May 12: Sustainability Salon on the Petrochemical Buildout

What's going on down the Ohio (often upwind from Pittsburgh), and how will it affect our region?  Many Pittsburghers (far from all) have heard about the "cracker plant" being built in Beaver County -- it's no biscuit factory, but rather a huge petrochemical facility that will take ethane separated out from the "wet gas" of the Marcellus and "crack" the molecules into ethylene -- the output will be vast quantities of polyethylene pellets for the plastics industry (about which we talked in detail at the 60th salon last year).  This plant would set Pittsburgh's progress in air quality back decades (plus VOCs!), negate the carbon-reduction goals of the city, and require an additional thousand fracked gas wells as well as a hazardous pipeline to bring the ethane to the plant -- and is just the first of several such facilities planned for our region.  The area where this industry is active in Louisiana is called Cancer Alley...  we can't let that happen again!  At the 76th Sustainability Salon, we'll learn more about the petrochemical buildout and what can still be done about it.   (photo:  Secl/Wikicommons)

Matt Mehalik, executive director of the Breathe Project and a central figure in the fight to rein in this mad rush to turn shale gas into money for corporations and pollution for people, will bring us up to date on the situation with the cracker plant, the regulatory framework, and the fossil incursions closer and closer to the city, and will highlight ways that you can get involved.  Terrie Baumgardner, Beaver County rep for the Clean Air Council and a member of the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community (BC-MAC), is on the front lines near the Potter Township construction site and will talk about the risks of the proposed Falcon pipeline, including its passage through the water supply for 30,000 people, and a different vision for Beaver County.  Because of the petrochemical buildout, the annual Heartwood gathering will take place near Pittsburgh, and Matt Peters -- Heartwood co-founder and local forest activist, will fill us in on the upcoming Heartwood Forest Council -- see if you can make it for some multi-region strategizing!  Local activist, educator, and filmmaker Mark Dixon has been helping to unite the movement using social media, with the NoPetroPA blog and Facebook groups NoPetroPA and Submission Mission -- relaying ongoing developments,  live streaming talks and hearings, encouraging others to speak out, and coordinating a crowdfunded citizen science air monitoring project.  Mark will talk about all these efforts, loop new folks in, and share some videos of inspiring citizen testimony at recent hearings.  We'll also discuss the ongoing formation of study groups about air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania (under the auspices of the Clean Air Council) known as Groups of Ten.

For a vivid look at the human health impact of large polluting facilities, consider attending the ACCAN community meeting this Thursday -- researchers will share their findings about health outcomes before and after the Shenango Coke Works shut down.  Also, at the March salon we watched a great film on food waste after supper -- in case you missed it, another local screening is coming up.  And looking ahead into June, another consequence of Pittsburgh's air quality issues even before adding a cracker plant or three, GASP and a trio of researchers will be Making the Connection between air pollution and allergy symptoms.  More events can be found on MarensList, as always.  


Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We will start the program right around 4pm, after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.   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 with salon in the subject line to be added!).  


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 a trail map 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 (see below), 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, it's a mini-conference, it's 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 particular topic, interspersed with stimulating conversation, lively debate, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening.
Past topics have included climate/nature/peoplefracking, health, & actionglobalizationecological ethicscommunity inclusionair quality monitoringinformal gatherings that turn out to have lots of speakersgetting STEM into Congresskeeping Pittsburgh's water publicShell's planned petrochemical plantvisualizing 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 films on Food SystemsClimate Adaptation and MitigationPlastic Paradise, 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 foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand 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:  wine, 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 homemade or boughten.  Dishes containing meat or dairy are fine, though if it isn't really obvious please make a note of it.  We refill a bunch of growlers at East End and provide a big batch of mostly-homegrown pesto (cheesy and vegan), and other things as needed.  More details will come after you RSVP (hint, hint!). 

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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