Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


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A Perspective on Nuclear Power Past and Future

Here is a presentation from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom presentation of May 18, 2017. I was honored to be on a panel with Ellen Thomas and Odile Hugonot Haber who are on a Nuclear Free Future WILPF-US  to end nuclear war, weapons of mass destruction and nuclear armaments. See more about their work here:  https://www.facebook.com/wilpfustour

My presentation is here:

5-18-2017 Nuclear Power Past & Future – PD Panel

I welcome your comments and questions.

PD


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Earth Day 2017- A Call for Earth Teach-Ins

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970 grew from a rising awareness of the need to protect the environment from the pollution of industry. It started nearly a decade earlier in 1962 with Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring calling attention to

1970 Earth Day Protesters

the effects of pesticides such as DDT on all living things, including people. The practices of the Industrial Revolution produced smoke-filled air, polluted lifeless rivers and toxic waste dumps. The prevailing attitude was that “the solution to pollution is dilution” but by 1970, the environmental laws enacted in the early 1960s had not yet made much effect, and a series of tragedies in 1969 brought sharper focus on the need for a stronger system to defend clean air, safe drinking water, fertile land, and the biodiversity of species. The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire and burned down two bridges; an oil tanker ran aground and contaminated the beaches of Santa Barbara; and a spill from a DDT manufacturing plant caused a massive fish kill in the Mississippi River.

From this concentrated spate of outrages, Senator Gaylord Nelson (D) Wisconsin, called for a day of “teach-ins” on Earth Day to raise awareness and call for public action to protect the environment more systematically. There were public seminars in the streets, in union halls, in university courtyards and churches all across the country. Millions of people came to listen, to march and to protest. The result of this effort finally led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1974. It took more than a decade for the alarms Rachel Carson raised to see fruition in a legal apparatus to protect our life support system- fresh air, clean water, fertile ground and the biodiversity of species – the interconnected web of life of which humans are but one part.

In the years since those early days of concern for protecting the environment, a continuous erosion of the power of environmental laws has made its way through amendments, exemptions, and revisions of the laws. Industry has a larger say in the approval of new pesticides, herbicides or synthetic products. Entire industries such as hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas are exempt for seven federal environmental and worker safety protections. The regulatory review process has become so complex that only experts and teams of specialized attorneys can successfully navigate the labyrinth. Regulatory agencies at both federal and state levels have suffered from continuously shrinking budgets, required to do more with less.

More insidiously, industry interests have infiltrated the administration of the regulatory process, to shape the outcome for maximum economic effect, rather than maximum public or environmental health and protection. Doubt, reasonable or otherwise, has replaced reasoned judgment based on the facts of science. Opinion has replaced evidence based on observation and measurement, and political rhetoric has replaced peer-reviewed assessments. President Trump has

Senate confirms EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt 

overtly rejected science as a basis for sound public policy. His appointed, and Senate confirmed, administrators vow to deconstruct the regulatory protections for the environment, for addressing climate change, and for protecting public health and worker safety. His Executive Orders in the first 100 days of his tenure illustrate the ardor of his passion for destruction of all that holds the living Earth dear. National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, public lands – the legacy of our nation to the future- all fall to the greed of exploitation. The natural resource capital of the nation is squandered for short term corporate profits, while the public taxpayer pays the costs in the form of worse health from air and water pollution, costs for cleaning the public water supplies, or fighting wildfires, floods or droughts from climate change.

Rachel Carson provides a role model for a responsible scientist. She carried the revolutionary passion that all living things have the basic right to exist! She spoke for the unborn

Rachel Carson Testifies to Congress June 1963

of future generations. She spoke for the oceans, forests, grasslands, winged creatures and soil dwellers- the great interconnected web of life. In her testimony to Congress months before her death, she called them to account: “Our heedless and destructive acts enter into the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.” This living Earth is the precious hallmark of our planet. This unique living mantle of the Earth evolved to a finely tuned balance over 7,000 years, resting on millions of years of evolution before then. Humans have now strained the limits of the natural systems that keep the living Earth in balance. We see the evidence in the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the consequent acidification of the oceans, rising global temperatures with the consequent melting of glaciers, expansion of drought areas, and more frequent extremes of storm events. Scientists observe, document and measure. We model the possible outcome and attempt to predict what has never happened before in recorded time. We wring our hands, and preach to each other. The journals are filled with data and documentation of ever more dire forecasts. And Trump became President!

We march in protest of his policies. We rise in rage at the folly of ignoring the facts, and despair for our children, and the unborn of all creatures whose fate we shape with our actions today. But, in the mainstream media, nobody reports on the peer-reviewed science. No media cover the extinction of a

Great Coral Reef in Australia- under threat

Monarch butterfly and other pollinators under threat

species, or the effects of destroying the coral reefs, home to 30% of the fishes in the ocean. Ordinary people do not
automatically make the connection between rising global temperatures and the fate of our life support system. People do not make the connection between the death of pollinators and their own lives. They do not read peer-reviewed journals. Why would they?

We who stand as scientists with fists raised in outrage have enjoyed the freedom to pursue intellectual curiosity to the ultimate end of finding truth. We who know have the obligation to inform. Not in a pedantic way, which we can impart through our students. But in the vernacular. In the media. At our dinner tables. In the classrooms and PTA meetings where our children are. In the playgrounds, and on the sidelines where the coaches gather for soccer games or track meets. We need to be in the churches and community centers where people struggle with keeping whole in the face of adversity of all kinds. Science matters in everyone’s daily life. Where are the Teach-ins about climate change? Where are the street theater demonstrations of the better path forward? Where are the scientists at the tables where political decisions are being made? The ivory tower is not where we live. The community needs engaged scientists. The halls of Congress need our voices, as constituents, as experts, and as opinion leaders holding them accountable for their decisions. We need to take the truth to the streets and teach people across all levels to know the difference between manufactured doubt and established facts.

At this pivotal time in history, it is our obligation to speak out. To make our voices heard and to listen to the fears that underlie the obstruction. We are a country that strives for freedom- in markets, in personal pursuits, and in opinions. But freedom without responsibility yields chaos. We are a nation governed by laws, but when the laws are corrupted by greed and protections for private interests over the public good, we have the obligation to speak out, to protest and to demand accountability. The laws of Nature are not negotiable. The path we have set upon with economic profit as the primary determinant of value sets us on a path of certain destruction. Our life support system is being destroyed, and our economy registers only more jobs, more sales for extracted resources, more profits from plundered land. Unless we protect the common necessities for life to exist, we will leave a legacy of an uninhabitable planet. Scientists engaged in the debate, professing hope through better solutions, teaching the ways of life based on the laws of science can shape a better future. We who know have the obligation to act. We who see better options based on facts have the power to change the world. We must reach out beyond our comfort zones. We must invite people in to knowing the facts science can bring to the wonders of our fragile and marvelous living Earth.


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Building an Economy for a Living Earth

Building an Economy for a Living Earth

By Patricia M. DeMarco

April 5, 2017

            The distinguishing feature of man’s activities is that they have almost always          been undertaken with a viewpoint of short-range gain, without considering either       their impact on the earth or their long range effect upon ourselves.

            Rachel Carson[i]

My generation heard President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon. Seeing the blue, green and white swirled marble of the earth from the perspective of space marked a paradigm shift in our time. For some, this represented the first step on the conquest of yet another frontier, and early speculation about colonizing the moon abounded. Others saw the earth from the distance of space and recognized the fragility of our position. Astronaut Frank Borman of Apollo 8 said, “I think the one overwhelming emotion that we had was when we saw the earth rising in the distance over the lunar landscape . . . . It makes us realize that we all do exist on one small globe. For from 230,000 miles away it really is a small planet.”[1]

Everywhere we look around us we see evidence of our civilization pressing against the limits of the critical resources of the planet. Our time marks a critical turning point for preserving the living system of our earth as a regenerative, bountiful and productive ecosystem. As a species, humans have reached the level of dominating and overtaking the natural world through exploitation, extraction and consumption, burning through natural resources and leaving massive amounts of trash and destruction in our wake. The earth now bears the scars of hundreds of years of such abuse. It is time to recognize the limits to such profligate behavior, and take a different direction. The age of using technology for the conquest of nature must yield to the age of biology, using technology to live in harmony with nature to preserve and regenerate the life support system of the living earth.

Four human behaviors since the industrial revolution have driven our way of living out of balance with natural systems. We consume resources beyond what can be generated by the land we live on. We drive our economy on continuously expanding growth in consumption. We fail to control population growth while using technology to extend life. We generate waste that poisons our life support system. The consequences of these actions in our energy system, food system and materials system, are not compatible with sustaining a living planet.

We have reached this condition by allowing human inventiveness in conquering nature to proceed without restraint. From the earliest of times, human’s ability to manipulate and control the conditions presented in nature contributed to our survival. But once industrialization began, the ability to manipulate natural systems unbalanced the natural flow of energy and materials. It is time, now that we have begun to understand the elegant complexity of natural ecosystems, to take lessons from the natural world to craft our way forward. We must restructure our economy and our civilization to preserve and restore the robust resilience of the natural living world.

To begin thinking about structuring our economy along the principles of an ecosystem, it is important to understand how an ecosystem works. Any area of nature that includes living organisms and non-living substances interacting to exchange materials between the living and non-living parts is an ecological system, or ecosystem.[2] There are many kinds of ecosystems around the world, and at least six major distinct ecosystems within the continental United States, recently mapped by the U.S. Geologic Survey.[3] But all ecosystems operate with four basic constituents.

Ecosystems, whether they are aquatic around ponds and streams or oceans and coast, or whether they are of the forests, grasslands and deserts, all have these four essential parts, and all are circular. The producers convert essential materials into forms that can be used by consumers, and the decomposers return them to the system for use again. The entire process is powered by the sun, and connected by the water in its various forms. Temperature, altitude, and the amount of moisture available shape the different expressions of ecosystems, and determine the number and kinds of species of producers, consumers and decomposers present. The inter-relationships among these parts have evolved into complex food webs coterminous with the evolution of conditions over geologic time. Adaptations and adjustments emerged gradually over millions of years as conditions changed.

Albatross killed by eating plastic debris

Modern ecosystems universally bear the mark of human influence, because the effects of human activity are dispersed around the globe, introducing man-made materials and shifting the balance of natural ecosystems by rapidly adding synthetic materials and the combustion products of fossilized organic materials extracted from the crust of the earth to the atmosphere. Faced with rapidly changing elemental conditions, many species are unable to adapt, and mass extinctions are predicted for our time.[4][5]

The focus of human inventiveness and creativity up to now has used science and technology for increasingly intrusive ways to extract resources from the earth to consume for energy and raw materials for production. The quest for access to and control over the distribution of natural resources extracted from the earth drives our civilization. We have given little consideration to replacing natural resources, or to preserving the ecosystems from which the resources have been wrenched. Our economy takes raw materials to make goods for consumers to buy, and the waste and post-use materials are discarded as trash. This is a linear flow of resources exactly contrary to the operation of ecosystems. However, ecological limits to growth apply to the human constructed economy. Our model is not sustainable, because we are changing the conditions of the non-living and living parts of the human ecosystem, the living planet earth.

The economy defined in this process depends on drawing down natural resource reserves and using economic or physical warfare to take over resources. Power, resources and economic control become concentrated among the few with decreasing quality of life for many. We see this result not only between different countries but also within the United States. The concentration of wealth to the top 5% of the population has occurred with increasing disparity between the conditions experienced by the most wealthy and the least wealthy people.[6] This condition seeds instability, increasing unrest, and stress to the fabric of society. The economic model based on extraction- consumption- waste increases the inequity among people, decreases the quality of life of many people, and increases the conditions for revolt. This economic model also decreases the capacity of natural ecosystems to function in providing the conditions necessary for our life support system.

The critical feature of natural ecosystems is the dynamic equilibrium established among the different parts. Rather than a linear raw material to trash model, ecosystems operate in circular patterns, a steady-state where the waste or output from one level becomes the input or supply for others, and the energy source that drives the process is constantly renewable as long as the solar system exists. The earth’s major nutrients – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen – are all cycled and recycled in living systems.[7]

To shift our entire economic premise from one based on extraction and exploitation of natural resources to one based on regeneration, system preservation and enhancing the ecological infrastructure requires a change in thinking more than a change in technology. We can build our whole economy around principles of resource preservation, recovery and re-use. This approach cultivates the concept of an economy based on a dynamic equilibrium, rather than an economy based on indefinitely expanding growth.

One major initiative that can shape a more sustainable way forward involves re-defining the structure of the economy away from a model driven by corporate profit motive to one based on corporations operating for social benefit. The New Economy Movement has several manifestations, all gaining momentum in different ways. According to Gar Alperovitz, one of the leaders of the New Economy Movement, “Over the past few decades, a deepening sense of the profound ecological challenges facing the planet and growing despair at the inability of traditional politics to address economic failings have fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation by activists, economists and socially minded business leaders. … As the threat of a global climate crisis grows increasingly dire and the nation sinks deeper into an economic slump for which conventional wisdom offers no adequate remedies, more and more Americans are coming to realize that it is time to begin defining, demanding and organizing to build a new-economy movement.”[8]

The movement seeks an economy that is increasingly green and socially responsible, and one that is based on rethinking the nature of ownership and the growth paradigm that guides conventional policies.[9] As frustration with the wealth concentration in the top 1% of the economy increases, a wave of community wealth building institutions has begun to swell across the country. People are joining together through a variety of forms such as public, community or employee-owned businesses to meet local needs and thus regain a sense of democratic control. Community development corporations, community banks, social enterprises, community land trusts and employee-owned business and cooperatives emerge as the instruments for building community wealth. Worker owned businesses now include manufacturers, retailers and a number of non-profit organizations. Community Development Corporations can now be found in nearly every major city across the United States. Once limited to redeveloping blighted areas following urban riots or rural neglect, these CDCs produced over 1.6 million units of affordable housing nationwide over the last two decades.[10]

All of these institutions pool capital in ways that build wealth, create living-wage jobs, and anchor those jobs in communities.[11] One of the most significant aspects of this growing movement is the challenge it presents to corporate power. Because the driving imperative in the new economy movement is social benefit, not corporate shareholder profit, the possibility of building a balance against the corporate profit-driven politics of the 20th century is growing. Not since the days of unionized labor pressing for social justice and fairness in distribution of wealth between corporations and workers has there been such a strong voice for the public interest.

The success of businesses and communities that purposefully choose sustainability as a course for building the future shows that the spiral of infinite growth and infinite resource extraction can be transformed. Models of viable, even thriving, economic and social communities illustrate the way forward.

A new economy locally centered and locally invested springs up here in Pittsburgh, and in communities across the country and around the world. Corporations operating for social benefit, not stockholder profit, expand the distribution of wealth among worker-owners. Well being of the community is measured in terms of beneficial economic activity, health of the environment, social equity, and cultural diversity.

 

This essay is condensed from a chapter in the forthcoming book by Patricia M. DeMarco: “Pathways to Our Sustainable Future” with The University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

This work is funded by the W. Clyde and Ida Mae Thurman Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

 

Endnotes

Rachel Carson “Of Man and The Stream Of Time” June 12, 1962. Commencement address. Scripps College. Claremont, CA. (monograph)Rachel Carson “Of Man and The Stream Of Time” June 12, 1962. Commencement address. Scripps College. Claremont, CA. (monograph)

[1] Frank Borman, Apollo 8, press reports, 10 January 1969.

[2] Eugene P. Odum. Fundamentals of Ecology. 2nd Ed. 1959. Philadelphia. W. B. Saunders Co. Page 10.

[3]   Roger Sayre, Patrick Comer, Harumi Warner, and Jill Cress. A New Map of Standardized Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Conterminous United States. Professional Paper 1768. 2009. U S Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of the Interior. 17 Pages.

[4] Elizabeth Kolbert. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Henry Holt & Company, LLC. New York. 2014.

[5] E. O. Wilson. “The Future of Life.” The John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture on Science and the Environment. 2nd National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment. December 6, 2001. Washington, D.C.

[6] US Statistics on wealth distribution from 1900 to 2015

[7] William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things. North Point Press. New York. 2002. Page 92.

[8] Gar Alperovitz. “The New Economy Movement.” The Nation. June 13, 2011. http://www.thenation.com/article/160949/new-economy-movement Accessed May 21, 2015.

[9] Gar Alperovitz. “The New Economy Movement.” The Nation. June 13, 2011. http://www.thenation.com/article/160949/new-economy-movement Accessed May 21, 2015.

[10] Gar Alperovitz. “The Political-Economic Foundations of a Sustainable System.” In: Worldwatch Institute. State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability. 2014. Island Press. Washington D.C. Page 196.

[11] Gar Alperovitz. “The Political-Economic Foundations of a Sustainable System.” In: Worldwatch Institute. State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability. 2014. Island Press. Washington D.C. Page 195.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Perils of “Deconstruction”- What fate for our environment and health?

March 3, 2017

We live in a strange time when protecting the environment through government regulations has been demonized as the enemy of jobs and progress. I find this most distressing because I grew up in the height of the Industrial Revolution when the skies of Pittsburgh were dark with smoke. Pollution was an ever-present part of daily life: streetlights were on all day; people wore brimmed hats to keep the ashes off of their faces, and “Ring around the collar” was the lament of housewives. The Monongahela River was so polluted with effluent from steel mills, glass works, coke works and smelters that the water was as acid as vinegar, and practically lifeless. Strip-mined lands were left to leach and drain acid into streams, leaving 3,000 miles of Pennsylvania waterways permanently running orange and lifeless.

cayhouga-river-on-fireIn 1969, the confluence of several highly publicized events from pollution of air, water and land combined to focus attention on the need to control pollution. Heat inversions trapped emissions close to the ground creating suffocating smog, as in The Smog of Thanksgiving weekend in New York in 1966 and the prevailing conditions in San Diego and Pittsburgh. In June 1962, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire and burned two bridges when sparks from a train ignited the oil-soaked debris in the river. Such events happened frequently in American rivers in the late fifties through the 1960s. The Santa Barbara Oil spill of January 28, 1969 brought attention to the spills that occurred regularly from tankers running aground, or pipelines rupturing or leaking. The widespread toxic effects of agricultural pesticides like DDT and the way their effects permeated through the food chain came to attention through Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. It was the combined impact of all of these perceptions, rolled into the turbulent times of the early 1970s over war protests, women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement and anti-nuclear sentiment over open air testing of nuclear weapons that galvanized protests from 20 million people nationwide on the first Earth Day 1970. Environmentalists and labor unions worked together and built a broad coalition around clean air and clean water.

Congressmen marched with their constituents pledging to make changes, and it was President Nixon who gave the foundations for bipartisan remedy to this recognized crisis. In his 1970 State of the Union speech, Nixon called environmental preservation a “common cause of all the people of this country.” He went on: “It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they more than we will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later. Clean air, clean water, open spaces—these should once again be the birthright of every American.”[i] The Environmental Protection Agency was established soon after, with the foundations of environmental protection policy enacted into law with bipartisan support: the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act. The Environmental Protection Agency was not an attack upon States Rights or a suppression of individual freedom of actions to pursue economic advantage. Federal environmental protections recognized that pollution knows no boundaries. States alone would be unable to address significant problems of air pollution, watershed, river and stream contamination or the ubiquitous dispersion of toxic chemicals throughout the country. National standards and federal enforcement are necessary and fair.

President Trump has appointed Administrators in the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy with clear connections to fossil industry interests going back whole careers. According to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, President Trump’s cabinet picks are aimed at deconstruction of the administrative state, meaning weakening regulatory agencies and other bureaucratic entities.[ii] Today, Republicans call to roll back or rescind protections that have made America the gold standard worldwide for overall environmental quality. President Trump’s budget proposes a 25% cut of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, and a 20% reduction in staff. [iii] Under the Congressional Review Authority, dozens of regulations adopted or even amended in the last months of the Obama Administration are being rescinded.[iv]

 

Some 5000 union members, led by the United Mine Workers of America, march through downtown Pittsburgh to the William S. Moorhead Federal Building Thursday, July 31, 2014. Thursday is the first of two days of public hearings being held by the Environmental Protection Agency in Pittsburgh to discuss stricter pollution rules for coal-burning power plants proposed by the EPA.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Some 5000 union members, led by the United Mine Workers of America, march through downtown Pittsburgh to the William S. Moorhead Federal Building Thursday, July 31, 2014. Thursday is the first of two days of public hearings being held by the Environmental Protection Agency in Pittsburgh to discuss stricter pollution rules for coal-burning power plants proposed by the EPA.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Do people know what effect this wanton behavior will have on the health and well-being of American people, workers, communities and natural preserves? How did it become a desirable outcome for coal waste to be dumped into streams? Or volatile toxic releases to be exempt from regulations, as with hydraulic fracturing? Do Americans really want unrestrained mining, drilling and ranching on public lands? Does increased access to wildlife refuges and national parks require that restrictions be lifted on lead ammunition and fishing that poisons thousands of birds and fish? Do workers really want the Risk Management Program that protects workers, first responders and communities from industrial spills and accidents to be eliminated?

These actions slip through a Congress in the thrall of a demonic drive to “Make America Great Again” defined by military might alone. Shifting $54 billion from domestic spending to military force buildup while the President irritates allies and aggravates enemies sets the stage for war, not peace and prosperity. Budget is policy. This proposed budget, unrestrained with either mercy or compassion for average working Americans and oblivious to the needs of the future, is a prescription for disaster.

imagesIn towns, cities, communities across America, people with vision and concern for the future are making plans for a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable society. These efforts will not fall to the greed and corruption perpetrated on the people by a demagogue. All people share our common humanity regardless of divisions in political persuasion, culture, religion or economic status. We all care about the future for our children, and value safe drinking water, fresh air, accessible and safe food, and secure and safe work places. Most people value the national parks and refuges as the legacy of our land.[v] Government budget and investment choice can steer towards processes that make the jobs and industries thrive or collapse. In a budget steering toward military might over a sustainable new economy, with infrastructure plans looking to the past rather than to the future, people are beginning to recognize that the fate of those outside the elite 1% is to serve as cannon fodder.

Stand up for the hard-won protections of our life support system- fresh air, clean water, fertile ground and biodiversity of species that constitute the Web of Life, of which we are but one part. America’s greatness lies in leading toward a future that serves all of the people with justice and security, with equal opportunity to thrive and pursue our dreams, and with respect for the resources of our land that support us all. We depart from the hard-won protections of our common resources at our own peril.

Endnotes:

[i] President Richard M. Nixon. 215 – Special Message to the Congress About Reorganization Plans To Establish the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. July 9, 1970. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=2575&st=environmental+protection+agency&st1 Accessed March 1, 2017.

[ii] David Z, Morris. Fortune Magazine, February 25, 2017. http://fortune.com/2017/02/25/bannon-trump-cabinet-cpac/ Accessed February 26, 2017.

[iii] President Donald Trump. Address to Joint session of Congress, February 27, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/donald-trump-speech-transcript-full-text/ Accessed March 1, 2017.

[iv] Brian Resnick and Julia Belluz. Sudden Changes at the EPA, USDA, and CDC under Trump explained. January 25, 2017.   http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/1/25/14370712/trump-science-gagging-explained

[v] Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Mailbach, Connie Roser-Renauf, Matthew Cutler and Seth Rosenthal. Trump Voters and Global Warming. Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. February 6, 2017.   http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/trump-voters-global-warming/


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New Forest Hills Borough Building- A Net Zero Energy Solution

The New Forest Hills Borough Building- A Net Zero Energy Solution

By Patricia M. DeMarco, Forest Hills Borough Council 2016-2020

February 28, 2017

Forest Hills Borough, a community of about 6,500 people located seven miles east of Pittsburgh approaches its centenary in 2019. The town was once a rural farmed area then became a company town for Westinghouse with settlement intensifying after WWII. Long associated with innovation and Westinghouse engineering feats, the town has been shaped by the legacy of parkland and public property donated when the company moved on in 1985. The Forest Hills Borough Building on Ardmore Boulevard stood as the center for Borough functions since 1922, but now faces the limitations of an inefficient and costly energy system, and other structural problems.

 

Needs Assessment:

In August of 2014, a general annual review of Borough properties revealed significant cost escalations in several Borough buildings: the Magistrate Building and the Borough building on Ardmore Boulevard, and the Library and Senior Center on Avenue F. The Magistrates Offices moved to a larger office space with better parking and access, vacating the building, and Allegheny County consolidated the Senior Services Center to Turtle Creek, closing the Forest Hills location and two other small centers. Removal of Senior Services from this location left a 20-hour per week C. C Mellor Library function in a building that was expensive to operate, and had limitations with accessibility and functional services. The Borough Building on Ardmore Boulevard had significant limitations in storage, space for citizen services, and accessibility to the second floor Council chambers, even with an elevator. The Police functions have significant limitations in space and security arrangements, and parking and pedestrian access to the building are limited. Most concerning was the increasing cost of operations, and the unsuccessful adjustments to the heating and cooling system in the interior space. Even with repairs and adjustments over recent years, inefficiencies and space pressures were unlikely to be resolved in the existing space.

 

A plan emerged to build a New Forest Hills Borough building on property the Borough owns on Greensburg Pike, adjacent to the Westinghouse Lodge and Park. The new building will consolidate the Borough administrative and Council functions, Police offices, and the Library/Community space into one efficient building to serve the needs of the community 50 years into the future. By moving the New Forest Hills Building to an existing Borough property location, the sale of the existing properties would contribute to the financing, and the existing property on Ardmore Boulevard will return to a taxable business use. The goal of Council was to achieve a functional municipal services building for fifty years into the future without increasing the tax mill rate. A target cost of $4.5 million was set as a goal.

 

Public presentations on the concept of a New Forest Hills Borough Building began in February 2015 with concept discussions presented by Town Center Associates. Soon after, the Borough retained Pfaffmann & Associates to work with Council to define a plan for the new building. In addition to monthly public meetings at Council sessions, two Community Planning Meetings were held in September 2015, focusing on the Site Plan for the building, and in April 2016, focusing on the Functionality and Design.

 

Site Planning

The New Forest Hills Borough building site is on a gravel parking area formerly the location of a Westinghouse building on Greensburg Pike. At the site planning meeting, there was considerable interest expressed by several residents in restoring the Westinghouse Atom Smasher structure as a site feature. The Atom Smasher is currently on the ground on a property under consideration for development by a private entity that has no interest in preserving the historic artifact. A designated location for this atom smasher is included in the site plans, however, the cost of moving it from its current location and refurbishing it for safe installation on the new Forest Hills Borough building site has been estimated upwards of $200,000. Private sources of funds are being sought for this project. Many citizens are interested in seeing the new building reflect the history of innovation that has been part of Forest Hills over the years.

 

The site was evaluated for a passive solar building design, and was deemed suitable, if the building could be oriented on the property to allow a south-facing roof. If a geothermal earth heating and cooling system would be included, soils testing and evaluation of the site for coal shafts under the area would be necessary. This site sits at the top of the Turtle Creek watershed, therefore, the area was also evaluated to address storm water management with bio-swales and green management techniques to control storm water runoff. The location already has direct access to Greensburg Pike with ease of traffic movement and is served by a public transit bus line. The site is large enough to accommodate parking, and has sidewalks for safe pedestrian access from multiple directions. Its proximity to the Westinghouse Lodge and park create a campus of Forest Hills Borough public services.

 

Functionality and Design

At the community planning workshop, groups of citizens drew concept plans for the functions to be served in the new building. Imaginative proposals included a coffee shop /internet café, a history walk capturing images of Forest Hills over the last century, and interpretive exhibits explaining the features of the building. The Forest Hills Borough administrative staff, Police Department and Council had an opportunity to add thoughts and have participated in all stages of the building design planning. A rough outline of the building emerged on the wall, and discussion turned to how to meet the needs for the next century. The group quickly agreed that sustainability and cost efficiency take high priority in the design. Citizens familiar with the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Living Building features and the Chatham University planning for the Eden Hall sustainable design added credibility to the concept. People were concerned that such an ambitious sustainable goal would be too expensive for the community.

 

Focus on the Building Envelope with an emphasis on sustainability took the approach to “Reduce Consumption before Renewables.” Design parameters were set around energy, water, materials and indoor air quality. Considerations included the need for adequate storage and natural daylight in work spaces; areas for serving the public both in Borough Administrative functions and in public service in the Police Department. The spaces for library and community gathering were discussed in terms of how they would relate to the Council chamber under different configurations of uses. The preference for natural materials and locally sourced materials gave guidance in the design for the building envelope and interior treatment.

 

Forest Hills Town Hall Sustainable Features

The Building

The building will be a 12,746 square foot one-floor structure aligned with a south facing roof and a clear story of translucent recycled plastic to filter incoming light into the interior space.

Architectural Drawing for New Forest Hills Borough Town Hall – Under Construction January 2017. Credit: Pfaffmann & Associates

 

Energy Features:

A passive solar designed building has first focus on the building envelope. The building will have an energy use intensity of 36.78 kBtu/ft2 with an estimated annual cost of operation of $10,670. This design will have an operating cost of $0.97/ft2, compared to the current building cost of $2.21/ft2, or the cost of operating a building designed to the conventional 2009 building code standard of $1.42/ft2. Forty 100-foot deep geothermal wells will provide heating and cooling and will require 118,555 kWh annually to operate. The 125 kW photovoltaic array on the roof will provide 151,947 kWh annually which will cover the geothermal HVAC plus the other electrical loads in the building for a Net Zero Energy operation. The building will be connected to the utility grid with a net metering tariff for electric service. A gas line will be connected to an emergency generator to support police operations.

 

Water Features:

The design for storm water management will reduce the peak discharge rate into Turtle Creek watershed by more than 64% over the 100-year storm level. The volume of water from 2-year and 5-year storms will be entirely infiltrated as will nearly all of the 10-year storm volumes. A system of sand and limestone infiltration beds will reduce runoff acidity and temperature, and rain gardens and plantings will provide additional water filtration benefits. The site will be planted with trees and drought tolerant and native plants in bio-swales surrounding the building and as features in the parking area. Enhanced pedestrian walkways and some of the parking lot will be of permeable surfaces to augment storm water infiltration.

 

Indoor Quality:

The first principle is to design the building to conserve energy as much as possible. Therefore, the building will be super-insulated with the roof at R50 (conventional is R 38), R-40 walls (Conventional is R19). Natural daylight and views to the outdoor plantings enhance the ambiance and provide attractive work spaces. The clearstory along the roofline is of translucent plastic formed material that allows light, but prevents glare to the interior. The windows are of insulated glass set in wooden frames, and have sashed sections to open for ventilation in season. The southern roof overhang allows shading in the summer and sunlight to enter in the winter. Sustainable non-toxic materials are used throughout for walls and structural materials. All the wood is from sustainably grown sources. Materials were selected for recycled content, locally sourced and environmentally beneficial performance. Lighting is designed to use natural daylight, with LED lighting and daylight sensing controls. Water management includes water-conserving plumbing fixtures with automatic controls to reduce water use. The lobby and reception area will be equipped with a “dashboard” and interpretive signs to explain how the building functions and allow visitors to understand the special energy and water conserving features.

 

The design plans were approved in November of 2016, and a General Contractor, Volpatt Construction, was hired. Groundbreaking ceremonies on December 3, 2016 marked the beginning of a new era for Forest Hills Borough.

Images of the design appear in this booklet prepared by Pfaffmann & Associates.

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The new Forest Hills Borough Building will perform at the level of a LEED Gold building, although certification will not be sought due to the cost. The Council has been in unanimous accord with this project across two administrations. The community is well engaged with the project and as construction proceeds toward an December 2017 completion target, excitement is building for this innovative and fiscally responsible project. This New Forest Hills Borough building will reflect the history of innovation that has shaped this town and show the way forward for resilience in a changing world.

 

This article was published as a Guest Blog for Pittsburgh Green Building Alliance at https://www.go-gba.org/the-new-forest-hills-borough-building-a-net-zero-energy-solution/


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Wrong Way! A Call for a New American Dream

Wrong Way! A Call for A New American Dream

January 6, 2017

by Patricia M. DeMarco

The proposed Shell Chemical Appalachia Plant to produce polyethylene plastic pellets from Marcellus and Utica shale gas in Potter Township, Beaver County PA, highlights two of the most important issues of our time: human-induced climate change and global pollution from man-made chemicals. In our lifetime, these existential crises threaten the survival of life, as we know it. But even as the data indicate ever more serious manifestations of these two challenges, the United States is retrenching around fossil-based industries. Each decision we make about how we use and develop resources reaches far into the future with implications for hundreds of years beyond our own time. The direction a society takes rarely changes with a single decision. Rather, an accumulation of decisions taken at the local, state and national levels create a body of accumulated positions embedded in law and precedent. Changing direction in the face of such a policy construct requires a new vision and a deliberate revision of the policy infrastructure.

Scientists and observers worldwide document increasingly dire events, with accompanying predictions of inevitable disaster from climate change and global pollution:

  • Average global temperatures rising and average carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaching 400 parts per million;
  • Collapse of the Antarctic ice sheets;
  • shrinking of the arctic polar sea ice;
  • inundation of sea level islands and coastal communities,
  • widespread bleaching of sea corals and coral reef communities;
  • erratic and severe weather patterns producing extreme storm events;
  • prolonged droughts and advance of deserts;
  • slowing of the ocean currents;
  • loss of biodiversity and increasing rates of extinction of species worldwide.[1]

These documented facts describe the increasingly unhealthy condition of the living planet Earth. The complexity of living systems, refined over millions of years of evolution, complicate the process of making rapid, effective policy responses even in the face of such dire facts.

The socio-political processes themselves have a complexity vested in laws that run counter to the laws of chemistry, physics and biology that operate living ecosystems. To examine how these intersecting processes can be changed, it is instructive to look at decisions made around a specific project, the Shell Appalachian Petrochemical Project. The underpinnings of the modern petrochemical/energy industry trace all the way back to the initial colonization and development of America. Federal lands granted for mining, logging and ranching grounded the American continental dominance from coast to coast. Many of the entitlements and land use practices established in the laws of the 1800s remain in effect as $20.5 billion annual fossil industry subsidies today.[2]

The advance of hydraulic fracturing to develop and extract fossil methane and associated liquids from deep in the Earth has attracted chemical industry interest as a relatively inexpensive domestic feedstock. The National Energy Act of 2005 abatement of seven federal environmental and public health protections(the Halliburton Loophole)  to expedite hydraulic fracturing for fossil gas and oil bears fruit in a new petrochemical industry in 39 states, including western Pennsylvania. The shale gas supply development has been shifting investment in refineries and production facilities away from traditional locations on the coasts – Galveston and Houston Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Patterson, New Jersey. All of these locations have centered their chemical industries on petroleum refining from domestic and imported feedstock. They are characterized by the flares and emission plumes of noxious materials, with environmental and health consequences that affect the surrounding communities. The $377 billion valued industry does not count the expense of health problems of workers and communities or degraded environmental conditions among the costs.[3] The profits accrue to the industry; the costs, estimated at $238 million annually, fall on the people, communities and taxpayers.[4] This industry advance was the direct result of the Halliburton Loophole, engineered into the National Energy Act of 2005 by Vice President Chaney, former CEO of Halliburton, the manufacturer of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. This is evidence of what happens when high powered government officials are vested in private corporate interests. The public interest was swept aside.

Attracted by proximity to relatively inexpensive domestic wet gas feed stocks from Marcellus and Utica Shale deposits, augmented by $1.65 Billion in subsidies and incentives from the State of Pennsylvania, Royal Dutch Shell bought the former Horsehhead Zinc facility and is planning to build a new petrochemical processing complex to make polypropylene.[5] The facility will consist of an ethylene manufacturing process, three polyethylene manufacturing lines, three natural gas-fired combustion turbines, and various auxiliary and support equipment. The Shell Appalachian Plant in Potter Township will emit 2,248,293 tons per year of carbon dioxide and produce 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene per year. Shell claims 2,000 construction jobs and about 600 permanent jobs associated with the plant. Their permit applications are carefully crafted to ride within the allowable provisions of complex regulatory requirements, trading future emissions against past permits of closed plants. Concerns about climate change, community health and environmental degradation fall “outside the scope of these proceedings.”[6] This plant may be within the law, but it is ethically and morally wrong.

The socio-political system of laws and regulations is not constructed to consider existential challenges! This plant will come into full production capacity in 2020, when targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to control global warming and climate change call for steep reductions in CO2 from industrial operations.[7] In addition, polyethylene is a precursor for the manufacture of plastic disposable containers, products like plastic dishware, plastic bags and other single-use commodities. Over 90% of this material will end up in landfill or in the oceans. In effect, fossil deposits of methane from deep underground are extracted, under an exemption from seven federal environmental and worker protections, to be heated and cracked into elements to make plastics manufactured into single-use materials that will end up discarded into landfills or washed into the ocean. In any but strict short-term economic criteria, this is a losing value proposition. This process causes degradation to the environment, quality of life and health of surrounding communities, and poses a threat to the well-being of children, elderly, and sensitive populations across a broad region. The effects of this action will manifest over hundreds of years adding to the cumulative destruction of the living Earth.

The justification is “JOBS!” In a region afflicted with loss of traditional industries, there has been no re-investment policy, no social safety net to help communities adjust, rebuild and regenerate around more sustainable pursuits to support the economy. Beginning with the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the press toward a single metric for evaluating the effect of government has driven policies more and more toward eliminating environmental protections and social services, defined as “wasteful” or harmful to business. The concept of the role of government being limited to defense and keeping the peace while leaving business to run at will has taken over the value system of America. The result has been a widening division in society with wealth concentrated in a shrinking top tier and the middle class shrinking into debt and despair.

The American values of social equity, and public trust for the management of the nations resources have shrunk in the face of the onslaught by corporate dominance of government. The Citizens United ruling granting the rights of “persons” to corporations accelerated the trend toward governance for the sake of corporate interests. It may have once been true that what was good for business was good for America, but in modern times of multinational corporate dominance, what is good for companies like EXXON may certainly harm the average citizen. Citizens and Corporate Persons are not a congruent population. Corporations do not feel hunger, sorrow, or pain. They do not breathe or bleed. A government dominated by corporate interests has no soul. Rulings from such a body will focus on the immediate economic gains, even if they sacrifice the workers, the community and the future.

A policy direction that fully embraces the serious global issues we face as Americans and as the human race can reaffirm essential social and environmental protections without sacrificing a sound economy.[8] Policies and the infrastructure of laws and regulations to shift direction to a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable society can recapture the full greatness of America. The window of time for action is narrow and closing. But with determination and a shared vision of success, a shift to a society based on renewable energy systems, regenerative agriculture and green chemistry production in a circular materials management system can flourish. This is the New American Dream.

References and Sources

[1] Ralph J. Cicerone and Sir Paul Nurse (Eds.) Climate Change: Evidence and Causes. (National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society. Washington D.C., 2017) https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18730/climate-change-evidence-and-causes

[2] Elizabeth Bast, Alex Doukas, Sam Pickard, Laurie van der Burg and Shelagh Whitley. “Empty Promises: G-20 Subsidies to oil gas and coal production.” Oil Change International, November 2015. Accessed January 3, 2017. http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2015/11/Empty-promises_main-report.2015.pdf

[3] Statista. Facts on the Chemical Industry in the United States. 2015. https://www.statista.com/topics/1526/chemical-industry-in-the-us/ Accessed January 5, 2016.

[4] Physicians for Social Responsibility. Cancer and Toxic Chemicals.         http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/confronting-toxics/cancer-and-toxic-chemicals.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ Accessed January 5, 2016.

[5] Tim Schooley. “”Pennsylvania’s Biggest Corporate Subsidies.” Pittsburgh Business Times. March 14, 2014. http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2014/03/14/pennsylvanias-most-subsidized-companies.html Accessed January 5, 2016.

[6] Mark R. Gorog, Regional Manager, Air Quality Program. “Comment and Response Document RE: Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC Petrochemicals Complex and Polyethylene Manufacturing, Air Quality Permit” File PA -04-00740A. June 18, 2015. Page 36.

[7] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris Agreement. December 15, 2015. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php Accessed January 5, 2017.

[8] For concise analysis of the green jobs economy see the following reports, among many others.   https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/blog/sustainable-employment-green-us/   and https://thinkprogress.org/bureau-of-labor-statistics-reports-3-1-million-u-s-green-jobs-top-5-takeaways-83ddaa3dfb54#.ladqohajd


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Gratitude for First Nations- A Call to Action for the Standing Rock Sioux

As most of America sits down to a “traditional Thanksgiving Dinner” on Thursday, the Standing Rock Sioux people will be holding ground between the Dakota Access Pipeline construction equipment and the shores of Lake Oahe, a part of the Missouri River that serves as the only water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation about a half mile away. The Missouri River is the longest River in America, and serves over 160 million people for domestic, commercial and agricultural water supplies.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is intended to carry 450,000 gallons of crude oil per day from the Baaken Shale Oil fields to a refinery in Illinois. It has been under protest from the Standing Rock Sioux since April because of failure for the developers or any governmental agency to confer with the Tribe, as required by treaties established over a hundred years; and because of concerns over the potential for oil spill contamination of the water supply.

The Standing Rock Sioux have petitioned for an injunction to halt construction , and President Obama has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to re-examine the issues they have raised, suggesting that the pipeline may be re-routed to avoid the intrusion into Tribal areas. However, while deliberations are pending, construction has continued, and is now within less than a mile of the River. The protests and demonstrations have continued, attracting Police and Marshalls from the Morton County Sheriff ‘s Office. Suppression actions have proceeded in a most inhumane, brutal and unconscionable manner. As the Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by First Nations from around the country, numerous violations of human rights, constitutional rights and basic decency have occurred.

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The Standing Rock Sioux position was explained by artist and tribal member Johnny Coe speaking to a gathering at Maren’s Sustainability Salon on November 12, 2016. “Our People are the Water Protectors. This has been the center of our culture for many generations. We stand between the construction equipment and the waters that give us life to prevent this danger.” He explained that the protection of a significant watershed from crude oil spillage from a 30 inch pipe intruding under the river speaks not only for the inhabitants of the Reservation but also for the life of the River itself, and the people who rely on its fresh water for miles downstream. “Crude oil and fresh water do not mix. The life giving waters must be protected from this Black Snake” (Sioux legend interpreted as oil pipelines)

The concerns are well-founded. The Energy Transfer Partners constructing the pipeline will turn over operations to Sunoco. “Sunoco Logistics (SXL.N), the future operator of the oil pipeline delayed this month after Native American protests in North Dakota, spills crude more often than any of its competitors with more than 200 leaks since 2010, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.” (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pipeline-nativeamericans-safety-i-idUSKCN11T1UW)

In addition, the same issues that supported the denial of the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico pertain to this project. The rapid deployment of oil and building more permanent infrastructure to exploit it contributes to the build-up of greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. The Army Corps of Engineers has taken this position: “The Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property.”

https://www.democracynow.org/2016/11/15/headlines/army_delays_issuing_permit_for_dakota_access_pipeline_ahead_of_global_day_of_action

The pipeline is nearly complete, awaiting only this final Army Corps of Engineers Permit. In the meantime, the Morton County Sheriff Officers continue to suppress the protest.

A Call for Action in Support of the Standing Rock Sioux:

The most concerning aspect of this situation is the blatant violation of First Amendment rights of free speech. Protest on behalf of strongly held beliefs, especially those supported by legitimate claims for legal action, should not be suppressed by police action. The people have the right to protest, on their own land, to defend their water supply. Journalists attempting to report on the protests have been jailed. The mainstream media has been silent on this issue. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/03/north-dakota-access-oil-pipeline-protests-explainer )

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Second, the level of brutality evident in the actions of the Morton County Sheriff’s officers, in full military gear, with water cannons, percussion grenades, rubber bullets fired point blank into people’s faces is unjustified, immoral, and hateful. Spraying high pressure water cannon on people in 29 degree weather is mass torture. (“Father of injured pipeline protester says she may lose arm” Blake Nicholson and Amy Forliti, Associated Press, November 21, 2016. )

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Third, the Standing Rock Sioux are willing to put their lives on the line to protect the river from a potentially dangerous installation. They are standing in principle against the injustice of placing corporate profits and convenience over the public interest in having secure fresh water supplies. This is an environmental justice issue perpetrated over centuries of abuse of First Nations’ rights.

This is an existential battle, not only for the Standing Rock Sioux but for all people. The hydraulic fracturing that has released the Baaken Shale oil is operating under the exemption of seven federal laws designed to protect the air, water and health of the public and workers. This exemption granted in the National Energy Act of 2005 opens all of America to the permanent degradation of the environment. Oxygen-rich air, fresh water, fertile ground and the biodiversity of species that constitute the interconnected web of life are our life support system. Laws designed to limit and prevent the destruction of our common needs must be resisted and replaced with protections in the public interest.

As we face a political power shift that favors even less regulatory protection for air, water and land, we must each decide where we will make our stand. I urge your support of the Standing Rock Sioux. They hear the screams of Mother Earth and choose to stand as Water Protectors. Join their call for survival, for compassion and for respect to our common Mother Earth.

Speak out to stop the violence while the courts plod slowly through their deliberations.

Call the Morton County Sheriff’s office number: 
701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330 

 

Call the Department of Justice and demand they investigate and charge the Morton County Sheriff’s Department for these life-threatening attacks on peaceful unarmed protectors immediately!

Department of Justice phone numbers:
Main: 202-514-2000, press 0. (This one has been hard to get through.)
Department Comment Line: 202-353-1555

 

Additional Resources:

Sam Levin. “Dakota Access pipeline: the who, what and why of the Standing Rock protests” The Guardian. November 3, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/03/north-dakota-access-oil-pipeline-protests-explainer

Kevin Enochs. “The Real Story: The Dakota Access Pipeline” Silicon Valley and Technology. October 26, 2016. http://www.voanews.com/a/dakota-access-pipeline/3563592.html


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For my Father In Honor of The OG PAT Mission 1944

My father was First Lieutenant Michael A. DeMarco, in the OSS Special Reconnaissance Regiment, Company B under General Donovan in the second World War.  Their mission, coded PAT, parachuted 15 men into the Tarn in France with orders to “harass and destroy the enemy, cut German communications and supply routes and strengthen the resistance movement.”  I have shared my Father’s memoir of that time, and now a broader history of the PAT Mission has been researched by Meredith Wheeler with a Fulbright Scholarship to support her research.  http://www.ossreborn.com/files/OG_PAT_A_Fresh_LookPhotos1.pdf

As I read this history again, the words that send shivers through me to this day are: “Within two weeks, the south Tarn was liberated. Some 4500 Wehrmacht soldiers surrendered to 12 OSS men and a few hundred Resistance fighters‐—most of them poorly‐ armed, under‐trained maquis.” My parents named me Patricia in honor of this mission.  I reflect on this Veteran’s Day on the legacy I carry from these brave people – a call to courage and a cry of hope.

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Michael and Marcella DeMarco 1995

From my Father comes the tremendous courage to prevail in spite of the odds and obstacles.  In all situations he brought caution, thorough preparation, ingenuity, and determination to the problem. This applied to recreational camping as well as to all domestic enterprises.  So growing up in these conditions was often a challenge as we were constantly being prepared for battle, whether one materialized at once or not.  From my Mother comes the outrageously defiant act of having a child in the wake of the atomic bomb. Her fierce determination to maintain hope and optimism in the face of gloom and disaster infused everyone she touched. I am so tremendously blessed to have such parents and the example of both of their lives of self-sacrifice, service and teaching.

In the aftermath of this election, I feel called in their honor to stand for what is ethically and morally necessary in the face of impending tyranny. As I have been reflecting on the serious implications of Trump’s election, I am torn with several emotions, including outrage that Democrats missed the pleas of the Sanders supporters so badly.  People wanted a change, and Hillary was just too cautiously embedded in mainstream politics to resonate with their frustration.  We are getting a change alright, but in the wrong direction!

Action from the passion of my soul is the only possible response. So, to all my friends and followers, I issue a call to action on three fronts:
1. Hold the people elected to account for the true principles guaranteed to ALL people by the Constitution.  We cannot sit quietly while freedoms and protections for women, minorities, the environment are rolled back or undermined. Democracy is not a spectator sport with events once every four years.  We must organize now and engage with voices and demands for accountability every day.
2. We must prepare to defend our environment, our public lands and wildlife refuges from the assault of “getting rid of regulations that hurt business.”  Standing in front of the bulldozers and saws and mining equipment may be necessary, as demonstrated by the Standing Rock Sioux.  This is our fate for the next two years at least.  Our wild lands and our environment must be labeled: “Protected by the People for Our Children and Their Grandchildren”
3. We must organize and bring forward new leaders.  The most passionate voices are those of the Millennials, but there is no room for them with 18 and 20 year tenured legislators, Congressmen, and Senators.  We have to give voice to the generation whose fate we are determining with the policies adopted now. We have to let them step up and shape the world they will live in.
I take hope that in spite of the bombast and vituperative rhetoric of the campaign, Trump is a pragmatist under it all.  He will be the ONLY world leader who does not support climate action. Peer pressure does work on such people as Trump.  At the federal and international levels, the US may actually lose the leadership position on climate action Obama has crafted, but the many cities, states, businesses, communities and individuals who are committed to sustainability and resilience are not going to stop.  Trump may make the federal supports harder, and the infrastructure more burdensome, but there is no way to stop this now.  We need to keep the positive benefits of moving away from fossil fuels in front of the public eye.  Local jobs, health benefits, long term environmental and economic stability – these things are not going away.
In the end, the laws of Nature are not negotiable.  Reality will hit at some point as an undeniable condition. IF we are to survive at all and thrive in this world, we must absolutely preserve the life support system of our Earth- fresh water, clean air, fertile ground and the biodiversity of species that constitute the web of life.  Humans are but one part, but we have dropped a boulder through the fragile web that holds us together. Prepare to stand and fight for what matters.  Plunder and devastation in the name of “good business” may be legal, but it is not right – not for all the living things of Earth that have the right to exist, not for the children of our time or the unborn of future generations.
I remember the lessons of those brave men who jumped into the black night to defend freedom in a strange land, and I prepare for the existential battle for life on Earth.


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Lessons from the Field- Decision 2016

imgresPresidential elections present an opportunity for a broad public dialogue about the issues and policies for the country, a time for debate, discussion and exploration of options. But this has been a campaign full of vicious and demeaning rhetoric, a cacophony of bitter voices masking deep fears and heartfelt worries. The opportunity has been lost for a broad public discourse on the serious issues our country faces. Civil and polite dialogue has broken down entirely showing a lack of respect for the institutions of our democracy and for the individual participants in the contest. In the name of free speech, we have abandoned reasoned debate in favor of hurled insults and degrading parodies. Some observations emerge from my canvassing conversations with hundreds of citizens.

 

People feel a sense of betrayal in the unrealized hopes and expectations from the Obama administration. There was such a surge of optimism, with raised expectations of massive changes within the term of the first black President. But, by design, the institutions of government buffer the pace of change, and people feel frustrated. Hopes unrealized fuel cynicism and in some cases despair and anger. Few people understand how government is intended to work, the balance of powers among the branches or the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

 

People fear for the future. There are many forces beyond individual control – globalization, economic shifts, drought and floods. Drawn in part from concerns about changes proposed to address global warming, the unknown future drives people to nostalgia for the past. The Clean Power Plan addressed the technology shift and fuel changes away from fossil sources, but the human and community impacts were not included in the legislation. Such matters as worker transition, community redevelopment and education fall outside the jurisdiction of the EPA enabling legislation. In a Congress where over 50% of members deny the existence of climate change or global warming, the broader policy initiatives necessary for a just and comprehensive shift are impossible to execute. A nostalgia for the heyday of coal, oil and gas development with the mist of time obscuring the problems of the early industrial age, easily grew to a cry of a War on Coal. The personalized plight of coal miners also obscures the broader issues of the treatment of workers and restoration of communities that have festered for decades. The focus on the “All of the Above” energy strategy has glossed over the devastation to the land and the life support systems that protect the clean air, fresh water and fertile ground. The Standing Rock Sioux have taken a stand for preserving the land as a sacred obligation. Their lesson is a powerful recalibration of the equation that has placed jobs at any cost over preservation of the land.

People lack empathy for their fellow citizens. They are focused on their own individual situations and have little interest in the broader common needs. The sense of a common purpose as a community or as a nation is absent. The mentality of preserving individual rights and freedom to do as they please without regard for others is prevalent. This campaign has made the use of hurtful, degrading and disrespectful language appear normal. Without a sense of mutual respect, civil society will not survive. Without recognizing and taking responsibility for inequities and injustice, we cannot make necessary changes to insure that all citizens live under the promises of the Constitution. The sense that everyone has the same rights does not come across as a personal obligation to every citizen.

So on this eve of the 2016 election, I plead once again for the higher principles of our nation to prevail. The rights offered under our Constitution are open to everyone equally, under the law. But people have taken the right of freedom of speech and right to bear arms to an extreme level, ignoring the responsibility to respect each other. These freedoms exercised without responsibility or accountability lead to chaos. A representative democracy requires citizen involvement, not just at election season, but all the time. Once in office, elected officials need to be called to account for their actions. Citizens have the obligation to make their voices heard in communications, in peaceful demonstrations, in action on legislative proposals throughout the course of the years. Elected Officials take an oath to defend and protect the Constitution, and that includes the rights of all of the citizens, the people. This concept has been perverted to include “corporations” as “Persons” but they are not living beings who breathe and bleed. The commitment to the public interest over corporate greed must be re-established as a national priority.

Citizens must take back the control of the government by caring about each other as communities, and holding elected officials accountable. The time is now to vote out people who are not serving the public good so we can start over. Democracy is not a spectator sport that occurs once every four years. It is a daily exercise of responsibility. Begin by voting on the issues, not on the undocumented rhetoric of the campaign. The fate of our nation and of the policies that may preserve life on Earth as we know it hang in the balance.

 


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From Heart to Harvest

My earliest memories come from growing up in Mt. Washington living upstairs from my grandparents. The back yard was planted end to end with a garden that fed the whole family. We had fruit trees on the borders – pears, plums, cherries, peaches, and of course, fig trees Pop carried here from their home town of Campolieto- Campobasso in Italy. No space was wasted, and the skill of ages went into making everything flourish. I learned from an early age about planting onions among the tomatoes, and putting the zucchini squash and beans in alternating plots each year. The brick walkways had chamomile and thyme growing in the spaces so walking through the garden was a fragrant experience. Mint, chamomile, oregano flowers, and rosemary scented the linen drawers.

My grandfather Angelo worked for the Railroad as a skilled stone cutter, laying the rail beds that wound through the city and into the boroughs beyond. He went off in the morning with a lunch box filled with hand made bread, slathered with lard, and filled with the bounty of the season – fresh onions and tomatoes with basil in the summer, dry sausage and roasted peppers in the winter, with all variations in between. As a child , I did not know we were poor because we ate like kings! Of course, it was the labor of days and nights that fed the family. All summer, we put up food in jars, working under the porch in the shade of the grape arbor that grew up to the second floor. Since every house on the whole block was farming as we did, we pooled resources to harvest and can. Three or four women chatted away in Italian as they peeled, pared, pressed and stirred vast vats of sauce over the black coal stove. We went to each house in turn, sharing seasonings and recipes…none written down, just passed on from hands to hands.

harvest-2015-08-20-11-55-50-copyAt the end of the summer, the cold room in the cellar would be filled with hundreds of quarts of tomato sauce, ratatouille, beets, carrots, beans dried and stored, onions and garlic hanging from their braided stalks, roasted peppers stored in oil, eggplant and all manner of pickles. In the winter, we would make salchiche (sausage) and Pop would take a good piece for prosciutto, a five year process of packing in salt and pepper. The new one would go to the back of the line, and the front one would be cut. A special treat in summer would be a curl of the deep red meat over a cold slice of melon.

We did not always have meat, but we kept illegal chickens under the porch that supplied eggs, and vast amounts of chicken cacciatore for the gatherings of the extended family on feast days. (My Nona celebrated the saint day, not the birthday of her children.) As I have tried to become less dependent on meat in the diet, I have recalled so many of my Nona’s meals. She made yellow and green zucchini with onions, peppers and tomatoes well seasoned with garlic, basil, oregano and hot pepper to pour over polenta. Or this was served fresh sometimes in the summer, with eggs poached in the broth and big slabs of hot bread. In the winter, the freshness of the summer days would rise from the jar as the canned ratatouille was opened to serve. And nothing beats home canned tomato sauce over hand made gnocchi.

I have always put some freshness of summer up for the winter in jars. Partly because I love jam on my breakfast toast, but dislike to the overly sugared and tasteless commercial preserves. I find that done in small batches of about 12 cups at a time, it is simple and very rewarding to make jam. Strawberries in May, rhubarb, plums, peaches, raspberries, blackberries all find their way to the larder. It is also very easy to put up fresh fruit, especially peaches and pears and applesauce with just a boiling water bath as a processing requirement. And of course, the fresh tomato sauce, ratatouille, beets, carrots, and eggplant come in season. The time is easily found when the reward is so tangible, and adds so much to the quality of life. Though I rely on my CSA from Kretschmann Organic Family Farm for most of my produce to can, I still feel connected to the farming tradition of my family. It warms my heart to share my Nona’s legacy with those I love.

Reprinted from:

The New People- Pittsburgh’s Peace and Justice Newspaper, Vol. 46, no. 9, page 7. October 2016