May 25-28: Heartwood Forest Council

In large part because of the looming petrochemical buildout, the 28th Annual Heartwood Forest Council is coming to our area! T his year activists from across the Heartwood Region will gather at Camp Crestfield, just outside the town of Slippery Rock, PA in Butler County PA, close to the Ohio border.  In addition to this being where the Coalfields meet Gasland, this is along the line of the Glacial Moraine in PA.
This region is on the edge of a new industrial revolution, with the threat of a massive buildout of the petrochemical industry looming like a storm, as the industries responsible for polluting the Gulf of Mexico seek to relocate in the headwaters of the Ohio and Allegheny River valleys, the heart of the new Gas Expansion empire.  The program this year will focus on the issues surrounding the Shell ethane-cracker plant in Beaver, PA and the associated pipeline buildout that is currently in the permitting phases.  From the JKLM frackwater treatment plant in Coudersport, PA, 50 miles upriver from the Seneca lands just across the NY state line, to the Appalachian Gathering Station on the Ohio River in southern West Virginia, this tri-state region is on the edge of a major transformation.  The wave of fracking wells and injection wells is but a precursor to a full-scale relocation of these massive petrochemical facilites, from the Gulf Coast to the upper Ohio River valley.  Creatures on the edge of extinction and people on the edge of society continue to be pushed over the edge by this relentless corporate expansion driven by fossil fuels and plastic waste.
This year, Heartwood is planning our 28th annual Forest Council to provide a forum for a Grassroots Tri-State Summit, an opportunity to organize on a multistate level to face this new threat to our forests and communities.  This industrial onslaught may be unprecedented in scale, but the Heartwood model of real-time, on the ground (and in the forest!) person-to-person network building and grassroots organizing remains our strongest and most versatile tool in our activist tool box.  Click here for more information, including a full schedule of workshops and speakers as it becomes available.
This weekend is a time for activists across the Heartwood region who work together over email and phones, to get together and let the magic happen face-to-face, get the work of The Work done in a beautiful natural setting, eat good food and dance to some great live bands, relax to some campfire music after a full day of intense workshop discussions on the topics closest to our hearts and minds.  The weekend will end Monday with some sort of theatrical act of nonviolent protest, the exact nature of which will be determined and planned by attendees over the course of the weekend.

Heartwood welcomes any progressive grassroots organization, green business, or generous individual to cosponsor this event and join our family of member groups.  Cosponsors illustrate the strength of our movement in a show of solidarity, and show the scope and scale of the gathering.  Cosponsors help underwrite the event, and help us provide scholarships for activists to attend without concern for registration costs.

Contact gathering coordinator Tabitha at to find out more.

Apr 26: Wasted film screening

Join 412 Food Rescue for a screening of WASTED! The Story of Food Waste as the culminating event of our #EarthWeek2018.
40% of the food in America is WASTED. 
A new documentary by Anthony Bourdain, WASTED: The Story of Food Waste aims to change the way people buy, cook, recycle, and eat food. Through the eyes of chef-heroes, WASTED! exposes the criminality of food waste and shows us how each of us can make small changes – all of them delicious – to make the most of every kind of food.
Learn more at at

6 p.m. at Rodef Shalom, 4905 Fifth Ave. (doors open at 6, panel at 6:30, film at 7).  Free and open to the public (please register online here).  Refreshments (limited;  first-come, first-served).  

412 Food Rescue recognizes the prevalence of harassment and exploitation of individuals in the food industry. There are actors in this film who have been accused of perpetrating this unacceptable behavior. We feel strongly that the spirit of this film is to address our mission of eliminating #foodwaste and #foodinsecurity.

Apr 21: Sustainability Salon annual Focus on Food (Part II)

Spring has sprung!  (and gone into hiding, and peeked out again, and then retracted once more.)   For the 75th Sustainability Salon, we will continue our annual Focus on Food.  This month, Sarah Buranskas will bring us up to date on the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.  Jonathan Burgess of the Allegheny County Conservation District will talk about urban soils, heavy-metal contamination, and their new soil testing program -- and will do some XRF testing right here at the event -- see below!  I'll also be talking a little about my work with this method years ago.
Community herbalist and health educator Leah Wolfe of Trillium Center in nearby Ohio (postponed from March due to a devastating barn fire) will explore herbs as medicine for our changing times.  And Mark Smith, owner of Pittsburgher Highland Farm will share his insights on sustainable farming, grassfed production, and Highland cattle.

Additional notes:
1.  If you'd like to bring a sample (or two or three) of soil from your own garden (or potential garden), we'll be able to test it right here, starting around 3:30.  Samples should be in ziploc bags, a half-cup or so, and fairly dry.  There's a diagram and instructions in a MarensList Resources posting, in case you're unsure how to go about digging your sample(s).  
2.  The next salon will be on May 12th, bringing us up to date on the Shell petrochemical facility, the pipelines necessary for its operation, and the whole petrochemical buildout planned for our region.  You may have heard about the DEP hearings on the Falcon pipeline earlier this month;  there is still time to send in written comments to voice your concerns.  You can find out how, and view videos of the testimony at those three hearings, on Mark Dixon's informative web site, NoPetroPA .
3.  Many salongoers will recall Yen-Chia Hsu's presentation last fall on  Smell Pittsburgh, the pollution reporting app he and colleagues developed at CMU's CREATE Lab.  He's collecting feedback on the app now for a research study;  if you've used the app, please consider participating at .  Please respond by Saturday, April 21st to be included in the study.
4.  As always, please be sure to RSVP, so that I can get a head-count, and also send you important information! 

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/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 (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 foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand 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. 

Apr 20: New Voices for the Planet screening

Young people are standing up for our communities and the environment -- advocating to protect our future and theirs.  Join filmmaker Lynne Cherry for a special Earth Day screening of two short films collectively titled Young Voices for the Planet.  The films feature youth speaking out, creating solutions, changing laws, changing minds, and changing society as they reduce the carbon footprint of their homes, schools and communities.  These short documentaries reach our hearts and inspire action — and prove that action is the antidote to fear.

7pm - 9pm at Phipps Conservatory's Botany Hall (1 Schenley Park, Pittsburgh;  the small, grand building near the Panther Hollow Bridge).  Free, with regular admission to Phipps. Pick up your free tickets in Phipps' Welcome Center at 5:30 p.m. or later on Fri., April 20.  Phipps is open until 10 p.m. every Friday.

Post-film discussion will be led by Lynne Cherry, author/illustrator of 30 award-winning children’s books, including the best-sellers The Great Kapok Tree and A River Ran Wild.  She is the producer and director of the Young Voices for the Planet films championing youth solutions to the climate crisis.  Lynne believes youth are the best messengers, for they will bear the brunt of climate change.  Her YVFP Civic Engagement Curriculum, co-authored with National Science Teachers Association past president Juliana Texley, is available on the YVFP website and will soon be available on PBS Learning Media to help educators assist young people in creating their own ACTION plans.

Apr 16: The New Fire screening and discussion

Free screening of the new film The New Fire at Carnegie Mellon University, followed by a 
discussion with director David Schumacher and Jessica Lovering, who's featured in the film.

5:30-7:30 p.m. in McConomy Auditorium in the Cohon University Center.  Free and open to the public, and parking in the nearby garage (on Forbes Avenue) is free after 5 p.m.

What can we do to mitigate climate change?
Nuclear power has been vilified in popular culture and among much of the environmental community. Yet the next-generation reactors currently in development may actually be key to avoiding global catastrophe. The young entrepreneurs heading this energy revolution realize they’re up against more than the climate clock – they need to convince all of us that the new nuclear is safe and achievable.

Filmed across four continents over the course of 22 months, Emmy-winning director David Schumacher’s film focuses on how the generation facing the most severe impact of climate change is fighting back with ingenuity and hope. THE NEW FIRE tells a provocative and startlingly positive story about a planet in crisis and the young heroes who are trying to save it.

“With the urgency of transitioning to a low-carbon energy system, the debate over next-generation nuclear power takes on a special significance. The New Fire is the most important and captivating documentary film treatment of this issue. The film follows several young entrepreneurs on their quest for safe, flexible, and low-cost advanced nuclear technologies. Of great interest for all who are searching for solutions to the world’s climate-and-energy crisis.”
—Jeffrey Sachs, Professor, Columbia University

“Taming climate change is a momentous challenge that is going to require every zero carbon technology we can affordably deploy, and ‘The New Fire’ offers real hope that a new generation of nuclear technology can be part of that mix."
—Armond Cohen, Executive Director, Clean Air Task Force

“‘The New Fire’ shows us that the path to avoiding serious climate risk can be one of plenitude and prosperity rather than sacrifice and scarcity. All those who are truly serious about our future must see this film.”
— Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, MIT

“This film can be an icebreaker in terms of discussions about the future of nuclear technology.”
—Doug Vine, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
“The film does a fantastic job explaining complex topics to
the audience.”
—Ball State Daily News

Apr 15: Discovery: A Comic Lament

Discovery: A Comic Lament, starring Ted Swartz and Michelle Milne, and produced by Ted & Co, is a play about the Doctrine of Discovery, the legal framework that justifies theft of land and oppression of Indigenous Peoples.  It finds unexpected humor at the crossroads of justice and land use, offering both comic and challenging glimpses into the absurdity of white settler oppression of Indigenous Peoples and the land we live on.  A show about love, and loss, of land, Discovery nudges us to question our stories with honesty and integrity.

What happens when we find out there is a problem with the ground under our feet? When we acknowledge that the land we want to reconnect with was violently and unjustly emptied of indigenous peoples?  When we learn about their continued oppression?  And, what is the role of people of faith, and inheritors of a system of land ownership based on theft?

This is a play about a big, foundational problem: how the land under our feet came to be under our feet.  And it is about learning to face that problem with the energy that only shared laughter can create, so that we can move forward.

7:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 N Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA.  Open to all! Suggested donation $10-$20.  Sponsored by Pittsburgh Mennonite Church and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  Produced by Ted & Co, written by Alison Brookins, and directed by Phil Weaver-Stoesz. Created in partnership with the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition.

Apr 14: March for Science

Science for all and evidence-based policy have taken a beating in the past year.  They are more important than ever.  That's why we are excited to announce that the March for Science Pittsburgh is back in 2018!

To keep the March accessible for people of all abilities, young children, and parents with strollers, the March route will be the same as last year: Bigelow Blvd, up Forbes Ave, left on Bellefield Ave, down Fifth Ave, and back to Bigelow.  (overall timeframe 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

To help support the March and show your science colors, buy a cool March for Science Pittsburgh 2018 t-shirt or hoodie, or Stickers and mugs.  Please donate to help cover permitting, sound and staging:

Visit our website: or the Facebook event page.

Apr 14-15: Farm to Table conference

The theme for the 12th annual conference is Farm to Table Buy Local.  The event will celebrate the connections made by supporting local farms, food producers, wineries, distilleries and breweries.

The conference provides consumers with two days of networking and educational opportunities. Seasonal cooking demonstrations, gardening tips, delicious food and beverage samples, and information about the nutritional value of local food and healthy lifestyle choices are presented by local experts.  Fun & engaging for all ages!!

At the David Lawrence Convention Center, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 11 on Sunday.  Admission varies depending on how much you want to participate in;  kids 12 and under are free.  More information and online registration here!

Be prepared to shop!  There will be seedlings, eggs, cheeses, veggies, dairy products, meat, wine, beer & spirits all available for sale in the Exhibit Hall.

Apr 12: Air quality event

Building a Future Full of Hope & Promise:  Join Clean Air Council to kick off its Southwest PA Neighbors for Clean Air Initiative!

Clean Air Council is launching its Southwest Pennsylvania Neighbors for Clean Air initiative on April 12 to raise awareness and recruit additional volunteers.  This free event will feature Lois Marie Gibbs, the primary organizer in Love Canal, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize and Heinz award in the Environment, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. 

Southwest Pennsylvania, particularly Allegheny County, continues to receive poor air quality grades.  Residents are demanding that industry and government protect their health, environment, and quality of life. 

The Southwest Pennsylvania Neighbors for Clean Air initiative will establish at least 100 groups of 10 neighbors in southwest Pennsylvania to educate 1,000 new volunteer leaders about air pollution sources and build their capacity to address air quality issues affecting their lives.
6-9 p.m. at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 419 Dithridge St. in Oakland (15213).  For more information, contact Dave Smith at 412-854-8494 or 
6:00 - 6:30: Arrival, tabling by 15+ local organizations
6:30 - 6:50: Dr. Kirk Jalbert of Fractracker speaking on the Falcon Pipeline. (Please note that Dr. Jalbert has done tremendous work in Southwest PA, and this will be one of his final appearances before moving away. You don't want to miss this.)
6:50 - 7:00: Special Musical Performance
7:00 - 8:30: Building a Future Full of Hope and Promise Program ft. local community members and Lois Gibbs

Clean Air Council is providing transportation from the following locations (specific pick-up times will be provided when they are available);  please email to reserve a space.

Bus one pick-up:
Community Library of Allegheny Valley - 1522 Broadview Blvd, Natrona Heights, PA 15065
Possible pick up in Aspinwall/Fox Chapel

Bus two pick-up:
St Clare of Assisi - 460 Reed St, Clairton, PA 15025
Braddock Carnegie Library – 419 Library St, Braddock PA 15104

Bus three pick-up:
Beaver Historic Train Station – 276 East End Ave, Beaver PA 15009
Possible pick-up in Aliquippa

Apr 10: Life with petro: Fenceline screening

FENCELINE:  A Company Town Divided.  
A look at life near a petrochemical plant in Louisiana 
Shell is planning a petrochemical plant in Beaver County.  See what effects a similar Shell Plant in Louisiana has had on air quality, water quality, health and the economy in the surrounding communities.  What can we expect and how should we prepare for the consequences of the Beaver County plant, the pipelines and increased fracking that would occur in our area? 

Speakers include: 
    Terrie Baumgardner: Member, Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee
    Matthew Mehalik, Ph.D.: Executive Director, Breathe Project 
    B. David Smith, Outreach Coordinator, Clean Air Council 
7 p.m. at St. Brendan’s Church (2365 McAleer Rd, Sewickley, PA 15143, in Franklin Park Borough).  
Free and open to the public.  For more information, call 724-935-0947.  Sponsored by Allegheny County Clean Air Now, Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee, the Breathe Project, Clean Air Council, and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.