The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 21, 2008

Opinions

Thanksgiving in a changing financial landscape

Last Thanksgiving, did anyone at your dinner table foresee a 35% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, increasing layoffs and a global financial disaster? Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to help those in need, and during economic downturns it becomes even more important to reach out and help others. There are innumerable worthy causes, from nearby food pantries to international relief efforts. However, please also consider supporting local efforts that directly help people in Carlisle. The following list is not complete, but provides a starting point:

The Town of Carlisle administers funds which provide financial assistance to residents. Treasurer Larry Barton explains that to make a donation, one may make a check out to “Town of Carlisle” and send it to him along with a brief note explaining to which fund it is being given.

Carlisle’s Aid to Elderly and Disabled Fund enables real estate tax relief for qualifying residents.

Caroline Hill Fund provides assistance for residents in temporary financial need. It also funds needs-based scholarships to local youth. The Selectmen make the grants, with scholarships recommended by an advisory committee. Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie says that recently requests have drawn the fund down faster than interest and donations normally replenish it and additional donations would be welcome.

Heald Poor Fund is administered by the Selectmen to give short-term aid to residents in financial hardship.

Carlisle’s Council on Aging (COA) provides seniors with a broad range of services. Outreach Coordinator Angela Smith says there is a need for more volunteers to help both as friendly visitors and as drivers to take elderly residents to medical appointments and to deliver Meals on Wheels.

Carlisle Friends of the COA provides financial support for COA activities, van transportation, medical equipment, fuel assistance and food certificates for needy seniors. (Alan Cameron, chair, 1-978-369-2223)

Concord-Carlisle Angels is a two-year-old group of volunteers who provide rides to medical appointments, deliver meals and run errands for those who need a helping hand. (www.concordcarlisleangels.org)

Concord-Carlisle Community Chest distributes its funds to a wide variety of area charities that focus on human service. (www.cccommunitychest.org)

Concord-Carlisle Scholarship Fund this year awarded grants totaling almost $200,000 to 130 students. (www.ccscholarshipfund.org)

Household Goods Recycling Ministry (www.hgrm.org) is an Acton-based non-profit that accepts donations of used furniture for distribution to area families.

The three churches in town may have additional information:

Carlisle Congregational Church, 1-978-369-7830

First Religious Society, 1-978-369-5180

St. Irene Catholic Church, 1-978-369-9863.

Besides these ideas, there are many worthy local non-profit organizations such as the Carlisle Education Foundation, Carlisle School Association, Carlisle Recreation Trust, Carlisle Conservation Foundation and Friends of the Gleason Public Library, to name a few, that work to improve the quality of life in our community.∆

Greener, fresher . . . and unavailable

Anyone out there growing enough bamboo to make me a decent pair of socks? With reinforced toes perhaps?

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and I’m really getting in the spirit of buying locally so that what I buy doesn’t require so much petroleum to make or transport. That, and I’m sick and tired of buying new socks, made of exotic “sustainable” fibers, whose toes pop the second time I wear them. Why can’t sock manufacturers make a pair that endures? Don’t toes get cold in the Philippines?

Pollan writes about the nation’s food supply, about how our near-monoculture of corn has pervaded our diets and blown up our weight, altered our economy by making us dependent on oil for our food, and polluted great swaths of our nation and the Gulf of Mexico. And probably made our food supply (thus us) more vulnerable to disease and mayhem. The solution Pollan foresees is a massive shift from the system of highly centralized production of meat, for instance, to a much more widely distributed scheme wherein we’d all eat what was available to us locally or at least regionally. Maybe we’d still mail away for really special stuff (like chocolate).

What’s the upside of local and smaller-scale food production? Supposedly fresher food, and maybe even tastier food. Less or no need for petroleum-based fertilizer or for the hormones and medications currently administered to food animals in the giant meat processing system today. Far less transportation of food. Less pollution.

But the downsides are formidable. First, price. It may not seem like it, but compared to the other things we consume in America, the prices of food have been held down by decisions made in the ’50s and ’60s that turned “farming” into The Food Industry. Over decades we’ve accepted the diminution of taste and looked the other way regarding the treatment of animals and the stuff that goes onto the land that grows our vegetables, in exchange for cheap, plentiful, and convenient food. We can eat asparagus when it’s spring in the southern hemisphere, thanks to international transport. We eat chicken, once a spring and summer foodstuff, whenever we want.

Pondering how to unravel this system without losing what we’ve gained makes my head hurt and my toes tingle (oops, that’s the socks again). Take a look around you. Without even moving your head, you’ll probably find that 99% or more of what you see came from someplace a thousand miles or more away. Whole Foods isn’t the solution; to make its prices more palatable and to be able to dish up convenience, it, too, resorts to the massive food transport system for its organic and “safer” food.

Small food purveyors of local and regional foods exist, and there seem to be more of them all the time. Carlisle’s farmers market was divine this past season, with great-tasting produce and cheese. But it’s all gone. Maybe next year, the few who still have the passion, time, and patience could sell their canned and preserved food at the farmer’s market.

Ah, well, time for a nice cup of tea –– some Darjeeling perhaps.

 

 

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