FROM OTHER SOURCES: NEWS AND FEATURES FOR AND ABOUT AMHERST (#15)

Editor’s Note: “From Other Sources” offers links to selected articles that might be of interest to Amherst readers. We will update this section every other week, emphasizing different timely topics. We have added a tag called “From Other Sources” so that you can easily find previous editions/links. Simply click the “From Other Sources” tag on the tag menu, found in the right-hand sidebar on any open article.

ACTIVISM
Judge Hears Out Activists on Wendell State Forest Logging. by David McLellan (1/7/20). There are many reasons the members of the Wendell State Forest Alliance wanted to “have our day in court,” they told Judge Mark Mason on Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court. Citing concerns about climate change, endangered species and the recreational value of the woods, the 29 co-plaintiffs are suing the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), alleging the logging of 100-year-old oak trees on an 80-acre stand in Wendell State Forest over the summer broke numerous state laws and regulations.  (Daily Hampshire Gazette).

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT/CLIMATE
What’s Stopping Us From Leaping to New Zero? by Senator Jo Comerford (1/2/20). The problem is clear. Climate change. We have already seen life-threatening weather events in Massachusetts as the result of a warming climate, and can expect to suffer even more severe impacts in the years to come. The scientific community is aligned: We must take bold action to cut climate change-causing pollution and invest significantly in renewable energy. (Masslive)

Trump Moves to Exempt Big Projects from Environmental Review by Juliet Elperin and Brady Denis (1/9/20). President Trump on Thursday proposed fundamental changes to 50-year-old regulations in an effort to speed up new mines, pipelines and hundreds of other projects around the country, including some that could harm the environment and accelerate climate change. The move also could prevent communities from having much say about what gets built in their backyards. (The Washington Post)

Amherst Moves Forward with Green Energy Program by Scott Merzbach (1/8/20). Amherst Town Council has given the go-ahead for the town to participate in creating a community choice energy aggregation program (CCA) with an aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use more green energy sources. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Australia is Burning by Cormac Farrell (1/8/20). Every state in Australia has been touched by fire since the season started in September. The fires have burned over 12 million acres, an area larger than Maryland. Four hundred and eighty million animals are estimated to be killed or badly injured. Thousands of people have been evacuated. At least 24 have died. (The New York Times)

In Australia’s Burning Forests, Signs We’ve Passed a Global Warming Tipping Point by Bob Berwyn (1/8/20). As extreme wildfires burn across large swaths of Australia, scientists say we’re witnessing how global warming can push forest ecosystems past a point of no return. Some of those forests won’t recover in today’s warmer climate, scientists say. They expect the same in other regions scarred by flames in recent years; in semi-arid areas like parts of the American West, the Mediterranean Basin, and Australia, some post-fire forest landscapes will shift to brush or grassland. More than 17 million acres have burned in Australia over the last three months amid record heat that has dried vegetation and pulled moisture from the land. Hundreds of millions of animals, including a large number of koalas, are believed to have perished in the infernos. The survivors will face drastically changed habitats. Water flows and vegetation will change, and carbon emissions will rise as burning trees release carbon and fewer living trees are left to pull CO2 out of the air and store it. (Inside Climate News)

CAMPUS
Dorm Life Offered UMass Student Tim Scalona Greater Stability, Giving Him Space To Give Back And Thrive by Carrie Jung (12/31/19). Timothy Scalona was 13 years old when his parents lost their home.He remembered the day he, his parents, and his six younger siblings were forced out. A sheriff came to the door to make sure they left. (WBUR)

GOVERNMENT
Amherst Committee Moves to Block Public Comments During Appointment Process by Jim Russell (1/1/20). By a 4-1 vote, a Town Council committee has issued recommendations for appointing Zoning and Planning Board applicants, including holding public interviews but prohibiting the public from commenting during them. The committee also wants to keep private the names of all applicants (other than those who will be interviewed in public). (Masslive)

With Participatory Budgeting, Amherst Residents Could Get to Choose Which Projects to Fund. by Scott Merzbach (1/9/20).  Building a public lavatory, installing water-filling stations at major public squares and planting 100 new trees are among $1.13 million in projects happening in Cambridge as a result of a concept called participatory budgeting. Although Amherst probably wouldn’t be able to dedicate as much money to such a process, a commission is beginning to examine how the Town Council could establish a similar role for residents to have a direct say, through an annual vote, in how a small portion of each year’s budget is appropriated. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

HOUSING
How Wealthy Towns Keep People with Housing Vouchers Out by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas (1/9/20). Section 8 vouchers should give low-income people the opportunity to live outside poor communities. But discriminatory landlords, exclusionary zoning, and the federal government’s hands-off approach leave recipients with few places to call home. (ProPublica)

IRAN
UMass Student Among Iranian-Americans detained at U.S.- Canadian Border  by Jacquelyn Voghel (1/8/20). A UMass-Amherst student was among numerous Iranians and Iranian-Americans held and questioned at the United States–Canada border the day after the U.S. assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. (Daily Hampshire Gazette

Local Experts, Congressmen, React to U.S.–Iranian Tenisons by Scott Merzbach (01/08/20). “Barring any further immediate inflammatory attacks from either the U.S. or Iran, we should see a cooling of the immediate crisis and risk of full-scale war,” David Mednicoff, chairperson of the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Public Policy at UMass–Amherst, said in an email. “Both countries will now seek to reassess their position and take further covert and medium-term actions to bolster their influence and power.” (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

SCHOOLS
State Awards Amherst, Holyoke $336k for Dual Language Programs by Scott Merzbach (1/6/20). A dual-language program for close to 40 kindergartners that started at Fort River School last fall will be able to expand later this year with continued support from the Commonwealth. Amherst public schools, in partnership with Holyoke public schools, which started a dual-language program in 2014 at the Joseph Metcalf Elementary School, announced last week that they have been awarded grants totaling $335,871 from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Eversource Paying $55k to Replace Lights at Crocker Farm School by Jim Russell (1/1/20). Crocker Farm Elementary School is getting all new lighting thanks to a $55,550 payment from Eversource Energy Co. The light-emitting diode lighting is expected to reduce energy costs at the school by $11,570 a year, the school said in a statement. “This project, which will be completed by Commonwealth Electrical Technologies (CET), will replace the current lighting at Crocker Farm Elementary School with energy efficient LED lighting. The entire cost of the project will be covered by the incentive from Eversource,” Director of Maintenance and Facilities Rupert Roy-Clark said. (Masslive)

Amherst Superintendent Says Building Plan Must Address Two Schools by Scott Merzbach (12/27/19). While only Fort River Elementary School has been accepted into the eligibility period for the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Amherst school officials are committed to making sure the needs of Wildwood Elementary School’s teachers, staff and students are addressed in any building project completed between fall 2025 and 2027. Superintendent Michael Morris told the Amherst School Committee earlier in December that with acceptance by the MSBA to study building a new school or renovating an existing building to house 600 students at the Fort River School site on South East Street, he wants to make sure that all elementary schools in Amherst are fully handicapped accessible and that problems at the schools, such as the open classroom model and lack of natural light, are fixed. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION
Olympia Washington Joins Other Cities in Creating Zero Fare Public Transportation by Eoin Higgins (1/9/20). Public transit in the Washington state capitol, Olympia, and surrounding areas is free at point of service as of January 1, as the region’s Intercity Transit pilots a zero-fare program, which will be in effect for the next five years. (Common Dreams)

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