Author Archive

posted by | on , , , , , | No comments

 

By Martha Bohrt, environmental advocate

In my interest to find out how people understand being impacted by climate change, in all parts of their identity, I became aware that, for women, there is an added layer that makes the topic intergenerational. Current mothers worry about the future of their children, as do those considering having children.

It must be noted I am not suggesting that only women are concerned about the state of the world for future generations. I know that, regardless of gender and/or interest in parenthood, this is a concern for many. What I think is worth highlighting is the additional emotional load carried by women when evaluating reproductive choices.

In the race to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change, there are no winners, only losers. However, as the negative impacts of the current climate crisis become more evident, it is also clear that certain groups will carry the burden more heavily.

Initiatives like Zero Hour, for example, organize around the idea that young people should have a say in the development and implementation of environmental policies, since they are the ones who will have to live longer with the consequences of such policies. Women-centered environmental movements like WEDO and GenderCC have brought to the forefront the additional obstacles faced by women in dealing with climate change impacts due to existing gender inequalities.

Networks like Conceivable Future are organizing around the very idea that climate justice is reproductive justice. The mission of the organization focuses on two demands: “the right to make reproductive decisions free from massive, avoidable, government-supported harm; and the demand that the U.S. end fossil fuel subsidies as an act of commitment toward our generation and those that follow.” It promotes testimonies from women evaluating whether to have children considering the climate crisis. It also organizes events in which women can share their experiences in making these decisions.

Make no mistake, these networks aren’t encouraging population control and not having babies. They are merely drawing attention to the fact that, for our generation, the climate crisis is a big, negative factor when viewing the future. According to Conceivable Future, “there is a lot of sadness and anger around this issue for many of our generation. Whether we decide to have children or not, the future looks very uncertain, and we urgently need to meet, discuss, and organize for the well-being of ourselves and our families, however they are composed.”

Full disclosure: I am not considering having children. But learning about organizations working at the intersection of climate issues and women’s issues has really pushed me to think about how I am affected by the climate crisis in areas that I have not considered in the past. Many of my lifestyle choices are impacted by my desire to help decrease my carbon footprint. I use public transportation, I compost, I avoid plastics, etc. So, I wonder, if I were grappling with this decision, would I take this into consideration?

While I don’t have an answer, I would like to pose the same question to you. How does climate change impact your life choices, from choosing light bulbs and appliances, to the more intimate choices that define part of your humanity?

I truly believe solutions to this tough topic can only be found through an exchange of ideas and experiences. I look forward to reading yours!

Martha Bohrt is a professional working to promote the ideal of public service beyond the public sphere, into the private and nonprofit sectors. Martha has worked with local, state, and transnational agencies to advance environmental projects on air and water quality improvement, as well as environmental resilience.

posted by | on , , , , , , | No comments

By Reshmi Mehta, Revel In It founder

We all know that the fashion industry is pretty harmful to a lot of people and the planet. Yet somehow, there are little to no readily available avenues to enable us to change our buying and producing behaviors. So, here’s my starter guide to mindfully interact with clothing in Washington, D.C.

Clothes you have

Learning to love what you have is step #1. We all have our own way of getting better at this step. If you have thoughts to share, write them in the comments! Learning to care for what you love is a way to level up.

Caring for your clothes means doing what you can to prolong the life of your clothes. Like washing them only when you absolutely need to, and learning the way they should be cleaned. Understand what those symbols on the care labels of your clothes actually mean here! There’s actually a lot on the internet about keeping your beloved items wearable. Check out some useful articles here, here here, here and here.

But, this list is about accessible resources to us in D.C. So, when you run into tears in your clothing, or find yourself in need of a hem, mending is the way to go! There are some fun and quick ways to mend your clothes in our city. FabLab is a D.C. public library initiative that hosts free mending and sewing 101 workshops in libraries around D.C. Soon it will have a permanent physical space with instructors and sewing machines and more! This will be free and accessible to anyone with a library account. The space is set to open later this year.

Fellow community members take action by hosting their own mending workshops around D.C., like the folks who teach classes through their Sew Queer series. Their workshops are sometimes free and sometimes cost $. Do you know of any other free or low cost mending workshops in D.C.? Share your knowledge in the comments.

Then, there are more in-depth workshops for those who want to invest in yourself a bit more and build-up your skills in mending and sewing from scratch. The Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria is a beautiful space that holds sewing patterns to purchase, and has an impressive array of classes and workshops, but be ready to spend some $$. Another pricey-but-worth-the-skills workshop is the occasional embroidery and sewing 101 workshops hosted by The Lemon Collective up in Petworth. I bet there are more workshops like these in D.C., and the broader DMV, so feel free to leave information on those in the comments too.

Clothes you don’t want anymore

Knowing that you don’t like a piece of clothing is great! Learning to responsibly get rid of those items is the hard part. One way you can get rid of them, and find something new to you, is to swap! I host seasonal clothing swaps through my community organization called Revel In It. I look for different venues around the city to host in, and I make them free and open to all, like really free – no money or clothing are required to participate. The next one will be at the West End Library on Saturday March 23rd, from 1-4 pm.

Other swaps have been known to take place at Potter’s House and different venues around D.C., as well as through the organization Swap DC. Their swaps require a low up-front cost to participate.

You can also donate your unwanted clothes to organizations that are serving our community. Great examples include Martha’s Table, Dress for Success and Casa Ruby. Each organization has its own needs in terms of types of clothes, so check-out their sites for more information.

Finding new clothes

The best way to shop ethically and sustainably is to thrift. D.C. has some great options, like the Mt. Pleasant boutique Rosalia’s, which has a decent selection, specifically for work wear, winter coats and menswear. Bonus: there is a fabulous seamstress in house! I also swear by Second Story Boutique on Georgia Avenue, which is actually a consignment shop as well, and holds a constant rotation of eclectic feminine wear. Tell me your go to thrift shops in the comments.

As for buying brand new in D.C., the options are slim. There’s some homegrown brands like Mimi Miller that design and produce their garments in the District, as well as some other brands that are showcased at the Steadfast Supply shop. The great thing about locally made items is that you can find the makers’ information and ask more questions about their production processes. Another exciting local venture is Lady Farmer, a brand run by a mother daughter duo who are experimenting with a farm-to-closet business with their farm just outside D.C.

But let’s be real, a lot of us shop online from businesses that are not local, and definitely not ethical in their practices. To help sift through all the noise, I created a Facebook group for my D.C. community, and beyond, to share our ethical and sustainable finds and to learn to mindfully interact with our clothes together. Come join the discussion!

Some more information on what “ethical” and “sustainable” clothing is, resources to help you when buying online, and more, are below.

Resources

Reshmi Mehta is an international development and social impact professional currently in DC and leads the community organization, Revel in It, a slow fashion enabler. You can find her at coffee shops around the city, searching the web for more opportunities to advocate for slow fashion and a decent espresso.

Photo Credits: fashionrevolution.org & Reshmi Mehta

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | No comments

By Whitney Ricker, FEMA contractor and climate justice advocate

It’s common knowledge at this point; women (on average) are more likely than men to be affected by climate change. This fact usually conjures images of women in the Global South who will face extreme hardship due to severe famine, migration, and violence caused by the impacts of climate change and de-stabilization. Children who grow up in these situations will likely be at a large disadvantage due to poor economic conditions, and physical and mental health issues stemming from their struggles.

While these are important issues to think about on a global stage, it can be easy to overlook what is already happening in our own backyard. Read on for more information on the connection between women, children, poverty and climate change.

Poverty Among Women and Children in the District

Women in the District face homelessness at a higher rate than their male counterparts, and over a quarter of children live in poverty. While residents in Washington, D.C. become wealthier on average, the gap between the haves and have-nots also grows. For instance, the housing prices within the District have risen to $602,500, with no signs of going down. Gentrification continues to push families and individuals out of neighborhoods, which leaves a large number in poverty. The statistics below show the bigger picture – the populations that now live under the poverty line:

Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the District

Flooding is expected to be a major issue facing D.C. in the coming decades. As land in the District sinks and increasing sea levels raise the waters of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, extreme flooding events will inundate further inland, including portions of Anacostia, the Tidal Basin, and the Southwest Waterfront. Inundation can lead to issues, including storm drain backups and potential sewage overflows, especially in sections of the city where old infrastructure has not been updated.

Climate change is increasing extreme weather events. As poverty grows within the District, extreme weather will cause intense, new challenges for those who face poverty. During the summer months, Washington, D.C. is subjected to the “Urban Heat Island Effect,” which is when urban centers experience higher temperatures than surrounding areas during extreme heat events. Numerous factors contribute to this event, such as dark pavements absorbing heat and less greenery to deflect heat and cool down surrounding areas.

During the hottest months of the year, increased temperatures can have severe health impacts, especially for expectant mothers, children, the elderly, and those who in poverty.

The health impacts include the following:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Respiratory illness
  • Cardiovascular illness
  • Heat stroke

Research has shown correlations between extreme weather events and an increase in overall violence. Extreme heat events are correlated with increased rates of violent crime, especially in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. Women and children are more likely to experience sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation following all types of natural disasters. In 2018, violent crime had decreased overall in D.C. However, a natural disaster could quickly change the trend.

How to Help

On a large scale, it will take social reform, healthcare reform, and many other measures to ensure that women and children in poverty in Washington, D.C. are prepared for the impacts of climate change. Here are a few ways that you can help daily.

Volunteer – There are dozens of shelters and food banks across the D.C. region, along with other organizations dedicated to helping women who have suffered abuse and/or other trauma. If you have time, here is a list of shelters in the District. Along with volunteering at shelters, volunteering with children/teenagers who live in harsh circumstances can have a positive impact for years to come.

Help those you encounter – Instead of giving money to those you see on the street, consider giving them a nutritious snack, or carry around a cold bottle of water to give to someone on a hot day. A small act could be a lifesaver to someone living on the streets.

Donate – Shelters are always in need of supplies, food, and clothing to distribute. Consider cleaning out your closet or buying a few extra items at the store to donate to local shelters.

Advocate for children and education – Advocating for a good education, especially around the connection between poverty and climate change, can have big impacts on a large scale.

Whitney Ricker is a recent graduate of James Madison University, where she studied Geographic Science with an emphasis on Environmental Conservation, Sustainability, and Development. She is currently employed as a FEMA contractor, and when she isn’t advocating for climate justice, she can be found watching documentaries and British TV shows at home.

Photo Credits: allenran 917 CC BY 2.0, Daniel Lobo CC BY 2.0, Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño CC BY 2.0, Ajari CC BY 2.0 and Elvert Barnes CC BY-SA 2.0

posted by | on , , , , , | No comments

By Kelsey Figone, local food system and sustainability advocate

I asked my sister to describe an entrepreneur for me. “A man, obviously…he’s in front of a whiteboard, pitching an idea.”

This is our stereotype of the entrepreneur, a man that we simultaneously glorify and mock for his contributions to the changing face of business. But the entrepreneurs I’ve met recently are quite different. They look like women wearing durable pants and driving tractors. They talk about risk and cash flow, but they also talk about gravity-fed irrigation systems and weed control. They slice open a sun jewel melon in the field and pass around tastes during a break in harvesting. They know numbers and long days at work and competition, but they also know what it’s like to “live a life in tune with natural cycles.” These entrepreneurs are women farmers.

I met Liz Whitehurst, farmer and owner of Owl’s Nest Farm in Upper Marlboro, MD, three years ago at the Petworth Farmer’s Market. I joined her community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and our friendship ignited my interest in food and local agriculture.

I’ve carried that interest in my move to Oregon this year, where I met Brenda Frketich via her farm blog. She is the third generation to farm her family’s 1,000 acres of grass seed, hazelnuts, and various other seed crops.

These two women may farm at different scales and with different growing practices, but they are similar in that they both own and operate their own business.

So, what does it mean to be a modern-day female entrepreneur in agriculture? Liz and Brenda shared their experiences with me, and these are their realities.

Agriculture as business

Make no mistake, these women aren’t homesteading or “going back to the land” – these farms are their businesses. Agriculture, in many ways, is the opposite of nature because it harnesses the land for human needs.

“It is easy to romanticize this off-the-grid thing, but I’m totally ‘on-the-grid,’” Liz said. “I’m running a business, number one, that has employees and pays taxes like everybody else. Still, it’s beautiful that it’s not just that.”

While Liz manages her business solo, Brenda’s operation is a family endeavor. Brenda and her husband took over her parents’ land. Right now, the office work is chiefly her responsibility and she does a lot of farming with her three children in tow. The day-to-day of her job often focuses on planning, forecasting, and other typical office and financial activities.

While she grew up on the farm, she hadn’t looked at the farm as a career until mid-way through college. “I knew a lot about harvest because that is when I worked on the farm the most,” Brenda said. “But I had no idea about all the work that went in, year-round, to growing a crop and running a business.”

Women in agriculture

It’s clear that owning a farm shares many aspects of other, more mainstream, entrepreneurial endeavors. Unfortunately, one of those aspects includes a historical resistance to women owners.

“When I first started, I had multiple women approach me, saying that their dads wouldn’t let them farm because of the physical labor side of things,” Brenda said.

She initially encountered some physical barriers, such as adapting equipment to quite literally “fit” her or accommodate her when she was working alone. Now, she feels a lot of that has changed because of “how far farming has come with the use of technology.” “Something as simple as a cell phone has allowed me to stay a lot more involved ‘on the farm’ even when I’m home with my kids,” Brenda said.

She feels part of a generation and a region that has mostly accepted women farmers and encourages women not to despair. “We go to meetings where we are the only woman,” Brenda said. “We joke about it, and we move on because we all know it doesn’t really matter, the soil doesn’t care, the tractor doesn’t care, the plants don’t care. And if a guy does care, then that’s on him.”

Liz admits that she occasionally encounters male farmers who mansplain and assume that she needs help, even some “cool, progressive men.” Still, she doesn’t let it discourage her. She capitalizes on those perceptions of herself as weak and lets them give her a hand, thinking, “whatever, if you’re going to help me out!”

Support for farmers

Neither Brenda nor Liz will deny the incredible help they’ve received from family, mentors, and the broader farming community. Their parents supported them in different ways, with direct farming experience and land, or financial support to purchase a farm.

Today, they go to meetings, workshops, and retreats, where they can learn about the latest technology and methods from peers. They connect with other farmers at farmer’s markets and make trades for massages or meat or a crop that wasn’t successful. They cooperatively buy seed or equipment with neighboring farmers to capitalize on economies of scale. They also respond to inquiries from other young women farmers looking to get started, in order to keep that community going.

Liz views her role as a mediator between the land and the people. This mediator role helps her CSA grow and keeps human interaction at the center of her work. For both Liz and Brenda, farming is more than the land and its plants. They cultivate communities.

Considerations for new farmers

It’s important to note, though, that farming is a challenging field to break into. Both Brenda and Liz are white women, and were steeped in agriculture before deciding to make the career switch themselves. Like Nichelle Harriott’s blog post in January and Leah Penniman’s recent article on Civil Eats point out, communities of color may associate agriculture with slavery and sharecropping.

Also, don’t discount the financial barriers to starting a farm, with its high up-front cost and land access challenges. Most U.S. farm households bring in significant income from off-farm sources, with either a spouse or another family member working an off-farm or off-season job.

“It’s good to look seriously at your relationship with money and things,” Liz said. “If you’re going to be a farmer, you’re not going to be rich, I don’t know any rich farmers.”

Despite the challenges, Brenda and Liz are proud of the work they do every day. They’re entrepreneurs in their own right. As fewer people choose to farm, the population grows, and society increasingly values urban-centered desk jobs, their role in our food system is important. They need our support and investment, just like any other entrepreneur. Consider that the next time you go grocery shopping!

Kelsey Figone designed and implemented international engagement programs with PYXERA Global in Washington, DC. While living in our nation’s capital, she was a passionate advocate for strengthening and diversifying local food systems. She recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest where she is excited to delve into local issues of food and sustainability.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , | No comments

By Lauren Meling, digital strategist and DC EcoWomen member

A lot of frightening environmental news have made headlines lately. But, just before the end of 2018, there was a big positive story that made headlines around the country and happened here in our area. As a DC EcoWoman or supporter, you may have heard that DC’s going to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. There’s actually a lot more to this story than just the applaudable headline. Here are seven of the most interesting takeaways.

  1.  It’s the most ambitious clean energy transition in the country

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 mandates DC energy providers to source 100 percent renewable energy by 2032, and replaces a previous target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2032. And before you ask — nuclear energy is not considered a renewable energy in this rule.

Unlike some other cities, DC is legally required to meet the mandate. It is not a voluntary ambition. The law will require its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to be 100 percent renewable by 2032. It means DC will be one of the first large cities to join the 100 percent renewable club, which already includes several smaller cities and towns, and will beat larger areas like California or Hawaii by several years.

DC is able to meet this accelerated timeline because it does not produce much energy within its borders. It relies on electricity generated elsewhere and transmitted in the PJM electrical grid.

  1. Utilities were on board

In a statement, Pepco Holdings called it “an important step toward advancing the cause of clean energy for the benefit of every ward in the District of Columbia.”

Surprised? I wouldn’t blame you. But what’s unique about this law is that utilities will be financially penalized for missing incremental renewable energy targets — fines which will go toward supporting renewable energy development. As GGW puts it:

The burden falls on utility companies to meet benchmarks for renewable electricity—or pay a price. Every year, the city sets renewable energy standards for companies to hit that increase incrementally until they reach 100 percent in 2032. What happens if companies don’t meet those standards? The city requires electricity suppliers to make compliance payments into D.C.’s Renewable Energy Development Fund (REDF).

An important note: If you don’t want to wait until 2032, or if you live outside the District, you can purchase clean energy credits through a provider like Arcadia, Clean Choice, or others. Learn more (PDF)

  1. Solar production will rise to 10 percent by 2045

As of 2015, solar energy only produced about 1 percent of DC’s electricity. That’s not surprising considering the urbanized environment only encompasses 68 square miles. While there’s little potential for large-scale solar farms, there’s still enormous possibility for rooftop solar on buildings, large and small, across the District.

DC already provides subsidized rooftop solar through its Solar for All program. The new law will provide energy bill assistance to support low- and moderate-income residents. Thirty percent of the additional revenue collected will be put aside for programs like weatherization and bill assistance for low-income households, as well as job training in energy efficiency fields. At least $3 million annually will also be allocated toward energy efficiency upgrades in affordable housing buildings. Win-win-win!

  1. Transportation is going renewable, too

Transportation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in DC (22 percent). Other cities/areas have passed similar laws but gave themselves longer timelines, and/or did not include transportation. What’s particularly exciting about DC’s new law is that by 2045, all public transportation and privately-owned vehicle fleets in DC will not produce GHG emissions. “Privately-owned fleet vehicles” means that if you’re transporting over 50 passengers, it’s got to be zero-emissions.

While ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber are not included, they are required to create a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan. Private vehicles, meanwhile, are not covered.

  1. Even existing buildings are included

DC already ranks first for leadership in energy and environmental design… or rather, it would, if it were a state. Buildings, however, are still the largest single source of GHG emissions in the city (74 percent). Major cities have made headlines after encouraging new buildings to include green roofs or rooftop solar. What’s different about DC’s law is that it includes provisions for existing buildings to increase their energy efficiency, rather than placing the impetus on new construction.

In fact, there’s a fantastic resource called Benchmark DC, which displays the energy and water usage and ‘grade’ of major buildings in the District.

  1. It funds DC’s green bank

The new law also helps fund DC’s green financing bank, an important, if not headline-grabbing, way to support renewable energy and other sustainable initiatives. An additional assessment on dirty energy sources like natural gas will fund the green bank with $15 million per year in 2020 and 2021, and $10 million per year for the next 4 years. These funds will go towards financing programs for energy efficiency or renewable energy projects to lower energy costs. This includes anything from roof repairs, insulation, installing new windows, to solar panels for homes.

  1. It’s all part of a bigger picture to address climate change in our backyard

The vision of Sustainable DC 2.0 is to make DC the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States in just 20 years. The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 is just one part of the overall Sustainable DC 2.0 vision, which also has plans of action for nature, transportation, food waste, climate resilience, energy, water, and more, including the recent ban on plastic straws and foam takeout containers.

Some questions still remain

While everything listed above is a positive development, several questions still remain. What exactly will Lyft and Uber do to reduce GHG emissions, and how will they be held accountable? Where does WMATA fit into this — will the Metro also need to be powered by renewables, as it encompasses operations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia and is governed by the WMATA board and not the city council? What will become of the Capitol Power Plant? For some great insight, check out Greater Greater Washington’s recap.

To end on a positive note, an analysis based on a previous version of the bill estimated it would result in a 50 percent reduction of GHGs. A new analysis has not yet been released, but if it’s anywhere close to that, we are on track to meet the recommended reduction in GHGs that climate scientists have recently called for by 2030. To take a closer look at the plan, visit Clean Energy DC’s interactive microsite.

Are you excited about this development, or do you have concerns? Comment below to discuss this topic.

Lauren Meling has dedicated her career to finding what exactly it takes to make people take action online to serve a cause. She uses her digital strategy experience and skillset combining email marketing, social media, search engine marketing, website optimization, and content creation to engage online communities in meaningful action to confront some of the most challenging crises humanity faces today. She may not be a superhero, but she plays one on the internet.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Under the Sea this World Wildlife Day

By Macy Placide, Protect Our Species Campaign Manager, Earth Day Network

On March 3, people around the globe will celebrate World Wildlife Day. The day focuses on the world’s wild animals and plants, while taking stock of Earth’s biodiversity. It is a significant day dedicated to nonhuman life forms and provides an opportunity to amplify nature’s voice.

This year’s World Wildlife Day theme, “Life below water: for people and planet”, aims to raise awareness of the incredibly rich and diverse array of marine life and the critical role that marine resources play in our lives, and the lives of others across the world, each day. This is a fitting and critical theme to address, given the current threats facing our oceans and marine species. Climate change, pollution, habitat loss, overexploitation, and illegal fishing are major drivers that are destroying ocean life and putting delicate marine ecosystems at risk of a tipping point.

Wildlife Crime

This year’s theme reflects the intimate connection between people and the planet, especially our dependence on a healthy ocean ecosystem. Yet, as we endeavor to safeguard and preserve these systems, human influence has caused significant, and potentially irreversible, damage that is leaving our seas in a state of impotent decline. Human exploitation is directly responsible for the leading causes of marine species demise. From coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific to sharks on the high seas, there is no corner of the ocean that human activity has not impacted.

Human appetites have put tremendous pressure on fishing populations. A whopping 90 percent of global fish stocks are exploited to meet growing demand and growing populations, creating big problems for the future of global food security and the security of life in the ocean.

Various criminal activities are also pushing fish and other marine species closer to the brink of extinction. The vaquita is one species caught in the crossfires of crime. Spanish for “little cow,” this harmless porpoise is one of the world’s rarest marine mammals found only in the Sea of Cortez. However, due to the illegal methods used to catch the totoaba, a unique type of fish caught for its swim bladders that are a popular delicacy in parts of Asia, vaquita porpoises end up snared and killed by ghost nets meant for totoabas. With only a dozen vaquitas left, efforts to prevent the animal from vanishing Earth have not been successful. For a greater look at what’s going on behind this sad story, check out this interview and harrowing new documentary about the vaquita that won the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Stories like the vaquitas reflect the devastating reality of the illicit activities that plague our oceans. Yet, the perpetrators involved also have direct links to other nefarious crimes, including drugs, arms and human trafficking. On land, other wildlife crimes, including elephant and rhino poaching, also have significant ties to corruption that fuels transnational organized crime and terrorist organizations like al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Dark Side of Technology

If it seems things can’t get worse, advances in technology have propagated the growth and acceleration of wildlife crime across numerous platforms, including the internet, smartphone apps, and social media. Technology and globalization have made it easier than ever to commit, and get away with, dark and illegal activities at unbreakable speed. From online sales of wildlife and fish products, to advertising live endangered species as pets through the illegal pet trade, it has become increasingly challenging to turn the tide against wildlife crimes.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a talk from the founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCC), Dr. Louise Shelley. During her talk, she shared a glimpse of her new book, “Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Is Threatening Our Future.” It examines the complex and hidden presence of many illegal online markets, including wildlife crime, and  affirms that the business of dark commerce on the web undermines the safety and security of the global community. The event offered a sobering look at the “dirty side” of the internet and offerred ways in which the global community can respond to the challenges in this space. You can find more information about the book here.

A Future for Wildlife

Whether its crimes on the web, in the ocean or on land, there is not a “one size fits all” approach to tackling the daunting, and often tragic, realities that face wildlife each day. Yet as dark as these times may seem, with so many other issues our world faces, there are unprecedented efforts and initiatives to fight and win the war against wildlife crime.

World Wildlife Day offers an opportunity for you to be a voice for animals! There are so many ways to get involved and there are events taking place all over the world. For those in the District, you can join Preserving American Wildlife in celebrating the day by attending their rally, which includes a host of distinguished speakers and educational activities. If there is one thing you can do this year, speak up and defend a future for all wildlife!

Macy Placide is a graduate from the School of International Service at American University, where she received her Master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy.  She recently started working for the Earth Day Network as their Protect Our Species Campaign Manager.

Photo Credits: Pic 1 Henry Burrows CC BY-SA 2.0; Pic 2 Paula Olson, NOAA, public domain; Pic 3 Remko van Dokkum CC BY 2.0

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Environmentally Conscious Dating for Washingtonian Women

By Brenna Rivett, Dating in the District blog author

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to talk about dating. I thought I’d share tips for environmentally conscious dating in Washington, D.C. from someone who loves Dating in the District.

While many of us incorporate environmentally friendly practices into our daily routines – think recycling, using reusable shopping bags, and turning the water off while we brush our teeth, I’ve decided to take it a step further. When thinking about how I could reduce my carbon footprint in my social life, I realized that I spent a big part of it online dating! So, here are some suggestions – all tried by yours truly – for fun, environmentally conscious dates.

Skip the Lyft ride and take public transportation to the date. While it’s tempting to take those extra 15 minutes to get ready and call a Lyft, I’ve found that taking public transportation to my dates is a lot easier (and cheaper!) than taking a Lyft. In cases where I take the bus and arrive early, I’ve taken the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood a bit and check out the side streets. Last fall, while walking around Shaw before my date, I stumbled upon a stationary store that took my colored pen obsession to a whole new level. Totally worth giving up those extra 10 minutes of prep time to catch the 92!

Pick a location that actively promotes or supports environmental work or research.  True environmental science nerd that I am, I love wandering through the Natural History museum and I’ve found it’s a good date spot! If the conversation doesn’t flow naturally, there are plenty of conversation starters throughout the exhibits. Some of my other favorite locations are the National Arboretum, Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Botanical Gardens, and Up Top Acres.

Choose a local distillery or brewery. Did you know that 25 percent of a food’s carbon footprint comes from transporting it to its final destination? By choosing a brewery or distillery in D.C., you’re eliminating that part of the drink’s carbon, and supporting local businesses in the process! Some of my favorite spots with a good, casual vibe for a date include Right Proper Brewpub, Cotton and Reed rum distillery, and Atlas Brew Works.

Take advantage of D.C.’s farmer’s markets and stay in and cook. Whether you love to cook and want to master Julia Child’s Coq au Vin or just want to dabble and stick with pasta and homemade sauce, you can shop local, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint.

This shift to environmentally conscious dating may also bring some great conversations. I’ve found that by actively thinking about reducing my carbon footprint before my dates, I’m more likely to bring it up with my dates. It turns out that this is a great way to see if my date shares my environmental passion, or at least see if they are interested in learning more about why I care so much. Of course, this may lead to your date “mansplaining” climate change, like what happened to me, but hey, you can’t win them all!

Have fun on your next environmentally conscious date!

Brenna Rivett is the author of the blog Dating in the District: One Girl’s Search for Love, Rooftop Bars, and the Perfect Saison. Brenna enjoys finding the humor in these sometimes painfully awkward online dating situations and writing about them, in the hope that other people connect with and enjoy them too.

Photos by Brenna Rivett

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Three Names to Remember this Black History Month

By Kyaira Ware, Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy

During Black History Month, we honor the vast and diverse spectrum of black experiences, perspectives, and cultures that exist throughout the world.

Environmentalists pay homage to greats such as Harriet Tubman, political activist and expert navigator of the forest, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and early advocate of the environmental justice movement.

While Tubman and King have been justly revered as some of the greatest activists of our time, there are countless other lesser-known black leaders whose significant contributions to the environmental movement have been largely forgotten.

This Black History Month, take some time to learn about black individuals who’ve influenced and advanced the movement. Scroll down to read more.

Ota Benga

Ota Benga’s legacy serves as a painful, yet necessary, reminder of the long history of racism and injustice within the conservation movement.

Benga was only 21 years old when his wife, two children, and other tribe members were killed during a raid by a police force under King Leopold II of Belgium in 1904. Benga was eventually captured, sold into slavery, and later purchased by Samuel Phillips Verner, a missionary and explorer from South Carolina, for a “pound of salt and a bolt of cloth.”

After traveling the Congo and appearing as the premier exhibit at the Saint Louis World’s Fair, Verner temporarily housed Benga in the Bronx Zoo as the newest addition to the zoo’s primate house. Each afternoon, spectators awaited to watch Benga share a cage with an orangutan, chimpanzees, and a parrot. The exhibition became the zoo’s most popular and controversial attraction. In September 1906, nearly after its opening, the exhibit was closed due to extreme backlash from the public.

Following the exhibition’s closing, Benga was invited to Lynchburg, Virginia to attend seminary school. After failing to assimilate into his new life and “becoming increasingly hopeless about his future,” Benga committed suicide on March 20, 1916.

While Benga suffered immensely throughout his entire life, learning about Benga’s story affords us the opportunity to remember our past, so we may do better for our future.

Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson’s legacy serves as a source of empowerment for people of color who do not always see themselves represented in the environmental movement.

Born on August 8, 1866, Henson became an orphan at a young age. He spent his early childhood working as a cabin boy on a ship, traveling the world to trading hotspots such as Africa, China, and Russia. Through the instruction of the ship’s captain, he also learned to read and write.

Upon moving to Washington, D.C., Henson became a store clerk before meeting Robert Peary, an American Navy officer and explorer. Peary initially hired Henson as a valet. However, Henson’s experience and navigation expertise soon proved to be far too valuable. He eventually became Peary’s most trusted accomplice on epic voyages across the world. Among many expeditions, the dynamic duo traveled to Greenland. It was also reported, although never confirmed, that they were the first people to reach the North Pole in 1909.

Perry largely overshadowed Henson’s accomplishments. But in 2000, the National Geographic Society posthumously awarded Henson the Hubbard Medal. His experience as an expert explorer continues to inspire people of color to become environmentalists.

Buffalo Soldiers

The “buffalo soldiers” remind us of the early role that African American men played in protecting America’s greatest treasures.

After the Civil War in 1866, Congress passed the Army Organization Act, which created six African-American army regiments. From there, the “buffalo soldiers” were born. While these soldiers are mainly known for their time spent scouting and patrolling the vast terrain of western states and territories, many people don’t understand the extent of their contributions to national parks. As some of the earliest park rangers, they handled everything “from evicting poachers and timber thieves to extinguishing forest fires” throughout great national parks such as Yosemite.

While their accomplishments as top-performing Calvary regiments and expert forest men were not always appreciated during their lifetimes, today we appreciate their service, sacrifice and position in the history of environmentalism.

Kyaira Ware is the current Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy. She is passionate about connecting urban communities to environmental sustainability and looks forward to the day when we can all agree that climate change is real.

Photo Credits: carmichaellibrary CC BY 2.0; public domain

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on SW Community Stands Up to Companies in Classic Environmental Justice Case

By Claire Jordan, NeRAC volunteer and DC EcoWomen board member

When people in Washington, DC think of Southwest DC, they probably think of Nationals Park, the new DC United Stadium, Superior Concrete Materials, and the construction of the new Frederick Douglas Bridge. Most people, however, don’t think of the Buzzard Point community in DC or the organizing group Near Buzzard Point Resilient Action Committee (NeRAC).

NeRAC officially began in 2017 but has been in the works for much longer. Founded and run by three DC women (Rhonda Hamilton, Kari Fulton, and Alisha Camacho), NeRAC is organizing Buzzard Point community members around the atrocious environmental injustices occurring because of the rampant and unchecked development.

NeRAC’s mission is to “build a resilient community by addressing and solving issues affecting near Buzzard Point residents in Washington, DC.” Its goal is to “empower residents, improve air quality, and improve and secure housing.” It is a think tank of residents, community partners, and experts working together to address pressing issues near Buzzard Point, Washington DC, and tackles air pollution, public health, and housing problems.

Some may see the new development in Buzzard Point as a positive contribution to this community, but with new development and construction comes compromised air quality and very sick residents who weren’t consulted on these development projects. The construction and increased traffic have created dust storms and dangerous levels of particulate matter in the air. Buzzard Point residents are having trouble breathing, asthma flare-ups, and burning sensations in their eyes. So, while people all over the city come to the Buzzard Point Community to experience the new development, residents are left to deal with the very serious health ramifications.

Rhonda Hamilton, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) representative for Buzzard Point and longtime resident, started working with filmmaker Alisha Camacho and Empower DC organizer Kari Fulton to take stock of the damage in the Buzzard Point Community and organize community members around these issues. Together, they created NeRAC. Today, NeRAC holds regular meetings, testifies in front of the DC City Council and the DC Department of Energy and the Environment, hosts a neighborhood spring cleanup to engage residents on the environmental issues their community faces, and more.

While perhaps unknown to many, the imperative work being done by NeRAC and by the three women founders should not go underestimated. When communities come under attack, we often see women at the forefront leading the charge to defend themselves and their loved ones, and it’s no different this time around.

If you’d like to stay involved and up to date on the fight happening to restore clean air in the Buzzard Point Community, you can follow NeRAC on Facebook and Twitter and attend the monthly meetings. Meeting details are below*.

*NeRAC meets the third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:30pm at 1501 Half Street SW, 2nd floor.

Claire Jordan serves on the Professional Development Committee of the DC EcoWomen Board and just recently finished her tenure as advocacy and outreach manager for Trash Free Maryland. Claire lives in Petworth and can be found hanging out at the library, buying tea at Teaism, or riding her bike through Rock Creek Park.

Photo 1:  NeRAC members hand out educational fliers on the issues impacting Buzzard Point to DC United fans as they make their way into the new stadium. Photo taken from NeRAC Twitter Page.
Photo 2: NeRAC Founder Rhonda Hamilton walks with a reporter from the Washington Post around Buzzard Point to showcase the air quality concerns. Photo taken from NeRAC Twitter Page.

posted by | on , , , | 2 comments

By Nichelle Harriott, policy specialist and DC EcoWomen member

I remember a time, growing up in a small rural community in the Caribbean, where my grandfather would disappear into the backyard on Sunday for about an hour and return with a chicken– dead and defeathered– for my grandmother to prepare for lunch. Back then your eggs, peas, and even orange juice came from the backyard. And, if for some reason you didn’t have enough, you called your neighbor over the fence.

These were my first impressions of food and how we eat. Food was not about driving to the grocery store, examining labels, or wondering whether you should pay the extra $2 for the organic version. I may be showing my age here, but while my childhood experience may be from another generation, our food system has changed. Drastically.

Food deserts abound in poorer communities, especially communities of color who, now removed from living in close cooperation with the land — like my grandparents did, fight the challenges of distance and decreasing paychecks to put fresh, healthy foods on their tables. These communities face very real food insecurity challenges that tend to go ignored.

Our diets have also changed. Indigenous varieties of corn, once in shades of black, red or blue have been replaced by yellow– the color corporate agriculture has decided we should prefer. Not only that, but this corn is genetically engineered to resist the pesticides we spray on fields, killing beneficial insects, and poisoning our waterways. Instead of chickens running in open backyards, like those at my grandparent’s house, thousands are crammed into tiny holding cages, often unable to walk and fed antibiotic and hormone-laced grain until they become so large and deformed that they cannot stand.

Let’s face it. The way we grow food and feed our families has changed. And while we are told large monoculture fields, factory farms, intensive chemical application, and corporate takeover of our seed banks is the way we will feed a growing global population, we are beginning to see the ravages industrial agriculture places on our environment and farmworker health.

However, there are sustainable ways we can grow our food system, put healthy foods on our tables, eliminate food deserts, and take pride in the stewardship of the land. Taking the lead are often small beginning farmers, many of whom are farmers of color returning to the ways our grandparents farmed with a few tweaks of their own. These farmers, along with farmer-led organizations that support them, are building collaborative networks in their communities integrating sustainable food production that enhances the environment and social health of people, while improving safe handling, distribution, and consumption of the food they produce.

African-American, Latinx, Native-American, Hmong farmers and others are finding ways to reintroduce indigenous varieties of fresh and healthy food back into their communities. These farmers are building their skills, training other farmers, focusing on building healthy soil, conserving water, and providing habitat for wildlife. They are in rural and urban communities, in food hubs, farmer’s markets, community gardens. They are involved with groups like the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners (BUGS), bringing together farmers of color, educators, chefs and food justice advocates around conversations like, “Where does our food come from and who provides it?” and “Why don’t we see more Black farmers at the farmer’s markets?”

Unfortunately, at the national level, these farmers are often overlooked for federal funding to expand and retain their operations. For many years, federal policies did not grant the levels of support to farmers of color as they did to their white counterparts. This inequity has historically led farmers of color — often cash-strapped and unable to access credit or pay back loans — to lose their farms, pushing them out of business.

But things are changing and many organizations like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Rural Coalition, and others, are working on policy to increase farmers of color’s access to agriculture research and funding to sustain their farms. In December 2018, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, the piece of legislation that oversees much of U.S. agriculture. There are some significant improvements to programs that support agriculture research for organic and sustainable systems, which will help beginning, underserved/farmers of color, and veteran farmers. These improvements include more funding for training and support. With new funds, these farmers will be able to get the support they need and help feed their communities.

The diversity of what we eat should be reflected by diversity in our food system and the farmers and workers who put food on our tables. A movement of farmers of color are primed to do just that while challenging our relationship with food. Will you join us?

Learn more about these farmers and organizations. Support sustainable food systems that also fight for food justice for all. Recommended Resources: Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners (BUGS) https://www.blackurbangrowers.org/; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition http://sustainableagriculture.net/; Rural Coalition https://www.ruralco.org/

Nichelle Harriott has spent 10+ years working to educate consumers about the food they eat and advance environmental health and agriculture policy. She is currently a policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and lives in Maryland where she plans her next travels.

Photo credits: Pixabay, USDA