May 28: Triple Divide (Redacted) screening

Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania (PSR) are hosting a virtual film-screening of Triple Divide [Redacted] on May 28th at 7:30 p.m. with directors Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman.

Triple Divide [Redacted] is an award-winning documentary on fracking from the investigative news team at Public Herald. The film changed the narrative on fracking’s impact to drinking water by publishing 9,442 unreleased DEP complaint investigations that contained evidence of criminal misconduct from regulators and industry. Scientists and experts believed there were only a few thousand of these investigations prior to the film. 

Medical Advocacy Director Tammy Murphy of PSR says, "The content of this film affirms what we understood in Pennsylvania, which is that calling for stronger regulations when the current regulations are not even being followed is not going to protect human health or the environment on which we rely for our survival. The industry’s hold on the majority of bureaucratic agencies and policy makers is like a strangle hold. We do not really have a seat at the table; we get public hearings, and occasional meetings that temporarily make us feel heard while the industry controls the decisions. The corruption is rampant. I admire the intellect and tenacity of the investigative journalism guiding this narrative film. Triple Divide [Redacted] reveals the humanizing emotional and physical results of the collaboration of a heartless industry that controls the majority of the governmental agencies and policy makers who are supposed to be protecting the people and environment that they are sacrificing."

Director Melissa Troutman starts the film calling for a criminal investigation of regulatory misconduct in Pennsylvania. In 2017 the directors got their call answered by Attorney General Josh Shapiro who met with Pribanic and Troutman to discuss the now ongoing AG criminal investigation and grand jury of DEP. This film covers five years (2011 - 2016) of cradle-to-grave investigations revealing how regulators and industry mishandled water contamination investigations.

PSR's Laura Dagley after watching the film stated, "What is put into the water, is put into our bodies. Melissa and Josh understand the value of clean water, evidence based research, and holding accountable the agencies that were created to protect us."

Triple Divide documents a scientific reality. I am very appreciative when a film “gets it right”, actually reports a scientific process or situation as it is, rather than grabs attention with an over the wall presentation or something that is fabricated. Short of Nova, Nature and Cosmos, I don’t often see straight science. That’s what Triple Divide gave the audience and why it is so devastating, because it is real.” (Dr. Julie Weatherington-Rice, PhD, CPG, CPSS. Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants Inc., Adjunct Professor, Ohio State University, Food, Ag & Bio Eng.)

May 28: Vegan shorts

Join the Pittsburgh Vegan Society for a Zoom watch party:  a pair of short documentary films, "73 Cows" and "The Farm in My Backyard".

7-9 p.m. (via Zoom).  More info on the Facebook event page

May 27: Amity and Prosperity discussion

Amity and Prosperity Now

A Virtual Discussion with Puliter Prize winning Author Eliza Griswold

Co-hosted by Protect PT and Pennsylvania Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)

Join Protect PT, Halt The Harm Network, and Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania (PSR)  for a discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and poet, Eliza Griswold, author of Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America. 
A contributing writer to the New Yorker and a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University, Eliza will be our guest for a conversation about lessons learned from the book, the lives of those involved and an opportunity for community members to talk about what’s happening now.

6:30 p.m. on CrowdCast.  Please register here.  

May 24-27: Plant sales

Putting Down Roots "distancing" plant sales:
Due to the pandemic, lots of people are at home and gardening more ambitiously than before!  Hence, seedlings are hard to come by this year.  So while I don't have as many as some years (and have never been on the scale of Grow Pittsburgh or Garden Dreams, now combined), I want to be sure to share what I have as widely as possible.  And I'll be donating the proceeds to 412 Food Rescue, which is helping meet the food needs of vulnerable populations all over Pittsburgh.  I'll be available for visits during limited hours this Sunday to Wednesday -- partly for distancing, partly because I have other stuff I need to do (fancy that!).  More plants will probably be available in a week or two (see below).  Located near the Frick Environmental Center; text (418 4943) or PM me with your ETA and to get the address.  Be sure to wear a mask and (gardening) gloves, walk around the house on the uphill side to the back, make sure the gate is closed behind you, and if you drive here, please drive to the bottom and park facing up (being careful of neighbors' driveways).  Hours this week:  Sunday 9-11 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.;  Monday 2-5 p.m.;  Tuesday 12-3 p.m.; Wednesday 2-5 p.m.  Another FAQ:  payment mode.  Prefer cash, check, or Venmo if necessary (in that order).  
I've grown 50 varieties of tomatoes, brassicas (kales, collards, and cabbage), and cucurbits (cukes, squash, and such) from seed this winter and spring -- and will also have (or can dig) transplants of various perennials from ostrich ferns to sweet woodruff as well as black raspberries, dame's rocket, false lamium, jewelweed, many members of the mint family, blue vervain, evening primrose, and lots more.  Also CobraHead gardening tools, perfect for rooting out plants-in-the-wrong-place (often referred to as "weeds").  
If you are interested in particular things and let me know in advance, I can try to have them ready -- some of the perennials, especially, I'm digging as needed, and not all of the seedlings have been repotted yet.  
Also, if you're not quite planting yet, or have more space, note that some of the plants I have set aside to put in myself might not fit (I can often be *too* ambitious), so I may have another round of sales in a week or two.  Watch this space (well, MarensList and FB)!

May 21: Virtual Frackland Tour

Environmental Health Project and Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility are co-sponsoring a virtual frackland tour!

Presenters include:
*Matthew Mehalik, Breathe Project
*Ned, Ketyer, Environmental Health Project and Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility
*Lois Bjorson, Clean Air Council
*Leann Leiter, Earthworks
*Impacted Pennsylvania residents

Following the presentation, there will be a live Q&A.

This presentation can be viewed on EHP's Facebook at, EHP's website at, or the Breathe Project's YouTube page at

May 19, 21: A-Z Impacts of Plastic

Tackling the A-Z Impacts of Plastic is a webinar series happening on the third Tuesday and Thursday of each month from May through August.

This will be a monthly webinar series to discuss the various impacts of plastic production on health, environment, climate, and economics. This month’s webinar will focus on health featuring Dr. Ned Ketyer of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Environmental Health Project and Julie Dermansky of DeSmog Blog.

For each month, Tuesday will be presentations by our featured speakers and Thursday will be an opportunity to continue the discussion, share your concerns and issues in your community, and network with others.

Get more information and register to participate today at

May 19: Orphaned & Abandoned Wells

Orphaned and Abandoned Wells
Laurie Barr, Save Our Streams

Hundreds of thousands of orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells dot Pennsylvania. Only a small fraction of the wells have been plugged. The vast majority are in varying states of disrepair, many considered to be super-emitters of methane.

Laurie Barr and her associates at Save Our Streams PA started a project they called Scavenger Hunt PA to locate and photograph wells and test them for leaks.  Laurie's efforts have been nationally recognized by the press and the research community alike.  Last May, she began working on a documentary, Releasing Methane, that looks at the issue in oil and gas producing states across the country to provide "a comprehensive picture of the environmental and regulatory issues surrounding abandoned oil and gas wells and emerging solutions."

Please REGISTER HERE* before 7:30 on May19th.

*IMPORTANT: There seems to be some confusion about how registration for the webinar works. When we announce the coming week's webinar, we include a registration link, like the one you see above.  We do that because security concerns were raised about Zoom as it became more popular when COVID-19 struck.  One of the security measures we have employed is to share the Zoom call link with only the people who have registered. However, the webinar will also be livestreamed via the Better Path Facebook page.

We send the Zoom link to you via email on the Monday evening before the Tuesday webinar.  Some people register the day of the webinar, so we ask that you register no later than a half-hour before the webinar starts so we have time to send you the link. After that, we're busy setting up the webinar, getting the Facebook livestream started, welcoming people to the webinar, and eventually conducting it. It's difficult or sometimes impossible to check and respond to last-minute registrations and emails requesting the link.

Note that asking that you register by 7:30 does not mean that you have to join the webinar at 7:30. In fact, we see people join well after the webinar has begun at 8.

We will continue to try to email people who register after 7:30, but we can't promise that we'll always be able to do it, so please don't hesitate to register any time during the week before the webinar even if you're not sure you can attend.

May 17 & 31: Green New Deal Discussion Group

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for the Green New Deal
Air, Water, Soil, Trees, Food, Health, Housing, Transportation, Energy, Education, Jobs, and JUSTICE: Racial, Disability, Gender, Immigrant, Economic, and Environmental 

VIRTUAL May 17 event:  go HERE to register!

Pittsburgh's discussion group on Naomi Klein's new book continues!  Hear how local people and organizations are addressing the climate crisis.  What could a Green New Deal look like in Western Pennsylvania?  What actions can we take right now?

Every other Sunday from 5-7 p.m. (potluck supper starts at 4:30) at the Human Services Building (One Smithfield St, downtown):  January 12 & 26, February 9 & 23, March 8 & 22, April 5 & 19, May 3, 17, & 31.  Location is wheelchair accessible and near many bus lines;  there is also free parking behind the building.  Please register online here, and you can purchase the book with a 20% discount from Classic Lines Bookstore in Squirrel Hill (be sure to register so we order enough books!)  For more details, accommodations, or accessibility information call 412-518-7387 or email  

Co-sponsored by Extinction Rebellion, Pittsburgh Chapter;  The Izaak Walton League, Allegheny County Chapter;  and The Sunrise Movement, Pittsburgh Chapter.

Each evening will be focused on one or two topics such as water, air, food, energy, health, public transit, housing, jobs, movement building, education, etc.  The first week of January we will email out a schedule of the sessions, including the selected Naomi Klein essay(s), topics, and organizations that will be presenting.  People are welcome to come to as many sessions as are of interest to them.  Each session will include a short presentation on the main points of an essay selected from the book; a discussion of the essay and its relevance for our regional ecology, political conditions, policies, and needs for systemic change;  presentations by 1-3 groups working on the evening's main topic(s) and details of upcoming actions or work that people might want to participate in;  and group brainstorming of policies, practices, or systemic changes to address the climate crisis on the local level regarding that topic.

Session topics and speakers are listed and videos are archived on the group web site.  We have also created a Slack workspace for people and organizations to continue brainstorming and developing the ideas generated in each discussion, and with space provided to create a document outlining our region's specific challenges and possible solutions.  Such a document could be useful for carrying forward future discussions, for building problem-solving networks, and for movement building to address our climate crisis.

May 17: Plant-based Sustainability at Home

The Pittsburgh Vegan Society's May 17th meeting will feature local sustainability champions Rhea and Josh Homa sharing ideas for intentional and low-waste living.  Have you long wanted to be more environmentally mindful as vegans but always seem to lack the time to do further research and goal-setting? Pittsburgh locals Rhea and Josh Homa will share info and tips on how folks can live more eco-mindfully in our personal lives. Rhea and Josh will show attendees around their home via Zoom!  
1-3 p.m. on Zoom. More info on the Facebook event page.

May 16: Sustainability Salon on Mutual Aid Networks

Resilience begins with relocalizing.  For the 100th Sustainability Salon, we'll be circling back into our local community and looking at mutual aid networks of all sorts.  Right now many people are without their usual support system;  others have lost jobs, or face the stress of jobs that put them at risk.  Some don't dare leave their homes -- but still need food and supplies.  In this tense environment, people who can are rising to the challenge and helping to provide for neighbors.  During the third Virtual Sustainability Salon, we'll hear from several Pittsburghers who are leading these efforts.

Helen Gerhardt of Lawrenceville United will talk about LU's efforts to help vulnerable populations, and help frame the discussion.  Gabriel McMorland is the executive director of the Thomas Merton Center, Pittsburgh's preeminent peace and justice organization, and helps coordinate Pittsburgh Mutual Aid.  Ana├»s Peterson, newly-minted University of Pittsburgh graduate and longtime activist around climate change, fossil divestment, and prison reform, is also a co-director of Pitt Mutual Aid, which is connecting displaced Pitt students with shelter, transportation, storage, food access, emotional support, and financial assistance.  Daniel Little, founder of InvolveMint, has been turning that platform toward last-mile distribution to vulnerable populations in Braddock and Hazelwood.  With restaurants mostly closed (or closed mostly -- only doing takeout), restaurant workers have been among the hardest-hit during the shutdown.  A coalition of service-industry workers formed early on to address one anothers' needs for food, cleaning and hygiene products, and emergency cash:  enter Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid!  We'll hear from Kacy McGill, one of the organizers.  And 412 Food Rescue has been getting excess food onto the plates of folks who need it since long before the pandemic.  412's senior program director Jen England will talk about their innovative app connecting volunteers and introduce Community Takeout, a new program simultaneously supporting restaurants and fighting hunger.  Once again, salon stalwart Mark Dixon will be moderating Q&A during our digital gathering.  And I do mean stalwart -- Mark has been with us for most of the 99 previous salons (spoken at several, moderated discussions for others, and helped document many), and it was during a conversation with him that I conceived of the series in the first place, back in 2011!

Coronavirus update:   As you know, people in Pittsburgh and around the world are sequestered at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Social distancing is still the rule for most Americans.  That's a bit of a misnomer, though -- we need physical distancing to flatten the famous curve, but technology now allows for rich interactions even so!  I believe that community is one of our greatest strengths, so in March as events began to be cancelled, I hosted the first virtual  Sustainability Salon via Zoom teleconference -- rather than gathering our usual 50-80 people in a contained space.   It went quite well (even engaging participants from hundreds of miles away), and we're looking forward to May's salon!  Please be sure to RSVP (via email with "salon" in the Subject: line, or via Eventbrite) so you'll receive the sign-on information.  

Salons usually run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill -- but this time we're on Zoom.  Plan to join the call after 3 p.m., and we aim to start the program not long after 4, after folks have had a chance to (virtually) meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.  If you're new to Zoom, you may find my Zoom Reference Guide helpful.  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   (and with a virtual event, it's how you'll get the call-in info!).  Please make every effort to RSVP well in advance -- I'll be sending out the registration link manually, so could miss last-minute registrations while setting up and hosting the event!  Be sure to incldude salon in the Subject line if you email, 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!  

Check back on MarensList (where you can find information on all sorts of environmental and social justice events, as well as better formatting for this event description) 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 (in this case Zoom instructions), 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. 
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 ocean healththe rise of the radical rightthe back end of consumptionapproaches to activism on fracking & climateair quality, technology, and citizen sciencesingle-use plasticselection activismelection law, 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 food, 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!).

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.  If interested folks are online and everything is working smoothly by around 3:30, perhaps I can conduct a virtual tour.

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.  (with a virtual event this is less likely to happen, but we can share music by turns, reminisce, chat online, and look forward to the post-COVID era!) 


Please VOTE BY MAIL, to avoid contagion at the polls and stress on polling staff.  Mail-in ballot applications for the June 2, 2020, primary election must be received by your county election office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.  You can apply online if you have a driver's license or PennDOT ID;  otherwise you can print-and-mail.

All the information you need is here!