Archive for the ‘News’ Category
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.
By Tamara Toles-O’laughlin
There is no neat and tidy way to sum up my feelings about current events. Highs and lows abound for all of us who earnestly want to solve big problems or at least mitigate catastrophe, in the natural and built environment. As government regimes shift along party lines there is room enough for everyone to complain. As feminists, we are again bound to search our practice for true inclusion of marginalized peoples in the intersection of women and the environment. And we must look more deeply at our roles within those margins. As citizens, we will need to reengage our sectors, disciplines, and constituencies for answers and alignment. As EcoWomen, we must collectively move beyond the specter of a receding status quo and grope our dashed or diminished hopes for productive actions that will buck trends to ensure that the legacy of our generation is one of stewardship and justice. Viewed together, our work assails the banality of injustice through an unrelenting demand for increased access, inclusion, equity, and for plain old understanding, and that won’t stop now.
Connection begets Community
EcoWomen is a community of diverse thinkers, strategists, planners, anglers, wonks, workers, and women. Together we search for and find renewed purpose to meet challenges as they arise. Take a good hard look at us. We work for sustainable cities; promote agency for under-resourced peoples; plant gardens for food and righteousness; act as a safeguard for key species; write policy that influences behavior to combat climate change causes and effects; and bolster conservation in every environ. For those of us who desire an expansive form of social justice, circumstances require us to continue to push for the collective good, for the greatest number. We will fare better if we do it in community.
Engage Beyond the Echo Chamber
This is a time for strength. We have strength in numbers. In support of our mission, it is in our interest to continue to make room for divergent thought, support innovation in every direction and apply pressure to transform power structures so that they reach the greatest number. We won’t succeed in an echo chamber of agreement but by opening the ways and means by which we reach consensus.
Increasingly, environment and conservation actions explicitly bleed into issues of parity, representation, resource, burden, and benefit distribution. To make it meaningful, we will need to recommit as members of community to deeper engagement on the issues of our time, and in so doing leverage the power of the many to move the state for positive impact.
These are not the salad days. We are women at the intersection of climate, politic, and modernity. We are faced with compound challenges to our species’ survival. In this moment, I am hopeful that we have a chance to make gains out of conflict IF we can face the acrimony of behavior change, IF we deny the illusion of stand-alone issues AND connect the dots as EcoWomen with the efforts of other communities we are a part of.
As we close out the year, let’s turn our good intentions into action. I challenge you (now) to change your relationship to what troubles you, and to get nearer to every challenge. And I ask you to set your intention to develop solutions with those formerly deemed “other” as partners rather than allies. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with alliance, except that it can normalize the perceptible space between what threatens each of us with what threatens all of us.
Strength as a Practice
As we brace for new norms we would do well to recall that as EcoWomen, we are in this, whatever it is, together.
So, let’s pledge to start the new year as we would see it end, with justice at the fore of our approach to environment, and to see it through to the defense of our everyday liberty. If you plant trees, plant more trees. If you work on storm water reduction, then mitigate away. Advocate, agitate, intervene, and include all voices at the point of decision making, for yourself and for your community. We will need you now more than ever.
Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on civil society and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga.
By Sarah Peters
Water is essential to life, as Congress understood in 1972 when amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, now known as the Clean Water Act, was passed with bipartisan support. We have made significant progress in the following decades, but serious issues remain such as summertime toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie and the chronic poor health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Until now, the Clean Water Act has not kept pace with the times – it was last amended in 1987. One major issue is determining which waterways the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has jurisdiction to protect. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 generated further confusion on the limits of the EPA’s regulatory authority.
For the last two years, the Obama Administration and the EPA have worked to write a Clean Water Rule that would clarify this issue. Since the rule was released on May 27th, it has generated opposition from 27 states, the coal industry and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Conversely, environmental groups and the Army Corps of Engineers argue that the new rule does not go far enough.
What does the Clean Water Rule do?
The EPA has outlined the rule’s major provisions on the clean water rule website. The Clean Water Rule will:
- Define and protect tributaries – any headwaters showing physical signs of flowing water that could affect the health of downstream waterways will be protected.
- Set measurable enforcement boundaries on waterways near rivers and lakes.
- Protect specific water features of importance: the Carolina and Delmarva bays, prairie potholes, pocosins, California western vernal pools and Texas coastal prairie wetlands.
- Emphasize enforcement on streams but not ditches: ditches that are not part of streams and flow only during rainfall will not be protected.
- Preserve the status quo for waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.
- Limit the use of case-specific analyses to waters subject to Clean Water Act enforcement.
The Clean Water Rule will not:
- Protect any additional waters not historically covered under the Clean Water Act.
- Place additional regulations on agriculture.
- Affect private property rights.
- Change policies on irrigation or water transfers.
- Take into account land use.
- Cover features created by erosion, groundwater, or tile drains.
As with many federal agencies, the EPA will have to contend with a future of reduced resources and budgets. The Agency anticipates that from 2014 to 2018 it will conduct 79,000 inspections, compared to the 105,000 inspections between 2005 and 2009.
The Clean Water Rule goes into effect on August 28th and should help the EPA make the most of its’ limited resources. Recent events like the accidental release of toxic mine waste into Colorado’s Animas River highlight the importance of clear and consistent enforcement of clean water protections.
Sarah Peters is a Gettysburg College alum with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. She is currently doing volunteer Geographic Information Systems (GIS) work at the Wilderness Society and frequently volunteers for the Sierra Club.
Where does it all come from – the paper you print your articles on, for the newspaper, for receipts and brochures? Is it recycled? Is it taken from illegally logged forests?
The November EcoHour focused on sustainable forestry and featured Amy Smith and Lisa Stocker who helped us to answer some of these questions. Amy Smith is the Senior Program Officer with the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest and Trade Network-North America (GFTN-NA) program. Amy kicked off her career working in Columbia and Peru, experiencing firsthand the biological and socioeconomic impacts of deforestation and illegal logging. After working with local communities to transform sustainably forested products into high value products, Amy began working more globally on sustainable forest trading systems as a whole with GFTN-NA.
Lisa Stocker is the Sustainable Business Manager at Domtar, a member of the GFTN-NA that works to facilitate Forest Stewardship Council certification for the private landowners who provide the bulk of their fiber. Lisa got her start in forestry as well, managing forest lands as a forester with International Paper. She saw firsthand wood procurement practices, the impact of logging, and the lack of a solid connection between forest practices and manufacturing in the paper industry. Following her work with Rainforest Alliance and communities directly impacted by logging, Lisa came “full circle to engage with consumers and users.”
Tracking paper supplies from forest floor to printing floor is one of the critical steps in creating a sustainable system to better manage our global forests and cut back on illegal logging. Amy works to connect the dots on the supply chain so that companies interested in sustainable forestry can be linked with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified logging operations. From the supplier’s perspective, Lisa emphasized the multiple benefits that Domtar has had since working with GFTN-NA and becoming the first company to have FSC certified land in the Adirondacks. As Lisa stated, it has impacted “our understanding of the global implications of what we do.”
By connecting the dots in the supply chain, and ensuring that a sustainably harvested log gets FSC certification and goes to a company that values FSC certified wood or paper products, a more sustainable and responsible system is created. When you buy FSC certified paper, you can be fairly certain where it came from and the practices that were allowed.
Although as Amy pointed out, “you can wrap around the world 10 times all the logs that are logged illegally,” today ten percent of forests are FSC certified. As Domtar and other companies are discovering, “good forest management is a driver of economic return for communities.”
In other words, a sustainable forest trading system can be sustainable for the environment, but also sustainable financially.
Today Marks the Day….
Today’s Google Doodle reminds us that today we celebrate Marie Curie‘s 144th birthday. Is her name not ringing a bell? Think radioactivity…. Not only was Curie a groundbreaking physicist and chemist, but her accomplishments are also noteworthy because she was a woman scientist working in the early 20th century. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1903 and is the only woman to ever win two (not to mention they are in separate fields). Among her scientific achievements, this Polish woman was also the first female professor at the University of Paris.
Marie Curie put forward a theory for radioactivity and developed techniques for identifying isotopes. Later in her career, she discovered two elements, the first of which she named “Polonium” after her native country. After establishing the Curie Institute in Paris and Warsaw, she inspired the first scientific research exploring the medical application of radiation to treat tumors. She shared her first Nobel Prize with her husband, as her daughter then did with her own husband many years later. Science runs in her DNA to be sure!
Despite celebrating her birthday today, we should remember that she only died a mere 80 years ago. Only 100 years ago we were just beginning to understand the radioactivity of the elements on earth. The evolution of science is really an incredible thing to witness. Each day, grad students, professors, and research technicians return to lab benches or computer monitors or field sites and search for answers. The small bits of information that they gather feeds into an ever-growing scientific body of knowledge.
Thanks to Google for reminding us to take a few moments today to celebrate a brave and dynamic woman who contributed to the past and future accomplishments that shape our world. While this dedication is worthy of praise, it really takes a visionary innovator to completely challenge accepted theories or even synthesize the information that is gathered to create something meaningful. The Curie family did this but across disciplines and fields to provide groundbreaking perspectives. While it seems that progress is slow, it was only 100 years ago that women did not teach science in universities around the world. Who knows what social or environmental injustices might be eradicated by science and social change in the next 100.
Mark your calendars for the eco-party of the year for DC’s green gals and guys! There will be light hors d’oeuvres, prizes and happy hour prices on food and drinks all night.
Wednesday, December 7 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm @ Local 16 (a few blocks from U Street Metro).
Jessica Barnhouse, one of the female student architects of the award-winning Empowerhouse designed for the 2011 Solar Decathlon has been making houses since she was six. ‘I’ve always wanted to be an architect,’ she said. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. This year’s Solar Decathlonran from September 23 through October 1 on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park.
Empowerhouse, which Barnhouse helped design and build, as part of the 45-person team from Parsons New School for Design and the Stevens Institute of Technology, not only won the competition’s affordability award but will also become a home for a Habitat for Humanity family in DC’s Northeast neighborhood of Deanwood. Empowerhouse is a site net zero energy home using as much energy as it produces, eliminating electricity bills for its Deanwood occupants. The home is designed to occupy just 1,000 square feet and cost less than $230,000 to construct. Learn more about the energy efficient design of the house. The house is one of 20 built by Solar Decathlon competitors and the only one ever to remain in DC.
The Empowerhouse team worked in partnership with the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, Groundwork Anacostia and Habitat for Humanity of Washington D.C. a volunteer – led non-profit working to build affordable, energy and resource –efficient homes for people in need.
‘We partnered with Habitat for Humanity, because we wanted to push green energy forward. Habitat for Humanity is interested in changing the way they build to incorporate more Passive House standards,’ Barnhouse commented.
The collaboration with the non-profit organization and the Deanwood community added a layer of complexity to an already demanding project. ‘We came to Washington several times to meet with community stakeholders and incorporate their input into the design of the house. As a result of community feedback the Parson’s students added a north porch facing the street that invites residents and neighbors to congregate as well as private south porch with composting and a cooking surface. The team knew they had to be extremely practical with their design and building approach, Barnhouse said. ‘We as students had to physically build the house and Habitat volunteers had to be able to build it.’ Working with the organization was ‘an inspiration,’ according to Barnhouse.
The project was not without its challenges, she said. The Decathlon required students at times to work outside of their comfort zones. ‘Architects rarely do the actual construction on what they design,’ she said. ‘As students we didn’t all come to the project knowing how to install sprinkler systems or every detail of electrical codes, but we taught ourselves. If we can do it than others can do it.’
In fact, one of the best parts of the competition to Barnhouse was stretching herself. ‘Personally, I’ve gotten interested in civil engineering as a result of the competition,’ she said. The energy efficient house is scheduled to be moved to the Deanwood neighborhood later this month where the Parsons team hopes ‘it will serve as an educational tool to inspire community members to incorporate affordable green practices into their everyday lives. For Barnhouse, it’s now back to the books. She anticipates finishing her Master’s degree with Parsons in 2012.
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DC EcoWomen got a peek under the hood of hybrid car technology during its September Eco Hour when General Motors executive Monica Murphy brought two new Chevrolet Volts for the group’s inspection outside of Teaism in downtown DC.
The women’s hands-on exploration of the two new electric cars followed Murphy’s talk outlining GM’s new market strategy where Murphy also touched on her personal experience in a male-dominated field during her 21-year career with GM. She worked with Chevrolet dealer groups on marketing and advertising programs in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia areas and distinguished herself by persuading the dealers to order new inventory.
‘It’s not surprising that a field like automotive is male dominated. For 10-15 years of my career I felt like I was the only woman in the group. I felt like I had to work harder than my male colleagues to be noticed. I’m competitive so I liked making those sales quotas,’ she said.
Murphy moved from Sales to Research and Development where she said she felt more like ‘one of the guys.’ As the Manager of the Advanced Technology Demonstration Programs for the Eastern Region, she currently manages GM’s fleet of Chevrolet Equinox Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles and the new Chevy Volt electric vehicle. ‘It’s great to be on the forefront of two new technologies.’
She was very involved in GM’s ‘Project Driveway’ the company’s 30-month long, live market test of the Chevrolet Equinox beginning in 2007. For the test, GM loaned out 100 hydrogen fuel cell –powered cars to volunteers in cities around the world and drivers blogged their experiences. ‘As a result of the learnings of Project Driveway’, Murphy said ‘GM was able to reduce the size of the system in the Equinox and use about a third of the platinum from the original.’ The company is currently testing a production-intent hydrogen fuel cell system that can be packaged in the space of a traditional four-cylinder engine and be ready for commercial production in 2015.
‘Part of GM’s current market strategy is to have a car for everybody, from gas-friendly to gas-free’ Murphy said. The company is working to improve fuel efficiency in the combustion engines of small cars and introducing hybrid technology in its larger vehicles such as the Denali and Yukon SUVs. GM is also very focused on ‘getting women into our cars,’ Murphy said.
The DC EcoWomen audience quizzed Murphy about the safety, pricing and mileage of the Volt. The car sells for about $40,000, which can be offset by government rebates of up to $7,500. The Volt also features a 10-year, 10,000 warranty. Learn more about how the Volt works and see a comparison chart of the Volt versus other electric vehicles.
The number one question she gets from women about the Volt, Murphy said is ‘how does it work?
‘One of the unique features about the Volt is the range extending generator allowing drivers to go about 300 additional miles after the battery is depleted.’ Murphy said. ‘Meaning you won’t be left at the side of the road when the battery runs out.’
DC EcoWomen also asked Murphy about the availability of charging stations, which Murphy asserted that GM is encouraging localities to provide. ‘I encourage you to ask your community leaders to consider provisions for charging electric cars.’ GM can’t regulate the cost of the energy charge from the stations as the power is provided by local utilities, Murphy said
Beyond introducing fuel-efficient cars, GM is saving energy corporate-wide, according to Murphy. ‘From 2005 to 2009 we reduced energy consumption across the company by 40 percent; we have the largest rooftop solar installation in the U.S. at our California facility. Many plants use solar energy. We have reduced non-recycled waste by 49 percent at plants and many of our automotive plants are landfill free.
Join us for EcoHour next month, where we’ll learn about urban planning from Kennedy Smith.
When: Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: George Washington University–University Yard. H Street between 20th and 21st Sts. in N.W., DC
Metro: four blocks from the Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro station
More info at: http://dcvegfest.com/
Enjoy free food samples, cooking domes, exhibitors, dynamic speakers, including:
- Wayne Pacelle, HSUS CEO and President
- Isa Chandra Moskowitz, cookbook author
- Wendy Rieger, NBC-4 anchor
- Michael Greger, HSUS and clinical nutrition physician
- Jonathan Balcombe, animal behavior expert
- Aruna Miller, Maryland Delegate
- Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, cookbook author
- Jim Motavalli, environmental writer
- Brennan Gerald, Dffrnt Wrld Deli and vegan chef
- Dawn Moncrieffe, A Well Fed World
- Cherylyn Tompkins, FabuNOLA