Members of the community and Kutztown University students braved intermittent rain Nov. 22 to bring attention climate change and demand action.
Earlier that week, the group shared their message with Kuztown Borough Council.
Huddled under a trio of tents outside the McFarland Student Union, about two dozen people — students, professors, borough residents, and representatives from various environmental groups — gave speeches and joined in chants and songs to advance their message.
Dr. Michael Davis, a geography professor with a doctorate in atmospheric sciences, said August 2018, the month his son, Noah, was born, saw deluge after deluge.
“August 2018 became the rainiest August on record in the Lehigh Valley, where I live,” said Davis. “Being an atmospheric scientist, I became deluged in claims that no one is responsible for this.”
In Berks County, that month fell a fraction of an inch short of being the wettest August in a 15-decade database.
Davis said he wondered “what type of world Noah would inherit.”
He also told the group of the International Panel on Climate Change's special report on global warming, published in 2018.
“To stay below a 1.5-degrees (centigrade) global-temperature threshold, countries would have to embark on massive decarbonization efforts to prevent catastrophic consequences to our planet,” Davis said. “Based on the current rate of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere, the planet has 12 more years to reshape our energy portfolio, modes of transportation, manufacturing of goods, pretty much everything.
“The report was quite dire, but it had to be. The world had not yet understood the severity of the crisis we face,” Davis added.
That temperature threshold is about 2.7 degrees on the customary Fahrenheit scale.
A very wet pattern developed over large sections of the nation, including the Mid-Atlantic, in June 2018 and continued for about a year.
Huddled around Davis, participants held signs reading “Kutztown Cares,” “Make Earth great again,” and “Denial is not a policy.”
KU students also spoke.
“This is an issue that is close to home for us,” said Emma Evans of the Society of Physics Students. “We're currently doing solar cell research on campus here, but where is this being utilized? Where are the solar panels on campus?”
“It means a lot to my education that I might not be able to use it when the planet is not inhabitable,” said Anna Grayek of the Geography Club. “It is important for someone to step up at this point.”
KU graduate Kylin Camburn, Zionsville, said this: “We cannot expect individuals to be able to break a system that they are apart of, that they did not create, and that they rely on to get around, to get their groceries, to get to work. We are running out of time. Climate change is an emergency and demands to be treated as such.”
Activists at council
Camburn and other spoke to Kutztown Borough Council on Nov. 19.
Another was Pine Street resident Phila Back, who, at both venues, raised concerns about pollution from the Allentown and Auburn Railroad, whose tracks are across from her house.
Back presented a letter to council, concerned about the railroad's 1930s diesel locomotive and its idling times.
According to her letter, the engine idled for about an hour a day during runs on Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Sept. 2. Her concerns dealt with pollution from the diesel locomotive idling and a steam locomotive recently acquired by the railroad.
She attached to the letter a pair of fact sheets regarding diesel and coal pollution. The diesel fact sheet, produced by Mom's Clean Air Force, an organization described by its website as “a community of over 1,000,000 moms and dads united against air pollution,” outlined longterm effects of breathing diesel exhaust as cancer, asthma, allergies, and lung infections, among others.
Borough Councilman Scott Piscitelli emphasized having a clear idea of the situation, and that the train could be more of a benefit to the borough than an environmental hazard.
“You have all of your information there, but there's also people who live on that street who have young children who love the train,” Piscitelli said. “People come to this town for (the train.) We want to bring people to this town for events.”
KU graduate student Laura Navitsky of Allentown urged council to listen to Back's request to curb diesel idling.
“It's urgent for the Borough of Kutztown to hear us about the need for reducing air pollution,” Navitsky said.
“Unfortunately, one of our traditions, operating old coal and diesel-powered antique locomotives threatens the health of our planet,” Camburn said. “According to the health and medical journal, The Lancet, climate change and fossil fuels affect the health of children more than nearly any other group.”
Another borough resident, Eugene Mosca of Constitution Boulevard asked council to endorse an Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act that is currently before Congress.
According to a memo he distributed at the meeting, the bill would impose a fee on fossil fuels, and distribute the funds evenly to Americans.
Borough Councilwoman Arabel Elliott thanked those who came out to voice their concerns on “issues regarding the climate and the health and wellness of our community,” adding she shares Back's concerns, but emphasized the importance of having a complete and clear information base.
“(Efforts for climate action) must be based on information that is clear, that is complete, and that is transparent, rather than selective and narrow,” Elliott said. “I remain committed to the former, and warn against the use of the latter in our efforts to secure a cleaner and healthier community now and in the future of Kutztown.”