An effort to increase sustainability and self-reliance
The Hancock County Firewood Project seeks to decrease the vulnerability of the inhabitants of the county created by their dependence on oil and propane for home heating. This can be done by shifting economic resources used to buy expensive and environmentally hazardous fuels to the production and consumption of wood in the form of cord wood and wood pellets.
A Human Ecological project
The project seeks to learn as much as possible about different sorts of home heating. This is why it is divided into three different teams that focus on specific tasks: Gray Cox’s team, focused on the cultural side of home heating; Davis Taylor’s team, focused on the economic side; and Don Cass’ team, focused on the public health side.
Why oil might not be such a good idea?
Oil is a non-renewable source of energy. This means that it is becoming more scarce and thus more expensive. On top of this it introduces new carbon dioxide to the carbon cycle contributing to climate change. And although from the homeowner’s perspective it might be safer to use oil for home heating, the health risks are being borne elsewhere: by the workers that extract the oil and by the thousands of people that suffer ailments related to pollution caused by oil extraction.
Advantages of using wood
Perhaps the most obvious advantage that fire wood provides over heating oil is its lower cost, but if this wasn’t enough there’s a plethora of benefits that make firewood a better source of heating: it is local, it does not introduce new carbon to the carbon cycle, it is a renewable source, processing it provides a good exercise, and plenty of opportunities for family and/or neighbor bonding...
Modern consumer vs self-reliant Maine Yankee
The anthropology team of the project has observed that there seem to be two essentially different cultures that influence people’s heating practices. On the one hand there are those who see home heating as a service to be provided by professionals; on the other those who see it as a process that they participate in. This two-cultural-type-model helps us better understand the elements behind people’s choices of heating sources.
The Neighborhood Forest Project
College of the Atlantic’s graduate, Steve Wagner, did exhaustive research on forest management in Maine for his senior project. He discovered that the policy of the state in regard to forest management is flawed: foresters can’t develop management plans for parcels of land smaller than 100 acres. However, even when parcels are smaller than 100 acres more often than not they belong to a larger forest: a neighborhood forest, whose potential -economic, ecological, and aesthetic- might only be realized if it is properly managed. Managing the forest can provide firewood for home heating preserving and even increasing forest health.