Feb 27: Bag It film and discussion

Is your life too plastic? Bag it is a movie about the effects of plastic on waterways, oceans, animals and our own bodies. Learn what you can do to reduce and eliminate your single use plastic here in Pittsburgh at this film screening and discussion, sponsored by What'sSUP and the Social Justice Committee of Calvary Episcopal Church

7-9 p.m. at Calvary Episcopal Church (315 Shady Ave., 15206).

Feb 25 & 27: Railroad bridge-raising info meetings

Following RP3’s lead and echoing its objections, the city issued a press release “asking Norfolk Southern to provide alternative plans to protect North Side neighborhoods and residents, the historic nature of the area, pedestrian safety, air quality and other factors, and for the railroad to be more responsive to City requests on the matter.”  The City also filed a Protest with the PUC objecting to Norfolk Southern transferring maintenance of and responsibilities for the West North Avenue bridge to the City.
RP3 has intervened in all of the PUC's legal proceedings related to Norfolk Southern’s Vertical Clearance Project, and so far this week, RP3 has been the topic of two KDKA radio broadcasts, one WPXI TV news segment, and two articles (Public Source and Post Gazette).  Here are the links:  
Post-Gazette:  https://bit.ly/2ttDeWk 
PublicSource:  https://bit.ly/2NiQgiv  
WPXI:  https://bit.ly/2ICuNCO

Two upcoming meetings will inform the community about the Vertical Clearance Project and its effect on the surrounding areas.  

6:30-8 p.m. on Feb 25 at 1st Presbyterian Church of Edgewood (120 E. Swissvale Ave., 15218)

7-9 p.m. Feb 27 at Manchester Citizens Corporation (1319 Allegheny Avenue, 15233)

Feb 24: Scarred Lands/Wounded Lives screening

Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War is a compelling documentary exploring the under-reported environmental impacts of war and preparations for war. The film confronts the immensely broad ecological and human ramifications of everything from technological development and natural resource exhaustion to weapons testing and modern warfare itself.

Ecosystems around the world are in distress from forces of humanity’s own making: increasing population, unsustainable demands on natural resources, habitat and species loss, and climate change. One of the most destructive of human behaviors – war – is not commonly included as a contributor to the growing global environmental crisis.

Yet, in all its stages, from the production of weapons through combat, military operations pollute land, air, and water, destroy entire ecosystems, and drain limited natural resources.
Using archival material from the Civil War through more recent wars, along with expert testimony and eyewitness accounts, the film clearly presents the environmental and human cost of combat, and argues for public scrutiny of the ecological and human impact of war as essential to a more sustainable – and secure – world.

2-4 p.m. at the Carnegie Library (Squirrel Hill branch, 5801 Forbes Ave., 15217).  Discussion will follow the film.  Free and open to the public;  sponsored by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.  There's also a Facebook event page

Feb 24: PA Solar Congress

The Pennsylvania Solar Congress is a free public conference that brings together solar supporters from across the state to learn and discuss the current state and future for solar energy in Pennsylvania. The day will include a series of presentations about solar technology and policy topics as well as ways to get involved with growing solar in Pennsylvania. The day will conclude with a participatory open forum for all attendees to discuss the priorities and opportunities that solar supporters in Pennsylvania should focus on in the coming year.

Whether you are a solar homeowner, completely new to solar, or somewhere in between – this event is for you!

9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Community Forge (1256 Franklin Avenue, 15221)  Free and open to the public (breakfast and lunch provided!), but please RSVP!  More details and online registration on the Solar United Neighbors event page.  Please also look there for volunteer opportunities (e.g. video, sign-in table).

Feb 23: Sustainability Salon on advanced nuclear technologies

The 85th Sustainability Salon will conclude our annual wintertime film series -- and begin a two-month pairing on "Nuclear Surprises."  Surprising, because many environmentalists would not have considered ever supporting nuclear, but might just do so after our discussions!  In February, we'll screen the documentary The New Fire, about advanced small-scale nuclear technologies that address most of the concerns about conventional nuclear:  they're incapable of melting down, and instead of burning fuel that has to be mined, transported, refined, and kept safe from diversion into weaponry along the way -- they burn existing nuclear waste.  We'll explore the possibilities and the challenges of this kind of new technology.  For discussion following the film, we'll be joined remotely by Jessica Lovering, Director of Energy for The Breakthrough Institute, (featured in the film, currently in Tasmania), and prominent climate blogger Joe Romm (from Washington, DC).  And, in person, Dr. Rita Baranwal, Director of the DOE's Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative.
A month later, on March 23rd, we'll be looking at the here and now, when many nuclear power plants are failing to compete in an era of cheap gas.  However, if they're shut down then more gas plants will be built (which will be in operation for many decades, compounding climate damage).  Some states are considering keeping them online for a while while we transition to renewables -- another kind of "bridge fuel".  Might Pennsylvania do this?  Come to the March salon and find out!

Following the talks and discussion, and returning to our recurrent theme of plastics -- a major health and environmental issue as the petrochemical hub invades our region -- we’ve initiated a monthly dinner-table conversation for those interested in how to avoid pervasive single-use plastics, and how advocacy may be able to limit regional impacts.  

In the meantime, here are a few other events of note:  Extreme activism is on the big screen at CMU's International Film Festival on Friday the 22nd, with the amazing Icelandic film Woman At War (I'll be speaking on a panel following the film).  On Saturday morning, you can get a handle on our region's industrial history and its impact on air quality with a trail walk through the site of the Great Homestead Strike with GASP and Venture Outdoors -- or get a jump-start on the growing season with the annual Seed Swap.  Note that the Young Voices for the Planet educator workshop previously scheduled for Feb. 23rd has been postponed (because of an opportunity to document more kid-activists, this time protecting Monarch butterfly overwintering habitat in remote mountains in Mexico!) -- the next workshops are on March 9th (in Butler) and 10th (at Phipps).  Delve deeper into renewables at the Solar Congress on Sunday the 24th, and/or learn about the environmental impact of war in Scarred Lands, Wounded Lives.  For those who missed last months Trains salon (or want an update), Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh will be holding more informational meetings on Feb 25 & 27.  And on the plastics front, there's a screening of Bag It next Wednesday the 27th.  As always, you can browse around MarensList for more events.

Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We generally start the program not long after 4pm, after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.  After the talks and discussion (hopefully by around 7:30), we break for a potluck supper.  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 passenger and freight trainsconsumption, plastics, and pollutionair qualitysolar poweryouth activismgreening businessgreenwashing, 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. 

Feb 23: Seed and Plant Swap

A Celebration of Seeds: Seventh Annual Seed and Plant Swap

This free event features a selection of seeds and plants for the public and hands-on activities for children and teens! There's a Seed Swap (South Wing Reading Room/Oversized Room), tabling by
partner organizations (upstairs near Oversized Room), children's activities (Children's Room), and a Seed Bomb Workshop (TeenSpace).

If you have seedlings, plant cuttings to propagate, or other live plants, feel free to bring those to share as well. It's helpful if they're packaged in a way that the soil is contained and they can be taken home easily by other swappers. Household items such as cut-up egg cartons, small yogurt containers, or even small sandwich bags could be a helpful, reusable option. If you have further questions, please email one of the event organizers, alyssa@growpittsburgh.org.

If you’re a newcomer to the world of gardening, or someone seeking additional skills, seed saving and gardening experts will be on hand to answer gardening questions throughout the event. Share your Seed Stories, snap a photo using the library’s mobile photo booth, and enter the free raffle with the ticket you receive at sign-in!

11-3 p.m. at Carnegie Library (main branch, in Oakland).  Seed-bringers can come at 10:45 with contributions.  Please register in advance (by Monday the 18th) here.  Sponsored by Grow Pittsburgh, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Feb 23: Industrial history and AQ

A Stroll Through History: Air Quality & Industry

GASP is teaming up with Venture Outdoors and Rivers of Steel to take hikers on a stroll through history in an unlikely location – The Waterfront. During the outing, we will explore the Battle of Homestead, U.S. Steel’s legacy, as well as our region’s air quality over time and space – all while taking a relaxing stroll along the Great Allegheny Passage.

10 a.m. to noon, in Homestead.   $5 for Venture Outdoor members and $8 for nonmembers. Space is limited, so be sure to register today.

Feb 23 (postponed): Civic Engagement & Democracy workshop

Update:  Lynne Cherry will be traveling to Mexico to film a group of kids who are working to preserve Monarch butterfly wintering habitat.  Rather than cutting her trip short, the Feb 23 workshop will be postponed to May 11th.  Hence, the next dates will be March 9th and 10th.  
Young Voices for the Planet is a series of short films about activist kids, making a difference in their communities and in the world.  Topics range from solar panels to sea level rise, plastic straws to planting trees, oil spills to environmental racism.  YVFP welcomes educators of all backgrounds to learn how to empower the next generation of environmental stewards. Using these amazing films and the Civic Engagement and Democracy curriculum as resources, this inspiring workshop addresses climate change education through real-life youth success stories tackling local Pittsburgh environmental issues. We will show you how to bring our A.C.T.I.O.N Plan to life in your own classroom and community!
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fern Hollow Nature Center (1901 Glen Mitchell Rd., Sewickley 15143). Registration $15 (& $5 for Act 48 credits); please register online here.  For any questions, please contact Susie Moffett (Fern Hollow) at susie.fhnc@gmail.com or (412)445-3715, or Kimberly Gutzler (YVPF) at (202) 476-9141.   Facilitation, credits, and refreshments provided by Allegheny Land Trust.

Teaching Kids to Protect Their Future & Save the Planet!

Young people are concerned about many issues and want to make a difference. Teachers are asking what they can do to help empower students.  

When young people DO speak out, their voices have power!  At the COP24 climate talks, the voice most covered by the media was that of Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg addressing the UN“Our political leaders have failed us… We are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue on this road of madness.” 

In the next 6 months, Pittsburgh area institutions, partnering with Young Voices for the Planet and NY Times best-selling children’s book author and fillmmaker Lynne Cherry, will be hosting a series of workshops to help teachers help students to be heard.  The workshops provide ACT 48 CREDITS while teaching educators how to:
  1. help students overcome doom and gloom and be energized by hope 
  2. help students create an ACTION PLAN to address local Pittsburgh issues.

The workshops center around the true stories in the Young Voices for the Planet short documentaries featuring youth taking the lead, creating solutions, changing laws, changing minds and changing society.  These stories reach hearts and inspire action.

Featured speakers:  Lynne Cherry;  Heather Harr, League of Women’s Voters;  Jessica Kester, Allegheny Land Trust;  and local youth speaking out for their environment. 

Pittsburgh is the ideal place to launch this Civic Engagement and Democracy pilot workshop because the city’s sustainability goals serve as a guiding light for the rest of the country.

The workshops are sponsored by The Heinz Endowments and the Garden Club of Allegheny County.

To learn more about workshops and registration, please click here. 

Feb 22: Woman At War film and discussion

Kicking off the 2019 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival will be Woman At War, an amazing Icelandic film about activism, about family, about courage, about competence, and about compassion.  It is at once stirring, contemplative, and humorous.

"Is there anything rarer than an intelligent feel-good film that knows how to tackle urgent global issues with humor as well as a satisfying sense of justice?” 
                                                – Jay Weissberg, Variety 

Halla is a fifty-year-old independent woman. But behind the scenes of a quiet routine, she leads a double life as a passionate environmental activist. Known to others only by her alias “The Woman of the Mountain,” Halla secretly wages a one-woman-war on the local aluminum industry. As Halla’s actions grow bolder, from petty vandalism to outright industrial sabotage, she succeeds in pausing the negotiations between the Icelandic government and the corporation building a new aluminum smelter. But right as she begins planning her biggest and boldest operation yet, she receives an unexpected letter that changes everything. Her application to adopt a child has finally been accepted and there is a little girl waiting for her in Ukraine. As Halla prepares to abandon her role as saboteur and savior of the Highlands to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother, she decides to plot one final attack to deal the aluminum industry a crippling blow.

6:30 at McConomy Auditorium in CMU's Cohon University Center.  Panel discussion (including yours truly) and reception following the film.  

Feb 20: The Plastic Apocalypse

Photo by Randy Olson
National Geographic photographer Randy Olson will present his photos of plastics taken throughout the world. Justin Stockdale, Western Regional Director of the PA Resources Council, will give a presentation on the state of recycling in our region. You can learn more about the event here.

6:30-9 p.m. at the Edgeworth Club (511 East Drive, Sewickley).  Free and open to the public. Space is limited, so please RSVP by email or online.  The event is sponsored by Communities First–Sewickley Valley & the League of Women Voters of PA, and is cosponsored with SHAPE/10 Actions & Sustainable Sewickley.

Feb 17: What'sSUP Challenge meeting

A month after the What'sSUP Challenge Kickoff, the teams will gather for our second meeting.  This will be more of a working meeting for the action teams. It's not too late to join a team!  There are now five teams: 
     Ban the Bag (single-use plastic bags)
     Outreach (including to restaurants)
     Publicity and Research (including publicizing What'sSUP, city council SUP resolution, and other SUP efforts to the media)
     Tracking App (for SUP-reduction behaviors), Website, and Research Bureau
     City Recycling Education *NEW** (help everyone understand what's recyclable/compostable)
1:30-4 p.m. at the Friends' Meeting House (4836 Ellsworth Avenue in Oakland).  Please indicate via EventBrite if you're planning to attend, so we can plan accordingly.  Also please let us know right away if you'll need childcare.  Whether or not you can make it to this particular meeting, go ahead and connect with the initiative on Facebook!

Feb 16: Theft by Eminent Domain

In many communities, citizens have divided over a peoples’ right to allow a gas well pad to be installed on their property despite any ill consequences or inconvenience to their neighbors. With the encouragement of land men and gas drillers, the response to objections of leasing for fracking wells is “No one can tell me what I can or cannot do with my own property.” Others however believe that “Your right to swing your fist stops at the point it hits my nose.”

There is another debate regarding the rights of property owners, one in which the gas industry and its political supporters seem to lose all concern about individual property rights, and that debate centers around the seizure of private land for the pipelines.

We have long been familiar with the legal doctrine of imminent domain to seize private property by government for public projects: a school, a road, and for the right of way of an actual utility serving the community. In recent years in which the desire of business has come to trump the rights of private citizens, the doctrine has been expanded to allow private land to be seized to hand it over to profit-seeking businesses. The development is posited as good for the public. It is not always (maybe even, not usually) as in the case of seizure for the construction of a casino, or a shopping center that destroys locally owned businesses. It is also transparently not the case when the pipeline is to transport overseas natural gas whose extraction was promoted as making the U.S. energy independent. Should citizens stand still for this; shouldn’t this be resisted?

MOB will feature one heroic person who did resist, Ellen Gerhart of Huntingdon County. Ellen and her husband refused to grant a right of way to Sunoco Pipeline L.P. (which merged in 2017 with Energy Transfer Partners of Standing Rock infamy) for the Mariner East pipeline. When the land was seized by eminent domain, Ellen, her family, and friends fought back. Ellen paid a huge price for her courageous stand when Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge George Zanic sent her to jail. Ellen completed two months in jail but now she’s back and she still hasn’t backed down. Come and hear Ellen tell her story of amazing and courageous resistance.

1-3:30 p.m. at the Butler Area Public Library (218 N McKean St., Butler 16001)  Hosted by Marcellus Outreach Butler.  
Ellen was born in Monaca, PA. She and her husband raised the two daughters on their 27-acre property in Huntingdon County, where they enjoyed a peaceful existence. Just after Ellen retired from a 28-year career of teaching, their nightmare began when their land was seized for the Mariner East pipeline. Her story is both a cautionary tale about the plight of ordinary people when faced with a rapacious industry grab, and an inspiring example of personal courage and fortitude.

Ellen is a recipient a 2018 FracTracker Sentinel Award which honors environmental heroes, people “whose noble actions exemplify the transformative power of caring, committed, and engaged people.”

Feb 5: Putting Down Roots with the Green New Deal

In between Sustainability Salons, Putting Down Roots will host a local gathering to learn more about the Green New Deal through an official livestream event!  Sunrise is building public support for the Green New Deal so that we can elect a candidate that champions it in 2020, and make it law in 2021.  Livestream watch parties will take place across the country in order to bring even more people into the fight and get everyone ready to move forward together.
Join us on Feb. 5 as we gather to push the fight for clean air & water, and good jobs for every single person across the country.  We need everyone to take action to show our legislators that we're serious about climate and they need to be too.  

Whether or not you can come to our gathering, there are other opportunities for participation...  In conjunction with the Green New Deal, 350.org has organized a petition to Congress encouraging climate action.  Please consider signing it!  Also, on Friday there will be a couple of letter-delivery actions in support of climate-protecting legislation and rejection of fossil-fuel money -- to Mike Doyle in the morning (led by local activist Nancy Bernstein), and to Bob Casey in the afternoon (not sure who's leading that one).  Bring signs if you have 'em, and join in!  

For those who couldn't make it, the livestream was recorded.

The next Sustainability Salon will be on February 23rd.
7-10 at our house in Frick Park (livestream begins at 8, doors open at 7).  No supper at this event, but feel free to bring snacks/drinks to share.  Please be sure to RSVP on the Sunrise event page.  (Directions & Other Info will come after you RSVP -- this time, automatically via the Sunrise site.)  Thanks!

Feb 4: Café Sci on plastic pollution

Café Scientifique: Straw Forward

7-9 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum of Science (doors open at 6 for networking and refreshments).  Free to attend, parking $5.  RSVP online here.

Get the scoop on the highly anticipated Straw Forward art sculpture and join Sustainable PittsburghAllegheny CleanWaysPennsylvania Resources CouncilConstruction Junction, and First Mile of Thread – International for a panel discussion about reducing plastic pollution, raising awareness, and building economies through single-use plastics. In addition to the panel, an abridged version of the documentary A Plastic Ocean also will be screened, providing a deeper look into these issues on a global scale.
Earlier this year, the nonprofit Sustainable Pittsburgh launched Straw Forward, a collaborative, community-wide campaign involving nearly 40 restaurants, nonprofits, and businesses over a seven‑month period. Using straws as the main medium, the Straw Forward team collected used and littered plastic‑based items and transformed them into a stunning art sculpture on display from Tues., Jan. 15 through Fri., Feb. 15 in the Riverview Café at the Science Center.
The Straw Forward campaign recognizes that plastic straws are critical for people living with certain disabilities and medical conditions. The goal of this project is to foster meaningful conversations around the problem of plastic pollution. Join us for a discussion about the sculpture and what we can do locally to help solve this globally.