Tuesday March 26, 2013

Tiny heads need hard
hats, too Editor of the Reformer:

The story and pictures of the "Tiny Home" in the March 12 issue were great. This type of experience is awesome and everyone involved will probably remember it for their entire lives.

However, when we expose children to these new experiences, we also expose them to the potential of an industrial safety accident. From what I could see, none of the children were wearing hearing or eye protection.

It is paramount that the educators involved in providing these experiences assure that the children (and adults) are protected to make sure it is a pleasurable experience and not a life-changing/debilitating one.

Mike Ball,

EMT-I, Vernon Fire Department, March 13

Outrageous and dysfunctional

Editor of the Reformer:

Richard Davis’ heartfelt outcry ("Why?" March 13) about the incredibly unjust and unequal conditions in the United States is supported by many people, I am sure.

However, there is an answer to all of Richard’s why questions. It is the outrageous and absolutely dysfunctional campaign finance system that we have, made even worse and cemented by recent Supreme Court decisions. It allows large corporations and the very rich to inundate the political system with vast amounts of money, which permits the corporations and the very rich to dictate the political decisions that come out of the system.

Naturally, these decisions favor these financial backers and give short shrift to everyone else. That’s why the gap between the very rich and everyone else is widening, why we have a dysfunctional health care system etc etc. Until we completely reform our campaign finance system and get the "big" money out of it, the American political system will continue to be dominated by legalized corruption.

Reto Pieth,

Grafton, March 14

Go slow with wind power

Editor of the Reformer:

Charlene Ellis and Fred Taylor wrote a clear and well-reasoned letter (March 1) urging readers to ignore pseudo-science peddled by opponents of windpower. I completely agree and whole-heartedly support their comments.

However, by way of balance, I note that there are vested interests on both sides of the debate. Where new technologies are concerned, the most respected and independent research may be just as misleading as the pseudo-science. That’s because even brilliant researchers can only answer the questions that they’re smart enough to ask.

It takes experience -- often lots of it -- to figure out what the right questions are. Experience means data. Sometimes low-level but significant effects can be detected only after a lot of data has been acquired. Think of all the promising and popular drugs that get pulled from the market after years of use, because a serious but hard-to-detect side effect has been revealed. Experience also means time. Steady exposure over a period of years -- think smoking -- does harm that shorter or intermittent exposure may not. There is no substitute for experience. Neither intuition, fervently held beliefs, nor common sense will do. As Einstein is supposed to have said, "Common sense is that layer of prejudice laid down in the mind prior to the age of 18."

Wind power seems like it ought to be a perfect solution. So did nuclear energy 40 years ago. We don’t yet have enough experience to know if commercial-scale windpower is as good as we think it ought to be. If we’ve learned anything from our romance with technology over the past century, it should be that anecdotal reports -- like a few people complaining of noise or vibrations or headaches -- should not be ignored. True, a few complaints are not the same as a scientific study. But on the other hand, a few complaints may neatly frame the right questions, the ones that researchers should be asking.

The hazards of toxic waste dumps, which in hindsight are so obvious, were discovered only when a small group of homeowners in Love Canal got sick. They complained for years before the scientific community paid serious attention to them. Eventually, the right questions got asked, and the link between toxic waste disposal and human health was established. But not before we were saddled with SuperFund-size problems.

Going slow with windpower may well avert just such a crisis. Carefully monitored pilot studies of windfarm installations, conducted over a multi-year span, may be able to save us no end of grief as we harness renewable resources. Perhaps some modest engineering fixes can ameliorate the drawbacks? It’s easy to speculate, for instance, that ways of damping low-level vibrations could be built into the windfarms, if in fact such vibrations cause health problems for susceptible individuals. How much easier to fabricate solutions before the windmills are deployed, than to retrofit thousands of the installed behemoths. And how much better for the people living near them.

Haste makes waste. Let’s look to windpower, but let’s approach it cautiously and prudently. A moratorium is a responsible approach to renewable energy.

Ellen Williams,

Newfane, March 19

Fix your pet!

Editor of the Reformer:

I write this in response to Heidi Mario’s "Keep ‘em indoors" letter (March 7).

She is right. Cats are adaptable, they live longer when kept indoors, they are responsible for the deaths of songbirds and small mammals, and free roaming cats can be and are a nuisance because of the destruction of birds and wildlife, defecation in gardens or sandboxes and marking territory. But the argument can also be made that the root of the problem lies not with the cats -- owned, abandoned or feral -- but with the owners. I would suggest that more effort be made to educate the population about the seemingly obvious merits of neutering pets. Many of these feral and/or abandoned cats have not chosen to live the lives they lead, but their fate has been decided for them by owners who neglected to have them neutered and allowed them to roam freely, and by owners who may have abandoned or neglected to care for them. Most cats surviving on their own live an average of three to five years. TNR, Trap Neuter Release/Return is still relatively new in this country. Pilot programs began in the 1990s and statistics have shown that managed TNR colonies do in fact control overpopulation within a colony. I personally worked on a colony here in town that had well over 50 cats. That "colony" is now one cat and she has been the only cat in this area for years. It’s her home. She is well fed, vaccinated, and yes, she probably kills wildlife. But isn’t it better to have one cat in a colony killing wildlife as opposed to 20?

Ms. Mario is an animal lover as evidenced by her letter. Most of us who are animal lovers and pet owners would admit that it is very difficult to kill a healthy animal -- whether it is a feral cat, a skunk or a bird. I’ve assisted in the euthanasia or hundreds of cats. I’m tired of playing God. The TNR program is not a perfect solution. There isn’t one. But having done both hands on -- trapping and euthanizing as well as trapping and managing -- the latter feels better and TNR does help to control the cat population. By controlling the population, those of us who do this work are hoping to also work with folks like Ms. Mario in achieving the same goal.

Hilary Bloom,

West Brattleboro, March 12

On friends ...

Editor of the Reformer:

I like your "Thought of the Day" by Henry Brooks Adams in the March 19 Reformer. ("One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possible.")

I am happy to report that I have four friends in Germany. We have been friends for 80 years and we still write each other, and are friends. (Some visit, telephone, fax.)

Thanks for your thought.

Hanne Steinmeyer

Vernon, March 19