ONEONTA – Common Council Tuesday will be asked to approve a contract with REVPAR International Inc., Alexandria, Va., to do a feasibility study on whether a boutique hotel would be successful in downtown Oneonta.
During Mayor Dick Miller’s administration, such a plan was discussed for the lot between Ristorante Stella Luna and Foothills, but the concept did not move forward at that time. The land was owned by the late Gene Bettiol.
Can Human Ingenuity Save Us
From Perils Of Our Successes?
It’s a widespread article of faith that “economic growth” is essential to future prosperity. That’s hardly surprising, since the modern world has been brought into being in less than 200 years by an unprecedented wave of economic growth.
If we go back 200 years – to 1818 – we see there were no automobiles, no airplanes, no railroads, no antibiotics, no anesthesia, no electricity, no central heating, no telecommunications, no refrigerators or appliances, no computers, no internet, no a lot of things.
Life was, comparatively speaking, nasty, brutal, and short.
In 1818 there were about a billion people on the planet. The overwhelming majority were farmers, peasants and artisans, with a thin veneer of landlords, officials, merchants, professionals and entrepreneurs.
Energy came through physical effort, or from water and wind power. Most consumer goods were made on the homestead or in the nearest town. People lived sustainably, whether they liked it or not, dependent as they were on renewable resources and the rhythm of the seasons.
Fossil fuels changed all that. They made explosive economic growth possible. Coal and oil and gas turned out to be much more potent sources of energy than muscle, water or wind.
The energy density of fossil fuels is orders of magnitude greater than muscle power. Try pushing your car when the engine doesn’t work! Further, fossil-fuel-based fertilizers dramatically expanded agriculture and helped support much larger populations.
Fossil fuels also made possible the chief instruments of the industrial revolution – large-scale machines, beginning with railway locomotives and steamships and the steel mills to build them, and on to tractors, bulldozers, motor vehicles, paved roads, power plants, the electric grid, airplanes, appliances and the whole range of modern products and infrastructure.
A famous study, called “Limits to Growth,” published in the 1972 by a team of MIT researchers led by Dennis Meadows, focused on the global resource consumption required for the production of goods and services.
It projected that the depletion of natural resources and the finite capacity of the planet to absorb emissions and other pollutants would force society by the 21st century to divert more and more capital to make up the difference, eventually bringing economic growth as we’ve known it to a halt.
A 30th anniversary edition of the work, in 2002, found its projections confirmed. Since then, the challenges of resource depletion and environmental degradation have only intensified. Economic growth has become increasingly expensive and uncertain.
The steep decline in energy return on energy invested is a good example of the limits to growth, and that’s true of many other resources as well, from fisheries to arable land to clean water.
Around World War II, the return of investment in an oil well was on the order of about 100 to one. It cost about a dollar’s worth of energy to extract $100 worth of energy. That’s $99 of more or less free energy. Today that ratio is down to about 15 to 1, and declining.
Another measure of economic limitation is what economists call the externalities of production, where the costs are born not by the producing enterprise, but by the public or the environment. Industrial pollution – such as General Electric’s release of PCBs polluting the Hudson river – is a classic economic externality. The widespread use of pesticides, which has seriously reduced amphibian, insect, and bird populations, is another of many examples.
Similarly, the climate costs of greenhouse gas emissions – storm damage, wildfires, flooding, loss of property values, stress on agriculture, and the rest – are not priced into the energy economy, but are disproportionately borne by the individuals who suffer them.
The only growth that seems to escape these limits is mental rather than physical – growth of the imagination, of the digital technology of cyberspace, of the production and exchange of ideas, images, and stories and the values they represent.
Many believe that this human ingenuity will also find a way to deal with the undesirable consequences of traditional economic growth. Maybe. So far that remains a hope, not a fact. In the meantime, the obstacles to conventional economic growth continue to increase.
Many ecologists say that we need a sustainable, steady-state economy, not an economy predicated on a belief in endless economic growth. A steady-state economy presumably would wax and wane with the cycles of renewable resources upon which we ultimately have to depend. How that might work, we have yet to figure out.
In that event, we would not have to go back to 1818. Since we have the advantage of all the knowledge and technology accumulated since then, we can hope for efficiencies that would give us more energy than we could find back then.
If the limits to growth are as real as they seem to be, we may have little choice but to relearn how to live within the ecological budget of our physical home, of our planet.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.
GET KIDS OUT – 10 – 11:30 a.m. Bring kids out for Columbus day, explore world of trees. Kids explore property, learn tree identification, understand trees roles in world, have fun. Mohican Farm, 7207 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-547-4488 or visit occainfo.org/calendar/get-the-kids-out-trees/
GARDEN CLUB – 7 p.m. Presentation by Dr. Robinson, curator of The Jewell and Arline Moss Settle Herbarium containing specimens from the North East spanning 1898-2015. Learn about history, function of teaching herbariums, their importance to past, future of plants. Club also offering free bags of daffodil bulbs. Includes refreshments, free, open to public. St. James Episcopal Church, 305 Main St., Oneonta. E-mail Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org
FIBER ARTS FEST – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Explore world of natural fibers through demonstrations, exhibits, hands-on-activities showing how they’re harvested, processed, transformed to wearable, utilitarian, and decorative items. Included with admission, $12/adult. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1450 or visit www.farmersmuseum.org/fiber-weekend
Bryan Stevenson, above, author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” presents this year’s Mills Distinguished Lecture at the SUNY Oneonta Alumni Field House this evening. Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson spoke on ways the audience might go about changing the world. “Our capacity to change our world is waiting for us with the poor and excluded.” he said. “We cannot get to where we want to go if we are unwilling to change our narrative.” He went to highlight the importance of telling the truth and staying hopeful and to be willing to talk about things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. At right: David Brenner, a College Council member, and Sid and Deb Parisian sit enraptured. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Otsego County needs a new direction for energy and economic development. An important step to that end was taken last week when the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee endorsed the idea of setting up an energy and economic development task force.
Kudos to them! A county-wide task force would give us two things we don’t have now: long-term economic planning and a wide range of interests and expertise systematically participating in local decision-making.
We’re increasingly recognizing how vulnerable we are. We depend on long supply lines for food, energy and necessities. As climate change accelerates, those supply lines become less reliable.
We read, almost daily, of one disaster after another regionally, nationally, and internationally: mega-hurricanes, severe droughts, enormous wildfires, melting polar ice, mass extinctions, etc.
No place is immune from climate change, not even Otsego County. Nonetheless, our quiet corner of the planet looks more and more like a refuge compared to many in other places, and that may be our greatest asset.
In fact, climate change may have some advantages for us: milder winters, a longer growing season, plenty of water.
We may be more resilient as well – thanks to a lower population density – than overdeveloped areas, including coastal cities in the South and drought-prone regions in the West, which now bear much of the brunt of climate change.
We need an economic plan that builds on sustainable assets, not on unsustainable liabilities.
Our sustainable assets include, above all, an uncrowded, serene, clean, safe, attractive and relatively stable environment – something increasingly rare in a world of accelerating climate change.
We have an underutilized rural base, including agriculture, forestry and the potential of value-added products. Farming has not recovered from the death-blow to the dairy industry, it’s true, but if local boutique and organic farmers had more financial support and better distribution systems, they could be more competitive and develop new local products.
We have a high-quality health care system, and we often forget it is our major industry. Even so, it has yet to realize its full potential as a magnet for medical and nursing care.
Bassett Healthcare, as an integrated medical system, provides a superior level of care that could be coupled with additional facilities for assisted living, similar to those in other locales around the country. An aging population will demand it, and we could supply it.
We have, in Oneonta, institutions of higher learning that could be further developed and better folded into the community. Curriculum innovation and more partnerships between the colleges and local institutions and businesses – after the model of the Hartwick College nursing program – could make it possible for more students to stay on in our communities after graduation, as we see in other college and university towns.
Tourism has become the main interface between Otsego county and the world. Our cultural attractions – events, concerts, festivals, galleries, and museums – could be expanded even further. But tourism works only insofar as the powerful symbiosis between our cultural assets and the historical aura and natural beauty of the area is maintained.
Tourism needs to be kept proportional and diversified, so as not to overwhelm the fabric of local life.
And, perhaps most important of all, we have a steady in-migration of people looking for second homes, or retirement living, or the opportunity to conduct internet-related businesses and raise families in a new setting, away from the urban madness.
These new immigrants are attracted by the natural assets they find here, as well as good schools, good healthcare, a lively cultural scene, and a vibrant civic life worth being a part of.
They want sustainability, which we can offer, in contrast to the increasingly unsustainable systems they’re looking to escape.
If I were to make an optimistic prediction about the future of our communities in response to the growing ecological and economic crises, I would look to a synthesis of high-tech internet with a rural, family-oriented lifestyle.
Such a synthesis would realize participation in the global economy with the virtues of small town and country living.
If this is to be our future, if these are the people we want to attract, then we need universal broadband to sustain the economy, as well as renewable energy to preserve a clean and beautiful local environment.
That’s where our investments ought to be going.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.
PORTLANDVILLE – Anita Marie McChesney, 56, Portlandville, devoted to operating her family’s business, Mount Vision Garden Center, while becoming dedicated nature photographer, passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, at Albany Medical Center following her struggle with breast cancer.
Anita was born May 14, 1962, in Oneonta. Shortly thereafter, her parents moved to New Jersey where she spent the first 15 years of her life. The family then moved to Mount Vision, where they established the Mount Vision Garden Center.
FLEETWOOD MAC – 7 p.m. Performance by Tusk, Fleetwood Mac Tribute band, performing some of their greatest hits. Cost, $35 in front half of theater. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. 607-431-2080 or visit foothillspac.org
THEATER – 7 p.m. Performance by Tom Morgan “Tales from the Empire” telling story of the Morgan family, former owners of The Empire Hotel in Gilbertsville. Adapted from autobiographical stories in newspaper columns, radio show “Moneytalk.” Cost, $15/adult. Auditorium, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/calendar-a
125 Years Ago
The bright, spring-like weather of Friday and Saturday last, a warm sun shining on bare ground, was succeeded by a dark day Sunday, and that night began the heaviest snowfall of the season. The wind came up with the day, and the dry, powdery snow still falling, drifts formed very quickly. The scene on Main Street Tuesday morning was Arctic enough – nothing in sight but great heaps and long reaches of dazzling snow, with here and there a puzzled wayfarer; and nothing astir but the snow shovel. Toward noon things wore a livelier aspect, and many got out to enjoy the fine sleighing, while trade went on in a small way. But, it was a pretty dull day in the stores and business places. Not a stage or a train the whole day long and most of the telephone and telegraph lines down. Wednesday brought a marked change. The day dawned bright, the sun shone warm and the whole countryside was soon up and armed with shovels to clear the roads. The stage from Davenport was the first one to reach Oneonta, getting here about noon. That from Morris arrived toward night – having toiled through mighty drifts. The Hartwick stage pulls through today and perhaps that from Delhi, though the drifts on the hills are of fifty to a hundred feet at a stretch and six to eight feet deep.
100 Years Ago
Saturday night the local high school quintet played the Morris team on the latter’s court and were victorious by the score of 56 to 13. The game was rather one-sided, but nevertheless interesting. The team work of the Oneonta boys was excellent and aided materially in winning the game. Soden and Gregory of Oneonta were the stars of the game, the former throwing ten baskets and the latter seven. Bull, the fast left guard of the Oneonta team, was unable to go with the team and Manager Polley was substituted in his place. He too, played a good game, holding his man down to one lone basket, while he caged the sphere three times himself.
60 Years Ago
Camilla Williams, leading soprano of the New York City Opera Co. for five years, will be heard at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, in State Teachers College auditorium in the third and final program of the 1952-1953 Community Concert Series. As a concert singer she has captivated audiences from Venezuela to northern Alaska, and as a soloist with orchestras she has won the praise of noted conductors, among them Stowkowski. She is the first prima donna of the Negro race who had a steady job in a major opera company. Early in 1946 she auditioned for Laszlo Halasz, director of the New York City Opera Company and soon broke tradition by creating the most talked of post-war Cio-Cio-San in Madame Butterfly. Her roles have been Nedda in Pagliacci, Mimi in Lae Boheme, and the title role in Aida. She has sung excerpts from Butterfly on the Kate Smith television hour. MGM and Columbia records have released a number of her selections.
40 Years Ago
Bicycling shoppers will get a place to “park” their bicycles on Main Street, if locations suggested by the city’s Anti-Pollution Board are accepted. The merchants division of the Chamber of Commerce has offered to put up bicycle racks and the Common Council asked the Anti-Pollution Board to suggest locations for the racks. Anti-Pollution board members decided to ask for bicycle racks on each Main Street downtown block, one on each side of the street from Chestnut Street to Dietz Street to Ford Avenue. It will be suggested that another bicycle rack be placed on the north side of the Main Street block from Ford Avenue to Elm Street. Other racks would also be recommended for each park and in the municipal parking lot. The city will celebrate Earth Week in conjunction with the State’s Earth Week from April 9 to 15.
30 Years Ago
Americans are among the world’s most satisfied people and are more likely to believe in heaven than in hell, according to a poll taken in 16 countries. Danes and Swedes also rank among the world’s most content people. However, Japanese, Italians and Spanish ranked as the most dissatisfied. The report also found that 80 percent of Americans and 55 percent of British were “very proud” of their nationality, but only 21 percent of East Germans, 30 percent of Japanese and 33 percent of French said they feel that way. Asked if they would fight for their country in a war, 71 percent of Americans and 62 percent of British citizens said they would.
20 Years Ago
Opinion: Few people were surprised when they heard that Michael Griffin, dressed in his Sunday best, armed with a 38-caliber revolver, had shot Dr. David Gunn in the back. It was inevitable, said a pro-choice leader, who heard about the murder. “While Gunn’s death is unfortunate,” said Don Treshman of Rescue America, “it’s also true that quite a number of babies’ lives will be saved.” “While it is wrong to kill,” said Randall Terry of Operation Rescue, “we have to recognize that this doctor was a mass murderer.” “Praise God,” said a protester at a clinic in Melbourne, Florida. “One of the baby killers is dead!” If abortion is murder, after all, then the moral arithmetic taught by this rhetoric would seem to justify killing one life to save hundreds. Michael Griffin cannot become the next step on an escalator of violence. He must be the last step.
10 Years Ago
City police and troopers raided downtown bars Friday night, arresting more than a dozen on charges of underage drinking. Law enforcement officials hit 10 bars during the raid and arrested 16 people for underage possession of alcohol. Two bartenders were also arrested for prohibited sales. Oneonta police Lt. Joseph Redmond said the raid went smoothly and promised his department would have more officers on duty for St. Patrick’s Day. The department also met with bar owners.
YARN CLUB – 6 – 7:30 p.m. Knitter, Crocheter’s of all skill levels meet to work on projects. Accompanied youths welcome. The Study, Huntington Memorial Library, 62 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Call 607-432-1980 or visit hmloneonta.org/adult-programs/
HOLIDAY MARKET – 5 – 7 p.m. The Taj Garage comes early. Visiting artist Steve Clorfeine, poet, world traveler, teacher, more, presents items from Nepal, India. Includes handcrafted items from silk, cotton, sculpture, paintings, dolls, more. Find great wedding, holiday presents. Show continues thru 8/26. The Art Garage, 689 Beaver Meadow Rd., Cooperstown. 607-547-5327 or visit www.facebook.com/TheArtGarageCooperstown/
FINE CRAFTS – 5 – 7 p.m. Opening reception for Fine Crafts Invitational exhibit “Made in New York: Earth, Wind & Sky” with joint Miniature Show inspired by Thomas Cole. Displayed thru 9/21. Cooperstown Art Association. 607-547-9777 or visit www.cooperstownart.com
O-COUNTY FAIR – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. See best Otsego County has to offer. Daily shows, rides, more. Highlights include demolition derby, cake walk, chain saw art auction, goat show, dessert contest, more. Otsego County Fair, Mills St., Morris. 607-263-5289 or visit www.otsegocountyfair.org
MUSIC FESTIVAL – 7:30 p.m. Enjoy music by world renowned jazz guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli with Mike Karn, bass, and Andy Watson, drums. Trio performs works by George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim, others. Ballroom, The Otesaga, Cooperstown. 800-838-3006 or visit www.cooperstownmusicfest.org/events/