Jun 23: Sustainability Salon on Greenwashing

The 77th Sustainability Salon will take a look at several flavors of greenwashing.  Corporations draw attention to a benign aspect of their business to clean up their image.  They pander to communities by sponsoring charity events (even Earth Day!), social programs, and environmental initiatives while damaging environmental and human health with their main operations.  Products are marketed as "green" despite significant impacts.  Places (like Pittsburgh) are promoted as the best of everything -- but still face significant challenges.

Exposing corporate hypocrisy is the first step toward more accurate public perceptions of their overall impact.  After a concerted effort by the Earth Quaker Action Team and allies a few years ago, PNC Bank (headquartered in "the greenest office tower in the world") shifted away from funding mountaintop removal coal mining.

SAY NO 2 EQT CAMPAIGN  Locally, mammoth natural gas company EQT sponsors annual events from the downtown Pride March to Light Up Night.  350 Pgh and other environmental and social justice organizations are working to disable their program of image-crafting, pacification, and distraction.   Come learn about the oil and gas industry's efforts to buy power and influence around the mid-Atlantic region, and how activists in Pittsburgh can take a stand against it.  One company that best describes the problem is the Pittsburgh- based EQT Corporation and their efforts to fund community events to distract from EQT's environmental violence.  EQT Corp. is the largest natural gas producer in the United States, and they own over a million acres of Marcellus Shale tract -- which, if extracted, could permanently destabilize our climate.  They are also one of the lead developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline which groups throughout West Virginia and Virginia are fighting against alongside activists in Pennsylvania who want to prevent EQT from fracking in their communities.  EQT is not the only one, of course;  other fossil industry players like Shell, Chevron, and Range Resources also avoid public opposition by sponsoring community organizations and festivals while they threaten our right to clean air, water, soil, and a safe climate.  We'll have members of the Say No To EQT campaign with an update.  (For more information about the campaign, email noeqtpgh@protonmail.com).

photo by Garret Wassermann
One such community event was the Earth Day celebration this spring in nearby Moon Township.  Sponsors of the event (and of the park where it took place) include fossil-energy giant Chevron.  When Amanda Papa-Wasserman came upon their booth, she drew attention to the irony of their involvement, given their prominent role in the ongoing natural gas boom;  they're at the center of some of fracking's environmental and health impacts.   The company reps told her to leave, and were backed up by local police -- putting corporate interests ahead of first-amendment rights.  She now faces half a dozen charges.  Amanda will be here to share her story, adding a very personal angle to the issues raised by the Say No To EQT campaign.

Donna Roberts, local filmmaker, educator, mom, and author of this PublicSource article about Pittsburgh’s own greenwashing problem will lead a discussion on the topic along with her Chatham University graduate students in Restorative Environmental Justice.  Some are international urban planning students, so we’ll be able to get a global perspective.

On the climate front, the Congressional Climate Solutions Caucus has drawn some criticism regarding the voting records of GOP members (are they using it for political cover without consequences?), though the statistics can be viewed in a variety of ways.  Local Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers (and salongoers) Barbara Litt and Perry Recker will address these concerns, and we can discuss the merits.  

You can always check back on MarensList for any late-breaking changes.

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 a trail map 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 the petrochemical buildout in our region, 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 foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand 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. 

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