Jun 29: Sustainability Salon on Elections (Part I, Law)

This month, we'll begin a two-salon feature on Elections.  Part I, on June 29th, will focus on election law -- gerrymandering, election integrity, and voter access.  Part II, coming soon after on July 13th, will look at grassroots activism and ways that individuals can get involved.

State Representative Sara Innamorato will talk about legislation that she and colleagues have been working on, from automatic voter registration to extending voting times and no-excuse absentee ballots (PA's rules are pretty limiting).  Doug Webster of Fair Districts PA will bring clarity to redistricting, reapportionment, gerrymandering, and their implications for democracy -- and physicist John Nagle will share maps and analysis of different approaches to redistricting.   And do you trust our voting machines?  Ron Bandes, president of Vote Allegheny, will bring us up to date on the pros and cons of different polling systems under consideration.  Also, David Tessitor will share a new vision for an independent Election Commission in Allegheny County (and the bill to implement it).

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, and a persistent pollutant killing marine life all around the world -- we’ve initiated a monthly dinner-table conversation for those interested in how to avoid pervasive single-use plastics (SUPs), and how advocacy may be able to limit regional impacts.  Quite a few local initiatives have been working on this issue (No Plastics Please, What's SUP, SUPless Mondays, No Straws 'n'At), and this is a great place to connect with them!

The next salon will take place on July 13th;  speakers will include Marie Norman, founder of the Order of the Phoenix!  

In the meantime, also on the topic of Elections, I'll be hosting a fundraiser for Food & Water Action on June 24th -- they're doing great work protecting municipalities in southwestern Pennsylvania from fracking and related activities, and are gathering support for candidates who put a high priority on public health and safety.
And if you work with kids, learn how to unleash the power of young people to make the world a better place!  Join us for an educator workshop on June 26th at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.  Lynne Cherry, who was with us for April's salon, is the force behind the Young Voices for the Planet project.  YVFP is a series of short films about young environmental activists -- inspiring to kids and adults alike, and also demonstrating the power of youth in public discourse.  Lynne is leading a series of educator workshops on civic engagement and democracy that will enable teachers and informal educators in our region to foster a new generation of activists using these amazing films.   As always, you can browse around MarensList for more events!

Also apropos of the last salon, Grow Ohio Valley, the great food-policy organization just over in Wheeling, WV that we heard from in May, is doing some hiring (with the Americorps program)!  Several positions are open;  there's more info on the MarensList Resources page.

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 3 (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 we may need to limit 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.  If you drive down our street, please park only on the uphill-facing side, and take care not to block driveways on either side of the street.  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 (usually Friday night).  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;  fit'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 whether to preserve existing nuclear power plantsadvanced nuclear technologiespassenger 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 foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand 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.  Please try to minimize single-use plastic -- if you're thinking of a deli tray of vegetables, just get some whole veggies and we can cut 'em up here!  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 (again, no single-use packaging) and provide a big batch of homemade/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. 

Jun 27: Wilkinsburg water meeting

Have you tested your water for lead? Have you received inaccurate water bills or poor customer service? Are you concerned about water and sewer rate increases?

Join Pittsburgh United's Our Water, Our Rivers Campaign at this kickoff community meeting for all Wilkinsburg Penn Joint Water customers because everyone deserves safe, affordable, publicly controlled drinking water.

7-8:30 p.m. at the St. James R C Church (718 Franklin Ave., 15221). Free and open to the public. Dinner will be served. Free water filters available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Facebook event here.

Jun 26: Air Quality Listening Session

Pittsburgh City Council member Erika Strassburger (District 8) will host a Community Listening Session on Air Quality.  Come and share your personal experiences and input about air quality in the Pittsburgh region.

6 p.m. at Repair the World (6022 Broad St. in East Liberty, 15206).  To sign up to speak, visit http://bit.ly/airqualityspeakers . 

Jun 26: Young Voices for the Planet educator workshop

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 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 Pittsburgh Botanic Garden (799 Pinkerton Run Road, Oakdale, PA 15071). Registration $15 (& $5 for Act 48 credits); please register online here.  For any questions, please contact Kimberly Gutzler (YVPF) by email or at (202) 476-9141.   Facilitation and Act 48 credits provided by Allegheny Land Trust. Hosted by the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in collaboration with Fern Hollow Nature Center.
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.” 

This spring and summer, Pittsburgh area institutions, partnering with Young Voices for the Planet and NY Times best-selling children’s book author and filmmaker Lynne Cherry, are hosting a series of workshops to help teachers help students to be heard.  The workshops provide ACT 48 CREDITS while teaching educators how to help students overcome doom and gloom and be energized by hope, and help students create an ACTION PLAN to address local Pittsburgh issues.  Consider joining us for the last workshop, on June 26th!

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 include filmmaker Lynne Cherry, Jessica Kester (Allegheny Land Trust), Heather Harr (League of Women’s Voters), Michael Bagdes-Canning (Marcellus Outreach Butler), 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, and we are a nexus of  environmental issues warranting action.  
The Allegheny Front, our own local environmental radio show, did a great segment on the first workshop.

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. 

Jun 24: Food & Water Action fundraiser

Can we stop fracking at the ballot box?
Protecting Allegheny County from Fracking

We're envisioning a Pennsylvania without fracking, even if it means going town by town!

Allegheny County is facing not only a legacy of pollution, but new threats looming on the horizon. New fracking wells and pipelines are being proposed in our communities. A polluting ethane cracker is under construction in Beaver County, and the industry has plans to build up to a dozen more in southwest Pennsylvania.

Electing movement leaders at the local level is our best chance to fight these threats. Food & Water Action played a central role in electing new leadership in East Pittsburgh Borough that will stop the fracking well proposed in the heart of the Mon Valley, and we helped environmental champions Bethany Hallam and Liv Bennett to county council.

In November, we can do it again. We can make large swaths of Allegheny County off limits to fracking by winning elections in places like Franklin Park, Indiana and Elizabeth. In electing three more champions to Allegheny County Council, we can create a new majority that will put people ahead of the profits of corporate polluters.

6-8 p.m. at Maren's house in Frick Park (directions and other information will be sent after you RSVP). Light bites, wine and beer will be served. Space is limited, so please make sure you RSVP here: fwaction.us/June24Allegheny  

We're not counting people who mark "going" or "interested" on the Facebook page as RSVPed. Please RSVP here! For questions contact Tamara Tripp, ttripp@fwwatch.org

Jun 23: Allegheny SolarFest

Join us at the 5th Annual Allegheny SolarFest, a 100% solar-powered event to celebrate the power of the sun and find out how to go solar!

There will be an electric vehicle car show, food trucks, music and information on solar, energy efficiency, efficient solar home design, community solar projects and ways to strengthen Pennsylvania’s renewable energy laws.

The food trucks featured at this event include Pittsburgh Halal, Millie's Homemade Ice Cream, and PGH Taco Truck. Featured bands include: Timbeleza, Buffalo Rose, and Tiger Maple String Band.

11 a.m.- 4 p.m. at the Frick Environmental Center located at 2005 Beechwood Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15217. You can check back for more details here and on Facebook as the event approaches. Thank you to our lead sponsor, Duquesne Light Company!

What's it like?  Check out this little video from last year's event!

Jun 22: DRYerson Festival

Spend the afternoon with the Center for Coalfield Justice and your friends and neighbors to celebrate the progress they’ve made in our fight to protect Ryerson Station State Park.  The 13th annual DRYerson Festival will be held on Saturday, June 22nd from 1-4 PM at Pavilion 2 in the Park.  This year’s celebration will feature live music from Bree Otto (you loved her last year, and so she’s back), games (with prizes), a soaking-wet-sponge toss (all the fun of water balloons with no waste), and other fun surprises!  The festival is pet-friendly, and our staff highly encourages you to bring your pooch on a leash (or a cat if your cat will let you put a leash on him/her) to join in on the festivities!  Summer classics like hot dogs, pasta salad, and watermelon will be offered throughout the day, but this year we’ll also be serving summertime fun in the form of snow cones and cotton candy.  Again this year, in order to speak to our values and support another one of our campaigns, we will limit our use of plastic, so we will have reusable plates, cups, and utensils provided by Our Children Our Earth: Toys, Silks, and Eco-Goods.  Worried that you’ll only be able to make it for a brief time?  There will be door-prize drawings throughout the Festival for everyone who checks in at the registration table! 
Let CCJ know you are coming to event by registering on this page.  Call in at the office (724-229-3550) if you want to volunteer or want to know more about the event!   Also, stay connected to event plans at our Facebook event page!

Jun 21: Water Connects Us All!

Celebrate the Summer Solstice with local faith communities for World Peace and Prayer Day.

Folks will meet at 4:00 p.m. at the Allegheny Landing Park on the North Shore next to the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Musical instruments and talents are welcome to share with the community. The gathered throng will then walk over the Allegheny River to offer our collective prayers and intentions for our rivers and sacred waters. The group will gather, enter and exit the bridge from the North Shore at Allegheny Landing park at Sandusky Street.

Following the prayers and intentions on the bridge, the group will return to the Allegheny Landing for more song and prayer.

4-6:30 at Allegheny Landing Park. Please sign up with Action Network:

The Pittsburgh gathering will stand in solidarity with the 24th annual World Peace and Prayer Day in Cincinnati, a multi-cultural honoring of sacred sites envisioned by the spiritual leader of the Lakota Sioux, Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

World Peace and Prayer Day promotes the unity and security that comes from mutual concern, care and respect. This will be a time to gather, to share what we know, to listen to each other’s stories and to stand and pray together in right relationship with one another—and with our Mother Earth.

Jun 21-23: Pollinator Celebration

Join Garden Dreams for a three-day event celebrating our pollinator friends! They are hosting six workshops covering everything from what native plants to grow in your landscape, to how to create habitat for butterflies, to building bug hotels, how to ID native bees, discover who’s who in the bug world and how to express your connection to the natural world through watercolors. There will be refreshments, plants for sale, hands-on activities, garden exploration, honey sampling, and a bug photo contest complete with pollinator themed prizes to help you support our pollinator friends all year long!

Be sure to check out out the Facebook event page for a complete list of all the workshops.

Jun 18: Childhood cancers in SWPA

Community Meeting on Childhood Cancers in SWPA

The Southwest PA Environmental Health Project is hosting a community discussion that will bring together residents and experts to talk about the issue of childhood cancer in the region, how being exposed to environmental pollution may play a part, and what we can do to protect ourselves. Come hear from a panel of concerned residents and various experts regarding this troubling rash of cancers in our region.

6-8 p.m. at Bella Sera (414 Morganza Road, Canonsburg). Light refreshments will be served. RSVP: bit.ly/EHP-Community-Meeting

Jun 14: Invisible Hand screening

Join Protect Elizabeth Township for a screening of this new documentary about the Community Rights movement: "INVISIBLE HAND: Who Will Speak For Nature?" Director Joshua Pribanic of Public Herald Studios, Judy Wanchisn of East Run Hellbenders Society, Grant Township supervisor Stacy Long, and Chad Nicholson of the Community Environmental Rights Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) will be on hand to answer questions about establishing a Home Rule government.

7-9:30 p.m. at the Grand Theater, S 2nd Ave, Elizabeth, PA. Tickets are $5.  Advance tickets: https://www.invisiblehandfilm.com/tickets/  You can see the trailer here. For more information, email protectelizabethtownship@gmail.com or call 412-275-0011.

INVISIBLE HAND is the latest documentary from Pribanic and Melissa Troutman, award-winning directors who’ve followed the Pennsylvania community of Grant Township on a journey to protect itself against a toxic oil and gas waste facility that threatens their water supplies. To do so, the community passed a Home Rule Charter and granted Rights of Nature to their environment with help from CELDF. They’ve since been sued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the oil and gas industry.

“This isn’t a game. We’re being threatened by a corporation with a history of permit violations, and that corporation wants to dump toxic frack wastewater into our Township,” Grant Twp. supervisor Stacy Long said during an interview for the film.

Members of Protect Elizabeth Township (PET) — who hosted a screening of INVISIBLE HAND back in January — said the film inspired their group to look into establishing a Home Rule government in Elizabeth. “Over three years of encouraging citizens to speak at government meetings and hearings only to fall on deaf ears at every pass, the public attitude now is ‘why bother, no one listens, they do whatever they want anyway,’ — Home Rule can change this, Democracy can be restored,” asserted PET board member Scott Taylor.

“Who will speak for nature? This film is about fighting for democracy, about seeing the elephant in the room before a corporation takes over your town, your water, and your backyard,” said director Joshua Pribanic.

Residents of Elizabeth are facing similar threats to that of Grant after township supervisors opened the doors to fracking projects near homes, and strong armed a recent ordinance for a natural gas power plant to be built along the Youghiogheny River. If Elizabeth Township were to enact a Home Rule Charter similar to Grant or that of Pittsburgh, one or both natural gas projects could be banned in the future.

“A Home Rule Charter will provide the people of Elizabeth Township the opportunity to bring their voice to the decision-making table and finally be heard,” said PET member Ramo Lord.

Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo is the Executive Producer of INVISIBLE HAND and encourages the public to see the film. “Mark is an advocate for the people who want clean water, clean air, and livable communities,” shared the film's writer, director, and producer Melissa Troutman. This is Ruffalo’s third film project with Troutman and Pribanic.

The film screening is being sponsored by Public Herald, Protect Elizabeth Township, and Pribanic & Pribanic. To buy your ticket for the event, you can go to: invisiblehandfilm.com/tickets.

Jun 12: City recycling workshops

Better Recycling Workshops
Please join the City of Pittsburgh and the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as we all work to improve recycling in the City of Pittsburgh.  Come learn about new regulations, changes in recycling guidelines, tips to reduce waste, and how to deal with hard-to-recycle materials.  There will be an expert panel discussion at each of two workshops, both at Construction Junction (214 Lexington St. in Point Breeze, 15208).
     9-10:30 a.m.  (Commercial entities)
     6:30-8 p.m.  (Single-family homes, apartments of 5 units or less, and government facilities)

Jun 8: Labor/Environment Roundtable

Join the Battle of Homestead Foundation for a roundtable discussion

Labor and Environmental Coalitions: A Must for Survival of Both

Keynote Speaker: Joe Uehlein – Labor Network for Sustainability: dedicated to Making a Living on a Living Planet!
Joe Uehlein is the President of the Labor Network for Sustainability. Joe previously served as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department, and as Director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns. Joe also served on the United Nation’s first commission on global warming from its inception in 1988 until 2003. Joe started his trade union work at an aluminum extrusion mill in Mechanicsburg, PA as a member of the United Steel Workers (USW), and then worked heavy and highway construction as a member of the Laborers Union, LiUNA Local 158 in Central Pennsylvania.
Panel Response to Keynote address:
Chris Petrone, Legislative Director for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66
Rosemary Bezy, Vice-President, USW Local 1557, US Steel Clairton Works
Eva Resnik-Day, Community Organizer with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 Campaign to bring the City to 100% renewable clean energy
Tina Doose, President of Braddock Borough Council
Patty DeMarco will direct breakout into small group sessions to discuss ideas and proposals drawing on the participants’ work experience, knowledge and ideas to begin filling in the blanks in the Green New Deal.  Patty is the  author of Pathways to Our Sustainable Future-  Global Perspective from Pittsburgh, and a member of the Forest Hills Borough Council, 2016-2020
1:30 to 3:00 p.m. at the Pump House, 880 East Waterfront Drive, Munhall PA 15120.  Free and open to the public.  Program Co-Sponsors: Izaak Walton League of America Allegheny County, United Electrical Workers Union (UE), Pittsburgh DSA Eco-Socialism Committee, Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance.