Kent Health Department Interim Commissioner Talks about Mosquito Management, Bats, Ticks, Much More at KEC Breakfast Meeting

by Lorraine McCarty

Mosquito management and other matters involving the Kent Health Department were the topics of discussion when the interim commissioner for the department, Justin Smith, spoke at the KEC breakfast meeting on July 30. 

Mosquito Management

Smith, who came to his position with a degree in conservation from Kent State University, said that trapping mosquitos is his passion, but he realizes that other methods must be used for the health and safety of residents. Smith then discussed the city’s four-part mosquito-control program–education, surveillance, larviciding and adulticiding–which runs from May through September.

Education. People need to know that mosquitos breed every five days in stagnant water and that they need only very small  amounts of water, such as a tire track or a bottle cap, to multiply. The health department uses interns as customer-service representative to talk to people about the risks of rain barrels, the need to empty buckets and other sources of standing water, and the need to change water in birdbaths every five days. Smith noted that a bubbler helps if you have a have a small fountain in your yard. He added that it is important for people to keep their properties free of possible breeding grounds.

Surveillance. The health department identifies locations throughout the city where mosquito populations are building up at both natural and man-made breeding sites. Staff set traps for mosquito specimens on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and come back the next morning to identify what is in the traps. Smith said his staff has found up to 3,000 mosquitos in one trap. They count the number of mosquitos and then send the mosquitos to Columbus, where the insects are tested for viruses. The results come back in a week. If something dangerous was found, Smith said, the health department will issue a news release within one week and spray the quadrants of the city where the problem mosquitos were found. 

Smith said the health department recently caught a mosquito that tested positive for West Nile virus. The virus, he added, probably was brought into the area by migrant birds. No human cases of West Nile have been reported in Kent or in Portage County, said Smith, adding that mosquitos with West Nile virus are found throughout Ohio. The Asian tiger mosquito, said Smith, often comes from the south and usually is found in junkyards, in places where scrap tires are left in the open and in garden shops. The tree hole mosquito, on the other hand, poses the danger of encephalitis. Smith said he knew of one local case that involved a mosquito bite and the development of encephalitis–that of a six-year-old boy in Stow.

Mosquito larvae

Larviciding. The daytime treatment of areas of standing water helps reduce the mosquito population, said Smith. He noted that when staff are driving around and see potential breeding sites, they dip a scoop into the water and, if they find larvae, they get the landowners to correct the problem or they treat the larvae with a naturally occurring bacterium called Bti, which is toxic only to mosquito and black-fly larvae and won’t harm beneficial insects. Daytime treatment and the use of Bti, said Smith, are the most effective controls and are the ones used the most. Cold weather can kill the larvae but, if the larvae do survive, it is in storm drains. Smith noted, however, that storm drains in Kent are difficult to treat because water in those drains flows into the Cuyahoga River.

Adulticiding. The evening spraying of residential streets to reduce the number of adult mosquitos is the last resort and is used when a virus has been found or when the nuisance value of the mosquitos has exceeded a certain threshold. The health department gets many calls, both positive and negative, about  The chemicals used have changed from the past. Kontrol 4-4, said Smith, is not the most environmentally friendly product, but it is what the department can afford. Zenodex also is used and has a toxicity level that Smith describes as “less than a cup of coffee.” It is water-based rather than oil-based and therefore leaves no residue, Smith noted. The health department does not spray until sundown, which helps to protect dragonflies, bees and moths by limiting their exposure to the chemicals, although moths, said Smith, can be collateral damage. He said the health department does its best to be less toxic to bees and uses a product called Mavrick Perimeter to spray on a tree line in mosquito-infested areas but only as a last resort.

It’s important to try to avoid being bitten by mosquitos, said  spraying. Smith. He noted that mosquitos are attracted to odors–especially body odors. They also look for carbon dioxide, starting with birds and on up the food chain. Covering up outside also is important, said Smith, adding that health department workers use a product called Repel, which contains 45% DEET, as they complete their outdoor tasks. Smith stressed that when using DEET, spray it on clothes and not on skin. “Drench from the knees down with the stuff. It stinks but works,” said Smith.

When asked about climate change, Smith said that it can affect the types of mosquitos found in the environment. “We got rid of malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitos, but it could come back,” said Smith. For more information about the Kent Health Department’s mosquito-management program or for a form to request mosquito-control services, click here

Bats

Purple martins (the largest North American swallow) and bats both eat mosquitos. There has been an increase in the bat population, said Smith, adding that about one in 12 bats has rabies. They bite or spit the virus, which is 99% fatal. Smith noted, however, that the benefit of bats outweighs the rabies threat. The health department has a brochure on bats with more information.

Ticks

Ticks are among the southern bugs can make their way up to Northeast Ohio, said Smith. The increase in the number of  ticks is getting worse and worse, he added. This year is the first time that Smith has seen blacklegged ticks in Kent. The ticks transmit Lyme disease, which is common in the South. Smith added the health department also is on the lookout for the American dog tick, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the Lone Star tick, which we have not been seen in Kent. Both ticks are very susceptible to cold weather but, as the climate warms, they could come here and survive, said Smith. 

Because ticks can cause disease, it is crucial to get a tick off of you within 24 hours, said Smith. “Don’t grab and pull. Use tweezers instead. Just tug on it like you would taking off a Band-Aid, and it will pop out. You want to avoid backflow of toxins into the body,” said Smith.

Deer-Population Control

Deer population control is on Kent City Council’s agenda, said Smith. The health department, he said, is trying to get council to allow sharpshooters to kill deer for population control and  then donate the meat to food banks. Once in a while, said Smith, the health department has moved a deer. No one else can remove deer, he added. Deer also are involved with the spread of ticks. Smith explained that ticks fill up by biting a deer, and then they drop off the deer and are left where people and animals can pick them up when they walk in the area. Smith noted that the walking path to Dix Stadium from Kent State University is one that deer also use because it is easier for the deer to use. This path, said Smith, is where the health department finds the most deer ticks.

Food Safety, Housing and More

The health department also oversees food safety (and teaches classes on it), housing violations and many other health-related activities. Smith also noted that beehives and monarch  butterfly sites can be registered with the state for $10. Registration is helpful, said Smith, because it lets the health department know where beehives and monarch butterflies are located and thus try to avoid these sites when spraying. The transportation of queen bees, said Smith, requires a different license. The county bee warden checks beehives annually to be sure the bees are healthy, said Smith, adding that bee health is seen as a homeland security issue.

Climate Strike Draws More Than 4 Million Worldwide, More Than 250 in Kent Participate

By Lorraine McCarty

More than 4 million people participated in a worldwide climate strike on September 20, including the estimated 250 to  300 individuals–from students to the elderly–who gathered at Risman Plaza on the campus of Kent State University, carrying signs and speaking about environmental justice for future generations. According to 350.org, the strikes drew the largest crowds ever, sending a collective message to elected officials and world leaders that swift climate action is needed now. 

Jeff Ingram (left) and Doc provided the drumming

The local strikers included Jeff Ingram and Doc, who played their drums to encourage people to stop and listen to the speakers, and Renee Zimelis-Ruchotzke, who encouraged speakers and singers to take a turn on the microphone.

Lila, a high school student, said that it was hard to think about the possibility that her children won’t have what we have now. She said that she can’t vote yet but is encouraging those who can vote to elect good leaders. 

Another speaker talked about the need for a new president and vice president. Other speakers talked about how corporations put profits over people when they should be putting people and the planet over profits. 

Jess, who works in the solar energy industry, said that people don’t need to burn anything to create energy. All that is needed, he said, is to connect to the sun. Jess noted, however, that Ohio has a dismal goal of 5% renewables, compared to 50% to 100% in other states.

Kevyn Breeden sings an original song “Gardens of Dust”

A freshman fashion design student talked about the lack of  sustainability in the fashion and clothing industries. Other speakers encourage people to “be the change you want.” Kevin sang an original song titled “Garden of Dust,” which described possible consequences that people and the planet face with climate change. Other inspiring songs and chants were interspersed with the speakers.

Here are more photos from the local climate strike:

Fashion–What’s It Got to Do with Sustainability?


by Lorraine McCarty

At the Sixth Annual Environmental Science and Design Research Symposium held at Kent State University earlier this year, I was surprised to see a session on fashion. But I learned that fashion as we now know it is not environmentally sustainable and needs help from all involved to influence changes. Noel Palomo-Lovinski, an associate professor in the Department of Fashion Design & Merchandising at Kent State University, spoke passionately about the subject. She stressed that every step in the clothing-production process uses a great deal of the planet’s resources. For example,  cotton, which is thought of as a natural fiber, uses enormous amounts of water and chemicals and undergoes intensive washing with more water and with other chemicals.

Noel Palomo-Lovinski

Then there are many fabrics that are petroleum based. Clothing production creates a lot of carbon dioxide pollution and is rated right behind the oil industry. Most people, said Palomo-Lovinski, don’t know how harmful clothes are to the environment.
People want to spend less money but get more for each dollar, said Palomo-Lovinski. She added it costs more and more to make clothing today, and there also are environmental  consequences.

She talked about how customers love all the colors and patterns, but they don’t see the rivers of dyes because most fabrics are manufactured overseas. Those dyes, she said, get on people’s skin when they wear cotton clothes. To make matters worse, all of the chemicals used in the clothing industry do not go away and instead leech into the soil and water. She then stressed the need to be transparent about the process.
Time is irrelevant now in fashion, said Palomo-Lovinski. In two weeks, a new line of fashion can be manufactured and shipped all over the globe. She cited Zara and H & M as doing this. Because the fashion industry is operating at a faster and faster pace, said Palomo-Lovinski, the time people use their clothing also speeds up, further damaging the environment. The problem, she added, is getting worse and worse. Because people want cheap clothing, Palomo-Lovinski explained, it’s often made of inferior fabric and wears out sooner. She showed a picture of a fashions from the 1990s compared to now. They were extremely similar in appearance, so why, she asked, do we need to constantly reinvent the same fashions? All of this leads to an enormous amount of waste, said  Palomo-Lovinski.

Clothing ends up in landfills because people don’t process used clothing fast enough. Of the clothing given to Goodwill, for example, 80% of it goes to Central America and Africa, which means that their clothing industry can’t compete. In the end, she noted, much of the donated clothing ends up in both countries’ landfills.
So, what’s the next step for fashion designers? Palomo-Lovinski insisted that the way forward is not to distract from larger issues and feel good temporarily. Fashion designers, she said, need to think about sustainable-product service systems, which would require designers and consumers to do the following:

  • Co-design clothing with consumers to get them to hold on to clothing longer.
  • Repair clothing yourself, or have the designer change the clothing item for a better fit.
  • Take a clothing item back to the original company (For example, Eileen Fischer takes back the company’s clothing and then resells it. The company knows which chemicals were used to make the items and thus can recycle the items appropriately.)
  • Upcycle clothing to extend its use.
  • Dispose of unwanted clothing appropriately, such as shredding it or reusing it.
  • Act globally and think locally, a practice in which collaborative designers focus on economic systems, environmental health and social well-being to influence customers toward a long-term perspective on clothing use.
  • Involve the marketing and communications fields in the clothing business.
  • Follow best practices, one of which involves localized points of manufacturing where different types of designers for different types of consumers all interact and therefore create a closed loop.

Designers today, said Palomo-Lovinski, are learning about the many issues in the larger world. She added that it is important to think about the designers of today as being at the center of  that larger world, which includes marketing, customers, client motivation, a systems mindset and application of technology.

All of these components, said Palomo-Lovinski, overlap to affect environmental health, social well-being, and economics. To continue to be relevant, she added, designers need to focus on the industry’s consequences for the world as a whole. She also suggested that people voice their concern for the effect of the clothing-production process on the environment at the ballot box and with their money (in terms of clothing purchases), which can help motivate companies to be sustainable producers of clothing. “Society today demand a new generation of professionals that can design not only products but systems for living as well,” said Palomo-Lovinski.

While not part of the symposium, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, said during a television interview with Christiane Amanpour (Amanpour & Co., April 8, 2019) that even the high-fashion industry and the manufacturers of top brands are discussing the topic of sustainability. Amanpour talked with Wintour about the criticism the fashion industry has faced for being the second most polluting industry in the world during an existential environmental crisis while at the same time people are buying much more clothing than they ever did but using it for a much shorter amount of time. Amanpouralso referenced Stella McCartney and others who are trying to get people to use less of products such as leather, plastic and fur. Wintour replied that everyone she knows in the industry is aware of not only the disposable economy in fashion and its impact on the environment but also the overall climate crisis. She added that businesses are making five-year plans about what to do to help. “We [along with other industries] have been at fault and [want to do] what can we do in the very short amount of time we have to course correct. . . . It’s an urgency for everybody within the industry. There are organizations like Fair Fashion and others across the globe [working] to see what we can all do to correct it.”

More recently, the Akron Beacon Journal reported on August 23 that used clothing is a new trend, with department stores making room for gently worn outfits in attempts to lure customers away from second-hand clothing stores. J.C. Penny  and Macy’s, for example, are piloting a program to set aside one section in select stores for used merchandise sold by ThreadUP. Neiman Marcus, according to the article, was the first big chain to embrace the trend by buying a minority stake in Fashionphile, an online seller of pre-owned designer accessories, and will allow customers to sell pre-owned designer clothing to Fashionphile in Neiman Marcus stores, in the hope that customers will spend the money from those sale at Neiman Marcus rather than elsewhere. The initiative these stores have taken is seen as a response to customers who do not want to see their clothes end up in a landfill. While the resale business is just a small percentage of retail sales, it is growing exponentially and is expected to increase from $24 billion last year to $52 billion by 2023, according to a report by GlobalData produced for ThreadUP.

Global Warming: Northeast Ohio and Beyond

by Lorraine McCarty

Because of its location and plentiful water, the Midwest was thought to be sheltered from the worst disasters of climate change–but not from everything. Ohio’s record rainfall last year, Lake Erie’s water levels rising higher than they have been in a long time, farmers having a tough year, many communities with flooding problems and rains that never seem to stop have become common occurrences. Government leaders are beginning to pay attention. Some of them have implemented countermeasures, while others are considering or planning for stormwater management and ways to lessen flooding. 

These actions, however, do not address the underlying problem, which requires putting coal-burning utilities out of business and learning to enjoy electric cars fueled by wind- and solar- generated electricity.

Meanwhile, many environmental changes are occurring around the world as officials and others argue about what the next steps should be. This following are a few items from recent news reports that illustrate some of the world’s environmental problems and the sporadic progress (or lack of it) being made to resolve the problem:

Rising Seas

Jakarta, Indonesia

The sea is rising, prompting Indonesia to move its capital, Jakarta, farther inland. Jakarta has sunk more than 10 feet in the last 30 years, and estimates of average global sea-level rise this century ranges from 3 feet to as much as eight feet-amounting to a wake-up call for other coastal cities such as Mumbai (which is ranked as most threatened), New Orleans, Houston, Tampa, London, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Bangkok, Calcutta, Shanghai and Manilla (along with many others). Preparing for rising sea levels requires adapting to a new normal, and coastal communities need to be looking at 30-year master plans to positively address the threat, which could be different depending on location but are necessary for a sustainable future.


Record-High Carbon Dioxide Levels

Carbon dioxide levels measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reached record levels of 415 parts per million, which is the highest that carbon dioxide levels have been in the last 3 million years. Three million years ago, the seas were 65 feet higher than today and America was covered by forests.

From Coal to Renewables in Great Britain

Great Britain was without coal power for a week in May for the first time since the 19th century. Plans call for the removal of coal entirely from the energy-generation mix by 2025. The government also set a deadline of 2050 for the elimination of all greenhouse gas emissions, which environmentalists say is not soon enough.

Diminished Role for Coal-Powered Electricity in Ohio

Coal’s role in electricity in Ohio shrank from 87% 12 years ago to 47% last year. Natural gas generated 34% of Ohio’s energy need last year, while nuclear generated 15% and renewables 3%. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s forecast shows that the production of power from these sources in 2036 will be much as it is today.

Increase in Natural Disasters in Central U.S.

In the central U.S., levee breaches have caused floodwaters to inundate towns around the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers.In late May, 15 tornadoes in Ohio left a great deal of devastation. In Montgomery County, 631 homes were unlivable, while 2,550 more homes and 173 businesses were damaged. In Harrison County, 84 homes and 14 businesses were destroyed and 134 homes, and 19 businesses had major damage. In Dayton, 39 homes were destroyed, and 95 others were heavily damaged. Brookville also recorded 39 homes destroyed and another 42 unlivable. The preliminary count in Trotwood showed 33 homes destroyed and another 98 unlivable. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross were offering help.

Climate’s Effect on Baby Lobsters

The number baby lobsters is very high in Canada but lower than expected in New England. Some scientists have said the shellfish appear to be moving north as the New England waters warm because of climate change. The decline in the settlement of baby lobsters has raised concerns in Maine, although the industry is described as strong.

New Mexico Plan for Wind Farm

New Mexico’s plan for a wind farm is moving forward and is projected to generate 250 megawatts, which is enough to power 250,000 households. Scout Clean Energy won the bid for 25 square miles of property and will build the Great Divide Wind Farm. Construction could take two years.

Nuclear Plant to Shut Down

The Three Mile Island nuclear plant will begin shutting down June 1 because a financial rescue did not materialize. The expected shutdown has generated a debate about the zero-carbon-emissions characteristic of nuclear power in a time of global warming.

Booming Shale Business in Ohio

Ohio’s shale business is booming. It is estimated that by 2040, the Utica and Marcellus shale regions in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania will supply energy to 45% of the United States. Natural gas liquids (i.e., ethane, propane and butane) are expected to double during the period from now until 2040.

Pittsburgh Plans for 100% Renewable Energy by 2035

Pittsburgh has pledged to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2035, while Illinois has pledged to do so by 2050 and California and Hawaii by 2045. Nevada pledged to get 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. In addition, 101 U.S. cities, 174 large corporations and many other entities have pledged to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. In 2017, public utilities in the United States invested more than $7.8 billion in energy-efficiency programs. The following year, substantial commitments were made by state and local governments to engage in energy-conservation efforts.

Planting of One Trillion Trees an Antidote to Climate Crisis

Research shows that planting one trillion trees could capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and this is by far the largest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis. Scientists calculated how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas and found that planting 1 trillion more trees could remove two-thirds of all emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activity. Other scientists, however believe the estimates are overly ambitious. In any case, everyone can get involved by growing trees themselves or by donating to forest restoration organizations.
So, when it comes to climate change, we know what to do. We just need to find a way to do it.

Sources: The Signal Tree Newsletter (Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club), July/August 2019; Akron Beacon Journal, April 25, 2019, May 6, 2019, May 7, 2019, May 9, 2019, June 4, 2019, July 3, 2019; Record-Courier, June 7, 2019, July 1, 2019; The Plain Dealer, May 17, 2019; NRDC Bulletin, Spring 2019; Solutions, Spring 2019; Guardian, July 4, 2019.

U.N. Report: A Million Species–and Human Society–Face Dire Risk

by Lorraine McCarty

A United Nations biodiversity report in early May warned that 1 million of the planet’s 8 million plant and animal species face the threat of extinction, many of them within decades. This is happening tens to hundreds of times faster than the rate over the past 10 million years.

The 7 billion people on earth are all exploiting natural resources, causing pollution and driving climate change–an unnatural history. Urban areas have just about doubled since 1992, and crop production has tripled since 1970. Plastic pollution has risen tenfold since 1980. Human activity has “severely altered” 66% of marine and 75% of land environments, and native species have fallen by a fifth. More than 33% of marine mammals, almost a third of reef-forming corals and 40% of amphibians are threatened with extinction, and 10% of insects also are at risk.

The United Nations is calling for the world to see the situation as a climate emergency because human life is inextricably linked with 

natural ecosystems. Authors of the report note that three quarters of the world’s crops depend on animal pollination and that $577 billion worth of crops could be lost each year is pollinators were to become extinct. Twenty-three percent of land already is degraded and less productive, and coastal habitat destruction has heightened flood and hurricane risk for 100 million to 300 million people. Robert Watson, one of the report’s authors, said, “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Source: Time, May 20, 2019.

On a related note, KEC member Karl Liske recommends the book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McGibbon. Amazon.com says this about McGibbon’s book:
“Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature . . .  was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience.
Falter tells the story of these converging trends and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control. And then, drawing on McKibben’s experience in building 350.org, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change, it offers some possible ways out of the trap. We’re at a bleak moment in human history–and we’ll either confront that bleakness or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away.

Falter is a powerful and sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity.”

50 Years of Recovery Celebrated

by Lorraine McCarty

Longtime KEC member Rick Feinberg wrote the following poem years ago after a hike through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where his son decided to “wash” his hands in Brandywine Creek. 
River of Illumination
There’s a chemical solution where you go for your ablution
In the River of Pollution that is flowing through the Park.
From the muck and from the mire rise the molecules of fire
As the flames burn ever higher and illuminate the dark.

People await the passing
of the torch

Well, the polluted and burning-river image is being put to rest this year on the 50th anniversary of the last fire on the Cuyahoga River, the one that appeared in Time magazine and helped spark the environmental movement and the Clean Water Act. The Cuyahoga River was named “River of the Year” by the group American Rivers in honor of all the hand work that groups have done to clean and restore the river and make it an example for the rest of the country. 

All along the Cuyahoga River this year, the Xtinguish Torch Fest helped to highlight the progress that has been made. In Kent, the event was sponsored by the Kent Environmental Council, Davey Tree, Hometown Bank, Kent Parks and Recreation Department, the Portage Foundation, the Portage County Stormwater District, and the city of Kent. Many other groups and individuals donated money or their time to help plan the event.

There were many environmental exhibitors and food vendors for attendees to visit, and the Wick Poetry Center was helping people write more poems about the river. Although the rain canceled two band performances, music played from speakers on the Main Street bridge as Hal Walker rode in a bicycle cab while playing his instrument. The Kent Women’s African Drum Ensemble played from the river level, as experienced kayakers braved the very high and fast-moving river, and Marlys Rambaugh brought the torch in from the river’s source in Geauga County. Speakers talked about the improved habitat for fish and invertebrates, the increase in wildlife, healthier water and environment, and increased recreation on the river and on trails nearby. 

Fourth-grader Kora Mendez (left) and sculptor George Danhires pose by Danhires’ relief sculpture of the Cuyahoga River and a blue heron.

A relief sculpture by George Danhires was installed on the railing below the bridge overlooking the river and formally dedicated. The image is of the river and a blue heron, which is a regular visitor to the waterway in Kent. The sculpture also displays the following poem written by fourth-grader Kora Mendez, which she read aloud during the ceremony:

The river knows that place in your mind that flows.
You can feel the rocks on the bottom of your feet.
And then it takes you home.

The torch was then passed to Elaine Marsh to take it to Cuyahoga Falls. From there, the torch was carried though the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and up to the mouth of the river in Cleveland.

Catherine Ricks from the Kent Parks and Recreation Department summed up the event best when she said: “The synergy of the torch festival team, public and participants was incredible and the rain feeding the energy of the river only heightened my awareness of the Cuyahoga being the reason we were gathered there. The river was singing her own renaissance song . . . loud and clear. We all followed her beat.”

Xtinguish Torch Fest Events in Kent Set for June 20

Xtinguish Torch Fest is a community-wide celebration of recovery for the Cuyahoga River–50 years after the river caught fire. That incident played a role in the development and passage of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Acts and helped to spur the environmental movement overall. We hope all of you will join us. The festivities will take place in downtown Kent on Thursday, June 20, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Music, food, bands, interactive displays, a dragon trash monster, poetry, dedication of a large bronze sculpture near the river, and a passing of the torch from the headwaters through Kent, on to the Falls and then to the mouth of the river in Cleveland. Come and be part of this historic event. See details below:

This Is No Ordinary Lawsuit

by Lorraine McCarty

Juliana v. United States has been working its way thought federal courts since 2015, when it was filed on behalf of 21 children trying to stop the United States from using fossil fuels. The plaintiffs say that fossil fuels are causing climate change, endangering their future, and denying their rights to life, liberty and property. This story was reported by Steve Kroft on the March 3 edition of “60 Minutes.” 


Kelsey Juliana

Kelsey Juliana, the oldest of the plaintiffs, was 19 when the lawsuit was filed in 2015 in Oregon. Juliana lives in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, where she has had to deal with droughts and wildfires. She talked on this show about being unable to go outside because the air quality was so bad. She said that scientists have told her it’s bad for health and that the federal government said in its response to the suit that the effects of climate change are already happening, and young people could have to deal with those effects for the long term.


Levi Drehan

The youngest plaintiff, Levi Drehan, is now in sixth grade and lives with his family on a barrier island in Florida, which is only one mile wide and just barely above sea level. He is afraid he won’t have a house in the future. The other 19 children from 10 states involved in the lawsuit also worry about the effects of climate change on their lives. 

While many people did not take the lawsuit very seriously at first, it is still winding its way through the courts, and two motions by the government to delay or dismiss the case have been rejected twice by the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiffs have amassed such a huge body of evidence that it will surprise even skeptics and is forcing the government to admit that the crisis is real.


Attorney Julia Olsen

The children are represented by Julia Olsen, an Oregon attorney and director of the nonprofit For Our Children’s Trust. A timeline that goes back 50 years lines the walls of the organization’s office. The timeline shows that for the past 50 years, all government administrations knew about the connection between fossil fuels and climate change and that every president since Lyndon Johnson was aware that fossil fuels were causing climate change. The evidence against the government, said Olsen, totals 36,000 pages and will be used in court. For 50 years, Olsen added, the government was briefed regularly by the national security community and the scientific community about climate change. She noted that government attorneys do not want it to go to trial because they know they will lose, given the evidence that will be presented. Attorneys for the federal government have admitted in court that the government knew the burning of fossil fuels would cause climate change, that the government does not dispute the claim that the planet is in a danger zone because of the effects of climate change, and that the government does not dispute that climate change is a threat to people’s lives and safety. The defendants also admit that human activity, particularly elevated concentrations of greenhouse gasses, is likely the dominant cause of observed warming that has occurred since the mid-1990s and that greenhouse-gases have been at unprecedented levels for at least 2.6 million years-resulting in an unprecedented loss of life, the extinction of many species, an increase in the intensity of hurricanes and severe storms, an increase in precipitation, an increase in the loss of sea ice, and rising sea levels. The government also has acknowledged that the effect of climate change on agriculture will lead to food scarcity.


Attorney Julia Olsen agrees with economists who say that failure to address climate change will have a devastating effect on the economy.


Olsen said that Juliana v. United States is the easiest case she has ever litigated because she simply is using the government’s own words to prove her case. Olsen said that because the government has failed to protect the country’s air, water, forests and coastlines, the lawsuit is asking the defendants to devise a plan to wean the country off fossil fuels by the middle of this century. In his reporting, Kroft noted that some people say the abandonment of fossil fuels will cause economic disruption, to which Olsen responded, “If we don’t address climate change in this country, economists across the board say that we are in for economic crises we have never seen before.” 

Kroft asked Olsen why the federal government was responsible for climate change. Olsen told Kroft the government is to blame because it subsidies the country’s fossil fuel energy systems, allows every aspect of the country’s fossil fuel energy system to exist and allows energy companies to extract fossil fuels from public lands.

Ann Aiken, a federal judge in Eugene, Oregon, denied a motion to dismiss the case, saying that “exercising my reasoned judgment . . . I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” The courts have never before recognized a constitutional right to a stable climate and there is no passage in the constitution that says this, but she believed it was not a stretch. Justice Department briefs have called the lawsuit misguided, unprecedented and unconstitutional. The briefs also argue that energy policy is the legal responsibility of the Congress and the White House and not a single judge and that climate change is a complicated global problem that cannot be solved by the United States alone.

The next oral arguments in the case will be in June in Portland, Oregon. While it is impossible to predict how both storms and lawsuits are likely to end, one environmental attorney notes that courts have been asked the government to do bold things in the past, such as desegregation (Brown v. Board of Education) and that perhaps this case will be similar. 

Recommended Reading

by Karl Liske

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate

By Peter Wohlleben

Drawing on groundbreaking new scientific discoveries, Wholleben tells us about the previous unknown life of trees and their communication abilities. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their family members, support them as they grow–sharing nutrients with those trees that are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat or cold for the whole group. Trees in a family or community can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees have a tough time and, in most cases, die much earlier than those in a group. Wohlleben translates this knowledge into good forest practices.

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America

By Michael Ruhlman

If you care about why you eat what you eat, and want to do something about it, you need to read this book that talks about the growing and marketing of food and its costs to people’s health.

–Karl Liske

Blue Orchard Bees: A Natural Solution to the Decline of Honeybee

by Bob Heath

With the noted decline in success of rearing honeybees, many growers and home gardeners have begun to worry about the reliability of counting on honeybees alone for pollination of their crops and gardens.  Besides the problems with maintaining hives of honeybees because of loss of habitat, pests and increased use of harmful pesticides, there are several other reasons to look beyond honeybees for adequate pollination of fruits and flowers.  Honeybees are good, but not great, pollinators of many flowers.  Their time per flower is longer than some bees, and there are bees that carry more pollen per visit than honeybees. Honeybees avoid pollinating members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes. Honeybees avoid dim habitats (such as the edge of forests), become disoriented in greenhouses, and take the day off if it rains. Finally, honeybees aren’t fully active until May, although many flowering crops bloom from late March through April. For these reasons, many people are looking for native bee species for crop pollination. Bees that are gentle and easily handled are at the top of the list. Among the best of these native bees for use in Northeast Ohio is the blue orchard bee (Osmia lignaria).

The blue orchard bee (BOB, for short) is a member of the family of mason bees, so named because they lay their eggs in small chambers walled off with mud, just as a mason lays bricks separated by cement.  No queen bees here. As with most bee species, these are solitary bees that build individual nests rather than an organized social-colony hive headed by a queen.  BOB overwinters in a cocoon, emerging when temperatures reach above 55 degrees Fahrenheit for several consecutive days. The males emerge first, followed in a couple days by the females. The first thing the female BOB does is mate with one or two males. After mating, she spends several days sucking up nectar until her ovaries mature, then she gets down to business of building a nest. She will seek out a nesting site that is a tube-shaped cavity around six inches long and just the right diameter of 5/16 inch. When selecting a nest, the female BOB flies back and forth in front of the hole to make sure she can remember exactly where it is located. She also wants to be sure the correct type of mud–a silt-clay mixture moist enough to be balled up–is in the vicinity to pack into the nest.

Blue Orchid Bee

She begins building the nest by carrying some mud in her mandibles and packing it at the back of the nest. Then she forages for pollen and nectar in nearby flowers, generally within 100 yards of the nest. BOBs prefer Rosaceae–flowers of the rose family, such as apples, pears, almonds and blackberries. The female BOB can visit as many as 75 flowers in one trip to provision the nest with a mix of pollen and nectar; it takes about 25 trips to provision one compartment in the nest. She flies from dawn until dusk, even if it’s windy or drizzly. When the compartment in the nest is sufficiently provisioned, she lays a fertilized egg and then closes the compartment with a dollop of mud. Next, she collects pollen and nectar for the next compartment, lays an egg and closes it off. She builds the nest from the back to the front but, as she approaches the front of the nest, she lays unfertilized eggs. Fertilized eggs become females, while unfertilized eggs become males; the sex ratio in BOBs is two females to three males. When the nest is complete, she walls it off with a dollop of mud, then begins the process all over again, seeking a new nesting site and so on. Inside the nest the eggs hatch. Each larva goes through three molts, then pupates and overwinters in the cocoon, hatching only when the weather turns from cold to cool the following spring.

Think about all the flowers the female BOB visits to complete one compartment of the nest: 75 flowers per trip x 25 trips per compartment = more than 1,800 flower visits, and there are about eight compartments per nest. And each female BOB builds several nests during her lifetime, which is only four to eight weeks long. Wow!! BOBs visit more flowers per minute than honeybees, and they collect more pollen per visit than honeybees, making them highly efficient, valuable pollinators. They are so valuable that a cottage industry has sprung up, selling mason bee “hotels,” which provide the right length and diameter for BOB nests. But wait, there’s more! You also can buy BOB cocoons and mason bee mud. Mud, cocoons and “hotels” can then be placed in an orchard or a flower garden. It has been noted that by encouraging BOBs into an orchard, crop yields can be noticeably improved. The blue mason bee is active early in the season, from late March through early June.

References:

Wilson, J.S., & Carril, O.M. (2016). The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North American Bees. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-16077-1

Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmia_lignaria