Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


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A Reflection on the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord

“We are the last generation that can end climate change. We can and we will.” Khishigjargal, 24, Mongolia

On November 4, 2020, the United States officially withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord in a mockery to the reality Americans face in this tumultuous year. No longer a theoretical projection modeled from academic geophysical constructs, climate changes brings the reality of drought, fires, floods and diseases upon us all over the world. The youth of the world cry out for attention, as they observe the window for effective action closing rapidly. For some, their fate is sealed already. Grieving for what has been and will inevitably be lost burdens the hearts of all who care about the future and the fate of civilization. 

The triple existential threats of greenhouse gas emissions, global pollution and now global pandemics all result from human patterns of behavior over the last 100 years. Transforming our way of relating to the natural world can create a better, brighter future. The problems of climate change, social equity and environmental justice must be resolved simultaneously, or they will not be resolved at all. We must recognize that we are more alike as human creatures dependent on the living Earth than different in our genders, religions, cultures, races or political persuasions. We must reimagine our way of life in harmony with Nature, rather than dependent on its destruction. 

Recognize the Cost of NOT Acting on Climate Change

Although many individual cities, a few states and some businesses and corporations have made climate commitments since the International Paris Accord in December 2015, the United States has promoted policies to support fossil industries. Baseline emissions patterns continue on a trajectory toward a four-degree increase, or higher, in the average global temperature.

U.S. Emissions Trajectory Compared to Climate Goals

UNEP. 2018 Emissions Gap Report https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/12/UNEP-1.pdf

Prospects for economic prosperity weaken as climate conditions continue to worsen. The Market Risk Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued a report that sounded a stark alarm: “Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy. Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human health and labor productivity.”[i] The invisible hand of the market will not make the adjustments necessary because the consequences of destroying the ecosystem services that support life on Earth are not directly counted in the marketplace. Losing the living Earth will cause cascading disasters that cannot be replaced.

The natural world that forms our life support system is under extreme duress. Species extinction rates are now hundreds of times higher than historical averages. Human actions have compromised or destroyed 75% of the land surface of the earth, including loss of 85% of wetlands, and 66% of the worlds ocean area is experiencing multiple destructive forces from human actions in overfishing, pollution -especially from plastics, and chemical changes in acidification due to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[ii] In the last four years, regulations that protect the environment and endangered species have been weakened or rescinded.[iii] Under the excuse of the COVID pandemic, environmental protections are not being enforced.[iv] Granted at the behest of oil and gas industries, the relaxation of environmental protections has increased the pollution of air and water across the United States.

Climate change exacerbates some underlying health threats and creates new public health challenges. Climate change increases exposure to elevated temperatures; more frequent, severe, or longer-lasting extreme events; degraded air quality; diseases transmitted through food, water, and disease vectors (such as ticks and mosquitoes); and stresses to our mental health and well-being.[v] Vulnerable populations are more likely to experience climate change injury, acute and chronic illnesses, developmental issues, and death. Especially people living in heavily polluted areas or who are in poverty have a higher risk of exposure to biological, psychosocial, chemical or physical stressors which are often increased by climate change conditions. The social safety net has not provided timely or sufficient assistance to help people cope with the constant stress of climate change, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed weaknesses in the health care, education and public health and welfare systems.

Support the Benefits of A Green Economy

As we seek recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes clear that restoring the “normal” of the past will not achieve a lasting solution. The need to address the economic and social pain of the pandemic puts a spotlight on the inequities and systemic injustices of our current system. Planning a recovery to a new “normal” can accelerate the necessary transformation of our economy and our culture to a more sustainable way of living. Our laws and policies must change to restore the balance among a just and equitable economic system; a social justice system for health, education, culture and public well-being; and environmental protection provisions that sustain our life support system- fresh air, clean water, fertile ground and the diversity of species that comprise the global web of life.  Over the last fifty years, the economic metric has dwarfed all other measures of value in our culture, resulting in inequitable wealth distribution, unequal power sharing, and broad environmental degradation. 

The pathways to a sustainable future are clear. We can transform our economy and our way of life to place priority on changing human behaviors systematically to control the acceleration of climate change. The technologies necessary to make the shift are in hand. We must galvanize a collective sense of urgency to take action.[i]  When we do so, the benefits are significant, and accumulate rapidly.[ii]

Clear Policy Actions to Preserve the Planet for Our Children

In spite of the partisan divide that has hampered effective policy to mitigate climate change in the past decade, Americans increasingly recognize the need for action. In 2020, 82% of Americans across all political persuasions agree climate change from human actions is occurring and likely to increase global temperatures continuing into the next century.[iii] National leadership for a coordinated and consistent policy that will drive a unified response has been lacking. The amount of carbon dioxide already released into the atmosphere and baked in from existing sources of new emissions will assure that the global temperature continues to rise beyond the one degree Celsius already experienced in this decade.  Controlling the further increase to levels that will still sustain life as we know it must take place within the next ten to 15 years.

Here are four principles to guide the climate policy U-Turn:

1. Empower people to transform the economy. Government policies since the early 1980s have focused primarily on market-based decisions to strengthen business, especially large corporate entities. Yet, the highest times of productivity in our country and elsewhere have come when public investment empowering people, small businesses and communities have priority. We can re-create a sense of community and common purpose where people feel connected to their own communities and when that connection allows people to prosper. Young people should offer one year of public service upon graduation from high school. This can be military service, Volunteers In Service To America service, or community infrastructure restoration such as was offered through the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal era. Education beyond that year of service, whether to community college, union trade apprenticeship or university study should have a nominal tuition.  Students should not be completing their education with $100,000 or more in debt. Re-weave the social safety net to provide equitable access to health, education and poverty assistance. We need to de-criminalize poverty at all levels and define equitable pathways to prosperity. Entrenched discriminatory practices that limit access to financing for personal investment or for entrepreneurial investments must be equitably available. 

2. Revise property rights to place priority on protecting ecosystems rather than mineral rights. The natural systems that support life are embedded in the surface of the Earth- topsoil, trees, grasslands, wetlands, riparian areas around rivers and streams, oceans.  These living earth ecosystems are the true places that support the essential needs for life as we know it to exist. Preserving the life support system should be the top priority.  If value and rights are assigned to such ecosystem services, preserving forests will have value, regenerative farming that restores soil fertility will have value, preserving wetlands and coastal floodplains will have value.  Rescinding mineral rights as having dominance over surface rights will prevent farms, forests, parks and wetlands from destruction to access minerals and fossil deposits of oil, gas and coal. Stop subsidies for fossil industries. The entitlement for protection will shift to living earth systems instead.

3. Restore science as the basis for public policy. The reality of climate change requires immediate and sustained action. The laws of Nature are not negotiable, nor do physics, chemistry and physiology adjust for our laws. Technologies to mitigate the advance of climate change are available. They must be incorporated into law across the country. 

            Renewable energy systems can advance rapidly if the electricity grid would be modernized to intersecting micro-grid nodes. Adopting a national building code standard based on passive soar design, adjusted for regional differences, would create net zero energy and water buildings, or even allow buildings to create more energy than they use if Photovoltaic roofs were incorporated. Electrifying the transportation system with electric vehicles and light rail systems would improve ambient air as well as bolster manufacturing opportunities. Integrating storage technologies with artificial intelligence for load management and aligning power sources with uses can shift the pattern of power from central distribution systems to dispersed interconnected options.

            Regenerative agriculture– the practice of restoring crop rotation, cover crops, low tillage and other techniques can restore the fertility of the land and protect the health of people. Reforesting abandoned mine lands and protecting forested lands on public and private property with sound management practices and native species can also help to absorb carbon to reduce the greenhouse gas burden. Agricultural policies must shift from subsidizing huge corporate agricultural industrial production to supporting smaller farms, under 1000 acres, for food production. Many of our farming communities are centered in food insecure areas because the output of the farms targets export or commodity products, not food for people.  Technical assistance, marketing assistance and investment support as well as insurance should be structured to support family farms, not massive corporate entities.  Cultivation using soil regenerating practices should benefit more than enterprises that depend heavily on petrochemical-based fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and GMO systems.

            Reward circular materials management systems rather than the current system of taking raw material to trash as rapidly as possible.  The cost of waste, packaging, and disposal must be incorporated into the price.  The full life cycle cost of extracting, processing and using materials must be included.  As long as the fossil-based products appear inexpensive, there is no incentive to reshape markets.  We must design our materials to be re-used, repurposed or reclaimed after their intended use has been completed.  Value based on long-term usefulness rather than disposable “convenience” restores traditional priorities on quality and durability. Moving to plant-based resources rather than fossil-based resources also expands the options for circular economies connected to the land.  The expanding field of green chemistry offers numerous avenues for materials production without the burden of destructive resource extraction.

4. Address the systemic degradation of human value inherent in treating workers as commodities or units of production. The dignity of each person is an attribute of our shared humanity, regardless of race, gender, religion or political persuasion. The unrestrained capitalist approach places maximum value on the profits produced. That creates the incentive to devalue the land as much as possible, and to squeeze as much as possible out of the labor component.  Returns on capital investment are highest when land, including resources and feedstocks, as well as labor costs can be kept as low as possible. This system is inherently biased against workers and against protecting environmental attributes. We must restore the balance by elevating the value of work and workers assuring the right to organize and bargain with assurance. We must protect people from corporate greed. Sacrifice zones- the areas within a mile of industrial installations- are not acceptable in a just and equitable America. It is not okay anywhere to write off the health and well-being of people because of where they live.   

Call for Accountability

The burden of the climate crisis does not fall equally around the globe. The burden of climate change also falls more and more heavily on our children and those of future generations. Because the effects of greenhouse gas accumulation persist for hundreds of years, the mitigation efforts will not rapidly reverse damages already set from the accelerating levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

We are facing a challenge of ethics and fairness, not a technology problem. On behalf of our children and the children of the future, we must call to account the true culprits of climate change. Global carbon emissions increased by 60% from 1990 to 2015. This increase has exhausted half of the atmospheric carbon level to hold global warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius.[i]

Carbon emissions by countrreflect the energy intensity of the economic activity as well as the size of the economy.  China (21.6%), the United States (14.4%) and the European Union (9.7%) together account for nearly half of total global carbon emissions, while the bottom 100 countries contribute only 3.5%.[ii]  The majority of emissions come from producing electricity, transportation and heating. China’s rapid economic growth and its large population have contributed to the rise in its total carbon emissions in the last decade. Global warming has exacerbated the economic inequalities across countries. The higher carbon emitting countries have experienced relatively less severe climate change effects than many less developed countries, especially island nations and areas in the Southern Hemisphere that are severely affected by prolonged drought. However, since 2000, over twenty countries have reduced emissions while continuing to grow their economies.[iii] And, low-carbon energy sources have the potential to provide a substantial secondary development benefit, in addition to the primary benefits of increased energy access.[iv]

Carbon emissions per person reflect lifestyle choices and individual energy and food choices in particular. The top 10% of the wealthy account for 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions while the bottom 50% of people account for about 10%.[v] According to Tim Gore, author of the Oxfam Report, “The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fueling the climate crisis yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price. Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments decades long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon intensive economic growth.” Americans are among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases per person in the world at an average of 18 metric tons of carbon emissions per person, compared to the global average of 4.3 metric tons of Carbon emissions per person, and double the level of China (7.9) Germany (8.9) United Kingdom (6.5) France (4.6) and Sweden (4.5).[vi]  In the United States, emissions from transportation have been rising every year since 2012, and since 2016 have been the country’s largest carbon emissions source, surpassing the power sector.[vii]  

Twenty corporations account for the majority of carbon emissions worldwide. Fossil fuels are the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Between 1965 and 2017, the top 20 emitters contributed 35% of total carbon emissions worldwide. Twenty companies have collectively contributed 480 billion tons of carbon dioxide and methane, chiefly from the combustion of their products, equivalent to 35% of all fossil fuel and cement emissions worldwide since 1965.[i] Companies such as Suncor, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and ConocoPhillips have invested in the extraction of oil sands, tight oil, heavy oils and other forms which carry a larger environmental impact than conventional crude oil. These sources comprise a rapidly growing fraction of fossil fuels produced worldwide.[ii] The top five fossil industries spend significant amounts of money to control and limit regulation of emissions, with over $200 million a year spent on lobbying in the U.S. alone.[iii] Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil were the main companies leading the field in direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming.[iv] Worse, these companies knew the danger of global warming as early as 1965 but pressed forward with an increasingly strident effort to promote production and oppose any limits on emissions.[v] Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy and ConocoPhillips are all American companies in the top levels of global carbon emissions.[vi]

A Call to Action

The United States is officially withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord of 2015.  It is time to assert the reality of the climate situation and the important role the United States has as a major contributor to the problem. We also hold the potential to resume leadership in building a more just and equitable, resilient and sustainable way forward. We must act at all levels from the individual practice of reducing our carbon footprint, to local community climate action plans, state actions and ultimately a federal Climate Action Initiative that establishes a path to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our children deserve a viable future.

Let’s start today!


Citations and References:

[i] Heede, Richard (2019) Carbon Majors: Accounting for carbon and methane emissions 1854-2010 Methods & Results Report, re-issued with new foreword, ISBN 978-3-659-57841-0, OmniScriptum, Riga, 148 pp. 

[ii]   https://b8f65cb373b1b7b15feb-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1d.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/cms/reports/documents/000/002/327/original/Carbon-Majors-Report-2017.pdf?1499691240  

[iii]  https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/22/top-oil-firms-spending-millions-lobbying-to-block-climate-change-policies-says-report

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/16/exxonmobil-misled-the-public-about-the-climate-crisis-now-theyre-trying-to-silence-critics

[v] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/16/exxonmobil-misled-the-public-about-the-climate-crisis-now-theyre-trying-to-silence-critics

[vi] https://climateaccountability.org/pdf/CAI%20PressRelease%20Top20%20Oct19.pdf


[i] https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/621052/mb-confronting-carbon-inequality-210920-en.pdf

[ii] https://www.wri.org/blog/2017/04/interactive-chart-explains-worlds-top-10-emitters-and-how-theyve-changed

[iii] https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/roads-decoupling-21-countries-are-reducing-carbon-emissions-while-growing-gdp

[iv] Noah Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke. “Global Warming Has Increased Global Economic Inequality.” PNAS May 14, 2019 116 (20) 9808-9813. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1816020116

[v] Tim Gore, Mira Alestig, Anna Ratcliff.Confronting Carbon Inequality: Putting Climate Justice at the Heart of the COVID-19 Recovery. Oxfam. 21 September 2020. https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/621052/mb-confronting-carbon-inequality-210920-en.pdf

[vi]  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/chart-of-the-day-these-countries-have-the-largest-carbon-footprints/

[vii] P.Benoit.(2020,March).EverythingYouNeedtoKnowAbouttheFastest-GrowingSourceofGlobal Emissions: Transport. Ethics and International Affairs. https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/everything-you-need- know-about-fastest-growing-source-global-emissions-transport


[i] IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.- O. Pörtner, D. C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M. Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)]. In presshttps://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/4/2020/02/SPM_Updated-Jan20.pdf

[ii] Patricia. M. DeMarco. “Green Jobs and a Living Planet- Make It Happen” Pathways to a New Economy Blog post May 23, 2019.  https://patriciademarco.com/2019/05/23/green-jobs-and-a-living-planet-make-it-happen/ )

[iii] Krosnick, Jon A., and Bo MacInnis. 2020. Climate Insights 2020: Overall Trends. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future.  https://media.rff.org/documents/Climate_Insights_Overall_Trends_Final.pdf


[i] Rostin Behnam, David Gillers, Robert Litterman. Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System. Report of the Climate-Related Market Risk Sub-Committee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. September 9, 2020. Library of Congress Control Number: 20209165930  ISBN: 978-0-578-74841-2.

[ii] United Nations Summit on Biodiversity. September 30, 2020.  https://www.un.org/pga/75/united-nations-summit-on-biodiversity/

[iii] Katherine Buchholz. “Trump Administration Reversed 100 Environmental Rules.” Statista. October 15, 2020. https://www.statista.com/chart/18268/environmental-regulations-trump-administration/   

[iv] Ellen Knickmeyer. “Citing virus, EPA has stopped enforcing environmental laws.” March 26, 2020. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/citing-virus-epa-stopped-enforcing-environmental-laws-69827970

[v] Balbus, J., A. Crimmins, J.L. Gamble, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, S. Saha, and M.C. Sarofim, 2016: Ch. 1: Introduction: Climate Change and Human Health. The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, 25–42. http://dx.doi.org/10.7930/J0VX0DFW


Fracking to Plastic: The Lost Opportunity and the Cost

At the request of many colleagues, I am posting here the slides from the presentation of January 26, 2020 at the Pittsburgh 14th Ward Political Forum honoring Barbara Daly Danko. The text of this presentation is captured in my blog post “Green Jobs AND A Living Planet- Make It Happen” https://patriciademarco.com/2019/05/23/green-jobs-and-a-living-planet-make-it-happen/

I welcome opportunities to discuss the important issue of transforming our economy and our work readiness to a sustainable system. That means converting the fossil energy system to a renewable and sustainable processes, converting the industrial agriculture system to one based on regeneration and preservation of the soil; and converting our fossil-based materials system to a circular economy driven by replenish able and re-usable materials.

Contact me here: demarcop6@gmail.com

Patricia M. DeMarco

January 30, 2020


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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.