Oct 30: Public meeting about Frick Environmental Center

The Frick Environmental Center Needs Our Help!

As we head toward the start of construction of the new Environmental Center at Frick Park, we need to rally to protect the fantastic programs that have been operating since the old Center burned.  It's hard to believe we've been waiting more than 11 years for this day, and it's hard to believe that we might be made to wait longer.  The construction documents are done.  The City of Pittsburgh and The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy are almost ready to begin construction.  But, there's a catch, which you may have read about it in the paper recently. If not -- click here.

During the construction period, education programs will need to be held at a temporary location in Frick Park.  The City of Pittsburgh Departments of Public Works and Citiparks, along with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy,  have identified a location behind the Blue Slide Playground that is suitable to house temporary classrooms similar to those currently being used near the old, burned-out facility.

Now, a group of vocal neighbors have raised objections to the location of these temporary classrooms, and the City has now decided to open a public process to review the site.  They’ve created a petition that’s growing in strength and it’s time to hear from the other side.  Delaying placement of these temporary classrooms to have a lengthy debate about their location will delay construction (no doubt costing even more) AND cause interruption of the education programs underway.  There are now 14 schools, with over 800 children, participating in programs in this year alone. There are also more than 1500 people that participate in family programs, and another 500 children that participate in camps annually.

I (Maren) helped found one of those school programs, and my kids and many of yours have enjoyed many of the summer camps and community events the FEC organizes.  My older daughter has been a camp counselor, a great experience in its own right.

Your help is needed to communicate how critical and valuable the environmental education programs are to children, schools and families — and to ask that every effort be made to ensure that programs are not interrupted and that the project not be delayed any further.

Here are the first three action steps I hope you'll join me in taking: 

1.  Contact Councilman Corey O’Connor to let him know how valuable these programs are and that you do not have any objections to the current temporary classroom location.  I’ve added some talking points at the bottom to help with your statement of support.

2. Post a comment with the article on the Post-Gazette’s website: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-east/classroom-trailers-draw-flak-in-frick-park-707135/

3.  Attend the public meeting
 being proposed by Councilman O’Connor on Wednesday, October 30th at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill at 6:30pm.

TALKING POINTS re: the necessity of the temporary classrooms to facilitate the continuation of programming at the Frick Environmental Center:
  • Storm Shelter. Outdoor programming necessitates rain plans in order to ensure child safety. During severe storms students should not be out in the park.  Often, storms come on quickly and shelter needs to be readily accessible. Nearby schools, and even parked busses, are not close enough for a group of 25 6 year olds to reach quickly.
  • Outdoor Time. Program sessions range from 2-6 hours and are designed for maximum time outdoors. Delivering the programs in the schools is not feasible. They are designed to be in the park.
  • Camp Cancellation. For summer camps, space could be rented from a nearby school between the end of June and early September.   This would require that cancellation of 3 weeks of summer camps (over half of the early childhood camps for 3-5 yr olds).

  • Winter Programs. Winter programming ranges from 2 – 4 hours and is delivered both indoors and outdoors.  During cold weather, young children especially, need an inside space to warm up while they access to the park for short explorations. This is essential to achieving the educational objectives.

Oct 30: Town Hall on Fracking in Parks

State Senator Jim Ferlo and Protect Our Parks sponsor a Town Hall:  Fracking in our County Parks?

Speakers include former City Council President Doug Shields, Rachel Carson Institute Director Dr. Patty DeMarco, and Lynda Farrell, Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Coalition.

7 p.m. at the Highlands Middle School, 1350 Broadview Blvd., Natrona Heights, PA 15065.

Oct 29: Gas Rush Stories screening and media panel

A selection of Kirsi Jansa's Gas Rush Stories documentaries will be shown, followed by a panel discussion.  This is not only about shale gas drilling and environment - this is also very much about democracy and environmental justice. 

Several Gas Rush Stories Shorts - shortened and updated versions of the original GRS episodes -- will be shown. 

After an hour-long screening there will be have a panel discussion "Media Exploring Shale Gas".  It will be moderated by Chris Moore from WQED. The panelists include Kirsi, Don Hopey from Post-Gazette, Reid Frazier from WESA/Allegheny Front and Tim Hudson, a professor of communication at Point Park. Industry and DEP representatives have also been invited.

Shale gas drilling is the environmental question of our time and place. The question we will explore is that is the media delivering reliable AND relevant information so that we as a society can make informed decisions about shale gas. We journalists face huge challenges when trying to get information from the industry - and also from the PA DEP.  People need to know what is happening behind the scenes. 

Here is a 7 min video, an introduction to the unfortunate state of openness and transparency related to shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania:

7 p.m. at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening room (477 Melwood Ave.).  Suggested donation $10;  the event is also a fundraising event for Kirsi's upcoming GRS Roundtable, a full-length documentary.

Oct 28: LaDonna Redmond at CMU

“Beyond the Food Desert- Food and Justice for All” 

The Carnegie Mellon Distinguished Lecture Series in Environmental Science, Technology and Policy Presents LaDonna Redmond, Food Justice Activist and Founder of the Campaign for Food Justice Now
LaDonna Redmond was born and raised on the South side of Chicago, Illinois. As a community organizer working on the west side of Chicago, Redmond help residents improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods through empowerment and advocacy.

She began to learn about food after her son developed food allergies. Realizing that where she lived had limited access to healthy food, Ms. Redmond began to grow her own food. Eventually, this effort expanded to include converting vacant lots to urban farm sites on the west side of Chicago and led to the development of the Austin Farmers Market. The Austin Farmers Market was the first farmers market in the state of Illinois to have EBT access.

Redmond founded the Campaign for Food Justice Now (CFJN) which promotes a Human Rights framework advancing the idea that addressing poverty will end hunger domestically and globally. The mission of CFJN is to change the narrative of a US food and agriculture movement that excludes the impact of the food system on communities of color and tribal nations.   CFJN seeks to engage communities in advocating for the end of exploitation in the food and agriculture system and to weave together all the threads of the food movement and the broader social justice movement to advance public policies that support the right to food and call for the comprehensive reform of food and agriculture polices in the United States.

Redmond has been recognized as a Food Innovator by TIME magazine and is a W.K. Kellogg Food and Society policy fellow.   She is currently working as the Outreach and Education Coordinator for Seward Coop, staffing an effort to build a new cooperatively owned grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

4:30pm in Porter Hall 100.  Free and open to the public.

Oct 26: "Unconference" on the New Economy

Leaders, staff, volunteers, and collective members working to create and build a new, sustainable, democratic, and cooperative economy and society in the Pittsburgh area (and for the planet) will be meeting to discuss how we can build a healthy and enriching economic movement that is for and by the people. Please email Ron Gaydos if you are interested in attending to find out more.
For more info you can download the press release and a flyer 1 2 

 10 am to 4 pm at the First United Methodist Church, Shadyside (at the corner of Center and South Aiken):  5401 Centre Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15232.   Sponsored by the New Economy Working Group – A project of the Thomas Merton Center.  http://facebook.com/NEWGatTMC ~ Participation is open to everyone. 

We promise not to sit you down and talk at you – YOU need to be there to tell everyone
else what you’re doing, what you need, and what common action we need to take!

What is “The New Economy”? Definitions differ, but many people describe it as the economy of a
hopeful future: one where economic success means fair and equitable benefits; uses social, financial,
and environmental resources fairly and efficiently; where business activity replenishes our environment.

 The New Economy Summit “Unconference”

Spend just one day strengthening the active network of people who are helping to create
the economy that works for the 99%, together, build new and stronger ties, and cultivate
what is already working. Help set in motion an economy that creates shared value – for
businesses, employees, owners, or employee-owners, and host communities alike – for
generations! It’s happening now; find out where you fit in.

Oct 26: Film & discussion: urban beekeeper

The Pittsburgh American Chemical Society's Environmental Group is hosting the premier of the short documentary "Portrait of an Urban Beekeeper." The film was produced by Steve Ellington and features Steve Repasky of Burgh Bees.  After the film, which is showing at 5pm in the Mellon Institute Auditorium (4400 5th Ave, entrance on Bellefield St), we will have a question and answer session with the filmmaker and beekeeper. 

Oct 25: Pgh Environment & Health Conference

A day-long conference to explore the connections between the environment and health that ultimately affect our local communities. Speakers include Lois Gibbs, award-winning leader in the grassroots environmental health movement; Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Wilderness: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit DisorderTed Schettler, MD, MPH, expert on environmental threats to children and an aging population; and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes, whose latest book is Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash.

8:30-4:30 at the David Lawrence Convention Center.  Lots more information and online registration at http://pittsburghenvironmenthealth.org/

Oct 24: Green Drinks at The Porch

You’re invited to Green Drinks Pittsburgh’s October Happy Hour!  Green Drinks Pittsburgh is a sustainability network platform to inspire new ideas and awareness, find out what is happening in Pittsburgh, meet up with friends you haven’t seen for a while and make new ones too!  

5-8 p.m. at The Porch at Schenley Plaza, 221 Schenley Drive 15213. Free and open to the public.  For more info, email pittsburghgreendrinks@gmail.com.

Oct 23: Urban Green Growth Collaborative

Meet your neighbors and their plans!
The UGGC works with inner-city residents by engaging them in hands-on sustainable development activities that increase residents’ understanding of green practices.  Join UGGC as representatives from neighborhoods across Pittsburgh discuss their experiences implementing sustainability practices as well as neighborhood plans and ways for you to become involved in shaping your own neighborhood.  Panel speakers will include: the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Lawrenceville Corporation, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation, Operation Better Block, the Larimer Consensus, New Visions for Lawrence County (New Castle, PA), and more.

5:30-8 p.m. at the Kingsley Association, 6435 Frnkstown Ave, 15206.  More info here.

Oct 23: Sustainable business workshop

Smart, Sustainable Choices for Operations, Transportation, and Facilities

Businesses continually have opportunities to improve upon their operations by embracing proven, smart, and sustainable principles. Such "Smart Growth" strategies can be integrated into the way facilities are operated, how they are designed, and where they are situated.  Smart Growth choices provide beneficial answers to vital operations-related questions, such as:
  • How easy/costly is it for employees to get to and from work?
  • What on-site features affect equipment operation, stormwater mitigation, and facility capital investments?
  • How much do I spend on energy and waste?
  • How engaged is my workforce?
Join the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP) and Sustainable Pittsburgh's Champions for Sustainability business network in how to address these types of questions during the third program in the SWPA Sustainable Business Compact workshop series.  During these workshops, attendees are introduced to sustainability topics covered in the SWPA Sustainable Business Compact, a pathway for businesses to advance and publicly demonstrate their corporate sustainability achievements.

8-11:30 a.m. at the Engineers' Society of Western PA (337 4th Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)
$25 for Sustainable Pittsburgh/C4S Members and Engineers' Society of Western PA (ESWP) Members, $35 Nonmembers.  Special rate for students.  Breakfast provided.  For more information and to register, go here.  


Oct 20: Rachel Carson Trail hike

Come join the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy for their annual fall hike! They'll follow the Rachel Carson Trail from Hartwood Acres to the Harmar shelter in North Park for approximately seven miles, rain or shine.  Refreshments will be served at the end of the hike. Meet at 9:30 AM for instructions and car pooling at the Harmar shelter in North Park, located next to the Pie Traynor field near the swimming pool.  

9:30 a.m to noon.  Free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Steve Mentzer at rct@rachelcarsontrails.org, or 412-512-4544.

Oct 19: Clean Air Dash & Festival

Clean Air Dash and Festival 10-19-13 Logo Cut Border

GASP and Athletes United are very excited to announce the Clean Air Dash and Festival, brought to Pittsburgh with the support of the Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project!  This 5k race event will be held on October 19th, 2013 at the South Side Riverfront Park, along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.  Click here to see the approximate start/stop and festival location.
The race itself will be a flat, fast course suitable for all ages and skill levels.  Runners will enjoy a scenic, fun, and competitive race through one of Pittsburgh’s many dedicated, historic greenways.  Take your time and enjoy the course, or race for a personal best time on the mostly-level route.  Register here.
Not interested in wearing your running shoes?  Fear not, because the race is only half the fun.  There will be a clean air festival, also held at the South Side Riverfront Park.  There is no fee to attend the festival so come and enjoy fun activities, good food, and learn about Pittsburgh’s air quality and other key environmental/social issues currently affecting the region.  Scale the Venture Outdoors Climbing wall, hone your football skills with a member of the Pittsburgh Passion, enjoy tasty grub from the Dozen Bakeshop and Steer N’ Wheel Food trucks, and much more -- we hope to see you there!  Sign up for the race and learn more about GASP at www.gasp-pgh.org.
Come for the race, come for the festival, come out to support GASP and Athletes United in the fight for clean air!  For more information on the festival, please email Sam Thomas. We look forward to seeing you on October 19!

Non-runners will enjoy a lively community festival with food, activities, and an educational fun run/walk. 

Oct 19: 4th River Free Skool Teach-In

The 4th River Free Skool is a network of Pittsburgh community activists working to create a free culture of education through experience-based, collective learning. 

The third Teach-In Saturday will take place at the Schwartz Living Market in Southside;  the Market will be open as usual from 11am-5pm.  This is a potluck event -- bring your favorite dish to share!  

Full Teach-In schedule on the Facebook event page.

Clothing Swap and Bike Maintenance Workshop both start @ 12pm.

Also.. AFTER PARTY - location to be announced at the event :)

Oct 18-21: PowerShift (and housing needed!)

PowerShift is the world's largest
youth sustainability conference, and for the first time ever it's being hosted outside of Washington, D.C. -- right here in Pittsburgh.  The weekend of midsemester break at many universities, 10,000 college kids from around the country and the world will gather here to learn, network, and build the movement to divest from fossil fuels, create a clean energy movement, and stop the climate crisis.

Online registration is now closed, but on-site registration will be available at the David Lawrence Convention Center.

One way Pittsburgh is coming together to support the conference is by housing participants. Youth climate leaders from across the country are counting on the Pittsburgh community to make their experience a welcoming and empowering memory. This year they are coming to Pittsburgh, a city at the crossroads of the fight for a clean and just energy future - at the center of building the green economy, yet also directly in the crosshairs  of the coal and fracking industries. Here's how you can help: Open your home.

Community is a huge focus at Power Shift and they want to emphasize the importance of returning the empowerment attendees feel afterwards to contribute to their communities. Pittsburgh's collective power fighting for clean energy is the same momentum we want our attendees to push when they return home. 

A housing board is set up for folks in the Pittsburgh community who are able and willing to open their homes to Power Shift 2013 participants. (A $20 discount code for the Power Shift event is now available for those who are able to host the young people.)

To find young people in need of housing
or to post your space, please visit

Oct 18: House concert with Putnam Smith

Hey, we haven't done a house concert in a while!  Please join us at our home in Frick Park on Friday, October 18 for a musical visit from Putnam Smith, traveling out from his homestead in rural Maine to share his unique style in a performance that is sure to leave you humming one or another of his amazing songs -- and perhaps wondering how he made the banjo do that.

7:30 p.m. (door at 7).   For reservations and more information, email maren dot cooke at gmail dot com (with "house concert" in the Subject: line).  Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP by email!

More on Putnam below!  A few other events of note include the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, this weekend's PowerShift gathering, Saturday's Clean Air Dash & Festival, and our next salon on Environmental Journalism, newly scheduled for November 16th.  If you're interested in Sustainability Salons (and our occasional house concert, contact me and I'll put you on my email list)

"Putnam Smith's music flows easily, sweetly, like a spring hidden in the woods..."  
                              — Sara Willis, MPBN

Putnam Smith, who hails from Portland, Maine, could be an old-world troubadour fresh from the 19th Century. After all, he lives in a log cabin, plays his Grandfather's banjo, and prints up the jackets to his CDs on an antique letterpress. Yet this rootsy multi-instrumentalist songwriter (he also writes and performs on guitar, mandolin, fretless banjo, and piano), steeped as he is in Appalachian traditions, is very much a storyteller for the modern age.

Putnam first came to national attention when his sophomore release, "Goldrush," went to #5 on the national Folk DJ Charts (and made it onto 6 "Favorite Albums of 2009" Lists). His latest release, "We Could Be Beekeepers, (June, 2011), shot right up the charts the month it was released, to the #2 album, with 3 songs in the top ten. Noted as "One To Watch" (Rob Reinhart, Acoustic Cafe),  Putnam has been selected for official showcases at Folk Alliance International (2012) and NERFA (1-day Conference, 2011).  Also selected as an Emerging Artist at the prestigious Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (2011), Putnam is proving himself to be a quickly rising star on the national folkscape.

Putnam is also an extraordinary performer, whose craft at songwriting is matched only by his love for putting on a truly memorable show. Says Sarah Banks of Spuyten Duyvil: ""One of the most magical performances I've had the luck to attend!" Engaging folks with humor, charm, and storytelling, Putnam's audiences have been known to howl like wolves, sing like moonshiners, and laugh and cry like, well, like human beings. Whether performing solo, or as the Putnam Smith Trio (with Mariel Vandersteel on fiddle, and Seth Yentes on cello), Putnam puts on a unique and remarkable show that lingers in the heart, mind, and imagination, long after the last round of applause.

A nationally touring artist, Putnam has performed from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon; from Winnipeg, Canada, to New Orleans, and in more than 35 states in between. Some favorite venues and concert series that Putnam has played, include: Club Passim (Boston), Rockwood Music Hall (NYC), Me and Thee Coffeehouse (Marblehead, MA), Caffe Lena (Saratoga Springs, NY), Bluseed (Saranac Lake, NY), Trinity House Theatre (Livonia, MI), High Plains Public Radio (Amarillo, TX), Ginkgo's (St. Paul, MN), “Gene Shay Presents” @ Psalm Salon (Philly), and Chickie Wah Wah's (New Orleans).

He lives in a log cabin just north of Portland, Maine, and loves compost.

Oct 17: Radioactivity in the human body (environmental history lecture)

Kate Brown, associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will open a new environmental history lecture series with a talk on the existence of radioactive isotopes in the bodies of nuclear plant workers and nearby residents. Her talk will be at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17 in Doherty Hall 2210.

Kate Brown Lecture

Oct 16: Wild & Scenic Film Festival

This year the theme of the annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival will be perhaps the greatest ecological crisis our society has ever faced, global climate disruption. To be held Wednesday, October 16, at the Phipps Conservatory in Oakland, the festival is being organized by the Allegheny Defense Project and co-hosted by the Phipps Conservatory, Heartwood, and the Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club.

6-9 p.m. in the Special Events Hall of Phipps Conservatory.  Free and open to the public.

Oct 12: Sustainability Salon with the Sierra Club

What is the Sierra Club's strategy for effecting change?   How do organized grassroots actions influence policy?  Sierra Club members will discuss different strategies they have used to influence policy and how grassroots activism is a vital part of  shifting the balance of power.  Share your strategies and experiences so we all learn how to be more effective!

The 21st Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salon & Sing will follow a fun day of visits here and at other solar-powered homes and businesses during the regional Solar Tour.  At the Salon, we'll hear about the activities and the influence of the Sierra Club at the state and local levels, mostly accomplished with volunteers!  

By the way, I'll also be hosting a house concert with Putnam Smith on October 18th.

3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3pm;  we usually introduce speakers beginning around 4pm after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.   Please email me to RSVP (important for yesses and maybes, please do so each time -- it helps greatly in several ways.  Among other things, attendance varies widely, and it helps to have a handle on numbers in advance (we may need to begin limiting attendance);  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.  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.  If you'd like to start making your own kombucha, please bring a pint jar along.

Note that 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.  One of these days I'll streamline this process a bit (assistance would be welcome -- thanks to Beth for all her help so far with the transition to MailChimp and EventBrite), but for now it takes a while to to dot all my i's and cross all my t's.  
For the uninitiated, a Sustainability Salon is an educational forum, a venue for discussion and debate about important environmental issues, a house party with an environmental theme.  We usually have featured speakers on a particular topic, interspersed with stimulating conversation, lively debate, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening.
Past topics have included community solar powerMarcellus shale development and community rightsgreen buildingair qualityhealth care, solar powertrees & park stewardshipalternative energy & climate policy, regional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings & discussions (led by the filmmakers) over the winter with both YERT and Gas Rush Stories, and foodfood, and more food.

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 (I've got the kombucha covered, though it's always fun to compare).  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.  

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. 

Oct 9: Workers from the shalefields tell their stories

The first in a series on fracking and health, this event will feature several Marcellus Shale workers sharing their stories and insights.  Talks will be followed by an opportunity for Q&A.

The series is sponsored by several nonprofits -- including Marcellus Protest, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Clean Water Action, PennEnvironment, and the Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club -- and is also made possible by donations contributed at the Gasland II premiere.

7 p.m. at the Lawrenceville Moose, 120 51st Street, Pittsburgh 15201.  Please RSVP through PennEnvironment or Clean Water Action.

Oct 2: Climate change lecture

The Science and Politics of Global Warming

The University Honors College (UHC) initiated a Climate Change Series of lectures this past spring to educate students, faculty and staff, as well as others in the Pittsburgh community about the science involved in climate change predictions and how we all might deal effectively with the unfolding situation. We are very pleased that the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the National Aviary are collaborating with us to bring this program to a wider Pittsburgh audience.

The next lecture will feature Dr. Raymond S. Bradley, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences and Director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. Bradley will speak about The Science and Politics of Global Warming on Wednesday, October 2nd at 

2 p.m. in the Carnegie Lecture Hall at the Carnegie Museums.  The Carnegie Lecture Hall can be accessed from the portal entrance located at the back of the museum and parking lot. Follow the posted signs to the event.  Click HERE to reserve your free spot at the lecture today.  For information on reserving space for a group of 10 or more, contact climate@pitt.edu.

Immediately after Professor Bradley’s lecture, the Honors College is hosting an informational fair of local non-profit and student organizations working on issues pertaining to climate change.  Our hope is that lecture attendees can connect with groups working on these very important activities and engage in the work going on in our region.  If you have any suggestions to share directly, please do not hesitate to contact us at climate@pitt.edu