Last week's cover story, "Carbon Quandary," presents a look at biomass energy that unfortunately misses the nuances of the practice and how it fits positively into our future.
The role that biomass, and forest management in general, play with respect to our varied environmental crises is complex. Sequestration and storage of carbon is a huge part of how we mitigate the negative effects of climate change, but looking solely at carbon neglects the bigger picture of how we craft a more sustainable world in the face of this and other linked crises, like the degradation and loss of ecosystems from development and nonrenewable resource extraction, the despoliation of our natural resources through pollution, and the loss of biodiversity.
The author points out that burning biomass is not carbon neutral. What is also not carbon neutral is burning fossil fuels. However, unlike fossil fuels, wood is a renewable resource. It wasn't produced half a world away under adverse cultural, economic and ecological situations. We didn't tear off the top of a mountain to get it. If we spill it on the ground, it doesn't poison our soil or our waters. In modern, responsible forest management, we harvest wood in ways that support the health and resilience of forests. Local extraction of resources, especially renewable resources, is extremely powerful, supporting resource security and social, environmental and economic justice.
No resource is perfect, but local wood is perhaps our most underappreciated one, and its benefits go far beyond carbon.
[Re "Carbon Quandary," October 9]: The McNeil plant using electricity generated from the burning of wood to power electric cars — as Burlington's new climate change initiative proposes — is akin to putting East German soft coal in your gas tank. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, wood is the dirtiest fuel source around — four to six times dirtier than natural gas and half again dirtier than coal, oil, diesel and gasoline.
McNeil was retrofitted in 1989 to burn natural gas and can be readily switched over to that fuel exclusively. It has also been in operation longer than the typical useful life of such plants. Phasing it out entirely by 2030 is not such a big ask.
Franco served on the Burlington Electric Commission from 2000 to 2006.
Edgar Did Her Homework
I'm an evangelical pastor. Despite her cynical undertone, I appreciated Chelsea Edgar's article ["Good News?" September 25]. While describing her experience at New King Church in South Burlington, she notes with discernible incredulity the apparent contradiction that the loving Jesus we preach would also insist we surrender the right to define our sexuality. Here's when I knew she had struck oil. The message of Jesus is and always will be countercultural. The gospel — the good news that Jesus died and rose again to save sinners — sounds like "foolishness" and a "scandal" to those who don't believe.
So if Chelsea or any progressive people (or religious people, for that matter) are shocked by the gospel, I know they are on the right track.
It is a commitment to the gospel, not a Southern political agenda, that animates the church-planting movement. It's what inspired a group of Georgia, Vt., settlers in 1793 to "plant" the church I now pastor. It's the message that I believe changes lives and restores communities.
Chelsea probably doesn't share that belief. But that's OK. She got close enough to try to understand it. In our tribalized culture, we need more people who do what Chelsea did: get close enough to others to see and appreciate them, even to be shocked by their beliefs, and to continue to share this little state we all call home.
Thanks, Chelsea. If you ever want to talk to another pastor, my door is open.
"Good News?" [September 25], about evangelical churches in Vermont, made some great points about social isolation leading to life crises. I consider myself a spiritual person but would rather go to the "Church of the Beautiful View" than be in a building on a Sunday. I experience many of those "divine coincidences" when I take the time to stop and tune in to the Game Overall Director — GOD. If religion of any kind brings solace, I am good with that.
These are confusing and depressing times, for sure, but when politics becomes a part of it, I begin to question the motives. To be judged for any choices we have made, from whom to love to the decision to end a pregnancy and everything in between, I think is ignoring the "judge not" part of the Bible. I seriously wonder: If Jesus came back, would he not be met with the same fate as his last incarnation?
Political schemers use religion as the divide-and-conquer to control us. Counter that by recognizing the divine light in all of us, regardless of which religion we practice, and by reaching out and honoring our "common unity" by building community based on every interaction you have every day.
In Praise of Illegal Weed
[Re "Vermont's Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Control Access to Their 'Public' Records," October 2]: Why do you keep writing articles about Vermont's medical marijuana program with headlines other than "Why Do Vermont's Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Still Suck"? I get that you don't want to put down local businesses or something, but they offer an inferior product at a higher price, and the public is getting screwed. I keep wondering if it's all blown out of proportion, but then I hear another credible account of moldy weed, dirty clones or just a lame-ass menu with employee attitude to boot.
Here's an idea: Purchase good indoor cannabis from, say, five different Vermont-based black market dealers, and purchase five different eighths from local dispensaries. Get them tested. I'm willing to bet any sum of money that, on average, the black market cannabis in Vermont is stronger, cleaner and cheaper than what passes for quality bud in the dispensaries, to say nothing of the fact that Vermont's medical dispensary menus would have been almost up to date 20 years ago.