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New Podcast Episodes!

Welcome to Season 7 of the Keeping Things Alive Podcast! Listen to episodes wherever you listen to podcasts (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, PocketCast, etc.). It is also streaming on SoundCloud.

This season, Homes Guarantee Organizer, Political Educator, and Afro-futurist John Washington is co-creating many of the podcast episodes with me. John has been on the podcast many times in the past, including the annual ballot reviews like this episode, which we have been publishing during election season since 2018. John has a deep knowledge and understanding of Buffalo, economics, history, systemic racism, housing, environmental justice, comics, music, and more.

Here is a link to the Welcome Episode. Learn about our intentions for the season and more information about my book, Silent Seasons: Chasing Sustainability through the Law, which is now available as an ebook on Amazon and Kobo! This season will be a little different because instead of conducting new interviews, we will be re-releasing many episodes from past seasons and tying them to current issues and events.

I posted the first “regular” episode of Season 7 this week, too! Here is a link to Episode 87, which is my September 2021 interview with Margaret Wooster, a watershed planner and author of Meander: Making Room for Rivers. Margaret’s work aligns with the sustainability lessons of Silent Seasons, especially the lesson that “working with the Earth fosters sustainability, while working against her makes things more difficult and unsustainable.”

 

It feels good to have another season of the Keeping Things Podcast open again! I’m glad that you’re here.

 

 

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Episode 85: Laura Wrote a Book!

After a long pause, the Keeping Things Alive Podcast just published a new episode to share the exciting news that I wrote a book! In this episode, you will learn more about the book, why I decided to write it now, and what is in each chapter.

Silent Seasons: Chasing Sustainability Through the Law will be published by New Degree Press this fall. The purpose of Silent Seasons is to offer accessible information about environmental law and new perspectives on sustainability for everyone, based on Laura’s life.

There are still 6 days left to pre-order your signed copy, get a ticket to launch party, and support the publication of this exciting project!

Click here to pre-order your signed copy now until April 30th!

 

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Season 6 is here!

Hi all,

Apologies for the silence, but Season 6 started in May! Here are links to the episodes that have been published so far:

  • 77: Season 6 Welcome: intentions for the season, and a conversation about the current moment with Jim Anderson
  • 78: May 2021 Info Collage: learn about NY’s new cannabis law, the herb self-heal, the Fool tarot card, and the police in Erie County.
  • 79: EmZee: art, mental health, and Eden, NY
  • 80: June 2021 Info Collage: learn more about the herb plantain, the Erie County sheriff election, cannabis in NY, and the Page of Wands tarot card

As you can see, this season is set up a little bit different. The plan is to run it from May until November, and publish two episodes each month. One monthly episode will be the “standard” long-form interview, while the other will be an “info collage” that is covering four different topics: the legalization of cannabis in New York State, learning about the healing properties of an herb, discussing a tarot card, and hearing stories of peoples’ experiences with the police in Erie County.

Thanks for being here, and I’m looking forward to sharing more information, stories, and conversations about what is happening in and around Western New York as we all do our best to “keep things alive” and move forward on this beautiful and brutal Planet Earth.

Love,

Laura

 

P.S. One more thing: this season, we have EmZee creating the cover art for each episode! Check out @onyxarcplanet on Instagram for more amazing images and videos by EmZee <3

 

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New Year and President Check-In

In case you haven’t heard, it’s 2021 (what?!), there is a raging global pandemic, white supremacists invaded the U.S. Capitol, Redditors have disrupted Wall Street by buying GameStop stock, America has a new President, and the U.S. has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement. I haven’t posted much besides podcast shownotes in a while because I’ve been suffering from a complex case of writer’s block for months (maybe years?).

I am grateful that Trump is out of the White House limelight. He is a narcissistic tyrant who has used masterful hypnotic techniques to manipulate his economically anxious, white supremacist base for years. He also grew significant support from his economically savvy, white supremacist supporters who never went to his rallies, but live in towns, cities, churches, offices, and board rooms across America.

Pop quiz: can you name the common ground that connects all Trump supporters, no matter how different they appear on their face? My answer is white supremacy, the ethos that white people (and what they do, say, and create) are inherently better than people of all other races, which leads to all kinds of dehumanization and harmful systems of oppression. White supremacy is deeply embedded in America’s history, systems, sports, Netflix options, education, hospitals, job searches, public transportation, food systems, the locations of industrial plants — everything. If you are white like I am (and especially if you are white living in a mostly white suburb or rural area), you don’t see white supremacy as much, but it’s always present. There is so much dismantling to do, and it starts with honest acknowledgement of the problem.

While in office, the Trump Administration, bolstered by an overall belief in white supremacy, unapologetically kept children in cages separated from their parents, gutted environmental protection laws, made it easier to drill for fossil fuels, intentionally sowed lies that made the Covid-19 pandemic worse, incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and caused chaos for millions (billions) of people. I am grateful that he did not have another four years to commit more regulatory, physical, and cultural violence, and I visualize what true accountability for his actions will look like every single day.

This podcast episode by Brené Brown about words, actions, dehumanization, and accountability has really helped me sort through my feelings about the January 6th riot at the Capitol, white supremacy, and how to be in this moment.

There is much healing to do, and one piece of that healing is honestly addressing climate injustice, and that starts with re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement, which already happened on Biden’s first day in office. This is critical because in December 2015, nearly every nation on Earth met in Paris and agreed to meaningfully address climate change under the premise that the United States, one of the top three greenhouse gas polluters in the world, was committed to the Agreement, too. That premise was destroyed when Trump backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement in January 2017, his first full week of office.

Fast forward four years to January 20, 2021 — on the same day that Biden took his Oath of Office, he signed an Executive Order stating that the U.S. has re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement. Phew. Here is the Executive Order in its entirety:

ACCEPTANCE ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement, done at Paris on December 12, 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America.

Done at Washington this 20th day of January, 2021.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

This one-sentence Executive Order will have an untold impact on our collective future because the Paris Climate Agreement is the basis for International cooperation around climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. Nearly four years have passed since the U.S. participated in official Paris Climate Agreement implementation work — there are many relationships to repair and details to work through. John Kerry is Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change with a focus on international climate work and the Paris Agreement, while Gina McCarthy is tapped to be the White House National Climate Adviser and focus on climate action within U.S. borders.

I am optimistic that there will be multiple people addressing climate change at the national and international levels — it is this type of multi-layered strategy that we desperately need if we have any hope of addressing the wicked problem of climate change. Business as usual (i.e. operating under systems of white supremacy and capitalism) will continue to kill us, and I am ready to witness and participate in the massive shifts we need to keep things alive now, and for generations to come.

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Sunday Check-in

It’s Sunday morning and the crisp fall weather is creeping into my apartment through my open window. This is the time of year in Buffalo, NY where I keep the windows open as long as I can stand it, because I know that winter is coming and I will be spending way too much time closed into buildings for the next 6+ months.

It’s incredible to think about the fact that I have been back living in Western New York for 4 years now. I just returned from a 10-day trip to Austin, Texas, which was my home for my first 8 years after college. A friend once told me that the longer you live in a place, the more it becomes a part of you. I feel that with both Austin and Buffalo, which is both wonderful and difficult.

So much has been happening on the climate, environmental, and eco justice fronts, especially with Greta Thunberg and the youth-led climate strikes that have been swelling up all over the world. It feels like a larger group of people are finally waking up and saying enough is enough. It’s beautiful to see and I try my best to be a part of this movement where I can.

I used to wonder “how horrible do things have to get before people start saying enough is enough?” It appears that the combination of the melting of the Arctic, death of coral reefs, mass extinction of animals, an overwhelming public health and refugee crisis, apocalyptic hurricanes, ravaging drought, blazing wildfires, and other forms of doom are finally getting peoples’ time and attention.

I am so grateful to young people for stepping up and speaking out years before I ever had the understanding or courage to do so myself. As for the adults that are joining in for the first time, I am grateful but also confused about what took them so long. And then there are still so many people (of all ages) who continue their lives as though it is business as usual. This type of denial is delusional — the facts are in our faces.

I want to welcome everyone to this eco justice fight because we literally need everyone to change their individual lives and the systems that influence them, but it’s been hard to know what to say or how to coordinate. While all of this climate strike energy has been growing, I’ve been struggling with the grief that comes with the realization that the Earth is dying, and because we are all connected to it and each other, we are, too.

To feed my grief side, this is what I’m reading and relating to:

To feed my solutions side, this is where I go for inspiration on how to live:

Happy Sunday 🙂

 

 

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Climate Justice Activism on the World Stage

Greta Thunberg, spoke to the leaders of 190 countries attending the United Nations COP24 conference on climate change in Poland last week. Here is the text of her speech:

My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 15 years old.

I am from Sweden.

I speak on behalf of Climate Justice Now.

Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do.

But I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference.

And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to. But to do that, we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake.

You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.

Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.

Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.

The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act.

You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.

Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.

We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.

We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.

We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.

We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.

Thank you.

CNN reported that Thurnberg “all but shamed the 190 countries represented at the United Nations COP24 conference in Poland last week.

Here is a link to the video of her speech from Democracy Now!.

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My West Valley Demonstration Project SEIS Comments

I (Laura) took the above photo on the morning of April 22, 2018, from the road that you can take to drive right by the West Valley Demonstration Project in Cattaraugus County, New York. Those tanks are holding radioactive liquid nuclear waste in place while the state and federal governments decide what to do with them (not to mention the buried nuclear waste that also exists in places on the site). There are no waste facilities that have the capacity to accept this waste anywhere in the U.S., and transportation is dangerous anyway. Cleaning up this nuclear waste is an expensive, challenging problem that must be solved. The last public comment period on how to clean up the site ends on May 25, 2018.

So I decided to submit public comments on behalf of myself as a Citizen of the United States of America. Here they are:

 

May 22, 2018

Mr. Martin Krentz
West Valley Demonstration Project
U.S. Department of Energy
10282 Rock Springs Rd. AC-DOE
West Valley, NY 14171-9799
[email protected]

Re: Public Comment on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the West Valley Site

Dear Mr. Krentz:

I am a 33-year-old female environmental attorney living in the City of Buffalo, New York. I grew up in Eden, New York; moved to Hamburg, New York in middle school; studied Natural Resources (with a concentration in policy) at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; moved to Austin, Texas after graduation to be an AmeriCorps kindergarten literacy tutor for one year; studied at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin for three years; and practiced environmental law in Austin for four years. In 2015, I moved back to Western New York for family reasons, rented an apartment in the City of Buffalo, and earned a living through remote environmental consulting work (i.e. writing National Environmental Policy Act documents for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Norfolk, Virginia; the Willamette River Valley, Oregon; and Coos Bay, Oregon). I currently work as the Grant Writer for People United for Sustainable Housing, Inc. (PUSH Buffalo). I am making these comments on behalf of myself as a Citizen of the United States of America.

Although the paragraph above summarizes my professional experience, in my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, learning, and talking to people about the intersection of environmental justice, economic justice, and social justice, as well as educating people about the slightly obscure environmental law, policy, and science realm that I have been inhabiting for the past 14 years. I produce and host The Keeping Things Alive Podcast, which features my conversations with activists, business owners, healers, and anyone I cross paths with who is “keeping things alive in work and play” (here is a link to the episodes streaming online).

Last winter, I did a four-part collection of interviews on nuclear waste, with a particular focus on Western New York. As I learned more by listening to my guests, the West Valley Nuclear Facility quickly surfaced in my mind as the critical water quality, public health, and economic issue for the Western New York Region, as well as the entire Great Lakes Watershed/Bioregion, to get right. Here is a link to an article that links to all four Keeping Things Alive Podcast nuclear waste interviews.

I request that the following three Keeping Things Alive Podcast interviews get entered into the 2018 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the West Valley Site Administrative Record because they provide relevant information to the cleanup decisions that are currently being considered by the U.S. Department of Energy and N.Y.S. Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA):

  1. Lynda Schneekloth
  2. Diane D’Arrigo
  3. Joanne Hameister

My comments are not going to be long or law-heavy because this issue is straightforward: a nuclear waste dumpsite sits on unstable ground adjacent to tributaries that flow into Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the world’s available freshwater. If we want the City of Buffalo and upstate New York to remain resilient and come back from losing half of our population between 1950 and 2010 while industry left a toxic mess for someone else to deal with, the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project must be cleaned up in full.

As many other comments have stated (and are backed up with scientific studies), the West Valley site sits on unstable shale formations, which shift and collapse and move around, especially in response to large precipitation events. Precipitation events are becoming more intense and frequent as time marches on, and scientists predict that this trend will continue (check out the latest scientific reports on climate change impacts in upstate New York). An accident anywhere on the West Valley site has the potential to contaminate a tributary that flows into Lake Erie, right next to Erie County’s water supply intake. No one in the Lake Erie watershed (both in the United States and Canada) can afford a large-scale nuclear waste disaster on Lake Erie. Water is life.

The West Valley Demonstration Site must be fully cleaned up for economic and societal reasons as well. Although full cleanup is the most expensive option currently on the table, the cost of cleaning up a nuclear waste disaster in Lake Erie would be astronomical (not to mention difficult, emotional, and politically terrible). Food markets would be negatively affected. Agriculture would suffer. Tourism (boating, fishing, kayaking, concerts by the water, beaches, historical tours, etc.) would close down. Real estate development along the waterfront (or possibly the entire City of Buffalo) would come to a halt. All of the progressive social justice work being done by local nonprofits and foundations would be wiped out. People would get sick and die and be displaced because of radioactive water, land, and even air contamination. The West Valley Demonstration Site must be fully cleaned up.

Lastly, I want tell a story about my friend from high school – she and her fiancée want to buy a large piece of land in the New York Southerntier so they can live off of it as homesteaders. But she has decided not to purchase land anywhere near or downstream of the West Valley Demonstration Project because as she has become more educated on the site history and current risks, she does not accept the risks of growing and consuming radioactive plants, not to mention the constant threat of being on the front lines of a large-scale nuclear waste disaster. Cattaraugus County has lost a potential tax-paying landowner because of the West Valley Demonstration Project and its current risks.

In sum, I request that the U.S. Department of Energy and NYSERDA work together and pull together as many resources as possible to efficiently and comprehensively clean up the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project Site so it is no longer a threat to the inhabitants of the Great Lakes Watershed.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,
Laura M. Evans

 

 

If you read through my comments and want to submit your own by May 25, 2018, here is a link with all of the instructions.

 

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The Animals of Animalia

My podcast begins by saying that I interview people who are “keeping things alive in work and play,” but I more-or-less never bring up the play part.

So this is a fun post that lists out the animals depicted on each letter page of Animalia by Graeme Base. Well, not all the animals, only the ones that are obvious and “real” (not a painting, photo, or statue in the illustration). And I didn’t look any of them up (if I am missing any, which I am, please let me know!).

Continue reading “The Animals of Animalia”

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Accessory Navicular Surgery

Life has shifted for me once again, and this time I find myself living and sleeping in the “my-parents’-dining-room-turned-my-bedroom” while I recover from my first of four foot surgeries (two on each foot). I’ll get the cheesy puns out of the way now: I have a long road ahead of me, which I must travel one step at a time.

I think it’s worth explaining what type of surgery I had (removal of my accessory navicular with the Kidner procedure), because it’s possible that someone else is staring down this type of procedure and would like to hear from someone else who has gone through it.

So I’m 32, I’ve been rolling my ankles every couple of months since I was about 16, I’ve always hated to run, and I’ve always had a strong preference for supportive, non-heeled shoes. I would tell myself that I roll my ankles because I have bad balance and am clumsier than most other people. I would tell myself that I hate to run because I’m not a well-rounded athlete (swimming is my sport!). And I would tell myself that I prefer ugly, orthopedic shoes because I’m kind to my body and not willing to suffer physically to look a certain way.

But there was another factor at play that I was completely unaware of this entire time – I have (had) an extra bone in my foot! This extra bone, called an accessory navicular, was going about its unstable business completely under my radar, until I sprained my foot at that exact location last July and it never healed. I iced it, rested it, ignored it, went through six weeks of physical therapy, and ignored it some more, but the pain never went away, and so I decided to go see a foot specialist and take additional steps to stablize my feet.

The first surgery happened four days ago, and all is going well so far. I’m in a super heavy bandage/splint for the first week, and then I get a cast for the three weeks after that. I took prescription pain meds the first couple of days (which are a blur), but now I’m just taking Motrin.

The most painful and unexpected thing that happened to me is that my throat got really irritated and sore from the tube that they put down my throat during the procedure. I could not eat anything remotely spicy or acidic for the first two days (including bananas and yogurt), and it took a full four days for my throat to really get back to normal.

I’ve never gone through a “real” surgery before (wisdom teeth only) and it feels strange and scary to be so vulnerable and wounded (I can’t run away, my go-to defense!). I’m so grateful for my family and friends, who are keeping me company and taking care of me. If I did not have them in my life, I would have to pay someone to help me because there is no way I could do this by myself.

Staring down the barrel of these surgeries is really hard, but I can’t help appreciating the timing of it all. I have a job where I work remotely, I want to put more time into this website and my podcast, I am not in school, and my parents are available to help me. I catch myself saying “why didn’t you investigate your unstable ankles when you were in high school/college/law school/two years ago?” But the truth is, it would not have been a good time. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.