If Anita Bryant is right and a day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine, then an Apple Days without apples is like a cold, windy day in October without sunshine. It wasn’t really all that bad—it could have rained. Blame it on an off year for the apple trees, plus a long rainy spring that was lousy for pollination, but apples were hard to find. Despite a concerted community effort to comb every pock-faced apple off of every tree, there was barely a bushel to show for it. Still, in typical Marlboro fashion the students did not let it get them down, and they pressed that bushel of apples into the most delicious looking quart of cider this side of Route 9. There was also music, dancing, donuts hanging on strings, hacky-sack and shoulder rubs all around for those who love to be outside in the cold and wonder where the apples are.
Of course the highlight of every Apple Days, except for those unfortunate enough to participate, is the apple-pie eating contest. Six teams of two paired up across the table from each other, and after much animated discussion all agreed not to use their hands. What followed is so disgusting I really can’t relate it without taking some Dramamine first, but needless to say it got a little messy. Several contestants passed entire apple slices through their noses, and in the end I swear junior Georgio Tsangaris still had half a pie in his cheeks. In the pan-licking finale, two teams came in at a draw, freshmen Ned White and Noah Cook, known as “the devourers,” and juniors Devin Willmott and Devin Green, known as “the Devins.” In the best Marlboro democratic tradition the rightful winners were put to a voice vote, but that still sounded like a tie (there was no movement for an Australian ballot) so the four pie-smeared victors shared the coveted prize, a purportedly solid gold apple.
If you will suffer me being serious for a moment here, the earth is in seriously deep doodoo. That was the message of the lecture last night by Vermont Law School professor Pat Parenteau, who has made a career of environmental conservation law. This man had more depressing statistics at his fingertips than anyone I have ever met, and he shared them with such authority that the group sense of gloom in Ragle Hall was palpable. For example, an estimated 27,000 species will go extinct this year, and the rate is rising steadily. One species alone (guess who) consumes half of the biomass consumed on earth. People in the U.S. produce eight times more greenhouse gasses, per capita, than people in China do. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Pat’s talk was titled, “Can the Endangered Species Act Save the Polar Bear?” and the short answer is “no.” Although the ESA is considered one of the most powerful tools in conservation, with many successes from bald eagles to black-footed ferrets, our man Pat judged the law inadequate to deal with widely expected level of climate change. Polar bears make their living hunting on the Arctic ice, which literally has a snowball’s chance in hell. The Arctic Ocean is expected to be ice-free in the summer by 2013 (that’s when this year’s freshmen will graduate, in case you’re not paying attention), and polar bears will be reduced to two-thirds their population by the end of the century. Ouch. Ouch. “No matter what the ESA does, the future is forfeited on polar bears,” Pat said.
This somber news definitely got under my skin, but of course that was Pat’s purpose. He hopes that by forecasting mostly cloudy and extinctions for polar bears and many other species (between one third and two thirds the species on earth)(ouch) he will inspire people to act, to speak out, to contact their representatives. He even encouraged all of us to contact senators and congressmen in other states, for example where coal is king and corn ethanol is queen. With some pressure on the home front, the U.S. may show stronger leadership in the next international climate treaty, replacing the Kyoto Protocol, to be hammered out at a climate conference in Copenhagen this December. On a hopeful note, Marlboro sophomore Drew Tanabe will be at that very conference representing SustainUS, a national youth NGO promoting sustainable development.