Phoebe Cykosky awarded SEEDS Burkhardt Scholarship

September 2, 2019
SEEDS Burkhardt Scholarship recipient, Phoebe Cykosky (front row center) stands surrounded by SEEDS Board members and Phoebe’s parents at the August board meeting.

SEEDS has issued its $1000 scholarship in memory of Michael “Jake” Burkhardt to Phoebe Cyckosky, a 2019 graduate of the Wallenpaupack Area High School District. The scholarship honors the memory of Jake, Western Wayne Class of 2015, who loved life, his family, his community and the environment and worked with SEEDS as a high school student.

Phoebe was selected for her winning essay on the following topic:

“In what ways does our consumption of non-renewable energy sources affect the health and well-being of the Earth and its lifeforms? How does developing “clean” energy alternatives contribute to a more sustainable future? What practices have you seen in your community that indicate we’re going in the right or wrong direction? What information would you provide to educate people? What tools and strategies would you employ to accomplish this, both locally and beyond?”

Entries were reviewed by a panel of SEEDS volunteers based on the responsiveness to the topic, the persuasiveness, logic, and cohesiveness of the ideas presented, and other criteria such as proper grammar.

Phoebe and her parents, Dawn and Ed Cykosky, attended a recent SEEDS board meeting to express their gratitude for the scholarship. Board members took great pleasure in meeting this promising young woman and wishing her well in her studies at Penn State University.

Phoebe’s essay can be read in full here:

“Even though we live in an increasingly environmentally-friendly world, there are still many practices that people across the globe continue to partake in that will affect the future. The use of non-renewable resources only emits harmful residue into the atmosphere and negatively impacts the local wildlife. However, if we take the initiative now to change our actions, we can take steps to not only creating a sustainable future but allowing one to exist. The initial step of progress is education because without it, people would not realize the severity of the problem. Through various sustainability methods, local and even, global practices can be altered to further preserve our environment.

Knowing the dangers and effects of nonrenewable resources can encourage many to alter their energy sources. Our atmosphere and ozone layer are being directly affected by fossil fuel processing. Without the ozone layer, our exposure to greater levels of the sun’s radiation would increase because of the greenhouse gases released into the air. After the fossil fuel to energy conversion, sulfur is given off into the air creating acid rain. Local ecosystems cannot handle this unnatural exposure and can begin to deteriorate (Stefan). On land, fossil fuel containment areas can malfunction and pollute their designated areas upon bursting. At the Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee in 2008, a containment area accidentally released 5.4 million cubic yards of sludge causing significant damage for local homeowners and again, the atmosphere (Stefan). Oil rigs are prone to the risk of spilling, which causes chaos to the ocean’s shores and wildlife. These spills kill or severely injure local animals and plants, and they fill the ocean with foreign chemicals the ecosystem cannot handle. Even locally, the issue of fracking has increased because of its negative effects on the environment. In places near our homes, drill sites are releasing hazardous chemicals into the air and waterways. Over time, all of these nonrenewable resources deteriorate the well-being of the ecosystems entirely. Air pollution leads to negative effects on our respiratory health, and one study expressed how that pollution shortens almost 24,000 lives per year in the United States, let alone the world as a whole (“Benefits of Renewable Energy Use.”). Neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death, and more problems are at the hands of nonrenewable energies (Healy, Noel, et al.). Without developing cleaner alternatives, this pattern will only increase, become “the norm”, and eventually, destroy our planet.

Using renewable resources such as wind turbines and solar panels can aid in creating a more sustainable future. Our future is dependent on our actions because it is predicted that we only have twelve years before our actions become irreversible. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass are all renewable energy resources that can be used instead of fossil fuels. These resources help decrease the spread of global warming because they do not produce the high amount of global warming emissions that coal and natural gas do. Twenty-nine percent of the world’s global warming emissions are generated from the United States’ electricity sector; however, a study from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory predicts that eighty percent of the country’s electricity could be from renewable resources by 2050 which would reduce the global warming emissions by eighty-one percent (Stefan). By reducing our carbon footprint, we have a better chance of creating a sustainable future.

Within my own community and region, I have seen various indications that show that we are going in both the right and wrong directions. For example, a few years ago, Wallenpaupack Area School District made the switch to the use of geothermal energy throughout its campus in Hawley. Even though it was expensive, the district prioritized benefiting the environment especially in a lake region. On the contrary, throughout Pennsylvania, fracking sites for the extraction of natural gas have increased. There are now 7,788 active wells throughout the state even though the extraction impacts not only the land at the drill site, but many other things within a sixty mile radius such as ecosystems and overall health (Amico, Chris, et al.). Several years ago, a decision was made to eliminate the free recycling bins in the parking lot at one of our local grocery stores. Since then, recycling prices were raised, which caused a significant decrease in the amount of recycling in our local areas. These signs are red flags for trying to create a sustainable future at the local level.

Without the knowledge of where our planet is going, people would be unaware that they need to make changes within their own lives. Through the use of local television and radio advertisements, people should be informed of what global warming is doing to the planet and  what they can do to do their part. The mass media outlets have the largest impact on lives today; therefore, partnering with at least one station could spread the message of making environmentally-friendly decisions. If people are given an ultimatum of if they do not make progressive changes in their life, the planet will deteriorate, they will begin to make adjustments. It does not take a lot of effort to reduce your own carbon footprint, but we cannot do it alone. Our goal will be impossible to accomplish without the support of lawmakers at the local level and up. Many environmental protection organizations are hidden in the shadows of big corporations who have better control of what laws are passed. If enough people unite with one common goal and make a petition to the regulations such as on fracking, then our voice will be heard. Increased funding to the Environmental Protection Agency and more organizations with similar goals is a necessity to providing the best possible chance of a sustainable future.

In conclusion, the planet is indisposed and needs us. Nonrenewable energies are one of the leading causes of our planet’s deterioration. Even our health is at risk because of these dangerous resources being blatantly used in everyday life. By making a positive change to reducing our carbon footprint, we will be able to sustain life on our planet. By implementing laws and restrictions on corporations that put our planet at risk, we will impact the environment at not only the local level but even the world. We all know the phrase “it’s a small world after all”, but if we do not take the right steps toward environmental protection, there will be no world after all.”