Patricia M. DeMarco
September 8, 2018
The summer of 2018 goes down in my life history as the turning point in my fifteen-year fight with cancer. After being free of any disease from 2001 to 2017, I have faced two cancers in the last two years. Knowing that I have been living on borrowed time changed the direction of my life. In 2006, I left the corporate world, divorced from a destructive relationship, and came home to my roots as an environmental activist. I vowed to stop trying to be “successful” and wealthy, but to do work that has meaning and purpose for the future. I came home to Pittsburgh, to Rachel Carson, and to a life devoted to preserving the living earth. Now as my strength is waned through a 24 week regimen of chemotherapy, I find that my role has shifted once again from the strong voice, standing with raised fist to one who writes the words, and empowers others to speak.
After a decade of public activism, the message echoes back to me through my students, through my family, and through my community. I see the power of many voices joined in demands for clean air, fresh water and fertile ground. The hopeful vision of a future where people can make better choices for energy, food, and materials emerges one community at a time.
A life and death decision point acts as a catalyst to crystallize priorities. There is no time left to wait for others to act. When you have nothing to lose, there is no point to preserving proper dignity or protocol. And this is exactly the situation of the world we are living in today. We face a life and death decision point on global warming and global pollution, yet people still act as though the ponderous machinations of due
process will get us to a solution. But the laws of nature proceed without “due process.” Greenhouse gases accumulate; the atmosphere warms; the oceans acidify; glaciers and ice caps melt; storms intensify. People as well as plants and animals cannot adapt quickly to the intensity or speed of these changes. But, we can act much more effectively than is the case now if we act together, with common purpose and directed intent.
So in this tortured summer of 2018, I feel my strength wane, but I see the strong voices of my students- Eva Resnik-Day in the Fight for 100% renewable energy; Seth Bush coaching and empowering entrepreneurs and activists; Kacie Stewart taking a role in renewable energy in manufacturing with Epic Metals. I see young colleagues making a huge impact through film and media- Mark Dixon with Blue Lens, LLC documenting the movement and calling others to action; Kirsi Jansa making documentaries and pushing creativity in response to crises and becoming a new citizen activist; Maren Cook holding gatherings to keep the movement together; Matt Mehalik working for clean air through the Breathe Project; Mike Stout documenting the struggle of organized labor and the importance of democratic process through unions; Charlie McCollester, Wanda Guthrie, so, so many others raising the call to action. Jackie Dempsey and the Indivisible Forest Hills movement, mirroring a whole country of people taking politics seriously.
The human spirit is hard to quench. Re-defining aspirations to value preserving the living Earth as a critical need above profits in a monetary measure alone may take a generation. We have no time for gradual transitions. A crisis point is upon us, now, in this generation. We have tools at hand to solve the problems of climate change and global pollution. There is no longer time to reverse the trajectory toward a hotter drier planet, but action can still be effective to mitigate the worst of the effects and preserve viability for the next generation. This is not a technology problem- it is an ethical and moral challenge: Do we living today make decisions that preserve the option of life for the next generation? Or do we persist on a path of instant gratification and greed, heedless of known disastrous consequences of our actions?
This is the time- our time- to face the existential crises of climate change and global pollution, especially from plastic. This is our time to take the actions needed to curtail fossil resource extraction and combustion. Climate change and environmental destruction must be on the central political agenda in every election, every race, every town hall. We who care about the future cannot stand silent while those in power continue to pretend there is a positive outcome for continuing on the fossil path. We will follow the dinosaurs into extinction if we continue burning their remains. It is time to place priority on the vital functions of the living Earth – the ecosystem services – embedded in the interconnected living systems on the surface of the earth. Instead of criminalizing those who stand to protect watersheds, wetlands, forests, farmland and refuges, we should be prosecuting those who rip fossil materials – oil, coal, fossil methane- from the depths of the earth. The 1837 laws that gave mineral rights superiority over surface rights continue to subsidize and destroy our life support system. The Pennsylvania laws that demand access to mineral “rights” over the objections and concerns of landowners and citizens, in violation of our own Constitution, need to be overturned. The federal law and regulations that made exemptions for natural extraction from deep shales legal in spite of environmental harms need to be overturned. It is time to place the health and safety of people and the living planet above the short-term profits of multi-national corporations.
Take these three actions today:
- Make sure climate and environment issues are in the discussion for every candidate for office. Demand a position statement- hold them accountable for votes taken against sustainability actions. Find your elected officials here:
For PA: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/
For federal https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members
- VOTE in every election, every time! work to Get Out The Vote for candidates that stand for climate action and environmental justice. (There are MANY action groups!) Find a local action group here:https://350.org
- Pledge to take action in your personal life to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Recruit your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. Find more suggestions here: https://www.greenpeace.org/archive-international/en/campaigns/climate-change/Solutions/What-you-can-do/ and here https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/10_easy_tips_for_living_with_less_plastic#.W6PeWC2ZOL8
I will be working to preserve our Living Earth every day for the rest of my life. My book, “Pathways to Our Sustainable Future” lays out the argument and tells some stories of success. I hope you will join me and tell me of your own journey.