a few timely items: solar, taxes, and wetlands

Ok, a blitz of several things here at once.

First, our dear friends at the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy (who were instrumental in guiding our solar energy initiatives) are crowd-funding for another solar project. Phase 1 was for the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens in Ashville, NC. They are now on to Phase 2, a project designed for St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church. See much more at this link, and please consider donating via the PayPal link. Every little bit helps.

Second, it’s tax time. And you know what that means, right? But of course! It’s time to enter “Nongame Wildlife Fund”, it’s 3-digit code (200), and your donation amount on Line 1 of the Schedule 5/Schedule IN-DONATE form, and then add your amount to Line 17 on the main IT-40 form! (Kinda just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?)

Why would you do this? Well, just try looking at these little turtle eyes and telling him “no”.

An Eastern Box Turtle at the edge of a oak woodland in Starke County, IN, May 2020.

You can’t do it, can you?

Game animals in Indiana and elsewhere have a long-running and well-established system of funding through the sale of hunting licenses and special taxes on ammunition. Non-game animals – like bald eagles, box turtles, whooping cranes, and the like – are equally deserving of protection & scientific study. For every $5 donation to the Nongame Wildlife Fund, Indiana is eligible to receive an additional $9 in federal funds. It’s a great way to show your support for wildlife to policymakers. Read more here.

Thirdly, a brief update on the 9th Road Fen restoration project. We just squeezed in the dormant season seeding this week. It was really difficult to time properly; the soils are rich in carbon and very squishy for most of the year, so in order to get a tractor on site without getting stuck, we have to go during or just after a long, deep freeze. We seeded right on top of the snow as the sun was starting to melt the top layer, within just a couple hours, the seeds were melting their way downward to the soil. By the afternoon, the soils were already getting too soft in places, so we switched to hand-seeding. On this scale, it really doesn’t take much longer and allows some additional control. Here are a few photos:

Lastly, the Provincial Leadership of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ have released a statement on SB 389, the proposed legislation that would eliminate protection for isolated wetlands in Indiana. You can read it here.

Marshall County Parks & Recreation welcomes it’s first mountain bike trail (in process)

Last summer, in the midst of COVID-19 turmoil, Marshall County started a new chapter by creating the Marshall County Parks & Recreation Department.

I was asked by the County Council to join the 5-member, all-volunteer board. I was very happy to start this 4 year term, what a privilege!

A view from the DNR’s Mill Pond boat ramp, just north of the county’s Mill Pond property

We have been meeting monthly. Meetings are public, of course. I truly hope we can build a parks department that all residents feel they have ownership of.

Oh, while you’re reading, please click here and (if you have a Facebook account), click “like” on our official page.

walking the Mill Pond property, dreaming

Starting with zero budget and staff presents challenges, but also opportunities. It allows us to be unhindered from the “we’ve always done it that way” attitude that hampers forward movement. We also benefit from fresh energy and perspectives. Building something new is a great was to get people engaged.

The Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) has graciously offered to assist with the creation of a 5 Year Plan, a necessary step for accessing crucial grant funding.

As that gets moving, an ad-hoc committee of mountain biking enthusiasts have already set to work on a new trail at the Mill Pond property. While not an official park yet, Mill Pond is a county-owned property that has been used for a couple decades as a timber harvesting demonstration project.

These volunteers are really restoring my confidence in civic participation… they are pulling together expertise & tools & volunteers to get the work done. When I talked with some of the folks knowledgeable about trail design, I was surprised how much trail we were going to be able to fit on such a small acreage. And now I have just the excuse I needed to buy another bike! Look for soft & hard openings of this trail later in 2021.

Apologies if some of these photos are tilted:

laying out the trail with flags
creating some fun features to play on
avoiding mud ruts with a simple bridge
rock features to make it interesting

While walking the Mill Pond property this summer, we came across a large population of Tall Thistle (Cirsium altissimum). Readers of this blog know that thistles aren’t something to be feared, but celebrated! This Tall Thistle was right at home in a mature hardwood forest, and the plants towered over my head. What a treat! Land stewardship can be daunting, but it’s filled with rewards. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses (or thistles) when you get the chance.

Electric vehicle adverts

Ok, time for a brief moment of funny. Will Ferrell never fails to get a laugh from me.

Did you watch? Ok, now we can finish with the post.

EVs face some marketing challenges in the U.S., to put it lightly. Motoring is so deeply ingrained in American culture & history that our brains have a hard time contemplating any alternative.

With the ad above, GM is attempting to turn this giant Titanic. They recently committed to 100% electric sales within just 14 years. Even so, they only have 1 EV model for sale currently. One!

The infrastructure we decided to build in the U.S. has made a motor vehicle essential for fulling participating in our economic and culture life over most of the U.S.When I got my license in rural Indiana in the 90’s, it was a significant step towards independence. (Although those trends are reversing somewhat, for multiple reasons).

Ok, this post is already getting away from me… focus…

EVs require a shift in expectations of the driving experience. Like almost every new technology, early generations of EVs were expensive and full of compromises. People who jumped in too early or without educating themselves were soured at the experience.

But as supply chains have matured and improvements compound year over year, the market expands to more and more users, and compromises fade or even turn into advantages, all depending on whether the user is a fleet, individual, etc.

Here was a 2018 effort at brand-neutral EV advertising (required from VW’s legal settlement)


Anyway, the rollout has proceeded at different paces around the world, hence the comparison with Norway.

Norway invested heavily in tax incentives & charging infrastructure for EVs. These seem to have overcome some of Norway’s climactic disadvantages (EV’s work even in the bitter cold, but their range can be severely reduced). On the other hand, Norway has a relative small population (less than Indiana) and is mostly urbanized. As a result, EVs accounted for nearly 9 in 10 car sales in December of 2020.

https://i1.wp.com/cleantechnica.com/files/2021/01/IMAGE-December-2020-Norway-Passenger-Auto-Registrations-Tidy.png?w=800&ssl=1

EVs ended the 2020 calendar year with 75% marketshare (the #2 selling model is an American brand, Tesla), which leading the world by far. As recently as 2013, this value was only 5%.

EV sales in Europe really exploded this year, doubling in volume and capturing a full 10% of the marketshare. Many new models were launched. The industry expects that the trend is heading in a single direction, it’s just a matter of the speed.

On this side of the pond, the market was pretty stagnant. Manufacturers have been slow to release new options here and seem to be slow-walking the transition; that said, there are a lot of models rolling out in 2021 and 2022. The U.S. EV marketshare remained around 2% last year, with the state of California leading at 8% (and many other states still under 1%).

Transport emissions have been the #1 source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. for several years now. While advances in engine efficiency continue, this work has been completely swamped/erased by an insatiable appetite for larger vehicles. Not only in the U.S., but around the world. It’s… depressing, and I try not to think about it.

President Biden has promised to convert the federal vehicle fleet (n=650,000) to electric as soon as possible, as well as to incentive the installation of a half million charging stations this decade. But… so far we’ve only had time for promises. Let’s hope these folks can figure things out.

So, is the U.S. going to overtake Norway in EV adoption anytime soon? Uh… no, sorry Will, I don’t see those numbers adding up. But if there’s anything that motivates Americans, it’s a competition, so here we go. Either way, thanks for the laugh Will!

This graph shows not EV marketshare of new sales, but cumulative ownership of all EVs per capita. The northern Indiana region is around 1.0 per 1000 people, growing a good 30-50% per year, but starting from a low number.