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Editorials
Doubting science, reviving disease PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 15:48

Refusing childhood vaccinations, a gift of science that has spared the world untold death and suffering, raises the spectre of resurging disease

Even in annals of human folly that are replete with mind-boggling foolishness the small but dangerous anti-child-vaccination movement stands out as a depressing step backward in a society in which enlightenment is supposed to be advancing.

    If what follows were not documented it would be impossible to believe: Science conquers diseases that have ravaged humanity for centuries and saves millions of lives and eliminates untold suffering by developing vaccines that prevent measles, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough and other scourges, yet some parents refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated.

    The consequences of this go beyond leaving the children of the vaccination deniers vulnerable. When vaccination levels in a community fall below a critical threshold, outbreaks of diseases that should never be seen again are possible.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an example in San Diego that sounds like something out of the terrifying movie “Contagion.” A 7-year-old boy contracted measles in Switzerland and passed it on to 11 other unvaccinated children in his school and even at his pediatrician’s office. A infant who caught the disease in the doctor’s office traveled on a plane to Hawaii while still infectious.

     Measles can cause potentially fatal pneumonia and encephalitis.

    The CDC says a community needs to have 95% of its residents vaccinated to prevent measles outbreaks. There are places in the United States where the vaccination rate is less than 80%.

    Wisconsin is far better than that, but even here resistance to vaccinating children is troubling. As in all states, Wisconsin children are required by law to be vaccinated before attending school. But exemptions for religious reasons are allowed, and some parents refuse on grounds of their own choosing.    


     Health officials surmise that some young parents who are vaccination resisters and were born after immunization had all but eradicated infectious childhood diseases just don’t understand what a menace curses like polio once were to the lives of children and their families. They would learn all too soon if their ideas took hold.

    Misinformation fuels vaccination resistance. The claim that vaccinations cause autism, though thoroughly debunked by numerous studies, has a diminishing but still significant number of believers. Other parents contend children can be harmed by getting too many shots in the first two years of their lives.

    There is ample precedent for the sort of science doubting that vaccination resisters practice. In the United States, polls show the number of people who doubt that global warming is caused by manmade carbon emissions, as a worldwide consensus of scientists has concluded with overwhelming evidence, is growing.

    There are even signs of a resurgence in attacks on that granddaddy of scientific punching bags, evolution. The state of Tennessee recently enacted a law that facilitates the teaching of creationism as an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution, even as scientific discoveries continue to expand the understanding of the evolution of life that has been proven by carbon dating to have been present on earth for millions of years.

    Anti-science notions thrive in blogs and faux journalism sites on the Internet, where it seems no idea is too far off the wall to be taken as fact. An inoculation to protect against susceptibility to online gullibility would be helpful.

    Unfortunately, science hasn’t crossed that frontier, but it has given man the ability to wipe out a host of diseases that bring death and suffering, especially to children.

    Shame on us if we don’t use that ability.

 
A few chickens won’t make the sky fall PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 16:10

The Fredonia Village Board gets it that people expect their communities to be open to diverse ways of making the most of small-town life—including raising chickens

These are trying times for municipal officials who like things in their jurisdictions to be neat and tidy and regulated to a nitpicker’s fine point. Increasingly these days, people are expecting their small towns to be more than just safe places where the potholes get filled and the snow plowed. They want their communities to be open to diversity in the ways of small-town living and tolerant of efforts to revive ideas of sustainability that were once fundamental but then wrongly discarded as out of step with modern society.

    The Fredonia Village Board seems to get that, thanks to a tutorial from a 12-year-old boy.

    The boy, Trevor Krause, asked the village for permission to raise 10 chickens at his home in the Oakwood Forest subdivision this summer. His request came with a comprehensive brief he prepared to help officials fashion an ordinance that would allow and regulate small-scale chicken raising. He included sample ordinances from other municipalities and even suggested restrictions that could be applied in Fredonia.

    The request, along with Trevor’s research,  was referred to the Plan Commission, which promptly doused it in cold water and recommended that chicken keeping continue to be outlawed in the village. So much for encouraging youthful initiative.

    But a funny thing happened to the Plan Commission recommendation when it reached the Village Board—the board ignored it. The supervisors not only dismissed the planners’ objections, they gave Trevor and his family a warm welcome at the board meeting, listened attentively as he stated his case, offered encouraging comments and agreed to hold a public hearing on an ordinance allowing chicken raising.


    Trevor made a persuasive case, but even without it this should not be a hard sell. Chickens in small numbers (preferably not including roosters that issue their cock-a-doodle-doo wake-up calls at dawn) are hardly nuisances. Residents are allowed to raise small broods of chickens in many Wisconsin communities, including the upscale Milwaukee suburbs of Shorewood and Glendale. No Ozaukee County municipalities do yet, but rather than a precedent to follow, that should be taken as sign that we’re a little behind the times around here.

    The complaint by Fredonia Village President and Plan Commission chairman Chuck Lapicola that enforcing a chicken ordinance would be a burden for the village seems far-fetched. Would the village have to hire a chicken inspector? Would the village marshal have to be dispatched to bust overpopulated hen houses? Not likely.

    Fredonia should lead the way in Ozaukee County in opening the door to chickens and support a young man who has the makings of a chicken-raising poster boy.

    The Fredonia Plan Commission’s dim view of chicken husbandry brings to mind Port Washington’s misguided efforts last year to prohibit bees and natural lawns from flourishing within its borders. The public disapproved of both examples of regulatory zealotry, and as a result ordinances are now on the books that permit beekeeping and lawns made of flowers and plants other than basic grass.

    Citizens are leading their elected representatives in these areas. It was like pulling teeth for a disciple of community gardening to get the City of Port Washington to designate a small piece of land for a public garden. But it finally happened, and now the Port community garden, even before the first radish has broken the soil, is a smashing success, with a hardy corps of volunteers and 40 plots rented.

    So is Port Washington ready for chickens? It could be if a fresh-egg fancier stepped up and pressed the issue. There’s a young man in Fredonia who has plenty of information to share to help make the case that chickens should be part of the community. 

 
The anxiety of sharing nature PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 15:35

The Town of Grafton’s hiking and riding trail fits with its enlightened approach to open space protection and deserves residents’ support

A 15-mile trail through the countryside connecting natural areas and parks for walkers and horseback riders is just what you would expect from the Town of Grafton, a once-agricultural township that has become a leader in the preservation of environmentally significant open space in Ozaukee County.

    The Town of Grafton was instrumental in the Lion’s Den Nature Preserve, working with Ozaukee County and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust to create a nature park of dramatic topography and sea views on the shore of Lake Michigan. The nature trail that will eventually run the length of the township is in keeping with that vision.

    The Lion’s Den land east of County Highway C three miles south of Port Washington could have been a luxury home development. That was in the offing, and it certainly would have inflated the town’s tax base, but at the expense of denying public access to some of the last undeveloped lakeshore land in the county.

     Lead by Town Chairman Lester Bartel, the Grafton Town Board provided crucial support for what has become a popular retreat for nature lovers, bird-watchers, hikers and beachcombers. In that spirit, environmental protection has also flourished in the town through such initiatives as the Ulao Creek Partnership and landowners’ conservation easements and now the nature trail project being overseen by the town’s Open Space Commission.

    The trail is a long-term work in progress, and that work has only just begun with a one-mile stretch along Falls Road between Highway C and Lake Shore Road. Nonetheless there is a move afoot to block the trail as it is now planned.

    A petition signed by more than 20 residents opposed to the trail was presented to the Town Board April 11. Some of the signers cited concerns about safety, littering and intrusions on private property.


     Disappointing as it is, this response hardly comes as a shock. Variations of it appear frequently when public use of land near private properties is proposed. Fear of the proximity of strangers to residential properties is perhaps understandable, but it also tends to be exaggerated.

    There are numerous examples around the county where public spaces and nearby homes coexist with few if any problems. The Ozaukee Interurban Trail passes next to numerous back yards on its route through the length of the county; the trail’s neighbors as well as strangers are among its enthusiastic users.

    People pass close to homes when visiting natural areas in the county, such the Sauk Creek Nature Preserve in Port Washington that borders on residential neighborhoods, without conflict.

    The objecting Town of Grafton of residents obviously are not thrilled by the prospect of watching hikers or riders striding or clip-clopping past their properties, but this doesn’t cut it as a persuasive reason to oppose a public nature trail.

    A meeting between town officials and the petitioners may clear the air. Some of the property owners’ worries may be allayed. The petitioners may have constructive suggestions for the trail. In any case, the trail project should go forward.

    The trail concept—such a good idea for quiet, low impact access to the green spaces and natural beauty of the town’s fortunate geography—needs support, not opposition. Easements from property owners would enhance the quality of the trail, which otherwise will have to be built in road rights of way. Property tax revenue will not be used for the project, so financing help, as in grants from the state and other sources, will be important.    

    The best outcome of current conflict would be that the objecting residents come to see that having the trail nearby is not a nuisance, but an asset that contributes to the high quality of life in the Grafton countryside.

    That’s not far-fetched. Ads for the Waterstone residential development near the trail route boast of proximity to the Town of Grafton’s natural assets, including Lion’s Den, as reasons to buy property in the subdivision.


 
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