The threat of climate change calls for a revolution in our way of life, toward a sustainable future. Permaculture offers this revolution in the brilliant disguise of a gardening fad that is really developing a deep understanding of the complex workings of natural systems.
Forum presenter Renee Ruchotzke will share the basic principles of Permaculture and how she is implementing them in her back yard garden. She will offer practical tips you can try at home and ways we can have a positive impact on the climate starting in our community… restoring the earth one back yard at a time.
Renee Ruchotzke has completed a Permaculture Consultant Design course, using what she has learned both in her city lot garden (with husband Randy) and in her work nationally consulting with and training leaders of liberal faith communities.
KEC’s booth at bothRiver Day and Kent Heritage festivals this year focused on the use of rain barrels to help with water conservation and watershed protection. Sixty percent of municipal water goes to watering lawns, so using collected rain to water during dry times means there is less water flowing into storm drains, sewer systems and ultimately local waterways. This protects local watersheds by decreasing runoff from the 70 million pounds of fertilizers and pesticides used on laws each year. And in doing so, the water plants receive is naturally soft, free of chlorine, fluoride and others chemicals in tap water. KEC also had displays about the Cuyahoga River’s 20th year as an American Heritage River and information about Lake Erie coastal management.
River Day, the third Saturday in May, was sunny and dry and an overall spectacular day this year. The Coast Guard oversaw the Ready,Set, Wear It! Lifejacket activity, with young and old trying them on and having fun. Next year, we are adding dog lifejackets, so stay tuned.
The Kent Parks and Recreation booth was shared by Portage Soil and Water and the City of Kent. They gave away about 500 native trees, including pawpaws, hundreds of packs of a milkweed seed mix, stormwater awareness and safe summer information as well as answering countless questions and sharing fun aquatic animals to look at and touch—always enjoyed by young and old.
Saturday, Crooked River Adventures was sending out kayaks for the on the river for “River Day” Adventures. And Brad Bolton was there to take pictures and provided music on Saturday as well.
We are all looking forward to next year. It will mark the 29th Annual River Day Festival here in Kent in May, as well as the 50th anniversary in June of the last Cuyahoga River fire. There are many groups working to plan great events for next May and June. Well let you know as things progress.
On a recent trip to Chicago, I went on a river tour of their downtown Architecture. I learned lot about the various styles of buildings from historically inspired and art deco to mid century modern, post modern and contemporary and how they visually tried to integrate any new buildings by using details from nearby buildings to make it seem to fit.
The environmental fact that interested me is that as these styles changed, so did their energy efficiency. I was surprised me to know that some of these very tall skyscrapers are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, thus saving money and increasing energy efficiency.
One example they gave of this is 111 South Wacker. The previous building at that site was then the tallest building in Chicago to be demolished. The current 51-story, blue glass structure is a striking example of creative problem solving and was completed in 2005. It achieved Chicago’s first LEED (Gold) certification. Among other features, the building has a green roof. But designers were concerned about plants surviving 65 floors up, so their green roof houses alpine species. For more information about this and other Chicago architecture, as well as information about architectural boat tours, click here: https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org.
Scudder Mackey, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal
Management, spoke at the 4th Annual Edith Chase Symposium on June 1. The coastal management office is responsible for managing and protecting both the 312-mile-long Lake Erie shoreline that runs from Conneaut to Toledo and the Lake Erie Islands–all while balancing economic, cultural and environmental interests.
Mackey talked about meeting Edith Chase within a couple of months after he began to deal with coastal management in 1992 and believes that she would approve of the current direction the office is taking. In addition to Mackey, three technical engineers provide aScudder Mackey, the Chief of the Office of Coastal Management, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, spoke at the 4th Annual Edith Chase Symposium on June 1, 2018. This Office is responsible for managing and protecting the 312 mile-long Lake Erie shoreline that runs from Conneaut to Toledo as well as the Lake Erie Islands, while balancing economic, cultural and environmental interests. Mr. Mackey talked about meeting Edith within a couple of months after he began to deal with coastal management in 1992 and feels that she would approve of the current directions they are taking. Beside himself, there are 3 technical engineers who provide assistance and guidance—both in the office and going out into the field.
The Coastal Management staff are trying to develop more responsive programs. For the first 25 years he’s been there, they did mostly regulatory programs and some technical stuff. Now they want to shift to on the ground advice and implementation. They are looking for innovative ideas to do things differently, not just follow the past. They have received enhanced funding that allows for the enhanced interagency cooperation. They are gathering new people to look at science-based decision making, which was very important to Edith Chase as well.
But before we get into that, he did discuss their many responsibilities, which include:
Decrease algal blooms (50% funded by NOAA pass thru funds)
Improve water quality (no mandate do this but they do work with the OEPA)
Control Estuary (CELCP) and Sea Grant money
Manage the Old Woman Creek National Estuary Research Reserve
Manage Public Lands Trust
Permits issued by the office include:
Shore Structure Permits
Coastal Erosion Area Permits
Submerged Land Lease Consistency reviews (state and national state can stop feds if doesn’t meet federal law. State has primacy.)
NEW: Temporary Structure Permit when there is catastrophic damage (The application is only 2 pages instead of 16 pages and they respond within 24-36 hours instead of 6-8 months that it takes to get the regular permit approved—This allows people to modify their structure in the best way possible for more positive/softer designs to increase habitat benefits and not just as it was before.)
He talked about the significant storm damage and flooding over the last year caused by storms with 2.5-3ft. waves, shorelines over the seasonal rise of lake levels over that of previous years and 1 ft. over last year. He showed pictures of their office parking lot in Sandusky, with trash dumpsters floating because the lake is now 24” above the long term mean and only 2” below the all time high water mark. This illustrates one of the challenges of current realities.
But this also leads to opportunities. Extra funding is allowing Ohio’s Office of Costal Management to do something no other costal projects in the U. S. are doing: They are using innovative ideas identified by various groups to develop a portfolio of projects that meet the goals and objectives of Ohio Coastal Management and the Costal Zone Management Act, as well as local groups that also have broader goals. They are applying Leverage Conservation Design concepts and getting training in systems thinking and spatial design to facilitate linkage to these groups. They have developed a portfolio of 39 potential projects from now to next 10 years—in sequenced increments. Partners need time to get non-federal and state funded matches—so they need to be able to anticipate projects and align resources.
Right now, we treat all Ohio shoreline the same, but there are several different types of shore structures so we shouldn’t. Can you increase nearshore water quality and increase sand resource for recreation and protection at the same time? 75% of Lake Erie’s coastline is armored to stop erosion— but when the water hits the hardened area it stops the movement of sand and increases erosion in adjacent properties. This changes nearshore habitats, and has increased zebra mussels attaching on rocks instead of in the sand.
Other goals such as coastal biodiversity, maintaining sustainable fishing and managing invasive species also present questions we need to be able to answer based on science. But we often don’t have data we need to make accurate decisions. For example, we had no data on nearshore fish populations, because until recently we had only studied and managed fish in deep water. For the past 4 years, nearshore populations have been studied through grants and surveys, giving the information we need to ask the right questions of people and to answer the question of how to manage the nearshore.
A big question on everyone’s mind is the goal of a 20% decrease in phosphorus loading by 2026. The Office of Coastal Management is working with the OEPA on this issue.
One large science-based project is focused on nitrogen-based algal bloom in Sandusky’s Inner Bay, where the blooms start before they get to Lake Erie’s Western basin. The team looked at the 6 ft deep inner bay as a system and is using a series of natural filtering wetlands so the water gets to Lake Erie cleaner. The goal is 40% cleaner by 2025. Commercial shipping is in the Outer Bay, so this does not interfere The project is funded by grant from the USEPA’s Great Lakes Research Initiative, which is passed thru to Sandusky. They are considering doing this in the Maumee Bay but there is no real opportunity to do this at other river mouths in Ohio because most are too altered/hardened, but the Sandusky project can be a pilot to show other states how to do this.
Another professor is studying internal loading so we have information for total phosphorus loading in the Western Basin. And Ohio State is researching what shifts the algae to become a toxin.
They are also working hard to clean Cuyahoga River industrial area by building a sediment processing site — where materials are pumped, the impurities settle and the water is cleared before it is drained to the lake. The sand left is mined and sold for road construction, which offsets the costs. This is working successfully.
A bed-load interceptor is another process which extracts sediments before they hit lake. They want to pump the sediments onto agricultural sites. Already loaded with phosphorus, they can be useful to the crops. This project is planting crops themselves to prove to agricultural people that it works.
In his introduction of the speaker, Bob Heath talked about Edith’s approach to environmental
Get the facts straight
Seek science-based solutions of environmental issues
Look beyond local issues
Do something to make it better.
I think Edith would applaud the Office of Coastal Management’s direction and actions.
For information about other projects and resources from the Office of Coastal
Management, click here. coastal.ohiodnr.gov/
–Lorraine McCarty (with editorial review by Bob Heath)
Kent Sustainability Commission’s Ad Hoc Committee Makes Progress in Support of Paris Agreement on Climate Change
A recent commentary in the print media said that said all of the doom and gloom articles about climate change have left people feeling helpless and that the media need to focus more on what was being done by people, companies, and communities to combat climate change. The example given was about an Alaskan village that was disappearing because climate change has forced the village to move 9 1/2 miles over the past decade to find solid ground. While Kent isn’t facing something this dramatic, the city is being proactive and taking steps to do its part to fight climate change.
Kent City Council asked an ad hoc committee of the Sustainability Commission to develop a climate action plan for the city. The committee–two members of the Sustainability Commission members, three representatives of the Kent Environmental Council, two representatives of Kent State University, one representative of Davey Tree and support staff from the city– has been meeting regularly.
The city has joined ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability, which was founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Enviro
nmental Initiatives). ICLEI is the leading global network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions committed to building a sustainable future. By joining, the city gained access to the ClearPath software, which is used worldwide to track greenhouse gas emissions.
The committee is representing Kent as one of 10 cities chosen to participate in a web-based, 10-week work session on how to complete a greenhouse gas inventory. Afterward, the committee will put what it has learned into action here in Kent, with the greenhouse gas inventory process expected to take 12 to 18 months. After baseline greenhouse gas inventory data have been collected, the committee will report its findings to the community and seek community input and then use that information help guide its development of a climate action plan.
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 chooselate 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.
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.
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.
“…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.