Parker a natural as county environmental coordinator

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Beth Parker’s appreciation for the environment comes naturally. She grew up near Pittsburgh, spending time outside, with a dad who worked as a canoeing instructor for the Red Cross. Her love of nature has led her to the position of environmental program coordinator for Wood County. “I guess it boils down to respect,” Parker said. “The earth is our home. We should respect it. We’re not going to get another one, so we need to treat it well.” Parker earned an environmental science degree from Bowling Green State University, with a specialization in education and interpretation. She went on to work at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio, the Long Lake Conservation Center in Minnesota, and most recently at the Wood County Park District as a naturalist. “When you have a love for nature, you want to protect it and make sure it’s well cared for,” Parker said. Parker took over the environmental program coordinator position just as the county opened permanent recycling sites at several satellite locations throughout Wood County. “That started the day before I started,” she said. “I’ve been out checking those to make sure things are going well.” The recycling sites are being used by many county residents, she said. But Parker has identified a need for education on some topics at the satellite locations. Some people are continuing to put their recyclables in plastic grocery bags, which cause problems. “They can tangle up the machines,” Parker said. And cardboard boxes should be flattened before being put in the drop-offs, she added. “But people are definitely using them, which is great,” Parker said. In addition to the county’s recycling efforts, Parker will also be giving tours of the wind farm and county landfill. She will be working on avenues for education, programs, and partnerships with community organizations. “I’m looking forward to being able to continue the educational opportunities they’ve been providing in the past,” she said. “I look forward to building relationships with other community groups, businesses, and governmental entities.” Parker is also interested in working on composting in the county. “It’s all about working toward a sustainable future,” she said.

Spring weather arrives in time for Earth Day event

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After weeks of cruel winter-like weather, Mother Nature graced the region with springtime just in time for Earth Day. The sunshine was a perfect backdrop Sunday afternoon for kids learning about nature, recycling and energy at the ninth annual community Earth Day celebration. The fun lessons included serious messages, such as: An estimated 20 pounds of food per person, per month is thrown away in the U.S. Trees in public spaces in Bowling Green intercept more than 7.4 million gallons of stormwater each year. The Wood County District Public Library bookmobile runs on compressed natural gas, which is an abundant, low-cost, green alternative to gasoline or diesel. Turning off the water faucet when brushing teeth could save 5,480 gallons of water a year. The yard outside the Montessori School in Bowling Green was covered with kids learning about helping Monarch butterflies, protecting Lake Erie, planting trees and saving the Earth. Many of the children signed pledges that gave them specific ideas of how to help the Earth. To be a “Clean Water Superhero,” kids agreed to shorten their showers, pick up litter, adopt a storm drain and turn off the water when brushing teeth. Some agreed to “pick up pet poo,” to prevent bacteria from getting in water sources. The lesson, according to Bowling Green Sustainability Coordinator Amanda Gamby, is that kids can make a difference. “We can do things individually at home to help,” Gamby said. Kids learned about the importance of dragonflies, flower pollination, and nature’s food chains. They also learned how much energy is takes to operate small household appliances. With the help of Jason Sisco, engineer with the city of Bowling Green, kids pedaled a bicycle to get an idea of how hard they had to work to create enough power to run light bulbs, then a radio, a hairdryer and a fan. Children got to plant saplings and sunflower seeds to take home. They learned about the need for humans to protect Monarch butterflies. “I’m trying to get everybody excited about Monarch butterflies, and how to help them,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “Monarch populations have been plummeting for several years,” so much so that they are now on the endangered species list, she said. The reason is because the butterflies need milkweed plants for reproduction. “We’ve done such a good job getting rid of milkweed,” Stutzman said. She is trying to get Bowling Green residents to plant butterfly weed, which will attract the Monarchs back. Several Bowling Green State University environmental education students had stations set up for interactive learning. One site had three ecosystems of Lake Erie, the Maumee River and the Great Black Swamp – and children were asked to put wildlife where it belonged. “We want them to get a better idea of what’s around them, native plants and animals,” said BGSU student Carmen Highhouse. Another station examined the effects of oil spills on water and waterfowl, and discussed how solar and wind power don’t raise such risks. Oil was put into water and onto feathers, and different efforts were made to clean up the water, using sponges or skimmers. “We’re showing different ways to clean up oil,” BGSU student Piper Jones said. “We want to show that ultimately, it’s hard to get oil out of water.” One station had a secret weapon to attract young learners. The lesson involved chocolate pudding, cookie crumbs, and gummy worms. “Worms are good,” BGSU student Grace Patterson said. They help with decomposition of the soil. “We would…

Gamby a natural as BG’s first sustainability coordinator

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Amanda Gamby has been a tree-hugger and nature defender as long as she can remember. “This is pretty much who I am,” Gamby said as she sat in her office surrounded by recycling bins, giant plants, tree pictures, and hula hoops (we’ll get to that later.) “It’s always been where I’ve gravitated toward.” Soon Gamby will be leaving this office, as Wood County Solid Waste environmental educator, to fill the newly-created position of Bowling Green city sustainability coordinator. She starts the new job on April 2. When she takes over as sustainability coordinator, Gamby will be expected to be a “utility player,” said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator. She will be educating the public about the city’s programs for trash, recycling and sustainability. She will explain new rules to the public, plus give tours of the county landfill and the recycling center. And she will work with the utilities department on stormwater management, and on educating the public about the new solar field and wind turbines. Gamby is quite comfortable being a “utility player,” since she has appreciated combining her love of nature and teaching in her position with the county over the last 12 years. Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar has no doubt that she can handle the new job. “She’s really good with people,” especially with school-age children, he said. “She has a good way of communicating. She’s just a bubbly person.” That enthusiasm comes naturally, Gamby said. “I’m very personable with them, and I truly do care about each group who comes out” to environmental presentations, she said. As a child, Gamby always chose nature, recycling or litter collection for every Girl Scout, 4-H or school project. “We were always outside, as kids,” she said. She went on to get an environmental policy and analysis degree in college, and worked in education. So she already does double-duty as an environmentalist and educator. “It’s pretty awesome,” Gamby said with a grin. During her years with the county, Gamby worked hard to create a network and partnerships between like-minded agencies in the area. “I’m most proud of building those relationships,” she said. Gamby said she is looking forward to being able to concentrate her efforts on one community – Bowling Green – rather the entire county. “I’m looking forward to really being able to apply some of the training I’ve received,” she said. Oh, and the hula hoops? Gamby plans to continue her efforts to make learning about sustainability fun – especially for kids. Her demonstrations often include a giant earth ball, and the hula hoops, which double-time as big worm segments.

Creation Care Celebration to be held on Sunday

The Black Swamp Green Team’s second Creation Care Celebration will take place Sunday, April 23 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Peace Lutheran Church, 1201 Martindale Rd at W. Wooster in Bowling Green. The event celebrates local efforts, organizations and leaders practicing good stewardship by increasing awareness and practices for sustainable renewable energy use and healthy living. Lunch will be included, as will music by the Peace Band. Keynote presentation and panel will be on the topic of sustainable and regenerative agriculture by Don Schooner of Schooner Farms, Alan Sundermeier from the Ohio State University Extension Office, and Paul Herringshaw of Bowling Green. There will be recognitions, displays, and electric car test drives. A tour of Schooner Farms will immediately follow the event at 3:30 pm. The Black Swamp Green Team is a collaboration of faith communities, advocacy groups, non-profit entities, and individuals engaged in promoting and practicing good creation care among itself and its constituents so as to: implement energy efficiency; the use of renewable energy; the production and delivery of local renewable energy; and, thereby, improve its overall stewardship of creation.

Road to climate control just got a lot steeper

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Advocates for climate change efforts already had a rough road ahead – and Donald Trump’s election has made the climb even steeper. But David Holmquist, a regional leader for Citizens Climate Lobby in the Chicago area, is no stranger to fighting against difficult odds. Unlike other climate legislation advocates who work with already converted Democrats, Citizens Climate Lobby takes a different strategy. This group tries to win over resistant Republicans. “If we want to get climate change legislation, we have to have Republicans on board,” Holmquist said Thursday as he spoke with the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. So instead of being argumentative with conservatives, the climate lobby tries to convert Republicans with respect and reason. The group of volunteer lobbyists get a range of reactions from Republicans, from supportive to antagonistic. Holmquist was asked Thursday where U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, stood on that scale. Holmquist said he was uncertain – but wouldn’t tell even if he knew. The Citizens Climate Lobby keeps its efforts with individual legislators confidential, he added. “We have allies and we don’t want to out them” until they are ready, he said. “Our mission is to create the political will for a stable climate,” Holmquist said. “That attitude has allowed us to make inroads with people who don’t agree with us.” The climate lobby group, founded in 2007, has a volunteer force of nearly 40,000 members and supporters. They don’t consider themselves environmentalists, but rather realists. The organization was founded by Marshall Saunders, a businessman who realized that all he had created in Bangladesh would be swallowed by water if efforts weren’t made to counter climate change. Saunders started out trying to persuade average citizens to support the cause. But he realized that was the wrong route when his speech to a group convinced a handful of people to change to energy efficient lightbulbs, on the same day that Congress granted major subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. “He decided he needed to be talking with Congress,” Holmquist said. And that means dealing with less than welcoming Republicans. “There’s virtually no chance we’ll have a Democratic Congress until at least 2022,” he said. But Holmquist said more and more Republicans are open to the idea of climate change legislation. “We do have some hostile meetings,” but they are becoming fewer. “Many of them are looking for a way on the right side of this issue.” However, the openly antagonistic Trump administration has posed some concerns for the lobby group. Though Holmquist is somewhat comforted that Trump has backed off his pledge to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. “The situation there is very fluid. It will be interesting, for sure,” he said. “No one knows quite what to expect.” Holmquist admitted that many environmental groups are “scared and raising money like crazy.” But he is not completely discouraged. “We are determined to work with the administration. That’s what we’ll have to do.” That definitely won’t be easy, especially with Trump appointing Myron Ebell as lead on the transition team for the EPA. Ebell has long questioned mainstream climate change science and has argued against the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet. “His credentials are that he is a radical contrarian. I don’t think those credentials will hold up in policy decisions,” Holmquist said. “I view it as an opportunity.” Citizens Climate Lobby is focused on one policy, and is committed to getting a bill introduced next year for a carbon fee and dividend. “We have what we think is…

BGSU students advocate for solar array on campus

By BG INDEPENDENT NEWS A hill created by construction debris goes mostly unoccupied during the year. Except that is on Independence Day when people gather there to watch the fireworks being launched from the stadium to the southeast. A group of Bowling Green State University students have a different vision for the site – they’d like to see an array of solar panels erected there. Recently the Environmental Action Group and Environmental Service Club drafted a letter and had it signed by a couple dozen other student leaders urging the university to take the city up on its offer to put solar panels on the site. The city’s main solar array will be located on Carter Road, but it offered to also place some on campus. No site was designated. City officials confirmed Monday night that the offer was made, but they’ve yet to hear a response from BGSU. Lily Murnen, president of the Environmental Service Group, said the university hasn’t taken enough action to fulfill its climate action plan that resulted from president Mary Ellen Mazey joining other higher education executives in signing a Climate Commitment calling for campuses to become neutral in their greenhouse gas emissions. That plan, filed in November, 2014, sets out “a vision of the institution as a sustainable campus in the 21st century, operating economically and efficiently, and producing net zero greenhouse gas emissions. This is a vision to be realized by the year 2040.” The solar project would provide “great visibility for the university showing how we are taking some steps to realize our goals,” Murnen said. Matthew Cunningham, the president of the Environmental Action Group, said, the solar panels could also provide students with hands-on learning experiences. As much as the lack of action, Dan Myers, public relations officer for the Environmental Action Group, said the students were concerned that the administration is not communicating with students. “We’re pretty significant stakeholders in the university.” Cunningham said he did see Mazey at a Presidents Day event, and that she said she would be sending a response to the letter to student government. That the activists said would not be enough. Undergraduate Student Government leaders, Cunningham said, have too much on their plate. Murnen said that this issue also shows a need for more student engagement. “Maybe students need to take a more active role.” Students on other campuses are advocating for a variety of issues, she said. Though there is a consensus on campus that the university needs to take action on environmental issues, Myers said, “a lot of people believe they don’t have the ability to do something.” Cunningham said they have been in contact with members of faculty senate about bringing up the issue in that forum. “What it really comes down to transparency between students, administration and faculty.”