Letter to Congressman Ben Cline

Sally L. Newkirk
Harrisonburg, VA

May 4, 2019

Congressman Ben Cline
10 Franklin Road SE Suite 510
Roanoke, VA 24011

Dear Congressman,

Thank you again for meeting with Bishop Dansby and myself at your Staunton office on April 29, 2019.

I know Bishop has written you a follow up letter, and I feel compelled to do the same.

I was shocked to hear your understanding of Climate Science.  By shocked, I mean the same reaction I have when I find out that some people still smoke cigarettes.  Hopefully you are aware that the tobacco industry denied the medical science that cigarettes cause cancer for over 50 years?  Of course, they didn’t have the science to back up their claims, so they hired a PR firm to spin the story.  That story was “the government is trying to take away your cigarettes”.  How many lives could have been saved but for industry choosing profit over the health and welfare American citizens?

It was the same story with the lead industry.  By the late 1900s both the lead industry and U. S. Government (USG) agencies knew that lead was poison, but they considered it “essential” to our economy and consumers.  So, they allowed its use in gasoline, pipes and paints.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of children have suffered (more than from polio, which we quickly acknowledged and mobilized our resources to eradicate it.)  Many continue to suffer from lead poisoning today (think:  Flint, Michigan).  The USG was complicit in this preventable tragedy, because of powerful lobbyists.  ‎

The same pattern of denial and obfuscation has happened because of actions by Big Carbon.  I recommend you read the book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes‎ and ‎Erik M. Conway.  The authors spell out very clearly just how effectively the oil industry hid the truth about the effect of greenhouse gases on our climate’s stability and raised doubts about the validity of the scientific consensus.

Fortunately, although it’s very late, there are many folks aware of the threats climate instability pose to all of us, including many in your party.  I urge you to check into efforts like those espoused by Bob Inglis of RepublicEn, Rev Mitch Hescox of Evangelical Environment Network, Evangelicals for Social Action, American Conservation Coalition, and Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy, to name but a few.  Their web addresses appear at the end of this message.  I hope you will come to agree that there are market solutions to addressing our carbon addiction and embrace efforts to use them.

One other point about the evidence supporting the impacts of excessive greenhouse gases.  Notwithstanding the current Administration’s preference to avoid the term “climate change” and even deny the problem, there is a vast chasm between the assessments of most life-long civil servants and scientists who work hard to protect this country’s interests and the relatively small number of those who dismiss the problem.  I am speaking of the employees like those in DOD, the National Weather Service, NASA, and even the EPA.  They all have made it clear that Global Warming is real, caused by human actions, and is a grave threat to this county and the world.

I would welcome the opportunity for another exchange of ideas with you in order to find some common ground on what to do about the huge risks that we all face.  I hope you can offer some good suggestions on possible actions that you can support.  Solutions are many, but of course we have to have people, in all levels of government, who are open to understanding the issues and figuring out ways to address them.  I would love to partner with you on ways to do this.  Thanks again for your time on the 29th.

Warmly,

Sally Newkirk

Suggested Resources

RepublicEn:  https://www.republicen.org/
Evangelical Environment Network:  https://www.creationcare.org/staff
Evangelicals for Social Action:  https://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/
American Conservation Coalition:  https://www.acc.eco/
VA Conservatives for Clean Energy:  https://www.cleanenergyconservatives.com/states/virginia/

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CAAV Steering Committee Seeking New Members

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The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is hoping to fill three vacancies in their steering committee. With a mission of limiting “human impact on climate in order to protect the future of Earth and its inhabitants,” our efforts are wide-ranging.

We have twice monthly meetings to share our sub-committee work and discuss direction and actions. Currently with 12 members, the CAAV steering committee would welcome new energy and ideas from individuals interested in getting more involved.

But you don’t have to be a steering committee member to help out. Everyone is invited to attend our meetings and join our sub-committees or form their own.

For more information and/or to express an interest in joining the steering committee, contact Cathy Strickler: cathystrickler4 [at] gmail.com or Joni Grady: jonigrad [at] gmail.com

 

 

Talkin’ Trash Takeaways

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On October 27 at The Gathering Place, five Harrisonburg-area solid waste managers offered a room full of caring citizens insight into how our trash is collected and processed and what we may be able to do to make it all … less wasteful. Masterful moderating on the part of JMU Professor of Political Science Rob Alexander and meaningful questions from the audience helped us gather these Talkin’ Trash takeaways:

From Harsit Patel, Business Services Manager, Harrisonburg Public Works Department, overseeing municipal solid waste management:

Switching to the all-in-one trash collection from single stream (households separating and putting all recyclables in separate curbside bins) has increased our household recycling rate from 7-8% to 20-25%.

Of the approximately 40,000 tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generated by the city every year, only 11-12,000 tons is picked up from curbside by the city trash trucks. The rest is from businesses and private communities who contract their own trash hauling services.

Getting an accurate recycling rate of MSW is clunky at best due to all the various entities involved and the combining of trash with other municipalities in the collection process from non-city trucks. Harrisonburg generally reports a 27-32% recycling rate. For 2015 it was 39%. See the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan for definitions of Principal Recyclable Materials (PRM) and Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) which are used to calculate recycling rates. Note that yard waste does factor into the recycling rate equation but not other compostables, for example, food waste.

Yard waste is currently being picked up with bulk items and all landfilled. At one time it was used for mulch and/or compost. It is possible we can go back to that. It requires separate trucks that get poor gas mileage so ends up costing more. It would also require a change in policy for the county to return to mulching and/or composting.

The city does have a tiered price structure for trash collected from downtown. Charges are related to the amount of trash produced but they are allowed to fill an unlimited number of recycling bins.

Changes need to come from the top. Pay as you throw system of trash service payment, bag and styrofoam bans would all be powerful tools in reducing our waste.

It is desirable to maintain the mindset of source separation. New residents are still being offered recycle bins to maintain this habit. Separating recyclables may have an impact on the success of their recovery from the van der Linde facility.

For some recyclable commodities, the amount collected curbside by the city was not large enough to have a viable market.

From Linda Zirkle, Rockingham County recycling:

The county has five container sites accepting source separated recyclables. They are accessible at most times and accept a wide variety of recyclables including Goodwill items but no yard wastes, nor are there composting opportunities.

The county turned in a 28% recycle rate to the DEQ for 2015; the MSW was 54000 tons. Because of its rural nature, it has only a 15% state mandated recycling rate compared to the city with a 25% rate mandated by the state. The county recycles lots of metal.

Yard debris and brush is ground and mixed with crushed glass, dirt and other things and used as a daily cap for the landfill. Mulch is not currently available to the public.

The various towns in Rockingham County each have their own trash programs.

She would like to see a bottle bill.

Rockingham County has about 380 acres at its landfill site. The present cell has  3 – 4 years’ life left which will satisfy needs until 2020. Work on a new cell will start in 2018, will be complete by 2020 and will go through 2026. There is enough land to build cells to last another 30 years past that.*

The county hauls all the plastic they collect to Sonoco Recycling in Fishersville for recycling. They do not get any money for this.*

From Eric Walter, Black Bear Composting founder and chief composting officer, Crimora, VA:

28% of household waste is compostable. There is huge potential for composting here but not enough people willing to separate their organics from the rest of their trash to make his facility financially viable. State policy does not support this as well. It is cheap to landfill. Other neighboring states, including North Carolina and Maryland have bans on yard waste in landfills which leads to successful mulching businesses.

Our policy makers will not do anything without public input. They need to be told that we care about this. As long as all they see is trash being hauled away they will not care what happens to it.

He is hoping to keep the current composting stream viable by finding a way to have it hauled to other composters since he will no longer be collecting after the end of this year.

From Peter van der Linde and Andrea Johnson of van der Linde Recycling in Troy, VA:

A new four minute video of their municipal solid waste sorting and separation process was shown. Their company was founded on the desire to keep recoverable resources out of landfills. Based on the idea that this can be done most effectively by sorting through the entire waste stream and not depend on the public to separate out recyclables, they are motivated by finding salable items and successfully sorting and bundling them to create marketable commodities.

Organics in the waste stream they receive are a definite concern and do affect the quality of some of the resources they are able to sort out. The organics currently all end up being landfilled as they are too contaminated to effectively compost. The company is continually seeking ways to improve their process and are considering distributing “biobags” in which customers can collect organics to put in their trash to keep it physically separated.

The van der Linde facility reported a 25% diversion rate for 2015 which is from a large and diverse waste stream including a lot of unrecyclable items like mattresses and furniture. They are successfully recovering 75-80% of all recyclables from this waste stream. The rest is falling through the cracks or too dirty to sell.

Recyclables are sold on the spot market; they do not have any contracts. Their license does not allow them to store materials on site to, for instance, wait for better commodity prices.

As feasible, they hold single stream recyclable material delivered to them on the side to be run through the process separately on a daily basis.*

Virginia is the second biggest importer of trash in the nation  – second only to Pennsylvania. It is a big money maker for Virginia. Landfilling is big business and politically powerful here which makes it minimally-regulated and cheap.

Contact information for the waste managers featured at the forum:

  • Harsit Patel: Harsit.Patel [at] harrisonburgva.gov, 540-434-5928
  • Linda Zirkle: lzirkle [at] rockinghamcountyva.gov, 540-564-3008
  • Eric Walter: info [at] blackbearcomposting.com, 888-666-4712
  • van der Linde Recycling: info [at] vanderlinderecycling.com, 877-981-0891

Many thanks to all the participants and audience members at this forum!

*From personal communication after the forum.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/30/2016

Oral arguments on the legality of the Clean Power Plan were heard on Tuesday, September 27, before the Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit.  When a decision will be rendered is yet unknown.  Bloomberg Government provided some information about the proceedings and Martha Roberts of the Environmental Defense Fund reflected on what she observed.  The Editorial Board of The Washington Post sided with EPAAuthor Elizabeth Kolbert reflected at The New Yorker on the plan and the potential impacts of the presidential election.

According to an analysis published Monday in Nature Climate Change, even if the U.S. implements all current and proposed policies, it would miss its 2025 emission target by as much as 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 per year—roughly 20% of the nation’s total emissions.  Although various think tanks have previously concluded that current policies are inadequate, this study is the first by federal scientists.  It is also one of the most comprehensive analyses of the gap between the United States’ Paris promises and real policies.  In addition, a report by seven distinguished climate scientists concludes that the chance of holding warming to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels “has almost certainly already been missed,” and that keeping below 2°C will require nations to up their pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Climate

Some good news: On Friday the environment ministers of the European Union unanimously approved the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement.  The European Parliament is expected to approve it next week, while full ratification by the EU is expected to take about a month to complete.  Since the EU contributes about 12% of global emissions, this will take the Paris Agreement past the 55% threshold required for it to go into effect.  In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday announced that India, which contributes 4.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, would ratify the Paris Climate Agreement on October 2, the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi.  Also under the Good News category is a new series of videos called Global Weirding by climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.  I say this is good news because Hayhoe is an excellent communicator and is always upbeat.  This will likely be a series you will want to share with those who are skeptical about human-caused climate change.

A new paper in Nature has caused a bit of a stir in the climate science community.  The study used nearly 60 ocean sediment cores to build the most complete reconstruction to date of global sea surface temperatures stretching back 2 million years.  They show, among other things, that Earth is the warmest it has been in around 120,000 years, something that is not all that surprising.  Rather, the controversy arose over projections of what will occur in the future.  Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies was moved to write a critique for RealClimate, a climate science blog.  While not mentioning the Nature paper, Andy Skuce reviewed efforts to estimate climate sensitivity.

In a paper to be published next week in BioScience, a team of researchers from a variety of institutions reports a significant source of methane emissions that has been underestimated: manmade reservoirs.  It turns out that reservoirs worldwide emit sufficient methane from decomposition of organic matter to be equivalent to around 1% of total CO2 emissions.  They also directly emit around 0.2% of global CO2.  Naturally occurring reservoirs, on the other hand, have very low emissions.  All of this means that hydroelectric power is not entirely free of greenhouse gas emissions and that these emissions must be considered in global accountings.  It also raises a bit of concern for the large number of hydroelectric dams in the works; as many as 847 worldwide.  It is also interesting that another study, published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, has concluded that the increase in global methane levels is being driven more by natural sources than by emissions from the oil and gas industry, as has been indicated by others.

Both of the planet’s poles were in the news this week.  With respect to the Arctic, the World Meteorological Organization said that things were changing so rapidly there that researchers are struggling to keep up.  One reason this is a concern is that the Arctic is a major driver of the global climate system, which is one reason the Obama administration convened a first-ever Arctic Science Ministerial to coordinate study of what the consequences will be as the Arctic heats up.  Meanwhile, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change, natural variability in the Antarctic has such a large impact and the data record is so short that, with the exception of a shift in the prevailing westerly winds, it is difficult to discern the impacts of human-induced climate change.  Some of the authors of that paper have discussed their major findings at The Conversation.  Also, writing at Audubon, Hannah Waters reports on how four Arctic birds are coping with the changes there.

Last week I provided links to two articles about the response of plants to climate change.  There was an additional article this week, in the journal Biology Letters.  The authors investigated the rates at which the climatic niche (temperature and precipitation) can change in 236 grass species (including wheat, rice, corn, and sorghum) and compared those rates with rates of projected climate change by 2070.  They found that projected climate change is consistently faster than rates of niche change, typically by more than 5000-fold for temperature-related variables.  The authors stated that their results “have troubling implications for a major biome and for human food resources.”

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Austria’s Vienna University of Technology analyzed records from 345 stream gauges covering 70% of the conterminous United States from 1940 to 2013, with the first 30 years serving as the base period.  They documented flood frequency, peak magnitude, duration, and volume.  They found that flooding patterns have shown some regional changes, but no countrywide shift, despite heavier rains caused by global warming.  On the other hand, a new study in the journal Atmospheres has concluded that the recent weather trend of warm winters in the western U.S. and cold winters in the eastern U.S. (called the “North American winter temperature dipole”) can be attributed to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.

Energy

Efforts to limit CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels have typically focused on decreasing demand for them.  However, as it becomes necessary to stop burning fossil fuels entirely, restrictions on their supply may be required.  Exactly how this would be achieved in free, democratic, and capitalistic societies is far from clear.  Consequently, the Stockholm Environment Institute convened a conference in Oxford, England, to begin discussions on this issue.  Sophie Yeo of Carbon Brief attended and has compiled comments from a number of attendees.

According to a new study from Amazon Watch, U.S. imports of crude oil from the Amazon are driving the destruction of some of the rainforest’s most pristine areas and releasing copious amounts of greenhouse gases.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, has found that when operating costs are considered, hybrid and electric cars are the least expensive to operate, and also have the smallest CO2 emissions.  The study team has produced an app that lets buyers check out cars’ records while shopping.  Also on the subject of electric cars, Renault has announced that they have upped the range of the Zoe to over 200 miles, all for a price (in Europe) starting at $26,500.  If you are a fan of auto racing and feel conflicted because of the reliance on internal combustion engines, then you’ll be glad to learn of Formula-E, which will come to New York City in July 2017.

A Department of Energy study has concluded that the cost of five clean energy technologies — from wind and solar power to LED lighting — has declined between 40% and 94%, depending on the technology, since 2008.  Joe Romm provides a couple of interesting graphs from the study.

Last week I put in information about the need to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure because we can’t burn all known reserves without exceeding the CO2 budget for staying below 2°C.  Given that restraint, Gavin Bade asks, “why are utilities going all-in on gas?”

For years the oil and gas industry has employed floating drilling platforms in order to operate in deep water.  Because there are many advantages associated with locating wind turbines further off-shore, several organizations are exploring the use of floating wind turbines.  Diane Cardwell of The New York Times has reported on the efforts underway at the University of Maine in Orono.  Wind energy is an important component of Massachusetts’ plans for future clean energy development.  As Daniel Cusick has stated at E&E News “In an unprecedented string of policy developments this summer, Massachusetts has embraced core elements of what experts describe as a transformational blueprint for how carbon-free electricity flows from power producers and utilities to consumers.”

A few weeks ago I linked to an article about a hydrogen fuel cell powered electric truck.  This week there was an article about a hydrogen fuel cell powered electric train that is being put into service in Germany.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate News Roundup 5/13/2016

Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading (UK), has come up with absolutely the best animated graphic ever to illustrate Earth’s warming since 1850.  It’s a must-see.  Speaking of communication about climate change, a new study published in Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that our perception of what those around us think about climate change influences our willingness to talk about it.

Doug Hendren has added another song to his website.  The subject this time is the social cost of carbon.  Enjoy and share.  Also on a Virginia note, Ivy Main has a new blog post, this one about the legislators who have been named to the new subcommittee of the House and Senate Commerce and Labor Committees that will review the energy legislation carried over from the 2016 General Assembly.  She has a second post about Appalachian Power.  As part of the WBEZ, Chicago, “Heat of the Moment” series, a young environmental activist comes to terms with her upbringing in coal country.

Marlene Cimons has a good guest column in Climate Progress about the particular difficulties low-income families face with electric utility bills and some things that can be done about it.  Unfortunately, some of the solutions, such as community solar, are not available in Virginia.  What is available is weatherization through a federal program administered by Community Housing Partners, the contractor for our area.  CAAV (led by Joni Grady) has been working to make low- and moderate-income families aware of the program, but getting the word out is difficult.  So if you have connections with a local church or community organization that can help spread the word, send an email to contactcaav@gmail.com and volunteer.  Contrary to what the article says, renters of houses or duplexes can apply with the permission of their landlord.  The landlord need not initiate the application.  On the subject of energy efficiency, Rocky Mountain Institute’s 15,610 square foot new office building and convening center in Basalt, Colorado, has no traditional central heating and cooling system in spite of being located in the coldest climate zone in the continental U.S.  They achieved this with passive, integrative design.

Speaking with a Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA) reporter after an event at the Whitewater Preserve in California on Thursday, May 5, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said “I think that to keep it in the ground is naive.”  As far as coal is concerned, a look at the new charts from Carbon Brief shows that just keeping U.S. coal in the ground won’t have a big impact on global CO2 emissions.  It is going to require a global effort.  Nevertheless, it is significant that the Lummi Nation has prevailed in its fight to block the largest coal port ever proposed in North America, at Cherry Point, WA.

Frustrated with the snail’s pace of action on getting humanity off of fossil fuels, many people feel that the only course of action left is civil disobedience, as articulated in an opinion piece by Kara Moses.  Toward that end, activists are gathering at two oil refineries in the state of Washington this weekend.  The “Keep it in the ground” campaign is having an impact on the way the Bureau of Land Management conducts auctions for leases of federal lands for oil and gas exploration.  Activists are also getting under ExxonMobil’s skin (so to speak) with their campaign centered on ExxonMobil’s early knowledge about the causes of climate change.  Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, ConocoPhillips and other companies have given up their leases for drilling rights on 2.2 million acres in the Chukchi Sea; leases they had paid $2.5 billion for in 2008.

I try to minimize political news in the Weekly Roundup but have decided to include this item because it is directly related to climate and energy policy.  Chris Mooney of The Washington Post explains “why this could finally be the election in which climate change matters.”

Speaking Friday, May 6, at a Stanford University conference on “Setting the Climate Agenda for the Next U.S. President”, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, said that if elected she plans to have a situation room just for climate change in the White House.  Climate Wire has a more detailed look at what was discussed at the conference.

Although the eastern U.S. has been cool and rainy, the western U.S. has had a hot spring.  So hot, in fact, that the contiguous 48 states have recorded the second hottest year to date.  The west was warm enough to melt much of the snowpack so that “Most areas saw major decreases in snowpack during April and are now below normal,” according to the final “Western Snowpack and Water Supply Conditions” report of the season issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Further north and east, spring has been so hot in the Arctic that fractures are already evident in the sea ice north of Greenland.

The fire in the boreal forest near Fort McMurray in Canada is just the latest around the world.  Justin Gillis and Henry Fountain, writing in the New York Times, examine the impacts of climate change on forests and wildfires.

Although it is fairly long (and contains a lot of arguments directed at other authors), this post by Joe Romm makes some important points about the wide-spread acceptance of the 1.5 C limit and the ability to achieve it with existing technology.  Part 2 is here.  Meanwhile, Shell has issued a supplement to its New Lens scenarios that lays out its vision of what it will take to meet the goals of the Paris accord.

Apex Clean Energy has filed its application with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to build a wind farm with 25 turbines on top of North Mountain in Botetourt County.  As part of the application, Apex has outlined steps it will take to minimize deaths of bats and other wildlife.

The Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba could well be serving as a renewable energy laboratory for the rest of the world.  Since they have their own isolated power grid they must deal with the problems of integrating solar and wind energy into their grid as they install significant quantities.  How they manage things may influence what happens in larger countries.  Germany seems to have figured out how to manage renewable energy because, on average, 30% of its energy comes from renewables.  What is really interesting, though, is that on May 8 at 11:00 am, 90% of Germany’s electric demand was being met by renewables.  Between midnight and 4 am on May 10 no electricity was being generated with coal in England for the first time ever.  In Denmark, as a result of some unique circumstances, 42% of the electricity is provided by wind.  Phil McKenna of Inside Climate News interviews author Justin Gerdes concerning his new book about Denmark’s experience.

U.S. energy sector CO2 emissions fell in 2015, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Monday, pushing emissions 12% below 2005.  Because the economy is 15% larger than it was in 2005, the U.S. produced 23% fewer emissions per unit of GDP.  The EIA has also released its International Energy Outlook 2016, which examines a number of scenarios for future energy use.  Unfortunately, none of them considers the national pledges toward the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The EPA announced new rules on Thursday to reduce methane emissions from new oil and gas facilities, as well as those undergoing modifications.  The rules will require oil and gas companies to monitor and limit the release of methane into the atmosphere at production, processing and transmission facilities.  No regulations exist yet for existing facilities, although they are being worked on.  An example of the need is that the Bakken oil field leaks approximately 275,000 tons annually.

One way that people are seeking to decrease the carbon footprint of transportation is to make liquid transportation fuels using the CO2 captured from power plants that burn fossil fuels.  This has always seemed like a poor idea to me because the objective is to quit emitting fossil carbon to the atmosphere, not just delay its journey there.  Still, I have not seen much from the scientific community about this flaw in thinking until this post to RealClimate.  One requirement for the reuse of CO2 is its capture in association with the combustion of fossil fuels.  Thus, it is interesting that DOE appears to be ready to pull the plug on a large carbon capture and storage demonstration project in Texas.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate News Roundup 1/22/16

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Fasting and Climate Change

FastingCharlie.cropWhy would anyone voluntarily decide to live on water only for 18 days? Why, while not eating, would anyone agree to sleeping on the floor of a church often getting dizzy as you try with great effort to stand; get up at 5:30 AM each day; use 4 flights of stairs for a sponge bath (no showers available); walk 12 blocks, stand passing out literature related to your cause or sit on a noisy street for about 11 hours a day, just being? Wonderful odors drifting up the street from the food trucks, beautiful displays of fresh fruits along the walk and trips to the bathroom often in food courts only add to your discomfort. Indeed, why?

Our group of 12 set out on this journey (fasting) to try to get the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to pay attention to citizens’ very serious concerns in relationship to pipelines and other noxious fossil fuel infrastructures for which FERC grants permits. FERC gets its money from the fossil fuel industry through the permitting process and just rubber-stamps anything the industry wants to do. We have tried to meet with FERC officials on various occasions, tried civil disobedience with arrests and now a hunger strike.

Some of our neighbors to the south (Highland, Augusta and Nelson Counties) seek to be heard concerning a pipeline that is being jammed down their throats. Eminent domain, which is supposed to be for the public good, is being used for private gain to take their land and place dangerous infrastructures near their homes, schools and communities. Pristine public land will also be destroyed. The same thing is happening across the country, from Cove Point, MD to Jordan Cove, Oregon. In fact, in Oregon, it is for foreign private gain. It is estimated that over 4000 miles of new pipelines, related to fracking in Pennsylvania alone have been proposed.

Personally, the fast with its daily challenges helped me to understand better those poignant pictures of children, mere skin and bones because they lack food. Of course my situation was quite different because I had an end date. I had clean water to help sustain me, which much of the world does not have. Fasting also deepened my awareness of those whose homes and communities are threatened by fossil fuel infrastructures. Imagine yourself in a similar situation. What if such a structure ran close to a school in Harrisonburg? You would not feel good about yourself knowing that you are part of the problem.

Put yourself in the shoes of future generations. What will they say about us when their world is falling apart because we were unwilling to make changes to protect them, when the chemistry and physics of climate change is so clearly understood? Denial is no longer an excuse. We need to act now to put a price on carbon and stop digging a deeper hole that our grandchildren may not be able to get out of.

This fast was timed to coincide with Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, with its emphasis on the need for a moral commitment to creation care. “I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps, and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”I am not Catholic, but I can really appreciate a person of his stature who walks the walk for humanity and climate justice.
Attempts were made to get Senators Kaine and Warner and Representative Goodlatte or staff person to visit the fast site and discuss our grievances with FERC. No one could make it. Please stress to our elected officials that time to act is growing short. It is my hope and prayer that each reader will use their power as a voter to elect and support candidates who recognize the gravity of this issue in our time. We need to push our elected officials to make the necessary difficult choices. We can do this with a little empathy and will power. There is no plan(et) B.

Charles Strickler DDS
Harrisonburg VA 22801

I tried to get this published in the Daily News-Record within a week of the fast. After 2 weeks with no reply, I called and they said there “was no context” and would not print it. I then sent it to Staunton News Leader and after a week or so they said “not before the elections if at all.”   – Charlie, November 7, 2015

Reality Check

Joni.300On October 4th, 2015, CAAV Steering Committee Co-chairperson Joni Grady delivered this heartfelt sermon to her congregation at the Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists Church. It is a message of hope with spot-on descriptions of many of Joni’s fellow, local, passionate, climate warriors.

Welcome to another step in my attempt to make sense out of an increasingly irrational world. When I picked the title, Reality Check, I had a rather different talk envisioned, one dealing only with the painful bifurcation of my life and the lives of everyone involved to any extent with that most dreadful task, saving the only livable planet we seem to have. In one part of my life, the dreaming world, we try to remember to vacuum the rugs and take out the trash, put money into Sophie’s college savings and reserve a beach house for Christmas. In this world, which seems so familiar, so pleasant, a bad problem is not finding the type of tea I like at Martin’s or getting stuck at too many red lights. A serious issue means the AC has gone out and the mattress needs replacing. And a tragedy would of course be sickness or death amongst family or friends. In this world, mainstream media news means killings, wars, politicians and celebrities. Sometimes on the front page or at the top of the hour but usually hidden on the inside or never heard or shown at all are floods, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and storms. These, thank goodness, are simply “acts of God” that come and go randomly around the world but, happily, rarely in the Peaceful Valley. (Or at least that’s what I thought until Tuesday when the dreaming world intersected the waking world and an unusual (new normal?) storm dropped 4 inches of rain and a lot of it ended up in my basement.) Both worlds were interrupted by an actual Reality check!!

Normally, in the other, equally real, weirding-climate, waking world that I also live in 24/7, the minor day-to-day issues revolve around making sure there are enough materials for tabling at the Farmers Market, getting out the word for various events and keeping the CAAV facebook page up-to-date. (CAAV, for those new to the area, is the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.) The more complicated ones involve designing a display to draw people in at the International Festival when they really just want to eat and have fun, not be bothered by inconvenient truth, and planning next month’s educational forum (which is, in case you’re interested, the inside story on fighting western forest fires, from training to living in camp to the actual hard and very dirty work of controlling a wildfire, brought to us by Sophie’s dad Alan Williams.) And the news I read is all climate, all the time: some good, some bad, some optimistic, some terrifying.

The difficult part is to do these things in the presence of the dreamers who inhabit the first world, the ones living in a trance from which they will only awaken, possibly, when disaster strikes them personally. And when I really feel sorry for myself, I can feel even worse when I read the hate mail, the threats, the obscenities that are thrown at the scientists, the real climate warriors—even though I know these are written from the nightmare world of conspiracy belief inhabited by the DNR editor and James Inhofe. When I think about the Syrian and other climate refugees dying to escape a part of the world no longer viable, and envision that small part growing and expanding to affect and engulf us all, I get so depressed I want to give it all up and go back to sleep –to sleep, perchance to dream.

This kind of thinking is a real recipe for burn out and serious depression and recently, all the advice from Marcus Aurelius and Rev. Gingrich to just “keep on working” didn’t seem to help. Probably I should get therapy! But I didn’t. I simply decided to step back, take a new position and get a different perspective on the situation. The events of the past week actually helped me get some perspective on both worlds. In the middle of even this minor climate-related hardship, I found myself so absorbed with the nitty gritty of sticky orange silty water all over my floor that I rarely thought about what CAAV or 350 or Sierra Club are planning for this fall leading up to the Paris climate conference. No wonder most people, who don’t have my privileged leisure time, don’t worry very far into the future. On the other hand I began to get a real, though tiny, inkling of what regular life is like now in many places. And I found, through the kindness of friends, relations, and total strangers, that there is always hope and help, and even a hug from the IHOP cashier.

Sure, our work with CAAV probably seems trivial to most people, but it’s a way to work on one little cog, to hope there are so many little cogs and gears beginning to mesh and so many incredible people in the world working on them that a massive engine of change is being built with the leverage to move the world. There are people I might never have known about, much less met, without my totally unexpected immersion in this, the second, the waking world. These are not the usual suspects like Ralph and the Sierra Club, though goddess knows we couldn’t do without them, but people you may not know at all or know in a different context.

Valerie Serrels and her twin sons Grant and Garret helped found iMatter Youth, a group that dared to sue the United States on the basis that every citizen has the right to a place on a safe livable planet—what gall they have!

Jeff Heie and Earl Martin are Mennonite builders who are part of a volunteer group that renovates homes for low-income folks and whose Voluntary Gas Tax group assess themselves for the CO2 they burn each year. This year they raised enough for a $5000 grant to launch a major solar power project for the Gift and Thrift shop along Mt. Clinton Pike.  And anyone who wants can donate $200 and buy a panel to help out.

Lynn Cameron and the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain try to protect and preserve our highlands and Rev. Kate Lehman and the other Riverkeepers protect our waters. Lynn learned, and tried to teach me, that working with a wide range of stakeholders on a problem takes finesse, patience, and a willingness to listen to all points of view—I haven’t learned it yet, but she has tried.

Wayne Teel, Rob Alexander and Jeff Tang teach their JMU students what’s going on and aren’t afraid that the truth will be too scary for their tender young minds, Amy Thompson does the same in Bridgewater. And there are so many folks at EMU who work from their hearts to get to the heart of the problem, even if it takes them into the halls of the Pentagon, like Dr. Lisa Shirch, our last CAAV speaker.

Through CAAV I have gotten to know students at JMU and EMU who have already decided to devote their lives to solving the problem and are working right now to get JMU and EMU to divest from fossil fuels. Others are working with CAAV to bring inexpensive solar power to the Valley. And there are our staunch supporters led by Mark Fink at CourtSquare Theatre who are willing to work with us whenever we want to bring provocative films to town.

I love the “creation care” people who have worked so hard to wake up their congregations and the ministers across the Valley, people like Ramona and Bill Sanders, the Reverend David Miller, Bill Rosenow, David Pruett and Michael Snell-Feikema. Doug Hendren and the Occupy Harrisonburg contingent, and the farmers such as Bobby Whitescarver and others in the Valley Conservation Council all understand that economy and ecology are part and parcel of the same thing. Without a livable planet how would any of us make a living?

When I decided to try some grass-tops organizing to promote the free weatherization of low-income houses, Karen Thomas, Stan Macklin, the inimitable Doris Allen and all of the NorthEast Neighborhood Association welcomed me into their midst and made me feel at home. Jamie Miller from New Bridges helps our new immigrant neighbors with the application forms for getting their homes weatherized.

I’m proud to call April Moore and Andy Schmookler friends and compatriots, two with the courage to run for political office against entrenched politicians with ties to the big money interests of fossil fuels. Again, what nerve! ?! I now know and work with lawyers and architects like Bishop Dansby, Tom Domonoske and Charles Hendricks who stick their necks out in city council and the school board meetings, trying to prepare Harrisonburg for the 21st century. And they do this with the help of committed public servants like Thanh Dang and our old HUU friend Kai Degner. I’ve learned from Bish that it doesn’t hurt to write perfect strangers and ask them for information or help—which explains why I’m the unlikely pen pal of an ex-Oxford Univ. professor and expert in product branding!

The core of my support is my own favorite bunch of wide awake people, the steering committee of CAAV: Cathy started it all, Charlie cares so much that he risked his health in a protest fast last week. Rickie Wertz is our secretary and in from the beginning. Anne Nielsen, artist, biologist, educator, may know even more Valley folk than Cathy; Lynn Smith loves art and children’s books as much as I do and creates wonderful displays; our Chairperson Laura Dansby is willing to lead her legislative committee into conversations with the unwilling and still remain calm, cool, and collected; Adrie Voors is a climate refugee from Katrina and a veterinarian who loves animals even more than people and who inspires my social media work with her own great talent as webmaster. Joy Loving almost single-handedly started the solar revolution in Harrisonburg and now has her sights set on Rockingham, Page and Shenandoah counties. Carl Droms is treasurer and how many other mathematicians do you know would put on a polar bear suit to draw attention to the melting Arctic ice and march around Main St.? Pete Mahoney is our spiritual leader whose goodness and perseverance inspires us all, and our newest, youngest, members, Emily Blake and Alleyn Harned are teaching by example that renovating old buildings has a much lower carbon footprint than building new. And obviously there’s Les, whom I forget to tell how much his support and hard work mean to me and how much I admire the way his brain works, not skimming the surface like mine, but delving deep and really learning and sharing the complexities of this horrible mess we’re in.

Others I can’t name here are all just as important because they are willing to be awake and face real life, whether or not they work with us directly. Some come regularly to our events, our forums, our movies, our tables, some just check out our website and Facebook page or receive our weekly round-up of the best and worst climate news. I would never in a million years have gotten to meet so many passionate, committed men and women, if I hadn’t begun working with the gang at CAAV. These are people who are too busy to stay depressed for long and being around them buoys my spirits too. And this is just my local disrupted-climate community, strands and nodes in an interconnected web of concern. The web stretches across the state, across the country and around the world. It is made up of activists, scientists, artists, politicians and statesmen, CEOs and volunteers, mothers and fathers, children and elders, writers of fiction and creators of documentaries, Bangladeshis and Inuit, UUs and Evangelicals and even, would you believe, a pope! What a grand group of people who have decided that, for the good times and the bad times too, let it be a dance!

References (in order of appearance, and just a few of the many working in the area)

1. Climate Action Alliance of the Valley: http://www.climateactionallianceofthevalley.org and http://www.facebook.com/caavva to get announcements of events, the Weekly Roundup of top climate news, and minutes of our open public meetings, subscribe to our listserv at contactcaav [at] gmail.com

2. Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org/virginia/shenandoah

3. iMatter Youth: http://www.imatteryouth.org

4. Voluntary Gas Tax: http://www.voluntarygastax.org

5. Friends of Shenandoah Mountain: http://www.friendsofshenandoahmountain.org

6. Riverkeepers/Waterkeepers: http://www.waterkeeperschesapeake.com/about-us/resources/item/56-shenandoah-riverkeeper

7. Wayne Teel: http://www.isat.jmu.edu/people/teel.html

8. Rob Alexander: http://www.jmu.edu/polisci/faculty_alexander.shtml

9. Jeff Tang, Associate Dean of the College of Integated Science and Engineering, was instrumental in starting the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Green Network. H/RGN is made up of representatives of various environmental/climate groups, and meets monthly to keep an eye on projects to improve the sustainability and resilience of the area.

10. Amy Thompson: https://www.bridgewater.edu/about-bc/faculty-students/amy-thompson . CAAV Speakers Bureau member Les Grady regularly visits her geology class to talk about climate change.

11. Lisa Schirch: http://www.emu.edu/personnel/people/show/schirchl

12. Doug Hendren: https://www.facebook.com/MusicalScalpel?pnref=lhc for protest songs about the environment and the 1%

13. Valley Conservation Council: http://www.valleyconservation.org/

14. NorthEast Neighborhood Association: http://www.nenava.org/

15. April Moore: http://aprilmoorestatesenate.com/

16. Charles Hendricks: https://harrisonburgarchitect.wordpress.com/charles-hendricks/

17. Doug Holt: http://www.brandclimate.org

BXE Fast, Week Two Update

September 14, 2015, Press Release

For more information, call or text Melinda Tuhus at 203.623.2186 (back-up number is Ted Glick, 973.460.1458)

FERC Fasters Enter Second Week; Welcome Franciscans to Fasting in D.C.

The dozen members of Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) who began fasting on September 8, calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to stop issuing permits for fracked gas pipelines, export terminals and other infrastructure, are entering the second week of their 18-day, water-only fast. They say FERC’s actions exacerbate our climate crisis and devastate communities, since methane (the main ingredient of natural gas) is a powerful global warming gas.

They can be found sitting on chairs or talking to FERC employees and passersby from 7 a.m. each weekday morning until 6 p.m. outside FERC headquarters, 888 First St. NE in D.C.

After they leave the FERC building tonight (Monday), the BXE fasters will head to McPherson Square (15th and K St NW), where a dozen members of the Franciscan Action Network began their own fast today in preparation for the arrival of Pope Francis in the city later this month. Francis, who takes his name from St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan order, will address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24. His recent encyclical, Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, focuses on the need to reverse climate change, with its disproportionate impact on the world’s poor.

On Sunday night, BXE faster Steve Norris punched three more holes in his belt, “so my jeans don’t fall off,” said the 72-year-old from Asheville, N.C. Other fasters are pulling the string holding up their pants a little snugger. They are being joined by others every day, some of whom come to FERC, others who fast in their own communities.
They plan to break their fast on Friday, Sept. 25 with a procession around FERC, and leaders from various faith traditions deliver copies of the Pope’s encyclical to the five FERC commissioners.

Today, in addition to the FERC-focused cards they’ve handed out every day, BXE fasters and their supporters passed out cards saying “Black Lives Matter” on the front, with an explanation on the back that climate change – driven in part by all the approvals granted by FERC – impacts low-income communities and communities of color “first and worst.” Hurricane Katrina is just one tragic example.

http://www.beyondextremeenergy.org

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Take the Bus to the Moral Action on Climate Justice Rally

moral-action-on-climate

From the Virginia Sierra Club:

Join Us for the Moral Action on Climate Justice Rally
Thursday, September 24, 2015
On the National Mall – Between 4th & 7th Streets, NW, Washington, DC

The Pope visits DC on Thursday, September 24, 2015, and hundreds of thousands are expected to come to DC to participate in the Moral March for Climate Justice. Buses will be leaving from Nelson County and Staunton. On this historic day, as Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress, we will gather in support of his call for urgent action to address the climate crisis and create a new future of economic equality, social justice, and environmental equity.

Pope Francis’s encyclical echoes what those in the Climate Justice Movement already know – climate justice is not about trying to solve an abstract climate problem. Climate justice is about local communities campaigning for rights and just outcomes in their communities- health, fair housing, positive economic opportunities, transportation, cultural preservation, food security, clean air, safe water, green energy, resiliency, and harmony between Man and Mother Earth. As Indigenous activist Clayton Thomas-Muller has stated, the climate justice movement is about: “Not simply demanding action on climate, but demanding rights-based and justice-based action on climate that … amplifies the voices of those least responsible and most directly impacted.”

Bus Routes:
• Route 1 will start in Staunton at 5:00 am with buses going up I-81, stopping at Harrisonburg
• Route 2 will start in Nelson County at 5:00 am with buses going up Route 29

We have reserved 4 buses. Please place your ticket order for the route that is most convenient to your location. Purchase tickets early please.
Link for ticket reservations: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/moral-action-for-climate-justice-rally-tickets-18280688030

Bus stop locations will be announced 1 week before departure.

For more information, contact Kirk Bowers, Sierra Club pipeline issues organizer: kirk.bowers[at]sierraclub.org