350loudoun 350loudoun, April 20, 2015

Did you know that collectively, each one of us can make a difference to fight Climate Change? Did you know that if each family in the United States installed ten LED light bulbs, no new electric power plants would ever need to be built?

Participants gather at Corcoran Brewery in PurcellvilleThis past Saturday folks at Corcoran Brewing Company in Purcellville learned that they could. The activist group 350 Loudoun held the first, annual “Arts, Brews, and Climate Change” to raise awareness through music, art, and talk of Climate problems as well as solutions. The event featured local environmentalist and singer/songwriter Andrew McKnight, the Loudoun Sustainability Quilt created by local artists, local craft beer from Corcoran, guest speakers, and additional music by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun Jammers. Chiidren’s activities were also included and led by the Nature Generation at the John DeMary Trail Park.

A child looks through binoculars at a streamAndrew McKnight opened the event and, among many environmental songs performed, one was about mountain top removal. Mountain top removal is a coal extraction practice that devastates the landscape in southwest Virginia and other states. One quilt square patch created by Kelli Billips in the Loudoun Sustainability Quilt depicted a mountain, personified with a crying eye pictured in the heart of the mountain, mourning the disfiguration of neighboring mountains to mountain top removal. Gina Faber, Round Hill environmentalist and musician, immersed herself into viewing the quilt and reading the words provided by each quilt patch artist. She was deeply affected “as if I had spent time with each contributor to understand the connection each felt to the Earth. It was inspiring to hear some of my own perspectives reflected in the pictures and words, as well as to realize the diversity of ways that people connect to the word ‘sustainability’.”

Another fossil fuel extraction practice that devastates the environment; pollutes the air, surface and groundwater; impacts human health; disrupts livelihoods in affected communities; and exacerbates Climate Change is hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking.” Guest speaker Dusty Horwitt, Esq.,Senior Counsel, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Washington, D.C., described the complex and harmful issues surrounding fracking. Mr. Horwitt, who also was asked by the New York State Health Department to review the state energy plan prior to New York state’s ban on fracking, alerted us to the facts that: fracking in the George Washington National Forest is not entirely banned; and western Maryland, underlain by natural gas bearing shale rock, will be fracked in the near future. Currently, MD is considering legislation to regulate fracking. This is disturbing news as both areas drain into the Potomac River, the drinking water supply of many in Loudoun County, and the DC Metropolitan area.

Stopping the relentless extraction of oil, and natural gas, by the Fossil Fuel Industry seems insurmountable, making run-away Global Warming and Climate Change inevitable. Fortunately, the program also included possible solutions to Climate Change. At the national level, Judy Lamana, President of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), Warrenton, explained that CCL is lobbying Congress for a Carbon Fee on fossil fuel carbon emissions and Dividend to be paid to households. The fee will make fossil fuels less desirable and clean renewables more desirable. At the state level, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, represented by Virginia Policy Director Dawone Robinson, introduced legislation to adapt to impacts of Climate Change on Virginia. This past General Assembly, The Virginia Coastal Protection Act was introduced, providing: revenue generated by the sale of carbon allowances; funding for adaptations to climate change induced flooding in Norfolk, home of critical national defense facilities; funding for economic development in Southwest Virginia whose current economy is based on coal; statewide energy efficiency and clean energy programs. This legislation provides a means for Virginia to meet EPA’s Clean Power Plan goals for Virginia to reduce carbon emissions. In Virginia, the Southern Environmental Law Center analysis shows that nearly 80% of the required reduction will be met by utility projects already approved and/or under construction. The remaining 20% reduction can be met at lowest cost by energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Development of solar energy has a unique, added benefit of creating more, jobs per unit energy than fossil fuels that cannot be outsourced.

Clean energy programs are taking place right now in Northern Virginia by LEAP-VA, Local Energy Alliance Program. LEAP-VA makes it easier and cheaper to install solar panels on your home. Shayne Sandner, Leap home energy specialist, was on hand to sign people up for free home energy walkthroughs to learn how to lower electric bills. Tamar Datan, signed up and enjoyed the event. “What a spectacular event to raise awareness for climate change! It was a lively mix of storytelling and music peppered with great information sharing. The edu-tainment, combined with awesome beer and fine food, made for the perfect afternoon. And the benefits just keep coming – we’re really looking forward to our home energy walkthrough!” She’s not delaying because the Federal Tax Credit for residential solar installations expires in 2017.

Several art projects hanging on a brick wallTaking steps to fight climate change does not necessarily require making major financial investments. The Loudoun Sustainability Quilt depicts a wide variety of personal practices that over 20 local artists follow to reduce their carbon footprint (the amount of climate change causing carbon dioxide you produce going about your daily business). Reducing your carbon footprint also saves you money as living sustainably uses less fossil fuels. Find out what these Loudoun County residents do every day to save money and reduce their carbon footprint! View the quilt at either Franklin Farm Park in Purcellville, on display until May 11 as part of the “Fabric Fantasies II” exhibit. Or, go to EarthDay@Loudoun on Sunday, April 26 and visit the 350 Loudoun Exhibit. EarthDay@Loudoun will be at Clyde’s, Willow Creek Farm, Broadlands. The Arts, Brews, and Climate Change event organizer, Natalie Pien, co-chair 350 Loudoun, is so pleased that the quilt provided a means of expression for so many artists. She said, “My deep hope is that the quilt will be the seed for Loudoun’s much needed discussion leading to action on Climate Change.” Future opportunities to contribute to the quilt will be created.

Finally, individuals can make a difference with the stroke of a pen. On Global Divestment Day this year on February 14, 350 Loudoun launched a campaign to Divest the Virginia Retirement System from the fossil fuel industry. Scientists have determined that 80% of all reported fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground to avoid run-away global warming and catastrophic Climate Change/Disruption that will affect all aspects of society, food production, national security, human health, transportation and energy infrastructure. Yet, the business model for fossil fuel corporations is to extract all reserves to burn for energy. This is in direct conflict with the well-being of all life on Earth. Divestment is a powerful tool to effect social change and has been used successfully end Apartheid in South Africa. Originally, Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry to ensure a livable planet was a college campuses strategy (the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg Divestment sit-in ended by police arrests last Wednesday). Today, divestment is broadening to other entities such as towns, counties, religious institutions. 350 Loudoun’s Divest the Virginia Retirement System petition was on hand at the event for signatures. It is also on-line at: https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-the-virginia-retirement-system-from-fossil-fuels.