Friday, October 18, 2002
Control mosquitoes, protect our birds
Unlike most of our neighboring towns, Carlisle has rejected mosquito control proposals twice in the past five years. A majority (of those attending Town Meeting) believed that the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, including the West Nile virus, was small compared with the risk of harming the environment with larvacides and pesticides. Some argued that the measures will harm bird species and actually increase the insect population. These concerns may be exactly the reason why mosquito control may be right for Carlisle next summer.
Last summer the West Nile virus epidemic struck a number of Midwestern states with unexpected intensity. As of October 15 this year, Illinois recorded 661 laboratory-positive human cases, Michigan 417, and Ohio 341. While far higher than the previous year's, these numbers are low. West Nile virus is still a very small risk to humans. Massachusetts had only 19 cases, with three fatalities.
However, the risk to the bird population is considerably higher. As reported in the Washington Post and a number of other newspapers, the toll on birds has been severe. The virus is considerably more deadly in birds than humans. The National Audubon Society calls this "a bird disease, not a human disease." While the virus affects over 100 avian species, crows, blue jays, hawks, and owls are the most common victims. Paradoxically, in the hardest-hit communities, depletion of the bird population has caused large increases in insect populations, including more crickets, flies, beetles, and mosquitoes.
While experts are working on possible measures to immunize birds, it seems prudent to consider some mosquito surveillance and control measures, and to develop a West Nile virus response plan, should the unexpected happen. The board of health and the conservation commission should join forces and develop a recommendation that the town can consider at a Winter or Spring Town Meeting.
With the first killing frost in Carlisle this week, we will not be bothered by mosquitoes for a while. But they will be back.
Driving the point
Mothers and fathers enter a whole new phase of parenting when they teach their children to drive. I have now had the pleasure, no, the experience, of teaching two of my three children the huge responsibility of being behind the steering wheel of a car. But as with so many other endeavors, this seems even bigger than when my father taught me to drive so many years ago.
Dad was the better teacher; he was patient, laid-back, and took me right out on the streets of Needham my first time behind the wheel of our Chevy station wagon. I still remember my mother gripping the front of the glove compartment when I practiced with her, I think only once.
Believing that I would be a good teacher for my oldest daughter, I chose a different path than my father did, and started the lessons in our driveway. We have a decent amount of pavement on which to practice. My theory was that if she could back up, and learn to maneuver the car confidently in reverse, she would find ease and success in going forward.
We teach our children so many things, and driving is huge. She started out slowly, learning how to position the car in the road and getting the hang of speed limits. I could tell when she became confident. Her instincts were good.
All the while, I was constantly talking and teaching. Stay to the right. Watch the corners. Be careful on narrow roads. No matter how many bikers are riding abreast, you must not run into them. Dog walkers, people walking babies, joggers and perhaps most terrifying other drivers; always be ready for the unexpected.
There are so many things that you want your children to know. And there is no way that you can convey everything, and no way that they will ever remember it all. But driving gives you an opportunity to instill a few concepts, strengthen the bond between you, and observe your child as a responsible young adult.
Then, as I was enjoying the fact that someone else could pick up the pizza, suddenly, my second daughter turned sixteen. I began in the passenger seat again with someone with a different temperament and skill set, but that familiar level of enthusiasm.
These teaching experiences have made me a better driver. I am more cautious and more patient. Once I started teaching my children, I began looking at situations differently. I let cars pull out of side streets to go in front of me. I'm more calm behind cars being driven slowly. I realize that the person trying to get her car across the busy intersection right in front of me might be another young student. She might be just like my daughter, trying to find just the right time to safely move that car. So I keep my hand off of the horn, and I hope that others do the same, for all of our sons and daughters. Because I realize that getting out into traffic isn't really that urgent after all.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito