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!) 

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