My farming life has offered me insights into an ecological perspective on our anthropocentric
era. Every acre I manage, I’ve learned, will have a maximum productivity. Science has helped
to stretch that productivity, but the limits are very real and force me to plan my resources and
business plan within those limits. That is an important difference between agriculture and non-agricultural businesses. Commercial and industrial business models, while relying on the work of exploited natural resources in their business plans, can chart a course far less confined by weather and soil capacities. That helps explain how successful capitalism has been for non-agricultural businesses.
I farm about forty acres. By measuring that land potential, and limits, I know I can estimate a hay harvest around one hundred bales per acre, or four-thousand bales of hay. A cow requires around one bale a day for feed. I know I can support eleven cows on my farm. If I buy feed grown somewhere else to support more cows, I’m simply expanding my acreage and am still living within the limits of soil and plant capacities.
Farming teaches me the reality and demands of closed ecological systems. With the remarkable industrial revolution event, we were seemingly freed from our ecological limits. The prosperity has been extraordinary, raising the burden of poverty for many around the world. That freedom, however, has led us to environmental problems. The worst being releasing carbon dioxide and other gases into our atmosphere. It is the equivalent of now having more cows on the farm than I can feed. It has become increasingly apparent that exploiting our limited planets resources leads us back to my farming model. We live in a closed, limited
ecological system. Ignoring that, as we have, now forces us to face climate changes that threaten the stability of our world.
We’ve been pondering this challenge since the 70’s when I was in new environmental classes in college. The chin pulling from those days has moved us to important cultural and policy changes on environmental worries. Recognizing the extent of our climate crisis will hopefully launch us into another stage of ecological science and policies.
That’s how farming led me to run for a seat on the Selectboard of Pepperell. The State of Massachusetts, our state, has set the expectations of our towns and cities participation in bringing down our carbon footprint. I am working to make Pepperell a leader, as in like-sized
towns in the Commonwealth, in mitigating the risks of climate change.
The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will be posting a Massachusetts Roadmap to 0 Carbon by 2050 by the end of this year. They are calculating our current carbon footprint and identifying ways to reduce and save energy, and sequester carbon and other gases. I believe each town in the Commonwealth is obligated to participate in reaching the 0 carbon goal.
How does Pepperell do that? At the municipal level, I recommend that both the proposed Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness group and the Pepperell Master Plan Implementation teams be formed as soon as possible. The Light, Air and Noise Committee also contributes to solutions on environmental issues. Their shared mission is to research what Pepperell’s current carbon footprint is and then recommend how Pepperell can reduce that number through energy policies and sequestration methods. I anticipate that new by-laws will be required to guide a carbon reduction economic growth path. I believe new commercial and residential growth cannot add to our carbon footprint and must be able to measure and show that it is carbon neutral in its plan. I suspect that new single family homes will be especially challenged by this
expectation. I hope that climate change policies will promote concentrated, efficient townhouse construction in downtown areas. We are very lucky to still have open conservation and farmland spaces in Pepperell. They are an essential resource for lowering our current carbon
footprint and offering sequestration opportunities.
At the citizen level, first I ask thy support and demand town government prioritize climate change mitigation. Secondly, I ask that citizens join one another in a shared effort to change their lifestyles to better reduce and save energy and sequester their household carbon footprint. It is a huge challenge and requires very real sacrifices in our lives. It is also an opportunity to strengthen our community ties in a shared effort to save our children from the frightening risks of a warming and changing planet.
We have a remarkable resource of people with an education and passion for fighting climate change. Putting their abilities to community work, I am confident, can engage the public and drive a welcome new closed ecological direction for our town that we can take great pride in and we can assure our youth we are doing all we can to protect them from environmental harm.
As a freshman Selectman I’m enjoying every day’s governance challenges, from learning about the tools to reduce our carbon use, to the Pepperell Charter’s direction on the balance of powers for the elected Selectboard and hired Town Administrator.
A central question I hope to frame for the public in the coming months is whether or not we remain a semi-rural town or instead build out most of our remaining open lands with more homes, add a chain supermarket and commercial center that markets attract. In my effort to understand our growth and change choices I’ve been busy connecting to different resources.
I’ve attended Planning Board meetings and learned we need to clean up confusing layers of building code by-laws; Margaret is eager for that detail task and Chairwoman Casey Campetti has asked for a meeting with the Agricultural Advisory Board to learn about farm protection laws.
Listening to the Economic Development Committee (EDAC), I’ve learned that they are worried that the Selectboard may undervalue their efforts and are asking for reassurance that their work will be productive. I applaud our future Selectboard three-party meeting with EDAC and Fin Com as a team effort to agree on a Master Plan direction for Pepperell to purposely pursue. I’ve also participated in meetings to start a commercial incubator kitchen in the Peter Fitzpatrick school and recently had a virtual meeting with Congresswoman Lori Trahan to discuss Covid virus relief efforts for our farmers who suffer from labor and market access issues.
I recently joined the Mass Municipal Association and will be participating in their Financial Workshop this month. I’ve also started a course with New View Communities to improve my community organizing skills with the specific goal of helping Pepperell citizens rally to protect our rural farm qualities from development models that would force the loss of open lands and discourage younger farmers from calling Pepperell their home.
I subscribed to the Mass. Department of Executive Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and received their municipal handbook on how towns can work towards the zero carbon footprint by 2050, which our State has mandated. I’ll be attending a webinar on August 7th with the EEA on decarbonization. I’m working with Town Administrator Andrew MacLean on solar energy grants to join with so many other towns that have been able to reduce their energy bills and carbon numbers with solar arrays.
Mr. MacLean and I are also working on establishing a Human Resource position for town employees, recognizing that an independent HR entity, other than the Town Administrator acting as such, may relieve some current difficult, town office morale worries. A citizen volunteer committee may be a solution.
I was honored to walk the new community walking path with Andrew MacLean and our new Pepperell social justice group, Pepperell Progressives, to discuss memorializing the international outcry for ending discrimination in all forms. The wish was to find a site on the town field for a plaque and tree planting recognizing that Black Lives Matter. I suggested an outdoor classroom under that tree and others planted in recognition of our progress on achieving a kinder world. I also got the okay to fly a diversity flag and post a sign recognizing National Pride Month at the Community Center.
I was invited by the new VFW leadership team to sit with them and learn about the dedicated efforts for caring for their veterans and community families in distress, as well as providing the town with a very valuable hall and canteen facility. I left confident that they have answered the community's worries and look forward to assisting the VFW staff reach their financial goals.
I’m very excited to be working on restoring a local news source that relies on high journalistic standards to meet the community thirst for knowing what' s going on socially and politically in our town. A group of high school students with journalism experience will be meeting with Bruce Wetherbee from the on line Candle publication. With some mentoring, these students can utilize the Candle platform to inform and invite more citizens to become more active in their community.
Mr. Wetherbee, who has deep roots in the Pepperell Community, also plans to resume Candle coverage of our local governance. We have been discussing the importance of a town's Charter and are working on some suggestions for the Charter Review Committee.
I hope it is obvious that I'm thoroughly enjoying my new work as a Selectman.
Please contact me with your comments, criticism and suggestions, either through the Town of Pepperell web site e-mail address (email@example.com) or on this web site blog. And thank you all for giving me this great opportunity in town leadership!