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Opinion: Local input key in solar siting

Happy New Year to all and hope the holiday season has been merry and you all gave and received meaningful and useful presents. Of the presents I received one came as a letter to editor of the Addison Independent, Dec. 25. The writer, associated with VPIRG, admonished me for confusing Act 248, a mental health law passed in 2011, with Section 248 of Title 30 and the Public Service Board, and for thinking solar panels are ugly. So lesson learned. I apologize for any misgivings anyone suffered.
There were two main points of my letters concerning the burgeoning solar installations in Vermont. The first is using up and wasting productive agricultural land; second, the minimal input by local and regional planning. These concerns apparently escaped the interest of VPIRG.
I do hope readers will reread the VPIRG letter and then on the next page the seasonally fitting commentary by Chris Mason, Middlebury police officer. Chris portrays a beautiful explanation of his approach to community policing.
In his last two paragraphs Chris writes, “As a police officer it’s a daily challenge to love under difficult circumstances — to love in the face of anger and abuse. It’s a daily challenge to acknowledge the inherent dignity of people who are seemingly stripped of every last shred of it, and it’s a daily challenge to feel a sincere connection with people who express hatred toward you.
“I believe these are the most fundamental and profound challenges facing police officers, and it is by meeting these challenges that officers ultimately serve and strengthen their community. Yes, by enforcing the law, but enforcing it from a place of reverence and striving always to reach a place of grace.”
Dec. 5 was World Soils Day. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN has declared 2015 as Year of Soils to Celebrate “Earth’s Silent Ally.”
In my assessment, soils are essential for our environment, our macrobiotic and plant and animal and human life. Our soils are central to our water cycle, an important part of our carbon cycle and essential to our ecosystem. We depend on productive soils to sustain us.
Our soils are in danger from human use and misuse. The Year of Soils is meant to remind us that sustainable soils and land management is central to ensuring a productive food system, improved rural livelihoods and a healthy environment.
As a farmer I have a close relationship with the soils I farm. The soils I see being abused by poor farming methods, erosion, lack of crop rotation, development, solar or otherwise, give me great concern. Productive soils that are being lost every day may someday be sorely missed.
As Chris Mason approaches community policing from a “place of reverence,” I so too try to farm with a reverence for soils and plants and crops. It’s not religious in the sense of organized religion but there is a spiritual, sense a spiritual dimension to how we treat, use and respect our most precious natural world. Making sure we don’t use up our natural resources in the process of living is the core of sustainability; in keeping with this, conservation of irreplaceable productive soils for our future seems important.
So let’s plant solar in appropriate places and make sure the system for selecting those places involves local planning, respect for our environment and agriculture soils, and always mindful of the essence and beauty of nature. And make wise use of our ingenuity and artistic talents so that the final product is sustainable and a joy to live in.
Paul A. Stone
Orwell

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