Ward Stone, Environmental Hero, Speaks

by Lynne Jackson

ALBANY: Ward Stone, NYS Wildlife Pathologist and environmental hero, spoke at the May Save the Pine Bush vegetarian/vegan lasagna dinner at the First Presbyterian Church. Ward began by describing how he met Rezsin Adams on the very first Earth Day in April, 1970, at the University at Albany. That day, Ward gave about four of five talks; he was saying that things were really bad, with pollution and habitat destruction, and that it would take a lot of money to fix these things. Ward said, “Here we are, forty years later, and we still have not done that much about it.”

Ward asked, “How many of us here remember this kind of weather in May?” (the day was very warm, more like June or July). He reminded us that May is a time for planting, for fishing, for enjoying the flowers. Global warming, Ward declared, is here. It is the biggest environmental battle of our time.

Cement plants produce 5% of the world’s CO2. Cement is made from limestone, which has a lot of calcium carbonate in it, that when heated to make cement, a great deal of CO2 is emitted.

Global warming is a huge problem, and will become more of a problem as time goes on. Global warming is affecting the polar bears, the Inuit, and Alaska. Ward observed that so many explorers, like Henry Hudson, were looking for the Northwest passage. Now, with global warming for the first time, the Arctic ocean may allow it.

In July, 1969 Ward became the NYS Wildlife Pathologist. Then, he had a lot of hope about making the changes necessary.

Not all is bleak, Ward noted the good things that have happened — bans on DDT, and some of the worst pesticides out there. However, these bans took a long time to enact. He noted that we are still playing around with lead. We have a long way to go to control mercury.

Unfortunately, Ward said, we are still fighting for the Pine Bush – for 32 years now. The Pine Bush is being destroyed piece by piece by piece. The Karner Blue has almost disappeared from the greater Albany Pine Bush. He would have thought that after 32 years of knowing about this problem, that this unique flora and fauna would have been saved.

Ward observed that the landfill has never been properly studied in the Pine Bush, for the pollutants and the gases coming out of it. Ward pointed out the conflict of interest the Pine Bush Commission has in accepting money for every load of garbage that goes into the landfill, and yet saying that they oppose the landfill expansion.

Ward was concerned about the pesticides in the Pine Bush. At his suggestion, Grace Nichols, began to investigate the City of Albany’s use of pesticides. (See related story on Grace’s work.)

The Pine Bush has a long way to go to be protected. More land is needed, as well as an independent look at the management of the Preserve.

Ward told the story of how he investigated the ANSWERS incinerator plant in the hollow in Sheridan Avenue, and how he walked into the incinerator plant to gather samples. The downfall of the incinerator was when one day, black snow fell on the governor’s mansion.

Ward asked, what have I learned in 41 years as the NYS Wildlife Pathologist? “Money talks — the environment walks. ”

Ward discussed the cement plant in Ravena. Two women came to him a year ago, telling him that something must be done. Even though Ward had no money, he went down to Ravena to look at the cement plant. Ward found mercury, cadmium and other substances. The citizens raised money to pay for the testing. The amount of mercury produced by the cement plant is substantial. Now, the health department and Harvard University wish to study the health effects of the cement plant.

One more thing, said Ward, that he wants to tell us as a scientist. We need to be moving away from poured cement. We need to be looking at other, more environmentally safer, materials to build our infrastructure. After 9/11, people asked Ward what was going on with all of these people coughing and sneezing. Ward was not thinking of the major factor, he was thinking of airplane petroleum, of burning paint in the towers, etc. But, the major problem was clouds of cement dust coming down.

Trout fishing was a big deal to Ward when he was a little boy. His mother was always happy for him to go and catch some trout to eat. He made some of his first observations about cement when he was out fishing. When he was seven or eight, Ward had thought that cement lasted pretty much forever. He thought, a bridge built from cement would last for generations. There was a waterfall, and a pool beneath the falls with some rocky material in it. Ward went to sit on this flat rock, only to discover it was cement. He noticed that the edges of the cement slab were flaking or eroding off, with little pieces of sand and gravel coming off. At that point, he remembering thinking “Cement is not forever.”

He spoke of talking to Jack Lauber (a proponent of incineration to solve the garbage problem) who told him the ash from the incinerators could be made into cement and tossed into the oceans. And Ward thought about how the cement would disintegrate, and the pollutants put into the cement would make their way out and enter the food chain. Ward also mentioned how caustic cement is — that he was once helping his step-father build a house, and put his hand into the cement and how much his had burned. Ward again emphasized that we need a safe alternative to cement.

Editor’s Note: Ward Stone has been working to protect our environment for over four decades. He is a tremendous asset to New York State. He is completely unafraid of doing the right thing for the environment. We at Save the Pine Bush offer our sincere thanks for all of the work that Ward has done.



Published in July/August Newsletter 2010