If you are like me, you look forward to each year’s maple syrup crop. After tasting the real thing, the artificially flavored and colored substance that passes for syrup in most grocery stores is a sad imitation. Ohio has a long history of maple syrup production, going back to its indigenous peoples, and is the fourth-largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S. With more than 900 producers, mostly small businesses, the maple industry adds about $5 million to our state’s economy each year, according to the Ohio State University–not bad for a niche crop that can live for over 300 years. In West Virginia, maple products are helping small farmers succeed while preserving woodlands on their property, as witnessed by the state’s annual Maple Days.
Unfortunately, this long tradition and the economic boost it provides are endangered by our changing climate. The sugar maple requires specific conditions to thrive, and even more specific conditions for peak sap production. Scientists are warning that those conditions may cease to exist in our region within the next few decades.
During the growing season, maple trees store starch, a process that ends with leaf fall. The starch stored over the summer and fall converts to sugar when the temperature of the tree’s wood reaches 40 degrees or so, and the sap rises. In Ohio, the tapping of maple trees generally begins in late January when, historically, conditions have been right for optimal sap flow — daytime temperatures in the low 40s and nights slightly below freezing. The tapping ends when the trees bud out, something that is happening earlier in the season than it once did due to earlier spring thaws. A shorter season means less maple syrup and reduced income for producers. Higher temperatures also result in reduced sugar content in the sap, making it not as good for syrup production.
Erratic weather is also bad for the trees themselves. Early extreme cold such as the Christmas freeze we recently experienced can damage roots and slow tree growth, especially when there is no snow pack. Early warmth and late frosts can kill the year’s first leaf buds, forcing trees to expend energy growing a new set of leaves. These combined stresses, besides reducing sap production, can harm the long-term health of the trees.
Climate change is harming maple forests in other ways. Sugar maples evolved in relatively cool climates with abundant rainfall; they do not tolerate heat or drought well. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio River Valley is likely to see heavier rainfall over short periods of time interspersed with summer drought. All predictions are for more days exceeding 90 degrees. Increased temperatures mean that insect seasons are longer, and while insects are a vital part of all ecosystems, a warmer climate is allowing certain invasive species to thrive. Pear thrips, tiny insects originally from Europe, are thriving in the northern half of the U.S. and, despite their name, damaging millions of acres of maple forest, over a million in Pennsylvania alone.
It is true that we are unlikely to see a massive sugar maple shortage in the near future, these trees being as long-lived as they are. Recent studies from several universities and the Department of the Interior, however, indicate that seed germination is likely to decrease, and the range of these magnificent trees will slowly move north, possibly vanishing from the southern part of their range (Virginia, West Virginia, and southern Ohio) by 2100. It is likely that the cool overnight temperatures required for optimum sap movement will decrease, and that our region may not be able to sustain syrup production for more than a few more decades.
This is bad news, but at least for now, we can enjoy this gift of the forest while supporting the small farmers who produce it–before a changing climate takes it away from us.
Rebecca Phillips is a retired professor from WVU Parkersburg. A member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, she is also on the coordinating committee for the Fort Street Pollinator Habitat in Marietta.
“On January 12th, the New York Times published an article entitled “Exxon Scientists Predicted Global Warming, Even as Company Cast Doubts, Study Finds.”
I was actually quite perplexed by this. I had frankly assumed Exxon’s culpability was common knowledge by this point, having myself learned about the fossil fuel industry’s subterfuge on the climate crisis through Naomi Oreskes’s excellent 2010 book “Merchants of Doubt,” not to mention the subsequent #ExxonKnew allegations that have only intensified alongside the ever-worsening effects of global warming.
However, a new study headed by Oreskes herself, along with others, has more recently quantified just how brazenly oil giants like Exxon have spent decades lying to our faces about the heating of the planet, and the catastrophic impact that is now guaranteed to ensue.
Analyzing records from Exxon scientists between the years 1977 and 2003, researchers found that “their projections were as accurate, and sometimes even more so, as those of independent academic and government models.”
Think about that for a moment. One of the most powerful companies on the planet has known for decades on end that the product they sell people is killing us– and has, in fact, known it with greater surety than those who have spent just as long trying to sound the alarm and stop us from destroying ourselves.
And yet in spite of this knowledge, Exxon has during this same period established the Global Climate Coalition to prevent the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, become a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council in order to prevent state and federal action on climate change, and funded think tanks to co-publish fraudulent “research papers” and petitions, allegedly signed, among others, by fictional characters from the hit television series M.A.S.H. (and yes, this is every bit as insane as it sounds.)
They’ve hired con artists who once represented the tobacco industry to trick the public into believing there’s uncertainty about the reality of climate change, spent millions upon millions of dollars lobbying against emissions regulations, bought off politicians as well as positions of political power, and done just about everything humanly possible to keep us from ending our dependence on a deadly fuel source that might well bring about the collapse of civilization.
And they knew. All this time they lied straight to our faces, and they knew.
There’s a good chance that if you’re reading all of this right now thinking that it’s some sort of far left communist propaganda, Exxon and its campaign of mass deceit are almost certainly responsible for you viewing the issue of climate change in the way that you do.
So the next time some oil and gas stooge or their right wing cronies on TV and in the newspapers tell you that climate change is a hoax, or that they have some miracle solution to the climate crisis that somehow doesn’t involve eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels, just remember: they lied to you. They sold all of us the greatest lie ever told in the history of humankind, and they will keep on doing it for as long as we keep letting them.”
When is DuPont going to provide a means of filtering Parkersburg water supplies contaminated with highly fluorinated chemicals like those we call C8 or Gen-X?
Twenty years ago this coming June, I attended the U.S. EPA’s initial hearings on PFAS in Washington, D.C., (though that’s not what we were calling it at the time). My coverage of that event appeared in the News and Sentinel. The subsequent community conversation was controversial and prompted far more questions than answers about the safety of long-term exposure. Often the local commentary would include the notion that if the water was truly harmful, surely the EPA would do something about it. We waited to see if they would.
Since that time studies of our population and exposed communities around the world have shown widespread damage and human health effects including the development of cancer, reproductive issues, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and other serious concerns. Yet, this class of chemicals remains unregulated. Much studied, known to cause harm, and unregulated.
Perhaps the most concerning and illogical part of the ongoing controversy locally has to do with the fact that Parkersburg’s water supplies remain unfiltered and the government’s most dire warnings about the water for those who live in the area have gone unheeded.
As I was browsing the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database recently, I was stunned to discover how remarkably high the publicly available sampling results indicated exposure levels for Parkersburg to be. It’s no surprise to me that the city water supply has unacceptably high levels of PFOA contamination. But it does surprise me that no one is trying to remedy the problem even as the government’s provisional health advisories creep lower and lower. Filtration or other treatment is inevitable. In time, it will be required by law. So, why wait?
Belpre, Little Hocking, Lubeck and Vienna have filtration systems that use granulated carbon to absorb contaminants and reduce the amount of pollution in the finished water. Yet, Parkersburg, the city most often associated with the discovery of C8 contamination in the Mid-Ohio Valley, has no such treatment for the water.
In 2009, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry issued a directive regarding the water, which remains in effect. It states that the water should not be used to make baby formula or consumed by children, seniors, women of childbearing age, or those with compromised immune systems. This directive was not communicated to the public at the time because the official charged with doing so did not want to “cause a scare.” Such a decision deprived much of the populace of the knowledge. That was 14 years ago. How much longer do we wait to take action?
The harmful health effects of exposure such as we have in this community are known to cause many more problems than those linked by the C8 Science Panel at the conclusion of the class action lawsuit that shined a light on the bleak situation. People who live with this chemical burden suffer high rates of miscarriage. Those so exposed have a harder time absorbing Vitamin D, which leads to symptoms of depression and in particular seasonal depression. The contamination makes it easier for some people to put on weight – and ever so much more difficult to lose it. Take a look around and you will see for yourself the toll this poison is taking on our population every day.
This exhausting hopelessness is continually contributing to a climate of despair that fuels the drug epidemic, economic blight, and the erosion of our brain trust. We are poisoned. And, the poisoning continues.
Filtration isn’t everything and it will not solve all of the contamination issues compromising the water or our local environment. But, it’s a long overdue step in the right direction. It is something that can be done. Isn’t it about time someone heeded that ASTDR warning from 2009 and took action to protect the most vulnerable amongst us?
You can make a difference by contacting your city leaders to let them know of your concerns. Spread the word by letting friends and family members know of the existing guidance. If you suffer from these miserable conditions, have a conversation with your medical provider and see what can be done to improve your quality of life.
Don’t make baby formula with the water. And, don’t give it to sick people.
Callie Lyons is a journalist and author living in the Mid Ohio Valley. Her book, “Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8,” was the first book to reveal the prevalence and danger of the PFAS family of highly fluorinated compounds used by industry in the manufacture of Teflon and thousands of other consumer applications.
Although the basic physics of climate change have been known for more than a century, it remained out of the public’s attention for decades. In the 1980s, media outlets began bringing scientists’ concerns into the mainstream. Over 37 years ago, on Dec. 11, 1985, an article appeared in the New York Times with the headline: “Action is Urged to Avert Global Climate Shift.” This article reported on a bipartisan hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Toxic Substances and Environmental Oversight which was headed by Sen. Dave Durenberger, a Minnesota Republican. Although more recently climate change has become a partisan and divisive issue, at that time senators of both parties were interested, concerned and in agreement about the seriousness of this situation. At the hearing, scientists called for action to avert a predicted warming of the earth’s climate resulting from buildup of carbon dioxide and other man-made gases into the atmosphere. They warned this greenhouse effect would produce radical climate changes with possible catastrophic results in the next century unless steps were taken immediately to deal with the problem. Dr. Carl Sagan of Cornell University, the leading planetary astronomer at that time, was one of the scientists that spoke. When Durenberger introduced him, he was presented as discussing “how our past and present may well affect our future.” His speech to the group is available on YouTube.
Sagan identified the purpose of his speech as “…to give some sense of what the greenhouse effect is, to try to say something about the greenhouse effect on other planets (and) to underscore that this is a real phenomenon…” He also took “…the liberty to say a few remarks about what to do about it.” He began by stating that the power of human beings to “both intentionally and inadvertently make significant changes in the global climate and ecosystem” has occurred for tens of thousands of years; however, Sagan noted that this power has grown as technology has grown. He then went on to explain the Earth’s climate as well as the greenhouse effect on it, including its causes and its long-term and global consequences. He discussed the fact that every planet with an atmosphere has some degree of a greenhouse effect and talked about the greenhouse effect of our nearest planet, Venus. Because the atmosphere is almost entirely CO2, Venus has an absurdly high surface temperature.
Also reviewed by Sagan were the “things that can be done” to address this global warming problem. These included more efficient use of and fewer government subsidies for fossil fuels, as well as use of alternative energy sources such as solar power and safe fission power plants, “which are, in principle, possible” and which, “whatever other problems they may provide, they do not provide a greenhouse problem.” These “other problems” were addressed in a recent Climate Corner column and presently, the future of nuclear power is being rethought. In closing, Sagan discussed the fact that global warming is “a problem that transcends our particular generation” and warned, “if we don’t do the right thing now, there are very serious problems that our children and grandchildren will have to face.” Another point made was that “what is essential for this problem is a global consciousness.”
Regrettably, almost every government across the globe isn’t doing enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The burning of fossil fuels continues with little regard to the impacts on the climate or the “very serious problems that our children and grandchildren will have to face.” After 37 years of not doing “the right thing,” global warming has grown from the climate change predicted to an emergency climate crisis with impacts felt worldwide. Unfortunately, future generations will indeed be facing “very serious problems” that could and should have been addressed decades ago. Sagan’s final statement, “The solution to these problems requires a perspective that embraces the planet and the future because we are all in this greenhouse together,” fell on deaf ears. We can only hope that increased public awareness of the fact that we are on a fast track to climate disaster, coupled with the ever-decreasing costs of renewable energy sources and the climate investments included in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, can help provide a livable planet for future generations.
Giulia Mannarino, of Belleville, is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
Available from A-ZTackling the Impacts of Plastic & Petrochemicals:
December 22, 2022 Posted by Mary Aquilera A-Z Tackling the Impacts of Plastic & Petrochemicals –
“Debriefing Our Climate Grief” presented by A-Z Tackling the Impacts of Plastic & Petrochemicals, cosponsored by Sierra Club Ohio & Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Reality Pittsburgh and Between the Waters among others. Recording LINK:
NATIONAL ATTENTION & Relevant to our region:
Available on Science and Environmental Health Network:
November 21, 2022 Article by Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Senior Scientist, SEHN
“The Pore Space Beneath Our Feet: What We Mean When We Say Carbon Storage”
December 26, 2022 Article about new Guide by Yale Climate Connections Team
“New guide helps church communities respond to climate change” They can provide spiritual guidance, and in some cases, a physical sanctuary after a disaster.
December 21, 2022 Article by Erika Street Hopman
“What on Earth is a polar vortex? And what’s global warming got to do with it?” Meteorologist Bob Henson answers pressing questions about a chilly winter weather phenomenon.
November 11, 2022 Review by Michael Svoboda
“New reports spell out climate urgency, shortfalls, needed actions” Eleven new climate reports detail the urgency of the problem, the shortfalls of current commitments, and new opportunities for action – just as the COP27 meeting in Egypt proceeds.
Article includes a brief description of each of these reports and the links to free downloads:
UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report 2022: Too Little, Too Slow – Climate Adaptation Failure Puts World at Risk
by Edith Adera et al. (United Nations Programme 2022)
Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window- Climate Crisis Calls for Rapid Transformation of Societies
by Juliane Berger et al. (United Nations Environment Program 2022)
See also: The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2021
by Global Atmosphere Watch (World Meteorological Organization 2022
State of Climate Action 2022
by Sophie Boehm et al. (World Resources Institute 2022)
See also: The State of Nationally Determined Contributions: 2022
by Taryn Fransen et al. (World Resources Institute 2022)
Extreme Heat: Preparing for the Heat Waves of the Future
by Greg Puley et al. (International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies 2022)
The Coldest Year of the Rest of Their Lives: Protecting Children from the Escalating Impacts of Heat Waves
by United Nations children’s Fund and Data for Children’s Collaborative (UNICEF 2022)
The 2022 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Health at the Mercy of Fossil Fuels
by Marina Romanello et al. (Lancet 2022)
World Energy Outlook 2022
by World Energy Outlook Team (International Energy Agency 2022)
The Breakthrough Agenda Report 2022: Accelerating Sector Transitions Through Stronger International Collaboration
by Federico Bellone et al. (International Renewable Energy Agency 2022)
Climate and Development: An Agenda for Action – Emerging Insights from World Bank Group 2021-22 Country Climate and Development Reports by Staff of the World Bank (World Bank 2022)
See also: Investing in Climate Disaster: World Bank Group Finance for Fossil Fuels
by Research Staff (The Big Shift Global 2022)
Loss and Damage Finance in the Climate Negotiations
by Anna Aberg and Nina Jeffers (Chatham House 2022)
The Land Gap Report
by K. Dooley et al. (The Land Gap Group 2022)
November 7, 2022 Energy Article by Bob Henson
“New Law provides hydrogen’s biggest boost yet” The newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act will support a long-pondered technology some see a finally gaining momentum in a clean-energy future
Available online from The Guardian:
December 13, 2022 Article by Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield
“What does ‘nature positive’ mean – and can it rally support to stop biodiversity loss?”
November 9, 2022 Climate Crisis article by Fiona Harvey
“Oil and gas greenhouse emissions ‘three times higher’ than producers claim” Climate Trace reports half of 50 largest sources of greenhouse gas are oil and gas operations and many underreport their emissions.
Some will use the recent cold weather event to claim climate change is not real and the planet isn’t warming. But, when one looks at the actual science behind these “Arctic bomb cyclones” and the record-breaking Winter Storm Elliott, it is obvious that climate change has played a role.
This past week, many of us might have felt like we were enacting the 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” The movie is loosely based on a theory called “abrupt climate change.” The ocean’s thermohaline conveyor normally circulates ocean water around the planet. Cold, salty ocean water sinks and pulls warmer fresh surface water in to replace the sinking water. This sets up a deep-sea current that circulates water round the planet. If the belt shuts down, the northern hemisphere abruptly cools while the southern hemisphere warms.
Paleoclimate records from Greenland ice cores show that the conveyor belt shut down near the end of the last ice age. The ocean circulation stops when higher water temperatures and the addition of more freshwater cause the salinity and density of seawater to drop. A warming planet and melting freshwater could trigger another shut-down of the belt, throwing North America and Europe into frigid cold temperatures for hundreds of years.
While most scientists agree that what happened in the movie (overnight change) will never occur, U.S. citizens witnessed some dramatic weather changes in a matter of hours. Denver, Colo., experienced a temperature drop of 70 degrees in an 18-hour period. Winter Storm Elliott affected over two-thirds of our population and almost every state except the South Western area. There were record setting winds and cold temperatures in our region, blizzard conditions in the plain states and feet of snow in the New England area; even Florida broke some records for cold temperatures. Meteorologists say this storm will be a once in a generation storm.
So what caused Winter Storm Elliott? The northern polar vortex played a major role in the crushing cold that blanketed the North American continent. There are two polar vortices on our planet, one which spins around the North Pole and the other spins around the South Pole. We are dealing with the northern vortex which was first described in an article published in 1853. Normally, low-pressure cold air circulates counterclockwise and inward toward the North Pole. The polar jet stream (high-altitude high-speed wind currents) helps hold the vortex in place, much like an old-fashioned girdle held our bulges in place. However, a weakened polar jet stream causes tiny breaks in the “girdle” and allows the cold vortex to seep out of its circular orbit dipping southward. It is like someone opening the refrigerator door and the cold air seeps through your house.
It is thought that climate change is causing a destabilization of the polar jet stream. Scientists say that the Arctic region is warming faster than any other area on the globe, on average four times faster in the past forty years. As the polar air warms, the temperature differences between that air and mid-latitude air lessens. This causes a “wobble” in the jet stream, or weakening of the “girdle,” allowing the cold air to advance south.
This year’s 2022 Arctic Report Card, authored by 147 experts from 11 nations, tells the disturbing story of the effects of climate change on the Arctic. Some of the changes include: shrinking sea ice, warming atmospheric temperatures, and shorter periods of snow cover. These could all play a role in more frequent polar air intrusions into our region.
So far at least 50 deaths have been attributed to the storm, with at least 27 in New York State. More than 8,305 flights were canceled and millions of people spent Christmas day without power. The economic impact “will likely be in the billions.”
Scientists have been warning us that the time frame for mitigating climate change is quickly closing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in their 2022 report, “The dangers of climate change are mounting so rapidly that they could soon overwhelm the ability of both nature and humanity to adapt, creating a harrowing future in which floods, fires and famine displace millions, species disappear and the planet is irreversibly damaged.”
Winter Storm Elliott proved to be an example of how we humans cannot successfully adapt to abrupt changes in our weather, even though we have access to advance technology. As climate changes occur more often and at a faster rate, we find that adapting to these changes will become that much harder and more expensive. Even more alarming is the fact that many of the species we share the planet with will not be able to adapt but will instead succumb to extinction.
We are faced with the realization that when it comes to climate change, the phrase “pay me now or pay me later” rings true.
Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., of Uhrichsville, is a retired research chemist who volunteers with Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action. She has a doctorate degree in Environmental Studies and is certified in Hazardous Materials Regulations.
The continued use of fossil fuels coal, oil and “natural” (methane) gas for energy and product production increasingly does not make sense or cents. There’s really no other way to look at it.
Let’s start with how this reliance doesn’t make sense. The habitability of Earth, our only home in the cosmos, is threatened by a runaway greenhouse effect caused by anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gas emissions. These excess emissions originate from, in large part, the recovery, use and disposal of wastes from fossil fuels, as well as unsustainable agricultural, consumption and development practices (with many fossil fuels inputs).
Global climate change and biodiversity loss are existential crises for humankind, but they’re also accompanied by massive pollution and contamination crises that threaten our access to clean air and water, the safety and viability of our food supplies and the healthy functioning of our bodies. These, too, are crises attributable in part to fossil fuels. Plastics, for example, are derivatives of the oil and gas industry.
Now let’s look at how this reliance doesn’t make “cents.” It is cheaper to build, operate and maintain new solar and wind plus energy storage facilities than it is to keep old coal-fired power plants burning. On a levelized cost per kilowatt-hour produced basis, it is already cheaper in many places globally to produce renewable energy than it is to produce energy from combined-cycle natural gas facilities. Ratepayers are getting stuck with higher energy costs, especially in West Virginia, by utility regulators like the West Virginia Public Service Commission all because of an irrational cultural obsession with coal. West Virginia ratepayers and taxpayers alike are being stuck with retrofitting and cleanup costs of using coal for no other reason than to appease bought-and-paid-for politicians in our state legislature and the administration of our coal baron governor.
The oil and gas industry has recovered a glut of natural gas during the fracking boom of the last 10-15 years, but they’ve hemorrhaged cash doing it with boom and bust cycles that have not delivered the economic growth, jobs or sustained investment and tax revenues promised for communities across the country, and especially in Appalachia. Even gas for heating is being undercut in affordability by heat pumps. According to a piece in The Charleston Gazette-Mail, “A recent report by the sustainable living research group Carbon Switch citing data from the federal government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that, if every home in the United States replaced its heating and cooling systems with heat pumps, the average homeowner would save $557 per year on their utility bill. In West Virginia, the average homeowner would save $887 per year and 52,000 jobs would be created, the report projected.” Up front costs for heat pumps are coming down thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.
Desperate to shore up prospects for long-term profitability, the oil and gas industry turned to new (virgin) plastics in recent years, with promises of a huge plastics and petrochemicals buildout in the Ohio River Valley. That hasn’t materialized. According to a recent report for the Ohio River Valley Institute by Kathy Hipple and Anne Keller, “Today, it’s clear that the petrochemical ‘renaissance’ once envisioned for Appalachia has largely failed. Plans for a sprawling regional buildout, complete with a network of world-class and small-scale ethane crackers, hydrogenation plants, an Appalachian Storage Hub and 500 miles of new pipelines, were supposed to create more than 100,000 new jobs in the region. Shell’s Beaver County [Pennsylvania] plant is the only remnant of this grand vision. Eroding plastics demand and a shaky global plastics market indicate it may be the region’s last petrochemical facility.”
The industry is now hedging its bets on blue hydrogen production with carbon capture, utilization and storage technology. This, too, is a nonsensical waste of money, not to mention dangerous. Hydrogen can be produced using a renewably powered electrolysis process to separate hydrogen atoms from water molecules (aka green hydrogen). As renewables affordably expand, why would any entity want to invest in massively expensive carbon capture technology and continue to spend money recovering feedstock using fracking when hydrogen could be derived much more cheaply? And hydrogen itself may displace metallurgical coal in the steelmaking process. It offers potential for decarbonization in hard-to-decarbonize sectors like steel and cement, international shipping and aviation.
The future is in renewable energy plus storage, grid management, maximized energy efficiency, decarbonization and sustainable agriculture and development. For our health, environment and financial well-being, we need to make that future a reality with all due haste.
Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
For many people the commitment to address climate change derives from their strongly held personal faith. Many faith traditions refer to their respective holy scripture to document the case for treating the earth and its creatures with the care, love, and stewardship that the deity has prescribed. Members of these religious communities are carrying out a labor of love to promote a more sustainable way of life than our world is currently pursuing and protecting those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has produced a document, “Season of Creation,” in which he states, “It is necessary for all of us to act decisively…For we are reaching a breaking point.” In his ongoing commitment to disadvantaged communities, he has also stated, “The poor feel more gravely the impact” of climate change.
There is also a movement among evangelical Christians as part of their “pro-life,” family friendly mission for “creation care,” as an expression of their love of God. This faith community has adopted a “Pro-Life Clean Energy Campaign” which seeks to reduce pollution from environmental hazards like methane emissions and heavy metals like mercury because of their risk to pregnant mothers and their unborn children.
Believers of Islam have noted that the Prophet Muhammad advocated walking “softly” on the earth, using resources sparingly, and showing restraint in personal consumption. In launching its Green Initiative in 2014 Islamic scholars referred to a verse from the Qur’an: “As for the earth, we have spread it out, set firm mountains on it and made everything grow there in due balance” In utilizing the word balance (mizan) Muslim scholars invoke a principle which environmental scientists have assumed in discussing the delicate ecological equilibrium in planet earth and how it is threatened by climate change.
Among followers of Judaism there is a phrase, “tikhu olam,” which is an expression that assumes a responsibility to repair what is broken in the world. Many Jews, including those of Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism, have endorsed the principles of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, which is pursuing its practical interpretation of tikhu olam through projects such as restoration of coral reefs.
Some concerned Buddhists have founded a group called One Earth Sangha, which urges its followers to draw upon many years of Buddhist scholarship and practice to promote something they call “active hope.” This personal commitment for Buddhists should lead to taking immediate, useful steps to address climate change.
For Unitarian Universalists addressing climate change is a high priority. It is reflected in the seventh UU principle to “affirm and promote…respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” UUs have a Ministry for Earth and for a Just Economic Community, and a UU Service Committee, which is responding to climate-forced displacement.
Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is an international grassroots environmental group that trains and supports volunteers to build relationships with their elected representatives in order to influence climate policy. As a large organization comprised of individuals from many backgrounds and interests, CCL has numerous Acton Teams. Among the faith-based Action Teams are: the Catholic Action Team, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Evangelical Christian, Baha’i, Buddhist, Quaker, Latter-Day Saints, and UU.
There are people of good will, some of whom are spiritual but most of whom do not follow any faith tradition but who endorse what they regard as common human values. One organization that speaks for such people is the American Humanist Association, which is composed of humanists, atheists, and freethinkers. This group has endorsed several principles involved with addressing climate change including: affirming its support for the development and proliferation of renewable sources of energy and fuel, particularly wind and solar, and affirming its support of sustainable land use, forest conservation, and reforestation, and affirming its support for personal and commercial transition toward a plant-based diet.
What all these disparate groups have in common is a deeply rooted commitment to responsible stewardship of our planet and a just arrangement for the use of the earth’s resources and protection of the most vulnerable from the impact of climate change.
George Banziger, Ph..D., was a faculty member at Marietta College and an academic dean at three other colleges. He is a member of the Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Citizens Climate Lobby, and of the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action team.
Anna Earl, Editor The PHS Journal December 16, 2022
Three students have been named Climate Ambassadors by the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action group. This opportunity was offered to high school students across the Mid-Ohio Valley and was ultimately offered to four students, including three from PHS. The program’s purpose is to provide funding for a project to help fight climate change, which will be led by a high school student. This is the program’s first year.
To be named as a Climate Ambassador, students first had to come up with an idea to help the environment, then they filled out an application. The next step was to have an interview over Zoom with the leaders of the program. The PHS ambassadors, seniors Lily Floyd and Anna Earl, and junior Nate McPeak, were named last spring, and the program will run through December. They have had multiple meetings over Zoom for progress checks, and have handed out T-shirts and climate voter signs to students in the community.
Floyd’s project is called Coffee for a Cause. She plans on opening a coffee stand in Lisa Berry’s room, 206W, in the mornings before school from 7:40-7:55 to sell to students. She plans on opening the stand immediately after Christmas break. The project will help spread biodiversity by using biodegradable materials, as well as having posters about the impact of climate change.
“I applied for the program because I’m passionate about making the world a better place for current and future inhabitants in whatever ways I can,” said Floyd.
She plans on charging the necessary price to allow the stand to make a profit, which will be given to other climate-related non-profits.
With the help of National Honor Society sponsor, science teacher Abby Taylor, Earl plans to plant a biodiversity garden. The garden will contain flowers that will help attract pollinators to help combat the declining bee and butterfly populations. In addition, it will include information about how the species planted will help the pollinator populations. The garden will be planted with the help of NHS volunteers in the spring, however any students who wish to volunteer are welcome.
The final student project, led by McPeak, plans to hang up bat boxes around the community. He hopes to add one of the boxes in a fenced area behind the school. He built the posts for the boxes out of wood and purchased the boxes himself. The boxes help provide a safe place for bats to live, and in return, the bats help reduce pest populations.
“I really like bats and the idea of making our human habitat more suitable for wildlife,” said McPeak.
Additionally, McPeak’s grandfather, Thomas Rodd, who runs a program called Kilmate Kitchen, came to the school on Nov. 16 to teach students about the environment and human impact.
Coca-Cola Presents: COP27 took place last month in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, presumably scheduled between the annual Foxes Guarding Henhouses Convention and Lockheed Martin’s World Peace Extravaganza 2022. About as much was accomplished here as one might expect of a climate change summit sponsored by the world’s largest multinational plastic polluter, and occasional patron of anti-labor paramilitary death squads in Latin America.
For those not in the know, Coca-Cola Presents: The United Nations Climate Change Conference, or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, is an annual summit at which the wealthy nations most responsible for the climate crisis pretend that there’s very little they can do about it which they aren’t already doing. Activist Greta Thunberg once succinctly summarized the results of every single Conference of the Parties since the first meeting in 1995 with the words “blah, blah, blah.”
The weeks leading up to this year’s summit saw the UN Environment Programme’s reassuring announcement that “no credible pathway to 1.5C” of warming currently exists, with that number being the theoretical limit of warming we can “safely” withstand while still maybe, possibly, perhaps avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis (though even this level will result in more of the deadly heatwaves, killer extreme weather events, sea level rise, and a litany of other consequences we’re already beginning to experience; current policies place us on track for somewhere closer to 2.7C of warming, which should see us well within the “hell on earth” range by the end of the century.)
One notable achievement of this year’s conference was the setup of a loss and damage fund supporting the global south as it continues to be ravaged by the unnatural disasters of a warming world. This is well overdue, given that the emissions of rich and powerful nations such as the United States, responsible for some 20% of all CO2 emissions since the Industrial Revolution, play an outsized role in climate tragedies so egregious as the wholesale destruction of entire nations- as in the case of the small Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, 40% of whose capital city routinely finds itself underwater at high tide. And just on a side note, here’s a fun fact for you: the foreign minister of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe, recently announced that his would become the first ever digitized nation in the metaverse, in hopes of preserving its culture and continuing to function as a country once the real thing has been swallowed up by the sea. We truly are creating the best of all possible worlds for ourselves, are we not?
Even assuming rich nations do not attempt to weasel out of whatever commitments they make to poor nations (and you should not assume this), the achievement of this meager concession rings largely hollow considering the overwhelming failure of the conference-goers to reach any sort of meaningful agreement to phase out the use of fossil fuels. This feels somewhat akin to generously gifting your neighbor with a brand new garden hose, only to then carry on lobbing Molotov cocktails through their front window.
Furthermore, individuals describing the conference to the Guardian referred to COP27 as “the worst climate talks they had been involved in,” and stated that they were “untransparent, unpredictable and chaotic.”
Naomi Klein, climate activist and author of “The Shock Doctrine,” has suggested that civil society organizations should boycott the next of such summits altogether. COP28 is scheduled to take place at the end of November 2023 in, of all places, the United Arab Emirates, one of the largest producers of oil on the planet. One can scarcely fathom the new and innovative levels of “blah blah blah” and greenwashing that might be achieved at such a venue. Why, Klein asks in a Twitter thread, “should civil society expend the carbon, money, and time to join them just to declare it a failure all over again?”
And “failure” truly is the only way to describe it.
Last year around this time, when writing about COP26, I noted that: “It’s been estimated that more than half of our 1.5 trillion tonnes of CO2 emissions since 1751 have been produced in the past thirty years alone — more or less the exact same period that UNFCCC parties have been meeting every year to work on ‘fixing the problem.’”
If nothing else, it would seem that this year’s summit has upheld the proud tradition of doing nothing while the world burns. And by all indications, the stuffed shirts in their fancy meetings have no intention of bucking said tradition anytime soon, as they carry on with the happy, lucrative business of razing our planet to the ground.
Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.