Don’t Kill That Queen!

Those big, black-and-yellow bumblebees that you’ve been seeing lately are bumblebee queens looking for a nesting site and foraging for nectar and pollen.They do look menacing, if only because they’re so large, but they won’t harm you. So, you should not harm them.They’re too busy looking for a suitable nesting site and building their hive to bother with you. If a bumblebee queen is killed, that is the end of the hive; each bumblebee hive typically produces about a thousand bumble bees in a year.

Bumblebee queens are the only bumblebee to overwinter in the ground, in little spaces they choose  late in the fall. All the worker bees die.In spring, the queens come out of their winter nests   (hibernatoria) and begin to hunt for a suitable place to build their underground hive (generally from late March through mid-June). After they have found a suitable location, they begin to build the tunnels and rooms that become the hive.They also begin to lay fertilized eggs that will become the workers. After the female worker bees mature (about three weeks), they take over the task of foraging for nectar and pollen for the hive.The queen then stays in the hive for the rest of her life.Eventually, she will make some fertilized eggs to produce virgin queens and lay unfertilized eggs that become males.Long-story short: the males fertilize   virgin queens as they leave the nest; once inseminated, the queens search for their hibernatorium; all the workers and the old queen die in the late autumn, completing the annual life cycle.

Bumblebees are among the most efficient pollinators around–perhaps as much as 10 times more efficient than honeybees. Bumblebees are very hairy and can hold a lot of pollen on their bodies. They also mix nectar with pollen to make a sticky ball that they glue to a special part of their hind legs.The rate that bumblebees visit a flower is faster than the visit of honeybees. Bumblebees also can fly from flower to flower faster than honeybees, and they can fly at lower temperatures and explore darker and more diverse habitats than honeybees. Although both honeybees and bumblebees are classified as generalists (i.e., they pollinate many different flowering species), bumblebees can pollinate crops such as tomatoes and peppers (crops of the family Solanaceae) that honeybees avoid. 

In short, although honeybees are having their problems in terms of population numbers, bumblebees may be able to cover for them in fields and with crops that require insect pollination. Even crops that are wind-pollinated have increased yields when insects pollinate them. As you may know, honeybees are not native to Northeast Ohio; rather, they are native to Europe and likely evolved in the Middle East or Asia. Bumblebees are native to North America and therefore may not be as susceptible to diseases as honeybees. Scientists just don’t know that for sure. Honeybees have been studied extensively because of their economic significance; native bees are only now coming under increased scrutiny for their pollination capabilities.

Part of the effort to understand the abundance and distribution of bumblebees in Ohio is being coordinated by the Bee Lab in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, at Ohio State University.

 

Two statewide surveys are under way. The first survey focuses on bumblebee queens searching for a suitable location to develop their hive. The second survey aims to identify when and where bumblebee queens forage for nectar and pollen. This survey is done entirely by looking and primarily by volunteers such as myself. Volunteers do not capture the queens and instead identify the bee species on the fly–something that is easier said than done for a novice like me. I photograph them and then identify the species from the photos. Both surveys will last through June and then be analyzed by Dr. Jessie Lanterman, a post-doctoral professor in the Bee Lab.Stay tuned for the results to be reported at a later date.

–Bob Heath

RIVER DAY 2018

We hope you will come and check out the events for this year’s River Day on May 19th at the Haymaker Farmers Market 9 to 1, at the Tannery Park from 10  to 12 for electrofishing and all day for rentals from KSU Crooked River Adventures’s canoe, kayak, tube or bike rentals.   Click on the flyer below to see details and check out the second page of the flyer for information about the 20th Anniversary of the Cuyahoga as an American Heritage River.

2018 River Day Flyer two-sided final

KEC Annual Meeting 2018

Details from Federal Outlook

 

Details from State Outlook

The Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund (OECAF) is actively engaged with the Ohio General Assembly and Kasich administration on policies that promote clean energy, and protect Ohio’s water quality and public lands. Here are some pieces of legislation we are working on:

HB 114 (Blessing) – Renewable Energy Standards This piece of legislation would make Ohio’s renewable energy standards and energy efficiency standards completely voluntary. The OECAF opposes this legislation in its current form. By converting Ohio’s renewable portfolio and energy efficiency standards to voluntary goals, creating special exemptions for large energy users, and watering down Ohio’s cost-saving energy efficiency standard, House Bill 114 would entrench Ohio in energy sources of the past, increase air pollution, inflate Ohioans’ energy bills and squash technological innovation in the Buckeye State.

House Bill 239 (Smith/Carfagna) / Senate Bill 155 (Terhar/Peterson) – OVEC Bail Outs These companion pieces of legislation propose a multi-million-dollar subsidy for electric utilities, paid for by customers of AEP-Ohio, FirstEnergy, Duke, and Dayton Power & Light; all of which are shareholders of the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC). The cost of the subsidy is approximately $256 million per year for approximately the next 23 years in order for the OVEC owners to continue operating two coal-fired power plants that will be 85 years old by the time the subsidy expires. The plants are Kyger Creek in Cheshire, OH and Clifty Creek in Madison, IN. Together, these plants produce massive amounts of air pollution that harm Ohioans’ health. The Kyger Creek plant alone is responsible for 305 asthma attacks and 29 heart attacks per year. These plants should not be propped up by Ohio consumers, and instead should be subject to the competitive market just as every other power plant operating in the region. The OECAF strongly opposes these pieces of legislation.

House Bill 225 (Thompson) – Orphan Well Program This piece of legislation seeks to streamline the Ohio Orphan Well Program and ensure robust funding. Orphaned wells are improperly abandoned oil or gas wells that are no longer in production and are often several decades old. They pose a hazard to the environment and to human health and safety. Until they are located and properly plugged, they are pathways to pollution. Risks include fire, overflow of oil or brine into ecologically sensitive areas like streams, and groundwater contamination. The bill requires Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to better protect Ohioans by locating, prioritizing, and plugging orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells in a timely manner. While we believe the funding levels in the bill may not be feasible for the industry to use, we support this legislation.

House Bill 393 (Devitis/O’Brien) / Senate Bill 165 (Dolan/Skindell) – Brine Sales These companion bills would remove treated oil & gas waste bring from traditional, vertical wells from Ohio’s oil and gas waste laws and treat it as a commodity that could be sold commercially. The OECAF testified as an interested party to the bills because of the sponsors’ willingness to strengthen testing requirements for the material; however, we remain very concerned with the amount of heavy metals and radium that could still exist in the brine even after treatment.

Senate Bill 238 (Dolan) – Wind Farm Setbacks This bill would restore Ohio’s wind setback laws to a more reasonable distance than what is in current law. The Ohio General Assembly changed the setback law in a budget bill with no testimony or public input, and increased the setbacks enough that it has essentially halted commercial wind development in the state. The OECAF is supportive of this bill.

Senate Joint Resolution 5 (Huffman) – Congressional Redistricting The OEC and OECAF understands the importance of having a well functioning representative democracy. Bipartisan solutions are more likely when voters select their elected officials and not the other way around, and keeping communities together gives voters leverage to demand action on the pollution going into the neighborhood creek or attention to the quality of their air. That’s why the OEC was involved in negotiation a legislative end to partisan gerrymandering of Ohio’s congressional districts. We support SJR 5 and the upcoming ballot initiative on May 8 that will place this bipartisan map drawing process in Ohio’s constitution.

Our Dirty Little Secret …An Essay by Bob Wilson

“…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:18, King James version

“…We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”–Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

Science and religion agree–we are dirt. Dirt and sunlight, and yet we act as if dirt is of little importance. Water is number one, the most exploited resource on the planet, and air if you want to get technical, but in third place is sand. We glue it together with cement or tar, or melt it into glass, and then build our houses, skyscrapers, sidewalks, roadways, bridges, dams, churches and celestial observatories out of it. For our food, we utterly depend on a few inches of topsoil that took millennia to form, and yet we allow it to wash, blow or be bulldozed away as if it were easily replaced.

 

Human beings progressed from hunting and gathering to farming along rivers like the Nile, the Euphrates and the Mississippi, taking advantage of the mineral wealth of continents washed down from on high by cold rushing water, blended in the turbidity of tributaries, and spread as rich mud across flood plains and deltas. Long before we learned to pan for gold in the headwaters, our first gods were sunlight, water and mud. Our first population booms were made possible by this intermittently replenished fertility, and our first deserts were created by our inability to understand the fragility of the dirt we farmed as we took agriculture farther and farther from the rivers. From the first farmers and city builders of the Fertile Crescent to the green revolution of today, we have treated dirt as an inexhaustible resource, spending it like an endless trust fund. But, is it really so inexhaustible?

 

Consider sand. It turns out that sand is not as simple as it looked when we played with it in our sandboxes. There are many kinds of sand with different properties, and not every sand can be used for our many specialized applications. Can you imagine anyone importing sand into the sandy desert or spending billions to pour it onto sandy beaches with oceans to wash it away? According to a 2016 BBC report, the United Arab Emirates imported $456 million worth of sand in 2014. Whether that is in pounds or dollars, it is a lot of sand. Desert sand is apparently worthless for building or even for use in the sand traps of the amazingly odd golf courses of Dubai. After hurricanes or “super storms” such as Sandy, U.S. taxpayers pay for millions of tons of sand to replenish beaches that are eaten away from that long row of condominiums along the coast. And the U.S. fracking boom gobbled up 54,000,000 metric tons of high silica sand in 2014. We won’t run out of sand anytime soon, but the cost of many special sand mixes is increasing, as is the global demand.

 

The use of petroleum-based fertilizers and hydroponic agriculture gives us the illusion that soil quality is no longer a major concern for modern food production. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Fertilizer amends, it does not replace, topsoil; hydroponics provides a tiny share of the world’s food supply. Topsoil is the irreplaceable base of our crop and grazing agriculture. Soil is more than the sum of its parts, x amount of sand, x amount of clay, x amount of water, x amount of organic compost, etc. Soil is more of a living, breathing superorganism. Successful plants depend on an ecosystem of soil microbes and fungi, invertebrates and vertebrates, and passages and canals for the flow of nutrients from subsoil to surface, from mycelium to root hair, from taproot to canopy. If all the topsoil washes or blows away, plants will still grow but not necessarily the plants we want and not necessarily with the nutrients we need. Erosion is not some new threat that we need to convince ourselves of. We have been watching the process for 12,000 years. Civilizations have come and gone with the soil upon which they depended. Most recently, the dust bowl years of the 1930s illustrate what happens when we overplant, overplow, and forget about cover crops. Productive farms are gone with the wind.

 

Perhaps what is new is our understanding of the process. Soil biology gets better and better, with more tools and a richer understanding of how intricate it all is and how much more there is to learn. What a pity if we allow our traditional practices to destroy the land just as we come to truly know it. Consider one example. Scientists recently found evidence for a subtle but profound feedback loop in forest fertility in the Pacific Northwest. The rivers of the northwest have been moving nutrients from the mountains to the sea for eons. Along with those nutrients, the rivers sent countless salmon into the Pacific Ocean to grow fat on the fertility of the ocean. Those fish then swim back up the river to spawn and be caught by bears that left their partially eaten carcasses in the forest, thus bringing the lost nutrients back to support the great trees with which, along with sand and tar and cement, we build our civilization. The irony is that we have come to understand this marvelous process only after fishing and damming most of the wild salmon runs out of existence and after killing most of the great bears. How many other living cycles must we discover only after stunting or killing them? From dirt we come, and unto dirt we’ll go, so let’s start treating the dirt like an important part of the family.

KEC Supports Off-Shore Wind

Kent Environmental Council
P.O. Box 395
Kent, Ohio 44240
Ohio Power Siting Board,

The purpose of this letter is to add the endorsement of the Kent Environmental Council for the proposed development of electrical generation using wind generators constructed in Lake Erie, by Windustrious Cleveland. Wind power is abundantly available over Lake Erie and unlike fossil fuels is not exhausted over time. Six wind generators are currently proposed for Lake Erie and will be located near the City of Cleveland, creating an efficient use of the wind resource without the loss of power inherent in long transmission lines. The proposed Lake Erie siting does not require large areas of land nor does it impinge on near-by residents or pose a threat to private land values. Further, the implementation of alternative energy sources will reduce pressure on our state parks and forests which are under the threat of gas and oil development.

The Kent Environmental Council has, since 1970, stood for the protection of the environment and all of its biological diversity. To that end recent studies have shown that birds and bats are not significantly affected by an off-shore wind farm: birds have learned to navigate these fields and bats do not typically frequent areas this far from land. Most importantly wind power does not contribute to climate instability but rather promotes a new power generating application that has been shown to be clean, safe and effective throughout Europe and around the world. By contrast, drilling for gas and oil requires millions of gallons of fresh water, which is then laced with dangerous chemicals for the fracking process. This water can never be returned to use but must be injected deep in the earth where it poses threats to the safety of our ground water and nearby residents. Coal, a principal fuel for centuries, is, and will continue to be, a threat to our climate and health.

Like energy from solar generation, the cost of wind energy and wind turbine installation has dropped dramatically and will continue to drop with increased adoption and manufacturing capacity. For all of these reasons the Kent Environmental Council strongly supports the Windustrious Cleveland initiative and looks forward to Ohio becoming a leader in the development and expansion of wind power, a source of good jobs and a brighter future.

 

Sincerely,
Kent Environmental Council

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