Farm to School Convention slated for March 15 in Sturbridge

The second statewide Massachusetts Farm to School Convention will be held on March 15, 2012 at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Mass. This full-day convention will feature leaders in the farm to school movement providing information on everything from creating school gardens to overcoming logistical barriers to local foods procurement to the growing partnerships between schools and community farms.


USDA features Hadley, Mass. dairy farmer on new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass interactive website

USDA has unveiled the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) Compass, an interactive web-based document and map highlighting the department's support for local and regional food projects and successful producer, business and community case studies. A report on the new website mentions John Kokoski, owner of Mapleline Farm in Hadley, Mass. for his work with the department's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)


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