Panelists talk past, present, and future

Third generation Islander Gus Ben David. — Video capture by Anne Lemenager

The Times spoke with two of the four panelists in Living Local’s Friday event. Gus Ben David talked to us about the Vineyard he used to know, and Anna Edey offered solutions to living more environmentally friendly.

Gus Ben David, third generation Islander:

I turned 70 in November, so I’ve seen a lot of changes, and it’s just really astronomical how quick the changes have come to this Island.

I think we all know the Vineyard is a victim to its own beauty…We all talk about missing the old days. Growing up in the 40s and the 50s and the 60s, the Vineyard was a very different place than it is now, just from sheer math and numbers. I like to refer to it as almost ‘open range’ then. I grew up in a hunting and fishing family, you could practice those things Island wide…

It’s a gem in the Atlantic, no doubt about that. I am a native Islander, third generation native Islander, born and raised here. I know the people, the community. It’s a different place. The changes: the traffic, the sheer volume of people…the Vineyard literally closed down on Labor Day. There was no such thing as reservations to get on the boat. You never had to plan a reservation to get on the boat, they were never full.

People literally went down to the boat wharf, what we called it back then, and watched the exodus on that Labor Day. Main Street in Oak Bluffs would close down, now it’s almost a 12-month season.

Anna Edey, author and operator of Solviva, a sustainable living group:

I sure do have a utopian version, but I would call it realistic…I think the word utopian means really wonderful but can’t be achieved. What I’m saying is totally practical, very revolutionary. Certainly the fossil fuel companies would call it hideously revolutionary…

My next book is coming out in early December and what I say in that book and provide a tremendous amount of proof from my experience and test results is that we can reduce the harm we are causing by the way we are living: gasoline, heating oil, coal power, we can reduce our harm to near zero and save tons of money in the process, and improve the quality of our lives, all at the same time, which is basically something that very few people realize we can do.

My electric car shows it reduces the cost of driving by 80 percent. And if we do it with our own solar panels we can reduce it by 90 percent. It would be zero CO2. The batteries I use for the car are non-toxic and totally recyclable…

Electricity, food production, waste water management, and transportation: the whole enchilada. We can do this right away.

I came from Sweden, first summer in 1958, went to Sengekontacket with the kids and it was pristinely clean, you could see deep into the water, lots of eelgrass. Over the decades the ponds got dirtier and dirtier, more disgusting, caused by algae, caused by septic system, caused by the septic systems the state makes us put in. They are totally against the law, federal and Massachusetts.

My biggest focus is how terribly our water quality has gone down in that period of time, and pointing fingers directly at the DEP and at the regulations they require.