January & February 2018 Newsletter

Northeast Ohio Sierra Club’s next Conservation Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 3 at 7 PM in the Cleveland Heights Main Library, 2345 Lee Road. Our Executive Committee meeting will be held directly following the conclusion of the Conservation Committee Meeting.

Comment on the EPA’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan

The EPA is taking public comments on the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. All written statements and supporting information submitted during the public comment period will be considered with the same weight as oral comments and supporting information presented at the public hearing.

If you would like to comment on this proposed action, please submit your written comments online, by email, by mail, or by fax. Information about how to comment is available on EPA’s web site at www.epa.gov/stationary-sources-air-pollution/clean-power-plan-proposed-repeal-how-comment.

The comment period is open through January 16, 2018.

Carbon Fee and Dividend: Put a Price on Carbon!

Thursday, January 18, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Nighttown on Cedar Hill in Cleveland Heights
12383 Cedar Road (parking lot in back)

Join the Cleveland chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby for a free screening of a 26-minute video showing actor Bradley Whitford as he works to convince lawmakers of all political stripes to join the Climate Solutions Caucus in Congress to ultimately put a price on carbon. The Caucus has grown to 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats in less than 2 years.

We’ll follow the video with a Q&A discussion on carbon fee legislation and the road ahead. We look forward to hearing from you!

Come to find out how you can help advance carbon-fee-and-dividend legislation or just to learn more about it. Food and libations available to order from Nighttown.

For more info, email glennthecampbell@gmail.com.

Sponsored by Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Cleveland). Co-sponsored by CLEAN (Cleveland Environmental Action Network).

The Proposal for a Cuyahoga County Plastic & Paper Bag Fee Explained

Presenter: Sunny Simon, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman
Wednesday, January 3, 2018, 7pm – 9 pm
Highland Heights Community Center, 5827 Highland Road, Highland Heights.

Sunny Simon will explain and answer questions regarding the recently introduced legislation up for approval. If the legislation is approved, there will be a 10 cent fee on plastic and paper bags. The intent is to encourage all of us to bring our own reusable bags, avoiding single use plastic and paper bags that in almost all cases end up in the landfills….or worse…loose in the environment. Sponsored by Highland Heights Green Task Force.

Education, Empowerment, Action

By Laurel Hopwood, NEO Sierra Club Agriculture Chair

I had the pleasure of visiting an urban farm, called the Rid-All Green Partnership — Growing Food, Jobs & Green Neighborhoods. The founders turned an empty and forgotten piece of land in Cleveland’s Kinsman Neighborhood into an urban farm. So far two green houses, four hoop houses, an edible trail and a pond for fish farming have been built. Soil has been converted to “black gold.” This super nutritious soil was built from discarded produce from the Cleveland Food Bank, wood chips from Cleveland’s forestry department, coffee grounds supplied by local coffee houses. etc.

The founders have a passion to educate the next generation of Clevelanders to learn to grow and eat nutritious foods and to operate their own businesses in the food industry. Adults from diverse backgrounds can learn about providing equal access to high quality and affordable food.

The inviting energy of these Rid-All Green Partnership founders exudes peace and community. Without debate, we all need these during today’s very trying times. For more info, please visit greenghetto.org.

Extinction Does Matter

By Michael Melampy, NEO Sierra Club Rainforest Chair

Recently (Dec. 3, 2017) the Plain Dealer printed an op-ed piece by the evolutionary biologist R. Alexander Pyron that had originally appeared in the Washington Post. The Plain Dealer put it on the first page of its Forum section with the title: “Species Die. Get over it.” The gist of the article is that extinction is a natural part of the evolutionary process and we should not worry if humans are causing extinctions. Those extinctions will open up opportunities for the evolution of new species and life will go on as it has for hundreds of millions of years. This argument is not original to Pyron but has been used repeatedly to discredit efforts to conserve biodiversity. What is different this time is that a bona fide evolutionary biologist who teaches and does research at George Washington University has made the argument. So, of course, the article attracted attention and has probably been reprinted in newspapers all over the country.

My first reaction to the article was disbelief that an evolutionary biologist could have written it. The article displays a shocking lack of ecological understanding, even for someone whose research focuses primarily on constructing the phylogenies of different groups of reptiles. A phylogeny is the history of descent of a group of species from a common ancestor. People who study phylogenies can get wrapped up in doing anatomical, molecular, and statistical work that requires little ecological expertise. Perhaps that is Pyron’s problem. Whatever the problem, Pyron’s argument concerning extinction leaves out important ecological consequences. That extinction is a natural part of evolution is accepted by almost all biologists. However, those same biologists will tell you that mass extinctions over a relatively short period of time can so disrupt prevailing ecosystems that the course of evolution is radically altered. The species interactions that once maintained a particular set of environmental conditions are gone and new conditions favor the evolution of new species. These species will interact to establish new and very different ecosystems, ecosystems that will likely be very hostile to the continued existence of the species that evolved prior to the mass extinction. Hence, during the last mass extinction, the dinosaurs succumbed to an asteroid and were largely displaced as the major terrestrial vertebrates by the mammals. This fact has implications concerning the consequences of human impact on biodiversity. If, indeed, we are causing a sixth mass extinction, then we can expect the course of evolution to shift in unpredictable ways that likely will mean the end to the human species. Pyron seems to think that we can engage in mass extinction and then simply adapt to the resulting conditions. He admits that there may be problems in adapting, e.g. famine and collapsed global industries. The solution? Pyron calls for moderation, i.e. we should “save whatever species and habitats can be easily rescued.” Easily rescued? I would like to hear Donald Trump’s interpretation of that. Allowing a large percentage of the current global biota to vanish would be catastrophic from a human perspective. It would require us to adapt to radically altered environmental conditions, perhaps widespread drought or altered soil conditions, and most of us would simply lack the resources to do that. We already see this in the growing number of environmental refugees in places like the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. We are deeply dependent on the current assemblage of species that provides us with an atmosphere that we can breathe, water that we can drink, and food that we can eat. There is absolutely no guarantee that a different set of species will provide us with those necessities.

In Pyron’s defense, it should be noted that he posted a mea culpa on the internet (louisproyect.org/2017/11/27/alex-pyron-the-biologist-indifferent-to-extinction) in which he disavows much of what he said in the Washington Post article. Sadly, I doubt that any of the newspapers that published the op-ed will publish his disavowal. So, many with only a tenuous grasp of how evolution works will read Pyron’s article and conclude that there is scientific uncertainty concerning the need for biodiversity conservation. I can assure you that very little uncertainty about the need for conservation exists among scientists (check out the Ecological Society of America’s website if you need more convincing). Nevertheless, the newspapers think they have done their job by providing “balanced” reporting on the issue. The reporting is anything but balanced or truthful when an article like Pyron’s is given a huge headline on the first page of the Sunday op-ed section in the absence of any countervailing article. This is another reason why we in Sierra Club have to continually hold the press accountable and demand that they print the truth instead of distortion masquerading as balance.