Dec 16: GND series -- public transportation and mobility

The Green New Deal discussion series in the spring of 2020 brought together a wide array from our diverse community to discuss a powerful vision of how we can and must adapt in order to survive as a species within our larger global ecology. We looked closely at the deep interdependence of our human needs such as health care, housing, transportation, education, food access, dignified work, and inclusive democratic process. And we agreed that surviving and thriving will depend on understanding and repairing the long-time harms of systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, class oppression and other unjust cracks in our collective foundations. 

This next five-month series focuses on supporting collective efforts on the local and regional levels to develop concrete platforms, policies, and legislation tailored for the needs of our own communities - and to understand the power system ecologies that move decision making. Each session will focus on a different topic area. Next Wednesday, December 16th, from 6-8pm, you're invited to a policy and power mapping session focused on Allegheny County public transportation and mobility.

The first hour will be focused on providing feedback on the transportation proposals being developed by a Pittsburgh regional network convened by the UrbanKind Institute and their partners at Black Women Wise Women and Mongalo-Winston Consulting as part of the the Equitable and Just Platform for Pittsburgh, with a deep commitment to systemic racial justice and intersectional organizing by communities most affected by public decision making. 

The second hour will focus on building a power map to support the outreach, advocacy, and organizing needed to push our collective visions for public transportation and mobility into practical reality. We will be starting from this initial draft of a public transit power map, working to incorporate other sectors of regional decision-makers, power players, influencers, opponents, and potential allies such as:

  • Boards and Commissions for Pgh and Allegheny County

  • Unions related to transportation operation or manufacturing, with assistance from union researchers and organizers from UE and ATU;

  • The foundations and other big non-profits, like Pitt, CMU, UPMC, the Allegheny Conference, etc; (we'll be using the Mon Connector as an example in the Dec 16th session.) Here's an excellent PG series of articles by Rich Lord on the broad context of how such institutions wield power and influence government and development in Pittsburgh.

  • Corporations in public-private partnerships with government for local public services, such as those that contract with Port Authority's paratransit Access service.

  • Tech-transportation privateers like Uber and Lyft, and/or other autonomous vehicle manufacturing or design companies like Aptiv

  • Transportation-related advocacy organizations, many of which work across a range of modes and issues, including buses, rail, biking, walkability and disability access, racial equity, migrant justice, and environmental justice.

  • Transportation media: Which venues and reporters cover transportation beats that are relevant to educating and influencing both the general public and decision makers?

Your ideas of other sectors to include are strongly encouraged! This session is just one brainstorming analysis for the power mapping process in this topic, with many registrants already committed to continuing to contribute their expertise over upcoming months. The Google documents from all topics throughout the series will be shared with participants for further input, revisions, additions - and for use in their areas of advocacy, organizing, or coalition building.

To join the December 16th session, please fill out this Google form and we will email you the Zoom link.  If you can't make this session and have a special interest or expertise in transportation and mobility, please reply to this email and we will share the Google power mapping document with you for your participation in the continuing process. And in the spring there will be a second session devoted to the transportation policies of the ReImagine Appalachia regional platform and transportation policy and power mapping at the regional, state, and national levels

Dec 15: ROCIS on Reducing Cooking Pollution in Homes

Keep a Lid On It:  
Best Practices for Reducing Cooking Pollution in Homes
             How safe and healthy is your indoor air when cooking at home?

Experience from the ROCIS Low Cost Monitoring Project has confirmed that cooking activities appear to be the dominant indoor sources of particle generation in many Pittsburgh houses.  The more you cook, the more particles are created.  However, our monitoring only reveals part of the stew of various indoor pollutants, odor, and moisture, whether cooking with a gas or an electric appliance.  Breathing these pollutants can significantly increase the risk of both short-term and long-term health effects.

To learn how to effectively reduce exposures to cooking pollutants and odors, please join us this Tuesday at 2 for an overview of the ROCIS best practice guide for kitchen range hoods and low emission cooking, by Tom Phillips, Healthy Building Research.

  1. Be aware of health, moisture, noise, odor, and climate action issues associated with home cooking and kitchen ventilation.
  2. Understand the basics of how to select, install, test, and operate a ducted range hood in order to achieve effective, quiet kitchen ventilation. Know where to find more and updated information.
  3. Learn how to reduce cooking emissions and toxin formation by healthy, low emission cooking practices and appliance selection.

2-3:15 p.m. via GoToWebinar.  For more information and to register, click here

Dec 13: PASUP on Plastic and the Pandemic

During these times of Covid so much is uncertain yet plastic pollution remains a growing “pandemic” in its own right. Consumers are often urged to utilize deposable, "one time use" products as a matter of safety and the plastic industry seems more than willing to help amplify and support this message. Even the CDC has advocated for single use dinnerware for the holidays!  Join us Sunday Dec 13th to help separate fact from fiction.  Our presenters be sharing their thoughts and we look forward to hearing yours as well! 

Join PASUP (Pittsburghers Against Single Use Plastic) for Plastic and the Pandemic: 
Real Talk About Staying Healthy and Cutting Waste During Covid
An interactive & lively series of presentations & discussion, starting with an interactive plastic-themed game and a brief intro to who PASUP is and how YOU can become involved!
Presentation topics will include:
  • Staying safe with minimal waste, a Physician point of view
  • Low waste shopping & dining strategies while staying Covid safe,
  • Holiday gift giving: More Spirit, Less Plastic, Less Waste
And….we look forward to hearing YOUR ideas! 

5 p.m., on Zoom (Register to receive the sign-on information:
More information about PASUP:   

Dec 10: Community Sentinel Awards

Join Fractracker and the Halt the Harm Network for the 6th Annual Community Sentinel Awards for Environmental Stewardship, an event that celebrates those who address the root causes of environmental injustice in our communities. 

It is a far too rare occasion that we have moments to connect and celebrate grassroots leaders who work tirelessly to protect their communities. One of the ways that we sustain and build our movement is to celebrate these people and hear their stories. 

Learn more and RSVP by following this link.

Four inspirational grassroots activists have been selected to receive the award, and at the ceremony, you will hear their stories of resistance against the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries. 

The event will feature a musical introduction, inspirational speakers, short video presentations, and of course, recognition and celebration of the Sentinel Award winners. The ceremony will be followed by virtual breakout rooms where attendees can mingle, congratulate, and chat directly with award recipients.

You can learn more, and get your tickets here

Tickets are pay-what-you-can, and all are welcome. I hope you can join me and many others across the country to hear the stories of the Community Sentinels. 

Congratulations to this year’s Sentinel Award Winners! 

  • Edith Abeyta (North Braddock, Pennsylvania)

  • Yvette Arellano (Houston, Texas)

  • Theresa Landrum (Detroit, Michigan, 48217)

  • Brenda Jo McManama (Fairmont, West Virginia)

Against all odds, these individuals have worked with their communities to create healthier, more equitable living conditions. 

Hope to see you there! 

This event is hosted by FracTracker Alliance and Halt the Harm Network, and sponsored by The Heinz Endowments and 11th Hour Project. Partnering organizations include Breathe Project, Center for Coalfield Justice, Climate Reality, Crude Accountability, Earthworks, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, Food & Water Watch, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Mountain Watershed Association, Ohio River Valley Institute, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Poor People’s Campaign, Rootskeeper, Sierra Club, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, and Young Voices for the Planet

Dec 5: Sustainability Salon on Consumption

The 107th Sustainability Salon will continue our early-December tradition of talking about the culture of consumerism (and why and how to step away).  Once again, the holiday season is upon us.  The ongoing pandemic is affecting many aspects of our lives, including how we celebrate:  A lot of folks are forgoing in-person family gatherings and scaling down holiday dinners.  Friends and family are far away, but can at least connect online.  Times are tight for many (nearly 50 million newly unemployed this year);  others are paralyzed by too much stuff.   At the same time, billionaires have amassed over a trillion dollars during the pandemic.  It's all too easy to click over to Amazon for mail-order presents or things for your own home, but please think twice -- Bezos's personal wealth has increased $70B while workers at Amazon (now including Whole Foods) face unsafe conditions and harsh expectations leading to injury and illness.  Meanwhile, small local businesses are struggling, a petrochemical expansion looms over our region, and toxins and junk are spreading everywhere.  The corporate world considers each of us only as a consumer, but is that really who you want to be?  A few ideas on dematerializing the holidays are here and here, along with George Monbiot's excellent 2012 essay) and we'll talk about lots more.  

One way to reduce consumption of new stuff is to extend the life of old stuff.  Why send still-usable things to a landfill?  Starting in the Pacific Northwest in 2013, the Buy Nothing Project is a philosophy, a movement, and a network of local gift economies that use Facebook.  Cosette Cornelius-Bates, who leads our local group, will share her experiences through the growth of this movement here in Pittsburgh (and invite you to join, wherever you live!).

Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastic (PASUP on Facebook) was featured at the 92nd salon, a year ago September (lots more commentary at that link).  This time, PASUP people will share insights on reducing waste (especially plastic) in general, and at the holidays in particular.  Danica Buchanan-Wollaston will introduce the organization, with an update on how PASUP is moving forward despite the pandemic (including an upcoming virtual gathering on avoiding disposables in the time of COVID).   Sabrina Culyba will fill folks in on Recycle This Pittsburgh, PASUP's compendium of what can and can't be recycled locally.  More Spirit, Less Waste!  Dianne Peterson of Our Children Our Earth and Rebecca Stallings, author of the Earthling's Handbook will bring creative ideas to help make holiday gift-giving more meaningful, with less impact on environmental and human health.  Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Ed Wrenn, MD will inspire you to turn challenges into opportunities as we work together to tackle formidable plastics problems.  

Other events in the offing:  This week, you can visit an Antarctic glacier (virtually) and learn about important research on sea-level rise during Thwaites Glacier's Antarctica Week.  Our house concert with Lui Collins scheduled for November 20th didn't happen, but you can catch her in a virtual show on December 6th.  On Dec 13th, PASUP will resume monthly community meetings with a workshop titled Plastic and the Pandemic: Real Talk about Staying Healthy and Cutting Waste During COVID.  And on Saturday Dec 19th, the Rachel Carson EcoVillage will hold a virtual information session to introduce this multi-generational cohousing community planned for Chatham University's Eden Hall campus.  

Salons currently run from 4 p.m. to 7:30 or so on Zoom (sadly, no potluck supper these days).  Plan to join the call after 3 p.m., and we aim to start the program right around 4.  If you're new to Zoom, you may find my Zoom Reference Guide helpful.  You can RSVP via Eventbrite to receive the Zoom registration link right away.  If you're not already on my Eventbrite list, please email me (at maren dot cooke at gmail dot com) 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.   NEW:Eventbrite should also send you the Zoom registration link after you RSVP.  (I'm working on that streamlining!).
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 pandemics and air,  election law and activismair quality and environmental justicesocial 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!).

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.  

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, think back to our evening sings -- we typically ran the gamut from Irish fiddle tunes to protest songs to the Beatles, and a fun time was had by all.  Folks would bring instruments, and/or pick up one of ours.  Conversations would 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!