Friday, December 12, 2008
Does Carlisle need mosquito control?
Joining a mosquito control program is a commitment that should not be made lightly. Voters will have more time to learn about the subject now that the Selectmen have decided to postpone the Special Town Meeting originally scheduled for January 12 (see article, page 1).
The town has a long history with mosquito control, according to Carlisle, As the Mosquito Saw It. In 1958, ’61 and ’62 the town approved aerial spraying of DDT. This was discontinued after the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, where she demonstrated how the pesticide harmed other wildlife. Carlisle joined the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project in 1975 and left the program two years later. Proponents asked to rejoin in 1989, but Town Meeting declined.
According to a presentation on November 18, the Board of Health is planning to ask the town to join the Eastern Middlesex Mosquito Control Program (EMMCP) at an upcoming Town Meeting. The initial cost will be roughly $30,000 and a three-year minimum commitment will be required. The treatment would focus on killing mosquito larvae, using helicopters to disperse corn soaked in the bacteria Bacillus thruingiensis (Bti). Catch-basins would be treated differently, with Bacillus sphaericus and/or the insecticide methoprene.
While treatment for adult mosquitoes is not being considered at this time, the EMMCP does provide this service, treating with Sumithrin or permethrin.
Are these substances safe? What are the dangers of using them versus the dangers from mosquito-borne disease? The diseases of most concern in our area are Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV); both are rare, but can cause severe illness or death. Mosquitoes do not carry Lyme disease, which is transmitted by deer ticks.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), EEE tends to occur in cycles lasting about three years every decade or two. Clusters occurred in the state during 1938-39, ’55-’56, ’72-’74, ’82-’84, ’90-’92 and 2004-06. There were no human cases reported in the state during 2007 and the single human case in 2008 was thought to have been contracted out of state. The threat of EEE has probably subsided for the next decade.
West Nile Virus appeared in Massachusetts more recently. According to the DPH, most people who contract the disease show no symptoms, but 20% experience flu-like symptoms and fewer than 1% have severe complications. This summer two dead birds from Carlisle tested positive for the disease and about 60 other birds tested positive state-wide. The dead birds demonstrate that WNV is here, but the threat to humans, at the moment anyway, is much smaller than the bird data would indicate. Across Massachusetts there were six human cases of WNV last year and three the year before. However, according to the DPH, there were no human cases reported in 2008.
The bacteria and insecticide proposed today are considered safer than what was used in the past, though long-term environmental side effects are not known. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has prohibited mosquito control spraying over Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Will residents have the same ability to opt out of aerial spraying over their land?
Before signing up for mosquito control, it would be helpful to learn more about the tradeoffs between the benefits and the risks.
Sitting in a Paris café on an early winter day is as far as can be imagined from the desk by the window at my office back home. But of all places, watching the traffic zooming by, my thoughts wander back to greener pastures closer to home.
The view of diminutive Smart cars buzzing up and down busy European boulevards and narrow city streets has been nothing but familiar since 1998. Yet, such cars are still rather rare in our neck of the woods.
It was not until this past summer that such a miniature black car was sighted at different locations around town, as it was offered at a raffle in support of Communities for Local Justice in Concord, Carlisle, Acton and Boxborough.
At 8.10 feet long, 5.1 feet tall and weighing just about 1,800 pounds, this coupe uses 36 miles per gallon, and has been ranked high on front and side crashes by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While this model is not yet electric or even hybrid, it offers a greener though more compact transportation solution, and countless parking advantages. An average parking spot can fit two of those Smart Fortwo cars.
Smaller seems better until one tries to take the weekly load of trash to the transfer station or to bring home the monthly supply from the nearest Costco or BJ’s, or the stack of 2x4 planks from Home Depot, or those extra large pots of seasonal ornamental plants from the nursery. Not to mention the drop off and pick up routine of the kids and their gear from cross-country ski practice, or trombone lessons… Well, you know, the usual fare of comfortable suburban living.
Last week, at the Boston Museum of Science, a young Israeli entrepreneur presented his innovative plan for smarter car systems called Better Place. Dubbed a Hero of the Environment by Time magazine, Shai Agassi evangelizes a revolutionary model for scalable, electrified personal transportation that will lead to an era of sustainable mobility, reduced carbon emissions and zero oil dependency.
Better Place cars are not as much about the size as they are about CO2, as they offer the world’s first zero-emission transportation infrastructure. Comparable to the cell phone business model, the car will be charged using recharging stations that will replenish batteries or replace them as necessary.
Embraced through partnerships with government leaders, auto manufacturers and energy companies, Better Place cars, designed and built jointly by Renault (France) and Nissan (Japan), will be put on the road in Israel, Denmark, Australia and Portugal within the next couple of years.
With smart grid initiatives now finally taking a front seat in American policy, many US power utilities are taking it one step further and closer to the plug by deploying smart meters. The power utilities will monitor power usage and offer off-peak rates to subscribers, enabling charging plug-in hybrid vehicles at a reduced cost at night. So smaller, greener and more efficient is going to make it big in many parts of the world, and hopefully soon enough in this part of the country, too.
That Smart car was raffled off in Concord last month. It was ticket #13 that won the raffle from a total of 469 purchased by local residents as well as people from as far as Alaska, Kansas and Virginia. So there is now one small black Smart Fortwo car which is probably the talk of the town as it happily roams the streets of Woolwich, Maine.
© 2008 The