Posts Tagged ‘National Bike Month’

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care About Community?

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Think big potato, act small fry

The conclusion of COP21 created much needed space for serious efforts to incite comprehensive, structural change for the planet and its inhabitants. By whatever means, we’ve got a critical mass that at least agrees that merely mitigating the most damaging effects of climate change isn’t enough.

The next challenge is to break from the attitudes, systems, and assumptions that got us into this mess. Huzzah! We are, at long last, looking at the scope of environmental questions through a lens of global, geo-political, inter- and intra-governmental equity, and with no time to spare.

As we shift from old methods to new practices, we rouse the bulwarks of fossil fuel energy—coal, oil and natural gas. We take on a future filled with more people and considerably less time, natural resources, or room for error. And we look with no shortage of hope for technological advancement to make ends meet.

GratisographyIt’s an awesome time to be alive! Each of us has in her own way accepted the vexation of big environmental questions because we are Ecowomen, actively creating kinship to face the challenge of our time: survival.

I propose that in contemplation of the big deal we draw our response to scale. Let’s take ownership of the future with our present day decisions.

As engaged Ecowomen, it behooves us to link grand efforts to ground level actions that support the nearest and most immediate form of power available to us: community.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Community is a combination of persons with shared aims, interests, or ends.

Functionally, community is a living thing, composed of living things, organized by choices. It performs as a series of relations characterized by the raising up and pulling down of interpersonal boundaries, replicated in reality. Consequently, community is a construct of our experience and our making.

Community as a creature of proximity

Last year, I heard Bryan Stevenson speak on the subject of pursuing justice. In his conclusion, he issued a challenge that struck me as an entirely elegant mode of approaching problems. He dared the audience to get into proximity with the things we find most uncomfortable. In discussing the tragic folly of mass incarceration, he implored us to “find our way to justice” by avoiding the temptation to sidestep problems that seem too big or scary to handle.

So, let’s start there. As Ecowomen, we unite in concern for the health of our planet. We nourish our bodies with foods on the low end of the food chain, choose glass over plastic, and conserve resources to diminish our ecological footprint. Collectively, we a force for sustainable economics, politics and bionetworks. We begin with people we know and increase capacity in our spheres of influence,plying our individual skills and abilities in the places we work, live, and play.

Neighborhood Gratisography135H

Make yourself at home

In the District we don’t need to look too far to find the makings of community. There are truly local environmental concerns of every stripe within the 68.25 square miles we call home.

  • There are trash transfer stations in the Fort Totten, Brentwood, and Langdon neighborhoods that cause residents to question the effects of commercial activities on their long term health.
  • In recent years, the Capitol Power Plant was at the heart of local debate on coal fired plant conversions and the changeover to natural gas.
  • Months ago, residents of Northeast’s Ivy City took up the fight against pollution clustering from a planned bus depot, and won.

Free stock photo dc metro

Community as a creature of necessity

The national news is flush with stories about communities of necessity. Groups who may be friends or neighbors who transcend those associations when faced with out-sized danger, from ecological events or man-made forces.

Communities of environmental concern stretch across borders and boundaries because they are forged by the power of empathy. Its members arrive as strangers drawn together to address a common plight. Whether the cause is contrived deprivation, or rising tides, those who are able go where needed to join with vulnerable peoples fighting corruption and the unfettered evil of scarcity or degraded resources.

There is strength in amalgamated capacity. It supports transformation or avoids catastrophe in the making. When the need arises, community comes together as quickly as is dissipates. And it has, in Virginia, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and North Carolina, among others.

As change agents, we should add our voices and leverage the strength of whatever agency we possess to tackle local, regional, and national environmental issues because we see ourselves in the plight, the fight, or the solution. And we don’t need permission to do it.

Multiracial earth photoThe larger environmental movement is an aggregate of the actions we take in community. Our level of engagement aides our sophistication; it colors who we see as victims or victors, what we see as wrongdoing, and our response to the call.

So, what are you waiting for? The issues are the invitation.

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. 

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By Kate Seitz

Hi fellow EcoWomen. I’m Kate, a mid-twenty’s Midwestern transplant to DC and self-proclaimed
environmental enthusiast, perpetually on the lookout for new ways to “green” my routine. My kitchen
cupboards are exploding with glass jars that previously held jam, pickles, you name it. Can’t get enough
of ‘em, and continually find new ways to re-use ‘em. I think I may be allergic to wasting food and throwing
recyclables in a non-recycling bin. I’ve dabbled in the creations of homemade, organic face wash, face
scrub, and hand soap. I persistently scour the web and chat with like-minded individuals about ways to
reduce consumption and make a positive impact on our natural world. I’ll be sharing my successes and
inevitable failures (my first batch of hand soap resembled a giant booger…still workin’ on that…) here,
as I continue to put my lifestyle under the magnifying glass and discover ways to incorporate eco-friendly
practices into daily life. Hopefully, a DIY idea will strike your fancy, or I’ll succeed in intriguing you with the
wonders of bike commuting (see below). Read on, and stay tuned…

Each and every day, we make choices about how to transport ourselves from point A to point B. Which
mode of transportation we select is something we can all zero in on to reduce the stress that we as
human beings exert on the natural world. My own “ah ha” moment hit me after living in DC for a few
years. The commute from my first DC residence to work was relatively painless. I biked three-quarters
of a mile to the nearest Metro stop. The Metro was about a 15 minute ride, after which I’d exit at my stop
downtown and walk one block to work. Thirty minutes door to door. Boom.

Here’s the thing. DC summers make any Metro commute a little more interesting, and by interesting, I
mean sweaty and uncomfortable. I’m talkin’ daily summer Metro rides where each passenger is sweatier
the last, and what seems like every other Metro car has a busted air conditioning unit. On more than
one occasion during my summer Metro rides, beads of sweat literally trickled from this dude’s…OK OK,
I’ll stop there. Point is, Metro commutes in the DC summer heat and humidity does not a happy person
make. This unfortunate reality aside, I always had the thought in the back of my mind: could I make it to
and from work in one piece on a bicycle? And if I could, how much of a positive impact would this change
lend, both on my own lifestyle and on the environment?

It wasn’t until my husband and I moved into our second and current DC residence that I took the
possibility of becoming a bike commuter seriously. Our place is off of the Metro grid, and while the
Metrobus does stop right outside of our house, well, don’t get me started on the woes of the Metrobus.
After our move, I planned out my bike route, got my ride tuned up, and purchased several articles
of clothing that may or may not blind anyone who looks my way (but hey, at least they decrease the
chances of a clueless driver nonchalantly running me off the road). Despite my preparations, my worries
as a cycling novice loomed. What if I get honked at? What if I go the wrong way on a one way? What are
those hand signals again? As I prepared for my first official bike commute and nervously pondered these
questions, my husband offered to spend his morning off to accompany me on my first ride to work (can
you say “swoon”?). Not only did I make it all in one piece, but I did the trek home all by my grown-up self
(ta da!). And thus began my love affair with bike commuting.

I now bike every day to work, rain or shine, 10 miles roundtrip, and would not have it any other way. I
suppress the temptation to yell out “see ya, suckers!” as I (safety) make my way right on passed the
inevitable traffic jam. What I love most is that I spend 15 minutes of my 25 minute commute on the Capital
Crescent Trail. Have you been on the CCT on the weekend? Ya, not the same. Don’t get me wrong…it
is a great trail regardless, and I love to see so many people out and about on the weekends. But the trail
on an early weekday morning is so calming. Peaceful. The other cyclists are friendly, almost neighborly.
Many nod their heads to say good morning. And I once got a thumbs up…how’s that for a start to your
workday?

My bike commute is the perfect start to my day. I look forward to getting on my bike each morning and

pedaling to work, passing the serene Potomac on my right, no cars in sight. It gets my heart pumping.
I consciously draw in deep breaths of fresh morning air. I’m on my own schedule, free of worries about
Metro breakdowns and traffic pile up. Plus, I’ve tapped into the environmental advantages of cycling,
which include avoiding gas and electricity consumptive modes of transportation. If only I had discovered
this joy years ago…

May 18th is the Washington DC Bike to Work Day. No better time to discover this delightful means of
transportation than when you’re sharing the streets with thousands of fellow cyclists! So get out there!

Yours in greening,

Kate Seitz