Rally for climate awareness
A small crowd of about 75 people gathered Sept. 24 at Payrow Plaza at City Hall, Bethlehem, to support a series of speakers beseeching young people to get involved with addressing climate change.
A group of Lehigh University students were in attendance and at least one, Olivia Newman, a senior at Lehigh University, was one of the principal speakers. The statistics major with a minor in environmental science minced no words in getting her message across.
“What kind of natural disaster will I be facing if I move to perhaps Tampa or San Francisco or even stay right here in Bethlehem? Will it be fires, hurricanes, tornadoes or what else? Warnings of dangerous air quality or flash floods will encourage me to stay inside, out of harm’s way.
“It is undeniable to anyone who is paying attention that these changes are happening. Scientists globally concur. It is our anthropogenic influence that is to fault for these unstable variations on our climate.”
Newman cited a recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which found, “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850; in 2019, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were higher than at any time in at least two million years and concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide were higher than at any time in at least 899,000 years.”
“We are on the precipice of transforming our luxe Earth into a hellish one,” Newman said. “It is time to take action and take action now! We must be bold and be brave. We must encourage our legislators to bridge the gaps arbitrarily driven between party lines, and converge on the solution to the dire nature of our global climate crisis.
Emmaus farmer Kegan Hilaire, owner of Black Farms, spoke to the group. “It takes 14 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food.”
“Regenerative [farming] practices focus on soil health so we can draw down these carbon emissions in a way that benefits our food, our soil and our planet.”
Hilaire said millions of acres are dedicated to producing monocrop commodities, that are dedicated to one crop such as corn and these use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides at “alarming rates.” He said this monocrop method of farming adds nearly 25 percent of all global greenhouse gases under the guise of “feeding the world.”
“I’m here to tell you a story,” Andrea Wittchen said, speaking on behalf of the Lehigh Valley Sustainability Network.
“In 1970 I went to the first Earth Day rally. Here’s a news flash. We knew almost as much on that first Earth Day about the broad challenges confronting the Earth, their causes and the solutions we needed as we do today. The particulars are different. It’s not acid rain anymore or holes in the ozone or the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, but it’s still global warming and climate change and carbon emissions and the underlying causes are the same now as they were then – greed, destruction disrespect for the earth, deliberate blindness to the damage we are doing.
“And here we are, 51 yeas later, with the dire results of the escalation of those root causes that were predicted 51 years ago.
“I’ve had 51 years of marches and rallies and talking to my Congressperson and I’ve had enough,” Wittchen said.
She called the situation with climate change an “existential crisis.”
“I’m more interested in asking you what you’re going to do when you go home. What concrete actions are you going to take to move the needle?”
Wittchen said the Lehigh Valley Sustainability Network is launching Lehigh Valley Green, a free regional newsletter devoted to advocacy, collaboration and local news. See their website for more information: www.lehighvalleygreen.substack.com.
Jose Lopez, the staff director of Energy Justice Network, addressed the situation on a more local level, describing what she called “environmental racism” in the Lehigh Valley.
“My colleagues at EJN lead the Allentown Residents for Clean Air effort that stopped a trash and sewage sludge incinerator from locating in Allentown in 2014,” Lopez said.
Lopez called the proposed incinerator a “major example of environmental racism.”
“I want to talk about these climate polluters that often go ignored, including some that are dirtier than coal. We have several right here in the Lehigh Valley.”
“In terms of global warming pollution,” Lopez said, “four [local cement] kilns are second only to the three large gas-burning power plants in our area.”