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LWV supports
Styrofoam ban

To the Bulletin:

The League of Women Voters of Amherst supports environmental action toward a greener Amherst.

Town Meeting members can take a step in this direction this month by approving a bylaw to eliminate the use of expanded polystyrene disposable food containers in Amherst food establishments.

As local landfils reach capacity, we need to reduce our volume of solid waste by converting to products that are compostable or recyclable. The success of this year’s Taste of Amherst move to compostable service ware demonstrates that this can be done. Expanded polstyrene foam (known by its trademark name as Sytrofoam) is not biodegradable nor is it practical to recycle. It takes up a significant volumn of our trash and can persist in landfils indefinitely.

Moreover, sytrene, the main ingredient in expanded polystyrene, is a toxic material listed as a probable carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services). It can leach from containers into food and beverages.

The Amherst League of Women Voters joins theHitchcock Center for the Environment and the town’s Recycling and Refuse Management Committee in supporting this bylaw. Communities from Seattle to Nantucket have already enacted bans. Boston and Brookline are considering similar action.

As we work with theRecycling Committee to canvass local restaurants, we are finding that approximately 70 percent do not use foam containers for thier food or beverage services. Under the proposed bylaw, remaining food estabilshmnets in Amherst will have until July 1, 2013, to make the switch.

We believe this is a practical step our community can take toward a more sustainable future.

Martha Hanner

Cynthia Burbaker

Amherst League of Women Voters

Weather changes
are no fluke

To the Bulletin:

I’m beginning to think there is something to this climate change stuff. When our farm lost our entire tree fruit crop in 2010 due to an unusually warm spring (coupled with overnight frosts), we were reassured by historical data which suggested that such crop-killing events happened infrequently. Now in 2012 — as we again lost our entire tree fruit crop due to an “unusually” warm spring (coupled with overnight frosts) — using historical data to make sense of the weather seems naïve. One year of crop loss can be dismissed as a fluke; but twice in three years begins to feel like a trend.

The loss of our apples, peaches, pears and plums is not the only clue that the weather just ain’t what it used to be. Hurricane Irene in August 2011 brought the worst flooding in Vermont in over 80 years. The October 2011 snowstorm brought unprecedented amounts of snow to many areas in the Northeast. And now, Sandy. Are such “unprecedented” weather events flukes …or new trends?

I’m pretty sure the scientists who have devoted their working lives to studying the climate have answered that question. But, scientists are trained to be cautious about the way they characterize the results of their research. It is rarely prudent for a scientist to conclude that A is a direct result of B, and that makes it easy for people who don’t want climate change to be real to find room for doubt in climate scientists’ predictions.

And, how about those predictions – dire enough for you?

I can understand the inclination to take refuge in doubt; after all, if those scientists are right, the future is unthinkable. I certainly hope they’re wrong. Don’t you?

But, as I reflect on another year without tree fruit grown on our farm, I’m feeling pretty sure those scientists are on to something.

So, as we watch communities in Massachusetts and in our neighboring states attempt to put themselves back together from the latest unprecedented weather event, I’m thinking that, even if people are in doubt about the conclusions of those climate scientists, we need to find ways to act on their warnings. Because I’d rather invest in halting climate change and have it turn out that those scientists were wrong than do nothing and have it turn out that they were right. In the first scenario, my kids (and yours) will live in an unnecessarily cleaner environment and a country with unnecessary energy independence. In the second scenario — where weather events like Sandy are one of many in a new and unalterable trend — my kids (and yours) may find it difficult to live here at all.

Sally Fitz


Sally Fitz is co-owner and program director of Small Ones Farm

Campus rape is
a serious crime

To the Bulletin:

I’m glad to hear that Amherst College President Biddy Martin is moving quickly to establish a more credible policy on sexual violence on campus. However, I believe no such policy can be effective unless sexual assault and harassment are treated as crimes, not as disciplinary issues.

If a person says she has been raped, it is a matter for the police, the prosecutors and the courts. If the accused is found guilty, the consequences should be the same, whether the rape occurred on a college campus or on the street: for most rapists, that includes jail time. Suspension or expulsion from school hardly counts as punishment for a crime as serious as rape.

Amherst College has a chance to lead the way in confronting sexual violence on campus. If a rape is reported, the college should provide whatever support is needed to see that the incident is put in the hands of local police for a criminal investigation. Disciplinary action is fine, but it should never take the place of the criminal justice system. If they do the crime, let them do the time.

Michael Dover


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