Bigger Than a Texas-sized Mess: Can the EPA Recover From Trump?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2021 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

Every American realizes, or should realize, Trump made every effort to destroy the environment during his infamous term as president. From Scott Pruitt, the first Administrator  of the EPA under Trump, who called withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, “courageous,” to Andrew Wheeler, second Administrator  of the EPA and former coal lobbyist, both wrought so much damage to the environment that the majority of new Administrator Michael Regan’s job will be cleaning up the damage done by the previous administration. In short, the Biden Administration’s priorities will be addressing massive pollution issues, working on climate change, and handling environmental justice issues.

Heart of the Matter. We need look no further than Texas to see the damage caused by climate change where millions are without power in frigid temperatures that have killed people. But this is just the most recent and obvious example. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, cut regulations for polluters, allowed a myriad of environmental injustices to be perpetrated, and, as a result, created so many problems that the majority of the Biden Administration’s time will be assessing what happened and how to fix it.

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How does this impact you personally? If you breathe air, drink water, eat food, like heat and air conditioning, and do not want to die of being poisoned through pollution, you should care a great deal about the EPA’s agenda.

In reality, the EPA and what it does (or did not do under Trump) affects you, especially if you want to prevent another Flynt, Michigan, North Carolina coal ash, or Texas blizzard and blackout.

Biden’s climate change agenda is considered the most ambitious in U.S. history because he aims to make the country’s electricity carbon free by 2035. In other words, America will not be reliant on fossil fuels that damage the environment and contribute to climate change thereby driving absurd climate events such as Texas. Certainly, not renewing the Keystone Pipeline lease and dismantling the pipeline itself will help this.

Biden also created a White House climate advisory team that includes former Secretary of State, John Kerry, and former EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy.

The remedial work required under the new EPA is extensive. Under Trump, the EPA rolled back regulations such as the Obama-era Clean Water Act and Clean Water Rule as well as started dismantling portions of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by power plants.

 The EPA launched 30 percent fewer cases and levied 60 percent less in fines that under the Obama EPA, and it stayed quiet about polluters that failed to meet the agency’s standards. Pollution became worse; infrastructure crumbled; and climate change got a shot in the arm.

What can you do about this? People often wonder what one person can do when the problems feel so large, much bigger than one person. But these problems did not happen by themselves. Human behavior caused them. For example, Scott Pruitt, who was later asked to leave his position for rampant corruption, claimed the EPA was a “bastion of liberals.” This type of corrosive mindset infects many people, and it drives bad behavior and microaggressions such as littering that cumulatively have a massive impact on the environment.

People can modify their small, simple every day behavior, and it will make a difference, especially when the majority do it.

Embracing science makes a huge difference, too, because the science surrounding climate change is irrefutable and necessary.

Next Steps

  • Modify your behavior by recycling or using a bamboo toothbrush for example;
  • Learn about the science behind climate change; 
  • Speak up and educate others;
  • Call your elected officials because they listen.

President Biden cannot do it on his own. The sooner everyone buys into the agenda, the better off America and the world will be.

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Don’t Drink Poisonous Water | The Shocking Hack

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 12, 2020 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

Drinking poisonous water leads to cancer and other things that will kill you. Everyone knows that, but what if you do not know you are drinking water contaminated with poison? Surely such a thing cannot happen. Laws and regulations exist, and the government protects people. Unless the government knew about the poisonous water and covered it up for decades. If you doubt this, then ask the possibly one-million people who drank the poisonous water surrounding the Camp LeJeune superfund site. Or at least you can ask the ones who were not killed.

Heart of the Matter. The Camp LeJeune superfund site is the worst water contamination site in United States history, and it has poisoned an estimated one million people. While water contamination cases become rather wonky with many jargony terms thrown around, from the 1950s through at least 1985, the water in and surrounding Camp LeJune tested between 240 and 3,400 times over what is permitted by safety standards. In fact, a 1980 handwritten report that showed the water was heavily contaminated was sent to Marine command at the base. They ignored it. 

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From that flowed a comedy of errors, lies, and conveniently omitted facts. For example, a 1984 report found the contamination rate to be 38 per billion, but it was really 380 parts per billion. Apparently, zeroes do not matter to the government when it suits them. While there were a dizzying number of chemicals involved, benzyne, one of the worst, which causes myeloid leukemia, was omitted altogether from a 1994 report. Quite frankly, the matter was not fully addressed legislatively until President Obama signed a 2012 law that allowed victims of the poisoning to recover their medical expenses. A federal court previously blocked many of the cases as barred by the statute of limitations, and it also halted the North Carolina General Assembly’s effort to extend the statute of limitations. 

How does this impact you personally? What if you live somewhere else far away from North Carolina? Why should you care? Ever read the book A Civil Action or seen the movie? That was a water contamination case that occurred in Massachusetts decades ago where people were poisoned and died. In other words, it can happen to anyone because we all need water, which is vulnerable to pollution. 

Just look at the so-called “water hack” that occurred in Florida earlier this week where a hacker broke into economical (cheap) remote software used to manage the local water supply. This is still being sorted out, but it shows how vulnerable the water system is and how cheap infrastructure endangers everyone in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

What can you do about this? Camp LeJeune’s water contamination rate of 380 parts per billion happened, but that does not mean it has to happen again. But it will continue to happen if people ignore the problem and stay ignorant. Read about the environment. Join groups dedicated to protecting the environment. Refuse to purchase products and services from businesses that do not use environmentally safe procedures and practices. Most importantly, vote for candidates who will help pass legislation that protects drinking water and the environment in general.

Next Steps

  • Read a book about water contamination (A Civil Action is a good one to start);
  • Learn about companies and nonprofits (especially those who advocate for planting trees) that are environmentally friendly;
  • Pay attention to stories and news about the environment; 
  • Only vote for people who value laws and regulations that protect the environment;
  • If something doesn’t look or taste right with your own tap water, report it to your town or county water facility immediately.

Water should not be poisonous, but some of it is. That does not mean, however, all water must be toxic. People can make a difference, and they must before it is too late.

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Superfund “Timebombs” Threaten to Explode

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 29, 2020 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

All organic life requires air, water, a place to exist, and a food source. But all of these things must be clean or there cannot be life, at least not long term. Throughout the United States, thousands of ticking environmental “timebombs” called Superfund sites are ready to explode. The poisons and other pollutants contained in these sites threaten all organic life in the United States and throughout the Earth. 

Heart of the Matter. Superfund sites number about 4,000 and were created by federal legislation in 1980. Congress set up a trust fund to finance the cleanup of these hazardous sites; the fund used to be financed by a tax on petroleum, but Congress let the tax expire twenty-five years ago. The sites are deemed so contaminated that they require long term responses to clean up these messes. And they are not self-contained. Hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels, increased precipitation, and wildfires spread their pollution, and they pose serious problems to 945 sites according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study from 2019. 

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How does this impact you personally? The Trump administration ignored many of these sites and cut funding for the continued cleanup, which caused the sites to further deteriorate. Incoming Biden Administration Climate Change Czar Gina McCarthy certainly has her work cut out for her

Everyone should care about Superfund sites. On July 19, 2018, in Libby, California, a wildfire broke out and burned an asbestos site, which could have released millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the groundwater and air if the fire had not been contained. It served as a cautionary tale, and it emphasizes the risk posed by Superfund sites that run along the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast. All of these sites are vulnerable to floods, wildfires, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other climate change associated risks. And the risks will only increase with climate change. 

What can you do about this? The sites differ in their severity as well as the types of pollution, but people can do one key thing to improve the environment: plant trees. Although trees are vulnerable to pollution and are often destroyed by the toxins in the Superfund sites, trees are also part of the solution because they can help expel many of the harmful pollutants by producing healthier byproducts. In 2017, one study showed using bioaugmentation (certain kinds of bacteria) protected poplar trees and allowed them to suck up polluted groundwater and expel it in the form of healthier byproducts.

 In other words, the trees cleaned up the site more cheaply and in a more beneficial way for the environment. 

Next Steps

These are complex problems, but there are things we can all do to make it better:

  • Recognize that this is a problem that affects everyone
  • Plant trees
  • Learn more about solutions such as bioaugmentation
  • Learn about how people pose risks to the environment, and what you can do to minimize both your “carbon footprint” and other risks you pose individually
  • Most importantly, call your Congressperson or Senator and tell them you are terrified about the climate’s impact on the Superfund sites. If enough people call, they will listen

Yes, there are absolutely timebombs out there (just ask the residents of Flynt, Michigan), but this does not mean we must fail to act and do things to improve the situation. If we do not, then the world will be uninhabitable, perhaps in our lifetime, but more than likely in our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lifetimes. 

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Miami Destined to Be Under Water

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 23, 2020 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

By 2100 the ocean will cover one-third of Miami. This means at least eight-hundred thousand people or one-third of the population will be displaced, making a large portion of the city uninhabitable. With this in mind, in 2019,  the State of Florida passed a law, which removed the requirement that a property owner obtain a permit before chopping down a tree. Now trees can be cut down with impunity. Miami’s sea level rose one foot from the early 1900s until 1993, and it rose five inches since 1993. It is only a matter of time before the whole city is flooded.

A September 29, 2020 article from Yale University’s School of the Environment argues Miami will eventually be swallowed by the ocean. The article attributes this to Miami’s location, the weather, climate change, and continued building and development in the Miami area. 

The problem is exacerbated by Miami sitting atop a limestone aquifer, which allows sea water to seep in through the ground even before the rising sea levels overtake the city. This problem is exacerbated by the massive amount of multimillion dollar development done in Miami, primarily in the form of oceanfront highrises. Given the lack of tree planting, heavy buildings, and soft ground, it is a recipe for disaster. 

The problem is exacerbated by Miami sitting atop a limestone aquifer, which allows sea water to seep in through the ground even before the rising sea levels overtake the city. This problem is exacerbated by the massive amount of multimillion dollar development done in Miami, primarily in the form of oceanfront highrises. Given the lack of tree planting, heavy buildings, and soft ground, it is a recipe for disaster. 

One effort to save Florida, and Miami in particular, is an initiative urging people to plant mangrove trees in their yards. Mangroves serve to hold the ground together, thus preventing erosion, but they also sop up water and other moisture. 

The world loses fifteen billion trees per year, and, since civilization began, forty-six percent of trees have been removed. To add a little context to this, Florida has seven billion trees. 

This is a complex problem, but the 2019 law removing the permitting requirement to cut down trees certainly hurt the situation in Miami. The law is called “Private Property Rights,” which is an absurd title because it makes the destruction of the environment a deprivation of liberty question. It is not, really, because the purpose of the original law was to preserve trees, and, ultimately, blunt the impact of climate change. Now, however, this will be more difficult. 

Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 showed what happened to cities below sea level when the right kind of storm hits. Something like this will happen in Miami eventually, and Miami will be largely under water. 

Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 showed what happened to cities below sea level when the right kind of storm hits. Something like this will happen in Miami eventually, and Miami will be largely under water. https:

From not wearing masks to cutting down trees that do not need to be removed, Americans have a self-destructive desire that likes to masquerade as “individual rights.” In a perverse way, this misguided notion of freedom will ultimately lead to the destruction of the environment in the United States with Miami being only one example in this ongoing literal and metaphorical flood. 


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Compost & Carbon Sink | Climate Action

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 10, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Compost is a big deal in the calculus for increasing carbon sink in our soil. It provides one of the most effective methods for the US public to assist with cutting carbon as deeply and swiftly as possible.

Peat is a compost. It looks very much like soil, but is simply partially decade vegetation rich in nutrients. These nutrients are what enable the increased absorption of carbon. Peatlands are only 3% of our global lands, yet they store approximately “30% of the earths soil organic carbon.” In light of our extreme #ClimateCrisis, peat should never be removed from its environment to be sold to consumers for profit.

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The ever increasing carbon levels as the global population continues to grow, demands that we each do our own part in every way possible to curb carbon, especially in light of the fact of how simple and easy this actually is.

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As we hurry to build infrastructure to support solar energy and EV autos, it makes sense to simultaneously rush to improve our natural carbon storing assets, which will further the lowering of CO2 in our atmosphere.

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Creating compost bins wherever possible can provide the much needed extra compost for forests, home gardens, public gardens and parks. It was exciting to see a “Compost” bin at the restaurant where I ate today. It was lined up with the other options at the recycling and garbage hub. I always feel so hopeful when a business “gets it” and does it’s little part. The care and maintenance of a compost bin in a restaurant is minor, but the benefit to society is huge. It pretty much follows the same ratio mentioned at the top of the page: 3% / 30% .

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We can do this!

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Let’s Rush to Win One Eco Battle | Commit To Zero Waste 2021

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 6, 2020 by Noreen Wise

It’s exciting to think about all the ways we can rush forward on the climate front in 2021, with John Kerry as the US Climate Envoy, and our 46th President, Joe Biden promising to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the day he’s inaugurated, January 20, 2021.

Let’s nail the waste scene as soon as possible. It’s not complicated. It just takes focus.

I look forward to 2021 super jazzed to be living a circular economy life. I took the leap year ago, and was pumped to have it nearly perfected by December 2019, which is when I successfully managed a zero waste month. I felt like I’d won an olympic gold medal, not to mention the excitement of having extra money in my pocket the way Wall Street geniuses always do.

Waste is something we can all manage on our own without being forced by laws. We just wake up one morning (this morning hopefully) and say, “I’m in!” And voila, we’re three quarters of the way there.

A zero waste life is about setting up a defined circular economy zone in our households where we can easily breakdown everything we consume so that it can quickly be turned around for multiple uses. The goal is:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle & Upcycle

Refuse is a big deal. We have the power to motivate businesses to do the right thing very effectively by refusing to buy certain products that create waste. For example, back at the beginning of October 2019, I made the decision to never buy ketchup packaged in plastic again. This was very difficult, because Heinz has cornered the market and there were no glass alternatives. I called Heinz, but Heinz refuses to sell ketchup packaged in glass in the US the way they used to. So I made the bold decision to switch to BBQ sauce, 85 percent of which is packaged in glass.

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•A month later, Red Duck created a brand new product, ketchup in glass. It’s delicious, so much healthier. And it’s organic too. Thank you, Red Duck! A responsive American corporation meeting consumer demand.

•Additionally, I now use the recyclable paper towels made from bamboo that can be washed a hundred times. They dry on the counter so quickly. This has dramatically reduced our household waste.

•In 2020, wonderful new eco-products have been rolled out, shunning the standard plastic packaging and using paper instead: toothpaste tablets, laundry detergent sheets, shampoo and conditioner bars, and more.

•I recently purchased my first vegan leather tote bag, handmade from cork in Portugal. Vegan leather is a massive new industry. No more animal cruelty.

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We must all transition to these new basics. We hold all the power in this climate crisis. By wielding our money in the right direction, we can preserve our children’s future.

Composting kitchen scraps is a very big deal. Our oceans are stuffed with carbon and can’t handle one more ounce. We lost billions of trees in 2020 as a result of the infernos out West. We suddenly find ourselves at a staggering loss in the ability to sequester the carbon we emit in the US. Soil holds 70 percent of the carbon stored in forests. We must rush to plant tons of green —trees, shrubs, ground cover, flowers — as well as fill the soil with compost from home kitchen scraps in the hopes that we can move the needle at twice the speed we’d otherwise be able to do. This is life or death. It’s an imperative.

US household kitchens should have multiple bins just like in Canada and the EU:

  • Composting for food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Paper recycling
  • Plastic recycling
  • Glass recycling or reuse for storage containers, drinking glasses, vases, etc
  • Aluminum recycling

Once this is all set up, you’ll soon find that you have no garbage. It’s startling. A year ago, on New Years Eve 2019, I lifted the lid and my garbage bin was completely empty.

We’ve got this. Let’s rush!~

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Single-Use Plastic Bags MUST Go

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 19, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

With the world in the grip of a pandemic, everyone wants something to make life less troublesome. Plastic bags make carrying things much easier. More items can be carried, which means you can avoid going back to your car in the rain or marching through the snow to retrieve that one last item. If only it were so simple. If only we did not have to worry about the environment.

On March 1, 2020, New York state’s ban on plastic bags became law. This means any entity authorized to collect sales taxes cannot distribute plastic bags. Failure to follow this law subjects the entity to up to a fine of up to five-hundred dollars per incident. The State of New York created the ban for good reason. Prior to the ban, New York State produced on average twenty-three billion bags per year, which filled already overflowing landfills, snagged recycling sorters, and wreaked havoc with birds to name just a few problems.

New York is not the only state that passed such a ban. Eight other states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont) have passed similar laws.

Of course, not all states have such rules, and these states still produce millions of plastic bags. It does raise the question: can lawsuits force other states to ban plastic bags?

Maybe. It is probably a state by state process unless Congress passes a statute under, for example, the Interstate Commerce Clause, that says plastic bags somehow affect interstate commerce. That may sound far fetched, but it is not. The Interstate Commerce Clause allowed Congress to pass much of the civil rights legislation, and it is quite a big stick to bludgeon states into submission. Whether Congress wants to take this up remains doubtful. 

In states that have the plastic bans, the bans are not absolute. New York has some restrictions. Most notably restaurants that offer takeout food, which in the age of COVID-19, can create many plastic bags, are exempt. Although it is likely not “an exception that swallows the rule,” this limitation still creates a problem when so many more people are getting takeout and likely will for the foreseeable future as virus numbers explode. 

But what about other plastic or rubber?

Rubber glove use during the pandemic harms the environment, and there is no end in sight. While banning plastic bags everywhere will help, it will not solve all issues. It should still be done, however. 

More needs to be done because bags are not the only problem:

While plastic bags certainly make things easier to carry, their burdens to the environment certainly outweigh their benefits. The extent to which lawsuits or Congressional action will limit their use remains unknown. People should count on neither. It really is about personal choices, which must also be made with respect to other items people use. Over time it can all add up to pollution, death, and, as we have seen with COVID-19, a pandemic.

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Portugal Ascending in the Age of Sustainability | Cork Element

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 9, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Portugal is ascending. Sustainability is the the critical path forward in our effort to curb global warming and become carbon neutral. For ambitious overachievers, sustainability will ride us all the way to carbon negative. Successful sustainability is about adjusting every single one of our everyday small choices and shifting to sustainable options. What food do we eat? How is it packaged? Do we drive an EV, or walk, ride a bike? Are we using a bamboo toothbrush, refusing plastic straws? Do we have a vegan leather cork bag?

Yes, that’s right. A luxurious, sustainable, vegan leather cork bag? The new vegan leather that shines a glowing spotlight on the green horizons of the $32 billion women’s accessories industry. In fact, according to Infinium Global Research, by the year 2025, the vegan leather industry alone will be a massive, thriving $89.5 billion industry.

Cork stands out amongst other vegan leather alternatives. The cork comes from cork trees, native to Portugal, which according to Cycling Centuries, produces approximately 50 percent of the world’s supply of commercial cork, and 70 percent of cork’s world trade. These evergreen oaks cover the the Alentejo region of southwest Portugal, with their knotted forms quickly catching the eye of passersby. Many of the trunks are marked for harvesting the cork, or have the outer bark of their lower trunks already peeled off, exposing the reddish wood underneath. 

Thankfully, peeling the cork from the evergreen oak trunk causes no harm. These mighty beauties live approximately 200 years; their cork bark is harvested every nine years. I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the vital importance of high quality cork in preserving our favorite wines, with some of these cork plugs protecting the quality of standout rare wines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus, consumers should have full confidence in cork’s durability in serving as the ideal leather alternative.

With sustainability becoming such a huge global issue following the 2015 Paris Agreement, innovative solutions have sprung up everywhere. Enter three creative Portuguese trailblazers — Joao Guimaraes Paiva, Hugo Diaz and Debasmita Bhattacharjee — who knew all about cork and were excited to step into this maximumly competitive ring and introduce their handmade line of vegan leather cork bags to global consumers. It was exactly a year ago, in November 2019, that they founded Cork Element.

It’s exhilarating to see such a beautiful collection of luxurious handmade bags crafted by a brand new company and founded for the sole purpose of delivering sustainable vegan leather bags to meet the goal of lowering our global atmospheric carbon level. Many of the top fashion designers now have cork bags as an alternative to their animal leather products. However, I personally feel it’s much more gratifying to purchase a cork bag from an ethical innovator that doesn’t believe in killing animals for profit and doesn’t simultaneously sell such products alongside their cork leather line. 

Cork Element bags are all manufactured in Portugal. The team outlined the process for manufacturing their high quality handmade products as follows:

  • the cork is harvested and stripped from the trees
  • it arrives at the factory and is boiled in water, which expands the cells and makes the cork more pliable 
  • no toxic chemicals are used
  • the cork is shaved down into thin sheets the same thickness as tissue paper
  • cork is naturally water and dust resistant, but Cork Element seals the cork sheet with a non-toxic sealant to keep it from getting dirty
  • cork can get wet, but leather cannot; in fact, cork leather can even be washed in the machine

Cork Element: “Cork fabric is durable as leather and as versatile as fabric. This material is environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic, water resistant and stain resistant as well as easily cleaned and long lasting.”

I asked the Cork Element team what official statement they’d like to make to American and Canadian consumers about their fabulous cork leather collections:

Cork is an extremely good alternative to leather and it’s a much better material than leather. Cork is water resistant, stain resistant and a durable material. As we are fighting for animal rights every day, cork is a material with a cause. Cork Oak trees provide home to biodiversity around Portugal and Mediterranean regions. It’s a very simple material with no chemical processes unlike leather. If you love animals and like leather, America and Canada should definitely try out this beautiful tree leather.

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, what better way to celebrate a new US president, as well as our renewed commitment to curb global warming by rejoinig the Paris Agreement, than by purchasing a cork bag for all the women in your life.

Cork Element bags are currently available:

We hope many more US & Canadian retailers and online marketplaces will pick up the Cork Element brand and offer these beautiful handmade collections to their animal loving, eco-friendly, suitability focused customers!

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Trees for Love | 247 Seedlings Planted to Remember Those We’ve Lost to Covid

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 7, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is excited to share the wonderful news that 247 free redbud and button bush seedlings were distributed to Fairfax County and Northern Virginia residents to plant in remembrance of those lost to Covid in our communities. Fairfax ReLeaf supplied the free seedlings, which Gallant Gold Media distributed through George Mason University’s parking Lot P on Saturday, October 24, 2020. The Fairfax Tree Commission was the essential liaison that made this all possible, enabling the free seedling distribution to come to fruition by connecting these various organizations. 

It takes a village.

Apparently, the Trees for Love campaign is the largest community tree planting success in the state of Virginia during 2020. The Burke Centre Conservancy was the largest group of planters, distributing 146 Fairfax ReLeaf free seedlings to their Clusters and residences. The rest of the redbud and button bush seedlings were claimed by Northern Virginia residents, many of whom were moved by friends and family who’d been lost to covid and were searching to find a meaningful way to honor their memory.

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Burke Centre Conservancy are big tree planters, here’s a photo from 2019

One such resident was Dawn Zimmerman. Dawn, a Virginia State licensed professional counselor, operating her solo practice Imago Dei Counseling in Fairfax City, attributes her love of nature and gardening and the outdoors to her grandfather, a midwest farmer, as well as spending her childhood in Thailand. Although born in metro Washington DC, Dawn’s father was a State Department Foreign Service Officer. From a young age Dawn seems to have become well-acquainted with the understanding of how important it is to connect with others in our community and let them know we care, especially during a crisis.

Whether it’s Dawn’s close connection to the State Department, her career as a counselor, or her passion for nature, Dawn felt compelled to enrich Northern Virginia with multiple Virginia Native redbuds and button bushes to honor the five family and friends she’s lost to Covid. Dawn wanted us to know more than just their names though, she was eager to share their stories.

Ron Ontko: Dawn’s honorary uncle, passed away from Covid related complications on April 2, 2020 in Hendersonville, NC. He was 89 years old. Ron and his wife Carol, met in Wisconsin, and after college, while in a young couples group at Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, DC,  became good friends with Dawn’s parents. The two couples went on to become lifelong friends. Ron was an avid photographer and devoted ‘Skins fan, but his career was spent in public service. After graduating high school, Ron served in the United States Air Force, before he returned to school. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Russian Studies from the University of Wisconsin and then his master’s degree in international law from George Washington University. From there, Ron worked for the NSA, the United States Senate, and the US State Department, which is quite a remarkable resume. Ron Ontko was a Freemason and a Shiner, participating in fundraising for numerous children’s charities. He is survived by his wife Carol of 62 years, as well as his son, Andrew, and daughter, Julie.

Jack “Zeke” Zimmerman: Zeke is Dawn’s uncle, who was lost to Covid related pneumonia on October 21, 2020 at aged 86 in Frederick, MD. Survived by wife Lynn, sons Steve (Andrea) and grandsons Eric and Mark of Memphis, TN; Paul of Wilmington, DE and was predeceased by son John, Silver Spring, MD.  Also survived by Mary Lee Zimmerman, the mother of their three sons; Daughter-in-Law Christie (widow of John) and grandchildren John Paul “JP” and Maria. 

The following is a loving tribute written by Zeke’s grandson, Mark Zimmerman:
Zeke Zimmerman was known to many as the “Godfather of DC Metropolitan Area Sandlot Basketball.”  GrandJack lived his life around basketball. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and fielded basketball teams. He formed teams from players that he would recruit from across the country. Around 1950, having teams with multiple races was unprecedented. My grandfather did not judge a player based on his skin color, but on his basketball ability. Jack was known as Zeke Zimmerman in the D.C. area. He formed a team called “Zeke’s All-Stars.” This was the first team that had both black and white players in the D.C. area. Because my grandfather did not judge a player based on his race, many black basketball players were able to go to college for basketball or even the NBA. A couple of years ago, he gave me a jersey from the 1950 Zeke’s All-Stars team. This jersey is a symbol of my family’s value of inclusion. It did not matter which race wore this specific jersey. The only thing that mattered was that my grandfather saw talent in that young man, and he wanted to help. My family still holds the values of inclusion and equality in our everyday lives, as we do not judge people based on their skin tone, but on their personality.

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Redbud and button bush seedlings planted to remember Zeke Zimerman and Ron Ontko

The following is a State Department obituary with a few extra details provided by Dawn:
Patrick “David” Husar, 67, died May 9, in Arlington, VA. David was born in Lorain, Ohio located on Lake Erie and 30 miles West of Cleveland. At University of Kentucky, where David majored in history, one of his professors encouraged him to consider a career with the Foreign Service. Joining in 1976, Husar served as a consular officer at posts in Pakistan, India, and the Philippines before transitioning to Civil Service. He retired in 2016 and enjoyed long walks around the Washington area, was an avid reader, and was dedicated to his faith. He is survived by his wife, Jonahlyn; a brother Michael; and extended family in the Philippines.

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Button bush seedling planted to remember David Husar

Daniel Lee: Spending a few minutes on Google images to view the architectural designs that Daniel Lee graced upon all of us here in the United States, is sure to inspire. And inspiration is certainly the impulse Mr. Lee appears to have been striving for when he graduated from the Mississippi School of Architecture in 1981 and began his career in classical architecture as an intern with Allen Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg is one of the premier classical architects of the twenty-first century. The son of Protestant missionaries, Mr. Lee’s love of classical architecture sprung from his childhood in Paris, France, surrounded by neoclassical landmarks erected during the reign of Louis XIV and that continued all the way through Louis XVI. Many of us here in Virginia are endowed with an inherent appreciation for classical architecture, which dates back to the founding of our most historic cities. So it’s with great sadness that we lost Mr. Lee to Covid on August 17, 2020, at age 64. Mr. Lee is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leonor Lee, his two sons, Stephen and Christopher, and two daughters, Susanne and Katherine.

Redbud seedling planted to remember Daniel Lee

There’s an additional friend of the family. In Dawn’s own words:
Pat Purcell died from Covid related complications on May 11th, 2020 in Fairfax, VA. Pat resided in the same Senior living community as my mom and was the elderly mother of Ann Lawrence, a friend of my parents from their local Lutheran Church. Mom and Pat became friends but lived on different floors and in different areas of the building. Interestingly, Pat was actually a member of a local Baptist Church but was adopted by the Lutheran pastor, Rev Sandy Kessinger who made regular visits to their Continuing Care Community. 

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Redbud seedlings planted to remember Pat Purcell

Dawn spent 10 years working at the State Department before starting her counseling firm. After buying her townhouse, she became involved with her HOA replanting project, which she finds life affirming. During the first five years she hand-dug holes, which is quite a feat, and planted five trees, as well as a slew of shrubs and perennials. Dawn was sidelined from her gardening last year following two minor car accidents which required physical therapy. But thankfully, she returned with all her passion and began removing hundreds of “small, weedy Rose of Sharon saplings and bush honeysuckle” that were rapidly spreading in the HOA areas. She’d learned about the importance of growing Virginia Natives and was determined to correct the situation.

Dawn’s Virginia Native Trees for Love redbud and buttonbush seedlings are planted in three HOA areas in Dawn’s Northern Virginia townhouse community. Dawn received a note from one family member who expressed, “That’s perfect; thank you. Not just words but heartfelt, tears flowing, gratitude.”

When I asked Dawn for one final thought on the importance of planting trees, she responded with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.”

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Fracking May Decide Pennsylvania

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 4, 2020 by Michael Wells, Attorney @slnc01

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are locked in a tight battle for the presidency, which may come down to Pennsylvania. Big coal and facking employ many people in Pennsylvania, and, understandably, fracking is a huge issue. All the votes have been cast and are being counted, but the Pennsylvania race (and possibly the presidency) may come down to the issue of fracking. The two candidates’ positions are more similar than you may think.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique for extracting oil and natural gas by firing pressurized liquid into the Earth’s crust. Trump has long supported the practice and has even signed an Executive Order to protect fracking. Biden’s position has been to say he will not ban fracking, but that he will look towards alternative fuel sources, perhaps in an effort to win key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio (which he appears to have lost). One indication of how important this issue is in Pennsylvania can be gleaned from Vice Presidential Kamala Harris’s October 6, 2020 tweet:

While Biden and Harris must appeal to the Green New Deal part of the Democratic Party, they must also win key states such as Pennsylvania, which rely heavily on fracking. To what extent this is just politics, remains to be seen, but, given what appears to be a Repulican Senate, legislation to ban or limit fracking does not appear possible. This means this dangerous practice will continue. 

According to an article from Euronews, fracking poses a number of environmental hazards:

  • Methane leaks occur frequently to the tune of one million tons in Pennsylvania per year. The industry only reported 64,000 tons.
  • Methane and other gasses released through fracking are a problem because they trap twenty-five more times heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
  • Fracking pollutes the groundwater supply, which can cause cancer.

From a legal standpoint, the pollution issues pose millions in liability for companies that are not careful. Quite frankly, even if these companies are careful, the risk is quite high. Although not the result of fracking, Flynt, Michigan is a cautionary tale as to what happens when drinking water is contaminated. 

Fracking does supply jobs, upwards of ten million nationally, but, if Biden wins, his energy plan will likely aim to rejoin the Paris Agreement. It is unclear whether fracking as it stands in the United States would violate or otherwise cause problems with the agreement.

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Biden has said he opposes fracking on public lands, but it is unclear what exactly this means. Even if Biden were to oppose fracking altogether, it is unlikely he could get a bill limiting or banning it  to pass the Senate due to the Republican majority. 

Fracking’s future remains uncertain in the United States, but it does appear it is not going anywhere anytime soon even after the votes are counted and a victor declared. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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