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Ms. McGinty (& GRRN advocates),
I enjoyed very much the Mr. Sandalow's piece on Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. I find it refreshing that you are so inspired by her work. Since you've asked for others to share their thoughts on Mr. Sandalow's piece - I will tr to put them in context for the State of Pennsylvania from an outsiders perspective (here in NYC). Our fine City is blessed with the abundance of landfills that your state has to offer, it offers our leaders little incentive to stem the flow of waste that we produce from leaving our borders. Though Ms. Maathai's work is in Africa, I would hazard to guess she would not be nearly as impressed with the vast permitting capacity for landfills that Pennsylvania's DEP is only too willing to offer.
Here in NYC, a grassroots campaign for "Zero Waste" has sprung up over the past year and change, inspired in part by colleagues in PA that have agonized for years over the role that your government has had in ever expanding opportunities for not only our residents, but any numbers of others to plunder the earth with extreme prejudice. Your state has also been supportive of incineration under current Renewable Portfolio Standard Legislation in consideration - this is in stark contrast to NYS's recently adopted RPS - see paranthetical notation and/or link for details.
[The Commission excluded power from garbage incineration facilities because of incineration's documented threats to public health and the environment. "We're pleased that the Governor and the Public Service Commission Chairman William Flynn had the courage to stand up to the powerful incineration lobby. They based their decision to exclude incineration on strong science and protecting the public health of New Yorkers," said Kennedy. - excerpted from press release at: http://www.e2.org/ext/document.jsp?docName=NY_PRS_press_release]
So perhaps it should surprise me to receive the following action alert (below). Perhaps it is time for you to step up and follow the road made by Ms. Maathai's work and denounce attempts to support the waste industry in Pennsylvania. (I only hope that this email finds its way to your inbox and I encourage others to pick up the phone as directed by the action alert below).
Timothy J.W. Logan
PA Energy Legislation to Promote Landfills and Incinerators
What started off as legislation to promote renewable energy is now
into a bill to promote trash incineration, landfills, waste coal
and other non-renewables like coal-bed methane (natural gas from coal
Worse yet, the legislation is being modified so that it would be
for any type of local government to restrict such "alternative energy"
facilities in any way. The way it's worded, this may even prevent
zoning from being used to limit landfills, if the landfill gas would be
burned to produce electricity.
House Bill 2250 is the leading bill that would establish a "renewable
portfolio standard" (RPS), requiring all electric suppliers in the
have a certain percentage of their power coming from "renewable"
sources. A proposed amendment currently being drafted would replace
entire bill with a bill that is far more dangerous. It would:
* remove HB 2250's prohibition on burning of municipal, residual,
industrial or hazardous wastes for the purposes of generating the
"renewable" energy required in the bill
* replaces the term "renewable" with "alternative energy" so that
fuels can be used
* take away the rights of local governments to restrict any
energy" source in any way
"Alternative Energy" sources would now include:
* landfills producing electricity from their landfill gas
* trash incinerators
* waste coal burners
* coal-bed methane drilling operations and their burners
* animal waste digesters (and digesters for sewage sludge)
* direct incineration of crops, crop wastes, wood pallets and animal
It would also include the clean technologies such as wind, solar,
low-impact hydroelectric, fuel cells (using clean hydrogen sources) and
energy efficiency. However, as the legislation is structured, it's
unlikely that the cleanest technologies (solar and wind) will play a
significant role in meeting the bill's 15% alternative energy by 2020
Please contact your State Representatives Ross and Adolph about this
(contact below) and also contact your own representative and ask them
speak with their colleagues (particularly Ross, Adolph and the House
leadership) about this as well.
Representative Chris Ross
(Prime Sponsor of HB 2250)
Representative William F. Adolph, Jr.
(Chair of House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee)
I wanted to share the following beautifully and compellingly written piece by David Sandalow for three reasons: first, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai is a friend of mine and I know firsthand that she literally has put her own life on the line many times in order to defend the life and dignity of others; second, because the piece helps us see the importance of smart resource stewardship and environmental protection; and third, because David worked for me in the White House and I am enormously moved by and proud of his continued exemplary leadership. Share with me your thoughts.
A Green Peace Prize
By David B. Sandalow
Her musical name hides a fierce spirit. For more than three decades she's faced down dictators and detractors, building a Green Belt Movement in her native Kenya and helping plant millions of trees around Africa. Now Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, is suddenly a global symbol of the often overlooked connection between protecting the environment and preventing conflict.
Like so much in her career, the award has sparked controversy.
Why, critics ask, should the Nobel Peace Prize go to an environmental activist? Under Alfred Nobel's will, the prize belongs to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." For more than 50 years after the industrialist's death in 1896, the Nobel Committee (appointed by the Norwegian parliament) awarded the Peace Prize to politicians, diplomats and international bureaucrats.
But after World War II, the Nobel Committee began taking a more expansive view of its charter. In 1952 the committee awarded the Peace Prize to Albert Schweitzer, a physician and missionary whose legendary contributions to humanity did not include -- except perhaps indirectly -- conflict avoidance of the type narrowly described by Nobel's testament. Since then winners have included Norman Borlaug, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel -- extraordinary individuals whose selection reflects growing interest by the committee both in inspirational leaders and the forces behind strife.
In this tradition, selecting an environmental activist for the Nobel Peace Prize is not only proper but inspired. Doing so when much of the world's attention is focused on daily casualties in a controversial war is especially farsighted. By shining a spotlight on a topic that would otherwise receive little attention -- the role of the natural environment in human conflict -- the Nobel Committee may help prevent tragedies.
But what does protecting the environment have to do with preventing conflict? First, environmental degradation is often a precursor of violence.
Nowhere is this demonstrated more vividly than in Darfur. The immediate cause of the tragedy in Sudan is the ruthless behavior of government forces and militias toward unarmed civilians. But lying behind today's disaster is the desertification of northern Darfur during the past two decades. Extended drought and poor land management have pushed the desert southward year after year, forcing Arab nomads from the north deeper into southern farmlands
while breeding resentment and conflict.
Could the tragedy in Darfur have been averted if a charismatic leader such as Wangari Maathai had helped the people of Sudan protect their soils and prevent desertification? Perhaps. Similar questions could be asked in many places around the globe.
In the Philippines, a long-standing insurgency finds a ready source of recruits from those trapped in poverty by reckless deforestation. In Mexico, soil erosion and deforestation fueled a rebellion in Chiapas in the mid-1990s that shook the national government and contributed to a peso crisis that rattled financial markets around the world.
In Pakistan, where the world community has a vital interest in preventing deterioration of the social order, degraded croplands are forcing many poor farmers to migrate to Karachi and other urban centers, where shortages of clean water and electric power have sparked violence.
Scholarly studies suggest that ecological stress is often a cause of conflict within nations (and even, occasionally, between nation-states).
Ecological stress frequently exacerbates more obvious social problems, such as ethnic rivalries, that are more likely to be identified as the immediate causes of strife.
There are other connections between the environment and conflict. A common affinity for the natural world can help bring rivals together and overcome bitterness. It's no accident that in the 1970s, as doors between China and the United States opened for the first time in decades, the Chinese government sent a panda to the United States as a symbol of rapprochement.
In addition, environmental activism has played an important role in the struggle for democracy. In Central and Eastern Europe, environmental groups such as the Danube Circle provided vehicles for popular dissatisfaction with communist regimes in the late 1980s. In China, protests over the Three Gorges Dam helped spark the democracy movement at Tiananmen Square.
The compelling immediacy of car bombs, kidnappings and beheadings will always capture headlines. Wise leaders will pay attention not just to today's battles but also to the forces that can help reduce conflict in years to come.
The Nobel Committee spoke wisely last week in recognizing that "[p]eace
on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment." Wangari Maathai's example can help peace take root in many places around the world.
The writer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, was senior director for environmental affairs on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration.
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