My name is Peter Buckland and I’m a lifelong Pennsylvania resident.
On December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Today, when we are changing our climate, when racial injustice and massive disparity between the haves and have-nots is rampant, I think we can all agree, the times are trying.
I was born not far from here and grew up at the feet of Tussey Mountain. In the dozens of years I’ve lived in the area, I can tell you that the climate is changing and it’s affecting our lives. I’ve found ticks on myself in February. Like thousands of PA residents, I’ve contracted and was successfully treated for Lyme Disease. I’ve watched white and pink blossoms my black cherry tree and narcissus and daffodils bud in early March. Unheard of. I’ve witnessed the hemlocks dying in Allen Seeger as hemlock wooly adelgids feast their ways to the tree’s deaths. With fewer cold snaps, the little beetles are devastating our state trees. The skiing industry is already suffering. Trout are suffering in warmer streams and rivers. This year, Pennsylvania has been in drought conditions as changes in the water cycle are already at work. We’ve had extended dry spells followed by heavy rain, rain that doesn’t soak. If conditions hold, Penn State scientists predict that much of the state will be in drought every summer and fall in the coming decades and winters will be nearly snowless. Pennsylvania is under the effects. But Pennsylvania is far from powerless. Quite the opposite.
We in PA have an integral part to play. PA is the second biggest energy exporter in the country after Texas. The states that surround us buy our power. Right now, that power comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear with a smattering of hydropower and a few drops of wind and solar. Since we export so much power to New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and other states, we have a disproportionate impact on the climate. In fact, Pennsylvania emits 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases despite the fact that we have less than 1/5% of the world’s population. That’s a lot of power. And as Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That is our responsibility—all of our responsibility—to act with courage right now and every day that we live to ensure a just and sustainable future.
It’s daunting. It’s scary to hold that burden. But I think it’s a burden that, once realized and shouldered, brings us that incredible joy of working together. Pennsylvanians are doing it.
Today, my former T.A. works for a major solar company. I have friends who own a green design and building company. You can find smart energy businesses now. As the price of solar comes down, they’ll grow.
Today, dozen of Penn State students are designing affordable net zero houses for low-middle income families.
Today, my former student Molly works at an energy co-op to make the grid smarter and ready to handle our demands.
Today, I have friends and allies fighting against pipeline infrastructure.
Today Steve, Jon, Mary, Bob, and Maddi are using electricity from rooftop solar. More of us are purchasing renewable energy.
Today and tomorrow, Jon and Peterson, Sylvia and Cricket, will prepare citizens to meet with their legislators to advocate for climate sense in national policy.
Today, my peers working in local government–one of whom is here in the back–will work that much more on stormwater ordinances and incentives for energy efficiency.
Today, my partner Meg and hundreds of other farmers were at work (or maybe taking the day off) on diversified low-impact organic farms that care for soil, that most precious resource.
Today, more than ten Republican members of congress are considering how to move that intractable branch of government, the House of Representatives to take climate change seriously. Today, conservatives like former Reagan cabinet member George Schultz, former Bush, Jr. treasury secretary Hank Paulson, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and conservative hero and founder of Republic[En] Bob Inglis are working to get a price put on carbon, something I’ll tell you the Sanders campaign successfully fought to get into the Democratic platform.
When Thomas Paine wrote that these are the times that try men’s souls—women too I might add—he added, “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” We cannot be summer soldiers or sunshine patriots. If we want our state to use its power responsibly, then we have to come together. And it we want to keep America great without the incursions of a narcissistic carnival-barking cheetoh-haired windbag who would ruin her for his own ego—then we must be patriots today and every day after by fighting for climate justice.
As Pennsylvanians, it is our duty.