Living plastic-free: One activist fights a rising tide of pollution

By James Rainey, NBC News, Feb. 16, 2019

From her front stoop to coffee shops, dry cleaners and markets, activist Dianna Cohen is fighting to rid her life, and the world, of plastics.

LOS ANGELES — Dianna Cohen is on alert. From the newspaper on her front stoop each morning, to the clothes she will pick up at the dry cleaner, to the lunch she’ll eat, to the shelves at her seemingly eco-friendly health food store — Cohen’s nemesis appears everywhere.

The world seems to be wrapped in plastic — and Cohen is not buying it. She is fighting to lead a life free of plastics, and to get others to do the same.

The Los Angeles native has taken her campaign against plastic waste — an annoyance of her youth and later the medium of her work as a visual artist — and made it her life’s cause.

She co-founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition a decade ago, to bind together environmental groups trying to reduce the amount of plastic that goes into landfills and streets and then into streams, rivers and oceans. Her crusade includes changing consumer behavior — beginning with her own — in an effort to not only reduce waste today, but also to get companies to offer more products in reusable containers in order to slow the waste of the future….

read more at NBC News

Uwchlan becomes sixth Chesco municipality to set renewable energy target

Daily Local News, Feb 13, 2019

UWCHLAN—Uwchlan supervisors Monday night unanimously endorsed a transition to 100 percent renewable energy in line with international and national commitments to head off a worsening climate crisis.

Despite the falling snow, residents came out to show their support for this decision and expressed gratitude for the vision and leadership of the Board of Supervisors both in trying to reduce the immediate dangers of expanding pipelines and to prevent the impact of extreme weather due to climate disruption resulting from carbon and methane emissions.

The resolution calls for the development of an energy transition plan to be prepared for review by April 22, 2020 (Earth Day) which will include interim milestones, financial impacts, equity metrics, potential financing mechanisms and the percentage of clean energy to be locally produced.

Uwchlan’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) recommended the Board consider the resolution after consulting other communities who passed similar energy management targets both within the county and elsewhere.

More than 100 cities and municipalities across the nation and in Southeastern PA have pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. Six communities have already achieved the goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, including Burlington, VT, Georgetown TX and Greensburg, Kansas.

The Supervisors noted that momentum is building in Pennsylvania for a renewable energy future. Uwchlan joins Kennett Township, Downingtown, West Chester, East Bradford and Phoenixville in Chester County in setting specific targets for 100 percent clean and renewable energy community-wide. …

read more at Daily Local News

Riverkeeper case can proceed

by Bill Rettew, Daily Local News, Feb 13, 2019

PHILADELPHIA—On Feb. 12, 2019, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) defeated a motion to dismiss filed by Sunoco Pipeline L.P., thus allowing the case to proceed. DRN’s complaint was filed in June 2018 against Sunoco for their failure to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES permit) for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network released the following statement: “Our government, both state and federal, has been complicit in helping to advance the dirty fracked has industry despite its traumatic impacts on our water, air, forests, climate and future generations. When it comes to pipelines, not only is the law stacked against us, but our state and federal agencies have twisted themselves into pretzels to find ways to help pipeline companies advance the full power of the laws that should apply.

“The Clean Water Act is one place where this is abundantly clear. Our government officials have not required pipeline companies like Sunoco to comply with the pollution permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act, they have allowed the companies to evade this mandate of the law entirely. Had Pennsylvania mandated compliance with state and federal permitting requirements from the get go, we would not have had the devastating impacts we see today.”…

read more at Daily Local News

Make Your Grocery Game Zero-Waste

By Mukta Patil, Sierra Club, Feb 4 2019

Five ways to render grocery shopping easier on the planet—and your wallet

Shopping for groceries can be overwhelming. Once you get past the sheer volume of products staring down from the aisles, you’ve got to reckon with their ingredients, prices, and the way the food is packed. For environmentally conscious shoppers, the latter—excessive packaging and the resulting pollution—is especially irksome. Enter the zero-waste grocery store.

These small-but-budding enterprises are increasingly popping up, and they’re promising plastic-free, packaging-free products ranging from grains and produce to detergent and shampoo. The original zero-waste grocery story was the late in.gredients in Austin, Texas, which unfortunately shut down last April after five years of selling exclusively (un)packaged and locally sourced food. In its wake, however, in.gredients hatched a trend. The similarly modeled Package Free Shop cropped up in Brooklyn in 2017. Vancouver’s Nada opened in June 2018. Nada owner Brianne Miller, a marine biologist, says her zero-waste store and cafe was inspired by her research travels, which made her realize just how widespread plastic pollution was. “We want to inspire a better world by changing the way people shop for groceries,” Miller says. “Through these individual actions, we can reduce food waste and plastic pollution.”…

read more at Sierra Club

What we have learned about Mariner East since the latest sinkhole

letter, Daily Local News, 2/4/19 (in print 2/14/19)

On Sunday January 20th, 2019, yet another sinkhole opened up in a residential backyard in West Whiteland Township, exposing Mariner East 1. Mariner East 1 is an 80 year old pipeline that was repurposed and its flow reversed (against PHMSA recommendations) in 2014 to carry dangerous Natural Gas Liquids across Pennsylvania to be shipped overseas to make plastic. This is the 4th sinkhole on this street in 14 months, all caused by the Mariner East project. Directly impacted residents notified Sunoco, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and called 911.

It has become clear that the PUC is not an unbiased regulator when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Senator Dinniman even recently stated “It’s like the Public Utility Commission is all ‘utility’ and no ‘public’.”

The PUC is using the ARM Group, which is a full-service science and engineering consulting firm, “to monitor geological testing of the site and analyze the results for the PUC investigators”. The ARM Group is the same firm that was utilized last spring after previous sinkholes and ground subsidence concerns. According to that 2018 report, the ARM Group concluded that “the corrective actions taken and planned to be taken by Sunoco Pipeline L.P. (grouting and post-grouting monitoring program) as described herein will be sufficient to mitigate the risk to the integrity of the ME1 Pipeline”. To summarize, less than 9 months after the ARM Group determined this location to be stable, another sinkhole appeared, and the PUC has contracted them to do the same work again. Continue reading

Climate refugees are already on the move

from “Mothering on the Borders” by Yifat Susskind, Madre Speaks, winter 2018-19, p. 3, excerpt:

…As families shared their stories, one other, often overlooked, reason for leaving home stood out: climate change. “We could no longer grow food,” said Magdalena, a young mother from Guatemala. Shifting her four-year-old, Bibi, on her lap, she described the gathering panic of watching corn wither on the stalk. “Every morning it’s a little worse until you realize all is lost.” The parents in the circle nodded grimly. “After my daughter was born, we had less to eat every year.”

In fact, since Bibi’s birth in 2014, when the “child migrant crisis” on the southern US border began making headlines, a creeping “Dry Corridor” has cut through the four Central American countries with the highest rates of migration: Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala…. many migrants from Guatemala are, like Magdalena and Bibi, fleeing the drought that’s been intensified by a century of US carbon pollution….

read the whole article at Madre Speaks, winter 2018-19

From the linked article in The Nation:

“…According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the “impact and threat of climate-related hazards” displaced an average of 21.5 million people annually between 2008 and 2015….”

10 Animals Threatened by Climate Change

from Earth Day Network. [N.b. endangered species are the national theme for this year’s Earth Day observance in late April. For Earth Day events in Chester County, see the CCEA calendar.]

Every species worldwide is impacted by climate change. Rising temperatures and sea levels, less rain and more droughts. By 2100, an estimated 50% of all the world’s species could go extinct because of climate change.

Bumblebees are impacted by climate change in two related ways: Rising temperatures force populations northward to remain in cool climates and spring flowers bloom earlier than normal, leaving less time for bees to pollinate.

Whales rely on specific ocean temperatures for their migration, feeding, and reproductive habits. As sea temperatures rise, these changes disrupt habits necessary for whale survival.

Asian elephant habitat is negatively impacted by both lower rainfall and higher temperatures. Together, these threats have decreased the reproductive capacity of an already endangered species.

Giraffes have seen their population decline by 40% in the last 30 years. In addition to illegal poaching, two the most pressing dangers shrinking habitat and fewer acacia trees (their main food source) due to climate change.

Insects stand to suffer drastically from climate change. At the current rate of warming (2°C), roughly 18% of all insect species would be lost by 2100; if the planet were to warm by 3.2°C, that number would rise to 49%.

Oceanic bird species are directly threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change. Rising waters can submerge their coastal habitats and nests completely.

Sharks have difficulty hunting and a higher embryo mortality rate as ocean temperature and acidity rise worldwide. In the Pacific Ocean, rising temperatures force sharks northward by an average of 30 kilometers annually, disrupting ecosystems that depend on sharks.

Coral reefs are endangered due to rising sea temperatures. In the last three years alone, 72% of the world’s coral reefs protected by UNESCO experienced severe heat stress. Sustained heat stress causes coral bleaching, an often deadly occurrence in which coral starves from a loss of nutrition.

Monarch butterfly populations in California have fallen by as much as 95% since the 1980s due to habitat loss, increasing use of pesticides and loss of milkweed populations, all related to climate change caused by humans.

Great apes of Southeast Asia, perhaps the most endangered ape species, are in jeopardy of extinction due to deforestation caused by climate change with nearly 75% of forest cover at risk of deforestation.

See Earth Day Network for links and background info.