Book

Silent Seasons Inspiration Story

Here is my original inspiration story for Silent Seasons. It really hits at my “why” for all of the work I do, including creating this book.

Warning: this is a sad dog story.

I started writing Silent Seasons with the Book Creator program and New Degree Press last November. The first piece of writing that my development editor, Cassandra, read and reviewed for me is my book’s “inspiration story,” which didn’t make it into the book. Although I was going to include it in the Introduction, Cassandra and I agreed to leave it out because it was so sad and in the end, more disconnected from the rest of the book than I originally expected. I am saving my animal stories for the next book 🙂


One afternoon in November 2020, I said goodbye to my parents’ dog, Archer, on the kitchen floor of my parents’ house, located on a dead end road in a small town south of Buffalo, New York. Archer was a 100-pound Rottweiler in a lot of pain from the ravages of bone cancer at age 9. On this particular day, the last one he spent on this Earth, Archer was laying on my parents’ kitchen floor of dark green tiles while I lay next to him. He welcomed the warm touch of my hands, but was too weak and in too much pain to move much or get up. A large tumor had been growing on the back of his neck, at the base of his skull, for months now, and he struggled with doing much of anything anymore.

I petted him, and softly said, “It’s ok, Archer. You’re an amazing dog and don’t deserve to feel this type of pain. I will tell the world who you are, what has happened to you, who did this to you, and that so many more of our family dogs have died this way before you.”

Archer, being a dog, didn’t answer me back in words, but he always had a soulful, human way about him (especially in his eyes) and he looked at me in a knowing, resolute way. He remained calm and peaceful while I was talking, and I could feel his pain and fatigue while I petted him this one last time.

While we lay there quietly on the floor, rainbows flashed across his black fur as the sun shone light through a kitchen window at just the right angle. I noticed that it matched the new pair of black Vans with rainbow stripes down the side I was wearing.

I still wear this pair of shoes and remember my last day with Archer, and the importance of writing this book.

I’ve stayed silent about how the past six dogs in my family have died young of cancer because revisiting this truth is SO PAINFUL, but it is a big reason why I devote my life and work to environmental law, sustainability, and what to do about climate change. My family’s dogs have always been like “extended siblings” to me. Too many people and animals I love have died of cancer, and as an environmental lawyer and planner with 15 years of education and experience, I know it’s (largely) because we are all living in an environment that is steeped in low-grade (to high-grade) poisons.

I have stayed silent about what I see and what I know in my personal and professional life for too many seasons – literally years of seasons. I am writing this book to break the silence.


Silent Seasons is available as an e-book now, and a paperback within the next couple of days! Check out the “Book” page on this website for more information.

Book

Silent Seasons the E-Book is Here!

Silent Seasons

Chasing Sustainability through the Law

by: Laura Evans

e-book available for purchase on Amazon HERE for 99¢ until September 28th (then $4.99)!

e-book also available for purchase on Kobo HERE for $4.99!

Paperback arrives the first week of October 2022.

Publisher: New Degree Press

 

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Silent Seasons: Chasing Sustainability through the Law is a thought leadership book about sustainability and US environmental law based on what author Laura Evans has experienced and learned as an environmental lawyer, consultant, and nonprofit staffer living in both Western New York and Austin, Texas.

Silent Seasons combines personal stories and legal information to teach the reader:

  • How specific environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act work.
  • How the current U.S. environmental law system is organized and failing us all.
  • How you can benefit from personal sustainability lessons I learned along the way.
  • How to create a broader framework for addressing current problems like climate change, water pollution, air pollution, species extinction, and more.
  • How to make chicken noodle soup.

The stories and lessons in this book will give the reader broader perspectives and new ways of thinking about sustainability, which will empower us all to move toward a more healthy and sustainable future together.

Interview

Episode 83: 2021 Election

Hi, it’s the week of October 25, 2021 and everything is wild! The elections that are happening locally for the City of Buffalo, Erie County, Western New York, and therefore New York State are shaping up to be intense. It’s exhausting and exciting at the same time. And here is a new podcast episode, Episode 83, about it all!

I am proud to say that the Keeping Things Alive Podcast has turned into one of the longest things/projects that I have ever stuck with in my life (that and avoiding sugar since 2014 — omg sugar impacts my brain and body so much!). It’s gotten to the point where I have an annual voting episode, and here it is again! Time flies.

Just in time for the start of early voting which started this past Saturday October 23rd and runs until this Sunday October 31st, this episode is another “ballot review” episode that I put together with John Washington for this year’s election in Buffalo, NY. This is the third year in a row that we have done a review of what government positions will be on the Buffalo, NY ballot. John is a community organizer and political educator out of Buffalo, NY. He’s been on the podcast many times before and I promise that I will re-publish those episodes in the coming months – I am in the process of a re-boot for this website and the podcast, too (stay tuned for new things happening to this site and podcast in 2022!).

The purpose of this ballot review episode is help listeners become aware of what government positions are on the ballot (in the City of Buffalo, which also includes some Erie County seats and voter propositions that apply beyond City of Buffalo residents), and how they may affect an average person’s life. We change it up this year and discuss particular candidates and how we feel about them.

I know that many people fear change, but considering the devastating physical changes that are happening to our planet and all people living on it (mostly due to thoughtless industrialization and greed), the type of change and leadership that India Walton brings to the table is needed in the City of Buffalo and everywhere, like yesterday. I also support Kimberly Beaty to be the Erie County Sheriff. This podcast has covered the human rights violations that continue to take place within the Erie County Holding Center and jail system for years – again, time for actual, accountable leadership and change.

Here is a link to Episode 83, John Washington’s 2021 Ballot Review, streaming on SoundCloud (you can also get it on your favorite podcast player app, Spotify, Google Play, and more). Enjoy!

Here is the website of the Erie County Board of Elections.

Here is the website of the New York Working Family’s Party.

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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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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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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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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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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.