Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


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Imagine Global Cooperation- COP-23

November 9, 2017

by Patricia DeMarco

On his way to the Conference of Parties- 23 (COP-23)  in Bonn, Germany, California Governor Gerry Brown stopped to speak to the Baden-Wurttenberg lawmakers in Stuttgart to address the issue of action on climate change:  “Let’s lead the whole world to realize this is not your normal political challenge,” he added. “This is much bigger. This is life itself. It requires courage and imagination.”[1] Calling for an international movement on behalf of life on Earth as a collective priority can transcend the political divisions that paralyze effective action. Building an international consensus on a way forward can release the inventiveness of human ingenuity in response to a common crisis. The sooner we begin an international collaboration with the goal of preserving the viability of the planet for all life, the sooner we can make real progress as a civilization. We are all more alike in our humanity than different in culture, religion or politics. We all depend on our common life support system: fresh air, clean water, fertile ground and the biodiversity of species with whom we share this Earth.

This is not a partisan issue. Reach across to your neighbors and friends and plan together to make each community more resilient, more sustainable, and less dependent on fossil fuels. We must all demand that Congress place priority on reinvestment in the infrastructure of the future, beginning with communities that have had fossil extractive industries as the base of their economy for so long. It is time to diversify, to re-imagine our future around sustainable systems that restore and regenerate the living Earth which supports our life.

War-torn Syria joined the Paris Agreement at the Bonn gathering of COP-23, leaving President Trump ‘s declaration to remove the United States from the global agreement as the solitary proponent of denial. Hundreds of US Mayors, several states and many hundreds of corporations have declared adherence to the Paris Climate Accord, vowing to take actions to help hold the increase in global average temperature to no more than 2° C or 3.6° F. Reducing the combustion of fossil fuels to lower the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is the most efficient way to accomplish this goal.  But this is only the beginning of the energy revolution that will re-shape the way civilization relates to the natural world. Once communities and businesses begin to meet their energy needs through renewable systems, rather than destructive combustion, possibilities and innovations will multiply.

Adaptations for efficiency and resilience are already occurring, for example in solar panels where the solar photovoltaic system is integrated into the structure of roofing tiles, rather than affixing them to a roof, and window glass that can generate electricity as sunlight passes through it. The concept of designing buildings that create as much energy as they use- net zero energy buildings- has already taken off as a common sense and cost efficient way to provide space conditioning and electricity in homes and commercial spaces. Research and pilot projects designing electric micro-grids that connect energy generating sources located among the customers is challenging the traditional electric  utility structure.  Some are embracing the innovations and incorporating distributed generation into their operations, finding new categories of service in load management, storage and reliability assurance.  Other utilities are resisting the advance of renewable resources and customer- owned generation with punitive tariffs and restrictive conditions for connecting to the wider grid.  In many such cases, some customers find it easier to install their own storage, and simply drop off the connected grid- true “energy independence.”

The renewable energy industry is growing rapidly. One in 50 jobs in America are in the renewable energy industries.  Solar energy jobs have increased 178% from 2010 to 2016.[2]  The solar industry employs more than 260,000 Americans, a 25% increase from 2015 to 2016, and the average wage in the industry is $28.00 per hour; 25% of the workers are women.[3] If all renewable energy and efficiency improvement industries are included, there are more workers in the renewable energy sector than in coal, oil and gas combined. Deliberate suppression of this initiative by Congressional “Tax Reform” is not productive to a growth industry that also accomplishes greater public interest goals in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of strong leadership at the federal level, states and individual companies have made a wide range of approaches to using renewable energy systems.( See the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency http://www.dsireusa.org)  It is clear that this transition from a fossil base to a renewable energy system will not proceed smoothly until there is a wider consensus in the United States to commit to a fossil free future.

This is a major step for a country as large and complex as America, but we are also a country known for its ability to rise to hard challenges and to place the common good at the center of public policy initiatives many times in its history. This can be the galvanizing common challenge that unites our spirit in purpose.  Technology is not the impediment. Rather, it is the entrenched interests of the fossil extractive industries in coal, oil and natural gas that have taken a strangle hold on the public policy process.  It is time to call a halt to the suffocation of innovation.  It is time to unleash the forces of ingenuity and creativity that will allow America to resume its leadership role in the world. This is not a matter of “getting regulations off the back of business” but rather a matter of re-designing our laws to support and encourage actions that align better with the laws of nature.  We need to preserve the life support system that provides fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, fertile ground to grow our food, and the well-being of people and all the other living things that share this earth. This is a challenge worthy of our best efforts.  It is a challenge to inspire our young people to have hope and faith in the future, rather than fear.  It offers a way forward that recaptures the spirit of community in a shared battle that is worth winning.

This alignment of nations in the Paris Climate Accord to address the common goal of preserving a viable planet is rare, and offers an opportunity for common ground unprecedented in our time.  It is not a technology problem. It is an ethics problem we can solve by making a commitment to care for the living earth, and care for each other. A future based on renewable and sustainable systems offers a better future, not one of greater deprivation and distress.  A civilization dedicated to preserving and regenerating the life force of the Earth holds the promise of a great renewal of spirit and a richness of legacy to sustain future generations. We need the courage to move away from what has become familiar over a hundred years and adopt practices that bring the prospect of a better future closer to reality. We need the fortitude to overcome the forces vested in short-term gains at the expense of our very survival.  It is time to leave the dinosaurs at rest in the ground and welcome the sun.

Actions:

  1. Review your own energy use profile and find ways to reduce what you use in your home, your transportation and your business. https://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/index.htm
  2. Examine your personal “supply chain” and see what you can change to reduce the amount of material you throw away or waste. Commit to cutting out disposable plastics, and recycle everything you cannot avoid. http://learn.eartheasy.com/2012/05/plastics-by-the-numbers/
  3. Call your Congressional Representatives and Senators and urge them to support climate action, especially retaining the investment tax credits for solar and wind. Punitive removal of these modest measures while adding substantial subsidies to coal, gas and nuclear fuels is an unethical choice for the future. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
  4. Ask your local community to make a commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. Make a plan for your local community commitment to the future of our world. https://www.wearestillin.com/us-action-climate-change-irreversible

Remember to find time to experience the wonders of nature all around us every day.  We will preserve what we love. So, do indeed adopt a tree or a stream or a landscape and keep it in your heart.

Blessed Be.

 

[1] Erik. Kirschbaum. “Gov. Gerry Brown Delivers a Blunt Climate Change Message in Germany>” Los Angeles  Times. November 8, 2017.  http://beta.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-germany-jerry-brown-climate-change-20171108-story.html  Accessed November 9, 2017.

[2] The Solar Foundation. State Solar Jobs Census. https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/solar-jobs-census/

[3] The Solar Foundation. “The Potential of State Solar Jobs- 2017.” http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/TSF-Census-Future-State-Solar-Jobs-2021.pdf


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WE Are the Clean Energy Revolution

June 24, 2016. The March for a Clean Energy Revolution filled the streets of Philadelphia from City Hall to Independence Hall with about 10,000 people from across the country marching and chanting about the issues surrounding climate change on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. The anger and frustration with a political system that has ignored or opposed actions to reverse climate change rose in waves of passionate demands: “Stop Fracking Now!” “We Are the Revolution- Go Solar Now!” “Stop fracking wealth and protect public health!” People gave voice and testimony through their presence to their outrage over laws that protect corporations’ interests over workers’ health, profit multinational corporations while destroying communities’ water, land and air, and subsidize fossil fuels while placing roadblocks for renewable energy systems.

Many of the marchers spent the previous day at the Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution at the Friends Center. Chief Perry of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation set the tone of the whole day by lifting up the pleas of over 200 indigenous peoples for all people to return to the old ways based on an ethic of respect for “our Father Sky and our Mother Earth.”

Chief Perry, Ramapaugh Lunaape Nation opens the Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution, July 23, 2016

Chief Perry, Ramapaugh Lunaape Nation opens the Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution, July 23, 2016

Powerful stories punctuated the day:

  • Robert Nehman told of the effects of sand mining that destroys formations over one million years old to grind into sand for the fracking fields in states distant from Iowa and has workers suffering from silicosis.
  •  Ashley McCray, Absentee Shawnee Tribe-Ogala Lakota Nation, spoke of her decade of protests against the threat from gas pipelines and the infrastructure of fracking that had shaken her lands for ten years with earthquakes, pipeline spills, and the noise, air and water pollution that fracking brings – protests only recognized when richer white neighborhoods were affected also.
  • Diane D’Arrigo, of the Nuclear Information Research Service, described the environmental injustice associated with nuclear power from uranium mining through the enrichment process to power plant operations and fuel management –all steps of the process produce radioactive wastes that fall disproportionately on Navaho lands, and on people in disadvantaged communities.
  • Sandra Steingraber  documented the health effects of fracking noting that 15 million Americans live within a mile of fracking operations and that incidences of asthma in these areas is four times higher than background levels. (All of the presentations will be posted by Food and Water Watch – Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution)

The Clean Energy Revolution Summit: Breakout Session #3- A Visionary Ambitious Transition Plan – with Arjun Makhijani, Russell Greene, Micah Gold-Markel and Patricia DeMarco.

Remarks of Patricia DeMarco:

Climate change is the existential issue of our time. The fact that the earth’s climate is changing rapidly in response to human actions since the Industrial Revolution presents a series of ethical and moral challenges. This Clean Energy Revolution is not a technology problem… it is an ethical problem. The laws of nature – chemistry, physics, and biology – are NOT negotiable. It is we who must change our behavior to adapt the way we interface with the natural world. The pace of change accelerates as warming of the atmosphere and increasing acidity of the oceans change the geochemistry of the Earth. We must move quickly to reverse greenhouse gas production, or life as we know it will not survive.

The technology for moving the global economy from a fossil base to a renewable energy base is already in hand. No super innovation is required to begin the conversion to a clean energy future. Climate change is essentially an ethical issue on four levels:

  1. Intergenerational justice: this generation as a moral obligation to the unborn children of the 21st century to preserve the life support system provided by the living earth – oxygen-rich air, fresh water, fertile ground and the biodiversity of species of which humans are but one part.
  2. International justice: people living in the industrialized northern hemisphere are the principal causers of the escalation in greenhouse gas emissions, but the most immediate devastating effects from sea level rise and drought are being felt most acutely by people who did not contribute much to the problem – people from island nations, equatorial countries and arctic communities.
  3. Local environmental justice: people living close to fossil fuel industries are most acutely affected by health effects from pollution, community devastation from mining and waste disposal, and safety hazards from spills, explosions and water and land contamination. Low income and disadvantaged communities suffer the impact while the profits benefit distant corporations.
  4. A just transition for workers: For the workers and retirees of the oil, gas and coal industry, the transition to a renewable and sustainable energy system presents a challenge that is not covered by bankruptcy laws. Corporations like coal companies that see a fall in their markets have bankruptcy protections to keep their shareholders whole, but the workers are “offloaded’ to shell corporations that go bankrupt leaving workers without pensions, health benefits or a way forward for their children and families. This practice may be technically legal, but it is not right!

These ethical issues must be addressed in a comprehensive way to mobilize the full might and ingenuity of our country on the problem of climate change. A change in attitude to make climate change an urgent issue for every person, every day, every way can begin to turn the American lifestyle from one of conspicuous consumption and profligate waste to one of preservation, conservation and wise resource use. An energy policy based on “all of the above” including fossil and nuclear resources is not sufficient to the magnitude of the task. If you are headed toward a cliff at 55 miles an hour, slowing to 30 miles an hour will just delay the time before you drive over the edge. We need to take a new direction in energy policy. The following actions can set a beginning for a renewable and sustainable energy base to the global economy:

  1. Leave fossil fuels in the ground. Eliminate the subsidies for fossil fuels, including investment and production tax credits, below market leasing on federal lands, federally funded research and development on fossil fuel extraction and combustion, trade advantages, and investments in fossil resource infrastructure such as pipelines, export facilities and processing facilities. Invest in land reclamation, watershed restoration and community re-development instead. Focus on efficiency improvement and retrofit for existing fossil-fueled buildings and operations.
  2. Support and promote renewable and sustainable energy systems with the full force of law. Adopt federal standards promoting passive and active solar design for all new buildings. Provide technical assistance and community development grants for renewable energy systems on all public buildings. Stabilize the business environment for renewable energy with permanent investment and production tax credits for renewable resources and the associated infrastructure to support American manufacture and production of components.
  3. Plug the “Haliburton Loophole” immediately to curtail the harm to workers and communities from its exemptions for hydraulic fracking from the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and worker protections under Occupational Safety and Health Administration. No industry should be allowed to operate under suspension of basic public health protections.
  4. Establish a “Superfund” for displaced coal miners and fossil fuel industry workers. The pension benefits, health benefits and four years of retraining with salary support for families can redirect the human capital of workers with dignity and respect. Bankruptcy protections must provide for workers first, not only stockholders.

 

Addressing climate change will require empathy for the plight of people most acutely affected, whether they are next door, across the ocean, or yet to be born. It is time to stand up and demand an energy policy that protects our children and their grandchildren rather than the corporate greed of fossil fuel developers. The solutions are at hand. We need only the courage and commitment to pursue them as rapidly as possible, not as slowly as is expedient. Be the leader among those you reach. WE are the Clean Energy Revolution!

Hear the NPR interview here: https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2016/07/24/clean-energy-advocates-urge-dnc-to-ban-fracking-promote-renewable-fuels/

Marching with friends from Marcellus Outreach Butler

Marching with friends from Marcellus Outreach Butler


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Down to the Roots- Earth Day 2015

Earth Day is a good time to think about roots. Roots of the plants and trees now shooting forth leaves and flowers, soon vegetables and fruits, and roots of the Earth Day movement. Forty-five years ago the first Earth Day gathered 20 million people from all kinds of causes to call for a stop to the flagrant destruction of our environment.  Everyone from nuclear bomb and air pollution opponents, to civil rights activists, anti-war activists, women’s rights and GLBT rights advocates, and workers rights advocates came together to protect clean air and clean water.  It was a rare moment of unity of purpose, exhilarating, and fresh, and hopeful.

The plethora of foundational environmental protection laws passed during the decade from 1970 to 1980 set a course for the regulatory battles we face today.  Those early efforts to curtail the unrestrained extraction and use of resources without regard for the natural resources put corks in the smokestacks, stoppers in the emission pipes, liners in the landfills and established elaborate permit processes.  Today, the EPA Toxic Release Inventory reveals that over 5.2 billion tons per year of toxic materials are released into the air, water and land legally, by permit.

This Earth Day in the second decade of the 21st century, it is time to go down to the roots, to the sources and causes of our pollution habits. We need to look at the problem from a different direction.  My clearest enlightenment on this process came from Eric Beckman, a green chemist who uses bio-mimicry to create non-toxic medical products.  We were on a panel talking about how people can use greener approaches to home and garden care, and he rejoined to a person who was recommending a switch to an electric lawn mower from a gas powered one: “You are just buying your way to pollution in a different place, the coal plant that powers your electric mower instead of the gas you burn on site. The truly “green” solution is to plant lawn that requires no mowing, perennials that only grow a few inches high in the first place!”  The root of the problem of emissions from power plants, factories, chemical production, farming comes from re-thinking the process to prevent the pollution at the source.

This is the exciting challenge of our time: to prevent pollution at the source.  That means to generate the energy we need from renewable resources and from non-combustion technologies such as fuel cells so we can stop burning fossil fuels.  It means shifting our food production system away from mass mono-cultures that require tons of fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide and a treadmill of increasingly toxic products to stay ahead of pests. We can adopt organic and locally adapted sustainable agriculture practices that restore and regenerate fertile ground, protect watersheds and add biodiversity to our agricultural landscapes.  It means we design products to be safe, not diluted toxics.  It means we design things to be re-used, re-purposed or reclaimed instead of turning from hot new item to trash within two years, or less.

We see today all around us the signs of stress from our living earth.  Our early assumptions that the sky was so wide, the ocean so deep and the land so endless that people could not possibly affect it have proven to be false.  We see measurable changes in the composition of our atmosphere, in the acidity of the oceans, and in the fertility of the ground.  Drought, extremes of flood and storms present us with the unintended consequences of 200 years of civilization based on extractive industries.  We must now shift to replenishing and regenerative industry to move our economy to a state of equilibrium with nature.  We can enjoy the condistock-photo-22932947-small-maple-tree-with-rootstions of abundance and robust resilience evident in any balanced ecosystem.  Just as the roots of a two year old maple sapling extend  more than a foot below ground, branching and thrusting intimately into the soil, we have many branches and opportunities for exploration into the new roots of our economy. We can take this Earth Day as a starting point for living in harmony with nature, according to Nature’s laws.

Plant a tree and care for it. The Earth will thank you.