Dec 19: Pressure Electoral College

NBC News reports "U.S. intelligence officials now believe with 'a high level of confidence' that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election."
This is going to massively increase the pressure on the Electoral College, which meets Dec. 19 in state capitols.
Thousands of people are signing up below. History is depending on us to step up at this time. Please answer the call...
  1. RSVP if you can go to your state capitol by 9 am on Monday, Dec. 19. If you're a maybe, click here. If you can't attend, but support this action, click here.
  2. Chip in $3 to those organizing Electoral College protests. Putting on 50 protests in one week is a monumental undertaking requiring staff, security, and massive logistics. Organizers are being hired in all 50 states.
  3. Continue urging other groups you are a part of -- nationally and locally -- to support these protests. Email and Tweet at them with this link to the protest website.
It was just reported that over 20 Republican Electors are already thinking about flipping. No matter how the votes go, these protests will stiffen Democratic spine to fight. By drawing attention to the hacking and Trump losing the popular vote, we can make Trump's claims of a "mandate" ridiculous.

Dec 13 & 15: Hearings on Shell cracker plant

Shell continues to steamroll their proposed cracker plant facility through local and state permitting processes and this is a vital time for advocacy related to the petrochemical plant.  There are two very important ways to get more involved:

First, Potter Township is holding a hearing on Shell’s local land-use permit, which would basically allow Shell to proceed with construction soon:
Potter Township Public Meeting on Shell’s Conditional Use Permit
Tuesday, Dec 13, 2016 at 3 p.m. at the Potter Twp Municipal Building, 206 Mowry Road, Monaca PA 15061 

For more information about how to sign up, please contact Dave Smith at Clean Air Council (

Second, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is holding a public hearing and meeting related to air quality and water quality approvals that Shell still needs. There will be an opportunity to testify and ask DEP staff questions.

DEP Public Hearing on Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs) and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination Service (NPDES) water pollution permit 
Thursday, Dec 15, 2016 6 p.m. at Central Valley High School, 160 Baker Road, Monaca PA 15061
Contact Nora Alwine at the DEP at or 412-442-4137 to sign up to testify at the hearing. Please also contact Dave Smith at Clean Air Council ( so we can get a good headcount. Comments will be limited to 3 minutes, but you can submit longer comments in writing.  Click here to join us for a briefing on Monday, December 12th at 3PM to learn about the Emission Reduction Credits and how to make sure your concerns are heard at the hearing.
It is critical that Potter Township and DEP hear concerns from local residents so that any decision they make prioritizes public health and quality of life.

Dec 11: How to talk to Trump-supporting kin

End White Silence:  
Talking Trump This Thanksgiving
The Holiday season is upon us! With the recent election behind us, a continued commitment to anti-racism lies ahead. When you encounter family over dinner this holiday season and the election inevitably comes up, what will you say? What are you going to say to your family that voted for Trump? What are you going to say to family members that claim everything would have been fine if Hillary was elected? We are so excited about the success of and interest in our last workshop that we will be teaming up again with Dave & Erin to bring you a new and improved one!
Dave and Erin Ninehouser of HearYourselfThink and the Thomas Merton Center will be holding a workshop to help white folks have the uncomfortable conversations surrounding the recent election with families this holiday season.  In a country where identity and party affiliation are so deeply entrenched in who we are, HearYourselfThink asks how do we deprogram ourselves and our family members from toxic media messaging?  Marni and Gabe will share resources for white people engaging in anti-racist work and discuss some concerns other organizers have shared about engaging with the recent election results. 

This workshop is tailored for white participants, but people of color are welcome.  This workshop will be more interactive than the last session, with role-playing built into the presentation.  If you came to our last one, you are still welcome to attend!  Come join a two-and-a-half-hour workshop addressing these issues, and walk away with tools to have these conversations. 

1:30- 4:30 p.m. at 1 Smithfield St, Downtown, in the Liberty Room this Sunday, December 11th f Doors open at 1:30.  The workshop runs 2-4:30 p.m.
RSVP is required: .
Feel free to contact Gabe with any questions 412-719-3424.
Childcare will be provided. Please sign up on the RSVP form.  We will kindly ask for donations for our volunteer providing childcare.

About the presenters:
      The HearYourselfThink Project ( is a 501(c)3 non-profit fighting against fake news and its harmful effects on the minds of American citizens.  With a decade of experience knocking on 100,000 doors throughout the Rust Belt, the team at HYT has developed a proven methodology to help people break free from the fear-inducing narratives of Fox News and other right-wing media and to rebuild the habits of critical thinking that are the foundation of democracy itself.  Dave and Erin Ninehouser of HearYourselfThink can teach you how to break down walls of polarization, cultivate self-reflection and create moments of insight about media influence.

Dec 8: Climate film screening

Come join a community screening of the new episode of "Years of Living Dangerously" that features Citizens' Climate Lobby.  Bradley Whitford, the actor who played Josh Lyman on the "West Wing" TV series takes viewers along as he accompanies CCL for real visits to Capitol Hill.  Invite your friends to introduce them to what makes Citizens' Climate Lobby unique in both what and how we work.  Watch closely and you'll have a chance to see the Pittsburgh team among the over 900 lobbyists there in June.

6-8 p.m. at Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church in Highland Park (5801 Hampton Street, Pittsburgh, 15206).

Watch trailers for this at: 

Dec 8: Webinar on pollutants and cancer

While pediatric cancer is still a rare disease, the rate of new cancers has increased nearly 30% since 1975. In the last decade, a growing body of research associates increased risk of pediatric cancer with environmental exposures in utero and in childhood. Recent science also points to a role for early life exposures in priming the body for developing cancer in adulthood.

In this webinar, presenters will review the state of the science on the contribution of environmental exposures in early life to cancer, and reflect on its implications for clinical practice and engagement of health professionals in policy change. A special focus of the webinar will be on air pollution, with information on exposures in the Allegheny County region.

12:15-1:15 on Thursday;  register here.

Dec 7: Green Solutions for ALCOSAN

We will need to work together more in the coming four years.  One issue that is a priority for the Sierra Club is winning $2+ billion dollars in ALCOSAN ratepayer dollars for a green approach that will bring multiple benefits back to our communities.  We know that the support for a green plan to fix the sewage in our rivers is widespread in Allegheny County.

Please attend this meeting to hear the architect of the City's Clean And Green Plan, Tim Duggan, tell us how effective and beneficial a green approach for the City is. This plan was released to the EPA and the public this week so we will be getting an overview of the whole plan.  Then help Sierra Club and the Clean Rivers Campaign make this kind of green approach a reality for ALL of ALCOSAN.

6:30 - 8 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church (605 Morewood Avenue, in Shadyside).  Light refreshments will be served.

Dec 3: Sustainability Salon on Visualizing Air Quality

For the 59th Sustainability Salon, we'll have our annual fall focus on Air Quality, this time with an amazing opportunity to share some of the images, words, and experiences that were part of the recent photography exhibit In The Air: Visualizing What We Breathe.  We'll hear from curator and photographer Brian Cohen, exhibit co-curator (and galleries program manager and former director of the Pittsburgh Center for the ArtsLaura Domencic, and science writer and radio producer Reid Frazier about the creation of this collaborative visual compendium.  And Linda Wigington, leader of the ROCIS low-cost air monitoring project, will share results and talk about visualizing quantitative data.  You can get involved in this project, and another local example of citizen science: the new Smell Pittsburgh app.  Developer Mike Tesota, from the CMU Robotics Institute's CREATE Lab, will give a demonstration of the app, which lets you both contribute to the data and benefit from the results -- realtime.   We'll also have an update and call-to-action on the Shell ethane cracker plant planned for Beaver County by Matt Mehalik of the Air Quality Collaborative, local documentary filmmaker and air quality activist Mark Dixon, and Drexel University professor, author, sociologist, science historian, and environmental ethicist Gwen Ottinger.  And a late-breaking addition, we'll also have a letter-writing session about a proposed "conservation plan" for oil and gas operations in our region which threatens wildlife, led by Heartwood's Matt Peters.

For next month, mark your calendar:  The 60th Sustainability Salon will take place on January 14th, commencing our annual Winter Film Series.  (Note that this is a change from a preliminary date I set a few days ago.)
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 -- but this time there is no program, so come hang out!.   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 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. 

Dec 1: Petrochemical plants as neighbors

What happens when a major petrochemical manufacturing plant becomes the heart of a community’s strategy for social and economic development? What remains after the sales pitches promising jobs and prosperity fade into the reality of living amidst a massive chemical production plant?
What can Beaver County residents concerned about their community’s future learn from those who have lived through such changes? Iris Carter and Ann Rolfes have spent their lives close to petrochemical facilities in Louisiana (Norco and Lafayette).
These two educators have valuable insights to share about how local citizens can address the social and health impacts of such facilities. Framing their stories and advice will be a screening of the PBS POV video Fenceline: A Company Town Divided.
Speakers from Beaver County communities will also share their own questions and concerns.
A Petrochemical Plant for our Neighbor? 
The Rest of the Story.
Featuring Iris Carter, Ann Rolfes, and the PBS POV Movie, “Fenceline: A Company Town Divided” 
6:00 - 8:30 pm at the Beaver Station Cultural & Event Center, 250 East End Avenue, Beaver, PA 15009 (At the corner of Third Street and East End Avenue).  Click here for directions.  Free and open to the public.  Presented By the Cracker Plant Initiative, Create Lab, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, BCMAC, and ACCAN
Contact for More Information:
Come hear. Come watch. Come share.  Come learn answers to the vital question: “What can I do?"
About the Featured Speakers:
Iris Carter was born and raised in the neighborhood of Diamond in Norco, Louisiana next to a Shell cracker plant. After losing family members to illnesses related to chemical exposure, Iris stepped up in the fight for environmental justice, becoming a leading spokesperson and negotiator for The Concerned Citizens of Norco. Iris has traveled around the country and the world making presentations, attending shareholder meetings and encouraging other communities in their environmental justice campaigns. Iris is a teacher by profession.
Anne Rolfes founded the Louisiana Bucket Brigade in 2000 to empower communities to stop pollution in her home state. The Bucket Brigade has created cutting edge tools, including the iWitness Pollution Map, the Refinery Accident Database, and street-based artistic performances. Anne was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, where many people made their fortunes from the oil industry. She has seen the wealth and the poverty created by oil production and seeks to make the industry more equitable. She has a Masters in International Development from Tulane; she has twice testified before Congress. Her work has been recognized by local and national awards, including the Jane Bagley Lehman Award for Public Advocacy and the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader Award.
About Louisiana Bucket Brigade: 
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade uses grassroots action to create an informed, healthy society with a culture that holds the petrochemical industry and government accountable for the true costs of pollution.