Nov 27: Climate talk by Larry Schweiger

Living in a New Climate Paradigm -- Welcome to the "Idiocene" featuring Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, and former president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  He asserts that we have delayed climate action and are entering a period of climate consequences.  Environmental professionals and students (and everyone else) will soon be working and studying in a changed world.

6 p.m. in the Pappert Lecture Hall in the Bayer Learning Center at Duquesne University.  Free and open to the public; please rsvp by email.  Event sponsored by Duquesne's Center for Environmental Research & Education, celebrating 20 years of graduate education in environmental science and management.

Nov 23: Walmart protest

The local Pittsburgh Walmart protest event:

2:30 p.m. near the Waterworks Mall Walmart.
From Joy Sabl:  Wal-Mart's founder used to be a big proponent of Made-In-USA products.
Wal-Mart used to win out against competitors by having a lower profit margin and better, more innovative tracking and ordering processes.

Since Sam Walton stepped down, Wal-Mart flourishes in other ways. It has completely abandoned the "Made-In-USA" philosophy in pursuit of cheap goods. It undercuts competitors by paying its people less, and keeping them desperate and dependent by gaming their hours and using unfair scheduling practices that prevent them from taking a second part-time job.  It leeches off taxpayers by encouraging its workers to get on food stamps and other government assistance (note that their pay is so low that even full time workers often qualify for food stamps, making Wal-Mart the largest indirect recipient of food stamp dollars in the USA). Wal-Mart fails to provide a livable wage and decent healthcare benefits, reportedly costing U.S. taxpayers an annual average of $1.02 billion in healthcare costs alone. It offends fairness by contracting with shady companies to hire undocumented workers (because they have even less of a voice), by bribing officials (as documented in their Mexico stores, and under investigation internationally--video report here--and perhaps locally, in the USA) and reportedly by underpaying and/or underpromoting women in multiple regions (regional lawsuits now in process). They are now using vague but menacing threats to pressure workers out of striking. A calculation in the links above says that Wal-Mart would still turn a profit in the billions--without having to raise prices--even if they paid their workers several thousand dollars more, each year. As a privately held company, they do not have a presumed duty to their stockholders to make the maximum profit--the family owners could simply choose to be less greedy and pathological. 

As an American, as someone who lives on this landmass, or even as a world citizen being parasitized by this international company, this IS your fight. Come join your friends in speaking out. Our largest corporation should be an economic flagship, not a bottom-sucking parasite. 

Nov 20: Sustainability & Computing seminar

Silent Spring at 50: An Environmental Ethic for the 21st Century

Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring helped to shape the modern environmental movement. Reflecting on this initiative after 50 years provides insight into the changes we face today as we transition from a fossil based economy to one that can be sustained. I will discuss the forces that shape change, and present some guidelines for moving forward based on Rachel Carson's environmental ethic. We will explore the role of science and technology in shaping the future.

Your questions are much welcomed...

1:30 pm in Gates&Hillman 6115 on the CMU campus

About the Speaker:
Patricia DeMarco is the Director of the Rachel Carson Institute in the School of Sustainability and the Environment at Chatham University. Patricia DeMarco became Director of the Rachel Carson Institute in January 2011, following a five year term as Executive Director of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association. She is a native of Pittsburgh, and received a Bachelor of Science and a Doctorate in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh.

She pursued a career in biochemical genetics research at Yale University and at Boston University School of Medicine with a focus on mutation mechanisms. Following her academic career, she dedicated five years to raising her two children in Connecticut, then she turned her attention to energy and environmental policy. She served the State of Connecticut as Executive Director of the Power Facilities Evaluation Council and as staff to the Governor of Connecticut on such issues as nuclear power plant safety, energy conservation, clean fuels technology and as liaison to the Connecticut Energy Advisory Board. She represented the Governor on the Wild and Scenic Rivers Task Force which succeeded in designating the West Branch of the Farmington River. She worked as the manager of resource development for the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Co-operative and, as a loaned executive, started up a technology development firm to commercialize declassified defense technology.

Patricia moved to Alaska in 1998 to take the position of President of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. While in Alaska, she served as a Commissioner of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, with jurisdiction over all electric, gas, water, refuse utilities, and oil and gas pipelines. From 2002 to 2005, she served as Associate Dean for the College of Business and Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Nov 17: Marcellus Protest Frack Forum

In celebration of the second anniversary of Pittsburgh's trail-blazing ban on fracking being adopted -- which was due, in large part, to the grassroots activism that sprung forth from the newly-formed Marcellus Protest -- we are pleased to invite you to the first Marcellus Protest Frack Forum. 

When: Saturday, November 17th, 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Where: Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Ave. Pittsburgh, 15213 (there's parking in adjacent lot)
Who: Anyone concerned about fracking – we welcome new folks looking to get involved!
* We'll meet & strategize, have some fun & celebrate the ban, a victory in which Pittsburgh truly set an example for the world.
* We'll look at where we've been and where we are now.
* Discuss the movement's direction for the future.
* Share recent news & projects from groups around SWPA
* Look at what activists are doing around the country
* Learn how to combat the latest industry PR & efforts by some elected officials to overturn the ban on fracking.
* Frack Forum will be a potluck (please bring something to share).

As many of our communities are beginning to realize how clear and present the dangers from fracking really are, now is the time for all of us to come together, collaborate, and reignite the movement in our region.

Nov 14: Three Rivers Wet Weather Webinar

Webinar on Municipal Data Support: An Online Asset Information Tool for Municipal Sewer Systems

The 83 ALCOSAN customer municipalities have consent orders with the Allegheny County Health Department or the PA Department of Environmental Protection that include significant requirements for data collection and compliance reporting.

In response to this need, 3 Rivers Wet Weather developed the Municipal Data Support (MDS) Tool, an online shared resource that contains guidance documents, reporting templates and a regional interactive mapping tool called WebMap that allows municipalities to view the complex sewage collection system in a Google Map format.
By attending this free webinar, led by 3RWW director John Schombert, participants will see a demonstration of the resources available in the MDS Tool and learn how it can help them to comply with their consent orders and improve the operation and maintenance of their municipal sewer systems. The webinar will include an interactive overview of the MDS tool as well as time for questions and answers as to how the tool works.

12 noon - 1 p.m. online.  The event is free, sponsored by the Local Government Academy, but you must register in advance.  For more information and to register online, visit here.

Nov 10: Sustainability Salon & Sing: Air Quality

It's time for GASP's annual fall gathering -- this year in conjunction with Maren's monthly Sustainability Salon (by way of disclosure, I'm also on the board of GASP).  We'll have an update by GASP staff on the organization's doings over the past year in the realms of policy, advocacy, litigation, education, and science, making southwestern Pennsylvania a better place to breathe.  Featured speaker Neil Donahue will lead a discussion about atmospheric particles, and you'll be able to check out the new Bike Air Monitor (BAM) equipment developed by GASP (with funding from Google), as well as Carnegie Mellon's Mobile Air Quality Lab.
What is so special about particles? Tiny atmospheric particles have outsized effects.  Though particle concentrations are only a few parts per billion by mass in air, even when it is fairly polluted, particles can cause serious health effects and have substantial climate effects.  What's more, particles are a mashup of all sorts of stuff -- to the best of our knowledge most consist of quite a small core onto which all sorts of things condense like spray paint.  Some particles, maybe as many as half by number, have no core at all but rather form out of thin air via a process called nucleation.  All of this makes the problem of dealing with particles much more complex than dealing with simple primary pollutants (like sulfur dioxide or nitrogen dioxide), or even "complex" secondary pollutants like ozone.  Neil Donahue, (atmospheric chemist, CMU professor, BAM bicyclist, director of the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, and your friendly co-host) will guide a conversation about what all this means -- to human health, to climate, and to what we can (or cannot) do about it.  

What is the air like in your neighborhood? One way to define Pittsburgh is through its variability. There are hills and valleys (with another hill past this valley and another valley past that hill), legions of distinctive neighborhoods, and, of course, sometimes unpredictable weather. We can add concentrations of air pollutants to the list, because the variability in land use, elevation (hilltop versus valley), and the distribution of pollutant sources lead to significant heterogeneity in pollutant concentrations in the city and region. One way to approach this variability is to conduct sampling in a variety of different locations in a relatively short amount of time. This is exactly what's being done by CAPS, using a specially-outfitted van as a mobile sampling unit.  CMU research professor Albert Presto will show you around the new Mobile Air Quality Laboratory and talk about the work it's been doing in the region, ranging from investigating emissions of Air Force refueling jets to monitoring Marcellus drilling sites (the image below shows a flaring well in the background).  He will lead tours of the mobile lab, and talk about on some of its early findings about the variability of different air pollutants in Pittsburgh.

On Saturday, November 10th, please join us for the tenth Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salonanother in our ongoing series of monthly enviro-conversational gatherings with potluck food and homemade music.  Following our rousing discussions on solar powerfoodtrees and park stewardship, alternative energy and climate policyand regional watershed issues, this month will focus on air quality.  Check back here as the event approaches to learn about other speakers that will join us as they are confirmed.   

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.  If you're itching for some music in the meantime, we're also hosting a house concert on November 3rd;  more info here.

3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.   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 examine several ways in which health care affects sustainability -- mark your calendar for December 1st. 
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!

Nov 10: Farm to Table Harvest Tasting

Join American Healthcare along with many local chefs and vendors for the Farm to Table Harvest Tasting, and get inspired to use local foods for your holiday feasts!

The Farm to Table Harvest Tasting allows consumers to experience first-hand the quality and diversity of locally grown, produced and prepared food.  Over 65 farms, local food producers, restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries are participating.  

This casual gathering is 12 days before Thanksgiving and participating chefs/vendors will feature holiday-themed dishes.  

Farm to Table is a great venue to meet other locals who value their food and are excited to learn how to access local food and beverages. 

 3-7 p.m. at Bakery Square (6425 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA). 
 Check out the following links for more information:

Ticket Sales: $20 in advance, $30 at the door

Vendor List: List is growing daily!

Farm to Table Pittsburgh started in 2007 and we've
held a Local Food Conference every spring at the end of March. Throughout the year we sponsor programs to increase the awareness and availability of real,  local food to area consumers. The next Farm to Table Conference will be held Friday & Saturday, March 22 & 23, 2013.  

Farm to Table offers on-going programs such as:
  • Wellness Programming
  • Eating Seasonal Lunch & Learns
  • Farmers Market on Wheels
  • Farm to Table Fruit Bowls

Nov 10: Arbor Aid

arbor aid 2012, tree pittsburgh salvaged wood fundraiser

Arbor Aid -- Tree Pittsburgh's annual fundraiser, featuring artwork created from salvaged and reclaimed wood.

Main event from 8 p.m. to midnight;  a Soil Mixer reception beforehand from 6:30.  At The Wheel Mill, at the corner of Hamilton & Dallas (6815 Hamilton Ave.).  Lots more information and online registration here.

Nov 8: Inspire speaker Bill Reed at Phipps

Bill ReedThe second talk in the Green Building Alliance's INSPIRE speaker series is Bill Reed.An internationally recognized proponent and practitioner of sustainability, Bill is president of the Integrative Design Collaborative - a consulting organization working to evolve green building design practice into an approach that is fully integrated with living systems. He is a principal of the regenerative planning firm Regenesis and the strategic environmental planning firm Integrative Design. His work centers on managing and creating frameworks for integrative, whole-systems design processes. His larger vocation is to grow new capability in the design and construction industries to engage regeneratively with our environment. Ultimately, his objective is to improve the overall quality of the physical, social and spiritual life of our living places.

Bill served as co-chair of the LEED Technical Committee from its inception in 1994 through 2003; is a member of the LEED Advanced faculty and one of the first of twelve USGBC trainers of the LEED Rating System; a founding Board Member of the US Green Building Council; and served on the national executive committee of the AIA Committee On The Environment. He currently serves on the Board of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, as an advisor to Environmental Building News, and on the board of CitiLog.

Bill is a consultant, design process facilitator, and lecturer. He has participated in over 200 presentations and workshops relating to Sustainable and Regenerative Design. He has consulted on dozens of LEED projects - achieving many certifications - Certified to Platinum. He is a guest lecturer at Universities from Harvard to University of British Columbia. His clients range from New York City Department of Design and Construction, U.S. General Services Administration, Loreto Bay, Baja, Mexico, Sidwell Friends School, US Green Building Council, Genzyme Corporation, Teknion, LLC, the Willow School, various city planning agencies on the East and West coast, and many private development companies in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Nov 3: House concert with Ken Gaines and the Squirrel Hillbillies

On Saturday November 3rd, please join us at our home in Squirrel Hill for a house concert with Ken Gaines and the Squirrel Hillbillies!  

Ken Gaines is the 2005 Texas Music Awards Singer Songwriter of the Year and the producer of the Thursday night Songwriters in the Round Series at Anderson Fair in Houston.  He's a veteran performer with incredible breadth and polish and is one of Texas' finest and most well-rounded songwriters.  He's also known as the "voice" of the annual Texas Music Awards with his regular role as the announcer for the event.  Recently he was featured in the film “For the Sake of the Song” a full length documentary about Anderson Fair and its historic importance to Texas Music.
Ken tours nationally and throughout his home state of Texas. He's written songs for film, stage, and commercials and regularly performs all original songs.  He's a fixture at the Kerrville Folk Festival, performing as the opening feature in 2009 and featured twice in 2011.  Ken teaches songwriting seminars and his "Diet Tips for the Traveling Musician" has been featured at Folk Alliance International conferences for the past 4 years.  He's a member of the Academy of Texas Music and has two CD’s currently in print on the Songdog Records Label, both available at  For bookings, contact him at  More info including past and upcoming performances, YouTube videos, and recorded music can be found at .

Opening the evening will be a fantastic local duo:  From deep within the urban forest of Pittsburgh's East End, the Squirrel Hillbillies often emerge to share their eclectic repertoire of acoustic folk, country, and blues featuring guitar, ukulele, mandolin, percussion, bass, and vocal harmonies. The duo regularly infests the Pittsburgh Public Market, Schenley Plaza, and other venues around town, and has appeared on Saturday Light Brigade's public radio show, at the Pittsburgh International Children's Festival, in Calliope's "Emerging Legends" concert series, and at SongSpace at First Unitarian. Their debut CD of original songs was released in September 2012. For more information, check out .

Doors will open at 7:15, the concert will begin at 7:45 p.m.  After the concert, we may jam for a while, so feel free to bring your own instruments (or pick up one of ours).  Donations will go to the artists.  For more information and to RSVP (please do!!) email Maren or call 412-251-5814.  I'll send directions out to folks who need 'em as the event approaches.

The next Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salon and Sing will take place on Saturday, November 10th, and will focus on air quality featuring GASP and CAPS -- the Group Against Smog and Pollution and CMU's Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies.  GASP's fall event with our annual update, important insights into particulate pollution, and lots of cool equipment for show and tell.   The one after that, on health care, will be on December 1st.  Mark your calendars, and don't forget to RSVP!