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 The Buffalo News Opinion  Thursday February 19, 2015

Judy Fitzgerald: I’ll show my grandson world’s lovely treasures 

I always heard becoming a grandmother was special, and based on personal experience, it’s true! That little person brings out so much love in a family.

I was surprised at the almost primitive connection that I felt with my daughter during those first few days that were exhausting, deep and demanding. I guess you would say they were intense, and I wouldn’t have traded them for anything, not even a good night’s sleep.

Memories of my daughter’s birth came flooding back to me as I watched in awe as she became a mother with such grace and strength it was as if she was born for that role. I was moved by the love that my daughter and son-in-law share, which kept them going throughout it all. There were so many unexpected and treasured gifts.

I can’t help but muse about this precious little boy. What will he be like? Looking at his beautiful porcelain face – no angel could be more lovely – takes my breath away.

It is hard to remember that we all started out like this, each and every one of us. If only I could always remember that.

What can I give to him? From my new vantage point, I’m supposed to be able to give him the benefit of my many years of experience. Aren’t elders supposed to be full of wisdom?

The funny part is, as I grow older, I feel I understand less than I did when I was a child. So maybe it’s best to start way back there. I remember that I spent a lot of time in an imaginary world where I could do anything or be anyone I wanted to be – and it changed frequently.

I had so many friends: my dog, the trees, the birds and so many others. I was surrounded by companions who loved life as much as I did. There were no boundaries in those days and looking at the sky proved that. And I had so much time. It seemed like everyone else, especially my mother and father, were always so busy.

One thing I am sure of. Nature is the best teacher of awesome mysteries and therein lies the wisdom. I must do what I can to help my grandson celebrate and appreciate this beautiful world.

His task will be to become aware of life’s precious and fragile beauty and to learn that he must do what he can to protect and live in harmony with all of life. I want to take him out into the backyard and show him how it is teeming with all forms of life so he will know he is never really alone. We can join life through play and be thankful for the shade of the trees on a hot summer day.

In the meantime, while he is growing into himself, I need to stand up and say no to those who see our home and its resources and treasures primarily to be bought and sold with disregard for the consequences to the Earth and all of us. Our children and our grandchildren need us to protect their legacy and to teach them to treat every living thing on this planet with respect and love.

Grandparents do have a special place in the scheme of things, because they know without the living Earth, there will be no life.

I want to teach my grandson what all generations need to know: We have a sacred obligation to pass on what we have been so graciously given. Without taking a stand now, that will not be possible.

The Buffalo News  Another Voice: PSC offers only a weak opportunity to influence big change in power systems

Published: January 27, 2015

By Larry Beahan

Have you heard of the “REV”? It is a revolution in the supply and regulation of New York’s energy. It is a dramatic and fundamental change and it is a dirty shame that most New Yorkers have never heard of it. REV stands for the NY Public Service Commission’s initiative, Reforming the Energy Vision.

When my mother was 5 in 1911, a man came to the front door. “Do you folks want electricity?” he asked. She said “no,” and shut the door. Grandma overheard and rushed after him to have gas lights replaced with Edison bulbs. Tesla and Westinghouse had built an electric power plant at Niagara Falls and formed a company that shipped power by wire all over the region.

That basic model for electric power is still with us. Investor-owned utilities produce electricity in large central plants with hydro, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy and transmit it to consumers over a complex grid. Doing an affordable and reliable job of it is an increasingly complex puzzle.

Power plants and their transmission systems are aging and energy demands are rising. Unusual weather creates demand peaks. Plants are prime terrorist targets, and fossil fuels have filled the air with pollution and the skies with global warming gasses.

In response, we have shifted away from central sources of power and moved to windmills, solar panels and geothermal installations that are widely distributed and close to consumers. These renewable energy sources don’t pollute or cause global warming. But they raise questions. Who will own them? How will they be paid for? How will they be integrated into a mutually supportive system?

Last April the Public Service Commission issued orders for the REV initiative. The commission staff went to work chiefly with utility company executives to answer these and many related questions. It has come up with a “straw proposal,” a complex technical document that needs an engineer with training in linguistics to understand.

On the insistence of environmental organizations, the PSC has agreed to hold six forums across the state where the REV will be explained and the rest of us will have two minutes before a microphone to make our contributions.

This scanty opportunity to be involved in a titanic change in the power supply to our civilization is a travesty. Tesla’s salesman offered my poor mother as much in 1911.

New Yorkers deserve to thoroughly understand what is being proposed and how it will affect our lives. We deserve an opportunity to have our own experts contribute to the design of a distributive power system for the 21st century.

The Public Service Commission hearings on the REV in Buffalo are at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday in the Central Library in downtown Buffalo.

Larry Beahan is habitat chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.

The Buffalo News  Opinion

Letter: Keep the public engaged in Outer Harbor planning

Published: January 24, 2015

“New Outer Harbor plan to be aired after input” was a very welcome development to the diverse public constituencies that have been following and participating in the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. planning process this last year.

The inclusion of Terminals A and B at the south end of the site is welcomed and changes the dynamics by including a commitment to start with the development of those existing facilities. ECHDC’s comment, “we’re listening to their [environmental community] concerns,” is greatly appreciated and the Western New York Environmental Alliance looks forward to the next steps.

ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia also sings the praises of the recently opened Canalside and we agree. It’s hard to believe that there was a time in the not-too-distant past when this community was very close to leaving the actual canal covered in asphalt and nearly dropped a giant big-box store where the ice rink now resides.

In fact, if not for the tenacity, insight and leadership of community members who pushed a higher vision of what we could achieve together, we would have a very different outcome. It was the collective wisdom of our citizens that demanded the best and most respectful use of this prime urban waterfront that is responsible for the great asset we have today.

We hope the robust public engagement model that resuscitated Canalside can now be applied to the Outer Harbor process, because it will pay dividends well into the future and ensure that it truly becomes everybody’s waterfront.

Lynda Schneekloth

Advocacy Chairwoman

WNY Environmental Alliance

The Buffalo News

Another Voice: Movement will restore a deep connection to the Earth

January 8, 2015, 12:01 AM

By Lynda Schneekloth

Across the globe, the people are stirring – moving, resisting and creating. Whether the issue is climate change or gun violence or civil rights, immigration or gay rights or clean water, food security or nuclear disarmament or war – the people are stirring.

Each of these issues seems disconnected and random, because there is no overall agenda. But note, this is the largest movement in human history, a movement without a name and with thousands of leaders, as noted by Paul Hawken in “Blessed Unrest.”

Each issue has discrete goals, but all are a collective rejection of the false promises of an industrialized extractive-based lifestyle. People no longer believe in human superiority, technological salvation and an economy that benefits a few at the expense of the many and of the earth itself. It is the deep acknowledgement of what the Occupy Movement articulated – we are the 99 percent.

And we are here. And we are now. We watch as the mythic structure of modernity caves upon itself and we hear the earth screaming under our assault. The people have had enough.

We will not be pawns, we will not stand quietly at the bottom of the “trickle,” because we know there is abundance to be shared. We will not let anyone destroy the base of life on earth or deny the dignity of each human life. “Black lives matter,” as do the lives of all humans, as well as our four-legged, winged, green and invisible kin. And so we take to the streets, to the courtrooms, to chambers of government, to the pulpit, to the coffee shops, to the village centers and urban squares in Ecuador, Mumbai, the Congo, New York, Durban and all over the world.

As Hawken said, “What I see are ordinary and some not-so-ordinary individuals willing to confront despair, power and incalculable odds in an attempt to restore some semblance of grace, justice and beauty to this world.”

Systems researcher professor Brad Werner of the University of California, San Diego, demonstrated it is only through “friction” in the form of a mass social movement against our current system that there is hope for the future. This movement, Naomi Klein said, will change everything, reinstitute democracy and restore a deep connection to the earth and all our kin. It appears to be time to step down from the pedestal of imaginary separation back to our roots, to the soil from whence we came. Come one, come all.

Join us in the Great Turning, from a death-centric to a life-regenerating vision for the 21st century. We’ve not much time and we need everyone. The people are too big to fail.

Lynda Schneekloth is chairwoman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.

The Buffalo News Opinion Monday January 05, 2015

Letter: Area needs to invest in renewable energy

As he announced the ban on hydrofracking, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked: “What can we do in [the Southern Tier] to generate jobs, generate wealth … as an alternative to fracking?”

Two days later, the Energy Information Agency published the answer to Cuomo’s excellent question. The only energy sector experiencing job increases is renewable energy. Solar jobs are increasing annually at a rate of 57 percent, wind at 4.6 percent, biomass at 5.7 percent and geothermal at 2.6 percent. By contrast, fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro jobs are decreasing annually by an average of 1.5 percent.

The EIA report also suggests that converting coal plants to natural gas reduces jobs, thus adding to the mantra that natural gas is a gangplank to global warming, wasted investment and, now, the pink slip.

Cuomo needs to raise that gangplank and sail toward the sun, the wind and geothermal energy. For the first time in human existence, we no longer need to disembowel the earth for fuel, burn it to create electricity and leave toxic time bombs for current and future generations.

The cost of renewable fuels is absolutely zero, employment in renewable energy will be bountiful and the cost to ratepayers – forever – will be very low.

Charley Bowman

Chairman, Renewable Energy Task Force, WNY Peace Center

Letter: We must work together to reverse climate change

September 27, 2014 – 12:01 AM Buffalo News

Sobering! That’s my comment after attending the People’s Climate March in New York City. The enormity of why we were there was inescapable, at least to those attending. This march may have been motivated by a wish to impress upon the officials meeting at the United Nations this week that we are no longer willing to let them finesse their way out of taking action to protect us from the most enormous threat the world has ever known. The desperate need for each of us to seize the power that we still have came through loud and clear. Every day that we do not claim our rights as citizens of a democracy, we become less powerful. Each one of us who can hear and see has the power to begin reversing climate change, but only if we use it.

The United States, self-proclaimed leader of the world, has the responsibility to lead. We can criticize our elected officials for not doing something, not committing us to meaningful action like promoting a carbon tax or getting off of fossil fuels, but that is really passing the buck. They will act only when we demand serious, difficult decisions. Unless we wake up and look at the painful reality that we are in, they also will continue to avoid the painful decisions that must be made.

Science does not lie; the facts are in, we have no time to waste. The power that we have allowed to slip away can be taken back. The 310,000 people marching in New York and many more from all over the world took a dramatic step toward exercising that power.

The next time you are tempted to criticize our representatives inour democracy, keep in mind that their actions are the results of our abdication of power, like it or not. We cannot be successful unless we remember that we all got in this mess together, and together is the only way we will get out.

Judy Fitzgerald


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