• The Clinch Coalition

Long-time, local conservation activist maintains hope for addressing climate change

President Biden immediately re-entered the Paris Agreement international treaty for climate change and in accordance with Earth Day 2021, on April 22, he is holding a virtual climate change summit.

“So, in 1988 we had the heads up on this. We heard Carl Sagan speak at Berea College on global warming. The applause for him at the end of the speech could have brought the house down. You would have thought our country would have taken some action.”

Thus begins the reminiscing of Gerry Scardo, long-time resident of Clintwood, Virginia and one of the founding members of The Clinch Coalition, along with her husband, Joe, in 1998.

She and Joe met at Berea College in the early 1960s and following graduation, Gerry joined the WAC and Joe volunteered for the Army.

Gerry continues, “Not long after Sagan's speech, Darlene Wilson and several others met in Clintwood. A young man with the last name of Hopkins gave us an education on the runaway greenhouse effect, the amount of CO2 that would be released as the tundra melts. The scientific information and predictions at that meeting are coming true.”

Gerry does not just look back over her 33 years of concern for the health of our planet and her and Joe’s 23 years actively protecting our national forest, primarily in the Clinch Ranger District of the Jefferson National Forest. She looks forward to what can still be. ‘’With this new administration we have a chance to gain ground against global warming. Biden's idea of a Climate Corps sounds great. We need an Ocean Corps, too.”

We are the lucky ones.

Working together is so much fun.

The Climate Conservation Corps, the Ocean Corps, and so much more.

Working together is so much fun.

We are the lucky ones.

And we have just begun.

“If you read The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck (1971) and A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough (2020),” Gerry continues, “you might very well have visions of how to mitigate the impact of pollution, acidification, oceans of trash and vast overfishing the oceans.”

“You might imagine an Ocean Corps and what that could do to remove lost fishing nets, hooks, plastic bags, balloons, bottle caps from the oceans and beaches that are so impacting the marine wildlife--whales, seals, turtles, the fish and more. Steinbeck reported seeing fish so thick in the ocean that you could imagine walking on them.

Later, overfishing became so pervasive in the Sea of Cortez that the economy and tourism sank. Recent news is that the area has rebounded, the fishing economy is better, all because some areas are protected from fishing so the fish populations increase and spread. The tourists are back.”

A local example of conservation here in the mountains has Gerry thinking about how this can apply to our oceans. “The cleanup of the John W. Flannagan Dam and Reservoir might be an idea of how to get many boaters and sportsmen to help in cleaning the ocean. For a small fee of $15-25 per boat the local Bass Club had many boats on the reservoir that had a good number of coves about the size of a basketball court teaming with all kinds of trapped floating trash. The Bass Club transported the volunteers and the bagged trash. The Corps of Engineers brought in a sweeper and helped get out the big dangerous floating logs. The cleanups were so effective that you can travel miles on a boat and hold a salute to the beauty the whole way.”

“Cleaning up beaches, islands, and the oceans could become a real sport. Building an Ocean Corps could be a major first step in making a difference for marine wildlife, employment and training of young people, and so much more.” Says the mother of three and the grandmother of five, “One thing I am doing is assessing what I have done, can do, and help my family do. Our country is on the edge of taking some steps to mitigate climate change. Every little bit helps. We are the lucky ones. And working together is so much fun.”