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Commentary: Ferguson board taking seriously issues of the environment

Recently, Micaela Amateau Amato alleged that Ferguson Township’s supervisors appear to be indifferent to citizens’ concerns about plastic pollution and climate change. She wrongly accuses the board of failing to cooperate with our regional partners to take environmental issues seriously. I am not sure where she has gotten this idea, but I would like to set the record straight.

Since 2016, the Ferguson Township board has taken these issues seriously, adopted numerous policies and invested in human and environmental health. Amateau Amato asked whether legislators have read Paul Hawken’s “Drawdown.” In fact, we have. Last year, Ferguson purchased copies of the book for our board members and our staff so that we can be knowledgeable on the top 80 solutions to drawing down greenhouse-gas emissions to reverse global warming.

We translate that understanding into action. We have passed a climate-action resolution; budgeted for green building, low-impact development and solar energy; created a new park with reforestation and pollinator initiatives; and more. All of these have been done while maintaining a fund balance and without raising taxes.

Just a few weeks ago as the snows melted, plastic debris littered fields adjacent to Slab Cabin Run. Like Amateau Amato, I feel a kind of dread knowing that these bags, straws, bottles and cups wreak havoc everywhere. These “conveniences” fill the stomachs of albatrosses on distant Midway Island, whales in the Mediterranean and camels in the Sahara. They break down so that their chemicals can be found in high concentrations in Inuit women’s breast milk, and their microparticles are present in the guts of crabs we eat and even the beer we drink.

Plastic, uninvited, is in all of our bodies. This is what Wendell Berry has called “a ubiquitous damned mess of which we are at once the victims and the perpetrators.”

I believe I speak for the Ferguson Township board when I say that we are concerned about plastic pollution. Watch our meetings, and you will hear that expressed by all five of our supervisors. You would also know that we are exploring the policies that citizens — including Amateau Amato — have proposed and that we are doing so in tandem with the State College borough.

While we have not voted on any legislation regarding plastics — yet — we are doing exactly what good governments do: responding to citizens’ concerns.

Peter Buckland is a Ferguson Township supervisor and a member of the Advisory Committee on Drawdown for the National Council for Science and the Environment.
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