Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Testimony of Pennsylvania Clean Air's Janet Cooke at the EPA/NHTSA Clean Car Hearing in Philly

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I am here today to support any and all decisions that you make which will insure that the Earth and its atmosphere will remain viable, clean and safe for our children.

Grandchildren Deserve A Healthy Earth
Just three years ago I became a grandmother for the first time. I now have two grandchildren, my grandson, Karsten, will be three in April and my granddaughter, Lena, is 7 months old. People who are grandparents know that ensuring the best possible future for children is an extremely important focus for life. Having grandchildren places ones view of the “future” in a clear perspective. It’s not like it would be nice to do this or that to support the Earth’s future –It becomes imperative that we do everything we can and know how to do to stop adding poisons and pollutants into the air and water and to control destructive procedures and policies that contribute to global warming. Without a healthy earth and atmosphere there can be no real future for our grandchildren and all the generations of grandchildren to come.

Center City Is Built Around Parks
I live in Center City Philadelphia and I enjoy hanging out in one or another of four squares established by William Penn and his city planner, Thomas Holme, 300 years ago. Their city plan laid out the streets in a grid and on the grid were to be five squares of open land - one in the center of town and one in each of four quadrants around that center square. Penn envisioned that the city of Philadelphia would be a “green, country town.”

Today, City Hall fills up most of the center square. At the top of City Hall stands a tall bronze statue of William Penn, created by the sculptor, Alexander Calder. I believe you can still take a tour up to the top of the Penn sculpture where you can view the entire city. From the visitors’ viewing point up there, you - and Penn - can see each of the other four other squares that were part of the original town plan.

Those four squares are now called Washington Square Park, Franklin Park, Logan Circle and Rittenhouse Square. On any given day, in each of these areas, adults and children enjoy relaxation and a little bit of nature right in the middle of a very busy city. What will life in these parks be like if global warming continues to increase?

Parks Are Family Places
One weekend morning in summer, I walked over to Washington Square Park, chose a bench covered by just the right amount of shade and sat down. It was early and there were just a few people in the park. A young couple with a small baby had laid out a blanket on the grass. They busily set up a small picnic. Across the walkway, four young women were rehearsing a phrase from a ballet routine, barefoot, counting out the timing, doing their jumps over and over again in the grass. Soon an old woman pushed her walker slowly past me, as an old man whizzed around her in his motorized wheelchair. Looking in another direction, on an open patch of grass, I saw a young father with a baseball and wearing a catcher’s mitt, standing several paces across from three boys who stood more or less in a line facing him. My guess is the boys were about 7, 9 and 10 years old, and each had his own catchers mitt as well. One by one the father tossed the ball to each of the boys who threw the ball back to the father. I was impressed. They were all very good!

This park is maintained by the National Park Service and one day last fall, I watched Park Rangers gather up huge piles of fallen leaves with their blowers and rakes. As the rangers waited for park service trucks to remove the leaves, they relaxed leaning on their rakes, watching as neighborhood kids ran over and started jumping into their piles of leaves.

Franklin Park is all about families Everyone is welcome and everyone comes. You can watch little kids and big kids climbing on equipment and swinging on swings scaled to fit different ages. It’s great to see parents who look different and speak different languages, helping their kids and other kids as well. Many families bring lunch and enjoy relaxing at one of the picnic tables. Some ride the beautiful carousel while others play miniature golf on a course built around miniature landmarks from the City of Philadelphia.

Parks Are Places of Respite
The third square , Logan Square, isn’t actually a square anymore. Logan Square became Logan Circle when the Parkway streets were cut out in an angle toward what is now the site of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. To enjoy Logan Circle is to relax on one of the benches around Swann Fountain with its large swan sculptures (designed by Alexander Calder, the son of the Alexander Calder who designed City Hall’s William Penn sculpture) and listen to the splashing waters. The flowers and plants in Logan Circle make it a wonderful respite for walkers who are going to the art museum and to those who plan to stop at the Franklin Institute or the Academy of Natural Sciences, both of which are right near the circle. When I worked at the art museum, I often walked home to Center City. On hot summer days, I always looked forward to reaching Logan Circle. It’s amazing how cool it is to be walking along side the splashing water of the fountain. The children who play in the fountain know just what I mean!

The last of the four squares is Rittenhouse Square, across town to the west from Washington Square, and like Washington Square, Rittenhouse is filled with large shade trees and paths lined with many benches. The tall buildings along the boundary streets make Rittenhouse Square scene feel more urban than the other parks. Restaurants around the square have tables outside so their diners can watch the park people who are watching them. Toddlers slowly take their first steps in the warm sunshine while older people walk slowly and carefully past. People come to Rittenhouse Square to relax, to enjoy an ice cream cone, to play cards, to read a book, do yoga, chat with friends or strangers, to listen to the street musicians – or maybe - to just do nothing!

You see, the layout for William Penn’s Greene Country Towne still is a great success. These four parks continue to provide open spaces for relaxing and enjoying time with family and friends. But the respite these spaces offer can only continue as long as the climate of the Earth stays in balance.

Pollution Will Destroy The Parks
What will life in these squares be like if the effects of global warming increase? Will people still enjoy these beautiful squares fully, as they do now?

I don’t think so. As the planet’s atmosphere warms and the air holds more pollutants, will mothers want to take their toddlers to parks when a haze of particulate matter hangs in the aIr? Will they let their children float little boats on ponds where mosquitoes are breeding? Will people enjoy looking at fountain sculptures as algae grows over the surfaces? Will older people and children want to be active in air that is filled with noxious gasses? Of course, not.

Controlling Car Emissions Preserves A Healthy Earth
I’m thinking again of my grandchildren, Karsten and Lena. Today, we look to you who work with the Environmental Protection Agency and members of the Obama administration who share these concerns for the future. We wholeheartedly support the work that you are doing! Yes, please do pass these new regulations raising the miles/per/gallon for cars to 54.5 and limiting the CO2 emissions to 163 grams.

And do continue to focus attention on what we humans can do to keep our Earth the beautiful and livable place we know it can be. In this way we can then ensure that in another 300 years, people may still enjoy William Penn’s Green Country Town.

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to talk with you. In conclusion, I wish you a pleasant stay in Philadelphia and I would like to extend a special invitation to you to visit the squares in William Penn’s Green Country Town.

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