Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


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


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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