From the Editors: April 2023
A changing climate
A new report on climate change was released by the United Nations (UN) this past month, and its contents are jarring, although they should come as no surprise: the planet is on track for catastrophic warming which is already causing extreme weather across the globe. Heat waves, flooding, droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires are killing and displacing people worldwide while causing untold economic damage. The major driving force behind the unceasing increase in the earth's temperature is oil and gas extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
According to an NPR report from March 20, "The planet is nearly two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and is on track to exceed five degrees of warming by the end of the century … That kind of extreme warming would spell disaster for billions of people, as well as critical ecosystems, and would lead to irreversible sea level rise and mass extinction of plants and animals."
It is easy to feel powerless, especially when business leaders and politicians seem to take definitive steps backward at every turn. It's hard to see the point of sipping out of a soggy paper straw while billionaires are jettisoning off to space in their privately built rocket ships or when environmental regulations are rolled back for an entire presidential term (and in some cases permanently) for short-term economic gain. Or when major corporations like Norfolk Southern look the other way from regulations and safe reporting, and end up spilling major environmental contaminants into residential areas and poisoning waterways that serve millions of people.
The UN report notes that communities can make measurable changes to help combat climate change and that these changes need to start happening NOW to keep atmospheric temperatures at or (ideally) below current levels. These changes include "investing in low-carbon public transit, designing communities to support walking or biking, building homes and other buildings to be resilient, and building cleaner power plants to reduce air pollution."
So how is Erie measuring up? Who is helping? Who is hindering? Inside this issue, we take a look at the aforementioned train derailment and how local communities are prepared for dealing with this (not-so-infrequent) occurrence. We look at a local effort to improve our bicycle infrastructure to benefit all vulnerable road users and those who are, somehow, dead-set against it. We look at a local chapter of Groundwork USA and how they are working to reclaim vacant lots in the city for sustainable-use projects and youth stewardship. We look for the helpers: seed libraries, local cleanup efforts, a local wildlife rescue, a newly formed composting company, and a consortium devoted to promoting the growth of native plant species.
This is the first edition the Reader has dedicated to climate change related issues and it won't be the last, as we hope to continue to report on these matters and their impact locally (and globally) for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that we — as a country and a community — find a way to join the global community and work towards making sure that we actually have a foreseeable future.