Jan 14: Sustainability Salon Winter Film: Plastic Paradise and the Petrochemical Plant

We're five years in!  The 60th Sustainability Salon will take place on January 14th, commencing our annual Winter Film Series.  As followup to our discussion of the planned Shell ethane cracker plant at last month's salon, we're going to take a closer look at the myriad environmental and health impacts of plastics with the film Plastic Paradise.  
Following the film, we'll have a panel discussion with people working on what could be our region's contribution to the problem, if the Shell petrochemical plant and its probable companions are given the go-ahead.  Speakers will include energy policy expert Patty DeMarco on the big picture around fossil energy and industrial development, Matt Mehalik of the Air Quality Collaborative with an update on the cracker plant situation, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment, and local documentary filmmaker and air quality activist Mark Dixon.  Mark will share some poignant and never-before-seen footage from his YERT travels down around Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" (his image at left:  a region we don't want to emulate!).  
If you'd like to weigh in on the Shell plant, there will be more opportunities.  The Potter Township Board of Supervisors just approved the Conditional Use Permit for the plant.  There is lots more information, along with Mark Dixon's telling video of expert testimony from the wee small hours of the morning at last month's hearing, on Mark's Blue Lens blog.  Traffic, noise, and light emissions are issues that will mainly affect people nearby, but the plant itself (and more to come after it) will affect air and water quality for the whole region (and promote even more fracking and fossil fuel use by enhancing the marketability of Marcellus wet gas) -- and as we learned from the mountaintop-removal mining and racetrack development project in Hays, even one permit rejection can stop a major project from moving forward.  Hays is now Pittsburgh's largest park.

With the upcoming change in the White House, there is a real danger of mass firings and loss of scientific data from Federal agencies more or less immediately after Inauguration Day.  This happened at the DOE and EPA in 1981:  President Reagan did more than remove the solar thermal panels from the roof of White House;  he attacked research (and researchers) on conservation and renewables.  This time around, there are concerns about DOE, EPA, NASA, NREL, NETL, USDA, and perhaps other agencies as a new administration that is patently engaging in climate change denial comes in.  Google software engineer Greg Kochanski is part of a volunteer effort to archive data and publications accessible online, to avoid an even greater loss of accumulated research than occurred in 1981.  Greg will fill us in on the situation and how it is being addressed, and see whether folks in the Sustainability Salon community can help rescue controversial information.

We'll also take a look at some of the fantastic ideas submitted to the Sprout Fund's 100 Days of US grant program;  several of the applicants will be with us to talk a little more about their projects.  You'll be able to vote for as many as you want;  awards will depend on community support.

While we're all together, why not keep your hands busy knitting or crocheting a hat for the Pink Pussy Hat Project?  For you or a friend or someone else through the PPHP to wear in Washington, DC next weekend?  Root through your craft supplies for that pink yarn, folks!  If you have pink yarn but aren't using it, bring it along -- perhaps others have skills but no yarn of the right color.  

The 61st Sustainability Salon will take place on February 11th, continuing our annual Winter Film Series.  
Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We usually aim to start the program not long after 4, after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site -- this time we'll start right around 4, since we have a film as well as several speakers!   Please email me (at maren dot cooke at gmail dot com) with salon in the Subject line to RSVP (yes or maybe), or click on the link in your EventBrite invitation (if you're not already on my list, please email me to be added!).  
July's salon with Bill Peduto
Please RSVP each time -- it helps greatly in several ways.  Among other things, attendance varies widely, and these events have been so successful that we need to begin limiting attendance.  So RSVP early if you can, to ensure your participation!  The free virtual "tickets" on Eventbrite may run out (you don't need to print any tickets, by the way, just be on the list).  Also, weather and such can be unpredictable and it's good to know who to contact if there's a change -- and I'll send directions and/or a trail map if you need 'em on Friday or Saturday.  Be sure to include salon in the Subject line, as I receive a ridiculous amount of email every day.  And if you're new, please let me know how you heard about the Salons!
Bring food and/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 if you aren't yet on my list, if you're interested in Sustainability Salons (and our occasional house concert, simply contact me and I'll put you on my email list.  

As always, I'll be sending out directions and such, and any late-breaking info, to all the RSVP'd folks by the morning of the salon if not before.  So if you don't have it yet, please be patient!  One of these days I'll streamline this process a bit, but for now it takes a while to to dot all my i's and cross all my t's.  (All the extraneous requests for the address don't help;  I have lots of other stuff I send out with it, but don't like to let them go unanswered so it adds hours to my prep time.  If you RSVP properly (see above), you should get the info by the morning of the salon!)
For the uninitiated, a Sustainability Salon is an educational forum;  a venue for discussion and debate about important environmental issues;  it's a house party with an environmental theme.  We usually have featured speakers on various aspects of a topic, interspersed with stimulating conversation, lively debate, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening.

Past topics have included visualizing air quality, the City of Pittsburgh's sustainability initiativesfossil energy infrastructure, getting money out of politicscommunity solar power and the Solarize Allegheny program, the Paris climate negotiations (beforeduring, and after), air quality (again, with news on the autism connection), reuse (of things and substances), neighborhood-scale food systems, other forms of green community revitalizationsolar powerclimate changeenvironmental art, environmental education (Part I & Part II), community mapping projectsenvironmental journalismgrassroots actionMarcellus shale development and community rightsgreen buildingair qualityhealth care, more solar powertrees and park stewardshipalternative energy and climate policyregional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings and discussions (often led by filmmakers) over the winter with Rachel Carson and the Power Of One VoiceTriple Divide on fracking, You've Been Trumped and A Dangerous GameA Fierce Green FireSustainability Pioneersfilms on consumptionLiving DownstreamBidder 70YERTGas Rush Stories, and foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand more food (a recurrent theme;  with California running out of water, we'd better gear up to produce a lot more of our own!).
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:  wine, beer, hard or sweet cider (the latter we can mull if you like), juice, tea, whatever.  The more the merrier!  Local fare is always particularly welcome, whether homegrown or boughten.  Dishes containing meat or dairy are fine, though if it isn't really obvious please make a note of it.  

If you haven't been here before, you may enjoy checking out our roof garden and solar installation (and now apiary!) as well as the many other green and interesting things around our place.  

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. 

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