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ABOUT TOWN: Able to sustain

Sustainability is a multifaceted concept everyone can embrace.

Whether your focus is on business, government, or other personally fulfilling occupations, it is a good idea. But what exactly is meant by “sustainability”?

It means different things to different people. And there are many ways to measure it. The one I prefer is “Malthusian.” Widespread poverty inevitably results, according to Malthus, when the growth of population exceeds society’s ability to feed itself.

I would go one step further. It is the availability of clean drinking water first and foremost that controls our lives. Intrusion of the oceans into groundwater supply hasn’t been discussed much lately, but it will be soon enough.

How does water supply affect food production? Crops whither and die without water. I read recently of a corporate policy that has tried to deal with this. But words are cheap. Who is actually doing something to sustain the planet?

My idea is that everyone who can help on this problem should do so. The town of Weston can lead by example!

Carbon footprint

What is Weston’s carbon footprint?

This “footprint” is a measure of greenhouse gas emissions. How this number is calculated is not what I would call precise. The term “carbon footprint” is used many times in discussions about sustainability. But sustainability, if nothing else, measures the maximum number of individuals that a given environment can support without detrimental effects.

Lately, “water” has been a dirty word to many who live in coastal communities. “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” from Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” was prescient.

Did you suffer damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath? At the very least, most Westonites were victims of power outages she caused. Those near Long Island Sound seemed hardest hit, due to the floodwaters, but Weston “outliers” took a hit, too.

But drinking water supply may be the issue that becomes most critical as the earth warms and the waters rise.

The town of Weston, it seems to me, might be a good laboratory in which to study sustainability. I have a modest proposal.

It is this: Can we calculate, for each of the 3,500 or so properties in town, its effective carrying capacity? In other words, how many people can safely be supported on each lot? Do we have the data to answer these questions?

The answers would only be approximations, because no one knows the amount of groundwater that is available to recharge individual wells. Some people have more than one well.

Is rainfall increasing, or is it just that major storm events are coming more frequently? Who is assuring that rainfall is captured and available for activities other than drinking? Can we store it safely?

These are questions Westonites should be seeking answers to. Can government show the way, for example, at the schools?

NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at aboutweston.com

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Check out Margaret Wirtenberg's website: http://www.aboutweston.com/

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