Archive for November 2011 | Monthly archive page

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Where does it all come from – the paper you print your articles on, for the newspaper, for receipts and brochures? Is it recycled? Is it taken from illegally logged forests?

The November EcoHour focused on sustainable forestry and featured Amy Smith and Lisa Stocker who helped us to answer some of these questions. Amy Smith is the Senior Program Officer with the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest and Trade Network-North America (GFTN-NA) program. Amy kicked off her career working in Columbia and Peru, experiencing firsthand the biological and socioeconomic impacts of deforestation and illegal logging. After working with local communities to transform sustainably forested products into high value products, Amy began working more globally on sustainable forest trading systems as a whole with GFTN-NA.

Lisa Stocker is the Sustainable Business Manager at Domtar, a member of the GFTN-NA that works to facilitate Forest Stewardship Council certification for the private landowners who provide the bulk of their fiber. Lisa got her start in forestry as well, managing forest lands as a forester with International Paper. She saw firsthand wood procurement practices, the impact of logging, and the lack of a solid connection between forest practices and manufacturing in the paper industry. Following her work with Rainforest Alliance and communities directly impacted by logging, Lisa came “full circle to engage with consumers and users.”

Tracking paper supplies from forest floor to printing floor is one of the critical steps in creating a sustainable system to better manage our global forests and cut back on illegal logging. Amy works to connect the dots on the supply chain so that companies interested in sustainable forestry can be linked with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified logging operations. From the supplier’s perspective, Lisa emphasized the multiple benefits that Domtar has had since working with GFTN-NA and becoming the first company to have FSC certified land in the Adirondacks. As Lisa stated, it has impacted “our understanding of the global implications of what we do.”

By connecting the dots in the supply chain, and ensuring that a sustainably harvested log gets FSC certification and goes to a company that values FSC certified wood or paper products, a more sustainable and responsible system is created. When you buy FSC certified paper, you can be fairly certain where it came from and the practices that were allowed.

Although as Amy pointed out, “you can wrap around the world 10 times all the logs that are logged illegally,” today ten percent of forests are FSC certified. As Domtar and other companies are discovering, “good forest management is a driver of economic return for communities.”

In other words, a sustainable forest trading system can be sustainable for the environment, but also sustainable financially.

posted by | Comments Off on A Paradise Built in Hell: Book Club Recap

by Stephanie Madden

This post discusses the November 2011 Book Club meeting.

For the past two months, my life has been all about disasters. No, I don’t mean that in a melodramatic way. I recently started a position working on a grant to develop more effective risk communication trainings for local leaders to better prepare communities before, during, and after disasters. I was excited that this month’s book club selection, A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, could provide further insight into my job, as well as raise important issues that will become increasingly salient in a world where climate change is a reality (check out September’s book club selection Merchants of Doubt to learn more about the history of climate change denial).

Our discussion of the book focused around the utopian societies that Solnit describes arising out of disasters, where resourceful and resilient citizens must take control of saving each other and their communities, while those in power suffer from “elite panic” over the thought of losing controls built into many societies that allow often crumble when disasters strike. However, we were left wondering if it is something special to large scale disasters that can form these types of communities, or if even the disasters of everyday life, such as being diagnosed with cancer or suffering from addiction, can also bond people as they face these challenges together.

While Solnit uses natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and intentional disasters, such as 9/11, as case studies to debunk the idea that disasters turn people into panic driven mobs, Solnit also brings up the idea of economic disasters. In our current economic climate that has seen the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Solnit’s principles of disasters leading to the impulse for social change seem to be represented each day on the news.

Solnit writes, “The real question is not why this brief paradise of mutual aid and altruism appear but rather why it is ordinarily overwhelmed by another world order.” If the worst events can bring out the best in people, why can’t this impulse be sustained in everyday life?

In a world where natural disasters are becoming more prevalent, Solnit challenges us to think about what we think we know about disasters, and I think an even larger challenge for us is to also figure out how to best prepare for these disasters before they happen, which seems to begin with fostering a community spirit well before the next disaster strikes.

Interested in becoming more involved in disaster preparedness in your community? Check out these resources:

Citizen Corps helps coordinate volunteer activities that will make our communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to any emergency situation. It provides opportunities for people to participate in a range of measures to make their families, their homes, and their communities safer from the threats of crime, terrorism, and disasters of all kinds.

Community Emergency Response Teams Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance, a virtual network committed to transparency, an inclusive approach valuing difference, shared leadership, and a social justice approach to disaster reduction. is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) intiative helping communities be informed (what to do before, during, and after an emergency) and make a plan (prepare, plan and stay informed for emergencies.)

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Blog post by Lina Khan

On Sunday, November 6, DC EcoWomen learned what a community farm can bring (and, for some of us, where they could find one!).  DC EcoWomen volunteered for an afternoon at The Farm at Walker Jones, an urban farm that is part of the campus of Walker Jones, a DC Public School.  The Farm provides its food to the school, DC Central Kitchen, and other organizations, or sells it at a farm stand to raise money for supplies.  According to Sarah Bernardi, the Farm Coordinator, they stick to natural forms of insect repellant such as corn starch — and rely on volunteers like us to help keep up the herbs, vegetable, and fruit gardens.  We soaked in amazing autumn weather that I considered ourselves lucky to get after a couple of weeks of rain.

Almost 20 DC EcoWomen members and friends joined us, some looking to catch rare outdoor time, others to meet like-minded residents of DC, or both.  While we dug our trowels into the earth to uproot weeds and cleared debris around the herb garden, a variety of conversation flowed — being on the job hunt, good spare-time reading, running routines (which I don’t know a thing about), and inspirational speakers.  That last topic was tied to potential new speakers for the EcoWomen speaker series.  More than a few EcoWomen expressed a sense of gratitude from getting to help out the Farm and be outdoors for the day —  so in a way, this Farm gave back to us.  When we had finished our work and eaten lunch, we listened to Ms. Bernardi tell us how the Farm got started, and we asked a bunch of questions ourselves.

This Farm is an idea that is continuously growing.  It was once a deserted vacant lot, then several crops that continued to expand, and now a farm with its own beehives!  The question of how to make it an asset for the community and for the kids nearby continues to direct its mission.  We were excited to be a part of it.


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by Holly Li (a DC EcoWomen member)

It was a refreshing experience to participate in DC EcoWomen’s Resume Workshop taught by Jessica Lubetsky.

I learned several practical tricks in tailoring my resume to specific jobs. For example, always adjust the content in the “Summary” section using keywords from the job posts. I also felt that I was part of a larger community of professional women with a positive attitude towards life and full of ambition for self-improvement and self-realization.

As an environmental lawyer who is “in-between (real) jobs” and doing document review work, I can’t help doubting my skills and ability. Especially considering that most of my friends already have their (or my) dream jobs. At the workshop, I met two extraordinary women who are also licensed lawyers with professional training in the environmental legal field, and they were also doing document review projects. Laughing at our common occupation, I realized two things: first, document review was the safety net webbed by the forward-looking legal pioneers to protect their fellow lawyers from unemployment in hard times; and second, I was not the only one hit by the economy and actually have many allies in my battle to find a better professional path.

In addition, Jessica was a wonderful teacher – supportive and resourceful. She encouraged each of us to talk about our goals and passions, and then tried to help us connect with people who might be helpful in certain fields. She also generously offered to provide individual resume critiques to each woman who attended the workshop.

I was inspired to learn about how to market myself better and to connect with other professionals who have similar passions and are confronting the same barriers that I am.  Together, we are building a better future for the planet, and for the professional women who care about the planet.

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by Molly Cheatum (a DC EcoWomen member)

The resume workshop last week was my second DC EcoWomen event. My first was to hear Dr. Jennifer Sass speak at EcoHour about her story as a career-driven woman in a mostly male environment. Good stuff. I wish I had more EcoWomen experience to draw from, especially after this past week’s resume workshop. Jessica Lubetsky led the workshop, and she did not disappoint. I am continually amazed at how many smart, capable, and genuinely interesting women live and work in this city. Jessica, along with the other 20+ women who attended the workshop, are either already in the environmental field or looking for work in this field, and all had varied experiences, including engineering, water, and policy.

I am no different, just recently laid off from a job in conservation economics and looking for similar work. This resume workshop gave me the much-needed motivation to get my resume in tip top shape. Covering the basics, Jessica laid out the framework of a good resume, flipping between her own resume as an example and pointing out what she looks for in others’ resumes. As the workshop rolled along, there were a couple of tidbits that stood out for me:

  1. Add a splash of color. Not too much, but a little, might make your resume stand out a bit more than the bland black and white, Times New Roman resume we all, or most, started out wit
  2. If I’m not getting paid then it doesn’t countnot true. Including volunteer or extracurricular work in experience, especially if you were managing a database, project, or team shows you aren’t a couch potato. (Though watching episodes of Law & Order, or BSG are exceptions.)
  3. Don’t stress if you’re unemployed. Take time to visit museums, coffee shops, and go out with your friends. Your status will change. Taking the time to appreciate and enjoy the affordable, free entertainment that exists in a city like Washington, DC will leave you with little regrets.

There were other helpful tidbits, like including “keywords,” changing up your resume to reflect each job posting, and including languages and computer skills. Maybe the number one thing Jessica mentioned is to remember that what encompasses a good resume is slightly different from person to person, so make it your own. All in all, this was a very helpful workshop and an evening well spent.

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Today Marks the Day….

Today’s Google Doodle reminds us that today we celebrate Marie Curie‘s 144th birthday.  Is her name not ringing a bell?  Think radioactivity….  Not only was Curie a groundbreaking physicist and chemist, but her accomplishments are also noteworthy because she was a woman scientist working in the early 20th century.  Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1903 and is the only woman to ever win two (not to mention they are in separate fields).  Among her scientific achievements, this Polish woman was also the first female professor at the University of Paris.

Marie Curie put forward a theory for radioactivity and developed techniques for identifying isotopes.  Later in her career, she discovered two elements, the first of which she named “Polonium” after her native country.  After establishing the Curie Institute in Paris and Warsaw, she inspired the first scientific research exploring the medical application of radiation to treat tumors.  She shared her first Nobel Prize with her husband, as her daughter then did with her own husband many years later.  Science runs in her DNA to be sure!

Despite celebrating her birthday today, we should remember that she only died a mere 80 years ago.  Only 100 years ago we were just beginning to understand the radioactivity of the elements on earth.  The evolution of science is really an incredible thing to witness.  Each day, grad students, professors, and research technicians return to lab benches or computer monitors or field sites and search for answers.  The small bits of information that they gather feeds into an ever-growing scientific body of knowledge.

Thanks to Google for reminding us to take a few moments today to celebrate a brave and dynamic woman who contributed to the past and future accomplishments that shape our world. While this dedication is worthy of praise, it really takes a visionary innovator to completely challenge accepted theories or even synthesize the information that is gathered to create something meaningful.  The Curie family did this but across disciplines and fields to provide groundbreaking perspectives.  While it seems that progress is slow, it was only 100 years ago that women did not teach science in universities around the world.  Who knows what social or environmental injustices might be eradicated by science and social change in the next 100.