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PennFuture Facts :: brief, interesting looks at topical environmental issues PennFuture Facts :: brief, interesting looks at topical environmental issues

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Today’s the day. Give a salute to clean energy!

Graphic of a solar installer with a flag in the background. As we celebrate our nation's 239th birthday with pool parties and picnics this weekend, let's not forget that it takes energy to cool our houses and grill our holiday food.

Show your civic pride this Fourth of July and declare your energy independence by donating to PennFuture so we can continue to push for more renewable, homegrown energy and a brighter future for our state!

Pennsylvania has long been an energy innovator. It's essential that we continue to lead as we build a clean energy economy to restore our environment and provide a sustainable future for our kids. PennFuture's job is to work with policymakers across the state and the nation to shape public policy and make Pennsylvania a leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our educational campaigns convinced large institutions, businesses, and individual consumers to go green and be sustainable.

Will you help us continue to fight for more renewable energy?

Three generous donors have agreed to match a total of $5,000 in gifts for our campaign to push for more renewable energy. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar and your support will really make a difference.

Renewable energy is projected to make up 10 percent of U.S. energy consumption in the next year, but in Pennsylvania, renewable energy makes up only 4 percent of our total energy consumed. Meanwhile, our neighbors in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware continue to deploy more renewable energy — and have more renewable energy jobs than Pennsylvania.

We know we can do better. PennFuture will continue to work tirelessly for more clean energy in Pennsylvania. Like the Founding Fathers, we're not just sitting around. We're pushing forward to make our state a leader in clean energy to create jobs, improve air quality, and reduce our dependence on foreign energy supplies.

America has been the land of innovation for almost two and a half centuries. We plan to continue that tradition by making bold strides in clean energy production right here in Pennsylvania.

Declare your independence! Salute clean energy and support PennFuture with your tax-deductible donation today!

Mary Kane is development associate for PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg.

Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate engenders a guilty conscience

Even if you aren’t a Roman Catholic, you have to give Pope Francis credit. He has been making strides in Catholicism since the beginning of his papal duties, making the news quite often with his progressive actions. Typically, the Pope reaches a wide audience of Catholics and Christians around the world, totaling roughly one billion people.

However, in Pope Francis’ encyclical on the
environment (released June 18), he addressed an even wider audience: everyone on this planet, not simply those aligned with his religious beliefs.

Using his broad platform, the Pope called on everyone to care more for the environment, referring to it as the common good. In his message, he focused on the moral concerns we should have for the environment. We have seen the effectiveness of policies and scientific knowledge on helping the environment but can the moral aspect be effective as well? Can it be more effective?

“Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”

The Pope’s approach on the environment is intriguing. He acknowledges the reality of climate change and pins its cause on humans. He acknowledges how humanity has impacted our environment, affecting our common home. He is prompting us to think and question and, perhaps, instilling a guilty conscience in us all.

Feeling guilty may well make us want to change our behavior. To be sure, guilt is a tricky motivator at best—too much of it causes us to give up or shut down. However, a measure of awareness in the form of guilt paired with real alternatives can lead us to take action.

We understand this motivator in our day-to-day interactions with others. For example, when we wrong another person, we tend to feel guilty and want to make it right. Surely, the earth is a living organism, and an enormous one at that. However, we tend to feel less connected to it in comparison to people. We interact with it every day yet we place more concern on human relationships than environmental ones. Now, however, this guilty conscience is being applied to the environment. We are being asked to think of the environment in a moral way, in the same way we think about each other.

“This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature.”

In his encyclical, he is applying a concept of eco-guilt, or guilt from not meeting standards for behavior that aids the environment. In turn, this instilled guilty conscience calls us to act.

According to research, by framing environmental deterioration as human-caused, it makes us want to act in more environmentally friendly ways. These issues become more tangible for us. It puts these problems into perspective. The Pope has placed humans at the center of this issue: Our behavior has harmed our Earth; we are the problem and, yet, we are the solution.

Pope Francis’ morally framed message is one from which we can learn. Religious opinions aside, his encyclical has spoken on a global issue to his global audience. He has brought attention to this vital issue. This attention can only help progress our environment. Now it’s up to us, the common person, to protect our common home.

Nikole Baker is a PennFuture intern based in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Go the extra Yards: Take Dad to PennFuture on Tap!

Pilsner glass with the PennFuture logo filled with beer and surrounded by hops. Kick off Father's Day weekend with a fundraiser for PennFuture at Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia this Friday from 7:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. It's not too late — you can still attend this premiere event! A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.

Treat Dad to a great evening of food and drink, and feel good about supporting local sustainable businesses and PennFuture. Enjoy the three-hour open bar with a wide selection of terrific craft beers from Yards Brewing (plus wine and soft drinks, too). Eat delicious food from Whole Foods Callowhill and the award-winning Guerrilla Ultima food truck. Take a tour of Pennsylvania's first 100 percent wind powered brewery.

Skip the trip to the mall and pick up Dad's gift at our silent auction.

Here's just a small sample of the donated items:
  • Four pavilion deck tickets to the Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game on August 4
  • Four premium seats to a Villanova basketball game this fall at the Wells Fargo Center plus a signed basketball, t-shirt, and bumper sticker
  • A gift certificate to The Night Kitchen Bakery and CafĂ©
  • A rain barrel with free local installation from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
  • A hot air balloon ride from Fundraiser Rides
  • A consultation valued at $350 from Naturescapes Landscaping
Come check out the rest of the items generously donated by businesses and organizations. Bid early and bid often!

This fundraiser would not be possible without the generous support of our event sponsors!

Premium Tap Premium Tap Sponsor: CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. Gold Tap Gold Tap Sponsor: Infrastructure Solution Services, Inc. Silver Tap Silver Tap Sponsor: Fulton Financial Advisors Silver Tap Sponsor: Kreischer Miller Silver Tap Sponsor: Whole Foods Market Callowhill Bronze Tap Bronze Tap Sponsor: SAP
Bronze Tap Sponsor: Meliora Design LLC
Meet the folks behind the scenes at PennFuture and mingle with other environmentally-minded individuals as we learn about the work of the Philadelphia Water Department from our guest speaker, Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug.

At the end of the evening, leave the driving to Uber car ride service. New riders can use our exclusive promo code — PENNFUTURE — to receive up to $20 off a ride home.

If you can't make it, send a virtual round by making a donation to PennFuture and we'll raise a glass in your honor. Cheers!

Mary Kane is events and development associate for PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg.

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge needs your yard

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), of which we are a proud state affiliate, has joined dozens of conservation and gardening groups to form the National Pollinator Garden Network, which recently launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

The decline in pollinators has been alarming, and the Challenge is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that will help maintain and improve the health of bees, bats, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators. 

Pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we take each day. Despite their critical importance, they are at a pivotal point in their own survival. While the reasons for their decline are many, we know that more nectar and pollen sources will help improve their health and increase their numbers.

Every household, business, community, and school can provide food and habitat for pollinators by adding pollinator-friendly plants and trees to their gardens and landscapes. NWF will work to rally hundreds of thousands of folks, just like you and me, to help reach the goal of one million pollinator gardens by the end of 2016.
You can easily participate in the Challenge by turning your yard or garden into a Certified Wildlife Habitat. It’s easy!  Just provide some food, water, and cover for pollinators and visit NWF’s website to certify your yard.

Jen Quinn is central Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Harrisburg. She tweets @QuinnJen1.

Allegheny SolarFest 2015

This weekend, when the sun is at its furthest point from the equator, us folks in the northern hemisphere will enjoy the longest day of the year.

More sunlight equals more time to spend in the beautiful outdoors and that's cause for celebration: Join us for the annual Allegheny SolarFest, this Saturday at Millvale Riverfront Park.

At this free, family-friendly event, you’ll be able to learn about solar initiatives in western PA and enjoy fun activities for the whole family. From electric cars and bikes to a rock climbing wall, they'll have it all. There will also be live music, food trucks, and local craft beer to keep you entertained throughout the day.

Swing by Allegheny SolarFest, rain or shine, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. this Saturday, June 20. Attendance is free but please register. And did we mention that the entire event will be powered by solar? How cool is that?!

Nicole Catino is Penn Future’s 2015 Student Conservation Association Green Cities Sustainability Fellow and is based in Pittsburgh.

A Range of violations on shale gas drilling in PA

Natural gas driller Range Resources, which has substantial operations in the Marcellus Shale region, has been fined $8.9 million by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for allowing a "defectively cemented gas well" to leak methane and other substances into groundwater and a stream in Lycoming County. This is the largest fine ever assessed for a shale gas drilling violation in Pennsylvania and is double the then-record $4.1 million fine that Range was assessed in September 2014 for wastewater impoundments that were leaking fracking fluid.

While the driller is appealing the fine to the state's Environmental Hearing Board, DEP Secretary John Quigley is confident that agency action was necessary. "Range Resources has the responsibility to eliminate the gas migration that this poorly constructed well is causing," he said in a statement. "Refusing to make the necessary repairs to protect the public and the environment is not an option."

Photo by Penn State News via Creative Commons

Yep, the top cop is on the beat, which is exactly what the people of Pennsylvania want, and expect, from their environmental regulator. On the flip side is yet another drilling company that refuses to acknowledge its actions with respect to methane leaks that are hurting our air and water.

The citizens of the Commonwealth, as per Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania constitution, are entitled to "...clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment..." Drinking water supplies contaminated by methane leaks are not acceptable. Similarly, choking on air fouled by methane emissions from natural gas drilling operations is not what Pennsylvanians signed on for.

Natural gas drillers will continue to operate with impunity in Pennsylvania until we say they cannot. The civil penalty announced by DEP on June 16 is the right action around an unfortunate set of circumstances.

PennFuture supports proposed revisions to the state's oil and gas laws under Pa. Code Chapter 78 as a vital step toward holding drillers accountable and thereby protecting public health and the environment. We are also calling for the direct regulation of methane emissions in Pennsylvania as is the case in other gas-drilling states. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, should not be leached into our water and spewed into our air by irresponsible operators.

Enforcement of existing regulations is necessary, but the goal is to not have such leaks in the first place. We hope the lessons learned from this and other violations will allow DEP to continually improve our regulations and require best practices industry-wide.

Elaine Labalme is Strategic Campaigns Director for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh. She tweets @NewGirlInTown.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pittsburgh, a resilient city

Point State Park in Pittsburgh at Sunset
Point State Park at Sunset
From steel, to collapse, to a diverse knowledge and health-based economy, Pittsburgh has come to embody the definition of a resilient city. Our growing economy alone doesn't make this the vibrant city that it is, however. Pittsburgh’s rivers, trees and the air we breathe impact our health and well being. As climate change exacerbates bad air on hot days and brings more intense storms and extreme cold, protecting our environment will mean protecting our neighborhoods. Smart policies and planning now can turn environmental threats into impetus for bolstering healthy and cohesive communities.

That is what the Rockefeller Foundation saw in our city when they selected Pittsburgh to be one of only 100 Resilient Cities, worldwide. 

100 Resilient Cities provides resources and guidance for an active network of urban hubs throughout the world. The first group of 32 cities began work in December 2013 and the second group was announced in December 2014. Of the 331 applications for the second round, Pittsburgh was one of 35 to be selected and PennFuture is thrilled to be part of the local collaboration to make our city stronger.

On June 6, we met with other stakeholders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors for an agenda-setting workshop. The conversations were eclectic and electric, and centered around key urban concerns (both chronic and acute), many of which overlap with our environmental efforts, including:
  • Infrastructure failure and flooding concerns (in addition to safety concerns, flooding equals raw sewage in our streams and rivers -- where we boat, swim and get our drinking water).
  • Hazardous materials accidents (oil bomb trains, anyone?
  • Heat waves (unhealthy ozone pollution is expected to get worse as summers get hotter)
  • Significant environmental degradation (clean air, clean water and healthy land: the building blocks of life
With our own holistic mission to create a just future where nature, communities and the economy thrive, we at PennFuture are very excited about Pittsburgh’s participation in the 100 Resilient Cities effort. It makes sense and the time is ripe.

Nicole Catino is PennFuture's 2015 Student Conservation Association Green Cities Sustainability Fellow and is based in Pittsburgh.