When you go from the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City to the poorest and blackest neighborhoods, you’ll notice that there is more and more trash on the streets and sidewalks. Reasons often given for this phenomenon is that the poor don’t value their home. But in a recent article in The Atlantic, Mychal Denzel Smith points out that the rich neighborhoods have public trash cans on every street corner, where there are fewer trash cans as you move toward predominantly Black neighborhoods.
In spite of a state law prohibiting the practice, the Los Angeles Unified School District continued to add schools close to freeways during the past decade. Research has shown that ultrafine particles from vehicle exhaust is hard to filter, causing higher incidents of asthma and bronchitis among students attending these schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District is 10% white.
In 2014, decisions in Flint were being made by governor-appointed emergency managers. One of the decisions was to stop buying treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, and to instead get its water from the contaminated Flint River. To save money, they did not treat the water with corrosion inhibitors, which led to the release of lead from old pipes. There were immediate problems with complaints of contaminated water coming out of the taps of homes and businesses. With weeks, General Motors was allowed to switch back to water from Detroit, because the highly chlorinated water was causing corrosion of car parts on the assembly line. The citizens of Flint, which is 54% Black, waited 20 months for the state government to admit that it made a mistake, in spite of reports of lead poisoning in 40% of homes and an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.
In 19th century treaties between the U.S. government and the Sioux, the Sioux people–as a sovereign nation–were given “undisturbed use and occupation” of certain tracts of land in perpetuity including the sacred lands of the Black Hills. When gold was discovered in the Black
Hills in the 1870s, trespassing prospectors asked for government protection, eventually ending in the massacre of women, elders and children at Wounded Knee. In 1927, white men dynamited the face and carved the faces of the European colonizers whose policies killed Native Americans and appropriated their land–a further insult to the Sioux’s sacred relationship to the Black Hills. In 2016, the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners planned pipeline was deemed too dangerous to build near Bismark, North Dakota, lest a spill compromise the municipal water system. The alternate location supported by the company went through Sioux sacred burial grounds and 10 miles upstream from the reservation’s water supply. #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline) protests were met with violence from local police and the U.S. government, at first with attack dogs, pepper spray, and strip searches of women protesters, then–in subfreezing temperatures–with water cannons, teargas, less-lethal bullets and concussion grenades, injuring hundreds.
The term environmental racism was coined by Black civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis and defined as “racial discrimination in the deliberated targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation.” His landmark national study Toxic Waste and Race in the United States of America, statistically revealed the correlation between race and the location of toxic waste.
Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities have long felt the impact of economic and environmental policies that have favored profit over people and planet. Decisions and actions by the government over land and property rights favor wealthy and white owners over BIPOC owners even when violence has been involved. In this time of #BlackLivesMatter and other uprisings, this is also a time to learn more about how racism impacts environmental decisions.
As a part of the visioning for the next 50 years, the Kent Environmental Council (KEC) recognizes that a lot has changed since its inception in 1970. There is much more environmental awareness, and there are many groups, organizations and individuals working toward similar and related goals to those of the KEC.
The KEC has formed a wider communication and action network, to be known as the Crooked River Environmental Network (CREN). It’s first networking event was held on February 17 and the feedback was positive.
The pandemic set us back a bit, but we are back in action!
Additional World Cafes (using Zoom) are scheduled for:
Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 6:30pm – 8:30pm Thursday, January 21, 2020, 6:30 – 8:30pm
What should you do in the fall when your flowers have faded and vegetables and fruits have been picked? To answer this questions we will turn to some professional and amateur gardeners with many years of experience.
First the professionals……
Rebecca Krans Michigan State University
Falling leaves and temperatures signify winter’s anticipated arrival. Smart gardeners can take steps now to better prepare their yard and gardens for winter. Making sure plants receive adequate moisture during fall will help reduce extra stress and possible death of plant tissue during the winter months. Sufficient water is especially important during fall months as this is the reserve that the plant’s roots will rely on for uptake during winter. Harsh winter winds cause additional loss of water from the surface of evergreen needles. If the plant doesn’t have enough reserve water in the ground for the roots to draw up and replace this lost water, then death of plant tissue occurs. With newly planted trees and shrubs, adequate water is even more important to reduce the chance of additional stress through winter. Make sure to thoroughly water in newly planted trees and shrubs; water so that the entire planting hole is moistened
Covering up garden soil in vegetable beds with organic matter will not only improve soil health over time, but will help reduce loss of valuable topsoil. Also, leaving some plant material throughout the winter will provide valuable overwintering habitat for many native pollinators, as well as provide you with seasonal interest through winter.
Adding a thick layer of organic matter adds additional insulation to cover up bare soil. Use at least a 3-inch layer of mulched leaves, straw or compost over your vegetable garden. Consider leaving some portion of your soil alone, which means don’t till or use mulch. Many species of native bees overwinter in the ground, and cultivating or using mulch interferes with this process. Once the ground freezes, apply a 6-inch layer of mulched leaves, compost or bark mulch to perennials to provide extra insulation during winter. This is especially important in areas that will not receive sufficient snow cover, which helps insulate plants.
If your perennial plant material is healthy, allow it to die back naturally. Don’t think you have to remove all the foliage or dead plant material before winter. If the plant had a foliar disease or was infested with insects, then remove this plant material from the garden in order to help prevent additional problems. But if it’s healthy, not only are you allowing all of the remaining energy left in the plant to feed the roots, but you are also providing valuable habitat for many of our native pollinators. They will use these structures to overwinter, perhaps having already laid their larvae within the stems. Structures from grasses and other hollow-stemmed perennials are especially valuable.
Keeping these plant parts within the landscape will also provide seasonal interest through winter and prevent erosion. Once the snow melts and spring begins anew, you can easily distinguish what is living and what is not and trim accordingly.
Many folks think of next year’s garden as beginning next spring but, it really should begin in the fall of the previous year for the most success next year. Here are a few ideas to get ready for next spring:
Soil Testing: Fall is a great time to send soil samples for analysis. If you find out now that your soil needs help you can apply those recommended amendments in the fall and they have all winter to work their way into the soil.
Fall Garden Clean-up: Rake this year’s garden litter. Those old vines and stems provide overwintering sites for insects and diseases. Discard foliage from diseased plants. Other foliage should be placed in your compost pile or tilled back into the soil.
Fall cultivation: I always try to till my gardens in the fall. Fall tilling disturbs the life cycles of insects by exposing those underground grubs, and pupae to sun, birds and freezing temperatures. Fall tilling keeps your soil loose and friable and is a real help for an easy till in the spring. Winter’s freezes and thaws will break up any churned-up clods.
Sowing fall cover crops: I sew some of my garden areas in winter rye. Cover crop roots improve soil structure and provide spring compost material that can be mowed and then tilled back into the soil in the spring.
Love your tree leaves: I rake my fallen leaves onto my gardens that do not have a cover crop. I often layer them over a foot deep. This is sometimes called sheet composting. Leaves rot very quickly, and it’s amazing how many leaves you can work into your soil. In the spring, I till these rotted leaves into the soil as a leaf mulch that encourages beneficial earthworms and soil microbes. I also pile up leaves to use as mulching material or composted leaf mold. I use these to enrich my garden soil the next year.
Fall is a great time to tend to tools: Round up your garden tools, clean the dirt off with a wire brush, if needed. Oil them with vegetable oil to keep them from rusting and store them in the garden shed. Drain and store your hoses, watering cans and sprinklers before the first freeze damages them. Drain or run out all the gasoline from lawn mowers, and tillers. This will prevent water from condensing in the gas tanks over winter.
Winter and your container gardening pots: Don’t forget your clay pots especially. To store your pots, empty them completely, let them dry out and store them under cover. Terra cotta containers absorb water, which will freeze and could result in surface flaking and even broken pots. All of your containers (clay, wood, plastic, metal or fiberglass) will fare better if they are clean, dry and stored in the garden shed for the winter.
Saving seeds and digging up tender bulbs: Remember to save seeds from your favorite non-hybrid plants. Tender bulbs including cannas and gladiolus need to be dug up and stored where they will not freeze. I pack mine in boxes of sawdust and keep them in an area that does not get cold enough to freeze.
Bring your garden journal up to date: I keep a journal of my garden year so I know what I want to try again and those items that I want to remove from my list. Think about all the joy your garden has given you this year. Reflect on your successes and what you could have done better. Then, close your eyes and dream about those seed catalogues that will be arriving in December and January for next spring!
Annie Rzepka, Director of Arboretum Horticulture Holden Forest and Gardens writing in the Summer edition of Forest and Gardens Magazine
Rather than rushing to clean up leaves in the fall, allow some leaves, fallen, branches, and pother garden debris to sit during the winter through spring. “Wait as long as you can in spring to clean up to give pollinators a place to shelter the winter and the eggs they lay a time to hatch out”. When planting, select native host plants and reduce the amount of pesticides used.
And finally, tips from our Portage County Master Gardeners……..
We put leaves a foot deep for our no-till garden. Also, I left my small covered frame—made in an MG session led by Gary Kasper—over the last 2010 cabbage. It’s a great leafy plant right now providing fresh produce for my morning frittata and stir fries.
When cleaning out dead annuals and perennials, be sure to leave ones some seed heads for the birds in winter. And other just for interest in the winter landscape. When cleaning the vegetable beds, don’t pull up plants with extensive roots, i.e. tomatoes, as you disturb all the microorganisms they have grown around the roots.
Well, few people go to bed in the winter without a cover! Laura’s leaf idea is great way to reduce winter weeds. I use a lot of leaves in my garden. Also, mowing fall leaves to reduce size and bagging them for the winter makes for easy, early, free ‘mulch’ around vegetables the following spring – mixing spring grass clippings with the shredded leaves is even more bang for the buck you didn’t spend. A winter-kill mixed species cover crop is one of the best things I’ve done in my garden for the winter. Depending on your site conditions, it might take a few repeated winter covers to realize a significant improvement.
Yards – mulching fall leaves into the grass is also helpful to reduce weeds. Mulching blades on your mower or they even make mulching mowers.
Flowers – don’t clean up too much. Leaving hollow flower stalks and a little debris at the base is good for the bees that have made their provisioned their Don’t clean up too early in the spring, to give the overwintering bees a chance to emerge. End of the season is a great time for a soil test
Judy Novak- Hrdy I use shredded leaves on my garden in the fall. I also add fully cooked compost at that time, then let it sit all winter, and dig down in the spring.
Fall cleanup needs to include preserving habitat for our little friends whom we need for pollination, and to preserve various at-risk species. Just pretend you are a teeny, tiny child and you want to play hide and seek. Where would you hide? Maybe in a hollow stalk of hydrangea, or perhaps under an upside down flower pot. You might get hungry and want that last little seed from your cone flowers or parsley. Or, what about that bucket lying on its side by the shed? Think about how to provide habitat instead of how neat you can make your yard. Spring will come soon enough.
-by Al Barber, Portage County Master Gardener Volunteer
Especially this spring, we yearn to get outdoors and improve our yards and gardens. We want our environment to be aesthetically pleasing to us, but what about native plants and animals? With native habitats shrinking, we have the opportunity to create favorable local habitats around our homes and communities.
During times of financial difficulty, many also seek to become more self-sufficient by planting vegetable gardens, small fruits, and fruit trees. During the depression, my grandfather fed many families around his home in Coshocton, Ohio, by growing several hundred sweet potato plants in his backyard.
One key to successful backyard food production is the ability to attract pollinators. Important animal pollinators include honey bees, mason bees, bumble bees, mining bees, flies, moths, and other insects, as well as birds and some mammals. Sweet potatoes, berries, fruit trees, cucumbers, and many other plants require pollinators to produce food for our consumption. The best way to attract pollinators is to create an environment where they can survive and thrive.
With that in mind, here are ten ways to attract pollinators to your yard.
Grow more flowers. But not just pretty annual flowers. Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants can provide food and nesting habitat for pollinators. Spend time in your yard to see which existing plants attract pollinators and then work to expand those plantings. A good source for more information is https://u.osu.edu/beelab/gardening-for-bees/
Plant to provide bloom throughout the growing season. Early blooming trees such as maples, willows, and redbuds, and late season perennials like asters and goldenrod provide important food at critical times. Consult https://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/gdd/ for a sequence of native and non-native woody flowering plants for Ohio.
Go Native. Native plants provide a good source of nutrition for pollinators. Also, many native plants are critical for pollinators to complete their life cycles. Native pollinator and host plants include:
Diversify. Start with your lawn. Vast expanses of thick green lawn with no weeds may be pleasing to our eyes, but such a monoculture is unnatural. Leaving a little clover or other flowering weeds in your lawn and gardens provides essential cover and nutrition for many pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Mix it up. Planting flowers and herbs in and around your vegetable garden provides important food sources for insect pollinators. Consider planting sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, lavender, basil, borage, dill, fennel, oregano, and catnip in and around your vegetable garden. Also, consider planting vegetables and herbs in flower beds. If you plant all your tasty vegetables in one place, you are setting the table for garden pests.
Grow (or tolerate) weeds. Many “weeds” provide cover and food for a variety of pollinators. Beneficial weeds for pollinators include dandelions, creeping Charlie (ground ivy), Creeping thyme, Bee balm, Wild geranium, Joe pye weed, clover,and Anise hyssop. Consider “tolerating” some “weeds” in your yard and gardens perhaps on the edges for pollinators.
Provide Nesting Sites. Brush piles, dead standing trees, and clumping grasses provide important nesting and overwintering habitat. Avoid the temptation to cut down dead grasses and flower stems in the fall. Leave some leaves and other garden debris for late spring cleanup.
Provide a water source. This can be a shallow bowl or birdbath (change water frequently) or a small pond.
Local food resilience. Incentives rather than penalties for green energy initiatives. The changing market for recyclables. These were a few of the many topics that were brought up by more than 50 local citizens, politicians, activists and others representing local organizations at a networking event held as part of the Kent Environmental Council’s (KEC) annual meeting on February 17. The Social Justice committee of the Kent United Church of Christ (and KEC member organization) offered their fellowship hall for the event.
The evening started with the annual all-member KEC meeting. Renee Ruchotzke was elected president and Bob Heath was elected vice-president. Bob Wilson and Brad Brotje continued in their roles of treasurer and secretary. There was also a declaration of appreciation for Lis Regula, who had served for many years as president before relocating to Columbus for a new job. This was followed by a potluck dinner as other members of the community joined the gathering.
Facilitator Renee Ruchotzke used Art of Hosting principles, a facilitation style that makes space for all of the voices and experiences in the room. Everyone sat at round tables marked with a topic that interested them. They interacted “council style” using a process called “rounds,” where each person around the table sharded and was listened to in turn.
Everyone in each circle shared why they were passionate about the topic, then what they were doing, or would like to do. The rest of the time was an opportunity to suggest ideas about connections. Attendees then had an opportunity to participate in a discussion around another topic.
At the end of the evening the participants were asked if they wanted future networking events and they enthusiastically endorsed the idea.
The topics and themes from the evening included:
Food: Local / Natural / Sustainable
It seems to connect to all of the other issues
We need to prepare for resiliency as climate changes
It can be an opportunity to build community
We should do more to connect to and support the local food system, especially by eating locally
Conservation: Land / Water/ Wetlands
Help people to understand that the wetlands have an important function for water quality and carbon capturing
Create opportunities for children to learn more about and feel connected to nature
Recycling: Plastics / Waste Stream
There seems to be a huge knowlege gap around the impact of waste, especially plastics (bags, micro-plastics)
There are mixed signals about what is and isn’t recyclable
Trash from other states coming to Ohio
Need more opportunities for re-use (e.g. refillable glass milk bottles)
COME JOIN the Panel on “Climate Action Plans of U.S. Cities”
February 26, 2020 (Wed.) 7:30-9:00PM
Unitarian Universalist Church (Fessenden Hall), 228 Gougler Ave., Kent
Sponsored by the UUCK Environmental Justice Action Group. Panel coordinator: Bill Wilen
What action plans do cities have to combat climate change? Since we have a president that does not believe in human-caused global warming, it is up to city governments and their citizens to become active and devise ways that C02 and other greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced within the next decade – then eliminated in order to become sustainable communities.
The attendees of this session will each do their own research to identify primarily midwestern U.S. cities that are creating and implementing climate action plans. Try googling “cities climate action plans” and you will find a variety of environmental actions that small, medium and large cities are taking. Each attendee will then have 5-10 minutes to tell the rest of us about the plan he or she has researched and then entertain any comments and questions. So, we all become “panelists” by sharing what we have learned about the cities we have selected.
Let me know the city you have selected (email@example.com) to avoid duplication.
If you would prefer just to come, listen and learn, that’s okay because we all will be gathering to learn from each other. I will be presenting on Kent’s movement to create a plan and Cincinnati’s climate action plan. See you, fellow panelists, the evening of Feb. 26th.
Thank you for your support of the Kent Environmental Council and our important work!
This year is our 50th anniversary!
A lot has changed since our inception and we are re-imagining KEC so we will continue to be a good partner and leader in local environmental issues for the next 50 years!
The KEC board hosted a visioning retreat last month and invited leaders from a few community partners. The gathered group came up with some new possible initiatives and we want to learn what you think would best serve the community.
We need more communication and connection and KEC is well-positioned to fill that role. We would like to create The Crooked River Environmental Network with KEC as the hub.
Look for ways to create awareness and action about our local food supply (local farms, farm-to-table programs, food hub, foraging, planting edibles, etc.) We brainstormed a “Black Walnut Festival” with a focus on local food, but there are many more possibilities.
We want the children in our community to feel at home with and connected to nature.
These join our ongoing focus areas of active living, green energy, local food, clean water, our support of the bog and other green spaces, as well as communication, publicity and education.
We want to widen the conversation, so we are doing something innovative for this year’s annual meeting! Instead of a program, we are hosting a networking event to help local individuals/groups with an environmental focus to build relationships, find synergies and launch the Crooked River Environmental Network. (Please share this invitation with people in the community that care about the environment.)
Here are the details:
Monday, February 17, 2020
Kent UCC Church, 1400 E Main St, Kent, OH 44240
5:30pm KEC Member Annual Business Meeting (election of officers [details below], short update)
6:00pm Community Potluck (Please bring a dish to pass and your own table service)
6:30pm Networking conversations (based on interests from participants’ registrations)
7:45pm Harvesting Insights and Connections
8:15pm Clean up / Safe Travels
President: Renee Ruchotzke
Vice President: Bob Heath
(Secretary Brad Brotje and Treasurer Robert Wilson will be serving the second of their 2-year terms.)
Please let us know you are coming and what matters to you by registering:
The SB 33 bill dramatically increases the penalties for non-violent protest at fracking sites, oil and gas pipelines, petrochemical plants and other ‘critical infrastructure” sites. It makes non-profits and organizations and congregations liable for punishment if they support protesters charged under this bill. This is a direct threat to basic rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
This bill directly attacks our first amendment rights to engage in non-violent protest and speak truth to power
It looks like the State House will hold a hearing on Jan. 28 or 29, 2020.
Jan. 29 is the most likely date, at 10 am, if the Utilities Committee follows its usual pattern.
Under SB33, penalties for trespass are dramatically heightened if they occur on so-called “critical infrastructure”:
While general criminal trespass “on the land or premises of another” is a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, the bill would make the same offense punishable by half a year in jail and $1,000 if it takes place on a critical infrastructure facility.
The definition of “critical infrastructure facility” is sweeping, and includes a vast array of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, railroad facilities, and other locations.
It includes oil and gas sites, fracking wells, petrochemical plants, pipelines and other places that destroy the environment and put our children’s health at risk.
Under the bill, an individual peacefully protesting in the wrong place could be sanctioned with half a year in jail.
The bill also substantially expands the definition of felony “criminal mischief” in ways likely to chill and put a stop to peaceful protest activity.
The bill’s vague definition of the new offense, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, includes “knowingly [and] improperly tamper[ing] with” a critical infrastructure facility.
Lawmakers have attempted to define “improperly tampering,” but their definition (“changing the physical location or physical condition”) does not provide sufficient precision or clarity for individuals facing potential felony charges and a decade in prison.
In the absence of a clearly-defined offense, individuals cannot be expected to know what conduct is or is not criminalized. Rather than face the risk of draconian penalties, they will likely censor themselves, and avoid exercising their First Amendment rights.
It was designed by the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC – to establish special protections especially for the oil and gas industry. And put an end to any public protest or opposition to the activities of these industries.
It is also designed to punish non-profits, environmental groups and even congregations who dare to support the people protesting at these sites with fines up to $100,000. The Senate version contains criminal and civil liabilities for non-profits and organizations. The House version tried to amend the criminal liability, but made it even more murky in its definition of organizational improper action.
What you can do.
Share this with your networks
Write a Letter to the Editor
Show up and pack the Hearing Room when the House Utilities Committee meets on Jan. 28 or 29, probably in the morning.
Attend the House session that might follow to be present during the floor vote.
Provide Written Opposition Testimony.
Offer Spoken Opposition Testimony from those of you willing to speak for 3 minutes.