2016 BND Winter Coat Exchange sites

If you can donate a coat, please do so.,  If you can organize a coat  collection, please do so.  If you need a coat, please come take one off the racks.  Free, no questions asked.


2016 Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange
Sites and Schedules

Coat Drive Date: Friday November 25th, 2016


Providence: State House Lawn – Across from the Mall
RAIN LOCATION: Gloria Dei Church 15 Hayes Street
Coats given away and collected November 25 from 9 AM to 1 PM

Greg Gerritt: 331-0529 gerritt@mindspring.com

Phil Edmonds philwhistle@gmail.com

Lauren and Pam Testoni – lmtest5189@gmail.com


Drop off location


Bell St chapel   5 Bell Street Coats can be dropped off between 9:30 – 1:30 M-F at the house next to Chapel and on Sundays from 8:30-12:00. There will also be a box on the porch for drop off coats.

Rochambeau Library   708 Hope St   Coats may be dropped off during Library Hours until November 22


Other Participating Sites:


Cumberland: St. Patrick’s Church Lawn – 301 Broad Street
Coats given away and collected November 25 from 9 AM to 11 AM

Contact Molly Cabatingan at (401) 334-9639 or at troop415cumberland@gmail.com



Newport: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church – 12 Marlborough Street
Coats given away and collected November 25 from 10 AM to 2 PM

Contact: Office Administrator: Ralph Petrarca 401- 846-0966 stpaulnpt@gmail.com
Office hours are 9AM – Noon, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday



Pawtucket:    Salvation Army 102 High St Multipurpose room

Coats collected and given away Friday, November 25 10AM -2PM



Coats accepted at many other locations in Pawtucket all through November during business hours including:

  • Paul’s Church, 50 Park Place
  • City of Pawtucket, City Hall- Mayor’s Office and Slater Park Office
  • Pawtucket Library, 13 Summer Street
  • Pawtucket Credit Union-all Pawtucket branches 1200 Central Ave, 727 Central, Broadway, Smithfield Ave.
  • Ama’s Variety Store, 957 Main Street
  • Woodlawn Community Center, 210 West Avenue
  • Ahlers Designs, 999 Main Street- Studio 707
  • Providence Yarn, 50 Division St

Drop-off sites in other communities to be distributed in Pawtucket

  • Brown University Campus- Collecting November 1-18th ONLY
  • Camera Werks – 766 Hope Street Providence, RI
  • Gent’s Barbershop/Spa – Cranston, RI
  • Home and Hospice Care of RI – 1085 North Main Street Providence, RI
  • It’s Your Body’s Symphony – Johnston, RI
  • Villa at St. Antoines –North Smithfield, RI


Contact: Arthur Pitt 401-369-1918 kingarthur@yahoo.com


Wakefield: St. Francis Assisi Church – 114 High Street
Coats Collected and given away November 25 10AM to Noon

Contact: Dana Hawkins danahawk10@gmail.com


Warwick: Woodbury Union Church – 58 Beach Avenue Conimicut Village
Coats collected and given away November 25th from 10am to 12 noon

Good condition winter coats, jackets, vests, gloves, mittens, and scarves. Winter wear for all ages available to pick-up.
Church phone number: 401-737-8232. E-mail contact: jtarring@verizon.net.




Greater Providence YMCA Sites
Collection and Distribution
All sites collecting coats throughout November
Most sites distributing coats on November 25 9AM to 1PM
Bayside YMCA – 70 West Street, Barrington
Collection and distribution site

Distribution Friday November 25th

Contact: Tricia Driscoll 401-245-2444
Drop off and pick up site


Cranston YMCA – 1225 Park Avenue, Cranston
Collection and distribution site
Distribution Friday November 25th
Contact: Senior Director Andrea Champagne 401-943-0444 achampagne@gpymca.org


Kent County YMCA – 900 Centerville Road, Warwick
Collection and distribution site

Distribution –Friday November 25th

Contact: Gwen Redmond



West Bay Family YMCA Branch – 7540 Post Road, North Kingstown
Collection and distribution site
Distribution Friday November 25th 9 AM – 1 PM
Contact: Gwen Redmond


South County YMCA

Distribution Friday November 25th 9 AM – 1 PM

165 Broad Rock Rd, Peace Dale, RI 02883

(401) 783-3900


East Side/Mount Hope – 438 Hope Street, Providence
Drop off coats throughout November
Not a distribution site –    Collection only
Contact: Laurie Pansa


Newman YMCA – 472 Taunton Avenue Seekonk, MA

Drop off coats throughout November
Not a distribution site –  Collection only
Contact: Welcome Center Director Paula Roy 508-336-7103 proy@gpymca.org


Providence Youth Services – 640 Broad Street, Providence

Drop off coats throughout November
Not a distribution site – Collection only
Contact: Welcome Center Director Christy Clausen 401-521-0155 cclausen@gpymca.org


October 25 2016 sustainability talk

I am Greg Gerritt coordinator of the Environment Council of Rhode Island’s Compost Initiative.  I am going to give you something a bit different today.  While I am an experienced home composter, getting my start  cleaning sheep barns in rural Maine 35 years ago for a cut of the manure, I am not the person to explain all of the nuance of compost chemistry, hot composting, anaerobic digestion, vermiculture, using compost to create hot water, or any of the other variations and permutations in compost.

Most of what ECRI’s Compost Initiative does these days is put on the annual RI Compost Conference and Trade Show, the next one will be March 9 at RIC, happy to talk to you today about participating, so I do try to be aware of what is going on in RI so I can find good speakers and exhibiters.  ECRI has a lobbying arm, so in the early years of the Compost Initiative  I took a role in getting new compost legislation and regulations put into place so that the industry could gain a foothold and grow in Rhode island.

Compost is incredibly important to the future prosperity of our communities.  As the climate changes, California runs out of water,  and the economy slows, Rhode Island is going to need to grow an ever greater percentage of the food consumed here.  5, 10, 20 times what we grow now.  And the only way to make this happen is to capture every compostable and get it composted and back onto the soil.  Compost is also part of what we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint to zero as methane generated in landfills from food scrap is a major greenhouse gas contributor.

So far the only new medium to large scale compost business success I know of in Rhode island since we started the annual compost conferences is the Compost Plant which hauls compostables from many large institutions and food businesses.  I saw them picking up at the hospital in my neighborhood this weekend. At the community scale the last few years we have seen a major increase in home composting, many new community garden compost programs, the development of a Vermiculture cooperative, a compost tea operation, and a few microbusinesses/cooperatives.

Many of you are experts on some part of this equation, compost, solar energy, digesters, and are looking for business opportunities.  I am a green activist who has been part of sustainability efforts for more than 35 years. So I am going to talk about what I understand sustainability is. Maybe this will help us put a little more context around our discussions at this conference and beyond.
Most of the definitions of sustainability refer to the triple bottom line, community, business, and environment.  Nice idea, but I have yet to see anything coming out of that intersection that meets my criteria for sustainable.    My criteria is that if something is to be sustainable, it must heal the fabric of the ecosystem and the community.  It is not enough to merely slow down the rate of destruction, the destruction must be reversed.  The reason I say that is because the ecosystems of our planet are already so severely damaged that only by reversing the damage, by healing the systems, can we reach a place were we are finding the resources we need to thrive without doing more harm.

I do not know how many of you know about Overshoot day.  The idea of Overshoot day is that at some point during the year people have exploited and appropriated all of the biologically renewable production of the planet for the whole year.  This is just what people use, it does not even take into account all of the resources needed to feed the wild animals.  This year it was earlier than ever, August 8.  Last year it was August 13.  That means that every tree cut after August 8 this year, every bit of soil washed to the river and to the sea, every fish in the ocean captured was depleting the capital of the Earth.  Which means for 4 months each year, for 1/3 of all the biological resources taken by people this year, we are diminishing the biological richness of planet Earth.  The result.  The global forest shrinks each year, more species go extinct, more rural people experience hunger, and there are fewer fish in the sea and animals in the forest.  If there is less each and every year, how can we call that sustainable?  Within a couple of years we shall need two planets just to supply us with the resources we use each year. And what about the wild?  50% of the wild animals on earth have disappeared in the last 50 years, and the pace is picking up. Unless Overshoot day is December 31 each year we are in for tough sledding.

Do not get me wrong. I care how many green features or alternative energy systems go into the buildings, I put solar panels on my house in 1985, we need them desperately. But if we are doing them in the context of the continued destruction of planetary ecosystems, then we are pissing into the wind.
This same principle applies to all the discussion of how much more efficient we are, and how that is sustainable.  The simple reality is that all of the efficiencies we have garnered have still not actually reduced consumption in any meaningful way. If it is cheap and efficient many more people join the market and the overall effect is still faster depletion, more pollution and a faster increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.    So while you save money and energy, more CO2 ends up in the atmosphere.  And it seems to work like this for almost everything.,  Show me examples of when we became more efficient the overall use of a substance on planet earth went down.  Iron?  Steel?  Wood?  Concrete? Plastic? Rare earths? We just keep using more and that is not sustainable on planet Earth.
A key factor to think about when pondering a sustainable economy is that infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. I have never heard any mainstream discussion of sustainability without the terms sustainable growth being used.  There is no sustainable growth on a finite planet.   According to more and more experts, the economic growth rates seen routinely between 1948 and 1973 were likely the highest growth rates that will ever be seen for a generational period on a global basis. Right now the global GDP growth rate is about 3% and no one is predicting it will go up any time soon.  Or ever.   If places like China are growing 6% a year, and India and Indonesia are growing at 5%, then places like the USA and Europe are going to be filled with many many pockets of growth in the 1 – 2% range like Rhode Island usually has. Simple math.

The important factoid is that Rhode Island does not have the conditions for rapid GDP growth. The two main factors for rapid growth are a population experiencing rapid growth through immigration by displaced rural populations becoming the first generation city dwellers, or a natural resource boom.  There are a few cities in the USA that do meet that criteria, often the latter part, but a few places are still seeing immigration of first generation urban dwellers. Rhode Island sees only a trickle.  Nor do we have an abundance of previously untapped natural resources, with the exception of wind and sun and food scrap.  No one is going to reopen the coal mine in Garden City, bog iron is not worth mining these days, we do not have the forests to burn to smelt it, and we do not have any shale formations with gas to frack.  If you look at the USA, (or for that matter any country on planet Earth) nearly every state with high growth rates is having some kind of fossil fuel (coal or fracking) or mineral boom,   In Rhode Island we shall get an economic wind power boost, and we need more agriculture, but no matter what we will be a low growth rate state, with what little growth we get siphoned off by the 1% if we continue on our current trajectories.  So how do we create prosperity in a zero or very low growth environment?  That is a question our politicians are not asking, and I think that an alternative economic strategy built around community sustainability might be much better for the 99% than the current real estate investment driven economic development strategy that only benefits those who already own property and a thin slice of highly educated folks, while driving everyone else out of their homes with gentrification and making their skills obsolete. How do we create prosperity in the nearly jobless future?

Another factor to include in your thinking about the future of the economy is the state of the global forest.  It is interesting that at about the same time we have destroyed half the global forest half of the global population has become urbanized.  But we are unlikely to be able to build a true Earthcity simply because we shall run out of forests first.  It is virtually impossible to build cities without cutting down a huge swath of forest.  And as the forests disappear the ones we cut to build cities are in ever more remote places, and ever more important to keep standing as a bulwark against runaway climate change.

I spent a number of years working to save Maine’s forests from clearcutting. Eventually it was documented that wood was being cut 20% faster than it was growing each year. In the counties in the heart of the industrial woods it was being cut 3 to 4 times faster than it was growing. This at a time when the entire industry, from woods to mills, was already shedding jobs. We pointed out that current cutting practices were going to end very soon and that the loss of forest would bring many headaches to Northern and Western Maine. We lost that campaign, but within 5 years the cutting practices had changed and the amount of wood being cut was reduced to less than was growing each year. Unfortunately the jobs never came back.
Recently more and more economists are looking at the role of debt in our society and realizing that debt is being used to move wealth from the community to the 1%.  The problem with this is that just like cutting more wood than grows each year, siphoning off money to the 1% grinds economies to a halt and everyone, or nearly everyone, ends up owing more to the banks than they can reasonably pay back in a low growth economy. Creditors take the house, the farm, the whatever.  Eventually many societies in the past had to do one of two things to escape the debt trap. Either declare jubilee and wipe out debts to the banks, or undergo revolution and kill the landlords.  Only very occasionally have societies opted for more democracy and banned debt peonage and restricted what the banksters could do in order to allow the people to escape crushing debts.  Austerity is not sustainable.
The larger lesson is that using debt to fuel an economy guarantees that the basic goal will be enriching the very richest instead of creating a general prosperity,  and it will do horrible things to the planet and our communities.  Including this year threatening democracy itself.      Clearly Wall St came out ahead even when they crashed the economy in 2008 simply because they could buy Congress and threatened them with no consulting gigs after an electoral loss if they did not buy into the idea that the only way to save the economy was by giving the banks money instead of bailing out the debtors.  A strategy that gave us the slowest and weakest recovery in history.
Hold that thought.

Now lets go back to Overshoot day.  In order to pay the debts that have compound interest attached to them, people have to wrench more and more from the planet each year just to stay even.  This always reminds me of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland running faster and faster just to stay in place.  Hence we get crazy schemes like trying to build a fracked gas power plant in Burrillville that is guaranteed to prevent us from reducing fossil fuel emissions in RI for as long as the plant remains functional.   And forces us to pay for it even after we close it down as too polluting. The banksters must be paid even when everyone loses money.    Clearly the path is takes us over the cliff.
Right now in Providence some of the downtown landlords are scheming to move the poor out of the center of the city so their real estate, which is highly subsidized by the other taxpayers in the city, will be even more valuable.  This catering to the high end attracts other high end folks, setting off the gentrification of further neighborhoods in the city without ever replacing the housing no longer available to lower income families.  The price of housing goes ever higher until the only way to put a roof over your family’s head is on an interest only liars loan with the prayer that real estate values will skyrocket, making it even harder for people to find shelter they can afford but allowing you to sell at a profit. The direct result of current economic development strategies is that In Providence every available street corner with traffic has someone standing there asking for money.

Here is a sidebar

How many of you know what the correlation between a good business climate ranking and a state’s economic growth rate is? The answer is that there is no correlation. Rhode Island is the poster child, horrible business climate index rankings. But where do we rank in per capita income and growth rates? Right in the middle. In other words business climate rankings are a political tool designed to tilt the economy towards the already wealthy. And guess what? When you change the rules so that the wealthiest are accommodated it slows your development. Piketty demonstrated that a few years ago and it has not been refuted.

Back to the people asking for money at the corner.

Beyond the social and economic disruption of a population living on the edge, the strategy of moving the poor out of the center of the city is actually guaranteed to fail.    Ever since the beginning of cities 9000 years ago cities have been a magnet for the displaced.    Depending upon how they have been displaced people head for cities, or the artificial cities called refugee camps.  Taking in displaced rural dwellers is actually the only way city populations grew until the invention of modern sewers because of epidemics and very high childhood death rates from diarrhea.

The displacement and subsequent urbanization of the rural poor, and gentrification and displacement in the cities, is accompanied by an increase in the amount of fossil fuels burned, a condition exacerbated by growing inequality in which upgrades in efficiency are not available to the poor in rental or shanty housing.    That raises sea level by expanding the size of the ocean as it heats up and the melting of glaciers and ice-sheets such as Greenland and the West Antarctic. Every time you hear a new prediction it says the seas will rise faster than the last estimate.  So the strategy of economic development by creating downtown enclaves for the wealthy is exactly the opposite of sustainable as it drives more poor folks to the center of the city and drowns the filled in marshes of downtown even faster.
One can not address community sustainability in a coastal city without considering climate change.  If we do not get our carbon footprint down to zero in the next 10 years, (if we have not already passed some tipping points) we are going to see floods, droughts, storms, heat waves,  that will rock us, and the inexorable rise in sea level will eventually flood the city.  If the sea level comes up 10 feet in the next 100 years, totally possible if we do not shut the fossil fuel industries down completely very soon, what is it going to take too protect the coastal cities of the world? I think we are going to have to  begin a serious retreat from the coast, with the goal of moving every person and building to where they are at least 15 feet above sea level.  Rebuild the marshes and the coastal forests. Remove the walls and help beaches and marshes get reestablished.  Walls will just make the problems worse.  Step back a few hundred feet.

It is not sustainable to stay on the coast.  It is not sustainable to keep expecting the economy to grow when the resource base is collapsing.and the forests are disappearing and the 1% is stealing everything they can. Those of you at conferences like this need to get serious about the task at hand, get serious about how deep the damage is and what needs to be done to repair both the fabric of the planet and the fabric of our communities.  How much democracy it is going to take to do this, how much undoing of rule by the rich?    I do not know.  But I do know that without more justice, more economic equality, less wealth in the hands of the landlords and banksters,  our communities will continue to be crushed and ground up and they shall neither be sustainable nor prosperous.  If you want sustainable communities, they will be created around repairing ecosystems, growing food, clean energy, and more democracy.

Communities must/will always have the right to say no to industries that are incompatible with decent community life if they are to be sustainable. In fact that is rapidly becoming the most useful indicator of democracy on planet Earth. Where the people can not say no to powerful interests to protect their community from harm, there is no democracy.

We must close the war machine and stop building new and better ways to kill.  The war machine is exactly the opposite of sustainable. I think of it as digging a big hole and throwing all your money in it, and it gets worse if you actually use the stuff you build.  It is a huge parasite on the taxpayers, and leaves devastation in its wake.  It breaks countries, it does not repair them. And creating enemies makes us less secure, not safer.   Or is the war machine sustainable because we keep finding new enemies to kill for the simple crime of wanting the US to stay out of their country and leave them alone?  The problem with trying to keep the empire going is it bankrupts us and then bankrupts us again paying for the health care of all the people broken by the wars.  As Country Joe said, plenty of money to be made supplying the army with the tools of the trade. We now have a 50 year legacy of destroying villages to save them, which is such incredible double speak that the country that came up with that saying should have to permanently give up war and spend its money cleaning up the fossil fuel mess that provides the context for so many wars.

Sustainability at its core has to be just.  Slavery and empires are not sustainable.  Growing inequality and rising poverty are not sustainable.  The destruction of the global forest, the displacing of the rural poor and the indigenous is not sustainable.  Building new fossil fuel facilities is not sustainable.  At its core a sustainable economy is one in which there is a commitment to enough for everyone,.  We have enough food on earth, it is just too many are too poor to buy it and they no longer have land to grow it.

We could power all of humanity without fossil fuels.  We may move around a bit less, may need to grow food locally in much larger quantities, but we shall still eat well, and maybe better than the overprocessed foods we now are offered by the Monsanto’s of the world that put farmers out of business and drives them off the land by creating monopolies for the frankenfoods that are often the only foods sold in low income neighborhoods.

A song writer once noted that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.  We are still in the tunnel going off the edge ecologically, economically, culturally.  The rich steal more every day and rig the system further. Climate change is hurtling at us like a hungry bear.  The war machine and the empire seem to find new places to kill people every day.  But the resistance is growing.  We are stopping power plants and pipelines that should not be built,  Black Lives Matter, The Native People of North America have united to stop pipelines.  When clowns like the former mayor of Providence decide to move the poor out of downtown so they can make more money, they get laughed at, there are new community gardens every year, the residents of the Amazon are standing up to Dams and big money interests trying to steal the forest.  And people like you are working on alternatives to polluting and climate destroying technologies.  The resistance is not yet winning, but it must if we are to have healthy communities.

You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems.  As you undo the harm of specific technologies remember the injustice and the poverty that our communities live with, and know that if what you do does not directly impact issues of justice and equality, it is not sustainable no matter what the talking heads tell you.

2016 Annual Buy Nothing Day essay

Friends and colleagues. Each year I write an essay reflecting on the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange and the state of the world that calls us to put on this event. 20 years ago a few of us started this event because we wanted to shine a light on the damage consumerism and the cult of more and more for the rich does to our communities and the planet we live on. We needed to find something that was a bit humorous, and did some actual good in the community, as well as shine the light on greed. We decided to collect and give away winter coats on the official start of the Christmas shopping season.

We have built quite an event. Something like 14 sites will be actively participating on November 25, and thousands of people donate and or receive winter coats on that day in Rhode Island, with a few other sites around the country based on our model.

On the other hand, the war machine continues eating the planet, the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere continues to skyrocket, as do the temperatures and strange storms, democracy is failing, the planetary ecosystem is collapsing, and the answer to every question seems to be cut taxes for the rich, bail out the bankers, and give more subsidies to the landlords so they can drown the coastline faster with their economic undevelopment policies.

Poverty has not gotten better in the US. If anything we have more poverty than 20 years ago, since bailing out the bankers has done nothing to revive the economies of our communities. But facts seem to be irrelevant in America, with a prime example being the absolute belief that giving tax breaks to the rich and reducing environmental regulations creates jobs, without one shred of evidence that this is true. In other parts of the world many people are less poor, but the cost in terms of deforestation, climate change, pollution, desertification, cultural destruction, and genocide has been extraordinarily steep. The places that have made the leap forward have built giant cities and forced people out of the countryside while creating air pollution that kills millions each year and poisons the rivers. The economic transformation of China means fewer are hungry, fewer can breathe, and the forests of Asia have disappeared.

Close to home I have to give a shout out to the people of Burrillville for steadfastly resisting the Invenergy Fracked Gas power plant. It is only their resistance, aided and abetted by the resistance of the FANG Collective and all of the other people from all over the state who have lent support, that has kept us in the struggle The FANG Collective opened up the political space that all of us could help fill.

That the governor insists that putting us in debt for a plant that we know should not be built if we want to actually stop climate change is a good thing. It shows just how out of touch the 1% is, and how little the policies they tout will do for out communities.

The opposite of the resisters in Burrillville, one of the villains of this story, is found among the downtown Providence landlords who still think that giving them tax breaks to redevelop downtown buildings is useful for the community. The evidence is overwhelming. Tax breaks for the rich do not do one bit of good for communities. In fact they make it harder for communities to do the right thing. And when these beneficiaries of the public largesse start trying to force the poor out of the center of the city so their real estate would be even more valuable, we are rapidly progressing through oligarchy to despotism. You would think the owners of downtown real estate would know that the first law of cities is that they are magnets for the poor and displaced and efforts to remove them so that real estate will be more valuable are doomed to failure. Maybe the clowns who own downtown need tyo take their monopoluy money and buidl the kind of housing we really need in RI rather than just offices and condos for the 1%.

For a long time I have been thinking of democracy and how it is melting away under the power of money. And the richest candidate of all says he might not abide by the election because it is rigged. Clearly he has no clue about the fact that the only thing that is rigged is that the winners all kowtow to big money.

I have started to understand democracy as existing only when communities can decide that they can not be run over by big business. If communities can not say no to being sacrifice zones for money for the few under the cover of economic development, then we do not live in a democracy. We seem to be losing our rights to protest just when we need it most.

Which is why we have to give away winter coats each fall. The rest of us are being made obsolete. We seem to live in the throw away society that eats its young and the planet faster and faster in a futile effort to keep the economy growing so the banksters will not lose all their money. But face it, econmic growth that beneifts communities is dead, and never coming back. That we keep getting sold that bill of goods is just part of the big lies of the rich so they can keep stealing. As nobel Laureate Bob Dylan noted in one fo his songs “Steal alittle and they put you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king”.

I guess community destruction and the end of democracy is what one must come to expect from a government and a 1% that spends more and more on new and better ways to kill so that it will have enemies and therefore can justify ever greater expenditures on new and better ways to kill. In response sometimes I help give away winter coats, sometimes i speak truth to power, sometimes i build gardens and compost, sometimes I stand on street corners with petitions and signs and help a presidential campaign based on truth and honesty and good policy for the 99% reach the voters of Rhode Island (Jill Stein Green Party for the curious) . Then i go make videos of tadpoles and turtles and great blue herons because they help me learn to see.

We do what we can. And hope that it moves the needle towards justice and healthy communities. Do it with joy and thank you for participating in the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange

Urban Ecosystem Observations 2016

Urban Ecosystem Observations 2016. Lessons learned in the Moshassuck valley and the surrounding community. Greg Gerritt Oct 4, 2016

There is much to learn from studying the urban section of a small watershed, and each year I watch the lower reaches of the Moshassuck River and its environs more carefully and with greater understanding. Every year I learn new things and see things I have never seen before. While I am familiar with the watershed all the way to the headwaters in the Limerock section of Lincoln, I pay special attention to the forest at Providence’s Collyer Field, the North Burial Ground, the ancient travel corridor on the even older river terrace that is now North Main St, and the tidewater along Canal St until its current confluence with the Woonasquatucket River just south of Citizens Plaza. I also try to keep the larger context in mind as I deal with the creatures great and small and use the observations of nature in my other projects..

I spent last fall and winter mapping the forest that Friends of the Moshassuck has planted over the last 18 years at Collyer Field http://www.themoshassuck.org/treeplanting.php . We digitized the map and it is now on our website. http://themoshassuck.org/trees_table/ We have planted trees in this tangle of Japanese Knotweed for 18 years, just the few trees a year we could water with a bucket from the river in the summer heat We have almost covered the site, about an acre in all. Over the years we have planted about 95 trees, and 89 of them are still growing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQfWmu3UZMg This gives a pretty good picture of what the site looks like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xNCecyutjQ There are also a few trees that were growing prior to FOTM beginning work in 1998 along the edges of the site, especially right along the river. I used to refer to it as a gallery forest, but the planted forest and the river forest have since merged. The long term goal was to create a semi wild New England forest that would shade out the knotweed. I am starting to doubt that we shall completely obliterate knotweed on the site with shade, knotweed begins growing each spring before the leaves come out on the hardwood trees, so it survives even though it stunts as soon as the tree leaves come out. The tallest trees are now 30 feet tall, and many parts of the site are in shade all day once the leaves come out. We may never obliterate the knotweed, but the forest is walkable in ways it never was when the knotweed ruled unchallenged. It would be interesting to know how the fauna has changed since the forest began, but we have neither baseline data nor current studies. Anecdotally I would say more birds use the site, but what would be really telling is the the health of the salamander population. We have seen salamanders every few years., but other than presence we know nothing. So we can not even ask has the development of the forest improved the habitat? Though we know it has.

Friends of the Moshassuck has no legal right to use the site. We squat based on a handshake deal I had with the station manager when it was owned by Bonanza Bus line. The current ownership will not speak to Friends of the Moshassuck. It is their way of avoiding legal liability for what goes on on the land. But it might be time Peter Pan realized that it is time for a change since it is so close to the river and almost completely in the zone protected by the updated wetland regulations. It is also on a dead end street with a city park between the corner and the site. FOTM has suggested that the City of Providence ask Peter Pan to donate or sell the site to the city to expand the park. I have communicated this thought to the Parks Department leadership, and while it is looked on favorably, the capacity to pull this off seems to be missing. The City also has concerns about maintenance costs, but the site is already maintained by Parks Department crews and FOTM could assume a portion of the burden. If Peter Pan will not donate the land (and take a nice tax break) I am sure we could raise enough money to buy an unbuildable acre of protected wetlands. If anyone has pull that I do not, and can get the right ear to move this forward, I would love to hear from you. This land has value for ecosystem services, and as a hotspot for biodiversity in a very damaged ecosystem. It could easily (well maybe not easily) be turned into a site to explore urban forest restoration and the ecology of damaged urban rivers.

I walk much of the length of North Main Street in Providence nearly every day, walking the ancient path along the terrace of a river that lost most of its flow 13000 years ago, leaving a spectacular view across a valley much too big for its river. . North Main Street and Pawtucket Avenue constitute the easiest way to walk from the waterfront in Providence to the falls in Pawtucket, crossing the divide into the Blackstone Valley at a low spot with a low angle hill up to the ridge. Runners can make the trip in about 30 or 35 minutes and walking time is about 2 hours if you keep moving. I am guessing that there was much foot traffic back and forth between the villages and waterfronts for thousands of years. It is such an appropriate travel corridor that Ben Franklin used it as part of the Post Road he laid out from New York to Boston. The anomalous site in the trip is the side hill from the waterfront along the tidewater of the Moshassuck up to the terrace rising from just beyond the corner of Smith St. and N Main to Olney St. and the end of Benefit St. My guess is that there is something in the terrain there that made it the easiest way out of the river bottom, maybe a stream, but I can not tell what it was due to the walls built throughout the cut. Once up on the terrace you are near University Heights and University Marketplace. The shopping center is full of tenants, but from there north to the city line more than 25% of the store fronts are vacant. That may be a higher commercial vacancy rate than any other main street in the city. People have been wondering what to do about it for decades, and no solution has arisen. It is a land out of time, a long time traditional path that has lost its way. Neither Providence nor Pawtucket revolve around the head of navigation or the downtown waterfront any longer, so there is no real connection or commerce between the two places that requires a people oriented corridor along the terrace, and the quick route by car is I-95 along the river bottom until it cuts through the cliff/watershed divide at the beginning of the curves in Pawtucket. I think the steepness of the hill on both sides of N Main also contributes to its lack of commercial walkability, which is reflected and amplified by it being difficult to cross.

At the North Burial Ground I use the gate across from the Armory to enter as it is the gate closest to home. Ever since some of us in the neighborhood convinced the Parks Department to unlock the gate, the Burial Ground has become much more of a community resource with more walkers every year. It is also an amazing wildlife sanctuary.

The limestone steps lead down from the river terrace to what were once wetlands and flood plains below. Moshassuck means where the moose drink, and moose are denizens of swampy areas as they eat water plants. The draining of the wetlands and conversion to agriculture probably started early on once the Europeans controlled the land, but the original burials in this ancient (1700) cemetery were on the higher ground. Digging the Blackstone Canal from Saylesville to the waterfront in Providence required dredging and deepening the lower half of the Moshassuck River, and likely drained some of the wetlands in this area. The lower elevations of the Burial Ground are an outwash plain, an area of sand deposition, laid down as the glacier melted, with a relatively small esker snaking through the plain in the northern half of the cemetery. The esker’s sand deposit shows signs of being mined at one point, but is currently covered by the largest contiguous stretch of forest in the Burial Ground. Just to the east of the esker is a small pond. The pond is about 300 ft long by 100 ft wide, less than an acre. It is fringed by trees ands shrubs around most of the circumference, with an inflow in the Southwest from the storm sewers of the cemetery and an outflow going west towards the river in the north. There is also a small mowed peninsula sticking into the pond from the center of the west side.

This pond may have more life per acre than any parcel in the city. The pond is the home to a population of Painted turtles, and one or two Snapping turtles and a red eared slider that someone must have let go. In the spring the Painted turtles line up on one log in the southwest corner for morning sun, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNDdCljQtyA and it is from that site I have been able to count as many as 17 turtles at one time, with at least 5 different year/size classes present. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfPruv9ZWm0 Once the summer warms up the turtles are more likely to be seen swimming around the pond. Over the course of the summer I also occasionally saw, and filmed, a very young turtle sunning on a small stick in the northwest part of the pond in the hours that that sector received sun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex3uBtOuCh0 Another, somewhat larger, turtle would set up on another small log in the water nearby. When I started closely observing the turtles there were 6 painted turtles in the pond. The next year there were 9, the following year twelve, and the last few years hovering at about 16 or 17. I have not tried individual identification, but there are clearly differences in size between those born in different years, so it might be possible. I have enough raw footage that never made it to youtube for anyone who wishes to do a study using video. Turtles nearly always are difficult to video well. I suppose with the right filter it is possible, but my camera almost always offers up purple light reflecting off the shell and head

The biggest thrill this year was the regular appearance of muskrats, starting just before the first of the year, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv_I339c01g and continuing into summer with some young ones in addition to the adults. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPPfUqvns54 Took me a while to figure out what I had when i saw the babies grazing in the little meadow at the north end of the pond, but I figured it out in a day or so. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2hL-2VmbKk and watched as much as I could. They are manic eaters, but if you stayed far enough away they would let you watch with the camera as they mowed through the vegetation.

I saw bats frequently in the evenings for a few weeks in spring. I only got a bit of bat video this year, so I include its link in a short video wth a variety of other creatures later on in the section highlighting hawks. The only hopeful news I hear for bats is scientists are starting to find treatments for White Nose disease. We shall be much poorer if the bats to do come through this.

If cuteness is not a factor,(the baby muskrats and tadpoles win on cute) the most charismatic megafauna that is seen regularly at the pond are the herons. The pond is frequently visited, usually at times when food is abundant, by Green Herons, Black Crowned Night Herons and Great Blue Herons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkTl-UdYoZo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkJuGAeaaHA I have watched for enough years to realize that each of the birds that comes by has their own personality. Not only between species, but individually within a species. This spring a Great Blue Heron showed up that was more skittish than any I had ever seen before. Setting up at the places I would normally set up the camera to catch the action caused this particular heron to fly off, whereas normally Great Blues would stay and continue to hunt while I watched. The Night herons are rather easy to catch in pixels. They tend to stay on the far side of the pond, with no access behind them through the tangles. From that side of the pond they are content to let you watch and film. The Green Herons are much harder to video. They tend to hunt among, and stay close to, the brush along the edge of the pond, so they are hidden as you approach the pond and take off before you see them and are ready to film. I am hoping next year I am more prepared. There were two Green Herons around on at least one day, but I usually saw only one on any particular day. Kingfishers are another predator that frequents the pond. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6175AHjsGTU

The reason the herons come visit so often and often stick around for a few days, is that there is an abundance of food in the pond. The pond is a murky brown all summer, both from runoff and algae. The water seems relatively clear in the early spring, but very soon acquires a murk. Considering how many ponds in New England are named Mud Pond, it is a pretty normal pond despite the fact that it is at least partially a human created stormwater system. Lots of vegetation and an abundance of organic matter like leaves and acorns provide a strong foundation for the food chain. Insects are abundant, including water striders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEsf-O0HktE and dragonflies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLAMAfRDzyw Insects are an important component in the diets of critters higher up the food chain, Sunfish eat many different small creatures, and clearly there is much food as they have a rather large colony of nesters each year. I have noticed the nests for several years, but this year i was able to get some pretty decent footage and was able to see the fish on their nests repeatedly during the several week mating season. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtvzUMSZx70 I know Blue Herons feast on the little fish and have a video record of one heron catching two fish in the space of 5 minutes. I am starting to suspect that Herons target the pond twice a year, when the sunfish are breeding in the shallows and when the frogs have emerged in July after overwintering as tadpoles.

Frogs have been described as being a very intermediary player in the food web. Bullfrogs eat almost anything they can catch from dragonflies to other frogs, and get preyed on extensively by everything that is bigger than them, including people. This year I ended up focusing more on bullfrogs than in past years. I was able to video the tadpoles much more extensively https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nybSrrEeYxI especially tadpoles in the water after the previous years cohort turned to frogs. Some especially good footage of tadpoles swimming up from the bottom to breach the surface has finally convinced me that the bullfrog tadpoles are surfacing for oxygen rather than anything else. I am guessing the pond is pretty anaerobic due to the decomposition of repeated algae blooms. Methane bubbles are frequent anytime the bottom is disturbed. Bullfrog tadpoles occasionally fall prey to predators, but once the tadpoles from the previous year turn to frogs in July they are much more vulnerable. I have watched this cycle in past years, but this year really documented the decline of the Bullfrog population between mid August and Mid September. There were hundreds of little frogs lining sections of shoreline, but after the herons visited you might see two or three. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYbWjPxibuI

Before moving on it should be noted that over the last few years the number of Canada Geese regularly visiting the pond and eating in the burial ground has grown significantly, and that mallards live there as well in differing size communities at different times of the year. Neither species appears to rear young there. Wood ducks and Northern Shovelers were also seen at the pond this year along with a plethora of small birds.

Leaving the pond heading southwest you have a good view of I-95 and the traffic whizzing by. Often one sees Red tailed hawks in this area. I think the resident hawks do not like the fact that I take their pictures so they have developed the habit of flying around me and calling as i walk by. I offer up some flying hawk video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IXb1JQMq2Q I learned that snakes are an important part of Red Tailed hawk diets. I have seen hawks feeding on snakes several times in recent years, and include a segment of eating a snake in this video highlighting early spring animal appearances. It also highlights flying bats. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaQ-Yk47S3A

My video work in the NBG first focused on the life in a little wetland near the maintenance building. I stumbled upon a congregation of little black tadpoles one spring day, and have been visiting regularly ever since. The last 4 years with a video camera. The tadpoles inspired the whole video project which lead to much more in depth study of the pond, and a study of tadpole development in Fowler’s Toads, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpFEc8u1k_A one of the two amphibians that breed there https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9zXQ-C3ZyU I have video’d not only the Toads https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFZ8tmyu7HU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3qd91gBW8g https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfrcqqi50L0 but also the insects that frequent the pond https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj4F3Y6GV9E

When i first moved to Rhode Island 20 years ago I ended up part of the stakeholder process looking into what to do about Combined Sewer Overflows in stormy weather. Eventually a large tunnel under the city was built to store combined rainwater and sewage until it could be treated at the Fields Point Sewage Treatment Plant. This system, and the associated infrastructure, some of which is still in process, has dramatically reduced pollution in the bay. One slightly sour note, the Moshassuck River hosts one of the largest Combined Sewer Outfall, number 220, that has not yet had its sewage captured or treated, something that clearly shows up in fish surveys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGe0KK0zQV8 which we conducted in partnership with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, our neighbors across the western divide. My role 20 years ago was to advocate for what is now called Green Infrastructure or Nature Based Solutions, which over the last 20 years has become the way to manage stormwater in more and more situations, but it was a new concept back then. As I studied the little wetland I came to understand it not only as a biological system, but as a rainwater runoff catch basin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNli3vk0FUc . This has lead to further exploration of the use of new stormwater systems as a way to create amphibian habitat as amphibians are among the most endangered taxa on the planet and continue to lose wetland habitat at a high rate. I am not sure where the exploration will go, but more and more people are looking at the requirements of amphibians and how we might use rainwater to provide habitat. RI stormwater regulations currently do not permit the creation of stormwater systems that hold water long enough to allow amphibian breeding cycles, but there is no doubt that there are places in Rhode island in which this is not only possible, but would provide real community benefits. As part of my work in the Green Infrastructure Coaliton I am pushing to include biodiversity and habitat creation as factors to keep in mind when creating ways to clean runoff. It will be a long slog, equivalent to moving the needle on compost laws and regulations, but I think it is an idea who’s time is coming. I now know how much water it takes to fill the pond (1.5 inches of rain) and that if it is full it will have some water in it for at least 10 days, though I am wondering about the changes occurring as the vegetation in the pond covers more and more of the bottom with both cattails and pickerel weed spreading. When i started the project a dry period in the spring or summer would present cracked mud all over the pond. Now vegetation blocks the view and binds the bottom sediments as well as sucking up water.

I am also pondering what might be done to this particular rainwater system to improve its performance. This year the basic lesson was the resilience of the Fowler’s Toad system,. Unlike many amphibians, Fowler’s Toads breed over an extended season, I heard mating calls at least 15 evening this past spring. Maybe this winter I will see if anyone has info on how often females can lay eggs over the course of a month. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWXSJdHbXmw The extended breeding season has been critical to breeding success as the last two years the early cohort of tadpoles have all died when the pond went dry, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e3e9zDFJUo only to be followed by a second wave that made it through to hopping toadlets when the pond stayed full long enough in the summer rains. Considering this record, that Fowler’s toads have successfully fledged a large cohort each of the last 5 years, I am unsure it is wise to modify the pond. But I think the continued high sedimentation rate from the sand piles at the NBG is both helping the cattails expand in the pond, and shortening the hydroperiod. I am looking to bring in some experts to help me ponder these questions, and help me think about what data would capture the conditions best. What factors make it a Fowler’s toad haven? And can we apply what is learned here to other locations.

Heading further downriver the Moshassuck River becomes tidal, the northern most extension of the bay into the city, just as Charles Street crosses a little bridge and becomes Canal St. The stretch south to Smith St is very shallow, though fish are occasionally present, but below Smith St river life flourishes despite the shopping carts, old pilings, and street runoff. The view is from the sidewalk. Eels, carp, and blue crabs are seen occasionally throughout the warmer months. Menhaden have been described as “the Most Important Fish in the Sea” for their role as the base of the vertebrate food chain, and by mid August the river fills with the flashing of silver as the sun reflects off menhaden from 2 inches to 14 inches in length. The young swim around in large schools with their mouths open filtering water and eating the zooplankton they find. https://youtu.be/AnJTFUpgb9o Usually you see over the course of the fall menhaden in small, medium, and large sizes, with 3 or 4 year old fish topping out at about 14 inches. They often stick around until November, and last winter stayed until early January before heading out to sea. There are probably millions of little fish in the urban rivers, but this year there has been a school of at least 10,000 adults slowly swimming the area around Citizens Bank and RISD and they seem to dominate the arena. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rAAlUmB8OI All of the herons are known to stop by the Canal St section of the Moshassuck on occasion, as would be expected based on the amount of food available. This year for the first time small river herring have been seen in the fall coming down from the rivers at the head of the bay and heading to sea to grow.

From Citizens Bank Plaza I have two choices when heading to work, south along the Providence River to the Point St bridge or going through downtown. The trip along the river often provides fish viewing opportunities in the warmer months with the canoe landing along S Water St a favorite spot to check for fish. This part of the Providence River has been resculpted numerous times since Roger Williams arrived. From a salt marsh beginning it became a very busy port, now it is park lined with granite walls. Water quality is way better than it was 50 years ago (there have been Cholera epidemics in the Moshassuck basin) if not yet good, and there seems to be more life than in the recent past. Downtown provides a different perspective, and there is a need to focus on it for a bit. Most of downtown Providence, between the East Side (College Hill), Weybosset Hill, and Smith Hill was formerly wetlands. It is for this reason that I enter the fray of discussing downtown real estate and the Rhode island economy. Several hills were cut down in order to provide the materials used to fill this area. It means that downtown is rather a low spot, and subject to storm surges from hurricanes (1938, 1954) and very vulnerable to rising sea levels.

A big question, one I came up with just the other day when sitting at Senator Whitehouse’s Energy and Environment day, “Is it going to be cheaper to start an orderly retreat from the coast now, starting with everyone below 10 feet above sea level, or should we just wait for the big disaster and then retreat with lives in tatters?” Of course an orderly retreat from the coast goes against everything the US has been built on, the can do eat the planet attitude. I suppose you could fill another 10 feet higher every 100 years and keep burning carbon until it is all gone. But that seems a much worse alternative than an orderly retreat and green energy. My guess is in the places poor folks live near the water, the government will improvise a retreat, but where rich folks own land and in the centers of major cities, they will try to armor the sites, go up, or go with buildings that are designed to flood. More saltmarsh is probably a better solution.

The fortifications to preserve downtown ultimately will be overwhelmed if we keep burning fossil fuels, but in the short term will have the effect of further distorting our economy in the favor of the rich and further increasing poverty and unemployment in the rest of our communities. Providence and RI continue to cling to the old ways, with real estate development continuing to line the pockets of the rich and the campaign contributors, especially those taking advantage of huge tax loop holes available to commercial real estate development. In an age in which many Americans lost considerable sums of money from trying to put roofs over their families heads, the favoring of commercial real estate interests and banks is both politically stupid, and likely to lead to further crashes, bubbles and various and assorted financial shenanigans as well as greater inequality, which makes the bubble/bust cycle run faster. All of which undercut our communities and our ability to respond to climate change in ways that make us more resilient and and slow down the pollution and the changes. I do not have video of this, though occasionally when i speak out I end up on RI Future but until Rhode Island adopts policies reflecting this statement “You can not end poverty without healing ecosystems,. You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty. And if you do not shut down the war machine, hard times are coming”, we are likely to have downtown landlords fattening on public subsidies until the sea floods it all, while more low income people stream into the center of the city as they get pushed out everywhere else.

For all the Rhode Island politicians who talk the talk on climate change, i have seen few walk the walk and actually take concrete measures to reduce Rhode Island’s carbon footprint in a meaningful way. One has to say folks are not serious about climate change if they are supporting the construction of any new fossil fuel infrastructure as that will overwhelm any of the cuts we make due to efficiency, the use of Green energy, and improvements in the transportation system. The big thing these days is natural gas. It is touted as a bridge fuel, but it is a bridge to hell, bringing hotter weather and higher water, and anyone offering us a future with more gas is just kicking the can down the road and making it harder to repair the fabric of the climate and of our communities.

It is so interesting that the development strategy so touted in RI, using real estate development in pursuit of meds and eds to drive economic growth, will have such adverse effects on Rhode Island that it will ultimately undermine all of the gains the landlords hope garner by speeding up the sea level rise that will cover the lower parts of the city over the next few decades and drawing more displaced people into the center of the city. I am hoping common sense, and self preservation for our communities prevails, but the science denial that has swept the country, and the mountains of money in the political system make it likely that a self defeating strategy of ever more stuff, driven by ever higher subsidies to the rich and the permanent loss of place for the poor will lead towards climate collapse, economic collapse, and community collapse as the storms and droughts upset the planet. I said publicly when the speculators were building the Providence Place Mall that we would be better off with saltmarsh. And what I have learned traversing my watershed with eyes open these past 20 years, tells me that saltmarsh sounds like an even better idea now.