Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

posted by | Comments Off on Photographing “Teaching and Exploring the Chesapeake”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work.

Our Third Place photo contest winner, Mary Polacek, shared a photo of DC students in 7th and 8th grades connecting with the Chesapeake Bay at the Echo Hill Outdoor School in MD. We sat down with Mary to hear firsthand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Mary: The photo was taken place at Echo Outdoor school on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The experience there was beautiful; I personally have not seen the bay for awhile, and some of these DC students never have. So the experience was highlighted by the students, who were engaged right away, filling their senses with the water, sand, critters…  and overall getting to experience the Chesapeake Bay.

DC EcoWomen: We love opportunities that help EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?

Mary: Teaching in general, I have learned, is always a growing process. But the moment this photo was taken, the learning experience was trying to convey to the young girls that we could not bring stones and shells back home, and why it was important to leave them for the habitat and others to visually enjoy. They wanted to have tangible items to remember the experience, I tried and hoped to convey that with photographs you could have the memory and potentially something tangible.

DC EcoWomen: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Be respectful to the people in your photographs. Try so that their faces aren’t directly seen and/or get their permission to use them in a photo.

“Teaching and Exploring the Chesapeake” by Mary Polacek

Mary Polacek is an Environmental Scientist and has worked around the country on various large infrastructure projects, working for local municipalities with a focus water quality. She moved to DC in 2012 and started working for DOEE’s Water Quality Division, where she was part of the inspection program and investigated illicit discharges to waters of the District. In 2016, she became a full time mom and started teaching with Anacostia Watershed Society for their Saturday Environmental Academy for DC students in 7th and 8th grade. She enjoys reading, traveling, planning, photography, cooking, and chasing her daughter Sophia.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Thoughts on Standing “In the Midst of Climate Change”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work.

Our People’s Choice photo contest winner, Maggie Dewane, shared a photo of herself during her travels to Antarctica to see climate change firsthand, where unseasonably calm weather was a stark reminder to the realness of a changing planet. We sat down with Maggie to hear firsthand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Maggie: Of all the days spent in Antarctica, the day this photo was taken was particularly meaningful to me. I had just seen four Adelie penguins—a penguin species that is an indicator of climate change. We were on Petermann Island, historically documented as a nesting ground for Adelies. These penguins thrive in the most frigid and freezing temperatures of Antarctica, but as summers are getting warmer and winters are getting shorter, they are having to move further south down the continent, which means there’s less habitat for them to colonize. So this sighting was novel and exciting, as it is one of the northernmost settlements they live in. Additionally, the majestic backdrops surrounding us were breathtaking and humbling. “We’re actually here!” I and my friend, the photographer of this image, kept saying to one another. We were seeing one of the last untouched wildernesses, in its raw beauty. Though the bright and beaming sun, and those nearby penguins, served as reminder to the reach of anthropogenic-caused climate change, even this incredibly far removed from civilization.

DC EcoWomen: We love opportunities that help EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Maggie: Absolutely. I traveled to Antarctica because I wanted to be able to play a more active role in climate change conversations. I believe climate change is the greatest threat to our world today, having rippling effects into national security, human health, economic development, environmental justice, and beyond. Being in Antarctica, learning from world class scientists and explorers, who after years of travel to and from this wilderness could attest to changing trends in weather patterns and wildlife behavior, seeing this place firsthand, gave me a unique perspective that I’ve been able to bring home with me. For example, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to tell EcoWomen’s readers about the plight of the Adelie penguin had I not gone on this expedition! The trip also connected me with many passionate conservationists from all walks of life and various professions. To me, this is how change happens: people working together toward progress. We shared ideas, created goals, and went home feeling invigorated to spread messages of conservation and sustainability. For example, the concept of climate change is so unwieldy to so many of us, it can feel like we as individuals cannot have an impact on the broader picture. But if so many of us make small changes, then that can turn into something really huge! For example, think about things you do that require energy or fossil fuel use: can you limit or remove those actions? Take small steps and we’ll be on our way!

DC EcoWomen: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Maggie: Be in the moment and don’t actively think about trying to take a great photo. If you’re loving the moment you’re in, reflect on it and enjoy. I was fortunate to be with someone who was always snapping candids, so when she saw me basking in the natural beauty around me, she took the shot! Genuine emotions make for better photos in my opinion.

“In the Midst of Climate Change” by Maggie Dewane

Maggie Dewane is the Press and Communications Officer to the Environmental Investigation Agency. She previously worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the United States Senate. She has a bachelors from Seton Hall University and a masters from Columbia University. Her hobbies include painting, writing, traveling, soccer, and camping and hiking with her dog Argos. 

 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on A Closer Look at “Tall Girls Tie Tomatoes”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work. Our second place winner, Sarah Waybright, shared a photo of herself learning best farming practices at Potomac Vegetable Farms. We sat down with Sarah to hear first hand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Sarah: Working at Potomac Vegetable Farms is awesome – it can be hard physical labor, but the owners and team there are so fun to be around, and know so much about how to farm and sell produce.  Tomatoes are a high value crop, so the tying part is to help them grow upwards (they’re a vine that doesn’t climb well) for easy harvesting.  These were cherry tomatoes, grown in a hoop house, which is like a greenhouse but without actually being heated; it just retains heat from the sun during the day, so the atmosphere is easier to control when things get above freezing.  You have to bend down to tie the string to the plant base and then reach up to the bar to tie the top end, so it’s a lot of squatting and bending and stretching!

DC EcoWomen: We love opportunities that help EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Sarah: PVF is “ecoganic” – a word they use to mean that they use organic practices, but are no longer certified organic (to avoid all that paperwork!).  Good food comes from good soil, so they’re constantly thinking about what will enhance soil quality in both mineral and microbial content – mulching, composting, crop rotation, and adding in micorrhizal fungi and biochar to soil to encourage below the ground networking and nutrient sharing between plant roots, fungi, and microbes, to name a few things!

Part of the climate change problem we’re experiencing is created by modern day farming, but what most people don’t realize is that some farming practices not only contribute less but can actually help to reverse climate change by sequestering carbon back into the soil from the air, and working at PVF has led me to many fascinating workshops, conferences, and webinars about how farmers can do this.  My goal is to use a farm for nutrition, environment, and cultural education through immersive and experiential retreats and classes – so for now I’m building the skills and network I will need to do that!

DC EcoWomen: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Sarah: A winning picture either has to be beautiful or tell a story – think about not just what’s in the frame composition, but also what it is sharing with the viewer!

Tall Girls Tie Tomatoes

*PVF’s CSA is now open for registration for this season – on-farm pickup or delivery around VA & DC is available!

 Sarah Waybright is a Registered Dietitian and owner of the brand WhyFoodWorks. She is currently a health coach for Wellness Corporate Solutions, teaches nutrition through seminars and private events in and around Washington, DC, and works on Potomac Vegetable Farms a few days a week to learn more about how our food is grown.   Her favorite forms of exercise are hiking, yoga, & PopSugarFitness YouTube workouts, and her hobby of choice is pottery.  You can find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Instagram to get food tips and nutrition information and healthy recipes.  

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Who are “The Mentors?”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work. Our grand prize winner, Elizabeth Hogan, shared a photo of three strong women who served as mentors while on an expedition to save marine mammals from entanglement in Alaska. We sat down with Elizabeth to hear first hand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: First of all, congratulations! What a powerful image. Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Elizabeth: This shot was taken in July 2015, on a trip to locate and disentangle injured Steller sea lions in Glacier Bay, Alaska.  We were onboard a research vessel on the water for two weeks, rolling the rescue work into a larger population survey of the species.  I had never been to Alaska before and to spend that time on Glacier Bay was an incredible privilege; the scenery was astounding and I was aware every second of how lucky I was to be there.  Glacier Bay is a temperate rainforest; which meant that it rained consistently every day and the temperature was in the low 40s, so eight hours in a skiff each day was definitely not warm (“In the interest of staying wet” became a group motto by the end).  But this trip was an opportunity to learn from leading experts in a new, emerging science: pinniped disentanglement. The three women in the photo are scientists whose work and research I had followed for years, so to join them on a rescue trip was an incredible opportunity to participate in the advancement of this field, and one of the biggest honors of my career to that point.    

DCEW: What was the purpose of the trip and what were you hoping to achieve?

Elizabeth: I was new at pinniped rescue (pinnipeds are a marine mammal that can use their flippers to “walk” on land, like seals, sea lions, and walruses) and as part of the work that I do for World Animal Protection on marine wildlife entanglement I had helped put together this rescue mission, to send a team of experts to this region to locate and rescue Steller sea lions with entanglement injuries. This usually means that the animal either has a hook and line caught in their mouth, from stealing a fish in one of Alaska’s commercial fisheries, or a plastic entanglement around their neck, digging into their muscle tissue from an encounter with some form of marine debris lost in the ocean. Both injuries are incredibly painful for the animals and prevent feeding and engaging in social behaviors. Our goal was both to disentangle as many sea lions as we could and to fine-tune the rescue methodology of remote immobilization, which is a long way of saying anesthetizing the animal via dart gun so that we could remove the material and apply medication.  Stellers can grow up to over 2000 pounds; it would not be safe to approach one when fully alert.  Any animals rescued on this trip would also give us more information about the anesthetics we were using, and establish protocols for rescues in the water in contrast to those done on land.

DCEW: We love opportunities that help DC EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?   

Elizabeth: Without a doubt. At the outset I hadn’t expected to go on the trip, just to make sure that an expert team could go and had the equipment they needed. But at the very last minute a spot opened up on the vessel and they asked me to join them. I was ridiculously excited, but also nervous – I was the new kid with very little experience and wanted to learn and to be useful without getting in their way. The willingness of these three scientists to give me this opportunity and talk me through each scenario was not only a huge step in my own experience with pinniped rescue but also a great reminder of what I hope to be able to do for others when I am further along in my career.

Seeing such horrific injuries to these beautiful animals in an environment as remote and pristine as Glacier Bay – miles from land – was also a firsthand view of how pervasive plastics are in the marine ecosystem.  It’s devastating to see the harm caused to wildlife from our plastic pollution.

DCEW: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Elizabeth: No one should ever take my words on photography as “wisdom” as I am still someone who occasionally gets their thumb in the shot, but I will say that one of my favorite things about this photo was that none of the three women in this shot had any idea I was taking it; and we were on a very small skiff (I was at most two feet away) so it speaks to how completely absorbed they are in the job. It’s just a personal preference, but I always liked shots of people focused on what they are doing rather than looking at the camera.  The job at hand was to determine how best to approach a large, injured Steller sea lion in a very challenging environment – dangerous, slippery rock outcroppings in the middle of very cold & wet Glacier Bay, Alaska.  There’s a sense of that environment not just in the background but also in all the gear they are wearing (and I also liked the way our bulky “float coats” were this pop of bright color). It’s hard to explain to people that when it comes to the “action” of pinniped disentanglement, we sometimes have contact with the animal for 20 minutes or less, but hours of prep goes into those 20 minutes, and I took this shot in an attempt to convey that.

See the five winning shots from our 2017 Photo Contest >>

Elizabeth Hogan is the Program Manager for Oceans and Wildlife with World Animal Protection, where she specializes in marine wildlife entanglement in addition to work on marine debris, whaling policy, and wildlife in captivity.  For the last five years, she has researched the impact of derelict fishing gear on marine mammals and worked on establishing rescue networks and protocols for entangled marine life.  Her research on packaging and pinniped entanglement was published earlier this month in the Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy.  When not obsessing about marine animals & ocean plastic, Elizabeth can be found running in Rock Creek Park with her dog, reading about politics, exploring the globe, or baking something.

Follow her on Twitter: @EHHogan

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Teddy Roosevelt’s Mar-a-Lago

By Melissa Lembke

When you think of Washington, D.C., hiking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You more likely think politics, monuments, and museums.  But, truth be told, the nation’s capital is home to hundreds of miles of natural beauty and opportunities for exploration.

According to The Trust for Public Land’s 2016 ParkScore® index, Washington, D.C. (which is 21.9% parkland) comes in third out of the 100 largest U.S. cities for meeting the need for parks.  All those triangles, circles and squares add up, especially when you add in major resources like Rock Creek Park which is enjoyed by 2.48 million visitors a year.

Make that 2.48 million and one, as I recently had the pleasure of joining Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of the award-winning book “A Year in Rock Creek Park,” for a morning hike.  Melanie has spent hundreds of hours exploring every inch of the park and she shared a few of the highlights at a recent DC EcoWomen event.

We set off walking in the footsteps of our 26th President along the Theodore Roosevelt Side Trail.  While on the trail I was reminded of Teddy’s love for the outdoors.  His favorite resort was Rock Creek Park, and he frequently led members of his “Tennis Cabinet” and foreign ambassadors on grueling hikes here.  To be invited by the President to go on one of those hikes was regarded as a mark of special favor.

My favorite story that Melanie shared was one occasion when the President lead Jean Adrien Antoine Jules Jusserand, the French Ambassador to the United States, on a jaunt in the woods and when they reached the Potomac they shed their clothes and dove in.  The Ambassador sent the following account of the outing to the French Foreign Office:

“At last, we came to the bank of a stream, rather too wide and deep to be forded…But judge of my horror when I saw the President unbutton his clothes and heard him say, ‘We had better strip, so as not to wet our things in the creek.’  Then I, too, for the honor of France removed my apparel, everything except my lavender kid gloves…’With your permission, Mr. President, I will keep these on; otherwise, it would be embarrassing if we should meet ladies.”

The President and Ambassador became fast friends after the outing and remained friends for life.  Today, a monument honoring Ambassador Jusserand – reportedly the only diplomat who could keep up with Teddy on a hike – sits near the trail to commemorate his achievements and love for Rock Creek Park.

As we continued onto the Valley Trail we approached the historic Boulder Bridge.  Melanie explained that the extra large boulders that comprise the bridge resulted from a misunderstanding by the bridge contractor.

“The plans called for ‘man-sized’ stone, which meant stone that could be easily handled by a stone mason.  Instead, the contractor used life-sized boulders.  When the Corps of Engineers head, Colonel Beach, arrived at the site and saw the work underway with the large boulders, he liked the way they looked.”

Not a bad decision as the structure has held up exceptionally well through the years.

Boulder Bridge is also the site of the well-known tale where a prized ring slipped off Teddy’s finger.  After a search failed to turn it up, he placed an ad in the local paper for its return reading:

“Golden ring lost near Boulder Bridge in Rock Creek.  If found, return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  Ask for Teddy.”

To this day, his ring has still not been returned.

While that ended our short adventure, it only scratches the surface of the fresh air, landmarks, and years of history that Rock Creek has to offer.  With this green oasis just moments from the heart of the city, there is no excuse not to join Teddy and the other famous users of this “all-inclusive” park featuring a golf course, equestrian trails, tennis stadium, and amphitheater.  No plane ticket to Palm Beach, Florida required.

Melissa Lembke is a DC EcoWomen Board Member. 

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By Heidi Bishop

As the new administration’s impact on energy policy unfolds, increased interest in pursuing “clean coal” technologies have likely put Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) more squarely on your radar. The new “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of solar, wind, or other renewable energy resources but does state a commitment to “clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” For DC EcoWomen active in energy policy, this is a good time to understand the current state of the technology.

While there are several ways to reduce the various harmful emissions from a coal plant so that it can be labeled “clean coal,” most energy plans citing clean coal are referring to the use of CCS as a method for reducing the carbon content from plant emissions to protect coal as a major form of baseload generation. In short, CCS requires a means of separating CO2 from either the fuel or emissions of a power plant, capturing and stabilizing this isolated CO2 in a solid or compressing it in gas, and then storing it over centuries. CO2 can be removed from coal directly through pre-firing degasification, such as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, or through oxyfiring. CO2 can also be removed in post-processing of emissions. Both approaches are feasible, but expensive, and energy-intensive operations that require significant capital expenditures can reduce plant efficiencies by as much as 20%.

CCS is a complex technology, and there are many useful resources available from the DOE, IEA, or the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) to learn more. In more mainstream discussions, however, here are two Clean Coal myths you might come across:

Myth 1: Clean Coal Technologies are Market-Ready

Some proponents point to existing pilots for CCS or utility projects underway as proof that the technology is proven for large scale deployment and poised for growth. While there is significant technical potential for CCS in terms of engineering feasibility and substantial amounts of potential underground storage locations, as a commercial matter CCS is still an infant technology that is likely going to be very expensive initially and is not yet available at a broad scale.

NRG’s Petra Nova plant in Texas, which is paired with enhanced oil recovery to improve its economics, is now up and running as a major success, but the majority of projects are not. Several projects have generally followed a pattern of initial public support, steep cost overruns, engineering problems, eventual public opposition, and suspension or cancellation. Such projects include Future Gen 2 in Illinois. Once the poster-child for CCS, this project was in development as early as 2006, revised beginning in 2010, and then eventually cancelled in 2015. Similarly, the Kemper County IGCC project in Mississippi, which is currently 3 years behind and $4 billion over budget, has recently found that it will be more economic for it to run on natural gas than the coal it was originally intended to use. All of which leads to the next myth…

Myth 2: Clean Coal Plus Lighter Regulations Can Bring Back the Coal Industry

Coal generation and mining have steadily decreased in past years primarily due to competition with low-priced natural gas which makes coal generation uneconomical for a lot of plants. Secondary cases are low load growth, renewable generation, and environmental regulations such as the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) targeting arsenic and metals air pollution from coal and oil plants.

The stayed and now-cancelled Clean Power Plan (CPP) to impose carbon emission restrictions and pricing mechanisms on the power industry is often blamed for impairing coal, but in fact those regulations were not very strong and would have had little impact on an already-suffering coal industry. For example, projections from the Energy Information Administration that do not incorporate compliance with the CPP still include significant retirements of coal resources over the next few years.

Because the falling demand for coal is driven by the availability of lower cost resources, the business case to invest in new coal generation at all is weak—especially for coal with expensive CCS which can increase costs by around 75%.

Despite all these economic forces against coal and CCS, coal generation is not going to be obsolete any time soon. Today’s existing coal plants are often fairly clean in terms of more noxious pollutants like SO2, NOX, and particulates (and can still be improved), have very long engineering lives left, and can continue running on plentiful and fairly cheap coal.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to rely entirely on zero-carbon technologies like renewables because the storage technologies needed to smooth their intermittent availability to meet our consumption patterns are still too expensive for wide use. Technical and economic research in clean coal may still be valuable to address CO2 emissions in parts of the world where coal remains a critical energy supply. Gas-fired power plants also emit CO2, albeit at less than half the rate per kWh as coal, so they also eventually may need CCS. Thus, in many ways, the exact future of clean coal is unsure.

Over the next few years there will be push and pull between regional and national climate policies in the U.S. as well as changes in the economics of competing with natural gas and renewable energy. These influences, however, cannot change the facts that CCS technology is nowhere close to being advanced enough to rapidly expand overnight and that the U.S. coal industry is at best looking to be sustained rather than restored to former levels.

 

 

Heidi Bishop is a marketing and policy associate at a consulting firm based in DC. She specializes in energy policy research, identifying business development opportunities, and developing publications. She has worked on a variety of energy policy topics with a focus on new business models for electric utilities, “Utility of the Future” efforts, distributed energy resources, and retail regulatory strategy. Ms. Bishop received her BA and MBA from Salisbury University and a Master of Public Management – Policy Track, Environmental Concentration from the University of Maryland.

posted by | Comments Off on Hello, From the Intersection!

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Pick a Fire, Any Fire

It is February in America. Just weeks into a new year, when the national gaze is turned to the contributions, legacy, and value of the black experience to the culture, spirit, and finances of the republic. As an environmentalist and a woman, there is no shortage of challenge, disruption, or calculated dumpster fire upon which to aim my interest in interventions of equity and access on the path to justice. As a member of this community, I know that I am not alone in my concerns for the protection of the people and the planet.

If you are paying the slightest attention to the popular discourse, the practical implications of climate indicators or the totally nonpartisan weather pattern then you aren’t sleeping easily.  So, you’ve marched, and the natural question is, what should you do next?  With so much at stake it is not uncommon to feel whelmed by triggering events. Action and reaction can stir the sensation that one is hitched to the bandwagon of big ideas, big struggle and identity within that struggle without a map, and with little more than an inkling.

Marching to the Intersection, Heart in Hand            

So, yes, you’ve marched. In and of itself, that is not an end. In my mind, the better, next question is: how does a well-meaning EcoWoman decide by what method, when, and where to enter the intersection of ideas to affect change? Or plainly put, how do you show up, when do you show up and who are you when you get there?

There are so many threats to the people, the air, the water, the flora, and fauna. As such, it is important to figure out your personal calculus for entry, into the fight for or against incursion, to increase your chances at effectiveness and to avoid burnout. If your long-term aim is justice for all, then now is the time to get smart. It is important to figure out what the stakes are, determine a measure of success, and plan to avoid numbness by staying engaged at sustainable levels.

As an example, my formula for action is closely linked to my intersection and privilege. I am collocated in my desire to save the planet as an African-American, a woman, a gen-Xer, and an environmentalist from a diversely populated east coast city. Therefore, I see the challenges to the health of frontline communities as a singularity connected to the fight against invasive species and the fight against seeing other human beings as invasive.

I am bound to the history of African people who entered this country as cargo and remained in it as chattel; who made it America through innovation and persistence in it despite unfettered and unceasing legal and illegal attacks. Thus, as I move about the planet I cannot ignore the planning and decision-making that under resources generations of urban people and literally moves them superfund to incinerator zone, and back to brownfield by way of policy and program. I have no choice but to see the matching struggle of rural poverty delineated by the same forces whether or not it’s dressed in overalls. So, you see, my work is “cut out for me.”  I’m focused on the spaces where my skills can affect positive change and my energy supports me.

Food for Thought

As I write, I can assure you that I possess no magic for making effective change but I have hope. And I would love to see you turn marching into sustained support for equity and plain old liberty and justice for all.

If you want to stay sensitive and engaged in the intersection, here is a list of books you can read to support your engagement on matters of race, gender, sexuality, and environment.

Challenging Reads for Challenging Times

  • White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race by Ian Haney Lopez
  • How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston
  • Born Palestinian, Born Black by Suheir Hammad
  • Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
  • Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration by Tanner Colby
  • Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua
  • The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
  • The Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman
  • Tranny by Laura Jane Grace
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Removing the Sacred by Winona La Duke
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Bird of Paradise: How I became Latina by Raquel Cepeda
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • This Changes Everything: Climate versus Capitalism by Naomi Klein

 

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on equity, access 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 Serve your Sweetheart Some Sustainability this Valentine’s Day

By Jackie Marks

We at DC EcoWomen love all things sustainable. On the heels of DC EcoWomen’s visit to local bean-to-bar chocolatier Harper Macaw, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, what better thing to discuss than sustainable chocolate? Chocolate is a popular treat on Valentine’s Day; in 2015, 58 million pounds of chocolate was purchased for Valentine’s Day alone. Read on for a Q&A with Jackie Marks, DC EcoWomen Executive Board Member and Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation, for some sustainable chocolate knowledge that you can share with your sweetheart.

EcoWomen: Chocolate is universally loved and can be found around the world – especially around Valentine’s Day. But few people are aware of where chocolate comes from or how it’s made. Can you tell us a bit about chocolate’s origin?

Jackie: Chocolate has a long, intricate history and has been consumed in various forms since the time of the Mayans in Mesoamerica. The primary ingredient in chocolate is cocoa (or cacao) – the ‘beans’ (which are actually seeds) extracted from the cocoa tree. Cocoa pods which hold these beans are the beautiful fruit of the cocoa tree and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. While cocoa trees rely on tropical environments within 15 – 20 degrees north and south of the equator to thrive, you can visit a beautiful, live cocoa tree right here in Washington, D.C. at the Botanic Garden.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Wow, cocoa right in our back yard! As consumers, how can we be sure we’re buying chocolate that is ‘green’? What does it mean for cocoa to be sustainable?

Jackie: Cocoa is sustainable when you put farmers first. Cocoa is primarily grown on small farms by men and women who rely on the sale of cocoa beans for income. Many cocoa and chocolate companies support training and infrastructure in cocoa communities to ensure long-term social, economic and environmental viability for cocoa farms and farmers. As a consumer, you can educate yourself about what your favorite chocolate company is doing to help cocoa farmers around the world.

Photo by Jackie Marks. Pods, containing the cocoa ‘beans’, grow on trees in tropical climates.

EcoWomen: Good idea – knowledge is power. Can you tell us three fun facts about cocoa that we can share with our sweethearts?

Jackie:

  1. Like kombucha or kimchi, most cocoa is fermented! This brings out the true chocolatey flavor in cocoa beans.
  2. Ivory Coast – the french speaking, coastal, West African nation – is the number one producer of cocoa. Ghana is second, and Indonesia is third. Latin America is a big contributor, too.
  3. The latin name for cocoa – Theobroma cacao – literally translates to ‘food of the Gods’. How’s that for a heavenly treat this Valentine’s Day?

 

Photo by Jackie Marks. Cocoa seedlings awaiting planting.

Jackie Marks has spent the last three and a half years working with cocoa and chocolate companies to share sustainable cocoa stories with the world as Communications & Marketing Manager at the World Cocoa Foundation. Her background is in non-profit communications focused on environment, conservation and sustainability issues. Jackie joined the DC EcoWomen Executive Board in 2016 and serves on the Communications Committee. When she’s not writing about cocoa, you can find her tending to her garden, inventing new ice cream flavors, sampling craft beer and planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter: @JackieMarks.

posted by | Comments Off on Food System Change in a Political World: Food Tank 2017 D.C. Summit Highlights

By Michelle Winglee

A packed George Washington University auditorium that included farmers, policymakers, businesses, media, and academics convened last Thursday at Food Tank’s D.C. Summit to spur action on changing the food system. Over 40,000 people from 150 countries also tuned in to view the live broadcast of the day-long panel discussions, which highlighted issues in immigration, national security, and food policy.

Organized by Food Tank, an online platform that supports sustainable food communities around the world, the D.C. food summit comes at a time when President Trump nominees threaten to roll back Obama-era policies supporting greater nutrition.

However, Food Tank founder Danielle Nierenberg remains optimistic about the polarized D.C. climate. “I remain hopeful that food is the thing that unites us all.” Danielle encouraged pursuit of “unusual collaborations” across fields that could help put the culture back in agriculture.

The thirty-six summit speakers featured Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D), Fran Dresner from the hit series “The Nanny,” and NPR food correspondent Allison Aubrey, in addition to agricultural experts from research think tanks and farm associations. Panelist speakers cut across political and industry divides, from multinational food corporations to family farm chicken operations in Shenandoah, Virginia.

John Glover of USAID shows audience members what a resilient root system can look like next to Ann O’Connor of Organic Valley and Ted Monk from Sodexo.

The following are highlights from the panelist discussions. Videos from the summit are available online here.

  • Immigration and a shrinking farm labor supply: “Ninety-six percent of our employees come from outside of the U.S.” said Kip Tom, former CEO of Tom Farms and member of President Trump’s agricultural advisory committee. Tom Farms, which specializes in corn and soy production while being the largest agri-business farm operator in Indiana, struggles with the tightening supply of farm labor — a wide-ranging challenge among farmers in the United States. Even with tech solutions to provide more with less, panelist speaker Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, who leads the George Washington University Sustainability Collaborative, noted, “without immigration reform we can’t sustain a legal workforce.”
  • The fight for Farm Bill funding: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), a member of the House subcommittee that oversees Farm Bill appropriations and proud owner of an organic farm in Maine, advocates to move Farm Bill money from commodity crops to the less than 1% that supports organic farming. The Congresswoman urged participants to stay informed and hold policy makers accountable for food legislation through Food Policy Action.
  • Too fat to fight: During the food security panel, a discussion normally centered around domestic supply and the controversies of food aid, an audience member raised a 2012 Mission Readiness report finding that a quarter of young Americas are too fat to serve in the military. The project called on Congress to remove junk food and high-sugar beverages from schools that contribute to childhood obesity and diabetes.
  • Hidden hunger: The deprivation of important micronutrients even with a full belly, “hidden hunger” affects two billion or one in three people according to a 2014 International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report. Though concentrated in developing nations, Director General of IFPRI Shengen Fan, noted that hidden hunger also coincides with obesity in high-income urban areas too. Iodine and iron deficiency are wide-spread in the developed world according to the IFPRI report.
  • “They want what we have”: Erica Hellen, who raises and processes their farm’s own pasture-raised chicken, pigs, and cattle with her partner on their 13-acre Free Union Grass Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia, sees a problem with false advertising and consumer education. “They want what we have,” said Erica about food conglomerates that advertise happy hens roaming around on grass despite realities of crowded cages and low, if any, access to sunlight. However, consumers still don’t get why higher prices for food are worth it. “We gladly spend an extra dollar for a latte, but we can’t pay $5 for eggs?” she asked incredulously. On average, the U.S. spends less on food than anywhere else in the world.
  • “Stop! Stop! Stop!”: Cried Fran Dresner in her unique nasal twang that charmed “The Nanny” TV-watchers around the country. Fran, a cancer survivor and founder of the nonprofit Cancer Schmancer, called on audience members to pause before they bought into societal norms that promote pills, waste, and pollution. Fran pointed out how current culture in the U.S. is far removed from indigenous lifestyles that lived in harmony with nature. “We don’t know that food is medicine.”

While telling the audience to skip the drug store and focus on swapping out food choices, Fran noted how consumer decisions like buying single-use plastic utensils contribute to the petroleum industry and pollutants released into the environment. “Did you know that 90% of cancer is related to the environment?” Fran asked. Cancer Schmancer looks to help consumers identify and eliminate toxins in food, cosmetics, and around the home.

Though the conference highlighted challenges of the food system, attendees also saw rays of hope in the trend towards more sustainable food. For the past four years, the organic industry has seen double digit growth while 2016 marked a record high of 10.8% growth at $43.3 billion in organic sales according to an Organic Trade Association industry survey. Comparatively, the overall food market grew at 3.3%. The USDA reports a surge in farmers’ markets in the United States, growing from 1,755 markets in 1994 to over 8,144 in 2013. Meanwhile, Food Tank DC Summit sponsors like Organic Valley, a billion dollar enterprise that incorporates small dairy farmers into its business model, restaurants like Elevation Burger, committed to supplying grass-fed organic beef, or Shouk, which serves middle eastern-inspired vegan sandwiches, were also a testament to the opportunities for profitability and sustainability.

“’Organic’ is the new ‘plastics,’” said Dan Glickman of the Aspen Institute, referencing the 60’s movie The Graduate allusion to the next big industry.

On a more somber note, remarks by Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, warned attendees of the battle that lay ahead. Trump cabinet picks include Representative Tom Price (R-GA), slated for Secretary of Health, who has a history for voting against healthier school meals and increased food-safety inspections. Scott Pruitt, selected to run the EPA, received more than $40,000 in campaign donations from poultry companies accused of poultry runoff in the Illinois River Basin in addition to filing lawsuits against the EPA as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. Trump USDA pick, former Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue has called climate change “a running joke among the public.” Food Summit speaker Roger Johnson from the National Farmers Union, representing conventional and organic farms across the United States, commented on undeniable seasonal changes that have affected planting seasons around the country.

Despite the grim political outlook, Ken called on attendees to be “happy warriors.” He urged sustainable food advocates to vote with their dollar and join forces with other movements. “Advocacy is a team sport,” said Ken, “if you’re resisting on your own you may just be moping.”

 

Michelle Winglee is a freelance writer who covers topics on the environment, agriculture, and energy. She previously worked as a Research Assistant at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Fellow at Food Day before embarking on a year-long Mandarin fellowship in Taipei and Beijing. Her publications have appeared in outlets such as Foreign Policy, SupChina, The Diplomat Magazine, and ChinaDialogue. She is interested in the nexus between economic and environmentally sustainable development. You can follow her @MichelleWinglee.

posted by | Comments Off on Thank You for Marching with Us

Editor’s Note: a post-march message from our president, KC Stover

Thank you for joining us for the Women’s March on Washington. We are so proud of our community and the many opportunities that we have to engage one another. For me, it was incredibly humbling and inspiring to be in the presence of so many passionate supporters of women’s rights.

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As we move forward, DC EcoWomen will be focusing on intersectional conversations to broaden our perspectives and engage with diverse groups in the DC area. This is crucial to supporting civil rights, female empowerment and the fight for a healthy planet.

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First, please join the conversation with us on social media – on Twitter at @dcecowomen, Facebook, and instagram – and attend our events. We also want suggestions for events and ways to help augment our community’s voice in the coming weeks and months. Please reach out to us directly at dc@ecowomen.org.

Second, make your own voice heard. Engage on the issues that you are passionate about. The Women’s March 10 in 100 days is a great place to start. We will be participating in the People’s Climate March on April 29th and would love to have you join us.

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EcoWomen is a non-partisan organization. We do not endorse specific political campaigns or candidates. However, we are pro-woman and pro-planet. Our mission is to give our community great tools, support and opportunities to connect with each other.

We look forward to hearing your voice.

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KC Stover
President, DC EcoWomen