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.
Are Electric Vehicles Really Better for the Climate? Yes. Here’s Why. by David Reichmuth (2/11/20) One of the questions I’m most frequently asked about electric vehicles (EV) is, “Are they really a cleaner option?” While it’s obvious that a fully-electric vehicle eliminates tailpipe emissions, people often wonder about the global warming emissions from generating the electricity to charge an EV. The latest data affirms that driving on electricity produces significantly fewer emissions than using gasoline and is getting better over time. (Blog-Union of Concerned Scientists)
Massachusetts Reinstates Consumer Funding for Electric Vehicles
by Eugenia Gibbons and Anna Venderspek (1/6/20) In December, Governor Charles Baker signed the state’s supplemental budget for 2019, which included authorization to temporarily relocate at least $27 million per year to keep this important rebate running in 2020 and 2021. Effective January 1, 2020:
- Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) with a final sale price under $50,000 are eligible for a $2,500 rebate;
- Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) with a final sale price under $50,000 and an electric range of 25+ miles are eligible for a $1,500 rebate; and
- Zero-emission motorcycles (ZEMs) are no longer eligible for a rebate.
As before, only Massachusetts residents qualify for the MOR-EV rebate, and leases must have a minimum term of 36 months to qualify. (Green Energy Consumers Alliance)
Plan to Kickstart EU’s Green Deal Comes With $1 Trillion in Cash by Ewa Krukowska (1/9/20). The European Union [unveiled in January] an investment plan designed to mobilize at least 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) over the next decade for an unprecedented shift to a climate-neutral economy. The Sustainable Europe Investment Plan will be the financial pillar of the Green Deal, a sweeping strategy to eliminate greenhouse gases by the middle of the century. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, wants to pull together a set of new policy initiatives with existing tools and ensure a coherent framework that will spur investment from every corner of the EU, according to a draft document seen by Bloomberg News. (Bloomberg News).
The Last Time Democracy Almost Died by Jill Lepore (1/27/20) The last time democracy nearly died all over the world and almost all at once, Americans argued about it and then tried to fix it. “The future of democracy is topic number one in the animated discussion going on all over America,” a contributor to The New York Times wrote in 1937. “In the Legislatures, over the radio, at the luncheon table, in the drawing rooms, at meetings of forums and in all kinds of groups of citizens everywhere, people are talking about the democratic way of life.” People bickered and people hollered and they also made rules. “You’re a liar!” one guy shouted from the audience during a political debate heard on the radio by ten million Americans, from Missoula to Tallahassee. “Now, now, we don’t allow that,” the moderator said calmly and asked him to leave. (The New Yorker)
The Billion Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Re-elect the President by McKay Coppins (2/10/20) “[Trump’s] reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings. Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside.” (The Atlantic)
There Need to be Mass Protests: Authoritarianism Experts Say Time is Running Out for Americans to Stop Trump by John Haltiwanger (2/13/20). If Americans are concerned that President Donald Trump and Republicans are moving the U.S. toward becoming a one-party, authoritarian state, they are running out of time to stop them, experts warned. Trump has exhibited autocratic impulses since his 2016 campaign and from the moment he entered the White House. The president has attacked virtually every democratic institution in the U.S. when he’s felt its actions were unfavorable to his agenda or public appearance. Meanwhile, he pushed traditional U.S. allies away while openly embracing many of the world’s most repressive leaders. (Business Insider).
Would the U.S. be Ready for a Surge in Coronavirus Cases? by Patti Neighmond (2/13/20) Greene points out that the likelihood of the average American coming down with the virus, if the person has not traveled to China or come into close contact with someone who has, remains “extremely low.” Public health officials have repeatedly cautioned that there are currently no signs of community transmission. Greene says the federal agency is working to be able to treat thousands of patients if need be. Other experts are skeptical about the U.S. capacity to handle a severe epidemic with a sudden surge of thousands of infections. (NPR)
What Happens When the News is Gone? by Charles Bethea (1/27/20). Pollocksville, NC is situated in Jones County, and most people would tell you that Jones County doesn’t have a newspaper. It used to have the Jones Post, a weekly founded in 1976. But that outlet has faded over a period of years, first becoming a regional insert delivered with other newspapers and gradually ceasing to print much in the way of substantive local journalism. At this point, not even its publisher is quite willing to call it a paper. According to one estimate, the U.S. has lost one in four of its newspapers in the last 15 years. The vast majority of those that have folded are weekly papers and other non-dailies. Around 1,500 counties have one paper, usually a weekly; another 200 are without any newspaper. These areas are what researchers call “news deserts” and Jones Country, one researcher told me, is a classic example. (The New Yorker)
Does More Parking Bring More Business? by Colin Steward (undated). Retailers on Montreal’s commercial streets are having a rough time these days. It’s increasingly common on once-thriving streets like Rue Saint-Denis to see storefronts with “À louer” signs filling the windows. Many business owners feel that something needs to be done, lest they become the next to go under. As part of a public consultation on this issue, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal proposed to the city that more parking should be added, based on a survey of 261 business owners. This intuitively makes sense; we’ve all had to buy heavy or cumbersome items that are impractical to lug home without a car. Seen in this light, businesses practically can’t function without a vehicle, and a vehicle practically can’t function without a place to park it. More parking, therefore, should mean more business.
However, looking into the data a bit further revealed a different truth. At Local Logic, we decided to peel back the layers and determine the real story. We spent the time gathering parking data across Montreal — both on-street and off-street — and compared it with the vacancy rates on the city’s commercial arteries. (Local Logic)
UMass Will Pay $185,000 Yearly to Amherst Schools by Scott Merzbach 2/11/20) Town schools will receive an influx of about $185,000 annually for the next three years from the University of Massachusetts as part of a revised strategic partnership agreement with the Town. University and Amherst officials announced recently that a previous agreement, which expired last July 1, is being renegotiated to better address the cost of educating K–12 children of university-affiliated families residing in tax-exempt university housing such as North Village on North Pleasant Street. (The Daily Hampshire Gazette).
Bathroom Breakdown: Vaping and Vandalism at Amherst Regional High School by Judah Katz and The Graphic staff (1/13/20) First, vaping (or e-cigarette use) in boys’ bathrooms is common, meaning students often enter a restroom to find a crowd of teens standing together (or in stalls) vaping. Sometimes they are caught, forced to hand over their supplies, and face consequences, but many evade notice. Second, vandalism to boys’ bathrooms (including ripping off stall doors, tearing down soap dispensers, jamming toilets, and graffiti) has led to bathrooms being locked for hours or days at a time. Students have caused thousands of dollars in damages, and offenders, if caught, would pay hefty fines — but the vandalism continues, with students either not knowing who the perpetrators are or not being willing to identify them. Third, of the boys’ bathrooms that are open, only a small number have functional, locking stall doors, although administrators say they will be repaired. (The Graphic).
Mt. Holyoke Students Call for Fossil Fuel Divestment by Jacquelyn Voghel (2/13/20). Hundreds of students crowded Blanchard Hall in early February to demand that the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. “We need a livable and sustainable future, and if we’re going to have a chance at that, it is imperative that we divest from fossil fuels, and that we keep it all in the ground,” said sophomore Emma Sullivan, a member of the Sunrise Movement. Mount Holyoke has as much as 6 percent of its endowment indirectly invested in the fossil fuel industry, according to the College’s website. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)..
SOLID WASTE/RECYCLING/ZERO WASTE
This Open-Source ‘Precious Plastic’ Project Is Changing What Waste Means And How Recycling Is Done by Jeff Kart (2/12/20) People involved in more than 400 projects around the world are using a recycling system that they downloaded for free from the internet. It’s from an open-source project called Precious Plastic, headquartered in the Netherlands. The basic idea: Plastic can be a resource if you have the tools to turn it into beautiful new things. (Forbes)
State Airs East-West Rail Ideas by Bera Dunau (2/7/20) In early February, six visions of what east-west passenger rail service might look like were presented to the public and members of the East-West Passenger Rail Service Advisory Committee by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)