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Paris Shame and Motivation

Yesterday the President of the United States announced his decision to withdraw from the international Paris Climate Agreement. I knew it was coming and really, all of his actions on climate and the environment indicate that he has been withdrawing from the Agreement since he took office in January.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I was deeply upset and ashamed of my country when the news officially broke yesterday at 3:00pm. The United States is supposed to be a world leader of innovation and responding to the difficulties of the times, but instead, our government has been hijacked by the fossil fuel industry and pure greed. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is devastating for human rights and international diplomacy.

President Macron of France has made a tempting offer for Americans who care about climate action to come to France and work with them to “make the planet great again.” I would love to do that in theory, but I still want to try to help in the U.S., which remains the largest emitter of carbon pollution in the world. I’m also encouraged that state governments are stepping up to the plate and deciding to remain in the Paris Agreement within their borders. I’m grateful that New York, my home state, is one of them.

Although I did do some grieving yesterday and spent a fair amount of time angry and ashamed, this is ultimately one more action from the current U.S. Administration (and the greedy fossil fuel industry) that motivates me to work even harder on my passion for “keeping things alive.”

I’ll leave this post with my favorite song, “Disparate Youth” by Santigold, which keeps me going when the world seems too difficult:

 

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Focus

One of my favorite websites is Brain Pickings, and today the creator, Maria Popova, showcased a beautiful poster by Wendy MacNaughton and Courtney E. Martin that resonates with me during these chaotic political times. As I struggle to figure out what role I play in the international progressive movement that is building and changing every day, I keep coming back to writing, interviewing, and creating whatever needs to be created at the moment (a meal, garden, email, gift, etc.).  I’ll let the poster speak for itself:

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Modified Gardening

This is the fourth year that I’ve had a square-foot garden.  It’s a four-foot-by-six-foot raised bed vegetable and herb garden that provides me with fresh food from May through November. The great part about square-foot gardening is that you can grown a lot of food in a concentrated area, so there is less weeding, less watering, and more production.  I also happen to think that it looks beautiful.

My mom occasionally reminds me that as a child being forced to weed her garden, I swore that when I grew up, I would “never own a single plant.”  I’ve changed 🙂

A number of the herbs that I planted last year (regular chive, garlic chive, oregano, sage, thyme, parsley, and lemon balm) survived the winter and are currently producing.  It’s incredible how much these plants keep giving, without requiring much attention on my part.  Free delicious food!

There is empty space in my garden to plant new sources of food for this year, and I have to decide what I want.  The problem is that I’m currently in a boot and not very mobile.  In light of my physical limitations, I’ve decided to go with greens.  They require a bit less water (than say tomatoes) and I had a lot of luck with them last year.  So about two weeks ago, my mom and I planted tiny seeds of lettuce, spinach, and an “Asian greens mix.”  Unfortunately I don’t remember where I planted what (pro tip: draw a map or add labels as you plant seeds), so it’s going to be a surprise!

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April Reflections

I didn’t write any new posts this month, although I did update my “Keeping Things Alive Podcast” post a number of times because I finally shared the first six episodes that I have been dreaming up and putting together for a long time now.  It’s amazing to me that I thought of the phrase “keeping things alive” and knew it was the website for me all the way back in Fall 2013.  So much has happened in my life since then, and yet “keeping things alive” continues to be the best way to describe my greatest passion and what I want to do with my life’s work.

Being able to share the Keeping Things Alive Podcast with the world (that has an Internet connection) is exciting and scary.  I’m proud of the interviews and hope that they inspire others to take personal responsibility for making their corner of the world a better place.  Although the interviews showcase incredibly different backgrounds and perspectives, everyone wants to move in the same direction — towards a healthier and better future for all.  I want people to keep listening to the podcast, but even if they don’t, the entire project has been worth it because I learned how to create a podcast, how to be a better interviewer, how to correct a few odd speech habits, and most important, I deepened relationships with people who are doing work that I care about.

I’ve been in a boot and on crutches this entire month because I found out I have an extra bone in my foot (an “accessory navicular” — sounds so fashionable), which has prevented an old ankle sprain from healing.  Being immobile has been incredibly challenging because I walk for exercise and sanity, I live alone with my dog in a second floor apartment, and I’ve discovered that it’s really difficult for me to ask for help.  This month of immobility has been a lesson in asking for help.  I’m grateful that I read Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, a few months ago because it helped me value the connection that comes from asking and receiving help from others.  I’m still struggling with asking my neighbor to walk my dog, my friend to buy me groceries, and my mom to do my laundry, but it’s getting easier and my relationships are stronger and better for it.

April is my favorite month because it’s Earth Day, my birthday, and the start of real spring weather (Buffalonians coming out of hibernation is real!).  April 2017 was particularly full of “environmental energy” because of the Trump Administration’s dangerous disregard for our global reality and the resulting protest marches.  The March for Science happened on Earth Day, while the Peoples’ Climate March happened yesterday.  I had been planning on going to the Climate March for months, but my ankle kept me from making the bus trip to DC.  Missing this march was definitely disappointing, but probably for the best.  After all, I completed so much more website and podcast work than I would have otherwise.

I have a suspicion that my ankle injury is a blessing in disguise.

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Trump is Working to Eliminate Clean Water Rule

This just came out: Trump is rolling back protections under the Clean Water Rule, which I summarized here at FedGreen.

It makes sense for the Trump Business(es) to want to get rid of the Clean Water Rule – requiring federal permits for construction around smaller bodies of water makes development more expensive because the developer must pay for permitting and consultants and maybe even lawyers to make sure they are complying with the law. 

And Trump is, among other things, a developer.

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Science, Religion, & Law

I’ve been reading a very interesting (but terrifying) book off-and-on since I received it as a gift for Christmas. It’s called Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age by Mary Christina Wood.  The point is that modern environmental law is broken and is hurting us, so we need a new way of regulating natural resources that protects life on Earth (her idea is to switch back to to the Public Trust Doctrine).

I flipped to a page and landed on this quote regarding the latest partnership between science, religion, and law:

A striking environmental partnership has formed between scientists and the religious community . . . . [Furthermore] religion and law can find powerful synergy on behalf of ecological protection when secular leaders voice a legal mandate recognized also as a spiritual command by all major religions.  Remarkably, the world’s major religions appear to observe a sacred trusteeship that, in faith terms, mirrors the legal iteration of the public trust.  Perhaps this commonality should not be surprising, given that the public trust traces back to natural law that remains deeply infused with religious, spiritual, and moral tradition springing from the basic intuition of humankind.

I am excited to see a faith-based coalition for climate action form in my hometown of Buffalo, New York.  The Climate Justice Coalition has an Interfaith Climate Group where many different religions meet to talk about what actions they can take in the age of climate change.  When they were first starting the coalition, various faith representatives presented their views on humankind’s responsibility to take care of the Earth, and now the group is working on specific action steps to walk on that path: (1) using less resources at their places of worship, (2) living more simple lives, (3) lobbying for their values, and (4) investing/divesting.  It’s a great initiative and I believe that their efforts can and should be replicated elsewhere.

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Taking Action Outside of Government

The news of Trump rolling back environmental protections is hard for me to take in, although I knew it was all coming from the moment I heard the election results. Despite my anger and grief that hits me in occasional waves, I see the current political landscape as an opportunity for people to wake up and realize that if they want something done, it will happen faster if they organize and do it themselves. It’s time to take real, concrete action outside of government.

Yesterday I found a perfect example of action outside of government being put into practice: this past weekend, 300 union plumbers installed water filters in the faucets of Flint, Michigan residents. Members of Plumbers Union International donated the supplies and organized the volunteer effort. Here is the media alert.

It would have been great for Federal, state, and local governments to use their money and power to fix the Flint lead crisis by now (it started in 2014!), but here we are. So thank you Plumbers Union International for using your skills to help others on a Saturday. I plan to follow your example of taking action outside of government as often as possible.

 

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Go Time

The Trump presidency hits me in waves. Right now I’m angry because I just found out that Trump signed a “document” clearing the way for the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline.

So reckless. So dangerous. Such a slap in the face to humanity.

I’m so angry.

So right now I’m listening to “Splinter” by Ani DiFranco on repeat. Here are the amazing lyrics:

Something about this landscape just don’t feel right
Hyper air-conditioned and lit up all night

Like we just gotta see how comfortable comfortable can get
Like we can’t even bring ourselves to sweat

Sweat in the summer, shiver in the winter
Just enough to know that we’re alive
Watch out for that TV, it’s full of splinters
And remember you can always go outside
Really, really, really far outside

And some might call it conservation
And some might call it common sense
And maybe it’s because I am Libra
But I say balance balance balance balance
I say balance balance balance balance

Who put all this stuff in my apartment?
Who put all this ice in my drink?
Who put the poison in the atmosphere?
Who put the poison in the way I think?

O women, won’t you be our windows
Women who bleed and bleed and bleed
Women who swim with the tide, women who change when the wind blows
Show us we are connected to everything
Show us we are not separate from everything

So here’s to the trials of living
Here’s to feeling our share of pain
All the way from childbirth to dying
Here’s to being connected to everything
Here’s to staying connected to everything

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Super Basic Administrative Law

I’ve spent a large chunk of my life studying and working within the environmental law realm, which is a subset of administrative law.

Have I lost you yet? I know this stuff is dense and the terminology sucks. Bear with me – I’ll make it short. Knowing the bare-bone basics of administrative law is important for understanding the U.S.

The U.S. government has three branches (Judicial, Legislative, and Executive), and the Executive Branch is more than just the President. The Executive Branch is also made up of many agencies, like the Department of Justice, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and many more.

Federal agencies further their missions by interpreting the laws that are passed by Congress (Legislative Branch) to make their own rules and regulations. This process of Executive Branch agencies interpreting the laws passed by Congress to make rules and enforce them is what administrative law is all about. It creates a ton of government policy and it all happens outside of elections and the Congressional “how a bill becomes a law” process.

For example, Congress passed the original version of the Clean Air Act in the 1960’s, and then made major changes to it in 1970, 1977, and 1990. But other than that, all of the Clean Air Act rules that power plants, car manufacturers, and other sources of air pollution must follow have been created and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, with oversight by the courts (Judicial Branch). All of Obama’s climate change policy has occurred within the administrative law process.

The last layer I will add on today: although the agency must follow the purpose of the law they are charged with interpreting, the President, as the head of the Executive Branch, appoints the heads of the agencies. Therefore, the President has significant influence on what actions the agency takes during his term.