A College Student’s View on Sprawl in the Lehigh Valley

1277714_10202272344475030_688670620_o-2My name is Michael Sutherland, and currently I am a junior at Penn State University studying Geography. I have grown up in the Lehigh Valley my entire life in the city of Allentown and borough of Hellertown. I deeply treasure this area and have seen it change in both good and bad ways over my lifetime.

The Lehigh Valley, like the rest of America, has sprawled out in its development enormously over the last few decades. I have seen it first hand in the endless sprawl of places such as Lower Saucon Township with the mega-homes of the Saddle Ridge development that eat up farmland with no apparent stopping in sight.

I have grown up in a society where I have almost always had to drive to get anywhere. For a long time when I was a child I had dreamed about driving. I had all of the toy cars and on the maps of imaginary places that I drew, I created crazy highway interchanges. The interesting thing, though, is that after driving for a little while, it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. Traffic congestion made driving awful, and even more so, gas was and still is an expense.

These are all consequences of the urban sprawl that we have built.  Because of it, I lost the enthusiasm of someday owning a car. It’s not even that I don’t enjoy driving. I find it fun, and for some tasks a car is necessary for getting around. It’s just that it should not have to be the only option. All of this has led me to be a proponent of smart growth in the Lehigh Valley. I believe that building smarter can help create better functioning, more resilient and more interesting places for people to live.

It is for this reason that I encourage citizens to attend the Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities taking place Friday, 12/5 at the Hotel Bethlehem.  This all-day conference will be a great place to learn from national, state and regional experts, connect and collaborate.  The cost is $65 per person, but two meals at the Hotel Bethlehem are included.  Go to renewlv.org to register TODAY, because seats are limited.

Reserve your spot at the Summit for Smart Growth 12/05/14 at the Hotel Bethlehem

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission projects that 145,000 more people will move here in the next 20 years.   What will the Lehigh Valley look like in order to accommodate this influx in a sustainable way?

We’re three weeks away from one of the most dynamic events of the year! The 2nd Annual Summit For Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities, “Moving From Ideas to Actions,” takes place on Friday, December 5th at the Hotel Bethlehem. It will engage community leaders and those who want to be part of the process in finding solutions to tough regional challenges.  Now is the time to reserve your spot for the Summit at renewlv.org. Seats are limited!

We plan for 200 people to join us for a vibrant discussion that will engage experts from the local, state and national level.  The event will be a high-profile opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to co-creating new regional solutions to challenges such as: how we streamline governance, revitalize our urban communities and preserve open space. A more in depth itinerary for the summit can be found at this link.

RenewLV continues to serve a unique role in facilitating dialogue and cooperation that is essential in improving services and finding inefficiencies in government operations.   The Lehigh Valley continues to thrive because of the culture of the region: its sense of community, its resilience, its collaborative spirit and its willingness to look at new approaches to solving complex problems.

Despite the tremendous efforts in recent years, there is still much more work to be done on municipal cooperation, resource consolidation, preserving open space, revitalizing our downtowns and building up existing communities rather than developing farmland.  The Summit will provide an opportunity to raise the bar, shed light on critical and neglected areas, identify solutions and work together to lead and affect change.  Our collaborative work has never been more important.   Join us!

Seating is limited, so reserve your spot now at www.renewlv.org (bottom of the page) for $65 per person. Registrations can also be paid by check made payable to RenewLV and sent to 1337 East Fifth Street, Bethlehem PA 18015.  With any questions, please e-mail:  jmarin@renewlv.org or call 484-893-1060.

It’s also not too late for your organization or company to be a sponsor of the Summit.  By clicking here, you can find a sponsorship brochure, and by clicking here you can make your online sponsorship donation and join our sponsors, including our Presenting Sponsors PPL and Just Born, our Partner Sponsor, Sam Adams/Boston Beer, our Contributor Sponsors Brown Daub Foundation, City Center, Embassy Bank, HDR and Lehigh Valley Health Network, and our Community Supporter Sponsers Easton Coach, Hanover Engineering, Lehigh Financial Group, Morris Black & Sons, Inc., Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, Pa., Smooth-On, Spillman Farmer Architects, St. Luke’s Hospital, Susqeuhanna Bank, Taggart Associates and The Sustainable Energy Fund.

To AICP planners, 5 CM credits are pending for this event.

-Joyce Marin, Executive Director of RenewLV

The Beauty of Hawk Mountain paired with a quote from the Brookings Report remind us of the importance of open space preservation

The Beauty of Hawk Mountain paired with a quote from the Brookings Report remind us of the importance of open space preservation

Call to Action for the Climate March

This blog entry has been written by guest blogger, Sarabeth Brockley, a graduate student with Lehigh University.
The best argument can’t always win the fight.

But does arguing at least get us somewhere? To test this a group of students at Lehigh University staged an information stake-out in the center of the campus on Friday night with an objective: invite their peers to the Largest Climate March in History: The Peoples Climate March. Via a couple of projectors, a sound system and two huge walls at the University Center, they were able to make people pause for a moment and think about the Climate March and the Climate Summit.

Finding yourself in need to catch-up on the debate? You can learn more about the summit itself and why it matters by checking out this special brief ‘The People’s Climate March: Everything you need to know to change everything.
But ask yourself why you aren’t aware of the Call to Action for the Climate March? Light projections using the viral Disruption video and the People’s Climate March Graphics attempted to encourage a response from students on Lehigh’s Campus. But the argument in support of Climate Change moved no one. The real question had been inadvertently raised: How are students at Lehigh living the spirit of the Climate March? Are they invested?

The answer is, the students at Lehigh University aren’t aware of it at all. Everyone stopped because they were attracted to the Light from the videos. Yet, no one knew what the videos were about. Instead of an information exchange and debate the organizers expected, they received confused expressions and low-interest in an event that will shape everyone’s future.

What became obvious in the outreach session was the disconnect plaguing climate change action. When buses will be travelling to the Climate Summit this Sunday in droves from all places across America, what could possibly be missing from student opinion in a small town that is only 2 hours outside of NYC? What are Lehigh Student’s missing?

Emotional response.

“This non-reaction from students is a larger warning to Universities that they aren’t doing enough to engage youth on Climate Change.” Gerardo Calderon, a Lehigh Student and community organizer.

The evening was a harsh reality-check of what their peers knew about the Climate Summit this week at the UN. It was clear that engagement on the campus about climate change was staggeringly low. And that individual connection to climate change was even lower. What gives?

A poll conducted by Gallup this year found that while 69 percent of Americans believe climate change is caused by human activity, only half are personally worried about it. “We’ve won the argument but we haven’t done anything on it,” Bill McKibben of 350.org is noted for saying. “We haven’t been able to overcome the power of the status quo enough to make real change, so that we’re losing the fight.” McKibben is completely on-point.

Its not a fight of factual evidence, its an emotional one.

Those words are echoed by a study from Yale University which supports the idea that emotions act as drivers to connect people to Climate Change Action. “The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition” speaks to what we already know. Looking at how research points to the “affect (feelings of good or bad) and affective imagery (associations) strongly influence public support for global warming.” What happens to the style of argument when we voice the issue of climate change as if specific emotions, like fear, anger, worry, guilt that are programmed into our discourse and communication?

Through this graphic the paper further shows how specific emotions were stronger predictors of global warming policy than supported cultural worldviews.
Egalitarianism, individualism, negative affects, top of mind associations, or socio-demographic variables, including political party and ideology DIDN’T MATTER. The findings go further to say that,

“50% of the variance in public support for global warming policies was explained by the emotion measures alone. In particular, worry, interest, and hope were strongly associated with increased policy support.”

What does that mean for people communicating climate change? The results contribute to how human beings process information and suggest that emotions play a significant role in public support for climate change policy. So what are the implications for climate change communication then if we are only hardwired to act when we feel guilty or worried?

Enter a local climate change advocate in the Lehigh Valley, Dan Poresky, has spoken about the role of human emotion in the efforts to reach a larger audience to discuss engagement with Climate Change. His proposal for Climate Action provides a step-by-step action guide for organizers to place more emphasis on people than the planet. Put simply, it’s his call, a local citizen’s call, to action.

By emphasizing, “How is climate change going to affect me?” Poresky argues that only when people feel secure in the vision of their future will they push governments to act. That security needs to be based in emotional response like entitlement, fear, anger, and a sense of loss of what you cannot regain. This type of proposal is what is needed from citizen groups. At the junction of climate change communication efforts from Light Shows to step-by-step guides is the answer to the lack of emotional engagement.

“People will more readily accept the adaptations necessitated by climate change when they can envision living comfortably in a society with reduced carbon emissions is the norm. Its all about public attitude” said Poresky.

One thing is for certain the People’s Climate March will be an emotional tour through Manhattan on September 21. Over 400,000 are expected to show up and walk together. This preempts the week leaders are coming to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit to discuss ambitious goals to reduce global warming pollution. That bit is incredibly important.

The People’s Climate March will take place BEFORE a UN meeting on climate change attended by delegates from 168 countries. The message is clear: the pressure is on. Who could argue with that?

If this People’s Climate March doesn’t make people feel something? What will?

Hope to see you all there, physically and emotionally invested.

–Sarabeth Brockley @sara_brockley

Eating locally grown food benefits our health, region’s economy (Spanish and English)

Scroll down for the Spanish version/Versión en español abajo

The next time you eat something, take a moment to think about where the food that nourishes your body actually was grown. How far did the food travel from farm to table to make it to your plate?

When you eat out, consider, too, “Where was this food produced?” Ask the server or the restaurant owner if he or she knows the producer and suggest purchasing local products and supporting local producers.

The recently published Envision Lehigh Valley food report makes several important points about our food choices in the Lehigh Valley. This project — formally called “The Assessment Report: Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy” that was published by Buy Fresh Buy Local Greater Lehigh Valley, a program of the Nurture Nature Center in Easton — shows that a commitment to eating local foods can bring positive impacts.

What type of impacts? Improvements in your physical health and the economic and environmental health of our region.

Already, leaders in the region are acting on the EnvisionLV report. For example, leaders in Northampton County recognize that farmland, urban gardens, open space and greenways all have extrinsic and financial benefits to their residents. In partnership with EnvisionLV, Northampton County and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission are undertaking a study to quantify this impact.

Read the rest of this entry

Planificadores del Lehigh Valley casi se van a los puños

boxeadoresBueno, eso fue un poco exagerado, nunca he visto a ningún planificador boxear. Sinceramente, no me lo quiero ni imaginar. La mayoría de los planificadores que he conocido son personas educadas, inteligentes, consideradas y, de hecho, de las menos agresivas que conozco.  Aunque, algunas veces no estén de acuerdo en decisiones bien importantes… como el uso y la distribución de la tierra.

Debido a estas discusiones (lo cual encuentro fascinante pero he escuchado a muchos decir que este tema hace a muchas personas quedarse dormidos), y debido a que sus desacuerdos suceden desde antes que alguna pala entre a la tierra, usualmente estas situaciones no reciben la atención que merecen.

Nada es más importante para la calidad de vida de nuestra región que las decisiones que nuestros gobernantes locales hacen en el uso de la tierra.

Aquí en Pennsylvania, el poder es local. La última decisión la toma la junta municipal que vota para aprobar las recomendaciones de nuestras comisiones de planificación local. Estas juntas son muchas veces motivadas por ambiciones a corto plazo para aumentar sus impuestos base – y es por esto que vemos las fincas desapareces.

Algo interesante ocurrió el 29 de mayo en estos ambientes. En una esquina tienen a la comisión de planificación de Lynn Township. En la otra, la comisión de planificación del Lehigh Valley (LVPC). Los comisionados de planificación de Lynn Township quieren cambiar los reglamentos de zonificación de las tierras para agricultura en su municipio para uso comercial.

Y… ¿Qué pasó? La comisión de planificación de Lynn Township dijo que sí a cambiar las reglas de zonificación de área preservada para la agricultura a uso comercial. El LVPC dijo que no.

Los detalles, de acuerdo a WFMZ: Los planes del Lynn Township de reorganizar una zona de propiedades a lo largo de la ruta 309 al otro lado de la escuela superior Northwestern Lehigh no fueron apoyados por LVPC anoche. LVPC unánimemente autorizó al equipo a enviar cartas a los residentes de este municipio ubicado en la zona rural del noroeste del Lehigh County pidiendo a los supervisores a no adoptar los cambios propuestos. Esta situación incluye cinco propiedades localizadas entre la ruta 309 y la Calle Weiss en la esquina este del municipio, cerca de la frontera con el municipio de Heidelberg. Read the rest of this entry

Vamos a apoyar el compostaje en el Lehigh Valley

Siendo nueva en el área del Lehigh Valley, he estado descubriendo los campos y la belleza de la naturaleza que esta área posee. El reto de sostenibilidad de EnvisionLV me ha inspirado a contribuir para preservar la naturaleza que nos rodea. Por esto, he desarrollado prácticas más eco-amigables y un estilo de vida sostenible para reducir los impactos ambientales de mi hogar.compostlogo2

¿Qué incluyen mis prácticas? Primero, reducir el uso de bolsas plásticas. Segundo, apoyar la economía local y los mercados de agricultores locales. Más allá, me gustaría reducir la generación de basura de mi  hogar. Afortunadamente, residentes del Lehigh Valley pueden reciclar plástico, vidrio, latas de aluminio, papel y cartón. Si vives en un área en donde no recogen los reciclajes, tú mismo puedes llevarlo a cualquier facilidad de reciclaje del área.

He encontrado mucha información en línea acerca de facilidades locales en donde puedes llevar los desechos del patio. También, hay páginas en línea del proceso de compostaje. Sin embargo, no todas las personas tienen el espacio para hacerlo, especialmente si viven en apartamentos. Yo no quisiera enviar estos desechos de alimentos al vertedero. Creo que estos deberían ser enviados a alguna facilidad en donde se puedan procesar y convertir en abono. Desgraciadamente, no hay ninguna facilidad aquí que lo haga.

Buscando más información acerca de este tema, leí el Reporte hecho por Greater Lehigh Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local, un programa del Nurture Nature Center. De acuerdo con este estudio, varios municipios del Lehigh Valley pueden hacer composta de desechos del patio, pero ninguno está haciendo composta de desechos de comida de residencias o negocios. Este reporte también menciona lo beneficios que tendría la economía local al implementar estas prácticas. Otros municipios alrededor de los Estados Unidos han implementado prácticas y políticas para reducir la generación de basura, incluyendo el compostaje de desechos de alimentos. Esto ha ayudado a estos municipios a ahorrar dinero. Por ejemplo, el reporte menciona que la ciudad de Seattle ahorró $250,000 con su programa de compostaje de desechos de alimentos. Read the rest of this entry

Why can’t I compost my food waste in the Lehigh Valley?

compostlogo2I am new to the Lehigh Valley and am really enjoying spring and the beauty of the area.   Learning about the EnvisionLV Sustainability Challenge has inspired me to want to take action to preserve the beauty of the Lehigh Valley.  I have developed a more eco-minded and sustainable lifestyle by reducing my household environmental impacts.

What does this mean?  First, I started by reducing plastic bags. Second, I have found several farmers’ markets that help me to consume more fresh local food. Third, I would now like to find ways to reduce my household waste, especially food waste. I have noticed that residents of the Lehigh Valley are able to recycle glass, plastic, aluminum cans, paper and cardboard. Actually, I have been informed that even if you live in an area where recyclables are not picked up, you could drop them at many recycling facilities, including those in Allentown and Bethlehem.

I have seen online educational material about yard waste recycling and composting offered through many municipalities in the region. Many websites show how to compost at your home. However, home composting is not feasible for people, like me, who live in apartments. I would like to use my food and organic waste for composting instead of sending it to the landfill, but where can I do it?  As a new arrival I have noticed that the missing piece of the Lehigh Valley is food waste composting.

Read the rest of this entry

Lehigh Valley Planners Duke It Out

Boxing 1024x768 Wallpaper # 1

Okay, I have never actually seen planners go to fisticuffs.  Frankly, I cannot even imagine it.  Thoughtful, intelligent, educated people, most of the planners I know are some of the least confrontational people I have met. And yet, they sometimes deeply disagree about really important issues…like land use and zoning — the DNA of our communities.

Because their disagreements are about land use and zoning (which I find fascinating, but I hear from my friends can put many people to sleep), and because their disagreements happen long before a shovel goes in the ground, their issues often don’t get the attention they deserve.

Nothing is more important to the quality of life in our region than the land use planning decisions our local government councils make.

Here in Pennsylvania, the power is local.  Decisions ultimate rest with the municipal councils that vote to approve the recommendations of our local planning commissions.  Those councils are often motivated by short term desires to increase their tax base — and we see farmland disappear because of it.

There was some excitement on May 29th in planning circles.  In one corner you had the Lynn Township planning commission.  In the other, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.  Lynn Township planning commissioners want to change the zoning of some farmland in their municipality  to commercial.  LVPC disagreed with the Lynn Township planning commission, believing that it should stay zoned for agricultural preservation.   

What happened? Lynn Township Planning Commission said, “yes” to rezoning from preserved agricultural to commercial.  The LVPC said, “no.”

The details, according to WFMZ:  “Lynn Township’s plans to rezone a strip of properties along Route 309 across from Northwestern Lehigh High School were opposed by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Thursday night. LVPC unanimously authorized its staff to send a letter to the rural northwestern Lehigh County township, urging Lynn’s supervisors to not adopt the proposed zoning change. The issue involves five properties located between Route 309 and Weiss Road at the eastern edge of the township, near the boundary with Heidelberg Township.”

There are profound, irreversable trade-offs every time local councils rezone farmland to commercial or residential use, and they effect us all.

Here in the Lehigh Valley, the iconic image of rolling hills is central to our collective identity.  Practically speaking, when we lose farmland, we also lose our ability to feed ourselves.  We become dependent on other regions of the country because food cannot be supplied locally.  Development also effects us collectively as our water and air quality deteriorate, storm water becomes more difficult to manage and traffic becomes more congested.

If you are one of the many Lehigh Valley residents that support open space preservation, this proposed zoning change is the line in the sand, the battle ground, per se, between preservation and development.

With 62 municipalities in the region, these decisions come up repeatedly to local councils throughout the region. Farmland preservation efforts die a death by a thousand cuts.

If you happen to live in Lynn Township or know someone who does, though, you can make a difference.  Now would be a good time to reach out to the local Lynn council people and tell them how you feel about the proposed zoning changes.

Farmland preservation or commercial development?  Weigh in.  Call your local council people.  Write letters.  Show up at council meetings.  Get informed.  Speak out.  Make your voice heard.

Read more from WFMZ.com at: http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/lehigh-valley-planning-commission-opposes-lynn-township-zoning-change/26242354

Joyce Marin

Bolsos plásticos y EnvisionLV Reto de Sostenibilidad del 2014

plastic bags imageMe encuentro en el proceso de mudarme a Lehigh Valley lo que se resume en estar empleando todo mi tiempo libre en empacar y limpiar mi casa. En los últimos años me he mudado varias veces, notando en mi vasta experiencia que cada vez que es momento de comenzar a empacar siempre enfrento el mismo problema: Demasiados bolsos plásticos acumulados en algún rincón de las gavetas o closets en la cocina. Cansada de este problema tan recurrente he decidido utilizar bolsos reusables. He buscado lugares cercanos a donde vivo en NJ donde pueda reciclar los bolsos plásticos pero lamentablemente fue una búsqueda sin resultados positivos. Entonces,  ¿qué hago con tantos bolsos? Puedo usarlos para limpiar los desechos de mi gato y para la basura pero aun así son demasiados que nunca logro agotarlos.

RenewLV comenzó el año 2014 con el EnvisionLV reto en sostenibilidad y ahora que estoy trabajando con ellos como voluntaria me siento inspirada a proponerme un reto para llevar a cabo en mi nuevo apartamento en Lehigh Valley. Mi decisión es no usar bolsos plásticos ni de papel y comprar en el mercado de agricultores locales ya que minimizan el uso de envases plásticos y Styrofoam. Con el único fin de tomar decisiones inteligentes como consumidora para así tener más espacio en mi hogar y de paso hacer una aportación positiva al medio ambiente.

Siguiendo esta línea de pensamiento, hace unos días vi en Emmaus Patch (periódico ofrecido en línea) una noticia sobre la prohibición de bolsos plásticos. Varios días después el Alcalde de Allentown, Ed Pawlowski, publicó en su cuenta de Facebook una pregunta al público sobre qué pensaban respecto a este tema.  Muchas personas han comentado que están de acuerdo y otros que no. Algunas personas temen del peligro que puedan causar los bolsos reusables ya que se publicó un artículo en donde se encontró que estos bolsos pueden obtener EColi (una bacteria peligrosa para el sistema digestivo) con el uso continuo. Sin embargo, el mismo estudio explica que si los bolsos son lavados frecuentemente las bacterias son reducidas en un 99.9%. Mientras otras personas no les gusta la idea de que les impongan la esta decisión de prohibirlos, pensando que cada persona es libre de decidir si usar bolsos plásticos o no. Algunas personas deciden reciclar o reusar bolsos plásticos para la basura. Mi manera de verlo es que el proceso de reciclaje conlleva un gasto en energía doble ya que originalmente la fabricación del bolso ya conllevó utilizar energía una vez. Una solución ideal sería reducir la producción de desperdicios plásticos para poder disminuir el impacto ambiental.

Read the rest of this entry

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,870 other followers