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Don’t Just Sit There—Read!; Parched!; By the Numbers; Worth Quoting

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
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Don’t Just Sit There—Read!

South Hadley’s Odyssey Bookshop hosts a number of book discussion groups: for young adult readers, crime aficionados, Shakespeare lovers, fans of fiction.

But its newest book group is especially near and dear to co-owner Joan Grenier’s heart: the Active Citizens Book Group.

Grenier started the program out of a desire for a group focused on nonfiction. And, she noted with a laugh, “to be honest, it was something that Jon [Weissman, Grenier’s partner and the coordinator of Western Mass. Jobs With Justice] and I could do together.” The couple facilitates the group, which meets monthly to discuss books on “the environment, racism, economic and gender inequality, and workers’ rights,” among other topics.

At the inaugural meeting in January, participants discussed Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism, by retired UMass Amherst professor Richard Wolff. This month’s meeting, on Feb. 23, focuses on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

The Active Citizens Book Group meets on the last Sunday of the month at 4 p.m. For more information, go to www.odysseybks.com.

 

Parched!

Drought in California is making headlines. But throughout the country, the longterm trend is toward loss of soil moisture, as shown by this satellite map. Patches of light blue in Western Massachusetts show that this area has retained more soil moisture than the rest of the state and many other regions, but partial drought has become the new normal in much of the nation (areas colored white shading to yellow and dark red have lost 30 to 98 percent of their mid-20th-century soil moisture). The map (http://drought.unl.edu/MonitoringTools/NASAGRACEDataAssimilation.aspx) shows the difference between levels of soil moisture in the U.S. today and the amount in the second half of the twentieth century and the early millennium, based on meteorological datasets for the years 1948-2009. Soil moisture not only nourishes plants but helps control the exchange of water and heat between air and land.

 

By the Numbers

120

That’s the number of Amherst residents who signed up for the Solarize Amherst program during its first week early in February. Solarize Amherst is a part of the Solarize Massachusetts program started up by the state four years ago; it lets homeowners and business owners buy into a group purchase structure to get a special low price on solar installations for their homes, in addition to receiving thousands of dollars’ worth of state and federal tax credits. Amherst residents have until June 30 to enroll. Along with Amherst, the state has tapped Williamstown, Chesterfield and Whately for inclusion in the program.

By now, 172 contracts that will result in the installation of more than 1,000 kilowatt hours of energy have been signed by people participating in Solarize programs in Montague, Hatfield and Northampton. Across the state, more than 1,250 homes and businesses in 31 cities and towns have signed on to the program; the solar equipment they have installed or will install is expected to generate 9.4 megawatts of power.

 

3.56 million

That’s the number of pounds of toxic pollutants released into the environment in Massachusetts in 2012, according to a new report from the federal EPA’s New England Office. That represents a decline of 7.7 percent from the previous year. 

Those chemicals included zinc compounds (the most common, accounting for about one-third of total releases), hydrochloric acid, toluene and N-butyl alcohol.

Across the six New England states, a total of 19.2 million pounds of chemicals were released in 2012, down 2.55 percent from 2011. 

The top releaser of pollutants in the state: Springfield’s Solutia, which released 905,855 pounds.

 

Worth Quoting:

“Seeking office in a Democratic state where independent candidates tend to lean Democratic is understandably frustrating for Republicans. Scott Brown managed to find a path to victory, however, and the absence of the charismatic Governor Deval Patrick on the ballot is undeniably good news for the GOP. There are winnable battles for Massachusetts Republicans in 2014, but should they fail, the party could find itself stuck in the political wilderness for a long time to come.”

From a recent editorial in the Berkshire Eagle on the challenges facing Massachusetts’ GOP this election season

 

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