Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


Turning Dreams to Reality- Addressing Climate Change, Pollution and Species Extinction with Hope and Courage

Patricia DeMarco

November 20, 2022

The landscape has changed with the season from green filled with flowers to brown, red and gold of the deciduous tree canopy in this temperate Pennsylvania community of Forest Hills. As we push forward with budget setting we struggle to implement the plans laid down over the past several years- A Comprehensive Plan for Development, a Climate Action Plan and an Active Transportation Plan. The local governments of America are on the front lines of addressing the great existential challenges of our time. But they do not appear as cataclysmic surges everywhere at once. While coastal areas may struggle with rising sea levels and extraordinary king tides, we in the middle lands have different problems.

Light Up the Hills- Forest Hills Borough 11-19-2022

Here we seek to reinvest in communities long abandoned by the extractive industries of coal and steel and petrochemical production that laid down the wealth of the 20th century. Here we seek to reshape a future built on the foundations of past systems, but with the resilience and ingenuity that has sustained the people of this land for millennia. Adaptations come slowly, but now more quickly as the tools of policy begin to take hold. The grassroots ideas compiled into the ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint during 2020-2022 are now being implemented through successful incorporation into the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act adopted by Congress this year. Funds begin to percolate down to the communities, with the new concept of Community Benefit Agreements attached to federal funds. We are slowly dragging equity and inclusion considerations into the policies that drive progress.

What does that look like at the Borough level? Well, we see the prospect of upgrading our sidewalks and public transportation corridors for safer and more frequent bus transit service, and eventually bicycle lanes. We see funds for repairing pedestrian walkways connecting shopping and parks with communities. Walkways and stairways were once prolific in the days when the community was served by electric streetcars, but have fallen into disrepair, overrun with vines and the inevitable succession of saplings growing into the cracks. The remnants of a more active society remain and can be restored.

As the cost of renewable energy systems comes down and is better supported with incentives, more people and businesses are making installations, some linked with their electric vehicle charging stations. The community looks toward establishing micro-grids where solar on business and municipal buildings helps to meet energy requirements, and centrally located battery storage units can ameliorate the cost for the whole community as well as offer better reliability and resilience in storms. The electric grid is being evaluated and upgraded to accommodate the changes that are coming soon. Investment tax credits and production tax credits that are established in law for 10 years, instead of two or three requiring constant budget reauthorization, now make investors more interested in these projects. Stability in the market actually works where exhortation and pleading fell on deaf ears.

As the crises of extended droughts afflict many parts of the world and even significant and growing areas of America, we see the pattern of abundant water from storms in our area instead. Stormwater surges and landslides are our greatest climate change vulnerabilities. This pattern of storm water from climate change carries a huge opportunity and also an obligation. In Pennsylvania and our neighboring Appalachian states, we will have water for growing food, for domestic use and for other purposes. We will not have water to waste, or to contaminate by deliberately adding contaminants for fracking or industrial sewer discharge. Fresh water is essential for life. We must become adept at managing the storm surges, storing water for later use, and conserving its integrity from contaminants. Water can be reclaimed, reused and recirculated endlessly, if the laws that govern its distribution and flow are respected and not abused.

The COVID pandemic that has cost over one million lives in the US alone has reshaped our society. We carry the scars of this pandemic in our loss of social interaction, our pain and grief at losing loved ones, and our economic stress. We have seen our vulnerabilities magnified in the global marketplace when supply chains have been disrupted. People begin to look again to regional and local systems for things that are necessary. Will the homogenized global marketplace yield once again to regional and local specialization? Can we look forward to specialties that make places unique, that mark them as home? I hope so. The handmade homemade craft of folks who made much out of little has earned a place in our history, and may become a hallmark of our future. COVID also revealed the disparities in broadband access and affordability. Here again, new laws begin to address this issue that restrains participation in the virtual marketplace for many people in both urban and rural areas. Is it time for broadband access to be an essential utility service?

I attended the Forest Hills community celebration of Light Up the Hills on Friday evening. There were people from all around the neighborhood and surrounding communities as well. The faces of children telling their wishes to Santa, the people coming in for hot chocolate and donuts after watching young performers all came together to greet each other, and share a few moments of joy. That is what makes communities matter. Shared joy, shared accomplishments, and the sense of belonging in a special place that we can shape, but that also shapes us.

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving Celebration, this week, I think of this time for extending gratitude and appreciation among our kinsfolk, and to our neighbors and friends. And I hope that we can also extend a smile and friendly expressions even to strangers we may meet along the way. We are more alike in our humanity than different in race, gender, culture, religion, or even politics. It is a time to remember the deep history of this land and the Indigenous Peoples who thrived here for thousands of years before the European colonists arrived. Their resilience to changes over millennia gives testament to the ability of people to adapt, to find ways of cooperating through changes, and to share the love and respect for this bountiful land.


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.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1P4LoLeOtazEbcrHpnS7dcBJSDmsOcfHD/view (presentation begins at 2min 35 secs)

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


The “Forever Chemicals” – What you need to know, and why it matters

Since the 1950s, man-made chemicals called PFAS have been used to make non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing and consumer goods, fire retardant coatings, stain-resistant carpeting and furniture, some cosmetics, and products to resist grease and oil. The per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. They are long polymers including Fluoride molecules (perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). The next most commonly studied are perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA). PFOA and PFOS have been phased out of production and use in the United States, but other countries may still manufacture and use them.https://atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html

Forever Chemicals

This is one more category of man-made chemicals introduced into wide production and use in consumer products that have turned out to have unintended consequences for the environment, and for our health.

Now ubiquitous in fresh water bodies, in the ocean, even in raindrops collected in the Arctic, PFAS are also found in the bodies of most Americans.

PFAS- The Forever Chemicals now are global contaminants. Dr. Arlene Blum and her colleagues at the Green Science Policy Institute in Stamford University have studied these materials and explain why they are harmful and what you can do to protect yourself and your family from the worst of these chemicals. https://greensciencepolicy.org/harmful-chemicals/pfas/

For deeper information and publications on this subject see the excellent work of Dr. Arlene Blum and her colleagues here: https://greensciencepolicy.org/resources/publications/#white-papers

PFAS in Consumer Products

Here is a four minute introduction that will give you a good overview of this issue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmZUJJ8keBE&t=15s

And here are some resources for consumers to help you avoid PFAS in your own home: https://greensciencepolicy.org/resources/consumer-resources/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Arlene Blum is also author of mountain adventures documenting her incredible journeys to the heights of the earth. “Annapurna- A Woman’s Place” is my favorite of her mountaineering adventures. I thank her for permission to post this material on my blog this month. You can learn more about her here https://www.arleneblum.com


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


Reaching “Energy Independence” – The Reality under the Mirage

By Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D.

May 1, 2022

Land Acknowledgment: I write from Pittsburgh, which occupies ancestral lands of the Haudenosaunee, Lenape, Osage, and Shawnee peoples.

For most of human history, people struggled to survive and thrive against the forces of nature, as is the case with most other species on the planet. Discovering and harnessing fossil resources to use as fuel released human civilization from the constraints of nature. The Industrial Revolution rested on coal, then petroleum to allow people to conquer seasonal weather challenges, nighttime darkness, travel and industrial operations beyond the scope of human or animal power and bio-based fuels such as wood and whale oil. Burning fossil fuels to support almost all human enterprises has now breached the limits of the natural ecosystems in which we live and upon which we depend for survival.[1]

Humans have surpassed the Earth’s capacity to support us:

However, even as the calls of alarm for the rapid pace of global warming become more urgent, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has become the latest excuse to defer the energy system transformation to a renewable base. As noted by the Council on Foreign Relations:

The United States’ dependence on oil has long influenced its foreign policy. U.S. oil development spans three major periods: the rise of oil as a commodity, beginning in 1850; the post–World War II age of geopolitical competition; and the post–Cold War era of deregulation and diversification. Most recently, Russia’s war with Ukraine has aggravated geopolitical tensions and revived the debate about U.S. energy independence.[2]

Calls for relaxing restrictions on drilling and increasing production for export set back policy momentum for reaching the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The increases in gasoline prices illustrate how interdependent the U.S. is on the global market which sets the price of petroleum. U.S. energy policy has long been driven by the concept of cheap gas at the pump. People have become accustomed to using the gas price as a barometer of our energy security. In fact, this is just another signal of our vulnerability.

Energy independence is a term of political manipulation with several definitions, all contested by economists and energy analysts. Those who define energy independence as exporting more than we import fail to acknowledge that even when exporting oil, the U.S. still imports oil.[3] In 2021, the United States exported about 8.63 million barrels per day (b/d) and imported about 8.47 million b/d of petroleum, making the United States an annual total petroleum net exporter for the second year in a row since at least 1949.[4]

As long as the U.S. participates in an international marketplace where the price of the commodity is determined by global geo-political forces, the concept of energy independence has no real meaning. Even renewable energy systems are interdependent in the global marketplace, as is evident in the arguments over tariffs on imports of solar panels from China[5], and the sourcing and trade of rare earth materials such as lithium.[6]

Rather than seek an unachievable goal of “energy independence,” we can seek to reduce our vulnerability. It is critical to recognize that failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels to zero, at least by 2050, will be catastrophic for our economy and for the viability of the planet.[7] The laws of Nature are NOT negotiable – the laws that support continued use of fossil fuels must change immediately.

Natural History Museum. Biodiversity Loss[8]

Technology is not a barrier to achieving 100% renewable energy system in the U.S. by 2050. A  2015 analysis  conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley found that 100% wind and solar power — in conjunction with energy efficiency, energy storage and other advances to complement renewables — could provide electricity to the continental U.S. more reliably than the current system by 2050, and at lower projected costs.[9]

The political will to move the legal and regulatory infrastructure to support this goal has not been mobilized, even though most Americans see climate change as an important issue. Three-quarters of Americans say that human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, contributes to climate change at least some, with 46% saying it contributes a great deal.[10]However, opinions are sharply divided on partisan lines. Democrats say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change (71%), while just 17% of Republicans say the same.[11] Major policy changes will be needed to achieve the necessary transformation of. Our energy system, but as the last session of Congress has illustrated, political conditions are unlikely to achieve the necessary level of action.

The complexity of climate change issues and the diversity of impact even within the U.S. complicates mobilization around climate action. A recent study by the Allegheny Conference Energy Task Force in Pittsburgh has chosen a middle of the road path, even though it recognizes that this approach will not meet the climate goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2050.[12] The principal focus area for funding identified in this report relies on continued production of natural gas from hydraulic fracturing to produce “blue hydrogen” as an industrial fuel source, and applying carbon capture and sequestration technologies to control emissions.[13] This approach locks in dependence on fossil fuels for another two or three decades. 

People fear the loss of jobs in the energy sector, without recognizing that the skills and capabilities of workers in this sector are readily transferable to the clean energy economy. A federal investment package with annual average allocations of $11.3 billion to Pennsylvania, from 2021 to 2030, along with an additional $19.7 billion in private investments would generate approximately 243,000 jobs in Pennsylvania— enough to bring Pennsylvania’s high unemployment rate back down towards 4 percent.[14]  

The burden of immediate action has fallen to local governments to act. At the local level, people see the immediate effects of climate change vulnerability. In coastal areas, local governments have to address higher tides and more severe storm surges which have been highly dramatized in the media coverage of hurricane damage. Usually there is little or no discussion of the connection of larger, more severe and longer lasting storm systems to global warming and its effects on storm formation. Inland areas see drought and flood damage as well as landslides and stormwater damage. Federal assistance only comes when disastrous levels of infrastructure damage occur, such as in Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy.  

For the gradual increase of climate effects, local governments have been adopting climate action plans individually[15]and as regions.[16] In all cases, local climate action plans will require federal and state policy support by at least 2030 to support the goals established. For example, in the Forest Hills Climate Action Plan, the predominant sector is Residential. Shifting the heating systems of most houses from natural gas to high efficiency heat pumps will require policy support as well as financial assistance in the form of tax incentives or grants. Local governments have not organized well to pressure state and federal levels of government to respond to these needs.

Forest Hills Borough net zero energy -Volpatt photo

The assumption that reducing energy consumption cuts economic productivity was reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy consumption did fall as pandemic restrictions limited travel and other activities.[17] However, decoupling energy use from the economic productivity has occurred in many countries already. It is certainly plausible to decouple primary energy consumption growth from meeting the planet’s energy needs. For example, Denmark has 30 years of proven history in reducing the energy intensity of its economy.[18]  

It is important to recognize that we need to make a transformation of the energy system, not simply substitute renewable fuels for fossil fuels.  The entire approach changes when we focus on supplying the work necessary to meet the needs for people, agriculture, and industry in a different way. There are at least three points here:

  1. primary energy consumption automatically goes down when switching from fossil fuels to wind, solar and hydroelectricity, because they have no conversion losses according to the usual definition of primary energy; 
  2. living standards can be maintained while increasing energy efficiency; 
  3. renewables-based systems avoid the significant energy usage of mining, transporting and refining fossil fuels and uranium.[19]

Ultimately, reducing our vulnerability to energy disruptions comes down to building energy systems that are in harmony with the laws of nature. We must change the dynamic of the conversation about climate change. It is critical for the survival of our planet and for the immediate well-being of every person to move rapidly to a sustainable energy system. 

It is time to recognize the reality of our interdependence as human species to preserve the biodiversity of the planet and to restore the health of the ecosystems we depend on for our survival. Fresh water, clean air, and fertile ground support life on Earth as we know it. If we continue on this path, driven by greed and adherence to a fossil fueled economy, we will destroy ourselves, and all of the living Earth. I close with this reflection from Rachel Carson:

Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself, with steel and concrete, from the realities of earth and water. Perhaps he is intoxicated with his own power, as he goes farther and farther into experiments for the destruction of himself and his world. For this unhappy trend there is no single remedy – no panacea. But I believe that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.[20]

Citations


[1] IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson- Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. 

[2] Council on Foreign Relations. Oil Dependence and U.S. Foreign Relations- Timeline 1850 -2022. April 2022. https://www.cfr.org/timeline/oil-dependence-and-us-foreign-policy

[3] Robert Rapier. “What Is Energy Independence?” Forbes. March 9, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2022/03/09/what-is-energy-independence/?sh=29f94867730a

[4]  U.S. Energy Information Administration. Petroleum and Other Liquids. U.S. Net Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products 1975-2021 https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=pet&s=mttntus2&f=a

[5] David Stanway. “China says U.S. tariff extension on solar products hurts new energy trade.” Reuters February 7, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/china-says-us-tariff-extension-solar-products-hurts-new-energy-trade-2022-02-05/

[6] Gregory M. LaRocca. “Global Value Chains: Lithium in Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles.” U.S. International trade Commission, Office of Industries Working Paper No. 069. July 2020.   https://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/working_papers/no_id_069_gvc_lithium-ion_batteries_electric_vehicles_final_compliant.pdf

[7]  IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, M. Tignor, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem (eds.)]. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.   https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/

[8] Yvonne DaSilve. Major study shows biodiversity losses can be reversed. Natural History Museum https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2015/april/major-study-shows-biodiversity-losses-can-be-reversed.htmlYvonne

[9] Mark Z. Jacobson, Mark A. Delucchi, Mary A. Camerona and Bethany A. Frew. “Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes.” PNAS. December 8, 2015. vol. 112 no. 49   www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1510028112

[10] Alec Tyson, Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy. “Americans Largely Favor U.S. Taking Steps to Become Carbon Neutral by 2050.” Pew Research Center.March 1, 2022. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2022/03/01/americans-largely-favor-u-s-taking-steps-to-become-carbon-neutral-by-2050/

[11] Katherine Schaeffer. “For Earth Day, key facts about Americans’ view of climate change and renewable energy.” Pew Research Center. April 22, 2022.   https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/04/22/for-earth-day-key-facts-about-americans-views-of-climate-change-and-renewable-energy/

[12] Allegheny Conference Energy Task Force. “Our Region’s Energy Future – A strategy for accelerating decarbonization, investment and inclusive growth in the Pittsburgh region.” April 2022.  https://www.alleghenyconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/2022_EnergyReport_D.pdf

[13]  Ibid. Page 12. https://www.alleghenyconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/2022_EnergyReport_D.pdf

[14] Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lin, Shouvik Chakraborty and Gregor Semieniuk. Impacts of the ReImagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs for Pennsylvania – Job Creation, Economic Recovery, and Long-term Sustainability. University of Massachusetts Amherst, Political Economy Research Institute. January 2021.  https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Pollin-et-al-PA-Final-Report-1-22-21.pdf

See also https://patriciademarco.com/2022/03/20/%EF%BF%BC-patricia-demarco-%EF%BF%BCenergy-independence-means-good-union-jobs-in-clean-energy%EF%BF%BC/

 [15]  Borough of Forest Hills Climate Action Plan. December 16, 2020. https://files.dep.state.pa.us/Energy/Office%20of%20Energy%20and%20Technology/OETDPortalFiles/ClimateChange/Local_Climate_Action/Final_Forest_Hills_Climate_Action_Plan-12-17-2020.pdf

[16]  Congress of Neighboring Communities. Infrastructure and Utilities Coordination Working Group.  CONNECT Climate Action Plan. May 2022 (In Press)   https://www.connect.pitt.edu/working-groups/infrastructure-utilities-coordination-working-group

[17] Peng Jiang, Yee Van Fan and Jiri Jaromir Klemes. “Impacts of COVID-19 on energy demand and consumption: lessons and emerging opportunities.” Applied Energy. March 1, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7834155/#__ffn_sectitle

[18]  T.W.Brown, T.Bischof-Niemz, K.Blok, C.Breyer, H.LundB.V.Mathiesen .  Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems.’ Renewable and Sustainable Energy ReviewsVolume 92, September 2018, Pages 834-847.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2018.04.113   See also article to which this response is directed:https://www.utilitydive.com/news/why-100-renewables-isnt-feasible-by-2050/560918/

[19] T.W.Brown, T.Bischof-Niemz, K.Blok, C.Breyer, H.Lund, B.V.Mathiesen .  Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems.’ Renewable and Sustainable Energy ReviewsVolume 92, September 2018, Pages 834-847.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2018.04.113   See also article to which this response is directed:https://www.utilitydive.com/news/why-100-renewables-isnt-feasible-by-2050/560918/

[20] Rachel L. Carson. “The Real World Around Us.” In Linda J. Lear (Ed.) Lost Woods – The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson. Beacon Press. Boston 1998. Page 163.


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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


Standing with the Mon Valley Steelworkers and Communities

This article published in the Post-Gazette on February 23, 2022 was crafted by a strong coalition of labor, environmental and community leaders: Even though all authors were not published in the piece, very special credit goes to Matt Mehalik of the Breathe Project who has been working tirelessly for the Clairton air quality and environmental justice issues, and Mike Stout, a tireless organizer and author of steel valley history.

This is an important call for accountability and action, not patronizing assurances of “we are working on it” ENOUGH! We need to step up the pace on planning for a sustainable, just, equitable and robust future for the Mon Valley, the steelworkers who have given it their blood, sweat and tears for generations, and the communities that have borne the burden.

“We know the importance of good-paying union jobs. We support community and worker health, clean air, clean water and a clean environment — not just for us, but for our children and future generations.

U.S. Steel’s actions feel like calculated, abusive manipulation setting the stage for further abandonment, all facilitated by silent cynical “leadership.”

It’s time to go in a different direction. We want investments in the Mon Valley and its world-class, highly skilled workforce. We support high-tech manufacturing for the future. And we are proposing a plan that unites workers and communities can build from. (See the full article below to read the proposals for a better future.)

Here is the whole Team that has called for a strong response to US Steel’s continued pattern of betrayal to the Mon Valley:

Rose Bezy – Clairton Steelworker, USW Local 1557

Willard Jones, Clairton Steelworker, USW Local 1557

Matthew MehalikBreathe Project Director, descendant of 3 generations of Mon Valley steelworkers

Mike Stout– Former Grievance Chair, USWA 1397, Homestead Works, President, Izaak Walton League of America, Allegheny County Chapter

Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D. – Steelworkers daughter and veteran father and mother in AFT and Allegheny Administrators Union; and granddaughter of the UE and PA RR unions

Mark Fallon, former Clairton Steelworker, Steel Valley teacher

https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/Op-Ed/2022/02/24/Rosemary-Bezy-and-Patricia-M-DeMarco-Who-will-stand-with-Mon-Valley-steelworkers-and-communities/stories/202202240017


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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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“Climate Change is Calling MY Name”

The title of this piece comes from remarks my friend Rev. Marcia Dinkins made at the PA Interfaith Power and Light Annual Meeting. I share this sentiment as a commitment to unrelenting action and advocacy for the essential transformation that must occur if our children are to have a safe and healthy future. There is no prospect for survival beyond this century unless we all take action to shift from a society based on extractive fossil resources to one based on regenerative and sustainable resources.

The transformation a sustainable future is in progress, but moving far too slowly. Every person can act. Every person matters. We can build a sustainable future with equity, resilience and shared prosperity for all of us.

2021 marked a threshold in the global perception of climate change action. Sixty-four percent of people worldwide believe climate change is a global emergency, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.undp.org/publications/peoples-climate-vote  The “People’s Climate Vote” survey, conducted by the University of Oxford in conjunction with United Nations Development Program, asked respondents if climate change was a global emergency and whether they supported eighteen key climate policies across six action areas: economy, energy, transport, food & farms, nature and protecting people.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said: 

“The results of the survey clearly illustrate that urgent climate action has broad support amongst people around the globe, across nationalities, age, gender and education level. But more than that, the poll reveals how people want their policymakers to tackle the crisis. From climate-friendly farming to protecting nature and investing in a green recovery from COVID-19, the survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate. It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.” 

https://www.undp.org/press-releases/worlds-largest-survey-public-opinion-climate-change-majority-people-call-wide

In America, the picture is much more complicated. In October 2019, a Pew Research Survey found that about six-in-ten Americans (62%) said that global climate change was affecting their local community a great deal or some. And two-thirds of Americans (67%) said the federal government wasn’t doing enough to reduce the effects of global climate change. But there were wide political divides over the effects of climate policy. Partisanship is a stronger factor in people’s beliefs about climate change than is their level of knowledge and understanding about science. Democrats with a high level of knowledge about science (89%) said human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with 41% of Democrats with low science knowledge, based on an 11-item knowledge index. Republicans with a high level of science knowledge (17%) were no more likely than those with a low level of knowledge (25%) to say human activity plays a strong role in climate change. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/21/how-americans-see-climate-change-and-the-environment-in-7-charts/

Each of us can commit to taking action on climate in the New Year- it is the most important gift we can give our children. Here are Five things we can all do to reduce climate causing carbon emissions every day:

1. Speak out and vote. Regardless of our means or station in life, every citizen has the obligation to participate actively in the process of government. We must hold our elected representatives accountable to act in the best interest of our future, not for vested interests mired in the fossil industries. Contact your state and federal Representatives and Senators at least once a month to urge action on climate and protecting our air, water and lands. It is time to restore government actions in support of people and communities instead of enhancing corporate wealth. Trickle down economics does not work. Never has, never will. Strong unions, strong communities, fair wages and good education and medical care for all citizens build the middle class and create a shared prosperity. You can find your federal, state and local elected officials here. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials See the Reimagine Appalachia Blueprint for good information about policies that will help our region move away from fossil extractive industries , restore the land and build good jobs that support a shared prosperity for all of us. https://reimagineappalachia.org

2. Take responsibility for your own climate footprint. Energy use is the most significant contributor to the greenhouse gases that cause climate warming. Each of us can move our energy use toward zero carbon emissions with deliberate choices.

  • Implement low-cost and no-cost efficiency measures like setting thermostats higher in summer and lower in winter, sealing up leaks in heating ducts, windows, doors and vents; have an energy audit of your house and make the efficiency improvements that may include adding insulation to attic and walls, replacing windows and doors or upgrading the heating and cooling system. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/do-it-yourself-home-energy-assessments
  • Examine your appliances for efficiency and choose efficient options when replacing them. remember to unplug appliances when not in use- anything that has a clock on it, or that runs constantly whether in use or not, turn off computers and electronics when not in active use. “Vampire power” use can be a big drain on your electricity bill. Choose a 100% local renewable energy electricity provider. Here is a resource to guide how to switch. https://electricityrates.com/how-to-compare/switch-electricity-providers/renewable-energy/

3. Eat for Health and a Healthy Planet. Food choices matter for the health of our families and for the. health of the planet. Agriculture contributes to climate change in many ways, not only by carbon emissions from farm machinery and animal wastes, but also by the degradation of soil fertility from over-use of agricultural chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers derived from petrochemicals. Advocate for federal, state and local agricultural land practices that regenerate fertility of the soils a top priority. Agricultural lands in America were once blessed with 12 to 24 inches of topsoil; now more often one to four inches. Building up organic material in the soil through regenerative agricultural practices can sequester carbonated improve fertility of the land. https://rodaleinstitute.org/education/resources/regenerative-agriculture-and-the-soil-carbon-solution/

  • Convert as much of your energy use to electricity as possible, especially large appliances like hot water heaters, clothes dryers (really consider hanging clothes to dry!) stoves, and heating systems. Modern high efficiency heat pumps can replace gas furnaces for heating.Here are some good resources to guide this effort https://www.rewiringamerica.org
  • Adopt a solar photovoltaic energy system on your own property when you can. https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/homeowners-guide-going-solar

4. Decarbonize your transportation. Transportation based on internal combustion engines replaced horses within the decade of 1903 to 1913 because cost, convenience and prestige drove a rapid innovation. Similar change can happen if we organize our transportation system to replace the internal combustion engine with electric engines and other transportation technologies. The first personal choice for reducing the transportation energy use is to drive less. Walk when possible, take public transit when possible, and drive conscientiously. Consolidate trips, avoid idling, and keep your vehicle properly tuned up. As you seek to replace your vehicle, shift to an electric hybrid model or to an all-electric model. Economic incentives are emerging for electric vehicles and for the infrastructure such as charging stations and service stations as well as advances in battery and storage systems. https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml This is a rapidly chancing arena, so watch for updates as the legislation emerges.

5. Stop using single-use plastic. Plastic has a tremendous burden on both health and resources as well as a high climate impact. (See this excellent presentation of the top 10reasons metro development is the wrong path https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UOWBJ7dClefyk6kJp92YRZHkGbH77qJz/view?usp=sharing and my article https://patriciademarco.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/mending-the-interconnected-web-of-life-a-call-for-regulating-endocrine-disrupting-chemicals-2.pdf)

  • Carry re-usable bags for purchases. Some communities are adopting bans on plastic bags.
  • Look at labels and choose non-plasttic options. There are hundreds of ways to eliminate plastics and I have written about this subject often on tis site. Se this resource for a step by step guide to eliminating plastic. https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/

As we close this year, the climate battle rages on multiple fronts with the added punctuation of loss from the pandemic casualties. I find hope and confidence in the future in the eyes of so many colleagues fighting every day to improve our situation. I see it in the many hands of people turning to help each other through hard times. I feel it in the love and affection poured out in families and communities as we support each other through grief and sadness. I know it in experiencing the embrace of the living earth as each day dawns anew.May we celebrate the Gifts of the Living Earth in the coming year and for always.

Blessed Be!


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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