Black Oak Wind Farm Rising

by Gay Nicholson

Community power.  Literally.  That’s the defining trait of the proposed Black Oak Wind Farm in the Town of Enfield.  The project will place about 20 MW of wind turbines on the windiest hills in Tompkins County along Black Oak Road.  That would be enough to power most of the county’s homes – a community’s power supply.

But that’s not the only way the community will benefit from this project.  From the beginning, when former owner John Rancich first conceived of his Enfield Energy wind farm, the focus was also on community ownership of our local renewable energy utility.  This dream is now becoming our shared reality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating Sustainably

by Alex Colket
I promise I am not a Scrooge. I like the spirit of giving that this holiday season embodies, and I can appreciate the beauty of all the colors, lights and other decorations that are synonymous with the season. Certainly,  I enjoy the music, the family, the celebrating, and the food. However, I think it’s high time that we re-examine some of the traditions and behaviors associated with these (and other) holidays and ask if they are really something we should be continuing in light of the growing environmental crisis we face. Read the rest of this entry »

Young Farmers’ Difficulties

Young Farmers Find Huge Obstacles to Getting Started


Published: November 12, 2011

Emily Oakley, who had worked on an organic farm in California, moved with her husband, Mike Appel, to Oaks, Okla., in pursuit of cheap farmland. But even though they had $25,000 saved, the couple could not get a bank loan. When they applied for a government loan, the loan officer threw back his head and laughed. Read the rest of this entry »

Thank you, Rachel Carson

Thank You, Rachel Carson

By Richard W. Franke
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology: Montclair State University, New Jersey
Resident: Ecovillage at Ithaca; Board Member: Sustainable Tompkins

October, 2012, will mark the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, just a year and a half before her untimely death from breast cancer and other illnesses at age 56. We in the sustainability movement today, owe a lot to Rachel Carson – to her intellectual brilliance, to her beautiful writing, to her courage and to her perseverance. And to her insistence on the people’s right to know. Read the rest of this entry »

the next economy

On the eve of the Southern Tier regional economic development forum, I’d just like to share a couple thoughts.

I’m not going to get into all the gruesome details about the destruction, corruption, exploitation and various other evils of the current economic engine, as I imagine most of you on this list are already aware of  flaws in the system.  Likewise, I suspect that many of you agree this needs to change, that it is changing, and that it needs to change a lot faster if we want to improve our present and protect our future. Instead, I’d like to focus my thoughts today on solutions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Carbon Tax?

I’ve been pondering my reticence to get more involved in political action in the face of our myriad challenges, from local fracking to global climate change. In part, I think it comes from a feeling of pessimism about many political efforts that inherently seek to educate the public or political leaders. It seems to me that because of confirmation bias (and other psychological/sociological factors) it is extremely difficult to alter people’s worldviews when it comes to these big issues. My perception is that in many cases, progressives’ desire to “tell it like it is” gets in the way of “selling” ideas that can help. Read the rest of this entry »

Join the ST Blog

The Sustainable Tompkins Community Blog

Sustainable Tompkins is pleased to announce the launching of our Sustainability Blog. A blog is a combination of the words web and log: therefore a web log. Our blog is open to all who wish to post and/or discuss issues broadly related to sustainability. You can find our blog at the bottom of the ST homepage at The blog can also be reached from the main page or through the menu bar under the programs button.
Here in FAQ format is the basic information about the ST Blog:

Why have a blog?

We have noticed over the past couple of years that many folks use the ST listserve for announcements and also to post thoughts, ideas, criticisms and responses to postings by others. While it is possible to continue doing this on the listserve, on a blog all the postings about a particular topic can be kept together and you can automatically see the development of the discussion. It will be easier to find things and possibly the discussions will be more focused. If you respond to a blog entry then someone responds to you, all the materials are together in one place and you can see the development of an argument. For some teachers this might be useful as a means of showing students how discussions and debates unfold.

What can I do on a blog?

You can do any to all of the following:

1. You can comment in response to blog postings or comments
2. You can comment back and forth as much as you want with other commentators
3. You can post an original blog for others to comment on and can also comment on their comments

What will a typical ST blog look like?

We recommend a posting of about 600 words but you can post a blog as short or as long as you want. Our recommended length is based on our observations that people in the blogosphere seem to generally read pieces of about that length.

What kinds of materials are suitable for a blog?

Anything you want to discuss or get reactions to that seems relevant to sustainability. Right now three sample blogs are posted: A Safe Operating Space for Humanity is a summary and has comments about a 2009 article in Nature where scientists tried to quantify the degree of threat to the earth’s life support system.

A second current posting is ST President Gay Nicholson’s comments at the April 6 Energy Fair and Pledge-In for the Finger Lakes Energy Challenge. Reports on interesting or thought-provoking talks or videos could be appropriate.

At the top of the blog list is a blog called “GreenNotes” with some surprising (or not?) facts from Lester Brown’s new book World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse.

Some of the recent postings on the listserve about fair housing, land preservation, Ithaca demographics would have made an interesting blog sequence.

Book reviews or book notes might generate interest among the blog audience.

Can I put links, graphics, photos, videos or other similar materials into my blog or into my responses?

Yes, but in some cases we might have to use links for readers to click on in place of direct insertions, depending on the size of your non-text materials.

How do I comment on a blog?

The first time you want to respond to a blog, you must register on the ST site. By having bloggers register we can help to filter out automated responses, advertisements, etc. that will interfere with the blog and cause a lot of mechanical administrative time. Registration is free.

Once you have registered, you can comment on any blogs as often as you want – you only have to register once.

How do I register? What is the procedure?

To register, visit and create a username and password. Once registered, login with this new account (login link in right sidebar), and you will be ready to participate in the discussion

Note: if you have taken the Finger Lakes Energy Challenge, you may already have an account

Note also: the first time you try to respond to a blog, you will be asked to login or register. Just follow the onscreen directions.

There is a “Login with Facebook” button right on the main login screen. The first time you click on it, you will have to enter your Facebook account and it will ask you for permission to connect to ST via Facebook. Subsequent times it will automatically log you in upon clicking if you are logged into Facebook in the browser. (Many people stay logged into Facebook routinely.) Once connected through Facebook, you will be able to comment.  Regular login/registration is still available.
How do I post a blog for others to respond to?

Send your proposed original blog to Dick Franke at
Plain text, or attachment in Word, rtf or htm formats are OK

Is there separate registration for posting a blog and for responding to a blog?

No, just register once and you can post or comment at will.

Are there any rules for style or content that I should be aware of?

We recommend the following suggestions for keeping blog discussions positive and respectful:
What about people who are not on the ST listserve?

Anyone who registers on the blog page once can contribute to the blog even if they are not on the ST listserve.

How will people know I have posted a blog?

You can send out an announcement on the ST listserve; or, we can do it. You can also send it out with a link to anyone else or any other lists you want to.

How often will blogs appear?

We are thinking to post a new blog about once a week, but if something is particularly timely, we might bend that rule.

What if I want to just continue posting my ideas on the listserve and ignore the blog?

Go ahead. The blog is intended for those who find it convenient, but the listserve will continue to function as is for announcements or other uses.

Whom do I contact for more information about the ST blog?

The blog facilitator at present is Dick Franke:


An occasional feature of the Sustainable Tompkins Community Blog
By Richard W. Franke, Board Member, Sustainable Tompkins

Lester Brown’s recent (2011) book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, contains a number of unexpected “facts” (observations?). I selected a few of them: how many surprised you? Don’t believe him? You can download the entire book free here. Click here for his online documentation of everything he claims below.

  • The actual cost of gasoline in the United States is $15 per gallon
  • In 2009 the number of cars in the US declined for the first time in a century (except for WWII period when cars were not produced)
  • China now has 459 “cancer villages”
  • Between 1994 and 1999 China’s Gobi Desert grew by an area equal to half the state of Pennsylvania
  • If the Greenland ice sheet melts entirely, sea level could rise 23 feet; if the West Antarctic Ice sheet breaks up, seal level would rise another 16 feet
  • Of the one million Hurricane Katrina refugees from New Orleans, 300,000 did not return to their homes
  • The summer 2010 heat wave in Russia was the most intense in 130 years of record keeping; the wheat harvest shrank from 100 million tons to 60 million tons
  • 90% of the original forests of the Indus River Basin are gone
  • Pakistan has 185 million people living on an area equal to 8% of the US land area
  • From 1950 to the present, per person income worldwide increased 4 times while the world economy grew 10 times Read the rest of this entry »

The Truth About Energy Security

By Gay Nicholson, Ph.D., President of Sustainable Tompkins

The theme of our recent Energy Fair was community energy security. Real energy security.

Most of us associate “energy security” with fossil fuel industry lobbyists who try to convince Americans that we will be more secure if we stop relying on imports of foreign oil and just let them expand drilling offshore or in the rural lands of America.

But is that really a plan that will make us more secure?  Consider this:

Energy efficiency has never polluted the Gulf of Mexico or slimed the shores of Alaska.

Solar panels never gave a child asthma or blew off a mountain top.

Wind turbines have never threatened millions with cancer-causing radiation.

Energy conservation has never polluted drinking water supplies or destroyed a rural landscape.

We’ll never be really secure if we continue to base our economy and our way of life on fossil energy.  We know it’s a tightening noose with constantly rising prices and amplifying environmental damages. Read the rest of this entry »

A Safe Operating Space? Can We Measure It? Can We Maintain It?

By Richard W. Franke, Ph.D., Board of Directors, Sustainable Tompkins; Professor Emeritus of Anthropology: Montclair State University, New Jersey; Resident and Board Member: Ecovillage at Ithaca.

With the growing awareness in the sustainability movement that earth’s resource base is under stress and possibly in danger, we need to develop a framework and appropriate indicators to assess how much danger we are in and to identify those areas in which the crisis is more or less severe. Read the rest of this entry »