Posted in ban plastics, electrify everything, no fossil fuels, solar, transit

We can do it!

Testimony at State of the Environment hearing held by Philadelphia Council’s Committee on the Environment, led by Council member Blondell Reynolds Brown, November 29 2018 by Meenal Raval / meenal.raval [at] / @meenal19119. Video recording of the entire hearing found here, starting at 1:14:00

What is the most pressing environmental issue facing us? Some seem to think it’s litter. Or storm water. Or air quality. These are all symptoms of the global climate crisis and our addiction to fossil fuels. And, it seems, we have only 10-12 years to kick our habit!

Some say we, the public, haven’t shown enough outrage about the IPCC report, the report that alerts us to this 10-12 year timeline. Some say we, the environmental groups, are too polite and rational. So I’d like to state that we are indeed enraged, outraged, and yes, fearful, for all our futures; that people come to us, asking what we should be doing. So those of us leading the climate movement in Philadelphia, people like me, know we’re in this for the long haul. And that we need to remain calm and help solve the crisis we’ve gotten ourselves info. So…

Meenal offering testimony on 11/29/18

What are fossil fuels? Coal, Oil and Gas. I’d also like to list their derivatives — gasoline, diesel, and plastics.

How do we use fossil fuels? Most visible are our cars, trucks & buses — combusting gasoline and diesel. Not as visible is the equipment in our basements – the boilers, furnaces and water heaters. Also invisible are the distant power plants burning coal, oil and gas to generate electricity.

So, how do we get off fossil fuels? We decide to stop spending on anything that uses fossil fuels. We do this each time we make a decision, which is what you all do on a daily basis!

This means planning for every new car, truck & bus to be electric, starting today.

It means when the boiler goes out on that cold morning, everyone knows that that oil or gas boiler will be replaced with an electric option — whether for our homes, our schools, or our workplaces. The homeowner, the contractor, the utility — all of us need to be aware of, and repeat, this same message. Currently, contractors are insisting on gas options even when the decision maker asks about electric option.

And when the hot water tank springs a leak in the basement; the same. Opt for an electric option, whether it’s got a tank or an on-demand feature.

And when there’s talk of subsidizing a limping refinery or partnering to liquify natural gas, the decision is simple. We just say no.

It means planning for our municipally owned utility, PGW, to transition away from selling gas (another fossil fuel) to doing something else. Like what?  It could be installing geothermal projects. It could be air sealing and insulating all our buildings. It could be replacing all gas appliances with electric ones. We’ll find a way, together. Otherwise we’ll all be in deep water. Yup… a little climate humor.

Next up — Plastics. Though not directly contributing to our greenhouse gas emissions, most of the plastic we use and dispose of ends up in our air (most trash gets incinerated) or our water ways. From the Wissahickon Creek to the Schuylkill River to the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find plastic choking off all life.

Though very useful for things like eyeglasses, we need to curtail the use-once and throw-away plastics — items like forks and spoons, take out containers, plastic bags, and yes, disposable water bottles. I hear Councilman Squilla wants to enact a plastic bag ban; so I’ll be working with him on that! 

You may ask how we’d fund this rapid scale effort? Each day I get alerts about another institution divesting — shifting funds invested in fossil fuel companies to clean energy companies. To issuing green bonds. To setting up a public bank. We can do all this in Philly~ 

This sounds like an insurmountable task, I realize. But I’m living proof that it can be done. I live in an all-electric house, with an electric bike and an electric car, all charged by the soon-to-be-installed-solar panels on my roof. All emitting zero greenhouse gases, so all emissions free. If only the bus I rode to get here was also electric…

Perhaps we need to create a new committee, say, the Committee on the Climate Crisis. This could parallel the House Select Committee at the Federal Level being led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the Green New Deal.

Who wants to step up to this, the Committee on the Climate Crisis? We could work on one climate-related policy each week, to deliberate over and implement.

The physicians say we need to act. The scientists say we need to act. Yesterday, I was at a workshop with the Bar Association, and learned that even the lawyers say we need to act. Let’s focus on the task at hand. We can do it!


Posted in ban plastics, no fossil fuels

The Right to Bear [Refillable] Water Bottles

The Climate Crisis — It’s asking us to cut out our dependency on fossil fuels. Not only the extraction, transportation and combustion of these fuels, but also our dependency on all the stuff made from fossil fuels — think plastics, especially single use plastics such as the ubiquitous water bottle.

Last week, when I went to the scheduled meeting of the Philadelphia City Council, I was met with the security team insisting I empty my refillable water bottle. This is something I carry to all public meetings. One, because I like staying hydrated. Two, because I don’t believe in paying for water. Three, because our waterways are clogged with the remnants of our single use plastic addiction. And four, to encourage conversation on the subject.

Settling into a seat at Council chambers with my now-empty container, I noticed other visitors sipping their coffee from styrofoam cups, and drinking water from single use water bottles. Why was I singled out? Not as a role model, but as a trouble-maker who couldn’t read the “No Food or Drink” sign? A sign that no one present was able to explain the reasoning for.

photo: Meenal Raval

Yes, there was a water station inside Council chambers, but beside this were, again, single use plastic cups. Cups which I, and many others, will not drink from because they’re made from plastic.  Indeed, the local Sierra Club is forming a no-plastics committee to ban single use plastics in Philadelphia. The Weavers Way Environment Committee has a Plastic Reduction Task Force; see here, here and here about what they’re up to, plus their petition to the co-op’s main supplier to switch to reusable pallet wrap. The Trash Academy, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia, is working on a plastic bag ban in Philadelphia, in collaboration with Clean Water Action and the City of Philadelphia’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet.  

Outside Philadelphia, there’s Narberth making some news:

And in West Chester, the mayor pitches plan to limit use of plastic bags at checkout. Across the pond, the European Parliament votes for ban on single-use plastic.

Our PHL Council could start by

  1. photo: Meenal Raval, location: 18th Floor, 1515 Arch St, Philadelphia

    Replacing plastic cups with paper cups at the water cooler inside Council chambers. 

  2. Replace the water cooler with a water bottle refilling station, like at most schools and libraries, which would be connected to city water instead of needing 5 gallon water jugs to be trucked in.
  3. Encourage the security team to block single use bottles from entering the Council chambers.
  4. Have each Councilmember sport a refillable water container, building on the effect of appropriate role modeling, showing how easy this could be. 

Want to help with this effort? Contact me!