Dock of the Bay
Volume VI Number 47
Nov. 26 - Dec. 2, 1998
Green Shopping: When to Turn Into Scrooge
What in the world to buy for the holidays?
If that's the question troubling you these days, here's a way to narrow your list. Cross off these five environmentally harsh products. That's the advice of Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet, an environmental consumer organization and publisher of The Green Guide newsletter, from which this list derives.
1. Vinyl (PVC) toys, raincoats, backpacks and teething rings
A Greenpeace study found lead and cadmium in dust released from some of these products as they age. This summer, the Consumer Products Safety Commission recalled some backpacks and rolling luggage with high levels of lead in the painted decorations. In mid-November, Toys 'R' Us announced plans for the immediate worldwide removal of all direct-to-mouth PVC products for infant use - such as teethers, rattles and pacifiers - made soft and pliable with a dangerous substance called phthalates. Mattel and Gerber also intend to phase out the substance from their vinyl toys and baby-care products.
2. Cards and wrapping paper made of unrecycled, chlorine-bleached paper
The average American uses the equivalent of nine four-story high trees in paper each year, and paper's chlorine bleaching is the second highest source of dioxins released into our environment. For wrapping gifts, use recycled paper, cloth scraps or scarves, paper bags with sponge or potato print designs and recycled string instead of tape to hold packages together. Save used wrapping paper and gift boxes for next year.
3. Plywood or particleboard furniture and toys
The wood in these boards is bonded with formaldehyde-based resins that can give off fumes in your homes. The EPA has classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen, and long-term inhalation of its vapors can lead to fatigue, respiratory irritation and other allergic symptoms.
4. Imported produce
Food imports to the U.S. have doubled since the 1980s. We lose an acre of farmland to development every 30 seconds, and over 300,000 family farms have failed since 1990. Buy from within your region and support a local economy.
5. Bath and shower gels with fragrance and artificial colors
Synthetic as well as natural fragrances are frequently allergenic and cause breathing difficulty and allergic reactions, particularly in those with asthma or chemical sensitivity. Artificial colors are permitted in personal care products, from which they are absorbed into the skin. In addition, many bath products are bottled in PVC #3. Read labels carefully and choose products with fewer, simpler ingredients and sounder packaging, such as glass, plastics #1 or #2 or recycled aluminum.
To learn more: 888/eco-info. email@example.com. www.mothers.org
How Others See Us: Full of Fervor, in Need of a Plan
"No community or region is totally self-sufficient, but most people seek greater influence over their lives."
The pot boiling in Southern Anne Arundel County found a recipe in the final report of the 1998 Chesapeake Bay Countryside Exchange, released this week.
The Exchange, you'll remember from your own experience or these pages (we last reported on the Exchange's preliminary report in NBT October 22-28), was the newest incursion of a roving international force of citizen-experts into terra incognito. The unknown land was, in this case, Anne Arundel County's own backyard. The October visit spanned a week, topping many more weeks of planning as a loosely formed local committee figured out what they wanted to know.
Now the report puts into words what the community is feeling, and that leap, as is so often the case, has cast light on the darkness.
"In the past," the Exchange team wrote, "a general development plan and zoning ordinance, two primary tools for growth management, have been developed by the County. These efforts have not been particularly citizen-based nor South County specific."
What better balm than understanding for a region that has been feeling misunderstood neglected coerced?
Such feelings fanned insurrection as, over the past couple of years, Southern Anne Arundel moved from grousing over planning and zoning decisions to organizing against them. Scrimmages were fought, leading to a stand-off over who would name the grass-roots, neighborhood-by-neighborhood planning teams and a victory over the forces of development in the region called Franklin Point on the Shady Side peninsula.
Something was happening: antagonism. It had a shape: self-determination. But where was it going? To fight every battle?
With the Exchange Team's six-part report comes direction. The six visitors from Canada, Scotland, Wales, England and the northeastern U.S. not only heard the discontent of their host-inquirers but also saw a way past it.
"Only decisions, plans and ordinances that enjoy broad public support will be successful," the team wrote.
"This support is best achieved through active citizen involvement. When people are engaged in the process of making decisions, they are able to claim ownership, to understand the compromises that inevitably need to be made and are willing to work to make the decisions successful."
The centerpiece of the report is a plan enabling citizens to make decisions, claim ownership and work for success. To open the door, the report uses the planning process underway in the county. The key is the Small Area Planning Commission. Here's a bit of how the Exchange plan goes:
Follow a citizen-based planning process;
'How can we create and sustain an identity for South County?' the community asked the Exchange Team.
'You've already got it,' the Team answered, adding how to keep that time-worn, geography-shaped, evolving but not unsatisfactory identity.
Get your copy of the 1998 Chesapeake Bay Countryside Exchange report at the South County and Edgewater libraries, Long and Foster's South County office or on the web at www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/6222. Or phone 410/867-1756.
Update: The Proof in the Persimmon
In mid-autumn as the leaves turn from green to orange, so do the persimmons on Frank Gouin's eight Patapsco persimmon trees. Leaves are letting go, but persimmons are approaching perfection.
Often the leaves have fallen before the fruit reaches its peak, says Gouin, leaving bright orange persimmons hanging like heavy ornaments from bare branches. Plenty of fruit decorated the trees this fall.
"We harvested about seven bushels from four trees," reports Gouin from Upakrik Farm in Deale. "For as dry a year as it has been, that's a darn good crop." Gouin picked the final six half-bushels last weekend.
The persimmons have been selling briskly at the Baltimore Farmer's Market, where fanciers - often Oriental shoppers who've grown up eating such fruit - don't realize they're buying an experiment.
For two decades Gouin, a retired University of Maryland professor of horticulture, has worked to develop and propagate the unique Patapsco persimmon, a disease-resistant Oriental hybrid that survives Southern Maryland winters. His hope is that the Patapsco persimmon he adopted from a friend will one day supplant backyard fruit trees that depend on Bay-polluting pesticides and insecticides to flourish. (You read about his quest in NBT's August 13-Sept. 3 issue.)
Gouin's eight trees are the first family of the species. To reach his goal, he must propagate many more. Before a large, marketing nursery will gamble on his tree, its seedlings must achieve an 80 percent survival rate.
In February, Gouin will begin the complicated process of reproducing his trees by grafting small Patapsco branches onto the hardy roots of the native persimmon tree. Then he'll give nature the chance to fuse them together and hope for the best.
Now, he is feasting on his harvest.
New Bay Times is feasting, too.
We cut Gouin's Patapsco persimmon lengthwise into two 'cups' filled with glistening, intensely sweet orange pulp. Unsullied by seeds, it can be scooped out and eaten with a spoon. The complex flavor - like a combination of peach, mango and papaya - tastes as if it came from a master chef's kitchen instead of Mother Nature's pantry.
About half the samplers relished the fruit, with the other half begging off or declaring indifference.
The ripe fruit is very soft, with a texture so jelly-like it can be spread on toast or a muffin.
Don't eat them when they're firm, Gouin warns. Until they're ripened, the skin is unpleasantly, chalkily astringent. Wait until the skin is translucent and gives a little when pressed. Or sweeten the skin by placing unripe persimmons in a paper bag with some apples or by spraying the fruit with -he's not kidding - some gin or vodka.
If you like it, you'll be rooting with Gouin for a tree in every yard - starting with yours.
Who's Here - Sometimes Wind and Sometimes Rain
My father loved to hear the rain on the roof. He said that sound, more than any other, made him sleep like a baby. But after five months of drought in Bay country, we haven't often had the pleasure of drifting off to sleep with the soothing song of a steady downfall. Now, we have to make do with another of nature's vibrations (and pray for rain).
The lullaby that lulls me to sleep is a drier, crisper sound. Here's the story it tells.
The leaves that fall at the end of autumn still cling tightly. Finally, the leaves yield to gravity as the wind strips the trees bare. Then the wind whips up, more proof we're on the cusp of winter.
The wind, spawned by the Bay like a bellows, rushes through the tallest loblolly like the fury of the ocean. Tenaciously, the leaves cling to the fullest oak, ready for the battle royal as a wind tunnel of colder air sets in. The sweet gum, too, puts up a fight, then succumbs big time to join the rush of flight between heaven and earth.
The change of seasons is seamless in nature's view, if not our own. We fight change, too.
Now is the time to listen for the sound of Nature's music in your ears. The crackle of leaves blows down the street - a whirling dervish of brittle foliage, much like a puppy chasing its tail till the blur is a grrrrrr.
Take a walk at night, and the swirling scene has a ghostly effect. Dry leaves rush helter-skelter past and around us. Lie in bed and it's a symphony. Trees sway and hum in the wind. Fallen leaves race across the ground and through the woods. The constant rush sounds like rain could be rain. But we know better.
The gardener in me longs to hear the soothing sound of rain on the roof, to nourish my dreams and the good earth outside. But at least we have the wind to remind us that nature is with us. Now, wrestling the leaves from the trees. Then paving the way for another season still far off, when surely, the rain will fall.
Sometimes wind and sometimes rain
Goodness, how we'd like to know
Why the weather alters so
Way Downstream ...
In Rhode Island, the Navy said that a park built on a contaminated Superfund site on the Newport Navy base was safe for occasional use, the Boston Globe reported. That wasn't good enough for the U.S. EPA, which ordered the Navy to close the 5.5-acre park, haul away tons of topsoil and fence off the area to keep out children ...
In South Carolina, fishermen have the Army National Guard to thank for a new offshore reef. The Guard hauled 26 surplus vehicles out into the ocean and dropped them into the drink last week as part of a project called Reef-Ex '98 ...
In Texas, everything seems big - including penalties for environmental crimes. The Dallas Morning News reports that Herman Nethery was sentenced to 30 years in prison for operating an illegal waste dump near the Trinity River in Dallas. Authorities were especially angry because a fire raged out of control at the dump last year for 37 days ...
In New York City, the faith of barbecue-loving environmentalists is being put to the test. That's because Pearson's Texas Barbecue in Queens may not survive the year because of the need to buy expensive exhaust equipment to deal with the smoke. That would be a shame, says New York food author Ed Levine: "New York is an abysmal barbecue town"
Washington State waterways are one of the most polluted areas from Navy spills over the years, and the Navy says it is "working hard" to improve its record, the Associated Press reports. An AP investigation found that from 1990 to 1997, Navy vessels spilled 181,400 gallons of fuel, lubricating oil and other pollutants at U.S. ports - an average of a spill every two days ....
Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Boulder, Colo., where people wondered who kept honking the darn horn in a sports car. Upon closer inspection, they found out: a "big, fat bear" thrashing around inside, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
Wildlife officials say that the bear apparently was drawn to a pile of fast-food wrappers. Either these leftovers were pretty appealing or this creature was smarter than the average bear - or both. "We don't know if he's figured out how to open doors or whether this was just a bear getting lucky," said district wildlife manager Rick Basagoitia.
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Volume VI Number 47
Nov. 26 - Dec. 2, 1998
New Bay Times
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