Archive for July 2016 | Monthly archive page

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By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Blog- Jul 18, 2016

It’s about time

It has been less than one week since police officers unjustifiably and unwarrantedly took the lives of Mr. Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Mr. Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And even fewer days amidst subsequent protests and the assassination of eight police officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge.

These killings occurred within weeks of one of the largest mass shootings in modern history, taking the lives of forty-nine humans enjoying a night out in Orlando, and on the heels of numerous other police killings of black men and boys.

Each incident entered the public consciousness through the intervention of technology which provided real-time, irrefutable accounts of the action. Often enough the depictions in these videos starkly contrast official accounts provided by state actors.

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As a DC EcoWoman and environmental advocate focused on equity, access, and justice, I have contributed to the public discourse on topics including intersectionality, equity, and community. This was a choice to explicitly include the cannon of environmental work in the context of larger social justice frameworks.

On the surface, it can appear that campaigns for clean air, clean water, biodiversity, stewardship and meaningful engagement in the distribution of resources, benefits, or burdens are disintegrated and separate. They are not. In the silos of organization we address them as single issues. We do this to mount focused campaigns, to develop and gauge milestones, and to avoid the feeling that the big picture is too overwhelming.

In this space and others, I do my best to dismantle ideas about the utility of this kind of single track thinking. And in so doing, highlight the tendency of environmental institutions to avoid the social justice community out of a dangerous sense of impropriety, relevance, or lack of invitation.

Resist numbness

Despite the mind-blowing horror of these unceremonious executions and the implications of their frequency and occurrence, there have been moments of sheer human goodness, sacrifice, presence, and accord which have helped me to resist numbness. Each has helped me to withstand the urge to find a blanket, and retreat from my efforts to connect the dots for capital “J” Justice here in the nation’s capital.

A great many of these moments have come courtesy of public statements of solidarity in the wake of tragedy. Statements from the environmental community which had – until now – languished in privilege which provided the luxury to avoid speaking out or declaring a position.

As an environmentalist, I have waited for a long time to meet my colleagues in this intersection and to see the parallels begin to register in a sea change in thinking and action.

Statements of solidarity

I want to share some of the public actions in solidarity with the non-violent movement for Black Lives in order to spread some of the positivity which has emerged around another ugly moment in our collective history.

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No time like the present

It is my hope that these public displays provide some solace which can inform the next stage of the grieving process. But more importantly I want it to act as ballast for what must happen next.

As EcoWomen, we have every capacity to act on behalf of our comrades in social justice (and ourselves) to address inequity, stave off violence, and fight for justice. We do it every day, in every medium the earth yields, taking on climate change and our role in it.

As change agents, policy makers and activists, we must turn our collective gaze to organizing state level reforms to punch through the (national) illusion that big problems are insurmountable.We already organize, legislate, advocate and agitate every day for gains which won’t be realized for generations. We continually rework the system to accomplish the greatest good.

As such, I implore you to do the same here and now. Resist numbness (!) with an eye towards alignment with civil and social justice movements.

ForestNo one expects that we can halt the American contribution to climate change in one session of Congress. As such, we know that prejudice, privilege and targeted undervaluation of black lives will not be solved overnight, or really ever made right.

Now is the time.  Take up your voice, intellect, organizational skill, fast feet, slow cooking skills or plain wrapped freedom and put them into the collective space.  Leverage yourself against the weight of all this wrong to realize more hope and less systematically designed hurt.

Get involved, in your neighborhood and community, as you are now. No invitation required. It’s time to see the forest and the trees.

* Disclosure – I am a Director on the Board of Directors of Women’s Voices for the Earth, but was not involved in the writing of the solidarity statement.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on civil society and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga. 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Changing Gears During SafeTrack: Folding Bikes Can Ease Your Commuting Woes

by Stephanie Tsao

Has WMATA’s latest surge stirred your last wits? If you’re like me, you may have let a few packed trains go by before you found one with enough breathing room.

As the weather improves, I have watched cyclists zipping past with growing interest. Those Capital Bikeshare stands are tempting, but I never seem to remember my helmet. Thanks to SafeTrack, I decided to try out a few folding bicycles.

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Depending on the brand, folding bikes average between $200-$1,500 for beginner bikes. The draw is that they can fold to fit in a trunk or under a desk, making them an affordable commuter option with less burden.

Before I tried, I was dubious. You see, folding bikes are smaller than your average bike, and my initial concern about them is how stable they feel when ridden. I have been biking for three years on a road bike, which have skinny tires and curved handlebars to ride smoothly on roads.

In comparison, folding bikes have comparatively short and straight handlebars and small tires, which led me to believe that the frame would result in a rocky ride. To my surprise, they can ride pretty smoothly and handle up to 20-mile rides.

Testing different brands

I tested three different brands of folding bikes.

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Brompton

The London-made Brompton bikes are known by the biking community as the “Rolls Royce” of folding bikes because they fold in three quick steps. A base model with two speeds and no added accessories can weigh 23 lbs and cost about $1,350.

For the price, you pay for the ability to fold in a matter of minutes and the convenience that the bike has mini wheels allowing you to roll the bike along after it’s folded like a piece of luggage.

Brompton bikes are comparatively expensive because they are designed for commuting. The bike is small enough to roll onto the metro, allowing you to duck out of a sudden summer shower. Moreover, you can stow it in your office with less worry of your bike getting stolen.

Tern

Tern, based in Taipei, Taiwan, builds three types of bikes: ones for adventures, touring, and city riding. For the lower price, you get a heavier bike. A basic model for urban riding can weigh 26-27 lbs, a bit more than the Brompton bikes, but the costs start out around $700. Also, the bikes do not come with the convenient small wheels like Brompton bikes do.

One advantage of Tern is that they also make racing models. A gentleman in his 50s told me he completed the 40-mile New York “Five Boro” Tour on a Tern! One of Tern’s lightest bikes for commuting weighs about 21 lbs.

Dahon

The last brand I tried was a Dahon, which is named after Dr. David Hon, a Japanese aerospace physicist who started designing folding bikes after he witnessed the world’s oil crisis in the 1970s. He became interested in other modes of transportation that were less reliant on petroleum.

Some base models are priced as low as $250-$400, but can weigh heavier than other brands. Some models are 27 lbs or more. The models take longer to fold, given their weight.

Other options on the market

Citizen Bike

I never got a chance to try Citizen Bike because they are sold only online. Certain models start as low as $200, but their bikes are on the heavier end, ranging between 26 lbs and 33 lbs. The bike models are named after major international cities such as Seoul and Barcelona, and they are able to fold up within 30 seconds.

Where to test and buy folding bikes in the DC metro area

20160702_143507Not all bike shops sell folding bikes, but those stores with catering to urban cycling tend to. I suggest calling or checking your local bike shop’s website to see if they sell any of the aforementioned brands.

I purchased my folding bike at bikes@Vienna in Fairfax County. Closer to Washington DC, Revolution Cycles and Bicycle Space are just a few stores in the District that sell folding bikes.

Bike commuting isn’t for everyone. Nevertheless, as the SafeTrack repairs continue through next spring, keep folding bikes in mind. They may just bring the surge of energy you need to get to work with a sigh of relief.

Stephanie Tsao is a journalist by day and likes to cycle, garden and write in her spare time. The views expressed in this post are hers alone and not that of her employer.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Championing Diversity in Ocean Policy

by Robin Garcia

Last year, I wrote about the low representation of women during Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), a three-day conference hosted by the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation (NMSF) where hundreds of people from government, nonprofits, the business sector, and Capitol Hill come together to discuss marine and aquatic policy issues. Last month, I was back at CHOW to hear about the latest policy issues, to network, and yes – to see if there were more women highlighted this year.

Some things have yet to change; once again one women, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State, was honored during the Ocean Awards Gala. Yet there were more women on the stage at CHOW this year. Here’s the rundown:

  • Women represented nearly 40% of the panelists compared to 30% last year.
  • The percentage of women that served as moderators dropped from 35% to about 20%.
  • CHOW’s online OceansLIVE sessions saw similar increases, with close to 60% female representation compared to last year’s 55% female representation.
  • More women of color were highlighted as well, with seven women of color featured in both the live panels and OceansLIVE sessions, compared to three women of color last year.
“Closing the Loop on Trash: Innovation and Industry Leadership” panel

“Closing the Loop on Trash: Innovation and Industry Leadership” panel

But since I’m a trained scientist, I had to ask: were these changes actually significant?

Yes, I literally ran the stats to see if these changes were in fact significant.

There was an insignificant increase in the number of women on the panels at CHOW (p = 0.63, t test in case you really want to know!), an insignificant decrease in the number of female moderators (p = 0.25), and an insignificant increase in the number of women of color (p = 0.33). However, there was a significant increase in female representation throughout the OceansLIVE sessions (p = 0.0078).

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudi?š, founder and director of AZUL, speaks with moderator Darryl Fears of the Washington Post during the “The Power of Diversity to Strengthen the Ocean Movement” panel

Marce Gutiérrez-Graudi?š, founder and director of AZUL, speaks with moderator Darryl Fears of the Washington Post during the “The Power of Diversity to Strengthen the Ocean Movement” panel

For me personally, the most exciting panels to watch were “The Power of Diversity to Strengthen the Ocean Movement” and the accompanying OceansLIVE session “Everyone’s Invited: Creating and Inclusive Ocean.” During “The Power of Diversity,” an equal panel of men and women of color discussed the lack of diversity in ocean policy and conservation, and how to empower more minorities interested in marine issues. This panel struck especially close to home for me – ever since I started graduate school for my Masters in Marine Biology, I have become too accustomed to looking around and realizing that I’m often the only person in the room that looks like me. It was mentioned during the panel that this is a difficult conversation, but the consensus was that as uncomfortable as the topic can be, it’s a necessary conversation if we have any hope of creating a marine science and policy community that better reflects the American population in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and any other status that can divide us.

Another interesting panel to highlight was titled “Local Voices and Traditional Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic Economy.” Again, an equal panel of men and women, all of Alaska native heritage, discussed how they can be valuable in the movement to develop a sustainable Arctic economy that both protects the Arctic environment and supports a growing economy.

Overall, great changes have happened and we should recognize and support them. Not only were there some increases in diversity, but there were multiple panels that focused on the benefits of diverse voices in ocean policy.

So, how can we move forward?

What I noticed was that many of the most diverse panels were those that focused on diversity. I would love to attend a CHOW where all panels, whether they’re focus on diversity in the marine community or the future of offshore energy, are diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and more. Why can’t every panel include an equal number of men and women, an equal number of white people and people of color? That’s the CHOW I want to see next year and in years to come.

Robin is a Policy Analyst at NOAA and a DC EcoWomen board member. A DC native, she enjoys exploring her hometown, developing her yoga skills, and getting out on the water as much as possible. She is especially excited that the season of free outdoor events is finally here.