The Year of the Tree

West Chester mayor Dianne Herrin has proclaimed 2018 “The Year of the Tree.” Along with their esthetics, shade, and feeling of urban comfort, trees are a great way to cleanse impurities and also CO2 out of the air.

In honor of trees, then, here is a poem by Katherine Gallagher, born in Australia and living in England, The Guardian in 2012. See also the nicely done video here. The poem was published in Carnival Edge: New and Selected Poems (2010).

The Year of the Tree
by Katherine Gallagher

I carried a tree
through the Underground.

It was hard. At first,
people scarcely noticed me

and the oak I was lugging
along the platforms –

heavier than a suitcase
and difficult to balance.

We threaded through corridors,
changing lines: up and down stairs,

escalators, and for a moment
I imagined everyone on the planet

taking turns
to carry a tree as daily rite.

A few people asked
Why a tree?

I said it was for my own
edification –

a tree always
has something to teach.

Sharp gusts
whirred through the corridors

rustling the branches
as I hurried on

past the sweepers
picking up rubbish, scraps of paper.

Be sure to take the tree
with you, they said.

Don’t worry, I’m taking it
to my garden,

the start of a forest.
When people stared,

Relax, I said,
it’s a tree, not a gun.


Environment panel, Feb. 22, 2018

On Sunday, February 22nd, a coalition of environmental groups led by Don’t Spray Me! sponsored a panel of experts at the Unitarian Congregation of West Chester, with an audience of about 90 people.

After a cordial welcome by Rev. Dan Schatz, the three panelists spoke reflecting their own particular backgrounds:

• Richard Whiteford, environmental activist, a founder of the local Sierra Club branch, noted climate change speaker and writer, Board Member of World Information Transfer NGO, and participant in the Paris Climate Conference of 2015. Richard spoke to the unseemly subsidies that our government gives to the fossil fuel industry. That funding should go to renewables. Fortunately, he said, some states, universities and towns are stepping into the gap left by a delinquent US government.

• Dianne Herrin, Mayor of West Chester since January, founder of BLUER (a coalition of local leaders advocating for reducing carbon emissions), former head of the Borough’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, and initiator of the Environmental Bill of Rights passed by West Chester citizens. Among other themes, Dianne spoke to West Chester’s renewed commitment to urban trees and to the growing realization that nature has rights too. She also brought out that natural gas is not a “bridge to clean energy” and that Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission is actually hostile to renewable sources of energy.

• Chrissy Houlahan, engineer and businesswoman, veteran, chemistry teacher, founding COO of B Lab to promote civic responsibility in companies, and a 2018 candidate for Congress. Chrissy emphasized that the legal framework exists for corporations to choose to be good environmental citizens (known as B-Corps: Benefit Corporations).

The panelists responded to audience questions ranging from issues related to pipeline safety to business responsibility to Paris Climate Agreement challenges.

Asked about local consequences of global warming, Richard Whiteford predicted an increasing likelihood of “rain bombs” (with something like 8″ of rain in 2-3 hours), species extermination, and the total breakdown of Philadelphia’s storm runoff system. Chrissy Houlahan added that climate refugees, particularly from Africa, will be causing worldwide dislocations.

Questions were sorted and posed by a non-partisan group including Matt Holliday, Elizabeth Moro and Jessica Cadorette.

As summarized by moderator Sheila Burke’s: participants feel a sense of urgency to solve environmental issues; people want to be involved; and we can be very heartened by the large number of people stepping forward.

Exhibitors at the display tables included Citizens Climate Lobby, Delco United for Pipeline Safety, Don’t Spray Me!, Food and Water Watch, Penn Environment, and the West Chester Co-operative.

It has been a goal of Don’t Spray Me! since its founding in 2015 to open up dialogue about environmental issues and to engage in community education. This event built on the environmental film series at WCU in the fall of 2017, which was created in collaboration with Sierra Club and the University’s Sustainability Program and was preceded by the Earth Day celebration of April 2017.

Photos by Taka Nagai

Tell the Environmental Protection Agency: Ban Roundup Now

Petition from Environmental Action

Since their peak in the mid-90s, monarch populations have decreased by 90 percent, in part due to the widespread use of Roundup and other toxic pesticides. Tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban Roundup, so we can save this incredible insect before it’s too late.

The monarch butterfly is an iconic species that migrates through the heart of the United States each year. Unfortunately, the number of monarchs has decreased by 90 percent since their peak in the mid-90s.

Pollution-driven climate change is part of the problem. But we’re also allowing the destruction of milkweed — the monarchs’ main habitat and food source — through the rapid acceleration in use of Monsanto’s toxic Roundup and Roundup Ready crops.

Please stand with the millions of wildlife enthusiasts across the country in protecting this iconic species by banning Roundup.

Save the pollinators!

email from Friends of the Earth, 3/9/18. [N.b. Bayer also manufactures permanone, one of today’s mosquito sprays of choice. And, believe it or not, “In 1898, the Bayer pharmaceutical company began an aggressive marketing campaign to sell its commercial preparation of Heroin” (Narcanon; and search other sources). Who would trust such a company with our health and environment?]

Bayer the Bee-Slayer and Monsanto the Butterfly Killer are trying to merge into one giant pesticide corporation.

This would be a disaster for pollinators, people and the environment. Farmers overwhelmingly think this mega-merger is a bad idea — a new poll found 93 percent of farmers surveyed oppose it. Over 1 million Americans have called on the Justice Department to stop it. And there are investigations in both the EU and the U.S.

We need to make sure the Department of Justice doesn’t let this merger move forward. But we need your help to urge it to act.

Tell the Department of Justice to stop the Bayer-Monsanto merger!

If this merger goes through, the new company would be the world’s largest vegetable seed company. It would control seeds for many of the crops we eat regularly — including broccoli, carrots and onions.

It would also be the largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides. It would double down on making toxic chemicals like glyphosate (a.k.a. Roundup®) — which is a key culprit in monarch butterfly declines and is a probable human carcinogen.

What’s more, this merger threatens the development of a sustainable and just food system. It will hurt independent family farmers and rural economies and will encourage farmers to ramp up the chemically intensive agricultural system that Bayer and Monsanto promote.

In short, we’d be giving a single corporation unprecedented control of our food supply. We can’t let the future of our food system be handed over to Bayer and Monsanto.

The Department of Justice has the power to stop the proposed merger — but it won’t act unless you speak up.

sign the petition here

Tell your members of Congress to ban chlorpyrifos!

Friends of the Earth, 3/6/18, text of petition:

Dear legislator,

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor S.6124 / H.R. 3380, which would ban chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic nerve agent pesticide known to cause brain damage in children.

Chlorpyrifos is so dangerous that, after years of study,, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), based on the weight of the scientific evidence, was set to ban all uses of this pesticide in 2015. However, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the proposed ban.

Donald Trump’s administration has failed on this issue. The agency reversed its proposed ban on chlopryrifos after Dow delivered $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. In addition, Trump picked Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris to head the American Manufacturing Council. I’m also alarmed that the White House just announced that Trump plans to nominate Dow’s lawyer to lead EPA’s office of solid waste. That means a former Dow employee will be in charge of overseeing the toxic waste sites of his former employer.

The actions of the Trump administration signal that they are more concerned about protecting the interests of the pesticide industry than the American public. As your constituent I urge you to take leadership on this issue.

The science is clear: there are no safe uses of chlorpyrifos. Prenatal exposures to this chemical are associated with reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders and delayed motor development. Whenever chlorpyrifos is sprayed, it can cause immediate and long-term health harms to kids, farmers, farmworkers and others who are exposed.

In its latest risk assessment of chlorpyrifos, your agency’s scientists determined that:

• All food exposures exceed safe levels, with children ages 1-2 exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos that are 140 times what the EPA deems safe.
• There is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water.
• Chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools and homes in communities in agricultural areas.
• All workers who mix and apply chlorpyrifos are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide, even with maximum personal protective equipment and engineering controls.

There are effective alternatives for pest management that won’t poison our children.

We must protect ourselves and our children from this dangerous chemical.

Please cosponsor S.6124 / H.R. 3380 to demonstrate that you prioritize the interests of the American public over Dow’s corporate profits.