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Forum, June 11: Dartmouth ‘Brand,’; Let There Be Solar; Eating Garlic Mustard

Big Money Vs. Obamacare

To the Editor:

Turn on your TV set here in New Hampshire of late and sooner or later you will surely be confronted by an earnest young woman speaking in dulcet tones reminding us that the Affordable Care Act simply “is not working,” and urging us to inform our legislators of that “fact.” One cannot be sure if the speaker is actually speaking from the heart despite her aura of earnest conviction because her message clearly emanates from a darker source: In fact, one cannot be sure just whose message this is because no one is inclined to raise a hand acknowledging authorship.

However, one does not have to be an abject cynic to pick up a whiff of the brothers Koch and a slice of their $20 million campaign to obliterate President Obama’s signature legislation.

Of course, neither the messenger nor the Kochs themselves know if Obamacare is working or not, but no matter; what we have here is a glossy example of how lots and lots of money can carry the day, or at least make one whopping great try at it.

Tom Brody


Let There Be Solar

To the Editor:

I’d like to offer another perspective on the solar installation on Union Village Road in Norwich, since beauty or ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

As a member of the Norwich Energy Committee, which has been working hard over the past few years to encourage Norwich homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient and to put in residential solar, I’m more than pleased to see a new solar installation. And to know that passersby will see it — and, possibly, consider solar for their own homes.

We all collectively face a serious challenge with global warming, and we have a short window to avoid really horrendous problems. Does one solar installation or even a town full of them make a difference?

I say the answer is yes. As Mike Berners-Lee wrote in his 2010 book How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, “It isn’t enough to hope that world leaders will sort things out on their own. So the question is, Where does leadership come from? My answer is that it can come from anywhere and we need it to come from everywhere at once. ...Who can start that off? Anyone can. Anyone who finds a way of enjoying life more for less carbon is setting a standard for others.”

That’s what the Union Village Road homeowner has done, and if you look at this solar tracker in the right light, it’s a beautiful sign of hope.

Linda Gray


The Co-op Is A Gem

To the Editor:

This is in response to a June 4 column by the Valley News’ successful provocateur, Jim Kenyon (“Co-op & Competitor”). Choosing a supermarket is one of the choices most of us, unless we live at or below the poverty line, have the opportunity to make. For some, it may be convenience or financial savings that dictate their choice. My own choice has been impacted by two factors. I grew up in a large Italian immigrant family for whom money was scarce, but the quality of food was always a priority. My grandparents had a huge garden, a grape arbor for wine production and chickens. Food production and cooking took up an enormous amount of time but brought us much joy. I continue with that tradition (without the grapes and chickens). The second big impact has been the realization that the single best way I can work to make sure that the earth stays healthy for my descendants is by supporting local businesses of all kinds.

Hannaford is a lovely market, in which the staff is especially welcoming. However, my market of choice is the Co-op. Equally as welcoming, the Co-op has some added advantages: It is a local business; one of its prime missions is to support local growers and producers; it educates its clients in thoughtful ways such as informing us of the sustainable harvesting practices of its fish providers, so that we can make sustainable choices ourselves; it gives back to the community in myriad ways by supporting social organizations of all kinds.

To shop at the Co-op, I have to economize in other ways. We eat at home, but, then, thanks to my mother and grandmother, I love to cook. And, as a regular shopper at the Lebanon Co-op, I have taken advantage of their new “special deals.” When I give them my membership number at the beginning of the checkout, something I have been doing to my own advantage for years, the savings is automatically credited to my account. This practice of asking for your member number or your card is standard, nothing new, just a way to automatically register your spending and savings. For me, the Co-op is the sustainable jewel in the Upper Valley’s crown.

Judy McCarthy


Garlic Mustard Is Safe to Eat

To the Editor:

I’m writing in response to Henry Homeyer’s excellent article “Wanted Dead — Garlic Mustard” (May 21). There was a great deal of useful information about this potentially devastating invasive plant in the article, and we’d all do well to follow his advice about proactively pulling the weeds whenever we see them in a new area.

As someone who frequently teaches classes on wild edible plants, I received several e-mails from anxious students regarding the line Homeyer wrote about choosing not to eat garlic mustard because of its high cyanide content, and his next sentence connecting the cyanide content with the fact that deer won’t eat garlic mustard. I’d like to offer another view here: First, I strongly suspect that it’s the same garlicky, mustardy flavor that gave this wild plant its name that is keeping the deer away, not the cyanoglycosides. The pungent aroma of wild leeks and cultivated onions and garlic (due to high sulfur content) all keep the deer away as well, yet we safely enjoy these excellent foods.

Second, garlic mustard does have minute quantities of cyanide in it, but so do almonds (both sweet and bitter, though the bitter have much more), and broccoli, apple seeds and many other edible plants. The quantity one would eat in a meal of garlic mustard is very easily within the ability of the liver and kidneys to process and excrete without any symptoms, just as we regularly do with minute doses of other toxins in foods.

Finally, it has been eaten safely (and included in written recipes) in England for more than 500 years, and most authors who discuss garlic mustard’s arrival in North America think it was introduced precisely as a food plant. As a side dish eaten a few times a week (that is, in a pesto) in season, I’m quite sure it’s fine.

Thanks again to Henry Homeyer for a fine article, and I hope we can all join in to pull as much garlic mustard as possible, whether or not we follow up the weeding with a feast.

Mark Kutolowski

Post Mills

Dartmouth’s Tarnished ‘Brand’

To the Editor:

Rick Jurgens’ balanced piece on the Dartmouth “brand” contains a shocking quote epitomizing Dartmouth’s blindness to its sexual assault crisis (“Blemish on the ‘Brand’?” June 8).

Tuck professor Kevin Keller encourages Dartmouth’s leaders, in dealing with its problems, not to hide its strengths lest outside observers are “influenced by certain specifics that don’t necessarily characterize the community as a whole.” For any woman assaulted or raped at Dartmouth, that may be the most painful insult yet.

Sexual assault is fast becoming Dartmouth’s Chevy Cobalt, the occasion for major restructuring, firings, apologies and lawsuits, not an unfortunate blip on the brand. Dartmouth’s core failure in responding to rates of sexual harassment and rape in excess of its Ivy League peers is its state of denial, as if this is a problem that can be compartmentalized. It’s reminiscent of an alcoholic, fresh from months in rehab, saying, “You should have seen those addicts — heroin, cocaine, meth! It’s a good thing I only drink!”

For years, Dartmouth has spun its wheels, debating frats, task forces and more. Meanwhile, the world moves on in two key directions. First, the Education Department’s Clery Act probe of 55 colleges and universities is far less important for any penalties assessed than for the crimes and victimized women its research will unearth, and the likelihood that some of those women will gather together around class-action and RICO lawsuits. The investigations are a long, federally-funded discovery process for almost-certain private lawsuits to follow.

Second is the rising focus among activist women on fighting “rape culture,” cultures where sexual violence is the norm and people aren’t taught not to rape but rather not to be raped. Women opposed to rape culture are choosing to stand up and be counted as victimized not just by their attackers but also by the institutions that enabled their attackers. It’s pretty clear that a college trying not to focus on “certain specifics” threatening to undermine its brand would meet that definition.

As long as Dartmouth students, faculty, administrators and even its Tuck School think that rape is someone else’s problem, the school cannot resolve this crisis. That’s utterly unacceptable.

Jim Shea


Theater and Romance and Fun

To the Editor:

I have just seen a comedy in New London, Arms and the Man, put on by the Northern New England Repertory Theatre Co., a romance full of tongue-and-cheek mischief and fun. George Bernard Shaw was ahead of his time when he wrote this in 1885 about a war in the Balkans. Go see it Thursday, Friday or Saturday at the Colby-Sawyer Center Theater on Colby- Sawyer College’s campus. You will find yourself chuckling throughout this mayhem.

J.L. Tonner

New London