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Environmental Scientist Barry Commoner Dies at 95

One of the men I admired most in the early environmental movement, Dr. Barry Commoner, has died at 95 at his home in Brooklyn Heights, and I think the world experiences a great loss. He was an early champion of recycling, organic food and reducing fossil fuel use… and, of course, he took a firm stand against nuclear testing.

Commoner was trained as a biologist at Columbia and Harvard and combined scientific expertise and leftist zeal. His work on the global effects of radioactive fallout, which included documenting concentrations of strontium 90 in the baby teeth of thousands of children, contributed materially to the adoption of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

He was a popular speaker and author 1n the 1960s and ’70s, and even campaigned for president in 1980.

Time Magazine called Commoner the Paul Revere of Ecology on the first Earth Day in 1970.

His four informal rules of ecology were:

1. Everything Is Connected to Everything Else

2. Everything Must Go Somewhere

3. Nature Knows Best

4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

Dr. Commoner’s was both concerned with ecology  and an ideal of social justice in which everything was indeed connected to everything else. Like some other leftist dissenters of his time, he believed that environmental pollution, war, and racial and sexual inequality needed to be addressed as related issues of a central problem.

Commoner insisted that the future of the planet depended on industry’s learning not to make messes in the first place, rather than on trying to clean them up after they were made. He thought scientists in the service of industry could not just create some new process or product and then remove themselves from a moral responsibility for the potential results. He was a lifelong opponent of nuclear power because of its radioactive waste and scorned the idea of pollution credit swaps because an industry would have to be fouling the environment in the first place to be rewarded by such a program.

He saw that social needs were tied up with environmental ones… for instance:

“I don’t believe in environmentalism as the solution to anything. What I believe is that environmentalism illuminates the things that need to be done to solve all of the problems together. For example, if you’re going to revise the productive system to make cars or anything else in such a way as to suit the environmental necessities, at the same time why not see to it that women earn as much as men for the same work?”

Harvard paleontologist Steven J. Gould’s summary of Barry Commoner’s work and achievements is clear:

“Although he has been branded by many as a maverick, I regard him as right and compassionate on nearly every major issue.”


Over at Mellow Moods having coffee after the show…

Not a bad show on WSHC this morning… a lot of song request challenges (and I found all of them) from my regulars and nothing went wrong with the equipment (Ta Dah!).

The weekend looks lovely. After coffee, I’m on my way over to our now up-for-sale town house to get some hardware off the garden fence. Then back home to make up the sleep that I DIDN”T get last night.

Hope you all have a great weekend.

Sitting over at Mellow Moods…

John Case was still away, so I did the morning radio show alone and unprepared… but it went OK. Now I’m over at the Mood for post-show coffee and talking with local friends who hang out here.

Can’t tell what the weather will be like for the rest of the day. It’s nice out now, but there are some dark clouds rolling over and it is a little windy… if we have rain later in the day I won’t be surprised.

Shepherdstown is setting up for an active weekend. Tomorrow is Eastern Panhandle Earth Day at Morgans Grove Park all afternoon and into the evening. There is the Really, Really Free yard sale on The Wall on German Street both Saturday and Sunday. And, of course, I have my regular WSHC show, Talk To Me, tomorrow from 11 AM to 1:00 PM.

Elly is doing a lot of different things today and, I guess, for the rest of the weekend, so I’m pretty much on my own. We’ll see how it goes.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

We’re off to Morgan’s Grove Market… but the weather looks chancy…

Elly and I are volunteering for Peter Corum today over at the Market. He has to leave early, so we’re going to help out n the afternoon getting all those veggies sold and just keeping things moving.

Instead of it’s usual 9 – 12 hours, we’re joining the Farm Day celebrations locally and saying open all day. I had hoped the overnight thunderstorms would have gotten all the rain out of the sky, but the Weather Bureau is calling for a 30% chance of rain today, with the biggest chance this afternoon. The clouds are pretty thick as well… not sure we’ll see any sun.

But the Market goes on Rain or Shine… so if you are in the neighborhood, come on by and you’ll get groceries, crafts, snacks, live music (starts at 10) and more… and you can take a look at the Sustainable Shepherdstown Community Garden (where the corn is now has high as an elephant’s knee). Elly is still signing people up for the few remaining plots… very inexpensive (provides for water and deer security).

The weather held out for the Morgan’s Grove Market this morning…

… with a passing rainfall not happening until after the 12 noon close. All-in-all it was a beautiful day at the market. Plenty of fresh vegetables and plantables… 2 new baking folks set up in two different pavilions (what do you call those fabric things? Tents? Rooftops?)… and the Speakeasy Boys, local favorites, playing the blues and country-tinged music for the crowd.

Elly recruited two more people for the Community Garden… people who made up their minds to take a plot or two after seeing the garden from the Market platform and visiting with her while she was planting.

This was a pleasant way to start Memorial Day Weekend Saturday. Play at Full Circle tonite.

A Beautiful Day for the End of the World…

The sun is shining and it looks like a nice day for the Morgan’s Grove Market and the final side of the Community Garden deer fence.

But wait! Today is the Rapture according to Harold Camping, no? All those fine, saved people (and the bodies of the buried, saved people, arise from the ground and float upward) should be headed to heaven to sit at the feet of the Lord.

Except, it has not happened yet. Maybe later today.

I’m off to the Market in an hour or so. Elly is subbing for Ruth at the Four Seasons Book Store booth (which doubles as the Sustainable Shepherdstown handout area) and I’ve pledged to sit in for Joy at her ceramics booth while she uses her truck and the Fence Puller to stretch the last side.

Anyway, come Hell (which has been predicted for the likes of me) or High Water, we will get something accomplished today. Hope you do, too (unless you are taken up in the Rapture… if so, bask in the pleasure of knowing I was wrong.)

You couldn’t have asked for a nicer day…

… for the opening of Morgan’s Grove Market. The sun was out, it wasn’t too warm , and people showed up to fill the parking lot.

Elly and I went for a little more than the first hour… bought some vegetables, talked to people and had a great time.

And everyone seemed so happy! This is going to be a regular Saturday morning thing until the late Fall…and we have to hand it to Peter Corum who organized the whole thing and really pulled it off.

Can’t wait until next week… it’s going to be fun.

Following our visit to Morgan’s Grove Market, we drove over to Boonsboro Maryland for their Green fest, primarily because Elly wanted to buy two more composting bins for our gardening.

We walked around the park, spoke to some of Elly’s colleagues from HCC and came back home to feed the dogs and have lunch.

Nice day all around. Hope yours was, too.

Saturday Projects…

Given the first good, thunderstorm free Saturday in a long time, everyone was outdoors taking care of our long delayed projects. I started the day by cutting the grass in our front yard (which is very small… I use a rotary trimmer, don’t need a lawnmower) and took down the really overgrown grass.

Then Elly and I went over to work on the Community Garden fence installation. We were there before ten and original only had a couple of small neighbor boys (one who, incidentally, has reserved a garden plot for himself) to get the fifth post in.

By the end of the day, after Peter Corum and some of the other volunteers who came at 10 AM helped with the rest of the posts until all four corners…12 posts… were now in the ground.

The other project today, which our group participated in as well, was the building of a barn-like structure on the Morgan’s Grove Market Platform ( which used to be the foundation of a burned down restaurant.)

Al Thomas of Joint Efforts had cut and notched the pieces and had actually set up a lot of the structure himself before the team showed up.

But once everyone was there they made significant progress in getting the bracings up for the roof (it took four people on each side at the top of the rigging and a couple of people checking for accuracy below.

This is where it was when Elly and I left:

Market opens May 7th.

Rain or Not, the Earth Day Festival goes on…

I just spent three hours at the Earth Day Festival in Shepherdstown’s Morgan’s Grove Park. Elly and the Sustainable Shepherdstown folks had a booth, as did most of the non-profits and craftsmen in town.

When I walked over to the park from my house (about a quarter mile away) there was a little bit of sun peeking through the clouds… but the weather said we’d have scattered showers and perhaps some thunder storms today, so I checked out the areas with decent coverage.

There was a fabric bandshell at the bottom of the hill from the Pavilion…the big protective area in case of rain… and they were warming up the mikes and checking the sound levels until it was time for the first act: a guy playing wooden wind pipes to recorded background music.

The next group to play was a country singer with an all-girl backup band – Lucas and the Lovelies – and they were pretty good.

Then it started to rain, which made the folks watching the music get under the pavilion so that they could see it without getting wet.

Meanwhile, Elly was selling cookies she baked this morning and Ruth Robertas’s Brownies under their tent top, raising money for Sustainable Shepherdstown and promoting the Community Garden. I watched the booth for a little while (sold some cookies/brownies) while she talked with some of their volunteers and with Peter Corum at the Morgan’s Grove Market Booth .

So I waited till the rain let up, then I walked home to feed the dogs. I think they’ll have a little more time without rain, but i do expect more before they close the booths in a couple of hours. It was fairly well attended, though.

It’s raining in Shepherdstown for the Earth Day Celebration!

Hooboy! I just woke up to rain here in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and I’m wondering how the big Earth Day event in Morgan’s Grove Park is going to go. Oh, there’s a covered pavilion there so the musicians can be dry while they play… but this has got to cut down on people. Or maybe not. Shepherdstowners are a hardy lot.

I’ve got to go to Martinsburg first where they are having a special sale on water barrels (for collecting rainwater for gardening, etc., and composters. Elly has an event of her own to go to, so I’m in charge of the environmental equipment purchases.

I’ll have to get to the blog a little later today. Hope you all have a good one.

Upcoming in Shepherdstown Next Week…

Saturday the 23d is Earth Day and Shepherdstown is having a big affair at Morgan’s Grove Park (which, of course, is right next door to the Community Garden that Sustainable Shepherdstown is setting up and the location for the new Morgan’s Grove Market which opens in May.)

Here is the poster:

Looks like great music… walk there if you can (I’m a lucky neighbor) or bicycle… cars pay $10.00 to park (which helps the Men’s Club maintain Morgan’s Grove.)

Earth Day

Good Morning on Earth Day #40. Here we are contemplating the state of our poor planet as it more and more apparently breaks down. When whole stretches of ocean are polluted enough to eliminate small life forms, when the sky is up in pollutants, when the global temperature is up a degree, when even things you thought were part of the natural balance, like frogs, are rapidly disappearing due to a worldwide fungus (thanks for showing this one PBS!), we may be past the point of real recovery in my lifetime, if at all.

I’m watching Morning Joe as we watch this and they are commenting on taking a microwave stove when you go camping and what happens with all the used cell phones and computer parts ending up in landfills. It makes me wonder what is really wrong with all of us. Lazy? Stupid? Trapped in the all-to-human inability to actually believe something is wrong with the world.

This afternoon I’ll go to a movie at Shepherd on Earth Day subject matter and do my bit for understanding. Will it matter? Don’t Think so.

Happy Earth Day.

Earth Day is coming up on Thursday… here’s a quote to think about.

“We simply can’t live on the new earth as if it were the old earth.  We’ve foreclosed that option.”

– Bill McKibben, the respected environmentalist and author                                                          of the pioneering “End of Nature.”

OK, now in order to get really serious about how we are going to have to think about living on this planet which McKibbon says is not dying but is already dead. The article in Salon called “Eaarth”: Earth is over, reviewing his new book, is scary… not just because he can pinpoint the problems but because he shows how our political and economic  situation as a world power keeps us from accepting the solutions. It’s worth reading.

More on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22nd, later.