Earth Day SPB Dinner

by Tom Ellis

ALBANY: As is usual, the April SPB dinner featured a variety of speakers and an Earth Day theme.  Each spoke 5-10 minutes.  Lynne Jackson introduced them and said the people who began Save the Pine Bush met at SUNYA (now the University at Albany) in the 1970s.

Saima Anjam of Environmental Advocates (EA) discussed the legislative agenda for the April 23rd statewide Earth Day Lobby Day.  One bill is the Child Safe Products Act that would allow for the banning of whole classes of dangerous chemicals; this would be an improvement over the current paradigm where chemicals are banned one-by-one, with new ones being introduced far quicker than deadly ones are forbidden.  She said there are now 83,000 chemicals in circulation. 

Mark Platt said he was president of the Protect Your Environment (PYE) club at SUNYA prior to his 1972 graduation.  After graduation, he obtained an advanced degree at RPI, worked at the Washington Park Spirit newspaper, directed the weatherization program at Albany County Opportunity Inc., and a ski instructor at Jiminy Peak for 25 years. 

He said, “It all started with Lou Ismay.”  One day he wandered into Lou’s Environmental Forum office and he has been an environmental activist ever since.  Mark said: “Behold the turtle; it only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.”  He said one strength of the environmental movement is its diversity, another is the vast number of issues we work on.

Aime “Trent” Millet spoke passionately about how global climate change is affecting the world’s water supply.  He began saying, “Every living thing must have water.”   Big corporations are buying up water supplies all over the world and this privatization is a huge problem.  Pennsylvania is losing its water to fracking; Florida is “like a huge Swiss cheese” with sink holes, dropping water tables, and undrinkable surface waters. He said humans are 78 percent water. “Each of us is the light of possibility, like a candle in a dark room.”   

Lynne introduced Lou saying when she met Lou in January 1973, it was “a life-transforming experience.”  The Environmental Forum office was appropriately located in the Art Department. 

Lou discussed the 1897 federal Rivers and Harbors Act.  “Had it been enforced,” he said, “there would be no water pollution in New York State or the United States because this law prohibited polluting any waters that flowed into any harbors.” 

One of the elder-statesmen of the capital region’s environmental community, Lou said “those responsible for regulation need the authority to do their job correctly and this should not be political.”  Lou said the fore-runner of Environmental Advocates began in the SUNYA arts building.  The original concern with protecting the Pine Bush was the aquifers.  He said even during the first years the Rapp Road dump was open (in the 1970s), dump leach-ate was damaging the upper aquifer.   Students discovered the university was dumping sewage into the Patroon Creek.

Lynne introduced George Keleshian, whom she said was president of PYE the year before she was.  George said, “Lou Ismay was one of the biggest influences on my life.”  He said Earth Day was a week-long series of events at SUNYA in 1973. with Ralph Nader a featured participant.  George discussed the heating and cooling of buildings and numerous technologies he has developed to do this; he designs zero-energy buildings.  He said there are well over 100 renewable energy sources in existence but humans use only about a dozen on a large scale.  Many of these technologies have been around since the 1960s.  During the last two decades of the 2oth century, the US did little with renewables.  Photovoltaics are so cheap today they have achieved parity with fossil fuels.  He said he hopes to host a zero-energy conference by year’s end.

Published in May/June 2013 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter