A Better Perspective

The modern concern about the environment, and the very development of the science of ecology, began in the middle of the nineteenth century when human power over creation began to expand rapidly. As we might expect, good and evil were inextricably mixed in this development. On the one hand, industrialization and modern agriculture have enabled more people to live – and live a more fully human life – than ever before. After a difficult transition period, for instance, manual laborers in advanced economies achieved a security and sense of dignity never before seen in any society. Advances in technology have made famine – which was a regular scourge to humanity around the globe before modern times – a thing of the past, except in places where political tyranny or turmoil prevent intelligent development. Advances in medicine have all but eliminated diseases such as smallpox, tuberculosis, and malaria, and have made formerly life-threatening maladies such as measles, mumps, and others, relatively minor nuisances. All of this was achieved by the slow and patient accumulation of human knowledge and the creation of free institutions that enabled the fruits of that knowledge to be shared by even larger numbers of people.

On the other hand, industrialization also had its negative effects. Early industrialization polluted cities, disrupted agricultural communities, and challenged modern nations to find ways to integrate growing urban masses. However, these were largely transitional problems. Today, it is precisely industrialization, new forms of agriculture, and other human advances that are making it possible for humans to increasingly live well and in proper relation to the earth. Even in difficult cases, such as the increase in greenhouse gases, we want to be wary of taking too narrow a view of the matter that neglects a broader perspective on the goods of development. Fossil fuels, which come from beneath the earth, have made it possible for us to forego the far more destructive, inefficient, and polluting use of wood and other so-called natural fuels that must be harvested from the earth’s surface. Paradoxically, fossil fuels may have even helped save whales from extinction. Prior to learning how to use petroleum, humans had few alternatives to whale oil for generating heat and light.

Moreover, fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, have also had far-reaching positive environmental effects that a good steward should wish to consider in drawing up the global balance sheet. The first effect is to make it possible for farmers to replace beasts of burden with machines and, therefore, to cultivate land more efficiently. (Much of the developing world is now beginning to undergo this process of agricultural modernization today.) Second, fossil fuels have been turned into fertilizers that, together with new pesticides, other means of preventing spoilage, and advances in new plant species – the so-called Green Revolution – have produced so much more food per acre that large amounts of land have now been spared from cultivation altogether. For example, America’s forests, contrary to popular perception, have been growing steadily for the past fifty years and are actually larger than they were one hundred years ago. Even in the heavily populated coastal areas, small farms have returned to forestland. The result of all this is that despite its vast fossil-fuel consumption, North America currently shows a net minus in the amount of carbon dioxide it puts into the atmosphere. In other words, North America absorbs more carbon dioxide through plants and forests than it emits through industry. No one intentionally set out to produce these consequences, but human ingenuity, aimed at doing better with greater cost efficiency and lower amounts of raw materials, seems here to reflect a providential convergence of man and nature. Now that we are conscious of the effects of our activity on nature, we can set out to do even better.

If other countries in the world could imitate such ingenuity and efficiency, we would not see an exhaustion and despoliation of natural resources. Instead, we would see their enhancement and protection. Agricultural scientists have estimated that if the rest of the world could achieve the level of efficiency and care for the land exhibited by the average farmer in the developed world, then ten billion people – which is almost twice the current world population, and is a larger figure than is now expected when the population levels off in the middle of the century – could be fed on half the land. Put into concrete terms, this means that an area the size of India could simply be left untouched worldwide in spite of population growth. It is a modern scandal, then, that out of a misguided concern for the earth, some philanthropic foundations and environmental groups from developed countries, and some international agencies as well, have discouraged, or even refused to support so-called "unsustainable" agricultural practices. These practices are, in fact, necessary for saving and improving the lives of the world’s poor and hungry.

Excerpted from "The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation" recently published by The Acton Institute.

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McConnell Refuses to Recuse

Prattsburgh supervisor accused of profiting off vote to seize land for turbines

Under fire over accusations he and other town and county officials have endorsed generous tax breaks and cut sweetheart deals with the Massachusetts-based UPC Corp. wind farm developer, Prattsburgh Supervisor Harold McConnell faces further criticism following a vote last week to condemn and seize private land for the project.

After admitting he accepted real estate commissions in at least one land deal last fall involving UPC, McConnell on April 21 cast the deciding vote on an “eminent domain” resolution.” The action will allow construction of 36 controversial, 386-foot tall wind turbines towers in the town.

Scores of the imposing, densely-clustered turbine towers have spiraled taller than upended football fields above the Naples Valley on hilltops in neighboring Cohocton in recent months. Many other communities have frantically enacted moratoriums and taken other actions to control placement of the massive towers pending further study of environmental impact and questions about whether the turbines can do what they are intended - generate “clean, safe power” in a rural region touched more by occasional gentle breezes than by strong and steady winds.

by Jack Jones in The Naples Record, April 30, 2008

Click here to read the entire article.

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Prattsburgh Conflict of Interest

We have heard from reputable sources that the Town of Prattsburgh Supervisor has been hired and earned money as a real estate agent for UPC Wind Company. He has been helping them purchase property necessary for the company’s transmission lines and transport routes. Also, from his Town Supervisor’s position he has sent letters to landowners asking them on behalf of the town, to sign contracts with the wind company. Conflict of interest??? We think so!

Nancy Wahlstrom

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VN 5/8 - A modest proposal

People live in Cohocton for a lot of reasons. Some were born here and have land that was passed down to them over generations. Others are relative newcomers who’ve lived here less than 25 years, a few moving into the area very recently. Many are farmers; others work elsewhere and have chosen to live or retire here; and an increasing number have purchased and developed vacation property on and around our scenic hills. Tourism is growing in the region, while agricultural economics are becoming more difficult.

These choices represent two distinct visions of what Cohocton is:
- For those who farm it’s primarily a place of industry where you can support a family with hard work and careful use of the land.
- For most of the remainder, the 3-R (residential, retirement, and recreational) owners, it’s a place of rest where you can enjoy peace and quiet in a rural atmosphere away from the city.
- Residential owners appreciate being in a small town where you can make friends and raise a family in safety.
- Many of those who have chosen to retire here were drawn by the breathless natural beauty and tranquility of the land.
- And most recreational owners searched the region for years before they found the place of their dreams in Cohocton.

Residents on both sides of the “industry” vs. “rest” division have been able to live alongside one another happily for years. There have been some rubs, of course, with farm equipment noise, hunters, ATVs, and snowmobiles, but overall the town has been at peace. Enter UPC Wind with its proposal to add a massive industrial wind turbine project into the mix, and we have a formula for social disaster that promises to benefit farmers at the expense of the 3-R owners that surround them.

Is this a winner-take-all fight? At Cohocton Free we believe there’s still a path of compromise leaseholders and our Town leaders can pursue that will respect the wishes and preserve the rights of both sides. Curious? Click here to read our proposal.

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National Day of Prayer

Today is the annual National Day of Prayer. Focus on the Family posted the following note on its Citizen Link on April 30th:

Just four days before the national event, he joins 49 other governors.

After being flooded with phone calls from family advocates around the nation, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer today joined the other 49 governors in issuing a proclamation supporting Thursday’s observance of the National Day of Prayer (NDP).

Susan Castilla, the New York coordinator for NDP, said she was put off time and time again by the governor’s staff. “It seemed the National Day of Prayer was on the back burner,” she said. “We don’t get phone calls returned. You never hear back. This has kind of been a constant thing.”

A staple of former Gov. George Pataki's tenure — an annual prayer breakfast — is not on the schedule under Spitzer.

As you observe the National Day of Prayer today, please pray specifically for our governor and his staff. Many of us are keenly aware that all true wisdom comes from Almighty God and that those who have difficulty acknowledging this may be separating themselves from the very source of wisdom. This is a serious enough problem for individual citizens but can produce disastrous results in public policy if it is followed by prominent leaders.



VN 4/17 - Unrighteousness

There's an old maxim that the end doesn't justify the means. In other words, no matter how admirable a goal may be, using improper means to attain it is never appropriate. This truth seems to be lost on ardent wind power supporters in Cohocton, including UPC Wind, its paid promoters and leaseholders, and our Town's elected and appointed officials, all of whom have taken the public posture that they are law-abiding, responsive to community concerns, and follow due process. But what does the record show? Read our article in this week's Valley News and then do whatever you can to become part of the solution.

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He Is Risen!

Beauty for ashes

Life evermore

Peace beyond measure

Jesus won it all!



A Passion Week Dream

For God-fearing people around the world, Passion Week and its Hebrew counterpart Passover, represent a time for both serious reflection, profound gratitude, and divine hope for the future. What we're experiencing in Cohocton this week instead, however, could be described as a kind of emotional, moral, and ethical melt-down, and I've begun to ponder what would happen if, instead of melting DOWN into anger and division and legalism, we melted UP into repentence, forgiveness, and joyful reconciliation. What could the God of the universe do with a community of broken and contrite hearts? Then I had a dream, like a daytime vision or imagination, that I'd like to share with you.

It was a sunny summer Sunday afternoon and three of us were walking along the hot dusty clay of Moore Road - George Buss, Gerald Moore, and me. Gerald was telling us about his childhood days growing up on the hill, and we were enjoying the scenery together. As we looked to the south an almost endless cornfield spread out before us, its stalks gently waving in the warm breeze. All was quiet except for an occasional bird call. The sky was blue with puffy clouds floating along, and there wasn't a sign of industry, not a single windmill in sight.

Our gaze drifted over to the north where we began to behold a wonderful vista sweeping down the hill and over Canandaigua Lake in the valley below. There, in the midst of it, was Jim and Judi Hall's Italianesque villa, surrounded by colorful gardens without a single pine tree to obscure the breathtaking view. As we approached their house, Jim and Judi came out with their big dog to greet us. We turned in through their gate and all spontaneously decided to stroll together down the hill to see the old place where Gerald had grown up. The memories flowed as we came back up the hill together and stayed to chat awhile over iced tea. No one even noticed that George's speech was flowing as clearly as the Conhocton in spring...

With a start, I came to my normal senses again. Could something like this ever really happen? It could, but it would be a miracle. I began to ask, how could we help bring something like this about, and this is the answer I received:

If each one of us, in the privacy of our own lives, would quietly take stock before our Maker and then respond as Zacchaeus did many long years ago. "Lord, have my family and I neglected You and your teachings? I'm sorry, please forgive me. Am I holding money in my hand or spending money in my mind that doesn't really belong to me? I'll let go and give it back. Have I offended my neighbor in any way? I'm going to go to him and make it right. What can I do next? When I wake up every morning I'm going to ask earnestly and then say YES! only to You."

May God bless you with His resurrection power this Easter!



The Law - Letter or Spirit?

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church millenia ago he compared and contrasted two approaches to life - trying to live according the letter of the law or seeking to follow after its spirit or intent. In Paul's estimation, the first way led to death while the second led to life. Of course he was referring to the Biblical law, which is righteous in both its letter and intent, not to many of our human laws which are corrupt in both.

What law do we say we are following in Cohocton? When it comes to windmills, the law cited is Local Law #2 (LL#2), enacted by our Town Board in late 2006. Serious questions have been raised about its "letter", which UPC Wind and its supporters are using as their guide. But what about the spirit or intent of this Law? According to a recent NY Department of State publication about the functions of a Zoning Board of Appeals,

A zoning law is a community's guide to its future development. That is its purpose. It is not meant to be just another governmental intrusion, another bit of red tape to be untangled before the property owner can go ahead with his plans. The protections afforded residents and property owners within the community from undesirable development come from the restrictiveness of zoning. Traditionally, zoning is characterized by pre-set regulations contained in the ordinance or local law, and applicable uniformly within each district. A landowner can look at the zoning map and regulations and know that if he follows them, he has a right to use his land in a certain way, and that neighboring property is subject to the same restrictions. But, because all land in the district is subject to the same rules, and because no two parcels of land are precisely the same, problems can arise.

Can a landowner do anything they wish on their own land? Not if the very purpose of zoning is respected. Was LL#2 written with the proper intent in mind? Patently not. The clear purpose of LL#2 was to permit and promote a preconceived wind power project that was already nearly fully developed by UPC Wind well prior to the enactment of the law. Setting aside the provisions of Cohocton's master zoning plan, our Town leaders passed a law with setbacks that were obviously designed to accommodate the desires of a specific developer, not to protect the legitimate interests of surrounding landowners.

Thus, while following the letter of LL#2 will definitely lead to contention and loss of community life, even following the spirit of laws like this won't produce a good result. Want to drive one of your town's judges to curse his neighbors at a public meeting? Just pass an unrighteous law and then rile your community up by riding it into the ground. If you want to make sure you get bad results, mix in some political manipulation that actually twists and breaks other laws along the way and then challenge your fellow-citizens to bring you to court. Brothers and sisters, there must be a better way.

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Palm Sunday Meditation

SEEKING GOD …for Christ to visit our communities

We confess that we have pursued great projects, attempting grand plans which leave little place for Jesus. Like derelict buildings, abandoned though only partly complete, many of our greatest ambitions lie empty and unfinished. Endeavors which once aroused passion have slowly fizzled. We have become skeptics, quietly dismissing Your kingdom promises as impossible utopian fantasies.

And so it was on Palm Sunday. The people had almost given up. The best thing many could imagine was a regime change. How You surprised them. You did not repair the old or defend what had been downtrodden. You exalted the One who had been dismissed. The One who had been rejected, denied and overlooked - this is the One You brought back and put on display.

Some still refused Him, but no one ignored Him. And so we pray for our community. Bring a day when every eye beholds Him, even those who have overlooked or opposed Him.

Click here to read the entire Meditation. God bless you!



VN 1/9 - Exploitation

Some people thought it was cute, but others recognized it for what it really was, crass exploitation. For the holidays, UPC Wind sponsored a“coloring contest” in Cohocton’s elementary school and published pictures of the winners in The Valley News. The object? To use our children to make their controversial wind project look kid-friendly. Read our response in this week's Valley News and let us know what you think.

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VN 12/19 - It's Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

While we may have our differences about some things, like wind turbines, there are other things we can all agree about, like the blessing of Thanksgiving. We wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and friends. In spite of our differences, let's try to work together with grateful hearts in the days and months ahead. God bless you!

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VN 10/3 - Hypocrisy?

The wind power debate in Cohocton took another bad turn when one of our local tax assessors revealed his partiality to a specific private developer by openly accusing Cohocton Wind Watch members of "hypocrisy" in a long letter published two weeks ago in The Valley News. Our article this week addresses his charge. Our primary hope is that the citizens of Cohocton will seek a common solution to the community crisis that's been visited upon us by examining all the alternatives impartially and making a completely informed decision. We believe there are too many unanswered questions, several having to do with finances and taxation, to forge ahead now.

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