Sep 26: Sustainability Salon on Air Quality and Environmental Justice

Following our three-month Economics series, the 104th Sustainability Salon (and possibly also #105, in October) will feature our annual fall focus on Air Quality.  The Group Against Smog & Pollution (on whose board I serve) has remained quite active during the pandemic, working from home and meeting online.  GASP has continued our vital legal and watchdog work, and found creative ways to port advocacy, education, and outreach into the virtual world.  Executive director Rachel Fillipini, staff attorney Ned Mulcahy, and education and events coordinator Chelsea Hilty will share GASP's programs, progress, and challenges -- and connect you with ways to learn more about our region's air, protect yourself, and make your voice count.  

We'll also hear from some affected residents living near polluting facilities.  Clairton Coke Works (the largest coke plant in North America) is the biggest polluter in Allegheny County, racking up fines into the millions as it frequently exceeds emissions standards and its own operating permits.  Clairton resident Melanie Meade is among those who have decided to speak up, and will share some of her experiences in the fight against toxic emissions.  And the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock and North Braddock, also part of U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works, has been operating since 1875.  Local activist and filmmaker Tony Buba is part of North Braddock Residents For Our Future, a group organized to face the prospect of fracking at the steel mill, and has been filming the town for close to fifty years (including a stint on Night of the Living Dead).   

The only way to really know what's in the air we breathe is with air monitors.  Organizations like GASP, government agencies, academic institutions, and individual residents have been taking advantage of recent technological advances to characterize emissions and human health risk.  With the Shell petrochemical facility nearing completion, air activist and documentarian Mark Dixon is coordinating a network of monitors in Beaver County to measure both fine particles and VOCs.  

In the "Mark Your Calendar" department (also the "Please go buy a ticket and support a great organization" department), coming up on October 8th is PennFuture's Women in Conservation Awards event.  I am incredibly honored to be counted among the awardees!  Please consider joining us (virtually).

A note about MarensList:  Blogger has made some changes which seem to make it impossible for me to set dates in the future.  I am working to find a solution, but in the meantime I may not be able to post new events for a while.

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 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 June'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, and things may wind down earlier without the potluck supper.  Plan to join the call after 3 p.m., and we aim to start the program right around 4, after folks have had a chance to (virtually) meet, mingle, and maybe tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.  Talks and discussion will probably wind down by around 7.  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 include 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 social investment,  local economies, the economics of energymutual aid networksocean 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!) 

Sep 18: Solidarity Arts event

Healing HeARTs Arts Night
Join us for a family-friendly evening of virtual arts and activism.
Will Falk, author of “The Ohio River Speaks”, will open our night of healing with words that have been inspired by his time on the Ohio RIver.  
We will then hear from our MC for the night Mairelle McIntosh of Music for a Better World.
Next our Solidarity Art Build Project will begin hosted by David Solnit. 
We will send you a list of suggested supplies and work together for a half hour and then the Music will begin. David will move to an “Art Room”, where he will be available during the entertainment in case we need help with our projects. You will be able to go between the art room and the entertainment room.
We will have entertainment from 8-9 pm!  Here's the lineup:
  • 8:00 Shari Lauter - musician and organizer of the Global Water Dance in CIncinnati in 2013
  • 8:15 Mike Stout -  Stout is also a singer-songwriter and recording artist, with eighteen albums and more than 150 songs written and recorded, who has used his music to raise tens of  thousands of dollars for a host of social and economic justice causes.
  • 8:30 Susan Powers - Powers is a founding member of the Group Devilish Merry, where she pioneered the use of the five-string banjo in Celtic music. 
  • 8:45 MaMuse! - is an acoustic folk duo from Chico, California, made up of Karisha Longaker and Sarah Nutting. Known for their soulful harmonies and light, bright lyrics, these women have said that they want their music to bring spiritual uplift and to connect people to the richness of life
Open Mic and networking begin at 9 p.m.   Here are the tools you will need: 
Solidarity Social Media Toolkit -

Sep 17: PFAS primer

Curious about PFAS, a.k.a. the "forever chemical"?

Join Women for a Healthy Environment for a chat with Dr. Laura Anderko to learn more about PFAS. Known as a forever chemical, Dr. Anderko will discuss what PFAS is, where it's found, why we should be concerned and how to avoid it. 
Dr. Anderko holds the Robert and Kathleen Scanlon Chair in Values Based Health Care at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies. She is a Professor and Director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment, and a scholar in the fields of epidemiology, public health and environmental health.
12:30 to 1 p.m. on Facebook Live.  If this information has been helpful, please consider a donation of $10, over WHE's secure site, so that they may continue to provide these resources in the weeks, months and years to come.

Sept 17: Story of Plastic with filmmakers

Join us to hear Stiv Wilson, producer of the film The Story of Plastic, share his story of the film’s creation followed by a  conversation led by environmental film directors Melissa Troutman & Mark Dixon with live Q & A with the audience. Thursday Sept 17th 7-8:30 pm EDT
Once registered you will provided with a free link to watch the film The Story of Plastic on your own prior to the discussion event or to join us for a watch party immediately before (5:30 -7pm Sept 17th). 
Register here*
See Film trailer here

Help spread the word via Facebook here 

Note: This is just the start of four days of exciting scheduling for the A-Z Impact of Plastic Summit, Check it out!

Sep 16: Air monitoring and emergency systems in Beaver Co.

Learn more about how Beaver County and SWPA residents can monitor and protect our communities as industrial development expands. Bring your questions!
7-9 p.m., online (Zoom and Facebook Live). Register in advance here. After you register you will receive all the Zoom event details via email as well as a reminder the day-of. Sponsored by Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community, Halt the Harm Network, ReImagine Beaver County, Breathe Project, and the League of Women Voters.

Sep 15: Racial Equity in Food

The Exploring Racial Equity and Access in Our Food System: History, Land Access, and Race webinar will examine the impact of the long history of structural and systemic racism within the food and agricultural systems on black and brown farmers in the United States. Our panelists will share their lived experiences with racism in farming and food system work, as well as barriers faced in accessing resources needed to grow and succeed.
Noon to 1:30, online.  This webinar is the first of a four-part series on Exploring Racial Equity and Access in our Food System, by the PennState Agricultural Extension.  More information and online registration are here.

Sep 3: ReImagine Jobs Showcase

Join ReImagine Beaver CountyBreathe Project, the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh, and the Climate Reality Leadership Corps for the launch event of the ReImagine Jobs Showcase!  Many clean, renewable and sustainable jobs are available in our region, and to connect area residents we will livestream a showcase of local businesses, industries and organizations that are hiring and fueling sustainable economic development in Southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond.  The stream will include a keynote address from Sharon Pillar of the Pennsylvania Solar Center, followed by a panel discussion on the future of economic development in the region.  Join in as we ReImagine the next chapter of our region’s future!

The website, launched simultaneously with this event, will highlight local businesses and organizations who are doing great work in sustainable economic development in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  This will be a resource for community members and job seekers to learn about the career possibilities in our 10 sectors of sustainable economic development.

7-9 p.m. online; free and open to the public.  RSVP here for the sign-in info!

Sep 2: ReImagine Food Systems launch

One important path toward greater food security is for more people to grow more food right in our communities.  To help make this happen, ReImagine Turtle Creek Watershed & Airshed Communties includes a ReImagine Food Systems group -- and we're looking for your help!  As the project begins in earnest, we'll be installing raised bed gardens for two households in the watershed -- more next spring!  But we depend on donor dollars to fund this initiative -- our labor is volunteer, but there are out-of-pocket expenses.  Connect with us if you'd like to volunteer (send us an email), and/or contribute here!