Plastic-Free July

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Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

from Steele’s “Plastic-Free July”

It is July once again, already, making me very sad to see the summer fly by so quickly. But, being July, it is my intention to revive a challenge I gave myself this time last year: to participate in Plastic Free July. Last year was my first time trying this challenge, but since I was fresh off of my Zero-Waste Lent adventure, still holding onto good habits that already focused on eliminating consumption of common plastic packaging and takeout items (such as single-use bags, bottles, straws, and coffee cups), I was able to focus my attention on going completely plastic free. This decision impacted my gardening, my bird-feeding, and my cat-momming, but I made it through with some creative solutions and only eight individual pieces of plastic for the entire month, which I considered to be a huge win, especially with a camping trip involved.

continue on “Plastic-Free July”

Zero-Waste Lent, Plastic-Free July, this Bethlehem native is somethin’ else!

Public needed at Climate Action Plan meeting Wednesday

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Bethlehem Climate Action Plan Public Virtual Meeting

Virtual Meeting Registration

CAP 1

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from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem asks for public’s input on Climate Action Plan.” June 15, 2020.

Once known for Bethlehem Steel, with its towering blast furnaces that sent plumes of smoke into the sky and a coating of ore dust into surrounding neighborhoods, Bethlehem has done a lot to clean up its image.

Over the last 15 years, the city has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40%, and by the end of the year officials are hoping to have a climate action plan to make Bethlehem even more environmentally friendly. There will be two forums Wednesday to gather public input for the plan, which was proposed by Councilman J. William Reynolds in 2017.

When finished, the plan will outline policies the city can support to reduce its carbon footprint, or the amount of greenhouse gasses it produces that cause climate change. The plan will also analyze hazards the city could face from climate change, such as increased temperatures and flooding, and it will outline measures local businesses and residents can take to reduce their environmental impact.

Wednesday’s forums will include information about what the city has done to reduce emissions and will ask residents what they see as the most important goals going forward, said Jeffrey Irvine, a project director with WSP.

A group of stakeholders has also been discussing what the goals should be, Reynolds said. The group of about 50 includes members of the public, representatives from Moravian College and Lehigh University, local business owners and environmental proponents.

Proposals include encouraging restaurants to limit foam and plastic packaging with takeout orders and using local ingredients, said Lynn Rothman, chairwoman of Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, who is also a stakeholder.

The group also wants to see the city hire a sustainability officer to help implement any environmental policies that are developed.

The City reminds us of the June 17 Climate Action Plan forum

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Easy to forget about this with all the drama going on.
But this is historic! Don’t miss!

Press Release:

June 9, 2020 

City of Bethlehem to host first public forum on Climate Action Plan Online

Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the City of Bethlehem will host an online forum on Wednesday, June 17, to inform the public of the development of the City’s Climate Action Plan. The Plan, which will be developed throughout 2020, will outline measures, policies, and strategies the City can support to reduce Bethlehem’s contribution to climate change and to adapt to the risks of a changing climate, such as extreme temperatures.

To maximize accessibility, the 90-minute virtual meeting will be held twice, at both 12:00pm and 5:30pm. Each session will cover the same content. Members of the public are encouraged to register for the session that is most convenient for them at the following web address: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/7859566807906925067

Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan will establish local priorities for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change while locally improving public health, protecting Bethlehem’s environment, and strengthening the city’s economy. The Plan will also include a climate hazard vulnerability assessment and outline measures, policies, and strategies the City, its businesses, and residents can take to reduce climate-related risks, such as increased flooding and extreme temperatures.

At the June 17 forum the City and consultants WSP and Nurture Nature Center will introduce the climate action planning process and provide information about actions the City has already taken to address climate change. Participants will then be asked to share their thoughts on the goals and priorities they hope to see reflected in the plan which will be released in early 2021.

The public can learn more about the planning process and provide additional input via a short online survey at the following web address: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Public-Works/Climate-Action-Plan

The City of Bethlehem has a long history of supporting climate action and leading by example. The Mayor and City Council have committed Bethlehem to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the We Are Still In initiative, the Sierra Club’s Mayors For 100% Clean Energy, and the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. The City government has also implemented numerous greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, ranging from energy efficiency to renewable energy purchasing, which have reduced the City’s contribution to climate change from municipal operations 37 percent from 2005 to 2017.

Bethlehem City Council unanimously passed a Resolution endorsing the creation of a Climate Action Plan. Mayor Donchez’s administration, through the Public Works department, issued a request for proposals for climate action plan preparation in June 2019. Bethlehem-based engineering firm WSP and science-based community center Nurture Nature Center, located in Easton, were selected as consultants to develop the Plan in 2020 with input from Bethlehem’s public, businesses and stakeholders.

Reminder! “What should Climate Action look like in Bethlehem?” Calendar alert! June 17

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BethlehemCAP.org

CAP 1

register:
https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/7859566807906925067

survey:
English: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScUs6b4mVs73mq4rKHLtnH7VTKyZzNXvRdt_T-ynnJKqjvvTA/viewform
Spanish: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaBqqi6eanUm-rpzEoGSD_FbbMa4aAiBi0yxox4Hl0rAs2dQ/viewform

Here we go! “What should Climate Action look like in Bethlehem?” Calendar alert! June 17

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Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council
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BethlehemCAP.org

CAP 1

register:
https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/7859566807906925067

survey:
English: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScUs6b4mVs73mq4rKHLtnH7VTKyZzNXvRdt_T-ynnJKqjvvTA/viewform
Spanish: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaBqqi6eanUm-rpzEoGSD_FbbMa4aAiBi0yxox4Hl0rAs2dQ/viewform

A Special Earth Day Event at Lehigh U

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A Special Earth Day Event:

Please join us for Lehigh University’s Virtual Earth Day celebration. The keynote speaker for a special webinar will be Joseph Robertson, Global Strategy Director for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He will discuss “Integrative Geopolitics: Climate Resilience in a Post-COVID World.”

The webinar will be on Wednesday, April 22 at 4:30pm.

The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and people across the globe will be celebrating the day through the international theme of climate action. If you have any questions, please contact sustainability@lehigh.edu.

Join the virtual webinar here:

https://eventscalendar.lehigh.edu/event/earth_day_speaker_integrativegeopolitics_climate_resilience_in_a_post-covid_world#.Xp28RKtKit9

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act resolution up for vote tomorrow

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Of interest at Tuesday’s Council meeting: resolution to be voted on.

Support Resolution –Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019
Councilman Reynolds

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT:

RESOLVED, that the City of Bethlehem, PA urges the United States Congress to enact without delay the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, FER, 763; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Bethlehem City Council expresses gratitude to our
Congressional Representative Susan Wild for having become a co-sponsor of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, HR763; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Bethlehem City Council urges other Pennsylvania
municipalities to similarly call on their federal Representatives to co-sponsor the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, HR 763, (other than those in Congressional Districts PAO3, PAO4, and PAO8 who are already co-sponsors) and encourage its passage by the US Congress.

Promoting sustainability!

A note from Peter Crownfield quietly referenced the publication of “Sustainable Lehigh Valley” (an annual publication that seems to go back at least as far as 2004) by Alliance for Sustainable Communities Lehigh Valley.

First time Gadfly was aware of this publication. Looks full of valuable information. Gadfly looks forward to perusal and thinks followers might as well.

Alliance

Download the 2020 “Sustainable Lehigh Valley” here.

Recent sustainability projects

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Gadfly:

Most readers probably are already aware, of course, that Bethlehem EAC’s ban [of single-use plastic bags] was banned by the state, part of the legislature’s ongoing practice of protecting business interests — no matter how much harm is done to people, wildlife, and the environment.

Those with an interest in such things might also want to take a look at these recent internship projects:

• Sustainability for Cafés and Restaurants [www.sustainlv.org/focus-on/sustainability-for-cafes-and-restaurants]
• Climate Action Planning for the Lehigh Valley [www.sustainlv.org/focus-on/climate-action-planning]

(More sustainability-related projects at: www.sustainlv.org/act-locally/internships-with-the-alliance/reports-posters-articles-by-interns)

Peter Crownfield

Moravian Academy’s Green Team on Limiting the Use of Plastic in Bethlehem

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This essay by Moravian Academy’s Green Team was generated as part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum and is part of an ongoing initiative to stir our community, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, to think creatively about how we can make our home, our community, a better place to live. It is a challenge we can only successfully accomplish together.

Bill George, Touchstone Theatre

Limiting the Use of Plastic in Bethlehem

One issue that is prevalent in our community is single-use plastic pollution and waste, especially surrounding grocery store policies relating to food preservation. Our perspective on the issue is that our community could do a better job of cutting down on plastic use. This would help the environment by limiting the exposure to pollution from the plastic itself and the chemicals used in or on plastic. Is it possible to completely stop using plastic? In today’s world, maybe not, but it is not only possible but plausible to limit the use of plastic and to use more ecologically friendly options whenever possible. Imagine walking into a grocery store and going to the produce section to get some fruit. When you get there, there is plastic everywhere. Plastic bags to hold the fruit, prepackaged vegetables wrapped in plastic, even bundles of bananas held together by and wrapped in plastic. Why is so much plastic packaging necessary in our grocery stores when nature has already provided a natural package? There are such excessive uses of plastic in our community as wrapping bananas together even though they already have peels, unpeeling an orange and packaging it in plastic, or giving out single-use plastic bags in which to carry produce. These can contribute significantly to plastic pollution that can severely harm our environment.

In order to cut down on our community’s plastic use, grocery stores could provide more environmentally friendly options. These options could include having giveaways of free reusable bags for store members, charging extra for using a plastic bag (something that is already done in some places in the U.S.), using paper bags at the checkout instead, having recycling centers in the store for used plastic bags, and giving customers who bring in their own bags or pre-approved containers a small discount from their purchase. U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal are both members of our government that have been pushing for legislation that addresses our country’s plastic pollution problems, specifically in relation to marine, waterway, and landscape pollution. Also, organizations like the Plastic Pollution Coalition seek to end plastic pollution through education of the public and encouragement of people to be more aware of their plastic consumer consumption as well as to encourage eateries worldwide to end their use of single-use plastics. The Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council also submitted a proposal to the City Council in February of 2019 asking the city of Bethlehem to place a ban on all single-use plastic bags and to enforce a ten-cent fee on paper bags.

One reason plastic pollution has become a big problem is because it poses a chemical danger to our environment. When plastic bags are left undisposed of in waterways like rivers, streams, or the ocean, they can leach toxic chemicals into the water and soil and damage surrounding plants and animals, affecting whole ecosystems and the water we drink. Additionally, in marine environments specifically, the plastic in our water can release odors that mimic those of some species’ food. This draws wildlife towards pollution and can cause entanglement and consumption, killing the animals. The microplastics consumed by organisms at the bottom of the food chain accumulate all the way to the top, resulting in our personal consumption of about 120-140 plastic particles a day.

A resolution to the plastic pollution problem requires action from all levels of our community from personal to corporate. We each must take personal responsibility for our contribution towards plastic use and consumption. By being increasingly aware of what we are purchasing and decreasing our use of single-use plastics by using reusable bags, jars, or containers, we can hope to reduce overall single-use plastic waste. We can also reduce our plastic use by buying from local and small business establishments to avoid large-scale plastic use from the shipping and packaging industries. Individuals can also use reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones.

On a business level, it is necessary to create anti-plastic policies to reinforce the benefits of sustainable action. In grocery stores, deterrents should be implemented against the use of plastic by utilizing a baseline monetary penalty for the use of plastic bags. To reduce plastic use, grocery stores can also invest in bulk food sections where the consumer can bring reusable containers or bags to get what they need. This method of purchase also decreases food waste since consumers only take what they need because the price would be based on weight and not what is cheaper, whether it be more than they need or not. Additionally, we believe that grocery stores should advertise and promote proper recycling and anti-food waste practices to the wider community. For example, stores should encourage the use of plastic bag recycling programs to which most people already have access by providing information about their locations, purposes, and benefits. At restaurants an effort should be made to not offer plastic straws or to, instead, offer a biodegradable or reusable option such as paper or metal straws. Restaurants can also replace styrofoam or plastic take-out containers with biodegradable containers.

Not only are personal responsibility and improved corporate policies necessary to reach a true solution but so is reaching out to our local legislatures and such government officials as Pennsylvania Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, Jr., to implement laws to protect our environment, health, and natural resources. We must appeal to local governmental bodies like the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council to promote and to continue to protect the environment with legislation like their single plastic reducing ordinance created by the Waste Reduction Task Force. It all starts with voting for those who endorse environmental policies and limiting our plastic production or use.

Green Team
Moravian Academy
Advisor: Cole Wisdo

This essay is also posted on the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council Facebook page March 26.

The potential for a new relationship with our river

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“I think of no natural feature which is a greater ornament and treasure to this town than the river. . . . yet the town, as a corporation, has never turned any but the most purely utilitarian eyes upon it — and has done nothing to preserve its natural beauty.”
Henry David Thoreau, “Huckleberries” (c. 1861)

Pedestrian bridge

x-posted from Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt’s Facebook page:
Thanks to County Executive Lamont McClure who presented the city with $60,000 for the Bethlehem Pedestrian Bridge Feasibility Study. Thanks to Mayor Bob Donchez for his support. For over a century, Bethlehem’s relationship to the river has been dominated by industry. Just as Bethlehem is reinventing itself, a potential pedestrian bridge could create a new relationship with our river. Pedestrian bridges drive development and can create a vigorous link between North and South Bethlehem. Many citizens of Bethlehem, including Breena Holland and Mary Foltz with the Southside Initiative, Doug Roysdon and Don Miles with the Sierra Club, and Tony Viscardi with Lehigh University’s Department of Art, Architecture and Design, have done much work toward the idea of the bridge, and this is a strong step towards exploring that vision. Thank you- and let’s go get some data! — with Lamont McClure Jr.
———-
That said, not everybody is cozy with the bridge idea. These comments on the City Facebook page have been heard around the Gadfly water-cooler.
  • If the quality of ice removal/prevention on the sidewalks of the current bridges is any indication of how a new pedestrian bridge will be maintained, save the money.
  • We have three bridges in town that you can walk across. Why we need to flush money down the toilet when we need so many other things is beyond me.

Gadfly invites you to browse back through the Walkability and Bikeability thread for past discussion on the matter of the bridge.

Climate Action Plan: “This is a big deal”

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In a surprise addition to Monday’s City Council agenda — so surprising it occasioned a procedural question — City Council voted on and approved a contract with a firm to develop our Climate Action Plan.

An exuberant Councilman Reynolds, who — working with the Administration, the Environmental Advisory Council, and others — brought us to this moment, called the plan a “big deal.”

Which it certainly is!

Kudos all around.

Beautiful Reynolds’ words about the plan we love to hear:

  • City-wide energy reduction plan
  • Sustainability initiative
  • An Education piece
  • Connection to social justice
  • Discussion of pedestrian bridge
  • Discussion of Food Co-Op
  • Discussion of walkability

It’s Wednesday January 8, 2020. Do you know where your Climate Action Plan is?

Yes!

Activating activism at Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum

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“The whole UnBound festival was about the future of Bethlehem and how can
we envision what we want to see Bethlehem in the future,
and who more important than the young people to talk to about that.”

Paul Pierpoint, Sustainability Forum Organizer

video by Thomas Braun

You thought I was done with Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, didn’t you?

Naaa, the Gadfly is going for a round 100 posts.

One Festival event that Gadfly didn’t get to was the Sustainability Forum (though Kathy Fox posted about it), and he is just now catching up on it.

And catching up big time — he is in the pleasurable process of reading 180 essays by high school students passionately concerned with the environment and the future of Bethlehem.

(English profs have a big appetite when students are serving up such deliciously thoughtful text.)

Students from Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, and Moravian Academy.

Writing about such pressing contemporary and local issues as climate change; access to safe, nutritious food; local air quality; stream and ground water quality; drinking water quality; health and fitness; alternative transportation; green space preservation; housing for a growing population; and preservation of pollinators.

Gadfly hopes he will be able to bring some moving examples of this activist writing to you in these pages.

For now enjoy the video sampler about Freedom’s participation in the project.

After writing their essays, many of the students participated in a Town Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

Here is a look at the ambitious full assignment set before these students by Touchstone through such home high school faculty as Freedom’s Donna Roman, John Wallaesa, and George Ziegler, and Liberty’s Lisa Draper and Anthony Markovich:

Town Hall Sustainability project — high school

When it looks to some of us of riper age as if the world surrounds us with seemingly insurmountable problems, it pays to look through the eyes of the young:

“If one person just stands up to make a change, others will too . . .
It only takes one person to make a drastic change.”

Staci Scheetz, Liberty High School

Keeping the heat on the plastic bag ban

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Followers know the sad news that the proposed ban of single-use plastic bags coming from our Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) under the leadership of Beth Behrend was hit with the pause button because of a one-year legislative moratorium at the state level in order to study the issue.

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

Plastic Bags Support Resolution-1

But Behrend and the EAC are not the kind of people to rest on that laurel and to sit back and wait for the year to tick away.

Behrend spoke before Council December 3 to present 100 signatures from residents in support of “some kind of action” taken by the City to reduce plastic bags. In speaking at the October 15 meeting, for instance, Councilman Reynolds pointed out that the effort to reduce single-use plastic bags would take more than an ordinance and that there were things that could be done before the ban on banning expired. Behrend also requested Council to send a letter in support of another State bill regarding beverage containers.

Gadfly has come to learn that the EAC travels in packs for greater impact (2 other EAC members spoke preceding Behrend) and is far from innocent about political strategy.

To wit: enter Mary Jo Deseridino in Behrend’s wake to call for City Council to pass a single-use plastic bag ordinance now effective date in July 2020, that is, before the 2021 budget is passed and before the opportunity to extend the ban.

You gotta love these people!

Gadfly enjoys every opportunity to showcase such high quality community involvement of his fellow residents.

What they can do, we all can do.

Your non-tax dollars at work!

It’s Monday, December 16, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point, says Future report

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The full version of FutureLV: The Regional Plan can be found at LVPC.org.

Gadfly suggests that we try to get our heads around these big ideas that are swirling all around us.

When a major report like this comes out, Gadfly wishes that there was some formal public response from our Administration and our planning people to acknowledge the report, to indicate their involvement in and/or awareness of the process that produced it, but especially what it means specifically for us.

Is a report like this shaping thinking and decisions at City Hall?

Some soundbites:

  • The Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point.
  • The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.
  • At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed.
  • It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them.
  • It will mean more mixed-use development.
  • The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough.
  • Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing.
  • The thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity.
  • Our environment has become a key part of our identity.

Becky Bradley, “How to strike a balance between growth and preservation.” Morning Call, December 1, 2019.

The Lehigh Valley is such a successful region that 4,000 to 6,000 more people arrive every year to take advantage of its unique character, beautiful landscape and high quality of life. But how do we preserve all that good, while managing all that growth? Well, we’ve been working on that for close to three years. The result of that work — along with input and ideas from literally thousands of people from across Lehigh and Northampton counties — is FutureLV: The Regional Plan.

FutureLV is a blueprint designed to guide the region to 2045 and beyond. The fact is, the Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point. We’re not only growing fast in people, but we’re developing fast. The e-commerce boom has clearly overheated our warehousing market, but we’re also seeing growing development in almost every area, from commercial to residential to industrial. Even brick and mortar retail development continues, despite the ominous threat of online shopping and the associated “retail apocalypse,” written about by every major financial publication from The Wall Street Journal to Money magazine.

The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.

At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed. It means taking advantage of the sewer, water, road, gas, electric, technology and building infrastructure that’s already built. It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them. These range from downtown Allentown to Portland’s business district to Madison Farms in Bethlehem Township.

It will mean more mixed-use development where residential, commercial and retail can co-exist, more walkable neighborhoods where pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities don’t feel unsafe crossing an intersection, more bike and bus lanes and a more connected transportation system.

The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough. We’ve already identified $4 billion in projects that need done, but aren’t funded. So, we’ll have to be creative and efficient in spending the money we have, while working hard to improve that funding picture.

Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing. It puts activity and foot traffic where our neighborhoods and businesses need it most. It will also make our public transit network more efficient and, in the long run, might even be the ticket to light rail.

More importantly, it will save us from ourselves. It will keep us from building homes, big box stores and, yes, warehouses on farm fields or open space or along roads where they don’t make sense, economically or otherwise.

So why is saving the environment important to saving the Lehigh Valley? Two reasons out of a thousand: People told us it is, and it adds value to our economy and region as a whole.

In a survey taken by nearly 1,100 residents last year, the thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity and are why thousands of people every day drive long distances from jobs to get back here.

But more importantly, saving our environment and making the region more resilient makes sense, and dollars and cents. Our Return on Environment report in 2014 showed that our environment — trees, streams, open space and more — returned more than $1 billion a year in value in the form of reduced health care costs, cleaner air and water and in general a more livable environment. The point is, our environment has become a key part of our identity. Saving it is just as important as growing our economy, maintaining our roads and providing every Lehigh Valley resident with an opportunity for a good life.

It’s Wednesday, December 11, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

The Environmental Advisory Council rocks!

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“Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife.”

If there was ever an intriguing name, there ’tis!

In posting chair Rothman’s annual report last week, Gadfly said the Environmental Advisory Council was well represented in presentations at the December 3 City Council meeting.

Gadfly is not done with those presentations, no sir, he isn’t.

Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife is a subcommittee of the EAC.

December 3 was the first time Gadfly learned Backyards’ history and gained a sense of what they do.

He was amazed.

Listen to team leader Martha Christine’s report and share the amazement at everything these six people are doing: Christine, Roseann Amato, Jane Cook, Suzanne Drake, Christy Roydon, Elsa Stahl.

Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife
Your non-tax dollars valuably at work!

As a faithful Gadfly follower put it truly:

“Unsung contributors to both our community and achieving a better environment.”

 

It’s Monday, December 9, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

“Dark Waters”: a movie to think by

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Many Gadfly followers are environmentally focused.

The movie “Dark Waters” opens nationally tomorrow and will no doubt play soon locally. Unfortunately, though it is listed on the web site of my go-to place the Banko Ale House Cinema as “coming soon,” they tell me today it will not be playing there. But look for it elsewhere.

Below are selections from a review of “Dark Waters” published in the Call Tuesday.

Looks good. Looks meaningful.

Gadfly loves these kinds of films. “Reel American History” was his long-standing project with Lehigh students as part of his larger History on Trial suite of web projects. And RAH contained several projects on films similar in nature with “Dark Waters”:  Blowing the whistle on “Big Tobacco” [The Insider (1999)]; Radiation kills Karen Silkwood [Silkwood (1983)].

Gadfly has several times recommended the Radical Moderate blog of sustainability warrior and Bethlehem native Alison Steele.

Alison has just published the third in a series of posts framing “Dark Waters” with the documentary — available online here — “The Devil We Know.”

The first 5 minutes of the documentary will scare the hell out of you.

Gadfly recommends that you view the documentary in concert with Alison’s posts and then see the movie.

This is “Reel American History”!

And Gadfly would very much invite posts reacting to the film, the documentary, Alison’s framing of them — all of the above.

Serious business.

(What do we know of the environmental impact of Bethlehem Steel? Studies?)

David Michaels, “Commentary: What ‘Dark Waters’ reveals about corporate science.” {Bloomberg Opinion] Morning Call, December 3, 2019.

A new movie, “Dark Waters,” shines a bright light on a group of dangerous chemicals that are likely in your bloodstream right now. It tells the true story of a polluter that manipulated research and kept evidence hidden from the public — and shows just how crucial it is that scientific evidence be produced by researchers free of conflicts of interest.

The chemicals that drive the film’s drama, known as PFAS, are remarkably effective at repelling water and oil. They’re used to make familiar products such as Teflon, Scotchgard and Gore-Tex, and are found in the coating of pizza boxes and microwave-popcorn bags.

Unfortunately, in recent years, they’ve also gained attention for their links to cancer, liver and thyroid disease, increased cholesterol, and depressed fertility. They’ve been found in the blood of almost every American ever tested, and they contaminate the water in communities across the U.S.

“Dark Waters” focuses on how the chemical company DuPont manufactured Teflon in a West Virginia town, and in the process fouled the local drinking water with a PFAS compound. Over the course of the drama, viewers learn that DuPont hid much of what it knew about its effects. In 1981, for example, DuPont was informed by 3M (from which DuPont purchased much of its C8) that the chemical caused birth defects in rats; DuPont then learned of two apparent birth defects among children of its Teflon division employees.

When the first public concerns abound the compound emerged, DuPont did what too many corporations do: They took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook and hired a firm to sow doubt about the scientific evidence.

The film captures how a courageous attorney working virtually on his own was able to document DuPont’s coverup. Armed with those documents, the Environmental Protection Agency eventually issued its then largest-ever fine, and required DuPont to clean up the local water supply.

We badly need a new model for production of the evidence necessary to protect the public. When government agencies consider potentially harmful exposures and activities, from vaping to opioids to glyphosate to payday loans, they should insist the regulated industries provide data produced by unconflicted scientists.

It’s Thursday, December 5, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Rothman reports for the Environmental Advisory Council

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

Note well: City Council is taking applications to fill a vacant position on the EAC.

To apply, email a letter of interest along with a resume to Adam Waldron, Council President (awaldron@bethlehem-pa.gov).

At the end of the letter cc:  Members of Council.  When sending, copy the email to Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov enabling the City Clerk to distribute the application to Members of Council. Application may also be mailed to City Hall, 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem PA 18018.

———-

Bethlehem’s volunteer Environmental Advisory Council was well represented in presentations at City Council last night.

Here is chair Lynn Rothman presenting this very active committee’s annual report.

 

EAC 2019 Yr End Report

Your non-tax dollars valuably at work!

Gadfly strongly encourages his environmentally focused followers to attend the EAC meetings (7PM, first Thursday of the month, in the beautiful Illick’s Mill) and to apply for membership on the Council.

This group gets things done!

It’s Wednesday, December 4, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council News: funding for the Climate Action Plan and a position available

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

Lynn Rothman is an Environmental Scientist, having previously worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. She currently chairs the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Sustainable Energy Fund, among other volunteer activities with non-profit organizations. 

November 21st Budget Meeting

At the November 21st budget meeting, it was announced that the City budgeted $80,000 for a consultant to complete a Climate Action Plan in 2020 (General Fund p. 166).   The EAC commends the City for moving ahead with this important initiative and its commitment to climate action.  We appreciate the time and effort spent by the Dept. of Public Works to bring us to this point in the process.  The EAC is proud of our City and will continue to assist in the climate action planning process in every way possible.

We also support Councilman Reynolds’ remarks during the budget meeting stating that the City could focus more on sustainability. He emphasized that this is especially important given the uncertainty of the recycling market and because the priority of actions to most effectively manage waste and protect the environment is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As Councilman Reynolds stated, “We talk about the idea of building a sustainable city, and we do not have a director of sustainability.”  He continued to say that while many departments are doing a fantastic job of individually contributing to this effort, as we move forward with the Climate Action Plan, there may be an opportunity to have a point person on sustainability, possibly as part of the Dept. of Recycling.

(For Councilman Reynolds’ comments, go to the City video of the November 21 budget meeting, min. 45:30.)

EAC Members

Bethlehem EAC member Kathy Fox has resigned from the council in order to devote more time to her new position as board member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. Kathy will be sorely missed on the EAC, where she has been a strong and vocal advocate for sustainability, green infrastructure, and climate action.  Kathy chairs our Solar Energy Committee, and we are fortunate that she will continue her connection with the EAC, albeit in a different capacity.

Residents of Bethlehem City who would like to apply for a position on the EAC may email a letter of interest, along with a resume to Adam Waldron, Council President, at awaldron@bethlehem-pa.gov.  Please copy “Members of City Council” on the letter of interest. When sending, copy the email to Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov , enabling the City Clerk to distribute your application to Members of Council. Alternatively, a hard copy may be mailed to 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

Lynn

It’s Saturday, November 23, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan re-budgeted

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

Before we get to the CAP, salute to climate action warrior and Gadfly follower Christine!

Martha Christine, “Let’s follow lead of young people on climate change.” Morning Call, November 7, 2019.

  • We have some amazing young people in the Lehigh Valley. Last week I joined more than two dozen informed and engaged Lehigh University students, along with a handful of community members, to comment on the Global Youth Climate Action Declaration.
  • The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is one solution gaining bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. It has 68 sponsors, including Congresswoman Susan Wild. It’s designed to cut carbon emissions by collecting a fee from fossil fuel companies and returning funds to households through monthly dividend checks. It’s good for people, good for the economy and good for the climate.

Gadfly followers have been wondering what happened to the plan to hire a consultant to write a local Climate Action Plan before the end of 2019.

Nicole Radzievich’s Morning Call story on the 2020 budget contains the following:

“The budget reflects the city’s strong financial position, and I’m excited that the administration has funded my request for the Climate Action Plan,” said Councilman J. William Reynolds, who attended the event.

The city had planned to hire a consultant to develop a blueprint for the city to reduce its carbon footprint, but the the $30,000 the city allocated for it fell about $50,000 short of what was needed.

The high price of consultancy. Now we know!

It’s Saturday, November 9, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

“The Pollinators” film

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

Re-posted from LVMM Friends Facebook page:

On Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 6:30, at the Promenade Theater in Center Valley , “The Pollinators “ will be shown, IF enough tickets are sold in advance. Buy tickets at On Demand Films, search film title and state. This is an informative and beautiful documentary, including the role of migratory beekeepers from our state. As the Beeman says, “Save the bees, pollination, food for us!”

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?