We want to be able to do this on Pittsburgh's beautiful rivers…
But when our municipal sewer system backs up like this...
...it gives us pause. (Maren took this photo on Forbes Avenue the same afternoon that four people died on Washington Boulevard.)
[and the Blogger software has been giving a hard time about displaying images! Email me to get on the list for announcements in their full glory...]
Many Pittsburghers are aware of our Combined Sewer Overflow problem -- whenever it rains, raw sewage along with stormwater runoff are flushed out onto streets and into streams and rivers. Under a Consent Decree with the EPA, ALCOSAN has been working since 2008 on a plan to mitigate this problem; they just published their Wet Weather Plan this summer. Sadly, this multi-billion dollar plan involves more grey infrastructure (like digging gigantic tunnels under the rivers), than greener, more distributed solutions such as permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting and storage, green roofs, increased open space and vegetation, and generally wiser, more affordable, and more sustainable development (most of these approaches have many other benefits as well). ALCOSAN has been educating the public about watershed issues for years, and points out that they do not actually control the land or facilities upstream (which lie in 83 different municipalities). There's now a Public Comment period for ALCOSAN's Wet Weather Plan, and at this event you'll be able to learn more, brainstorm possibilities, and weigh in on the path forward.
On Sunday, September 30, please join us for the eighth Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salon, another in our ongoing series of monthly enviro-conversational gatherings with potluck food and homemade music. Following our rousing discussions on solar power, food, trees and park stewardship, and alternative energy and climate policy. this month will focus on these regional watershed issues, the ALCOSAN Wet Weather Plan, and greener solutions to Pittsburgh's Combined Sewer Overflow problem. Check back here as the event approaches to learn about other speakers that will join us as they are confirmed.
3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill. Note that it's on a Sunday this time! Please email me to RSVP (important for yesses ad maybes, please do so each time -- it helps greatly in several ways. Among other things, attendance varies from 25 to 75, and it helps to have a handle on numbers in advance!) and I'll send directions and/or a trail map if you need 'em. Be sure to include "salon" in the Subject line, as I receive a ridiculous amount of email every day. Bring food or drink to share if you can, along with musical instruments if you play. Check back on MarensList (where you can find information on all sorts of environmental and social justice events), for updates. And in a rare bout of advance planning, next month's Sustainability Salon will be in conjunction with the PennFuture Solar Tour, on October 13.
And if you like to make music or listen to homemade music, don't forget the evening sing -- we typically run the gamut from Irish fiddle tunes to protest songs to the Beatles, and a fun time is had by all. Bring instruments if you play, and/or pick up one of ours! Conversations will continue through the evening as well.
Quite a few people have asked me what sorts of food to bring -- and my answer, as always, is whatever inspires you; I believe in the "luck" part of potlucks. Tasty noshings for the afternoon, hearty main dishes or scrumptious salads and sides for dinner, baked goods from biscuits and breads to brownies or baklava -- and/or beverages of any kind. The more the merrier! Local fare is always particularly welcome, whether homegrown or boughten. Dishes containing meat are fine, though if it isn't really obvious please make a note of it.
-salon |səˈlän; saˈlô n |: (historical) a regular social gathering of eminent people (esp. writers and artists) at the house of a woman prominent in high society; a meeting of intellectuals or other eminent people at the invitation of a celebrity or socialite.
Regular, that's the plan. Eminent and intellectual people, to be sure -- that's yinz. House, check. Woman, c'est moi. High society, celebrity, socialite? Not so much. Salons occurred in 17th-century France, purportedly powering the Enlightenment, and were more recently repopularized by the Utne Reader. I've long contemplated hosting an ongoing series of conversational salons in this tradition: informal gatherings around the notion of sustainability. Some will have a featured guest to lead a discussion on a some topic, others will be open to whatever comes up. If you'd like to hear about a particular topic, or hold forth on your own area of expertise, let's talk about a future event!