Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


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A Reflection on the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord

“We are the last generation that can end climate change. We can and we will.” Khishigjargal, 24, Mongolia

On November 4, 2020, the United States officially withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord in a mockery to the reality Americans face in this tumultuous year. No longer a theoretical projection modeled from academic geophysical constructs, climate changes brings the reality of drought, fires, floods and diseases upon us all over the world. The youth of the world cry out for attention, as they observe the window for effective action closing rapidly. For some, their fate is sealed already. Grieving for what has been and will inevitably be lost burdens the hearts of all who care about the future and the fate of civilization. 

The triple existential threats of greenhouse gas emissions, global pollution and now global pandemics all result from human patterns of behavior over the last 100 years. Transforming our way of relating to the natural world can create a better, brighter future. The problems of climate change, social equity and environmental justice must be resolved simultaneously, or they will not be resolved at all. We must recognize that we are more alike as human creatures dependent on the living Earth than different in our genders, religions, cultures, races or political persuasions. We must reimagine our way of life in harmony with Nature, rather than dependent on its destruction. 

Recognize the Cost of NOT Acting on Climate Change

Although many individual cities, a few states and some businesses and corporations have made climate commitments since the International Paris Accord in December 2015, the United States has promoted policies to support fossil industries. Baseline emissions patterns continue on a trajectory toward a four-degree increase, or higher, in the average global temperature.

U.S. Emissions Trajectory Compared to Climate Goals

UNEP. 2018 Emissions Gap Report https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/12/UNEP-1.pdf

Prospects for economic prosperity weaken as climate conditions continue to worsen. The Market Risk Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued a report that sounded a stark alarm: “Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy. Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human health and labor productivity.”[i] The invisible hand of the market will not make the adjustments necessary because the consequences of destroying the ecosystem services that support life on Earth are not directly counted in the marketplace. Losing the living Earth will cause cascading disasters that cannot be replaced.

The natural world that forms our life support system is under extreme duress. Species extinction rates are now hundreds of times higher than historical averages. Human actions have compromised or destroyed 75% of the land surface of the earth, including loss of 85% of wetlands, and 66% of the worlds ocean area is experiencing multiple destructive forces from human actions in overfishing, pollution -especially from plastics, and chemical changes in acidification due to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[ii] In the last four years, regulations that protect the environment and endangered species have been weakened or rescinded.[iii] Under the excuse of the COVID pandemic, environmental protections are not being enforced.[iv] Granted at the behest of oil and gas industries, the relaxation of environmental protections has increased the pollution of air and water across the United States.

Climate change exacerbates some underlying health threats and creates new public health challenges. Climate change increases exposure to elevated temperatures; more frequent, severe, or longer-lasting extreme events; degraded air quality; diseases transmitted through food, water, and disease vectors (such as ticks and mosquitoes); and stresses to our mental health and well-being.[v] Vulnerable populations are more likely to experience climate change injury, acute and chronic illnesses, developmental issues, and death. Especially people living in heavily polluted areas or who are in poverty have a higher risk of exposure to biological, psychosocial, chemical or physical stressors which are often increased by climate change conditions. The social safety net has not provided timely or sufficient assistance to help people cope with the constant stress of climate change, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed weaknesses in the health care, education and public health and welfare systems.

Support the Benefits of A Green Economy

As we seek recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes clear that restoring the “normal” of the past will not achieve a lasting solution. The need to address the economic and social pain of the pandemic puts a spotlight on the inequities and systemic injustices of our current system. Planning a recovery to a new “normal” can accelerate the necessary transformation of our economy and our culture to a more sustainable way of living. Our laws and policies must change to restore the balance among a just and equitable economic system; a social justice system for health, education, culture and public well-being; and environmental protection provisions that sustain our life support system- fresh air, clean water, fertile ground and the diversity of species that comprise the global web of life.  Over the last fifty years, the economic metric has dwarfed all other measures of value in our culture, resulting in inequitable wealth distribution, unequal power sharing, and broad environmental degradation. 

The pathways to a sustainable future are clear. We can transform our economy and our way of life to place priority on changing human behaviors systematically to control the acceleration of climate change. The technologies necessary to make the shift are in hand. We must galvanize a collective sense of urgency to take action.[i]  When we do so, the benefits are significant, and accumulate rapidly.[ii]

Clear Policy Actions to Preserve the Planet for Our Children

In spite of the partisan divide that has hampered effective policy to mitigate climate change in the past decade, Americans increasingly recognize the need for action. In 2020, 82% of Americans across all political persuasions agree climate change from human actions is occurring and likely to increase global temperatures continuing into the next century.[iii] National leadership for a coordinated and consistent policy that will drive a unified response has been lacking. The amount of carbon dioxide already released into the atmosphere and baked in from existing sources of new emissions will assure that the global temperature continues to rise beyond the one degree Celsius already experienced in this decade.  Controlling the further increase to levels that will still sustain life as we know it must take place within the next ten to 15 years.

Here are four principles to guide the climate policy U-Turn:

1. Empower people to transform the economy. Government policies since the early 1980s have focused primarily on market-based decisions to strengthen business, especially large corporate entities. Yet, the highest times of productivity in our country and elsewhere have come when public investment empowering people, small businesses and communities have priority. We can re-create a sense of community and common purpose where people feel connected to their own communities and when that connection allows people to prosper. Young people should offer one year of public service upon graduation from high school. This can be military service, Volunteers In Service To America service, or community infrastructure restoration such as was offered through the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal era. Education beyond that year of service, whether to community college, union trade apprenticeship or university study should have a nominal tuition.  Students should not be completing their education with $100,000 or more in debt. Re-weave the social safety net to provide equitable access to health, education and poverty assistance. We need to de-criminalize poverty at all levels and define equitable pathways to prosperity. Entrenched discriminatory practices that limit access to financing for personal investment or for entrepreneurial investments must be equitably available. 

2. Revise property rights to place priority on protecting ecosystems rather than mineral rights. The natural systems that support life are embedded in the surface of the Earth- topsoil, trees, grasslands, wetlands, riparian areas around rivers and streams, oceans.  These living earth ecosystems are the true places that support the essential needs for life as we know it to exist. Preserving the life support system should be the top priority.  If value and rights are assigned to such ecosystem services, preserving forests will have value, regenerative farming that restores soil fertility will have value, preserving wetlands and coastal floodplains will have value.  Rescinding mineral rights as having dominance over surface rights will prevent farms, forests, parks and wetlands from destruction to access minerals and fossil deposits of oil, gas and coal. Stop subsidies for fossil industries. The entitlement for protection will shift to living earth systems instead.

3. Restore science as the basis for public policy. The reality of climate change requires immediate and sustained action. The laws of Nature are not negotiable, nor do physics, chemistry and physiology adjust for our laws. Technologies to mitigate the advance of climate change are available. They must be incorporated into law across the country. 

            Renewable energy systems can advance rapidly if the electricity grid would be modernized to intersecting micro-grid nodes. Adopting a national building code standard based on passive soar design, adjusted for regional differences, would create net zero energy and water buildings, or even allow buildings to create more energy than they use if Photovoltaic roofs were incorporated. Electrifying the transportation system with electric vehicles and light rail systems would improve ambient air as well as bolster manufacturing opportunities. Integrating storage technologies with artificial intelligence for load management and aligning power sources with uses can shift the pattern of power from central distribution systems to dispersed interconnected options.

            Regenerative agriculture– the practice of restoring crop rotation, cover crops, low tillage and other techniques can restore the fertility of the land and protect the health of people. Reforesting abandoned mine lands and protecting forested lands on public and private property with sound management practices and native species can also help to absorb carbon to reduce the greenhouse gas burden. Agricultural policies must shift from subsidizing huge corporate agricultural industrial production to supporting smaller farms, under 1000 acres, for food production. Many of our farming communities are centered in food insecure areas because the output of the farms targets export or commodity products, not food for people.  Technical assistance, marketing assistance and investment support as well as insurance should be structured to support family farms, not massive corporate entities.  Cultivation using soil regenerating practices should benefit more than enterprises that depend heavily on petrochemical-based fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and GMO systems.

            Reward circular materials management systems rather than the current system of taking raw material to trash as rapidly as possible.  The cost of waste, packaging, and disposal must be incorporated into the price.  The full life cycle cost of extracting, processing and using materials must be included.  As long as the fossil-based products appear inexpensive, there is no incentive to reshape markets.  We must design our materials to be re-used, repurposed or reclaimed after their intended use has been completed.  Value based on long-term usefulness rather than disposable “convenience” restores traditional priorities on quality and durability. Moving to plant-based resources rather than fossil-based resources also expands the options for circular economies connected to the land.  The expanding field of green chemistry offers numerous avenues for materials production without the burden of destructive resource extraction.

4. Address the systemic degradation of human value inherent in treating workers as commodities or units of production. The dignity of each person is an attribute of our shared humanity, regardless of race, gender, religion or political persuasion. The unrestrained capitalist approach places maximum value on the profits produced. That creates the incentive to devalue the land as much as possible, and to squeeze as much as possible out of the labor component.  Returns on capital investment are highest when land, including resources and feedstocks, as well as labor costs can be kept as low as possible. This system is inherently biased against workers and against protecting environmental attributes. We must restore the balance by elevating the value of work and workers assuring the right to organize and bargain with assurance. We must protect people from corporate greed. Sacrifice zones- the areas within a mile of industrial installations- are not acceptable in a just and equitable America. It is not okay anywhere to write off the health and well-being of people because of where they live.   

Call for Accountability

The burden of the climate crisis does not fall equally around the globe. The burden of climate change also falls more and more heavily on our children and those of future generations. Because the effects of greenhouse gas accumulation persist for hundreds of years, the mitigation efforts will not rapidly reverse damages already set from the accelerating levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

We are facing a challenge of ethics and fairness, not a technology problem. On behalf of our children and the children of the future, we must call to account the true culprits of climate change. Global carbon emissions increased by 60% from 1990 to 2015. This increase has exhausted half of the atmospheric carbon level to hold global warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius.[i]

Carbon emissions by countrreflect the energy intensity of the economic activity as well as the size of the economy.  China (21.6%), the United States (14.4%) and the European Union (9.7%) together account for nearly half of total global carbon emissions, while the bottom 100 countries contribute only 3.5%.[ii]  The majority of emissions come from producing electricity, transportation and heating. China’s rapid economic growth and its large population have contributed to the rise in its total carbon emissions in the last decade. Global warming has exacerbated the economic inequalities across countries. The higher carbon emitting countries have experienced relatively less severe climate change effects than many less developed countries, especially island nations and areas in the Southern Hemisphere that are severely affected by prolonged drought. However, since 2000, over twenty countries have reduced emissions while continuing to grow their economies.[iii] And, low-carbon energy sources have the potential to provide a substantial secondary development benefit, in addition to the primary benefits of increased energy access.[iv]

Carbon emissions per person reflect lifestyle choices and individual energy and food choices in particular. The top 10% of the wealthy account for 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions while the bottom 50% of people account for about 10%.[v] According to Tim Gore, author of the Oxfam Report, “The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fueling the climate crisis yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price. Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments decades long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon intensive economic growth.” Americans are among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases per person in the world at an average of 18 metric tons of carbon emissions per person, compared to the global average of 4.3 metric tons of Carbon emissions per person, and double the level of China (7.9) Germany (8.9) United Kingdom (6.5) France (4.6) and Sweden (4.5).[vi]  In the United States, emissions from transportation have been rising every year since 2012, and since 2016 have been the country’s largest carbon emissions source, surpassing the power sector.[vii]  

Twenty corporations account for the majority of carbon emissions worldwide. Fossil fuels are the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Between 1965 and 2017, the top 20 emitters contributed 35% of total carbon emissions worldwide. Twenty companies have collectively contributed 480 billion tons of carbon dioxide and methane, chiefly from the combustion of their products, equivalent to 35% of all fossil fuel and cement emissions worldwide since 1965.[i] Companies such as Suncor, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and ConocoPhillips have invested in the extraction of oil sands, tight oil, heavy oils and other forms which carry a larger environmental impact than conventional crude oil. These sources comprise a rapidly growing fraction of fossil fuels produced worldwide.[ii] The top five fossil industries spend significant amounts of money to control and limit regulation of emissions, with over $200 million a year spent on lobbying in the U.S. alone.[iii] Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil were the main companies leading the field in direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming.[iv] Worse, these companies knew the danger of global warming as early as 1965 but pressed forward with an increasingly strident effort to promote production and oppose any limits on emissions.[v] Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy and ConocoPhillips are all American companies in the top levels of global carbon emissions.[vi]

A Call to Action

The United States is officially withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord of 2015.  It is time to assert the reality of the climate situation and the important role the United States has as a major contributor to the problem. We also hold the potential to resume leadership in building a more just and equitable, resilient and sustainable way forward. We must act at all levels from the individual practice of reducing our carbon footprint, to local community climate action plans, state actions and ultimately a federal Climate Action Initiative that establishes a path to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our children deserve a viable future.

Let’s start today!


Citations and References:

[i] Heede, Richard (2019) Carbon Majors: Accounting for carbon and methane emissions 1854-2010 Methods & Results Report, re-issued with new foreword, ISBN 978-3-659-57841-0, OmniScriptum, Riga, 148 pp. 

[ii]   https://b8f65cb373b1b7b15feb-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1d.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/cms/reports/documents/000/002/327/original/Carbon-Majors-Report-2017.pdf?1499691240  

[iii]  https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/22/top-oil-firms-spending-millions-lobbying-to-block-climate-change-policies-says-report

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/16/exxonmobil-misled-the-public-about-the-climate-crisis-now-theyre-trying-to-silence-critics

[v] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/16/exxonmobil-misled-the-public-about-the-climate-crisis-now-theyre-trying-to-silence-critics

[vi] https://climateaccountability.org/pdf/CAI%20PressRelease%20Top20%20Oct19.pdf


[i] https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/621052/mb-confronting-carbon-inequality-210920-en.pdf

[ii] https://www.wri.org/blog/2017/04/interactive-chart-explains-worlds-top-10-emitters-and-how-theyve-changed

[iii] https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/roads-decoupling-21-countries-are-reducing-carbon-emissions-while-growing-gdp

[iv] Noah Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke. “Global Warming Has Increased Global Economic Inequality.” PNAS May 14, 2019 116 (20) 9808-9813. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1816020116

[v] Tim Gore, Mira Alestig, Anna Ratcliff.Confronting Carbon Inequality: Putting Climate Justice at the Heart of the COVID-19 Recovery. Oxfam. 21 September 2020. https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/621052/mb-confronting-carbon-inequality-210920-en.pdf

[vi]  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/chart-of-the-day-these-countries-have-the-largest-carbon-footprints/

[vii] P.Benoit.(2020,March).EverythingYouNeedtoKnowAbouttheFastest-GrowingSourceofGlobal Emissions: Transport. Ethics and International Affairs. https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/everything-you-need- know-about-fastest-growing-source-global-emissions-transport


[i] IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.- O. Pörtner, D. C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M. Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)]. In presshttps://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/4/2020/02/SPM_Updated-Jan20.pdf

[ii] Patricia. M. DeMarco. “Green Jobs and a Living Planet- Make It Happen” Pathways to a New Economy Blog post May 23, 2019.  https://patriciademarco.com/2019/05/23/green-jobs-and-a-living-planet-make-it-happen/ )

[iii] Krosnick, Jon A., and Bo MacInnis. 2020. Climate Insights 2020: Overall Trends. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future.  https://media.rff.org/documents/Climate_Insights_Overall_Trends_Final.pdf


[i] Rostin Behnam, David Gillers, Robert Litterman. Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System. Report of the Climate-Related Market Risk Sub-Committee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. September 9, 2020. Library of Congress Control Number: 20209165930  ISBN: 978-0-578-74841-2.

[ii] United Nations Summit on Biodiversity. September 30, 2020.  https://www.un.org/pga/75/united-nations-summit-on-biodiversity/

[iii] Katherine Buchholz. “Trump Administration Reversed 100 Environmental Rules.” Statista. October 15, 2020. https://www.statista.com/chart/18268/environmental-regulations-trump-administration/   

[iv] Ellen Knickmeyer. “Citing virus, EPA has stopped enforcing environmental laws.” March 26, 2020. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/citing-virus-epa-stopped-enforcing-environmental-laws-69827970

[v] Balbus, J., A. Crimmins, J.L. Gamble, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, S. Saha, and M.C. Sarofim, 2016: Ch. 1: Introduction: Climate Change and Human Health. The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, 25–42. http://dx.doi.org/10.7930/J0VX0DFW


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Lessons from the Hibakusha- A reflection on the 75th Commemoration of the Atomic Bomb

Seventy-five years ago, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Both cities were reduced to rubble, and a shock wave blast area and fire spread over 2.2 miles, with the lethal area extending to a 1.3 miles radius from the point of contact. The justification for this act rested on ending Japan’s involvement in World War II and bringing a rapid conclusion to the fighting.  Debate over whether this was justified and necessary continue among strategists to this day. But the human suffering and legacy of destruction lingers to this day as a warning against ever deploying nuclear weapons again. The survivors of this bombing, known as the Hibakusha, leave four lessons for our time.

Hiroshima Peace Museum

1. The resilience of the human spirit.

Imagine waking to the horror of a post-atomic bomb site.  The prospect is daunting- infrastructure gone, communication gone, relatives left without knowing the fate of loved ones. Death estimates range from 90,000 to 120,000 for Hiroshima and from 60,000 to 70,000 for Nagasaki because exact tolls were not possible. Bodies were vaporized in the blast zone and bodies were washed out to sea in the tides. Many died of radiation exposure within days or months, many hundreds of thousands survived with lingering illnesses such as anemia, ulcers, asthma, brain tumors, thyroid tumors and leukemia. Yet, 120,000 volunteers participated in the Life Span Study of Radiation conducted by Radiation Effects Research Foundation, jointly funded by the US and Japan. Most of what is known today about the long-term health effects of radiation has come out of research with those survivors. 

Dennis Normile reports in Science: “Within 6 weeks of the bombings, three U.S. and two Japanese expert teams were at work in both cities to study the biological impact of the radiation. Their objectives differed. The Japanese were primarily trying to understand the medical effects on survivors. The Americans wanted to know how and why people died from atomic blast radiation. That might help triage victims—separating those who might be saved from those doomed to die—during future nuclear wars.”[1] Much of the suffering persists long after the initial acute event. The fear of residual genetic effects passed to future generations remains a concern of many Japanese.  The discrimination against the hibakusha – survivors of the A-Bomb, persists from the fear that children will be genetically impaired.  Research and studies of children born to mothers who survived the bomb have not reassured the public. So, the emotional harm continues long after the event.

But some things cannot be destroyed. As a people, the Japanese show resilience, keeping the memory of the Atomic Bomb as a herald for peace. Love and hope can thrive in community, even as we struggle together for a better future. The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stands as a permanent testament to the destructive power of human ingenuity turned to making war instead of to peace. The remembrance of this terrible event serves as a spur to peaceful resolution of conflicts.

2. The ethical choice to use nuclear science for benefit rather than for harm.

Marie and Pierre Curie Discovered polonium and radium, and she championed the development of X-rays after Pierre’s death. Curie won two Nobel Prizes, for physics in 1903 and for chemistry in 1911. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize as well as the first person—man or woman—to win the prestigious award twice. She remains the only person to be honored for accomplishments in two separate sciences. 

During the First World War, Marie Curie saw many soldiers die or lose limbs from injuries that were not life threatening but could not be accurately diagnosed in battle conditions.  She put together mobile X-Ray machines that could be taken to medical centers in the battlefield to allow broken bones to be set, and accurately locate shrapnel and bullets for surgical removal.  It was her dream to see X-Rays bring many improvements to the practice of medicine.  Indeed, the legacy of nuclear medicine has taken this path.  Modern diagnostics have advanced to a high degree of sophistication, with surgical procedures simplified through nuclear imaging. Using focused radiation beams to shrink tumors and treat surgically inaccessible lesions has advanced cancer treatments in many areas. 

The choice to turn nuclear technology to the destructive force of a bomb was touted as a great scientific achievement. In speaking of the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb, President harry Truman said, “What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history. It was done under high pressure and without failure.”[2]  Using nuclear science to develop an atomic bomb turned the world on a path of nuclear arms development and containment that preoccupies the global balance of power to this day. 

3. The legacy of High-level nuclear waste

High-level nuclear waste is a concern because these materials remain radioactive and can cause health harms to living things. The biological effects of plutonium and other man-made alpha-emitting transuranic elements are primarily dependent upon their entering the body and being deposited in radiosensitive tissues, especially through inhalation.[3]These high-level radioactive materials decay over very long time periods, thus remaining radioactive for thousands of years.  For Plutonium239, the half-life is 24,400 years- that means that after that time half of the radioactivity will remain; for Plutonium242 the half-life is 379,000 years.[4] These high-level radioactive materials are created in weapons production, deployment or testing, and in nuclear power reactors. They are thus man-made elements not found in nature. 

At the end of World War II, the “cold war” advanced an escalating battle of deterrence that has defined the nuclear age. In the 1950s and into the 1990s open air testing of nuclear weapons was established at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Nuclear weapons testing at the Yucca Flats (NTS) began with a 1-kiloton-of-TNT (4.2 TJ) bomb dropped on Frenchman Flat on January 27, 1951. Over the subsequent four decades, over one thousand nuclear explosions were detonated at the NTS.[5]Underground nuclear testing (951 explosions) continued due to public health concerns about radioactive fallout. The westerly winds carried the radioactive plume over Utah where elevated increases in cancers were observed. Elevated levels of leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, bone cancer, brain tumors, and gastrointestinal tract cancers, were reported from the mid-1950s through 1980.[6] The build-up of nuclear arms has created an eternal legacy of high-level nuclear waste managed at the Hanford. Nuclear Reservation.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation was the site of the Manhattan Project atomic bomb production.  The Hanford site was home to the first full-scale production reactor to produce weapons grade plutonium used in the atomic bomb. During theCold War, the project expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the more than 60,000 weapons built for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. [7]  Nuclear technology developed rapidly during this period, and Hanford scientists produced major technological achievements. Many early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate, and government documents have confirmed that Hanford’s operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River. The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, and decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons (200,000 m3) of high-level nuclear waste.[8]  In 1989, the Hanford site was declared a superfund toxic site and is under management for cleaning up the 56 million gallons of high-level nuclear waste now in repository there. Radiation leaks from this facility have occurred frequently and numerous lawsuits are in progress surrounding the operation of this high-level nuclear waste facility. 

A second initiative of the “Cold War” was the development of “Atoms for Peace.” Launched by President Eisenhower, this initiative had two aspects, one successful and one abandoned almost immediately. President Eisenhower characterized the atoms for peace initiative :

“To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you—and therefore before the world its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma—to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.”[9]

Operation Plowshares from 1962-1965 was a series of nuclear tests at Yucca Flats in Nevada.  Proposed applications for controlled nuclear explosions included the creation of harbors, canals, open pit mines, railroad and highway cuts through mountainous terrain and the construction of dams. The radioactive fallout from such uses would be extensive. Public concerns about the health effects and a lack of political support eventually led to abandonment of the concept.

Nuclear Power “Tamed” the atom for the production of electricity in nuclear fission reactors. In promoting this technology,  Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission testified to Congress in 1954 that “Nuclear power will make electricity too cheap to meter”[10] But in spite of all assurances and encouragement, industry was skeptical and apprehensive. Finally, Congress passed the Price Anderson Act of 1957 which limited required operator insurance; capped liability in case of accidents. The value of this ongoing federal subsidy to the nuclear industry exceeds $100 Billion dollars. Nuclear power plants have supplied about 20% of total annual U.S. electricity since 1990. The 97 operating nuclear reactors in the U.S. produce more than 2,000 metric tons of radioactive waste a year, according to the Department of Energy —and most of it ends up sitting on-site because there is nowhere else to put it.[11]

This legacy of high-level radioactive waste from man-made materials is the burden this nuclear age, opened with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is imposing on our children for millions of years into the future.  The development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power without addressing the moral obligation to safely manage and contain the waste is a failure of responsibility for our actions on a grand scale. 

4. Nuclear Medicine

The use of nuclear materials in medicine shows the balance between the potential for harm and the potential for benefit. The X-Ray has become a standard diagnostic tool for broken bones, dental evaluation, guiding surgical procedures, and evaluating lung diseases. Diagnostic nuclear medicine involves the use of radioactive tracers to image and/or measure the global or regional function of an organ. And, the focused use of radiation has been used for the treatment of tumors to reduce them for better surgical outcomes or to control their growth in areas which are not amenable to surgery. Nuclear medicine is now a $1.7 billion industry. The Society of Nuclear Medicine estimates that 20 million nuclear medicine procedures are performed annually in the United States of which 12 million are procedures approved for and reimbursed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.[12]  Nuclear medicine has advanced on many fronts, and in this field, the vision of Marie Curie for beneficial uses of radiation sees fulfillment.

Hear and honor the Hibakusha

The Hibakusha have shown the true grace of an oppressed people. Their dedication to contributing to the understanding of radiation effects on health has continued now into second and third generations of studies. Their call for a constant remembrance of the horrors unleashed by nuclear weapons cannot be ignored or forgotten.  It is the moral responsibility of all of our generation to secure the future for all of the children of the 21st century.  Even as global struggles to address climate change and the social inequities it is bringing exacerbate conflicts, we must strive for peace.

Etsuko Ishikawa “Uranium Glass Globe” http://etsukoichikawa.com/about/

Treaties and agreements to limit nuclear war emerged soon after World War II. Negotiated between 1965 and 1968 among eighteen nations sponsored by the United Nations, the initial nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was fully executed in 1970 and held for 25 years.  It was extended in 1995, with all participants commitment to extend the treaty indefinitely.  The International Atomic Energy Administration was established  to enforce compliance.  As of August 2016, 191 nations have signed the agreement, including U.S.  North Korea withdrew; India, Israel and Pakistan did not sign, all have nuclear weapon capability.  The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, organized under the sponsorship of the United Nations, notes that 184 Countries have ratified the Nuclear Test Ban TreatyEight more will put it in permanent effect to ban nuclear weapons testing forever. “We must remain committed to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force.,” says CTBTO head, Lassina Zerbo.[13] At this point, there are destabilizing elements at play in nuclear arms threats in several countries around the world involving the United States, Russia, Iran and North Korea.  This is a complex area of international power jousting, one that must remain confined to the verbal stage for the sake of our survival as a species, and as civilizations.[14]

We can each play a part in securing the future.  We must insist on funding and attention to managing the existing high-level nuclear waste repositories.  We must recognize that nuclear energy use includes an obligation for thousands of years for waste management- now in temporary storage at 97 reactor sites all around the country. We must demand accountability from our leaders to strive for peace rather than to escalate nuclear weapons capabilities.

We can learn from the Hikabusha that we are human- resilient, enduring, and capable of great empathy.

Pray for Peace

Work for Justice

Dance for Joy

Blessed Be

Patricia DeMarco August 9, 2020

Citations and Resources


[1] Dennis Normile. “How atomic bomb survivors have transformed our understanding of radiation’s impacts.” Science. July 23, 2020.  https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/how-atomic-bomb-survivors-have-transformed-our-understanding-radiation-s-impacts   Accessed August 5, 2020.

[2] Harry S. Truman. August 6, 1945: Statement by the President Announcing the use of the A-Bomb at Hiroshima. Presidential Speeches. University of Virginia, Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/august-6-1945-statement-president-announcing-use-bomb

[3] Health Risks of Radon and Other Internally Deposited Alpha-Emitters. Beir IV. National Research Council (US) Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiations. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1988. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218114/

[4] Health Risks of Radon and Other Internally Deposited Alpha-Emitters. Beir IV.  Table 7-1 Transuranium Nuclides of Potential Biological Significance. National Research Council (US) Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiations. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1988. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218114/

[5] The Nevada Test SiteEmmet Gowin. Foreword by Robert Adams. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2019, pages 148 and 157 (Publ. DOE/NV-209, 1993).

[6] Johnson, Carl (1984). “Cancer Incidence in an Area of Radioactive Fallout Downwind From the Nevada Test Site”. Journal of the American Medical Association251 (2): 230. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340260034023

[7]  “Hanford Site: Hanford Overview”. United States Department of Energy.

[8] Deutsch, William J.; et al. (2007). Hanford Tanks 241-C-202 and 241-C-203 Residual Waste Contaminant Release Models and Supporting Data. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). doi:10.2172/917218

[9]  Address by Mr. Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, to the 470th Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Tuesday, 8 December 1953. https://www.iaea.org/about/history/atoms-for-peace-speech

[10] Strauss, Lewis (16 September 1954). Remarks prepared by Lewis L. Strauss (PDF) (Technical report). United States Atomic Energy Commission. https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1613/ML16131A120.pdf

[11] Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics, as of April 16, 2020

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/nuclear/nuclear-power-plants.php

[12]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11471/

[13] STATEMENT BY LASSINA ZERBO, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR-TEST-BAN TREATY ORGANIZATION (CTBTO)Vienna, 21 April 2018

  https://www.ctbto.org/press-centre/press-releases/2018/statement-by-lassina-zerbo-executive-secretary-comprehensiThe Hibakusha are dedicated to striving for ve-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-organization-ctbto/

[14]  For an overview of treaties and Agreements on nuclear matters see https://www.armscontrol.org/treaties


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Protecting the Public Interest: The Challenge of Fracking

by Patricia M. DeMarco

6-21-2020

Food and Water Watch sponsored a two part program for municipalities and interested citizens on the Municipal Ordinance Project. As the hydraulic fracturing industry continues its build-out with the hope of expanding a petrochemical industry in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and West Virginia, municipalities find themselves confronted by promises of jobs, wealth and prosperity. In fact, the actual results have been less auspicious for many communities. The Municipal Ordinance Project gives communities the tools to develop zoning ordinances the protect community interests, health and safety and infrastructure within the constraints of federal and state law. You can find more about this project here https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/campaign/municipal-ordinance-project-fighting-fracking-local-level

I presented the case study of the Borough of Forest Hills initial ban on fracking in 2011 and the adoption of stringent regulations of oil and gas industry activity in 2016.

You can see the entire regulation on the Borough of forest Hills Web site here Section 27-1019- Regulations Governing Oil and gas Development and Related Operations https://ecode360.com/31594364

Many communities oppose fracking because of contamination to drinking water supplies

The Borough of Forest Hills sits to the East of Pittsburgh, a bedroom community initially farmed land, then settled as a residential area for Westinghouse executives, engineers and employees. The character of the community remains one of residences nestled among mature trees, with pride in the Tree City status held since 1976. The Comprehensive Plan for Development, updated in 2020 expressions the community vision:

“The Borough of Forest Hills carries a tradition of innovation as the community grows in leadership toward a resilient future. The community values the natural beauty of its environment and enjoys the inclusiveness and diversity of its citizens, offering cultural, recreational, and educational services for all generations in safe and secure neighborhoods.”

Faced with federal law, the Nation energy Act of 2005 with its extensive exemptions from environmental protections and worker safety protections for hydraulic fracturing and State Law- Act 13 that requires communities to provide for oil and gas development, Forest Hills became alarmed about the fear of fracking intruding into the community. This heavy industrial activity is incompatible with residents’ expectations or with the geologic nature of our small borough.

Forest Hills Council investigated fracking through several public meetings and Council hearings through 2010 and 2011. Risks uncovered included, the extensive underlying coal mines in our area, which could be destabilized by seismic testing and hydraulic fracturing activity. We were concerned about the effect of heavy truck traffic on Ardmore Boulevard and Greensburg Pike as the m hundreds of loads of sand, chemicals, water and other materials were transported through our neighborhood. We were concerned about increased possibilities for landslides precipitated by the fracking activity, and we were concerned about effects on the ground water and streams as well as toxic air emissions from fracking operations. •

My support of the ban was based on the fact that there is scientific evidence that this hydraulic fracking causes problems with the environment and problems with health.”

Mayor Marty O’Malley

Forest Hills adopted a ban on Fracking in 2011, resting heavily on the concerns for community health and safety, and relying on the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Article 1, Section 27: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”

However, because Pennsylvania has strong legislation supporting oil and gas development requiring that access to mineral rights be provided, there were some court cases that ruled against fracking bans when challenged, and that no lawful land use may be categorically prohibited, Council decided in 2016 to establish a Conditional Use Zoning regulation that would tightly constrain any oil and gas development efforts in Forest Hills. The 23-page zoning ordinance adopted in October 2016 meets the requirements of Pennsylvania law, but provides significant protection for Forest Hills citizens. Any proposed oil and gas development would be absolutely excluded from residential areas, parks, and all but a very small segment of the business district.

Forest Hills Borough pursued the replacement of its functionally limited 1922 municipal building with a passive solar design, solar photovoltaic roofed municipal building that combines the Borough and Council administrative offices, the Forest Hills Police Department, the Forest Hills Branch of the C.C.Mellor Library and a Community Room.

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Forest Hills Borough Net Zero Energy Municipal building operational in January 2018

The Borough of Forest Hills moves forward with planning for a resilient, safe, welcoming community. We will focus on high tech business opportunities and continue to promote local enterprises.


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Facing the Reality of Racism

June 2, 2020

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.


My heart is heavy this night as I see once again streets filled with people in peaceful protest being forcefully suppressed by police in military riot gear. We may join in sorrow with the family of George Floyd but know that tears are useless unless we act. Righteous rage at the violent response of authorities to peaceful protests across the land must translate into action.

We as a nation once again must confront the truth of our country: systemic racism is woven in the fabric of America. It is evident in the wealth gap – the health gap – the education gap – the environmental injustice – the inequity inherent in the system of justice. All these injustices persist, even thrive, because we who are wealthy enough, have health care, assume that justice is ours, and experience no overt hatred have allowed such conditions to exist among us. We take care not to see. We go out of our way not to feel.

This day we are called again to confront the worst that is in our society. We cannot hide, pretending that this is not our battle. We must stand with our Brothers and Sisters and acknowledge that the system we all endure has failed. As the workers and townspeople stood together in solidarity to battle unjust and unsafe conditions in the Battle of Homestead in 1892, so we must stand in solidarity and assert the moral truth: Murdering a man for an unproven accusation with complicity from four police officers is wrong. “Innocent until proven guilty” too often does not apply when the accused is a person of color and the enforcers are white. 

The outrage of true Americans has surfaced again from the depths of delusion. Those who marched for Civil Rights in the 60s, celebrated the election of President Barak Obama and rejoiced in the growth of black community leaders now must stand up and join in the demands that call for justice.

We are none of us free until we take responsibility for the rights of the downtrodden. None of us are free as long as our fellow citizens are abused before the law. We are all guilty if we stand by in silence while our fellow citizens suffer injustice, abuse and despair. Those of us who do not bear the daily burden of hatred must stand up and lift that yoke of racist hatred from the backs of our Brothers and Sisters. Freedom is not free- it comes with a responsibility to fight for justice, to act for fairness, and to demand accountability from those in power. 

When people have reached the limit of their frustration at a system that does not hear them, the scene is set for a revolt. When people lose confidence in their government to protect their rights and preserve their safety, we descend into chaos. When our leaders use their power for oppression and fear, it is time for all of us to stand up together and say No More! 

It is WRONG for police to fire tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades into crowds of people standing together singing for justice. It is wrong to expect people sprayed with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades to behave peacefully! It is wrong to criminalize citizens as the exercise their Constitutional right to protest. 

The power of America is vested through the Constitution in The People – It is time for us to take it back!

Three actions you can take now:

  1. Donate to the Protest Bail Funds: https://www.communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory
  2. Join The Poor Peoples Campaign founded in 1967 by Martin Luther King, now calling for a Moral March on Washington on June 20, 2020 virtual and realhttps://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org
  3. Volunteer to Get Out The Vote in November 2020.

Other organizations and actions to support:

Patricia DeMarco is Treasurer of the Battle of Homestead Foundation.


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Freedom is Not Free” _ Homage to the Citizen Soldiers of America

America is heralded as “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” We assume that government serves the collective public interest and protects the weak and vulnerable from the tyranny of self-interested power. But the concept of “Freedom” exhibited today makes a mockery of the legendary ideals our forefathers fought and died for.  Freedom does not mean we are all free to do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want as a right.  This is not freedom but selfish indulgence.  Freedom is granted as a privilege but implies responsibility and accountability for our actions as they affect others.

The generation that fought together in World War II shared a bond of common commitment to face down evil and stand for the moral high ground of humanity.  Service above self, to the ultimate sacrifice of life itself, bound the citizen-soldiers of that time together, and set up the conditions that built the greatness of America as a world leader, and as a model for progress.  But, in the aftermath of that war, the spirit of cooperation in governance, in institutions, in aspirations began a slow erosion decade by decade.  My Father was a paratrooper in Donovans unit of Special Forces, and later served in the United States Information Service. He would not recognize the America he fought for, and the government policies prevalent today would shock his sensibilities to the core.

The sense of making life better for our children, the sense of making life better for everyone together has evaporated into a governance framework driven by corporate interests.  Business and government have fundamentally different objectives.  The special interests of multi-national corporations now drive public policy to the detriment of the health and welfare of the people, as a collective whole. Tax and financial policies have deliberately skewed the distribution of wealth to an increasingly bloated top 5% of the people, leaving more and more people in the clutch of poverty, even if they are working full time, or have multiple jobs. The system is rigged for people who make money from the returns on their invested money. Corporate profits are at an all-time high, while wages stagnate or fall. Working hard does not guarantee success, or even a viable life.  The poverty in America is a deliberate political decision.  This time of COVID-19 pandemic reveals the injustice embedded n our economic system today: “essential workers” are al the bottom of the wage ladder. People whose work is critical to food supplies, health and basic safety stand out of their own sense of duty in the face of daily danger, yet these are paid least, hold lowest status, and are treated as disposable people. This is not the America my Father and Grandfathers, uncles and brother fought for!

Likewise, the assumption that clean air and fresh water are guaranteed is fraying in America.  As pollution runs rampant with regulatory controls rolled back, rescinded or unenforced, millions of Americans suffer from living in polluted air and unsafe water.  Contamination from industrial operations disproportionately affects communities of color, and people who cannot afford to move away.  The COVID virus compounds the insult of having to live in unhealthy places, with no recourse, and no hope of escape. Rolling back basic environmental protections to promote business undermines the basic health and safety of the nation, and the globe as water and air pollution respects no borders. The laws of Nature are not negotiable- physics, chemistry, biology operate whether our laws take science into account or not.

Unlike the specific, horrific crimes of Nazi Germany, the slow violence of corporate greed raises few objections.  The country increasingly splits over ideology, politics, race and religion.  There is no sense of urgency to move in a collective effort to preserve a fair, equitable, healthy future for our children.  Everything rests on short-term benefits.  There is no sense of collective action to make better options for our children.  Any policies that purport to curtail the “rights” of individuals or corporations to profit, regardless of the consequences, are viewed with derision and trounced as burdens on business or curtailing freedom.

What of the burdens on the next generation?  What of the obligation to protect the innocent and help the indigent?  Where is our higher calling to improve the community in which we live?  

As the conditions of the world continue to deteriorate, it is necessary for everyday people to take up the mantle of moral conviction to make things better.  It is imperative that people learn from the brave men and women who laid down their lives for justice, freedom and respect for human dignity.  The rampant racism underlying many of the current policies in America must be called out, and trounced for the precursor to tyranny. Democracy is not automatically viable, it requires active participation by an informed and caring citizenry.  There is no way to honor those who stood for the America that united together to defeat tyranny without reclaiming the moral imperative.  We must be willing to stand and fight for the dignity and respect of all people, for the right for life to exist as intact living systems that serve our Earth, for the fair and equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth, and for the rights of people to express their opinions openly and to receive respect. 

We must remember that we are a nation stronger as a community joined in common purpose than as a group of individuals, each striving for his or her own goal. It is the common sensitivity of caring communities, built on mutual respect and recognizing the inherent dignity of each person, that will prevail over tyranny.  The injustice visited on any one of us is owed an answer by all of us. That is what makes a nation great.

On this Memorial Day 2020, there are few parades, few traditional ceremonies of honor, few gatherings at cemeteries, or family picnics. On this Memorial Day strangely isolated and mourning the 100,000 lost to COVID-19, we can each stand in honorer those who stood for us. We must each take up the burden and the privilege of Freedom to hold that high standard of taking responsibility for our actions, supporting those who hold that space of concern for the least among us, and respect the inherent dignity of each fellow citizen. The mark of a truly free person is the generosity of spirit each shows to others. The mark of a truly free country is measured in the quality of life the least of its people can enjoy.

In homage to the Citizen Soldiers who served to defend America, we can each take up the honor of holding our freedom by holding responsibility for defending it daily, ourselves in our actions, words and deeds. We can hold our freedom by demanding accountability from our leaders to keep the standards of a moral and ethical government.

The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor welcomed my Father and my grandparents to a land of opportunity, a land yet unshackled by the bonds of class and tyranny. We must remember what made America truly great: her people, their hopes, aspirations and collective sense of purpose.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


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Forest Regeneration at the Druid’s Garden Homestead: Forest Hugelkultur, Replanting and More!

Insightful, practical and inspiring piece on forest regeneration. With all the environmental damage inflicted on our forests for human extractive industrial uses, this is an important perspective. I would advocate for policies that REQUIRE a re-forestation plan as a condition for any commercial use of forest land. With Admonitions to consider sustainable uses as a priority, as are suggested in this article showing ways to recover poorly planned logging.

The Druid's Garden

Red Elder – helping the forest recover

The property was almost perfect: in the right location, a natural spring as a water source, a small and nice house with a huge hearth, areas for chickens and gardens, a small pond and a stream bordering the edge of the property….pretty much everything was exactly what we hoped.  Except for one thing: right before selling the property, the previous owners did some logging for profit, taking out most of the mature overstory of trees on 3 of the 5 acres. This left the forest in a very damaged place: cut down trees, lots of smaller limbs and brush, often piled up more than 5-8 feet high in places. I remember when I went to look at the property and started walking the land and just saying, “Why would they do this?”  It hurt my heart. Could I live here, seeing what had…

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COVID-19: A Requiem for the American Dream

Patricia M. DeMarco

My heart feels heavy with the weight of the thousands who die daily, often alone in isolation wards, separated from the comfort of family. I weep for the families who are bereft not only of loved ones but of the ritual of end of life passage as funeral services are constrained or shut off.  There is no replacement for hugs and shared tears.  There is no on-line version of hands held together across generations in prayer.

The isolation and protective separation in the face of a respiratory virus for which there is no vaccine, no cure and few palliative treatments, is becoming reality across the globe.  Here in America, the defiance toward behavioral directives runs rampant, often with spikes in infections at a two-week lag. As masks become more common, we miss the exchange of smiles, the unspoken interactions among friends and strangers.  Life feels more impersonal, less welcoming, more easily objectified.

Worst of all, leadership to inspire unified response to protect the weakest among us is absent. In the face of the daily toll of thousands of deaths, we are becoming numb.  COVID-19 deaths join the ranks of systemic crises for which we ignore systemic solutions.  The hand of narrow corporate and self-serving political interests is on the rudder of the ship of state.  And it is steering us into the rapids without heed for the looming disaster. This is the most alarming development in this American experience of the pandemic.  Where is the outrage?  Where is the demand for equity and justice? Where is the empathy with the bereaved and shared sense of loss? How can we recover if we do not grieve?  Once again, economic priorities, be they ever so short term, steer the response of government.

Instead of harnessing the capacity of the nation to expedite food distribution, the politicians tremble at falling economic indicators and call for a return to “normal.” Farms where crops are being plowed under and milk poured into the manure pits could be assisted by the government purchases with the National Guard mobilized to bring food to people in need.  Schools closed and sent students home to study on-line…but many students lack internet access or instruments to use. Many lack adults with the time and capacity to help with home studies. Universal internet should be available for everyone in America, with basic service free. We are not taking care of each other at the national level, and states are pitted against each other for critical supplies, equipment and assistance.  As the local business base struggles to survive, many communities face dire financial projections for later this year.

The Poor Peoples Campaign has called for a moral revival to save the heart and soul of our democracy. Among their Principles: “We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.”  The failures and inequities of our current conditions in America are highlighted in this time of pandemic.  The pall of the COVID-19 does not fall equally on everyone. Those who live with constant air pollution, environmental injustice communities across the country, communities of color, the many deemed “essential workers” at the bottom of the wage scale – all of these are experiencing more severe instances of COVID-19 illness.  Testing is completely inadequate nation-wide and policies continue to be established with the explicit or subtle objections of the doctors and scientists, epidemiologists, who know best how to address this kind of aa pandemic. 

It is time to restore our humanity, to celebrate our best instincts of care and concern for our whole community, nationally and globally.  All of us must come together to withstand the social and economic fallout from this pandemic.  We must recognize that there will be no hope of having healthy people without having a healthy planet.  Our living Earth provides the balances that contain such pandemics within their appropriate balanced ecosystems.  When we destroy habitat, exploit wildlife and pollute the air and water, we set up the conditions for such viral pandemics.

We must insist that our society correct the huge distortions that have accumulated with deliberate policy support.  We must choose to re-build our economy, our society and our institutions on a platform that serves the best interest of ALL of the people together.  We are more alike as human creatures with needs for food, fresh water, clean air, safe shelter and dignity than we are different in cultures, religions, races, genders, or even political persuasion.  Let us grieve together for the lost and work together to protect each other.  Let us stand in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable. Let us take back the power of the People to work for the People, not the vested interests of multi-national corporations.  Restore the beating heart of America with the cleansing power of moral outrage at the injustice imposed by greed at the hands of professional bullies.

Do these five things every day:
1. Call or reach out in person to someone who is not close in space to offer comfort and friendship.

2. Check in with neighbors who may live alone and offer a word of cheer, help with errands, or simple friendly acknowledgment.

3. Call or write to your Senators and Representative every day to demand a science-based response to COVID-19 putting people before profits.

4. Find a place in Nature to celebrate life and spend time connecting with your personal grief and collective sense of loss. Take solace from the resilience of Nature blooming all around us.

5. Thank the people who are there to serve and care for us – they are putting their own safety at risk for us. Wear your mask. 

Blessed Be


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Earth Day 2020: Re-Imagine America In Harmony With Nature

April 22, 2020

Patricia M.DeMarco,Ph.D.

As the world reflects on the 50th celebration of Earth Day, we are in a state of emergency.

The world faces not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also the ongoing and escalating existential crises of global warming and global pollution, especially from plastics. Solving this trio of global crises will require collaboration, community and a sense of commitment to the future. Our country is deeply divided and out of balance in response to any single crisis, totally rudderless and struggling to address these overlapping issues. But sometimes, addressing a constellation of crises together brings solutions closer. This is especially true when the underlying causes overlap, and so do the solutions. The story of modern civilization since the Industrial Revolution has rested on subjugating nature through resource extraction, commercial agriculture exploiting the land, and piecemeal implementation of mitigation strategies. This moment in time offers an opportunity to re-set our trajectory. We can re-imagine America in a path that flows in harmony with Nature.Our leaders, businesses and citizens can come together to Re-Imagine America in Harmony with Nature to restore hope for a better future.


“Laying Down Thread” A Reflection for troubled times

by Patricia DeMarco

As we are all adjusting to the pandemic of COVID-19 as it spreads through our communities closer and closer, I find myself in a reflective mood. I am among the highly vulnerable population because of my age and my compromised immune system from my recent bout with chemotherapy. So I have been thinking about making productive use of this time in self-imposed isolation.

My forthcoming book “DEFIANCE! The Triumph of Life” seems more urgent than even in this time of threat. I have decided to focus on finishing this manuscript and sending it off to some potential publishers this month. I am also finishing the Alaska Wildflowers quilt I started in 1997 as a way to deal with my fear of flying. I share an essay from DEFIANCE.

Laying Down Thread

I learned embroidery from my Nona when I was six or seven years old.  She taught me to sew by hand doing the hems of the flour sacks turned into dish towels or aprons.  The flour was purchased in 25 -pound cotton sacks.  These were emptied into the flour hopper in the kitchen, with a sifter at the bottom to sift flour into a bowl when needed.  In Nona’s house, bread happened once a week in a large batch to serve the working men of the house with lunches, and the rest of us with nourishment. The empty sacks were washed and taken apart to lie flat, and I learned to draw a thread for a straight seam, and hand-turn a hem.  Of course, nothing was sent to use without embroidered embellishment- a prayer or blessing in white thread on white cloth at the minimum, or freehand flowers trailing along the edge. Counted thread work and smocking decorated aprons.  And of course, there was the endless darning of socks, turning of shirt collars and cuffs, and mending.  Such routine household tasks occurred in the evening after dinner over rich conversations. 

A square from Alaska Wildflowers quilt

In one of my earliest memories, I recall a Saturday afternoon in summer on my Nona’s back porch.  The grape vines are so thick that the sun is shaded through the heavy leaves.  I sit on a little stool at my Nona’s foot with my embroidery hoop working on a set of pillow cases to be embroidered with flowers spilling from a basket.  Mrs. Nichola, Comare D’Alessandro, Aunt Bernice and Aunt Matilda are there, each with some hand work, all talking and laughing over stories they share.  It is a mixture of mostly Italian and some English, I am oblivious of the content of the conversation, but remember that I deeply connected to these ladies who could laugh and be happy in spite of the hardships and separations from their families. I would show my Nona my work, and sometimes she would be pleased and give me the next color to add to the design, or sometimes she would tell me to take it out and start over.  The back had to be pretty too!  No tangled messes were tolerated. Sometimes she would send me to look at a flower growing to see the shape and the detail of leaf and flower form. The embroidery came from the mental image to the cloth.

As I grew older, I came to treasure these Saturdays with my Nona, mending, embroidering, and sharing time.  We talked of problems and fears and hopes.  I marveled that she had so much wisdom and so much strength.  Bare root grape vines and fig trees came to America in Pop’s pockets now grown to shade the second-floor porch and offer fruits to eat with cheese and bread and wine as we talked.  Nona listened to my struggles for independence from my Father’s rules, from the unfairness of women’s place in the world.  She was wise in many ways. She told me “The men may rule, but the women govern.” I watched at the family gatherings over Sunday dinner where all major decisions were made.  Pop would declare the outcome, but the discussion and arguments were guided by Nona, sometimes with force, but most often with a well-placed question or observation.  And it was Nona who executed the logistics and the details.

I think about the many embroideries I have done over the course of my life. They are mostly given away as presents to other people, or on children’s clothes long dispersed to the winds. When I embroider the flowers where the forms evolve from mental images through thread laid down one strand at a time, I think about my Nona and all she endured to make her family a better life.  Embroidery captures the sadness, loneliness or fear and makes it beautiful. I lay down thread and remember my Nona. 

I hope this small excerpt of DEFIANCE offers comfort in this difficult time. It is really the simple things that give us solace and transform trouble into treasures.

Be safe. Be well. I hope to see you again soon.


“Electricity from Black to Gold” Presentation at GND Discussion of 23.Feb.2020

The Green New Deal Discussion group meets on alternate Sundays to discuss Naomi Kline’s book of essays, On Fire! The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal On February 23rd we had a discussion of the essay “Capitalism vs. the Climate.” I was asked to provide some background and insight to the utility industry.

Here is the video of the session recorded by Dean Mougianis, posted here with permission.
https://youtu.be/RHlmrjxHYtc

The slides do not show well on the screen as filmed, so the slides are here. (If you share this, please include the citations.)