Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


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Marshall Plan for Middle America Summit

Next Steps for Local Government

By Patricia DeMarco, Ph.D., Chair of CONNECT, Vice President of Forest Hills Borough Council

The Marshall Plan for Middle America Summit took place virtually on September 27, 28 and October 4,5  in partnership with The City of Pittsburgh, Heartland Capital Strategies, ReImagine Appalachia, and Resilient Cities Catalyst.[1]

As we have been deliberating over these last four days about how the communities of Middle America can address the challenges and opportunities facing us together, we must recognize that we are collectively in an existential battle for the survival of our children. There is no more time to play games, for political posturing and jousting.  If we do not take bold action to address climate change NOW, more people will die. And our children will face a bleak future. The laws of Nature are not negotiable; we must stop burning fossil fuels, or the Earth will continue warming beyond the range of tolerance for life as we know it.

Given that we face a crisis, it is exciting to come together to plan the transformation of our economy and our society so we can address the climate issues in ways that also address equity, build resilience, bring more inclusive practices to our operations, and redress social and environmental injustice. Solving the interlocking problems associated with moving away from fossil fuels also offers the opportunity to take the skills of our workers who built America and re-direct them to re-building America for the 21st century and beyond. We are beginning to count and value not only the next quarter profits but the community benefits: good paying union jobs, cleaner air and water, healthier people, and safer communities.

Capacity building for local communities is a key to the success of our transformation to a resilient sustainable society. Local governments are on the front line when people need help. Yet, many small communities like mine are constrained in the competition for big government funded programs. We have no “Planning Department.” We have no grant writer or development office. We certainly do not have 50::50 or worse 90::10 matching funds to access federal grants. So, we succeed by coalition building. CONNECT- The Congress of Neighboring Communities including the City of Pittsburgh and 42 neighbors- work together to solve common problems and share resources.[2]  We also connect the intellectual capital of the university of Pittsburgh to applied problems in our communities in real time. Problems like opioid addiction and planning for climate change, and shared police, fire, and emergency services. We also join coalitions on a regional basis like ReImagine Appalachia, a Blueprint for a New Deal that works for all of us in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky to build on our strengths and come together as a block in Congress so we are at the table, not on the menu.[3] Along with the Marshall Plan for Middle America, we will have shovel-ready projects to cue up when federal programs materialize.

In all of this, the workers are essential. When we include workers and labor unions in the discussions about what the future can be and how we can get there, they keep focus on real jobs that pay well. We are not seeking to retrain people for jobs they don’t want in places they don’t want to go. We need to restructure the fossil extractive industry workforce to capture their excellent skills and turn them toward the essential work of the green economy. We need to be sure there are pathways to good union jobs as we create new enterprises for renewable energy systems, a circular materials management system, and regenerative agriculture and permaculture, especially to heal abandoned mined lands. Workers deserve the right to organize and negotiate for fair wages and safe working conditions. When we invest in communities, we invest in building the local workforce too.

Finally, it is critical that we keep building the story. We have a vision of a more just, equitable and inclusive society, a better America. We are already seeing the technology penetrate for net zero energy buildings, for electrified public transit and vehicles, for advanced manufacturing. We do not have a technology problem!  We do have a problem of moral fortitude to commit to making the necessary political choices to move forward.  Ignoring these issues will not solve them but articulating the vision for a better tomorrow will change the tide of obstruction.  People do not move toward what they cannot visualize.  People will not move to something they perceive as a hardship. We are building a better America already. We need to tell the stories of success and multiply the impact of our work by standing together. The power of this country is vested in the People in our Constitution. We must use that power wisely and use it well to solve this crisis and reach the next plateau of excellence in a resilient sustainable future with justice, equity and inclusion for all of the people.


[1] Marshall Plan for Middle America Roadmap https://www.sustainablebusiness.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/marshall_plan_for_middle_america_roadmap_0.pdf

[2] CONNECT- The Congress of Neighboring Communities operated through the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. https://www.connect.pitt.edu

[3] See the ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint, jobs reports and resources here https://reimagineappalachia.org


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9-9-2021 PD Remarks to ReImagine Appalachia re Infrastructure Investment

9-9-2021. ReImagine Appalachia Press Conference

Local Governments Call on Congress to Increase Climate Infrastructure Investment in Appalachia

(The video of the full press conference is here)

https://www.facebook.com/ReImagineAppalachia/videos/2096477113824006

The ReImagine Appalachia Information is here https://reimagineappalachia.org/over-100-local-elected-officials-support-reimagine-appalachias-climate-infrastructure-plan/

Remarks of Patricia M. DeMarco, Vice President, Forest Hills Borough Council

This summer has dramatically displayed the reality of global warming as an existential crisis across the country and around the world. In our region, local governments serve as the front line for addressing climate mitigation, and for preparing the measures that allow our citizens to be resilient in the face of change. As the recent IPCC Sixth Climate Assessment reports, we are in red alert status for our planet. We must move to a more sustainable future. We must move rapidly to transform our economy from one based on the coal, oil, and natural gas systems of the Industrial Revolution to a new system built on renewable energy resources, regenerative agriculture, and circular materials management. The ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint1 offers a robust way forward for our region.

Our communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky have borne the weight of extractive industries operations. The profits go to the large multi-national corporations, but the costs of repairing the damage left behind, the illness and pollution, the contamination and abandoned lands fall to us – the local governments. It is time to recognize that we must re-invest in our communities and in our people. Appalachia deserves a Climate Infrastructure Plan that builds local wealth and creates good union jobs in this region, and beyond.2

People often comment that the jobs of the sustainable future don’t pay as well as the traditional oil, gas and coal industries. The wages and benefits now in place for traditional industries did not happen by themselves or by the good graces of the industries! They were fought for with blood and guts over decades, at the Battle of Homestead and as we recalled this week at Blair Mountain. Any federal infrastructure funds must be tied to community benefits and worker benefits to assure the investments come to local areas where people can control how their communities use them.

The over 100 local officials who support the ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint call for three Community and Labor Requirements3 that must be included in any federal infrastructure legislation:

1. Maximize the creation of good union jobs by requiring Project Labor Agreements for all projects with more than $100,000 in federal funds and a total value of at least One Million dollars. Bundle small projects so they reach that threshold, and empower workers to form unions and bargain collectively. PASS THE PRO ACT!

  1. Target the benefits of job creation to workers and communities left behind by giving priority to communities with shuttered coal operations, giving first preference to displaced workers for new projects that transition head lamps to hard hats.
  2. Ensure accountability through tracking, reporting and oversight by Community Benefit Advisory Boards drawn from the local community. Invest 1⁄2 of 1% of all project development and construction dollars into a Community Benefit Fund to reduce barriers to employment, support industry partnerships, pre-apprenticeships, minority business entrepreneurship.

In this time of great need for fundamental change, it is essential to recognize that there are massive institutional barriers to success. We see many of these playing out in the dynamics of partisan politics. We cannot allow millions of workers to be left stranded as we move to a more sustainable future. We must assure that people can have good paying union jobs in their own communities. The revitalized Civilian Conservation Corps proposed by Senator Casey assures that there will be effective training for displaced workers and for people left out of the cycle of innovation and growth that investment in a clean future will achieve. A revitalized Civilian Conservation Corps can especially play a role in creating fertile land from areas damaged by past extractive industry practices.4 We in Appalachia will have water for agriculture in the climate reality of the future. Food grows where we can keep the land available for regenerative agriculture, recovered from extractive processes. The bill is currently included in the US Department of Agriculture for implementation. This revitalized CCC program can help communities most affected by the combined impact of the downturn in fossil fuel industry, the COVID pandemic and the opioid epidemic that has devastated families in our region. Restoring fertile ground also sequesters carbon into the soil which helps to mitigate climate change as well. The revived CCC can help to heal the land and empower the people.

This is no time for half-way measures. We face the triple existential threats of rapid climate change, global pollution and global biodiversity loss that engenders pandemics. We must act with confidence to align our economy to preserve and support the laws of Nature. Federal infrastructure investments to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions before 2050 will achieve a shared prosperity for all of us. Using taxpayers’ money to fund the physical and regulatory infrastructure to address climate change can turn the direction in time to prevent the worst of the effects we already observe. We must act boldly, and we must act now.

1 ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint. https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp- content/uploads/2021/03/ReImagineAppalachia_Blueprint_042021.pdf
2 See the Jobs Reports by PERI Institute for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia here. https://reimagineappalachia.org/resources/
3 See “Maximizing Value: Ensuring Community Benefits” here https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp- content/uploads/2021/05/Community-Benefits_Whitepaper_05-28-2021.pdf
4 See “Heal Our Land and Our People: Create a Modern Civilian Conservation Crps and Promote Regenerative Agriculture” https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Reimagine-Appalachia-Regenerative- Ag-CCC-Whitepaper-10-28-2020.pdf


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“Red Alert for the Planet” – Moving from Awareness to Outrage

Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D.

California wildfires 2021- USGS image

“In spite of the truly marvelous inventions of the human brain, we are beginning to wonder whether our power to change the face of nature should not have been tempered with wisdom for our own good, and with a greater sense of responsibility for the welfare of future generations.” Rachel Carson[i]


[i] Rachel Carson- Lost Woods. “On the Pollution of Our Environment” p. 228

The United Nations Sixth IPCC report “Making Peace with Nature” calls for an end to our war on Nature: “The current mode of development degrades the Earth’s finite capacity to sustain human well-being”[i]  We must work together to reach a condition that will sustain humanity in harmony with Nature.

This essay discusses why we must take immediate action and recommends things every person must do to turn away from the pending disasters. Everyone must play a part in saving our planet.

The sustainable pathways still are glimpsed as through a keyhole into a beautiful, locked garden where the gates are guarded by the 20 multi-national corporations whose wealth exceeds that of many entire nations:  the fossil extractive industries and their petrochemical production companies that hold our future in abeyance.[1] As long as the companies whose business models depend on extracting fossil resources as raw material for fuel and products control the Congress and many state legislatures, the necessary policy changes will be impossible. The laws and policies put in place to support and encourage these industries over the last 100 years now stand as impediments to the transformation that must take place if we are to survive and thrive as a species. It is not enough to feel frustration and despair.  Now is the time for mobilizing and taking strong action.

Demand accountability from elected representatives in Congress and in state and local legislative bodies.  Make your voice heard calling for these three priorities:

  1. Stop subsidies to fossil extractive industries.  Change the laws. Put taxpayer funds to work on the new solutions.  To continue subsidies to the fossil industries is to try filling a bucket with a huge hole in the bottom.
  2. Use the power of government procurement to promote sustainable solutions.  Adopting federal and state and local government procurement for renewable energy, passive solar design in buildings, re-usable materials and food sourced from regenerative growing practice will help drive markets in the right direction.
  3. Establish the regulatory infrastructure to support and promote sustainable practices– building codes, utility tariffs and microgrid requirements, restrictions on producing toxic materials, manufacturer accountability laws for plastics, rescinding the supremacy of mineral rights over surface rights to protect watersheds and fertile lands and forests, require rapid regulartoy action.  The precedent of 150 years of property law must be revisited to eliminate impediments to sustainable practices to control climate warming.
  4. Invest in communities, especially those most harmed by the extractive industries.  See the ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint for the jobs impact of the investment in union jobs. https://reimagineappalachia.org 

Everyone has a role to play in making the policy U-Turn we need in the United States of America.  Every person has a responsibility to act, to use all resources available to reduce the carbon footprint.  We who are at the top of the greenhouse gas production causers must take responsibility to change ourselves.

  1. Find out what your own carbon footprint is and make a plan to reduce it every day. You can start here https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx
  2. Talk about the reality of climate warming to your family, friends and business associates.  Involve others in your climate action plan. Be sure your community has a Climate Action Plan to identify the best way forward.  Get involved in creating one, and help to promote climate action in your own town.
  3. Call your elected representatives and demand action on climate.  This is not the time for half-way measures or token responses.  Our survival is at stake. Find out how to contact your elected officials here https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
  4. VOTE in every election, every time.  Find out where your candidates stand on climate and equity issues and work to elect strong agents of change. It is critical that we empower people to be heard.

Finally- the United Kingdom will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-26) in Glasgow on October 31 to November 12, 2021.  During this time, plan to turn out in force in a demonstration of urgency for united action on climate across the globe. “Whether future generations look back at this time with admiration or despair, depends entirely on our ability to seize this moment,” according to Alok Sharma, COP-26 President-Designate.  Watch for demonstrations, public actions, and calls for people’s strikes for climate justice during this time. 

You can see the COP-26 plans here https://2nsbq1gn1rl23zol93eyrccj-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/COP26-Explained.pdf


[1]   https://climateaccountability.org/carbonmajors_dataset2020.html


[i]  United Nations Environment Programme (2021) Making Peace with Nature: A scientific blueprint to tackle climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies. Nairobi. https://www.unep.org/resources/making-peace-nature  Accessed August 13, 2021.


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Hold AMAZON Accountable

Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Other Opinions” on Sunday, July 25, 2021

by Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D.

In September 2019, AMAZON made a public commitment to become carbon neutral in all of its operations worldwide by 2040 and launched a $2 billion fund to implement it.[i]

As The Borough of Churchill and other communities around Pittsburgh see advances of AMAZON interest in locating distribution centers in the area, those making the decisions and responsible for granting the building permits must stand to hold them accountable to their rhetoric.

Taking the former Westinghouse Research Park in Churchill as an example, there are three things that can be done on this site to ameliorate the climate impact of this proposed new facility.  Many of my constituents and neighbors have expressed concerns about diesel pollution and emissions from the operation of this facility and outrage over the destruction of hundreds of mature trees on the site.  Air quality, stormwater run-off, and destruction of carbon reducing trees are serious issues. Remedies to mitigate these issues are readily available and should be required in the permitting process.

First: This new construction should be based on a passive solar design with geothermal earth tube and heat pump systems for heating and cooling.  The electric load of the facility should be met by installing a photovoltaic solar array on the roof. This will reduce emissions both from burning a fossil fuel on site for heating and from the regional power supply to produce electricity to serve the facility. A well-designed new building can be cost effective to build, cheaper to operate, and have a net zero energy profile.[ii]

Second, AMAZON has touted its electric fleet as one of its innovations for climate action.[iii]  This new facility should be required to use electric vehicles, with charging stations at the facility to prevent the diesel emissions that will otherwise certainly inundate the area with particulate and organic compounds in the air.

Third, the site should be required to install bioswales and permeable paving in the parking areas and along the roadways.  Stormwater runoff from this site is already an issue for neighboring areas, and the removal of the large trees to accommodate this facility will only worsen this effect.  Sloping the parking areas toward bioswales and designing the area around the building to capture runoff will help to mitigate stormwater effects.

Finally, the removal of mature trees should be kept to an absolute minimum with careful siting of the facility on the land.  Preserving the remnants of an Indigenous People trail and maintaining trees as visual and noise screening from the surrounding residential areas should be a priority for the site design. The Borough of Churchill has the opportunity to hold AMAZON accountable to its own rhetoric.  This new facility can become a model for innovation and adaptation to the reality of our climate crisis, not a capitulation to the lure of “jobs” at any co


[i] AMAZON Climate Pledge and Climate Pledge Fund. https://sustainability.aboutamazon.com/about/the-climate-pledge  https://sustainability.aboutamazon.com/about/the-climate-pledge/the-climate-pledge-fund

[ii] The Forest Hills Borough municipal building completed in 2018 has generated more energy than it uses for a net zero operating profile.

[iii] “AMAZON’s custom electric vehicles are starting to hit the road.” https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/transportation/amazons-custom-electric-delivery-vehicles-are-starting-to-hit-the-road

Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D. is the author of Pathways to Our Sustainable Future- A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2017. She is a Senior Scholar at Chatham University and writes a blog “Pathways to a Just Transition” at https://patriciademarco.com  She is Vice President of the Forest Hills Borough Council and Chair of CONNECT – The Congress of Neighboring Communities surrounding Pittsburgh.


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Mending the Interconnected Web of Life: Endocrine Disruption and Global Chemical Pollution

This paper discusses the close connection between plastic pollution and health of both people and other living systems. It is important to understand the role of plastic in the future plans of the petrochemical industry and why pursuing the proliferation of single use plastics especially will totally undermine attempts to control climate change.

This topic will be discusssed at presentations for The Green New Deal Discussion Group on July 25th and at the Interfaith Power and Light Plastics A to Z session on July 19th.

Here is the slide presentation to the Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light “Plastics A to Z” forum of July 19, 2021

Here is a video presentation of this material including more of the health effects and less of the economic situation for plastics. This was a presentation on August 17, 2021 to the Mainline Baha’i Community in Lancaster Pa. https://sju.zoom.us/rec/share/zgrk700jwdGD4HIzuGWHylU3koAKrvg1bbXbmSfT4vFWUl2H2hn2iS2C-FXGMME6.0W4TzeQiLjpStf9J


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Green New Deal – Pittsburgh Discussion Group

Pittsburgh Green New Deal (PGND)is committed to building a mass movement – locally, nationally and globally – to secure implementation a Green New Deal.  This must involve ending and reversing the damage to our environment, while at the same time ensuring union scale jobs with a special focus on Black and Brown people and displaced fossil fuel industry workers, racial justice, health care, housing, mass transit systems, education, and cultural opportunities – in short mutual respect and quality of life for all people. We will work with organizations and individuals who share this commitment. We envision these areas of activity:

(1) educational activity (starting with the summer reading group, then reaching out with broader popular education efforts in community groups, churches, unions, etc.), spreading knowledge and consciousness to advance the Green New Deal;

(2) immediate environmental activity — tree planting and other practical work that can immediately benefit the environment;

(3) building a local coalition, linking up with national forces, to mobilize vigorous on-the-ground campaigns on behalf of the Green New Deal, most immediately seeking to build popular support and momentum for the THRIVE Act.

The structure of PGND is very simple.  It is open to those in agreement with this statement of purpose.  It operates on the democratic principle of one-person-one-vote, with regular membership meetings being the highest decision-making body of our organization, to which all committees or sub-committees established by the organization shall be answerable.

Adopted May 25, 2021

Summer Reading Group: There were three discussions with author Jonathan Neale based on his book “Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs.” available here  https://theecologist.org/fight-the-fire. Recordings of the completed sessions are below:

1st Session, June 6 — Parts I and II (pages 7-92)https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/5UzaJdf35fChj683F-Dt447WacpXk09V_wSK6AvEqcC6zGT1yQcdRAPwyBb7DtAz.v1PVDvnsMPrGHREc
Access Passcode: Y2gixt%p

2nd Session, June 13 — Parts III and IV (pages 9-201)https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/n0ti0ILEWSr4j819w4V9qARopCebNCQJFQPyY2UtWgJUIY17HbIB1HqxzT2q1W9X.H75FKfG2tCmyfbWi
Access Passcode: RZ!B9fs?

In the month of July and August, The Green New Deal- Pittsburgh group will be discussing Pathways to Our Sustainable Future as a way to evaluate actions in the Green New Deal for implementation. We are looking at both the substantive changes necessary and the social and institutional infrastructure for driving change.

order here: Pathways to Our Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh. with author Patricia M. DeMarco available from University of Pittsburgh Press or order here https://patriciademarco.com
https://upittpress.org/books/?s=Pathways+to+Our+Sustainable+Future&submit=

Sunday July 11, 2021 at 4:00 to 5:30 PM Part I Connecting to the Living Earth – This discussion centers on the moral and ethical dimensions of transforming the economic and political systems to address climate change and social justice.

See the recorded session I here: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/RZ0MsittrNb8UssGTLoZjGUmYhsMgVEBTukerLRPAqd31jBP0xUSNspwxY5iLSZM.8NQyiqRJYba1F4I1?startTime=1626305570000 

Sunday, July 25, 2021 at 4:00 to 5:30 PM Part II Choosing Sustainable Pathways – This discussion covers transformation of major systems: energy, agriculture and materials management. There are contrasting approaches to those taken in Fight the Fire, and there are specific ties to pending legislative initiatives in the U.S. Congress.

See the recorded Session II here https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/AbR_3TWBzg9E3QT04j4KZmFkQddjLeBpGqe1JaiP3a1H5RnlklhGsUpZKgnnyUSA.FcgFw9G7FlavmT-C?startTime=1627243338000

Sunday, August 8, 2021 at 4:00 to 5:30 PM. Part III Empowering Change – This discussion will evaluate the role of leadership in driving change; what are the critical components for success? What are the pitfalls and impediments? Discussion based on evaluating the effectiveness of activists in driving change.

Listen to the recorded session here https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/voC6aV9VJlZPN8Vg-sJwf-CulwvAhbM9RbzarzU2L-zviYAf22d-6BlwGLAo8mX0.kpyzApZE5qzbQQls?startTime=1628453275000

To Participate in this discussion series, CONTACT: Paul LeBlanc <Paul.LeBlanc@laroche.edu>

Join the discussion for our consideration of Mike Stout’s book “Homestead Steel Mill: The Final Ten Years- USWA Local 1397 and the fight for union democracy”


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The Triumph of Life

June 20, 2021

Patricia M.DeMarco, Ph.D.

Facing a life-threatening illness forces focus on what is truly important.  Every person faces such crisis-induced inflection points differently. As I have coped with four different challenges to my health over a span of twenty years, I have made decisions to live each day to the fullest, with purpose and intention. One day at a time, I rejoice in the wonder and beauty demonstrated everywhere through the gifts of the living Earth. I seek ways to use my voice and my personal power to move the world around me to a more sustainable and resilient place through local political action as an elected official, through regional collaborations with like-minded colleagues, and through writing and focused contributions to national and international efforts.  But all of this fades away in the face of a truly life-threatening reality. When the diagnosis comes to a person close to my heart, the precious fragility of our existence surfaces.

When the days ahead are numbered to a few hundred at best, it is the relationships, the personal connections with a caring community of family and friends, that make the difference.  All of the time spent on causes and external concerns disappears in significance compared to spending an hour in lucid conversation with a dear loved one. Memories of shared joys lift the pall of pain and fear. Simple pleasures enhance the sense of being connected and not alone in the darkest of times.  Just holding hands and smiling through internal tears and broken-hearted grief gives comfort.

All together- May 2021

Interface with the institutionalized medical system makes personal connections absolutely essential.  When you become a patient, with a chart and a Care Team, personal connections become critical.  Who is the person who can understand the jargon and translate information into meaningful communication?  Who can see through the doctor’s shield that comes down over demeanor when the diagnosis is a condition without cure, just a “management plan”? In this situation, it is the inner strength of each person that sustains life with dignity and quality as long as possible.

The ability to connect with the healing power of the living Earth makes an enormous difference in the experience of coping with a critical illness.  Whether the condition will abate sufficiently to allow many years of living, or whether the condition is so acute that there are few options for prolonged life, living each day becomes either a gift or a burden, depending on the attitude and mental and spiritual support system of each person.  I remember my grandfather Pop in his late years when he was living with my parents.  His Parkinson’s disease had advanced too far for him to live alone, and he resented his loss of independence.  He would sit on the bench in the patio under the pear tree and talk to my Nona who had died years before.  He would say “Well, Pasqualine, the Lord forgot me again today.  I am still here, and you are with Him.  How long must I wait to be free of this world?” And yet, when I came to visit with my two small children, his great-grandchildren, he would smile and sing them the same little songs he sang to me as a child. He would give them a ride on his foot, holding their little hands and bouncing them up and down. For those moments, he was alive and sharing experiences with another generation.  They have not forgotten him, and the memories have crossed through generations.

Pasqualina and Patty 1948 in the garden at 556 Southern Ave, Pittsburgh

We all live but a moment in the stream of time. It is our privilege and our duty to make the most of our time on this Earth.  We cannot know how many hours we have to spend, but we can commit to celebrate every opportunity for joy.  We can weave ourselves into the tapestry of our time and immerse ourselves into the life-giving force of the living Earth. We can stand in defiance of the sadness, pain and evil that rises around us. We can be a beacon for those who follow, triumphant in living in harmony with Nature.

Blessed Be


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Under All Is the Land- ReImagine Appalachia

Reinvesting in communities depleted by the extractive industries of the Industrial Revolution can reclaim the wealth of the land, re-employ the skilled workers and restore the shared prosperity of a region rich in culture and pride. For a discussion with local PA government officials about the potential for Pennsylvania, listen to this recorded presentation from July 29, 2021: https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/play/tfhtXET5ODZV2I-18Su9DOTIMcLJYseUxZKZD5bF-dMWAyBTlb0g27QrvrfsZ-QzONOyGCl1WFCtFFor._FTj918qXNBbFqcA?continueMode=true&_x_zm_rtaid=hmM8DECLS6-cP4zdnGNA9Q.1628167329661.a6e4b594f957020e1b17fc5238b0acc0&_x_zm_rhtaid=357

Re-invest in the communities of Appalachia -restore the land, heal the people

Earth Day 2021

In this second decade of the 21st century, we see the beginning of the transformation of our society and our economy away from the extractive fossil fuel base that is driving the climate emergency toward a more resilient, equitable and sustainable, shared prosperity based on renewable resources. The Spring comes as a welcome burst of hope after a long winter of COVID isolation, illness and fear. The living earth emerges once again with flowering trees, verdant woodlands and grasslands, and the manifestations of the cycles of life. These assurances of the resilience and certainty of the natural world offer hope, but also a caution. The laws of Nature are not negotiable. Preserving our life support system of oxygen-rich air, fresh water, fertile ground and the biodiversity of species depends on shifting from extractive fossil fuel industries to regenerative systems for energy, food and materials.

We must focus on the needs of society and the work needed to sustain it rather than on replacing fuels. Technologies from the 1800s – the Rankine steam cycle for electricity generation and the internal combustion engine for transportation – need to be updated with modern, cleaner and more efficient technologies appropriate to the needs of the 21st century.[1]

We have heard President Biden call for an Infrastructure and Jobs Plan which strongly mirrors the ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint for a new economy that works for all of us.[2] Similar to the THRIVE Agenda of Southeastern PA and neighboring states and the Mayors Marshall Plan for Middle America, the ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint has a focus on good-paying union jobs and offers tangible and realistic steps to reach a sustainable future for our state and region.

The ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint expands opportunity through public investments in local communities; builds a 21stcentury sustainable economy; and rebuilds the middle class.[3]

  • First the plan maximizes good union jobs and provides fossil industry workers with genuine opportunities for doing this work. It ensures access to union jobs for Black, Indigenous, female and low-wage workers. And it ensures community benefits from federal investments through public input and oversight.  
  • Second, the plan restores our damaged lands and waters, modernizes the electric grid, grows manufacturing by making it more efficient and cleaner, builds a sustainable transportation system and revives the Civilian Conservation Corps.  
  • Third the Blueprint promotes union rights, better pay, benefits and local ownership models for working people across all industries in the region.

The jobs impact of this Blueprint is significant for Pennsylvania. A federal investment package with annual average allocations of $11.3 billion to Pennsylvania, from 2021 to 2030, along with an additional $19.7 billion in private investments, would generate approximately 243,000 jobs in Pennsylvania— enough to bring Pennsylvania’s high unemployment rate back down towards 4 percent.[4]   

  1. Repair the damage done over the last century– $1.2 Billion federal investment and 9,283 jobs per year from plugging orphaned oil and gas wells, repairing leaks in gas distribution pipelines, and repairing dams and levees.
  2. Modernize the electric grid with a $3.2 Billion federal investment, leveraging $18 Billion in private investment to create 142,999 jobs per year through electric grid updates; building retrofits; solar installations; onshore and offshore wind generation; low-emissions bioenergy (anaerobic digestion); geothermal HVAC systems; and broadband expansion. 
  3. Expand Manufacturing by making it more Energy Efficient and Clean– requires 1.28 Billion in federal investment, leveraging $1.08 Billion in private investment and will create 18,016 jobs per year through industrial efficiency upgrades, including combined heat and power; manufacturing research and development; and bioplastics research and development
  4. Build a more sustainable transportation system with a federal investment of $928 million leveraged with $522 million in private investment will create 16,182 jobs per year through public transportation expansion and upgrades including rail; and expanding a high efficiency automobile fleet.
  5. Absorb carbon and Re-launch the Civilian Conservation Corps with a federal investment of $4.7 billion to create 56,700 jobs per year through regenerative agriculture; farmland preservation; land restoration, especially for abandoned mined lands; and restoration of watersheds, waterways and wastewater systems.

The ReImagine Appalachia initiative aims to consolidate our regional Congressional delegation to argue for federal resources directed toward our region because we have built the wealth of the industrial age through industries now in decline, and we need to move to a clean and efficient future. The jobs program presented here relies on the skills and capability of our union workers in electrical system upgrades and new generation integration into a smart micro-grid system. We see good union carpenters, pipefitters, boilermakers and steamfitters employed in anaerobic digestion and fuel cell operations as well as in constructing solar powered buildings that make more energy than they use.  The possibilities are real, and only beginning.  

No technological breakthroughs are necessary for this new economy to operate building a prosperity that can last without the boom/bust cycles of depleting extractive industries. We can muster the political will to make the necessary changes in policy and practice to support a new economy for the 21st century. Pennsylvania can assume a leadership role in building the new economy in three primary ways:

  1. Adjust the regulatory infrastructure to enable rather than inhibit expansion of renewable energy systems and practices.  Adopting practices such as uniform building standards for solar and wind installations, enabling a utility tariff system for virtual net metering and community shared power, joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and adopting a universal passive solar design building code for all new commercial and residential buildings are part of this process. Conduct a comprehensive review of regulations to enable sustainable practices and empower workers.
  2.  Shift Pennsylvania state subsidies toward private investment in the newer clean technologies addressed in the jobs scenarios above. Pennsylvania provided $3.8 billion in fossil fuel subsidies in Fiscal Year 2019 by systematically disabling many of its standard tools for collecting tax revenues, allowing the industry to extract public resources at little to no charge, and awarding the industry grants and tax credits. Meanwhile, in the same time period, the industry imposed $11.1 billion worth of external costs to the state and its residents.[5] Pennsylvania can use these subsidies to entice private investment into the green jobs arena instead.
  3. Empower local communities to attract investment in innovation.  Establishing enterprise zones around re-purposed industrial or marginal commercial spaces before the tax base erodes to the point of bankruptcy will enable communities to offer resources for reinvigorating their economy before they fall into despair. Provide support for planning together around regional efforts to coordinate resource allocation and opportunities.

I would like to speak to the role of the gas industries in the sustainable future.  The gas industries, especially in the Marcellus Shale region and the sectors pressing for plastics production, pose mighty and well-funded opposition to any perceived competition from renewable resources. Preserving the historic business model of extraction, combustion, or using fossil-based raw materials for single use commodities is not compatible with a sustainable future. The expertise and infrastructure of the gas industry is uniquely suited to developing methane from anaerobic digestion of municipal waste and sewage. Methane produced from these sources, as well as from manure pools of farm animals, stays in the contemporary carbon cycle and does not draw from carbonized remains of living plants that created the 20% oxygen in our atmosphere millions of years ago. Using anaerobic digestion creates methane biogas that can be sent into the existing gas distribution system for home heating.  This would shift home heating from a fossil base to a sustainable base.  In addition, biogas can be used to create hydrogen for fuel cells to generate electricity through a chemical reaction similar to a battery, without combustion.  This technology is mature and operating efficiently in Germany, Japan, Korea and France based on American technology developed through space exploration research and commercialized in the 1990s.(6) The gas industry would rightly enjoy a leadership position in building a truly sustainable economy by making this kind of a shift in focus. 

The true wealth of Pennsylvania lies in the land that supports us.  Not the fossil resources buried deep within the crust of the Earth, but the living earth, the fertile ground that gives life to our planet through binding essential elements to create food, fiber, fuel, and oxygen. When we restore the land and empower the people, we set the foundation for a long-lasting prosperity for all of our citizens.

Citations and Resources:


[1] Patricia M. DeMarco. Pathways to Our Sustainable Future- A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2017.

[2]President Joseph Biden. Remarks on the American Jobs Plan. March 31, 2021.  https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/03/31/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-american-jobs-plan/

[3] ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint. https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ReImagineAppalachia_Blueprint_042021.pdf

[4]  Robert Pollin, Jeanette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, and Gregor Semieniuk. Impacts of the ReImagine Appalachia and Clean Energy Transition Programs for Pennsylvania. Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. January 2021.   https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Pollin-et-al-PA-Final-Report-1-22-21.pdf

[5] Penn Future Subsidies and Externalities Report https://www.pennfuture.org/Files/Admin/PF_FossilFuel_Report_final_2.12.21.pdf

6. Fuel Cell Energy, Inc. Danbury, CT https://www.fuelcellenergy.com/about-us-basic/manufacturing/


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The End is the Beginning- The Case for A Circular Materials Management System

I. Cycles and Systems.

As I sit in my study watching fat snowflakes drift past the window, my mind wanders to the warmer times of summer walking through the protected lands of the Allegheny Land Trust. From the depths of the woods, it is easier to feel part of the web of life that holds all of us. The forest ecosystem moves in a succession of interconnected living things toward a climax community, the equilibrium point where the annual production and import of resources exactly matches the annual consumption and export of resources. It is a self-perpetuating condition where the living systems are in perfect harmony with the supporting physical environment. The ant and the snail are no less partners than the mighty maples or the bear that occupy the climax community, all are interconnected and essential for sustained balance. Natural ecosystems progress through a succession unique to each place toward a climax equilibrium. I wonder how much of the Earth would reach this ideal state absent the perturbations of human activity?

Human civilization has not grown with a balanced advance toward a climax equilibrium that natural systems follow. Rather, we have withdrawn massive amounts of raw material from fossil reserves deep in the Earth and converted that material to trash as rapidly as possible to generate economic advantage. Worse, the way we compute value and economic benefit excludes the intrinsic flow of value vested in ecosystems. The global pollution from plastics discarded after a single use epitomizes the mark of modern society. Wasted material, vested with massive amounts of resources, pile up on the shores, in landfills, in the ocean, and blows around in neighborhoods littered with discarded stuff. 

II. Rethinking Plastic in a Circular System – a discussion of alternative materials that can replace plastics, especially for single-use products, and definitions of the different kinds of bio-plastics.

  • There is much discussion about “Bio-Plastic,” but the term can be confusing. Generally, there are two major classes of plastics: (2)
  • – Thermoplastics are a family of plastics that becomes mold- able when heated and hardened upon cooling. They account for over 90% of the mass of plastics produced.27 The most commonly encountered thermoplastics are PE, PP, polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylic, nylon, and PET; 
  • – Thermosetting polymers are plastics that have been irreversibly hardened in a way that prevents melting. Most popular thermosets are used as the matrix in fiberglass, polyurethanes (PUR), vulcanized rubber, and urea-formaldehyde foam.
  • – Bio-based plastic polymers are produced from biomass or by living organisms, and they may or may not be biodegradable. 
  • – It is also possible, but more expensive, to produce biodegradable plastics of petrochemical or mixed origin.
  • However, plastic products usually consist not only of the basic polymer but also different often environmentally damaging additives incorporated into a plastic compound, such as plasticizers, flame retardants, antioxidants, acid scavengers, light and heat stabilizers, fillers, lubricants, pigments, antistatic agents, slip compounds, and thermal stabilizers. Depending on the product, these additives can sometimes account for more than 50% of the mass of the final plastic product. (3) 

III. Build the Regulatory Infrastructure for a Circular Materials System -ways to move toward a circular materials management system and policy recommendations to address the market failures that have caused the inundation of plastic waste. The invisible hand of the market will not solve the failures of the current system of materials management.  We must move from a linear value chain to a circular one, modeling our supply sources, production, use and re-use of materials after natural systems. 

IV. Resources and Citations for further study.

You can read the entire paper with illustrations and references here:

–ReImagine Beaver County

— Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community

— League of Women Voters of PA

— Climate Reality Project

— Breathe Project

are hosting a presentation Bioplastics- Hype or Hope where we will be having discussions about the issue of using bioplastic to replace petrochemical plastic. The events are on March 11 and 25 from 7:00 to 8:30 PM on zoom. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bioplastic-hype-or-hope-registration-141427241687?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch


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A Red Flag of Warning over America

I watched with shocked fear and sorrow on Wednesday evening as the Congressional process of certifying the Electoral College Votes in the lawfully executed election of 2020 was disrupted by a mob of Trump supporters invading the halls of Congress and vandalizing offices and structures.


The Facts: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won this election 81,283,485 popular votes with 306 Electoral Votes  to Trump/Pence 74,223,744 popular votes to 232 Electoral Votes. https://www.google.com/search?q=electoral+college+votes+2020+presidential+election&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS876US877&oq=Electoral+College+Votes+2020+PResidential+Election&aqs=chrome.0.0i457j0i22i30l2.14354j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 Over 50 court challenges were rejected, denied or failed. All 50 states certified their elections as valid, lawful, and duly conducted according to the laws of elections, in some cases recounts, audits and  manual ballot tallies were conducted three times! This was not a close election, a fraudulent election or a stolen election under any possible interpretation.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life.


This was an election that saw 159.8 million voters, a 66.3% participation of the eligible electorate.  This is still a low proportion of voters participating in the election compared to other developed countries with electoral representative governments. The diversity of candidates and voters has been increasing as the demographics of the nation continues to diversify, with growth in Hispanic and Black constituencies as well as many more voters aged 18 to 24 participating as active citizens.  Trump consolidated his focus on a smaller and smaller base of radical white supremacist supporters as his insistance that he won the election became less and less  tenable.  On Wednesday night as the vote counting began, 12 Senators and 137 House of Representative members were poised to mount objections to the election on various grounds, even knowing that they would only delay the results and not change a single vote.  They were prepared to posture and pontificate for their own political agenda. 

Trump addressed his rally of supporters urging them to “Stop the Steal” and to march on the Capital.  In his own words: “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media. That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.” … “So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give… The Democrats are hopeless. They’re never voting for anything, not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” (https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/donald-trump-speech-save-america-rally-transcript-january-6 ) 
Within an hour of this tirade of exhortation, a mob descended on the Capitol, managed to enter the halls of Congress, break windows, break down office doors, rip exhibits down, steal podium and sit in Pelosi’s Office…Tear gas was fired, five people ended up dead. The security situation is still being sorted out.

The vote counting resumed after the Capitol was secured, with only 8 Senators and 139 Representatives actually objecting to the results. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were confirmed as the lawfully elected President and Vice President to take office on January 20, 2021.


My Opinion: This is a clear act of sedition, a treasonous assault on the institutions of government and on the fair and legal conduct of government.  I am saddened and angry that this state of affairs has progressed so far without the brakes being applied long before now.  The stranglehold Mitch McConnell has held over the Senate has constipated the process of governance.  No bipartisan legislation has passed through the Senate unless he saw it as a contributor to his agenda of corporate pandering and power accumulation.  This is the ultimate culmination of the Citizens United ruling.  GOvernment is no longer the voice of The People, but rather in the vice grip of vested corporate interests.  Trump managed to skew this corrupt situation claiming he was for the little guy, when in fact everything that has happened under his administration has worked to further suppress votes, social services, public education, fair wages, fair taxes, and accountability.  The science base for policy decisions had been ejected by regulation, replaced with industry interests instead of peer reviewed findings. The Trump effect has been to cast doubt on the very system of governance by consent to the rule of law.

What we can do now: First, this travesty must not go unpunished.  The 25th Amendment will be invoked and Trump will be evicted from office in disgrace.  Failing that, he can be impeached…again, hopefully with Senate approval now that there is a slight majority. At a minimum, he must be formally censured by Congress in the name of The People and sent out of office in disgrace.  He must then be prosecuted in the civil courts for his many crimes.  I don’t know whether any of this will happen, but I have called Mike Doyle, Bob Casey, and even Senator Toomey multiple times, and some of this is in motion. (All of the phone lines are jammed and mail boxes are full!)
Second, we must all move from hand wringing to action.  Educating people about their responsibilities at all levels of government is essential. Active informed citizens are the only antidote to disinformation and conspiracy.  Democracy is not a spectator sport…it requires active participation, vigilance and constant calls for accountability.  Elections have consequences. We must rebuild trust in the system and ensure transparency and accountability. People need to see that their concerns are heard, considered and ADDRESSED with actions by their duly elected representatives at all levels of government.
Third, we must act to redress the harms of the last 30 years of accumulated economic determinism.  The systematic destruction that began with Regan’s economic criteria for budget allocations for federal programs must end.  We must restore the social safety net, public health education, quality public education for all, and a high standard of health care for everyone, support for arts, humanities and science research.  The government must turn to the service OF THE PEOPLE not corporations and monied interests only.  Many of the 74 million who voted for Trump do not see the system we have working for them.  We must address the true needs of people in rural America, in dis-invested communities, and in the edges of the mainstream.  Education, equity, clear paths to prosperity with justice must become the hallmark of good governance again.
Finally, we must celebrate the increased diversity of our nation, recognize the strengths of multiple voices joined to work for a resilient, equitable and sustainable prosperity. We must build a future based on the best motives and aspirations. It is not okay for people of color to live in fear. We are stronger when we stand together and celebrate the gifts of talent and perspective we all bring to the table. We must shape a future that builds a secure world for all of our children.

And we must not give in to despair.

I share this with you in love and with hope for a better tomorrow.
Blessed Be