Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


A Reflection on Silent Spring after 60 Years

September 20,2022

In one of the last public speeches of her life, Rachel Carson addressed the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Permanente Medical Group in San Francisco. Her thoughts on that occasion resonate today with even more clarity, as much that she feared in 1963 has become our reality. 

In that speech “On the Pollution of Our Environment” she said, “In spite of the truly marvelous inventiveness of the human brain, we are beginning to wonder whether our power to change the face of nature should not have been tempered with wisdom, for our own good, and with a greater sense of responsibility for the welfare of generations to come.” Rachel Carson used her knowledge of science and her early understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things to advocate for policy based on science. 

The challenges we are facing today can be addressed by recognizing that the laws of Nature are not negotiable.  We must adjust our laws, our ways of interacting with the living earth and each other to align more closely to accommodate the laws of chemistry, physics, physiology and ecology.

Here is a presentation I gave for the C.F. Reynolds Medical Historical Society on September 20, 2022.

This will be the closing chapter in my forthcoming book, “In the Footsteps of Rachel Carson” with Urban Press.


What will it take to make a policy U-Turn on Climate Action in America? 

By Patricia M. DeMarco

We, the people of 2022 are experiencing already the irreversible effects of global warming, global pollution and loss of biodiversity that herald the degradation of our life support system. Presented in the form of data, the statistics are frightening.[1] Carbon dioxide measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked for 2022 at 421 parts per million in May, now 50% higher than before the Industrial Revolution.[2]

IPCC Report “Code Reds for the Planet”

     Most people notice incremental changes in the weather, and in trends in warming compared to recent past experience, but the gradual change does not cause a sense of danger for most people. The reality of the climate situation calls for an urgent transformative response, a Policy U-Turn. But the reality of the political situation portends the reverse of what is needed – a resurgence of regulation in favor of the fossil extractive industries. The oil, coal and gas magnates press for new investments based on hydrogen from fracked fossil methane and a further push for single use plastics to bolster the industrial petrochemical complex.[3] These are false solutions perpetrated by short–term economic interests which, if pursued, will assure the even more rapid destruction of this living earth.

     I want to scream in frustration at the misinformation and greed that perpetuates these disasters. I want to lash out in anger that so many in power refuse to see the needs of the people for now and for the future. I weep for what has been lost already, and for what will yet be exterminated from the face of the earth. Yet, out of this frustration, anger and grief comes a passion to intervene, to give voice to the solutions that are in hand, to organize for political action. This election. This summer. Now. Before it is too late.

     No elected official would ever deliberately send hundreds of people into homelessness, but they decide that preventing wildfires is too expensive. No elected official would deliberately poison people, but every day decisions are made to allow uncontrolled pollution to continue in neighborhoods of marginalized people. We let injustice continue like a creeping blight – 

  • Air pollution spreads asthma to one in five adults and one in four children in Clairton PA;
  • Chemical contamination spreads endocrine disruptors throughout the population until 93% of Americans have detectable levels of Bis-Phenyl A in their blood and a body burden of hundreds of synthetic chemicals in our bodies, even in newborn infants; 
  • Obesity afflicts 33% of Americans who live in food desserts; 
  • Water supplies in most major cities are contaminated with lead and other infrastructure failures. 

The government has become powerless to change the laws to protect people now, and even less to protect people and other living things for the future. 

     If we were to govern FOR THE PEOPLE, the opinion of the majority of Americans clamors for urgent action on climate. “63% of Americans favor broad government action on climate. At a time when partisanship colors most views of policy, broad majorities of the public – including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats – say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change, including large-scale tree planting efforts, tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions and tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.”[4] Even in the face of national opinion polls indicating that a majority of Americans believe that addressing climate change is important, Congress remains deadlocked. Inert. Ineffective. A few Senators, Manchin and Collins and McConnell, successfully block action on climate policy to protect fossil industry interests.  Now the Supreme Court is eroding the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to rule on carbon emissions.[5]

      Local governments end up on the front line for dealing with the effects of climate change and protecting people where they live. Efforts at the local level can move forward a bit with climate action plans, however, for the sweeping structural changes from fossil fuels to renewable energy systems, there need to be changes in the underlying laws. This will not happen unless there can be a veto-proof majority of Senators willing to stand up for the future of our planet, for our children, and for the emerging industries of the clean economy: renewable energy systems; regenerative agriculture and permaculture; and circular materials management for consumer goods.

     Many local and regional communities have put forward a vision for a better future critically needed to ameliorate the inevitable disaster that will occur if we continue on the current path. The ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint, the Marshall Plan for Middle America, internationally The Natural Step Framework, the German Energiewende and many others lay out a sustainable future. We know what the solutions are. We know they work. We need to amass the political will to make it happen. The laws of Nature are not negotiable: if we continue to add to the greenhouse gas burden in the atmosphere, we will experience global warming, ocean acidification and the consequences of ecosystem failure. Indeed, we are already seeing these effects beginning to accumulate.

     We suffer from a failure to communicate effectively not only the urgency of the situation but the availability of the solutions.  We cannot spare our children from the effects of climate change already in motion, but we can still shift to adaptations that can slow the progression and lead to a less disastrous fate.

Earth Day 1970

     What will it take to change the direction of the country?  Earth Day 1970 brought 10 million Americans into the streets, the halls of Congress, the union halls, the city chambers to demand clean air, safe drinking water and protection from toxic chemicals.  The Climate Convergence has mobilized fewer than five million, and the effort is scattered, fractured and fraught with infighting. Scientists leap to challenge, critique and shred each other, as good scientists do in the rigor of academic pursuit. But that very rigor of the scientific process is turned against the message in the public eye. The message of science is discredited successfully by pseudo experts and mouthpieces for the industry who cast doubt on climate findings and disparage the solutions by exaggerating minor flaws and disagreements.

Climate Denial = “Patriotic”

     We are indeed in a battle for survival as a species, as a civilization of Humanity. It is time to pull together and lift our eyes to what it is possible still to preserve for our children. It is time to see the vision of a finer future with a shared prosperity, equity and dignity for all people, a style of living that is sufficient but not profligate, where we can celebrate the richness of talent and spirit rather than race to consume and throw away more and more stuff we do not need.

March for Science- Pittsburgh 2017

     Every election this November of 2022 presents a choice for decision makers and policy makers who will determine the fate of our country and our world.  It is time for all of us in the science world, in the sustainability movement, in the arena of believers in the best that people can be to stand up and be counted.  We need to make our voices heard and our demands recognized.  Put climate on the agenda in the public debates.  Build momentum to demand action on behalf of our children.  Those who cannot vote yet are excellent ambassadors for climate change.  We must stand for our youth and demand accountability from those in power or who wish to sit in seats of power.

     And scientists- real ones – need to run for office and win.


[1] : (https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/ )

[2] https://www.noaa.gov/news-release/carbon-dioxide-now-more-than-50-higher-than-pre-industrial-levels

[3]  “Our Region’s Energy Future” Allegheny Conference Energy Task Force Report April 2022. https://www.alleghenyconference.org/energy-report/

[4]   ALEC TYSON AND BRIAN KENNEDY. Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on Climate. Pew Research Center. June 23, 2020. 

[5] West Virginia vs EPA before the Supreme Court https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/20-1530


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 Patricia DeMarco: Energy independence means good union jobs in clean energy

PATRICIA DEMARCO | Wednesday, March 16, 2022 11:00 a.m.

AP Framed by the Manhattan skyline, electricians install solar panels on top of a garage at LaGuardia Airport in New York Nov. 9.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has renewed calls for energy independence and increased domestic production of oil and gas. However, the call for “energy independence” is nothing more than a distraction, a disinformation campaign propagated by the fossil-fuel industry with the intentions of profiting off this crisis. Despite what they say, the answer isn’t at the bottom of a well. Drilling more oil and gas will only put more money in their pockets. Rather, the surest path to security is to fully ramp up our transition to clean energy.

Here in the U.S., domestic oil and gas production is already at record levels. Meanwhile, clean energy, like wind, solar and other renewable sources, creates good-paying jobs here in the U.S. and is homegrown — so we don’t need to import it and it’s not subject to the wild fluctuations of the global fossil-fuel markets and supply-chain disruptions. Clean energy is how we can achieve greater security, economic stability and a healthier future.

Of course, moving toward clean energy not only creates jobs and decouples the U.S. from its reliance on foreign oil, but also helps solve the climate crisis. There is no time to waste here. Just last month, another dire warning; the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that confirms that climate change is wreaking havoc on our communities and causing dangerous, widespread disruptions to life as we know it. Many ecosystems have already been irreversibly damaged.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have seen more frequent and severe extreme weather events. Just last month, floods in Western Pennsylvania forced many to evacuate their homes as others needed to be rescued. As flooding continues to worsen, the more damage there will be to our homes and businesses, and more lives will be put at risk.

As the IPCC report makes clear, delaying action will only make things worse. By 2050, the number of dangerous heat days Pennsylvanians experience per year is expected to triple. This is a major concern for all Pennsylvanians, but especially for the more than 310,000 people here who are especially vulnerable to extreme heat. To make matters worse, summer droughts are projected to increase in severity by 50% by 2050.

Tackling climate change in Pennsylvania must start with working to reduce our pollution. Pennsylvania is the 12th most polluted state in the nation. A study conducted in Allegheny County found that children who live near steel mills, power plants and other sources of pollution have three times the risk of developing asthma. In communities of color and low-wealth communities, which disproportionately live near these sources of pollution, over 22% of children suffer from asthma. To put that in perspective, the national average is 8%.

In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives took bold action by passing $555 billion in investments in climate action, clean energy, justice and jobs. In his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Biden called for the Senate to push these investments through as well. If passed, these investments will be of great benefit to Pennsylvania. We can be a leader in driving the transformation to a low-carbon energy economy. With a strong manufacturing tradition, skilled workforce, and existing infrastructure, Pennsylvania is primed to lead in replacing fossil fuels with solar energy and wind systems made here as well as advanced battery technology, fuel cells and electric grid upgrades for load management through artificial intelligence technology.

The window for making the transformation to a low-carbon future is closing rapidly. This is the time for people of vision and courage to stand together and demand our leaders act on behalf of our children and their grandchildren to assure a sustainable future for our nation and our world. Congress and Biden must immediately work together to get these climate investments over the finish line so that Pennsylvania can thrive like never before.

Patricia DeMarco is a senior scholar at Chatham University and is vice president of Forest Hills Borough Council.

https://triblive.com/opinion/patricia-demarco-energy-independence-means-good-union-jobs-in-clean-energy/

Categories: Featured Commentary | Opinion


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Transformation: From Conquerors to Stewards of the Earth

This cold snowy day, the roads are obscured with softly falling snow.  In the stark black and white scene, I thrill to hear the mating call of a brilliant red cardinal sitting in the holly bush outside my kitchen door. He sings with confidence in the Spring to come and a long summer thriving in the privet hedge where he and his mate built four nests last season, all successful in fledging new cardinals into this backyard wilderness. The cycle of life forecast with joy, beauty and grace.

Cardinal in the snow- Photo Credit to Thomas Jensen

Edward O. Wilson’s bright light left this living world on December 24, 2021. The concept of stewardship to preserve half of the earth as wild natural spaces stands as his legacy and his challenge to us. This shift in concept from using the earth as a source of resources to be extracted for economic products to using the resources of the earth in regenerative and restorative ways lies at the heart of the transformation to a sustainable society.

The first transformation necessary for this major shift in approach to the place of humans in the world begins with a change in attitude.  We are facing multiple existential crises, all interwoven, all derived from the basic problem of consuming more of the Earth’s resources than can be replaced. In addressing this problem, we are not facing a technology problem, but rather an ethical problem- a crisis of moral commitment to preserve the life support system of this planet for our children, and for tomorrow’s children. We must infuse consideration for preserving and restoring the ecosystem services of the living earth into all our decisions about land use and resource use. 

Download the full essay here to learn about Regenerative Agriculture; Consumer demand for sustainability in products; Greening urban spaces; Designing complete neighborhoods; and Re-wilding the American Dream.


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Marshall Plan for Middle America Summit

Next Steps for Local Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

9-9-2021. ReImagine Appalachia Press Conference

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

(The video of the full press conference is here)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D.

California wildfires 2021- USGS image

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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Hold AMAZON Accountable

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

by Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

I. Cycles and Systems.

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

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

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

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

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

IV. Resources and Citations for further study.

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

–ReImagine Beaver County

— Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community

— League of Women Voters of PA

— Climate Reality Project

— Breathe Project

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