With this year's pivotal general election already underway, we're going to spend the 105th Sustainability Salon answering all of your election questions, and sharing ways to get involved. Why delve into politics? Here's why: Everybody wants a clean environment, so that they and their families can be healthy; that requires good public policy and environmental regulations; and that in turn requires intelligent, compassionate policymakers who aren’t beholden to corporate interests and who understand the real human costs of bad decisions. And in order to have those policymakers, we have to get them elected, usually in the face of wealthy opposition!
Although we did a two-part series on elections and election law last June & July, the importance of this year’s election -- and the real danger of national upheaval should the results not be clear -- mean that we need as many boots on the ground (and the phones, and the pens, and the polls), as possible. I know that many people have already voted, but official deadlines still haven't passed, and you may know potential voters who are still unregistered, or on the fence, or confused about how to proceed through electoral chaos.
We'll talk about voter information, registration drives, youth engagement, get-out-the-vote efforts, poll access, voter protection, key races, and how the election will affect issues like climate change.
How can you get involved? Activities include door-knocking, literature drops, postcarding, telephoning, texting, letters to the editor, pollwatching, and donating. Are you already involved? Share your experiences (and maybe join in other efforts, as well). Speakers will include:
• Bethany Hallam, At-Large member of Allegheny County Council and member of the County Board of Elections (as well as serving on the Jail Oversight Board), will share her inside perspective on how it's all going to work.
• Are you unsure of some of the voting procedures this year? Bring your election questions for attorney Caroline Mitchell, longtime volunteer lawyer for ACLU's Election Protection team (and local and state Democratic Committee member, former Judge of Elections, and a legal adviser to several local progressive candidates).
• Have you been confused by the wording of ballot questions one too many times? Political strategist and UNITE cofounder Daniel Moraff will talk about the Alliance for Police Accountability's work on the Police Review Board ballot initiative, the Home Rule Charter amendment you'll see on your ballot if you live in Pittsburgh.
• By day, SEIU Healthcare Executive VP Lisa Frank organizes frontline health workers to garner a seat at the table and improve their lives; by night (and weekend) she helps make the most of progressive support -- reaching out to alienated voters to achieve high voter turnout, and helping ensure a smooth Election Day with Voter Protection efforts. Come learn about Deep Canvassing with Lisa and dedicated election activist Marta Pelusi.
• And back to the "why" -- Maren will put on her Climate Reality Leader hat, and remind us of the importance of climate action, as one more motivator to get active, as part of Climate Reality's annual 24 Hours of Reality event.
• Bonus: Maren will vote, live on Zoom! (I've received my mail-in ballot, and saved it for just this occasion.) Join me, if you also have your ballot in hand!
In the "Mark Your Calendar" department: On Sunday the 11th, OVER will hold a workshop on movement building and popular resistance, and the role direct action and civil disobedience plays in a long-term strategy (2-4 p.m., email for the Zoom link). GASP is having an air Trivia Night on the 18th, hosted by none other than Dirty Gertie the Poor Polluted Birdie. The regional Green New Deal discussion group that met earlier this year is convening a new series to help support collective efforts to develop concrete environmental justice platforms, policies, and legislation. The first full meeting will take place on October 23rd. And the next Sustainability Salon, on November 21st, will return to our regular fall feature on air -- this time, Pandemics and Air.
Salons currently run 4-8 p.m. on Zoom (shorter without the potluck supper). Plan to join the call after 3 p.m., and we aim to start the program right around 4. If you're new to Zoom, you may find my Zoom Reference Guide helpful. 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 notice (if you're not already on my list, just email me with salon in the subject line to be added!).
Please do RSVP each time -- it helps greatly in several ways Be sure to include salon in the Subject line if you email, 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!
Check back on MarensList (where you can find information on all sorts of environmental and social justice events, as well as better formatting for this event description) 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.
Sustainability Salon is an educational forum; it's a mini-conference; it's a venue for discussion and debate about important environmental issues; fit'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 air quality and environmental justice, social investment, local economies, the economics of energy, mutual aid networks, ocean health, the rise of the radical right, the back end of consumption, approaches to activism on fracking & climate, air quality, technology, and citizen science, single-use plastics, election activism, election law, whether to preserve existing nuclear power plants, advanced nuclear technologies, passenger and freight trains, consumption, plastics, and pollution, air quality, solar power, youth activism, greening business, greenwashing, the petrochemical buildout in our region, climate/nature/people, fracking, health, & action, globalization, ecological ethics, community inclusion, air quality monitoring, informal gatherings that turn out to have lots of speakers, getting STEM into Congress, keeping Pittsburgh's water public, Shell's planned petrochemical plant, visualizing air quality, the City of Pittsburgh's sustainability initiatives, fossil energy infrastructure, getting money out of politics, community solar power and the Solarize Allegheny program, the Paris climate negotiations (before, during, 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 revitalization, solar power, climate change, environmental art, environmental education (Part I & Part II), community mapping projects, environmental journalism, grassroots action, Marcellus shale development and community rights, green building, air quality, health care, more solar power, trees and park stewardship, alternative energy and climate policy, regional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings and discussions (often led by filmmakers) over the winter with films on Food Systems, Climate Adaptation and Mitigation, Plastic Paradise, Rachel Carson and the Power Of One Voice, Triple Divide on fracking, You've Been Trumped and A Dangerous Game, A Fierce Green Fire, Sustainability Pioneers, films on consumption, Living Downstream, Bidder 70, YERT, Gas Rush Stories, and food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, and more food (a recurrent theme; with California running out of water, we'd better gear up to produce a lot more of our own!).
Coronavirus update: As you know, people in Pittsburgh and around the world are sequestered at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing is still the rule for most Americans. That's a bit of a misnomer, though -- we need physical distancing to flatten the curve, but technology now allows for rich interactions even so! I believe that community is one of our greatest strengths, so in March as events began to be cancelled, I hosted the first virtual Sustainability Salon via Zoom teleconference -- rather than gathering our usual 50-80 people in a contained space. It went quite well (even engaging participants from hundreds of miles away), and we're looking forward to June's salon! Please be sure to RSVP (via email with "salon" in the Subject: line, or via Eventbrite) so you'll receive the sign-on information.
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. If interested folks are online and everything is working smoothly by around 3:30, perhaps I can conduct a virtual tour.