January/February 2016 Newsletter

Paris COP21 Agreement:  A Start in the Right Direction

Redline March at Eiffel TowerOne event that made headlines this past December was the COP21 or the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties. This conference is two weeks of intense negotiations held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  It is a place mixed with high emotions, sleepless nights and arguing in an attempt to prevent human civilization from reaching the point of no return. However daunting it may seem, we were up to the challenge. With the help of the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club we were able to attend the entire conference while working with the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club.

The two weeks that we spent in Paris really felt like the longest waiting game with the world’s future at stake. Much of the negotiations were done behind closed doors away from the prying eyes of “civil society” or the people. Unfortunately for the negotiators, this tactic just made civil society work harder to make their voices heard. Many people such as ourselves gathered in protest to march down the Aux Champs-Elysées and engaged in many other actions around the conference space to pressure their representatives.
As part of the SSC delegation we were located in the Climate Generations Space designated for civil society just outside the negotiations. During this time we conducted interviews with Sierra Club members including Aaron Mair, President of the Sierra Club, and Michael Brune, the executive director. Along with the interviews, we wrote blogs, recorded daily news reports, and started a Twitter campaign to pressure lead US envoy Todd Stern to support climate justice. We also attended various actions contributing to bringing awareness to the COP and how imperative it was to have worldwide agreement on climate change.

La Place de la RepubliqueSince we were first-timers attending a COP we had a lot to learn. The process can be complicated as more than 190 countries came together to bring their own perspective to the table. This is in addition to all the research organizations, industry, local governments, indigenous peoples, and youth from around the world who were also in attendance. The main task for this year’s conference was to come up with a legally-binding agreement to address climate change. All 196 countries voted on the Paris Agreement, which will require all participating nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Countries also must look over their emissions reduction commitments every five years for adjustments in order to halt global average temperatures from reaching above 1.5 degrees Celsius; lowered from the previously accepted 2 degrees Celsius.

It would be a stretch to say we fixed the climate crisis, but as a global community we are headed in the right direction. It is important to note that this agreement will not solve or stop climate change; at least not on its own.  What the agreement is sorely lacking is the oversight to hold nations accountable on making their commitments.  This is why it is imperative that everyday citizens begin pressuring their local leaders to take action and work towards 100% renewable energy.  The agreement is not perfect, but this conference marked the beginning of a global consensus that the current status quo is not only unsustainable, but unacceptable for our future.

– By Daniel Poslet, Nikki Snider

Cleveland ICO Outings Group

The Cleveland group of Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) is a program for taking groups of kids on monthly outings to area parks and events. The outings can be simple day hikes with an activity, or more involved trips with rented equipment and organized programs.  ICO is organized as a separate group from Northeast Ohio Sierra Club and has its own officers and outings programs.

Cleveland Sierra Club children's outingCleveland ICO is looking for administrative help. Tasks include updating the database of leader certification requirements, updating the annual report summarizing activities and plans for the next year, Communicating with leaders and the San Francisco office, and fundraising by member appeals and grant writing. To get involved email the chairperson, Jesse Honsky at JKHonsky@GMail.com

ICO is currently taking outings with the US Together resettlement agency.  It is possible to add additional agencies, but more leaders are needed. To be an outings leader you must participate in several outings, take the ICO outings training web class, take the Red-Cross basic first aid training, and submit a background check. Children must be participants in an agency program which partners with ICO. If you are willing to commit to participating in at least several outings each year and meet the requirements, leading outings is a fun and rewarding experience. Besides the outing itself additional tasks such as communicating with the children and parents to get permission slips filled out, shopping for groceries and supplies for meals and activities, and the planning and arrangements for the outing are divided among leaders. For more information please email Jesse Honsky at JKHonsky@GMail.com

– Steve McPhee

Meat-Free Monday Recipe from Anne’s Kitchen

Yummy Vegetarian Chili

3 medium yellow onions, diced
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
15.5 oz can black beans
15.5 oz can kidney beans
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (no salt)
2 Cups salsa (mild, medium or hot)
2 Tbs tomato paste
¼ Tsp black pepper
1 Tsp ground turmeric
1 Tsp cumin
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs cocoa

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan until it ripples. Add the diced onions, bell pepper, and minced onions. Cook these veggies for 10 minutes (or until the onions are transparent) over medium low heat, stirring often. Meanwhile, pour the cans of black beans, kidney beans and diced tomatoes in a soup pot. Add the salsa, tomato paste, black pepper, ground turmeric, cumin, brown sugar, cocoa to the pot. Add and the cooked veggies to the pot. Cook uncovered over medium low heat for 20 minutes, stirring often.

This delicious chili can be served over spaghetti, rice, bread or alone. Enjoy!

– Anne Caruso

Toxic Algae: Bloom on Lake Erie Worst Ever Seen

The Nov. 11 Dispatch article “Toxic algae: Bloom on Lake Erie worst ever seen” revealed the dire condition of Lake Erie.

Here’s my letter to the editor which was published in the Columbus Dispatch:

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is responding with an inept voluntary nutrient discharge plan. That’s like asking your teenage child to voluntarily stay off the cellphone.

Without a strong stand by the EPA, we, the people need to take charge. Most of the animal products families consume come from the millions of pigs, chicken and cows raised in overcrowded animal factories. It’s unlikely that the millions of pounds of manure can be disposed of in a sustainable manner. Reducing the consumption reduces the toxic output.

The Ohio Sierra Club invites Ohioans to join our Meat-Free Monday Campaign. No, we aren’t dictating to people what to eat. Rather, we are inviting people to learn about the benefits of a diet consisting of nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables to improve personal and planetary health. That’s not all. We’d save money on our sewer bills, our medical bills and our food bills.

For more info, please visit: www.neosierragroup.org/meat-free-mondays.

Laurel Hopwood, NEO Sierra Club Agriculture Chair
Email: lhopwood@roadrunner.com

Ohio EPA Proposes Modifications to its Rules and Procedures for Granting 401 Permits

Ohio EPA has proposed several modifications to its rules and procedures for granting 401 permits. These modifications could allow the Ohio EPA to rubber-stamp various projects, including coal mining and linear pipeline projects impacting ecologically significant wetlands, streams, and coastline.

Ohio EPA’s proposed modifications to the 401 permitting process threaten to pull the rug out from under clean water protections here in Ohio.  With the federal definition of “waters of the United States” in limbo with several lawsuits pending, these modifications, if successful, could reverberate with nationwide consequences.



You can TAKE ACTION by submitting written comments to be received by close of business January 19, or attending a public hearing on January 11.

Mail written comments to:

RE: Modification of the 401 WQC for the NWPs
Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water
ATTN: 401/IWP/Storm Water Section Manager
PO Box 1049
Columbus, OH  43216-1049

To attend the public hearing:

January 11, 2016 at 9:00 am
Ohio Department of Agriculture, Bromfield Building Auditorium
8995 East Main Street, Reynoldsburg, OH  43068

Copies of the proposed modifications may be inspected on the Ohio EPA-DSW website: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/401/permitting.aspx

For more information, follow the story at the Ohio Sierra Club website. If you would like to be more involved, contact a member of the Clean Water staff.

– Jessica Ferato

US Gives Meat Producers a Pass on Climate Change Emissions

The U.S. government already is failing to implement its own rules on tracking emissions. It is not collecting emission reports from one of the country’s largest sources of greenhouse gases: meat production.

In its latest appropriations bill passed Friday, Congress renewed a provision that prevents the EPA from requiring emission reports from livestock producers. The move came only days after U.S. officials stressed to other governments the importance of accurate reporting at the Paris climate negotiations.

The U.S. government collects the reports from 41 other sectors, making the meat industry the only major source of greenhouse gases in the country excluded from filing annual reports.

Livestock producers, which include meat and dairy farming, account for about 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. That’s more than all the world’s exhaust-belching cars, buses, boats and trains combined.

As a result of having inadequate information on livestock producers, the U.S. government is vastly underreporting its true greenhouse gas emissions, according to a growing consensus of American scientists.

In 2013, a team of researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and elsewhere worked together to collect air samples and analyze actual emissions near large livestock operations such as cattle feeding lots in California, Nebraska and Iowa.

They found that greenhouse gas emissions from livestock were twice as bad as what the EPA estimated. Subsequent studies have found similar results.

The EPA’s ban on collecting reports from the U.S. livestock industry goes back several years. In 2008, Congress instructed the EPA to draft regulation requiring the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitters to file annual reports.  But the EPA never received a single report from meat producers. In 2010, when the first reports were to be collected, Congress attached a provision to the EPA’s budget. It prohibited the agency from spending money to collect emission reports on livestock producers – specifically the greenhouse gases emitted from some of the 335 million tons of manure produced each year.

A recent report published in the Environmental Law Reporter cited several studies showing that forecasted growth in worldwide agricultural emissions alone – unless curbed – will push global temperatures past the tipping point.

Scientists say changing our food system will have a quicker impact on stopping climate change than altering our fossil fuel habits.

Yet U.S. politicians seem concerned about voter backlash if they appear critical of U.S. eating preferences. Americans eat more meat per capita than any other nation.

The country’s largest pork producer. WH Group, a Hong Kong-based company that owns about 1 in 4 American pigs, wrote an 1,100-page prospectus to investors that included a tidbit about how it has never filed a greenhouse gas report to the EPA because of the annual intervention by U.S. lawmakers.

JOIN SIERRA CLUB’S MEAT-FREE MONDAY CAMPAIGN http://www.neosierragroup.org/meat-free-mondays/

United Pastors in Mission

At our Membership Dinner in December I talked to Rev. Pamela M Pinkney Butts and asked he what was a good way to interface with Cleveland’s Black community. She suggested I attend a Pastor’s Meeting.

I went to a meeting of United Pastors in Mission at Mt Zion Baptist Church in Oakwood Village Tuesday. I was warmly greeted by Pastor Rev. Dr. Larry L. Macon. This is group of predominately Black Churches in Cleveland. They work together to have a greater voice. After I introduced myself he asked me to speak. I introduced them to The Sierra Club and told them I was the Urban Agriculture Chair. I explained I wanted to expand into food justice as well. I told them we are here to help. I gave out my business card. There were about 60 pastors present.

Here are 3 black perspectives I took away:

At Jesus’ birth Harod heard there was a savior being born who would free the Jews. Harod was afraid and order the death of boys 2 years and younger. Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt were they were welcomed as refugees and stayed until Harod’s death.

Blacks have always fought white man’s wars since The Revolutionary War. They have been complacent about it. The speaker said it was like “The Jews fighting in Hitler’s Nazi army.”

A recent quote from Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Antonin Gregory Scalia:

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well.”

A good way to get involved is to attend this great conference:

Race, Food, Justice Conference
Analyzing the Urban Food Movement through a Social Justice Lens
Thursday, April 21–Saturday, April 23, 2016
Co-sponsored by Environmental Health Watch and Rid-All Green Partnership, with additional funding from Sisters of Charity Foundation and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

Randy Moyer, NE Ohio Sierra Club Urban Agriculture Committee Chair
Email: sierraneorandy@gmail.com