Council passes the resolution recommending state action on the single-use plastic bag legislation

logoThe latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Councillogo

Followers know the sad news that our local Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) proposed ban of single-use plastic bags took a hit because of a one-year legislative moratorium in order to study the issue.

At Council Tuesday October 15, however, Council passed a resolution from the Administration supporting passage of the ban:

Plastic Bags Support Resolution-1

EAC member Elisabeth Cichonski spoke in favor of the resolution:

And the resolution passed, Councilman Reynolds speaking for it and, as he has done before, advocating additional measures to insure the good goals of the proposed legislation will be achieved.

Good work, all around!

It’s Thursday, October 17, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Forest Bathing with H.D.

(35th in a series of posts on H.D.)

Forest bathing was one of the events in our year-long series of events entitled

Finding H.D.:
A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

Sienna Mae Heath is a storywriter of landscapes, architecture, and gardens. A world traveler with a home base in Bethlehem, she knows how a strong sense of place sparks meaning in small moments. Check out her blog Garden Mindfully.

In the spirit of World Mental Health Day, blogger Sienna Mae Heath discusses seasonal depression. Going forest bathing helped her welcome the autumnal equinox with grace. How do you prepare for winter?

For many of us with seasonal depression, the first cool night signals a warning that it’s time to drop vitamin D infused oil on our morning toast, or else succumb to darkness. The sun sets a little sooner, the window for soaking up sunshine nearly closed. When I awoke on the fourth Sunday of September, I figured, all the more reason to let my blankets release me into the wild of Little Pond to go “Forest Bathing with H.D.”

Our guide was Anisa George. Her mother Bridget, who along with Bill George founded the arts retreat in 1996, motioned for me to park on the mix of gravel and grass across the way from their quaint refinished farmhouse. I nibbled on the edible garden of spearmint, cinnamon basil, and nasturtiums (which I think of as rogue peppery petunias).

“Welcome back,” the mother-daughter duo chimed in unison. Little Pond served as a spiritual and creatively charged oasis during my childhood, and here I was, having owned two houses, changed my career, and circling around from quite a few travels abroad – home.

This gathering brought seven women together. As we settled in a circle near the pond, Anisa shared the history of forest bathing – the English translation for the Japanese tradition of immersing oneself in nature. This tradition is only a few decades old. In the 1980s when workers were collapsing at their desks, the government took action. The result is now a global phenomenon, encouraging humanity to reconnect with the landscape.

Invitations and sharing circles

In forest bathing, there are invitations and sharing circles. Each free-flowing activity is an invitation to savor the sights, sounds, textures and scents around you. When given the sharing piece, similar to a talking stick, we could answer this question: What are you noticing?

“It’s okay to pass. It’s okay to share silence,” Anisa said. This added reassurance made me feel so free. Poetry, though not typically a part of forest therapy, sparks a calming freedom within. Anisa presented scrolls of poems by H.D., the Lehigh Valley poet also known as Hilda Doolittle, who was a great lover of the wild. The first piece of parchment pulled from the cup revealed:

Behold the dead are lost,

The grass has lain

Trampled

And stained

And sodden

Behold

Behold

Behold . . .

The grass rises

With flower-bud;

The grain

Lifts its bright spear head

To the sun again

Behold,

Behold

The dead

Are no more dead

The grain is gold

blade

stalk

and seed within;

the mysteries

are in the grass

and the rain.

“What stands out to me is ‘Behold, behold, behold’!” said fellow forest bather Gerry Nugent. “Even if it’s been trampled, behold, it’s still beautiful. We have four seasons in Pennsylvania. Never know what we’re going to get.”

After this first sharing circle came the first invitation. Anisa guided us up a hill to a mowed oval surrounded by trees. Laying like blades of grass, we became curious of what we’re welcoming on an inhale and what we’re giving on an exhale.

Each person inhaled something of their own and exhaled what they need to give to the world. For me, I welcomed the wind to join my breath. I welcomed confidence in the life I’ve built for myself in the past year. I gave gratitude to the family who helped make it possible.

Mindful of Motion

Prior to our next walk, Anisa asked that we be mindful of movement: “What’s in motion? If the only thing you notice is yourself, you might want to slow down.”

Children are constantly in motion. Inspired by H.D.’s “wild fulfillment” (and I by Brene Brown’s to be bold and play), we spread milkweed seeds to the wind. The pods slipped open, revealing what felt like a thousand dandelion seeds with the texture of a down pillow. I was surprised how many could fit in even the smallest spaces. Tapping into my inner child, I coaxed the next generation of monarch butterflies to pollinate this patch next summer.

Inevitably the group would disperse, like the seeds themselves, so Anisa taught us how to call each other without cell phones – we howled! The lesson learned is, first of all, it’s fun to howl like wolves in the wood, and if I can’t hear one wolf, perhaps I can hear another and then know it’s time to return to the sharing circle.

The Camera and Photographer invitation brought to mind technology once more, but soon we learned it only needed the human eye and hand. My partner was Kait Smart. Having just met, we embarked on this trust exercise. She closed her eyes, and I walked her to a textured stump. Then we switched roles and ended up blowing more milkweed.

“Look at this, this is what I see,” Gerry described the perspective gained by taking pictures in pairs. “How often do we get to do that in our daily lives? Maybe I will after this.”

Bridget George and Sally Cordova shared their adventure, too. When you keep your eyes closed, you can still see, Bridget noticed. “There’s always this flickering. Even when Monet’s eyesight left, he could somehow paint the landscape.”

Finding Home

After all, every molecule of the human body is nature. During our Hide and Seek, we went off individually into the deep woods to look for something that’s waiting to be found. Another poem by H.D. lingered on my journey:

shall I lie in the meadows sweet.

escaped,

escaped from the lot

of men,

like a faun in the desert,

like a wind

by the river bank?

again,

again

shall I rest

ecstatic in loneliness,

apart in the haunted forest

For our last final sharing circle, Anisa surprised us. From her photo lens bag came a bamboo mat, a teapot, and ceramic cups. She steeped goldenrod, which stems from the Latin “solidago” meaning solid, as it is used to heal wounds and make them whole. Flourishing in September, it is a pioneer plant that thrives wherever it is sown. Its presence nourishes the soil.

Coming home to ourselves and to each other was the budding theme. Bridget was the last to join the circle but hearing her howls in the distance we knew she grew near. “I went so far into the woods not wanting this to end . . . and I found this perfectly broken beech tree.”

Joanna also found a tree, smooth with two limbs for arms. Sitting in the groove of this tree, she reflected. She felt comforted, calm, home. “I value the playful space between sharing invitations and all the wilderness of nature,” she said. “I needed structure today but also space for the unexpected.”

Sally and I brought back mixed nuts. Beautifully, she shared the phases of life in the form of green and brown chestnuts. My experience was similar. I threw acorns to hear them bounce off the bark of grown trees and returned with a few nutshells, some whole, some broken. This invitation was a mixed bag, I confided in the group. Cradling a white wildflower by the roots, I set an intention to transplant it. So, like fauns in the desert, Joanna led me through gnarled vines, prolific raspberry bushes, and modest granite crystals to her beloved tree. Her temporary home became mine, and then the flower’s.

For future events, visit https://www.meetup.com/Lehigh-Valley-Forest-Therapy-Meetup-Group/ 

Sienna

The Festival’s amazing “Sustainability Forum” for high school students

logoThe latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Councillogo

Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 

Gadfly:

There were so many wonderful experiences to be had during Festival UnBound. I wish I could have done them all. I wanted to highlight one event that was meaningful to me personally. Touchstone Theatre’s Festival Unbound was about having a conversation about where Bethlehem is going as a community from this time forward. The festival included a Sustainability Forum for high schools students. Students attending Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, Charter Arts, and Moravian Academy had an opportunity to tell the City their opinion on how to make Bethlehem a more sustainable community. 178 students submitted essays, which outlined their individual opinions on the most important way for Bethlehem to be more sustainable.

All of the essays were read by Paul Pierpoint, then the students were invited to attend the Saturday afternoon Sustainability Forum at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. Community leaders involved in sustainability and environmental projects were asked to help by facilitating small groups of students, where each student presented his or her idea to their group. Their ideas were summarized on a white board, and the students in each group voted on the one idea their group would present to everyone at the concluding session. The attending parents and interested citizens from Bethlehem were allowed to walk around and visit each group to hear the discussion.

[Here’s a short video of Paul Pierpoint commenting on the student essays at the panel discussion of “Prometheus / Redux.”]

It was an amazing experience for me to listen to the well thought-out, researched, and heartfelt opinions of these young people. Our future depends on us older citizens listening to them and using our decision-making abilities and positions of influence to make effective change to sustain our world for the future generations.

The 178 essays will be bound and given to Mayor Donchez and City Council for them to read, digest, and understand what our city’s youth feel will make our community a better, more sustainable place.

It was an honor to participate as a facilitator at the Forum along with notable and passionately involved members of our community. The other facilitators were Willie Reynolds (City Councilman), Steve Samuelson (PA State Representative), Darlene Heller  City Director of Planning), Don Miles (Sierra Club-Lehigh Valley Chapter and environmental attorney), Bruce Wilson (Lehigh Valley Green Builders), and Karen Beck Pooley (Board member of the Bethlehem Area School District). I was very happy to represent the Bethlehem Food Co-op and the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council.

Anne Hills and Reese, a young songwriter from Emmaus High School, started us out and ended our day with original music they composed and sang.

I apologize for not mentioning a couple of key people involved because I cannot remember everyone’s names.

I am grateful every day for the good in Bethlehem.

And thank you Touchstone Theatre for everything you do for the community.

Kathy

The Festival is over, but Gadfly will be posting for a while on the panels and other activities that were part of the Festival. Yes, thank you Touchstone Theatre for everything you do for the community.

Action on the single-use plastic bag ban

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Followers know the sad news that our local Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) proposed ban of single-use plastic bags took a hit because of a one-year legislative moratorium in order to study the issue.

At Council tomorrow night Tuesday October 14, however, the City has proposed a resolution supporting passage of the ban:

Plastic Bags Support Resolution-1

Councilman Reynolds — ever aggressive on this issue — is urging the City to even think beyond a legislative ban to effective educational programs to help insure that the goals of a ban are accomplished:

Reynolds Memo Plastic Bag Support Resolution-

Two good ideas!

It’s Monday, October 14, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Climate action: needs lots of people getting out in the street and making demands

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Gadfly:

I agree with Kathy, except that I don’t think we can expect legislation to solve this problem — especially given the current legislature. It’s going to take lots of people getting out in the street and demanding action. Turn the “climate strike” into more of a walkout and less of a rally-type event. Picket lines at legislators’ offices.

Peter Crownfield

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

“Instead of working to mitigate climate change, many PA legislators are making things worse”

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 

A tip o’ the hat to Steve Repasch for passing on “How Penn State Is Cutting Greenhouse Emissions In Half — And Saving Money” as “something to add to the climate discussion.”

Gadfly:

I agree with Ted Morgan’s statement in his recent “Your View” article about the enormous challenge of mitigating climate change, wherein he stated, “those political actors and fossil fuel producers who resist the necessary changes are guilty of crimes against humanity.”  Have you read or heard of the PA legislature’s package of bills deceptively named “Energize PA”?  They are nothing but eight industry-focused bills with the main purpose of promoting more fossil fuels. HB 1100, which gives a huge tax credit for petrochemical manufacturers, has already passed. And now they are working to pass three more bad bills: HB 1102, 1106 and 1107, which support the fossil fuel industry and strip the PA DEP of its ability to protect our environment and public health. The natural gas industry is eyeing Northeastern PA as a place to build more petrochemical plants.  Contact your representatives immediately, and tell them we don’t want PA to be supporting the fossil fuel industry and why we should be transitioning away from fossil fuels, not subsidizing them. Instead of working to mitigate climate change, many PA legislators are making things worse. We need legislators who protect their constituents, not support industries which damage public health.

Kathy

How to Festival UnBound

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

The City Forester makes a house call!

Kim Carrell-Smith is a 31-year resident of Bethlehem’s historic Southside, where she taught public history at Lehigh University for almost two decades. She is also an aspiring gadfly, buzzing in on issues of historic preservation, public education, city government, and other social justice issues. She tips her wings to the master gadflies who have served our community for so long!

Thanks for posting, Kathy!

And our city forester David Shaffer (very kindly dropping by my house in response to my questions on Gadlfy–now there’s public service!) pointed me/all of us toward the city’s website for ordinances and more info regarding trees.

*See https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/public_works/forestry.html for straightforward guidelines  (not written like ordinances!) about types of trees they recommend, where and how to plant trees, etc.

*But also useful are the ordinances themselves: the city’s “SALDO,” which is the ordinance governing “subdivisions or developments.”  This might pertain to Kate’s question on Oct 1 on the Gadfly blog. There ARE requirements developers need to follow, and the forester enforces them. Hurray!

*And the actual city ordinance governing trees and shrubs: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/ordinance/articles/ARTICLE0910.html

But how great that he is on the agenda for the EAC! He seems like a very professional, conscientious guy.

Tree tending and planting (even removal) on public property require a certified arborist, and can be costly, I learned. What if as a city we could figure out a way to do what Community Action Development Corp of Bethlehem did on Hayes Street (with Southside Vision funding), when they planted trees up and down the hill in the old tree wells?

Could the Environmental Action Committee perhaps apply for grants to get trees planted in some low income neighborhoods?

Kim

How to Festival UnBound

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13