UPDATE: The attempt to gut the DEP, and the text of a sign-on letter to help prevent it, can be found here.
|Lovely heron -- but doomed, due to a plastic ring.|
Other groups are working on the demand side of equation (how to reduce the market for single-use plastic) as well, including Humane Action Pittsburgh's No Plastic Please campaign, the Izaak Walton League Allegheny Chapter, PennEnvironment's Zero Waste Campaign, and the Pennsylvania Resources Council. Still more organizations are working to stop the related expansion of the petrochemical industry; check out No Petro PA, the Breathe Project, 350 Pittsburgh, Climate Reality Pittsburgh & SWPA, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, and Food & Water Watch.
Related to all of this (and everything else) is climate, a recurrent topic at Sustainability Salons. This Friday is the Global Climate Strike! Pittsburgh students will be representing downtown, with lots of non-student supporters alongside. Please join them! There may also be an action in Oakland, but I don't have the details as of this writing. On Sunday the 22nd, Citizens Climate Lobby is having a picnic -- please come out and support CCL's efforts to get carbon fee & dividend legislation passed. And thinking ahead to next month, please mark your calendar for a Peace March on the 5th and GASP's 50th Anniversary Gala on the 12th.
So what's wrong with single-use plastic?
Plastics production... the ethane cracker plant being constructed in Beaver County will emit VOCs, other pollutants, and about half as much carbon dioxide as the entire city of Pittsburgh -- and it's just the first of several planned for our region. Feeding it will require a thousand new frack wells a year, which means that that much more methane will be burned -- and leaked along the way (and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Fracking ruins aquifers, wildlife habitat, and the health of people who live nearby. Exporting methane (because it's gotten so cheap here) not only requires pipelines and export terminals, but it leaves us with extraction hazards while exporting the clean-burning advantage of methane over coal (which was one of the selling points of the drilling boom).
Plastics disposal... Only a small fraction of plastic is actually recycled into new items; much of it either languishes in landfills (after wasting time, effort, and energy getting there) or winds up in the environment. And plastic doesn't rot away like paper or cotton or wool, or corrode like metal; it lasts for hundreds of years, breaking into smaller pieces often mistaken for food by birds and marine life. Single-use plastics are choking birds and ocean life, literally -- bits and bobs and floating bags are taken for food by predators, who die of starvation while stuffed with plastic. Coral swathed in plastic film sickens and dies -- and coral reefs are basically the bottom of the food chain. Animals get trapped in plastic; I photographed the great blue heron above at Phipps, just a day or two before it died because a plastic ring prevented it from eating. Peanut the turtle was permanently deformed by a drink ring (Please Never Discard Anything Ringlike Without Cutting It!). What's a net, but a zillion rings? Dolphins and other mammals routinely get entangled in fishing nets. And I'm warning you, the infamous turtle-straw video is really hard to watch. We'll talk about single-use plastics, the work PASUP has been doing so far, and where to go from here.
Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill. Please don't arrive before 3 p.m. We 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. After the talks and discussion, we'll break for a potluck supper (and more conversation). 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 notice (if you're not already on my list, just email me with salon in the subject line to be added!).
Please do RSVP each time -- it helps greatly in several ways. 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.
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 election activism, election law, whether to preserve existing nuclear power plants, advanced nuclear technologies, passenger and freight trains, consumption, plastics, and pollution, air quality, solar power, youth activism, greening business, greenwashing, the petrochemical buildout in our region, climate/nature/people, fracking, health, & action, globalization, ecological ethics, community inclusion, air quality monitoring, informal gatherings that turn out to have lots of speakers, getting STEM into Congress, keeping Pittsburgh's water public, Shell's planned petrochemical plant, visualizing air quality, the City of Pittsburgh's sustainability initiatives, fossil energy infrastructure, getting money out of politics, community solar power and the Solarize Allegheny program, the Paris climate negotiations (before, during, 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 revitalization, solar power, climate change, environmental art, environmental education (Part I & Part II), community mapping projects, environmental journalism, grassroots action, Marcellus shale development and community rights, green building, air quality, health care, more solar power, trees and park stewardship, alternative energy and climate policy, regional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings and discussions (often led by filmmakers) over the winter with films on Food Systems, Climate Adaptation and Mitigation, Plastic Paradise, Rachel Carson and the Power Of One Voice, Triple Divide on fracking, You've Been Trumped and A Dangerous Game, A Fierce Green Fire, Sustainability Pioneers, films on consumption, Living Downstream, Bidder 70, YERT, Gas Rush Stories, and food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, and 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 sort 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.