KEC Gets a Big Surprise!

Yesterday, banjo legends Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn graced the Kent Stage with their presence and their music. It was a packed house, and an amazing concert as they start on their tour promoting their new album, Echo in the Valley. Earlier that afternoon, their assistant graced KEC treasurer, Bob Wilson, with her voice (but no music). While on tour, Fleck and Washburn make it a habit to recognize a local organization in each concert city and donate the proceeds from their merchandise table to that organization. In Kent, they chose Kent Environmental Council for this honor!

A big thank you to the Kent Stage for bringing Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn to Kent, a bigger thank you to Fleck and Washburn for recognizing the work that KEC does, and an even bigger thank you to the people at the Kent Stage who 1) know good music and support it, 2) support local businesses like the Stage, and 3) support the work that KEC does by buying some merchandise.

In case you didn’t get a chance to see the actual concert, here is a song from their new album. Come All You Coal Miners was written by Sarah Ogan Gunning, and tells of the life of a coal miner’s wife in the early twentieth century. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but it’s a great reminder that, while the push to move away from fossil fuels has many facets – environmental, social, political, and more – people concerned about the environment are not the only group to be in this fight and we have made significant improvements since the time of Gunning’s writing and activism. And if you’re a little bummed that we’re still trying to move toward safer, cleaner fuel sources after all this time, there’s an Echo in the Valley song for that, too, just search for ‘Don’t Let it Bring You Down’ (or better, buy the album).

First Annual Bog Day to celebrate National Public Lands Day!

On September 30th, Friends of the Kent Bog joined with Ohio Department of Natural Areas and Preserves, Portage Parks District, the Nature Conservancy, Kent State, and other groups to put on three wild hikes through the major public, protected ‘bogs’ in the Kent area- Kent Bog, Triangle Lake Bog, and Herrick Fen. With big thanks to everybody who made this happen, here are a few of the photos from the 30th. If you didn’t make it this year, maybe next year you can join us on Public Lands Day when we do this all over again.

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Kent Ballot Issue #8 Has KEC Support

The Kent Environmental Council endorses Issue 8, supporting the capital cost through the sale of bonds to build a Kent Health and Wellness Center on property on Haymaker Parkway and Middlebury Road.  This will be a community  health and wellness center that will provide space and programming across the life span.  While many  people use the health and wellness center at KSU, some community members are not comfortable sharing the space with college students, for whom it is primarily intended to serve and who fund it through their student activity fee.  A new facility will also provide  convenient space for youth sports programs during the winter months.  Kent Parks and Recreation is already renting space to provide space for youth programming in the colder months.  Also planned is leasing space to a medical partner, to provide seamless physical therapy and exercise programming for people recovering from injury or surgery, a critical factor in full recovery.  An indoor track is planned to allow for walking or running during the colder months.  Space is planned for programming directed at older citizens. The new facility’s location across from Fred Fuller park will allow for easy walking and bicycle access using the hike and bike trail, as well as the potential for outdoor rentals to enjoy outdoor recreation during the winter months.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 will have a monthly cost of $7.43; a senior’s cost will be $5.57.  Staying healthy is an investment in your future and in the future of Kent.
More information can be found at the Parks and Rec website.

Regulatory Accountability Act

What follows is the text of the public address given by Dr. Robert Heath in Akron, Ohio on Wednesday, 20 September 2017, in opposition of H.R. Bill 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017. The full text of the bill can be found here.

“Most recently I have served on the Lake Erie Phosphorous Objectives Review Panel (LEPOR), a committee of scientists appointed by and acting on behalf of the Science Advisory Board of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of that panel is to assure that the regulations and procedures for managing nutrient inputs into the lake are based on the best sound science currently available. The objective of those regulations is to control the development of of hazardous algal blooms which put toxins into the western basin of Lake Erie. Those toxins possess a direct threat to human health because millions of people on both sides of the US-Canadian border use Lake Erie as a source for drinking water. Cities that depend on Lake Erie as a drinking water source include Toledo and Cleveland. You may recall that those toxins caused a shutdown of drinking water in Toledo in August 2014.

There are two points I want to make regarding the regulatory process:

  1. It is a long, tedious process, necessarily involving input from numerous stakeholders, including scientific review and public comments. the LEPOR Panel was first convened in October 2014, shortly after the shutdown of the Toledo public water supply. The goal at that time was to have the regulations in place by 2018. It is now certain that the process will take even longer than originally intended. In the meanwhile, hazardous algal blooms continue to recur each year after year.
  2. Regulations are put in place to protect human health and welfare. It is true that often regulations result in costly upgrades to existing infrastructures, but end up providing greater economic benefits to Americans at large. For example, consider the Toledo water crisis. The necessary upgrade to the Toledo drinking water facilities cost over $1M, yet the cost of effectively shutting down the major city in northwestern Ohio for 4 days far exceeded that cost in lost revenue, jobs, and human efforts to find sufficient drinking water.

My concerns with the legislation proposed by Senator Portman are:

a. that it will greatly lengthen the duration of the regulatory process, conceivably bringing it to a standstill in an endless litigation process;

b. that it is unnecessary because the regulatory process already has sufficient opportunity for input by all stakeholders, including commercial interests; and

c. that it identifies ‘high impact rule’ and ‘major rule’ solely in economic terms, rather than focusing on the impact on human health or economic opportunity. By focusing solely on the economic impact of potential regulations it is intended to support and aggrandize economic interests of the relative few, while leaving the health and welfare of the general American public health in jeopardy.”

 

Democracy Day in Kent, 2017

On Thursday, 5 October 2017, Kent held its annual Democracy Day event, a chance for every citizen who wishes to speak out publicly and to City Council about the problems of money in politics. Chairman of Kent Environmental Council Lis Regula, and board member Ted Voneida both spoke out on how the infamous Citizens United ruling creates challenges for the environment. Lis’s words are found below, and Ted’s words came from Bob Heath’s address in Akron concerning the currently pending Regulatory Accountability Act and his concerns with this legislation.

“The US has the equal protection of rights as a central tenet to our identity as a nation, right alongside the freedom of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We have debated how to define rights and how to define citizen throughout our history, and I’ll again thank the city of Kent for extending those protected rights in Kent earlier this year. Today, however, I’m going to be focusing on that definition of citizens instead, or who exactly is entitled to those protected rights, because today’s definition of “person” is possibly different than what one might think.

As a biology teacher, I deal with how to define living things all the time. We define life as something that uses energy to grow and reproduce, responds and adapts to its environment, maintains homeostasis, and is made of cells. I think most of us would probably agree that humans fit that description, and that humans in the US have the freedoms set forth in our Bill of Rights. However, today corporations also enjoy those protected freedoms. This has not been an overnight occurrence, and in fact has been a slow, gradual process beginning with the Santa Clara County versus Southern Pacific Railroad ruling of 1886 which granted the 14th amendment and equal protection under the law to corporations. In 1906, the Hale versus Henkel decision extended the 4th amendment preventing unreasonable search and seizure to corporations. This trend continued with the 1976 Buckley versus Valeo ruling which granted 1st amendment protections to corporations, and culminated in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision that ruled money as a protected speech.

Which brings us to today’s Democracy in Kent. Living organisms like humans require a few things in order to stay living, such as clean air to breathe, a source of nutrition for building and repairing our cells, clean water to help maintain our homeostasis. Without access to these things, living organisms are highly likely to weaken, fall ill, and eventually cease to live, or die. Corporations do not suffer this same affliction of dependency on the natural environment. Corporations are legal constructs, which right now have similar rights to humans, and can control vast amounts of wealth. One right that corporations yet lack is the right of the vote, however, since 2010 and the Citizens United decision, corporations have been able to spend unprecedented amounts of money to influence how actual people *do* vote, usually so as to elect representatives and legislation that benefits those corporations.

This is dangerous because corporations do not have those limiting requirements that humans do. As legal constructs they continue to exist, participate in the economy, and influence our political process without regard to the availability of those things necessary for living organisms. They may choose to act responsibly, or they may not, but they cannot be jailed and cannot die because of a degraded environment in the way that a living thing can. Corporations may not have the vote, but they have the money to influence the votes that matter.

At the same time, voter purges, gerrymandering, and restrictive voter ID laws across the country restrict the right of the vote for more and more humans, especially humans from historically oppressed classes. Those same groups of people are the people who have had to deal the most with environmental injustice, thanks to Not in My Backyard or NIMBY, attitudes. We have a system today in which essentially immortal corporations, that do not require any amount of environmental sustainability, have more ability to influence decision making within our government than humans, and especially people who have the least power in society who are also left to deal with the messes made by those corporations. Is that the democracy that we want?”

– Lis Regula

 

Grant Winners Announced!

Kent Environmental Council Awards $3,035.84 in Local Grants

Kent Environmental Council has awarded $3,035.84 in “Legacy for the Environment” Grants, which are aimed at improving the environment in Portage County.  The following requests were awarded:

Portage County Master Gardeners—$650 to present a workshop teaching 50 participants the importance of composting for the environment, how to compost. and how to use the compost in the garden. A reference book and kitchen bucket will be provided to each participant.  Follow up with participants to survey their use and results.  Portage Soil and Water District is a partner in this project.

Edible Kent—$385.84 to install and secure a demonstration rain barrel to help water a vegetable garden near the farmer’s market.  The grant will also aid the organization in paying for their Adopt-A-Spot rental.  The organization provides education about sustainable food production and donates this organic food to the community.

Kent State University Foundation— $1,000 toward the purchase of a rechargeable battery for Z. E. B., a zero-emission golf cart vehicle which will be used on campus to transport visitors and demonstrate the feasible use of Fuel Cell technology.  The students responsible for building this vehicle are working under Dr. Yanhai Du at Kent State University’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability, and Technology.

Family and Community Services—$1000 to replace two paper towel dispensers at the Community Clothing Center with energy efficient air hand dryers, thus reducing paper towel usage two thirds, leading to saving trees, and reducing waste water and air pollution that result from paper towel manufacturing. The County Clothing Center provides free gently used clothing and other household items to individuals in need.

All checks will be distributed at the KEC Annual Meeting, February 27, 2017, 6:30 PM, at Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent—Fessenden Hall 228 Gougler Avenue, Kent 44240.  After a short business meeting, there will be a presentation on solar energy, free and open to the public.

Third Annual Edith Chase Symposium

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Planning for this year’s Edith Chase Symposium is well underway, and this year’s program looks to be (yet again) better than the last. For the 2017 program, Edith Chase Symposium will have its own full 501(c)3 status, and to celebrate there will be not only the annual Friday evening lecture, but also readings at the Wick Poetry Center and a guided tour of the restored Plum Creek Park. You can find out more information, register for the events, and contribute to the festivities at http://www.edithchasesymposium.org/.

-Lis Regula