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Showing posts from August, 2017

Somerville Climate Forward working group meeting

Today, I attended the first meeting for Somerville Climate Forward’s Community & Economic Development working group. It was an engaged group and we had more questions for the city than we had new ideas for them. But I think it stimulated a lot good thinking on how Somerville might approach economic development differently. And we put a lot of emphasis on equity, the impact of Somerville’s climate action plan on vulnerable populations. [ Edit: Sorry, this posted one day late. ]

Don't be evil

The New York Times published some interesting news today. See if you can follow: Google provides a lot of funding ($21 million) to the New America Foundation , a well-regarded think tank that does thoughtful work. One of its projects is the Open Markets initiative, which legitimately examines the market dominance of telecom and tech giants. The Open Markets initiative published commentary supporting the EU’s $2.7 billion fine against Google for monopolistic behavior. Google chair Eric Schmidt complains to New America, so New America lets its entire Open Markets team go. (New America explains that they let the team go not because of a single commentary, but rather because of its leaders “repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality.” Whatever.) This seems pretty straightforward. If I funded an organization, I’d be miffed if that same organization were critical of me and I would probably threaten not to fund it any more. But it’s prob

Climate Reality local chapter

The Climate Reality Project is looking to start local chapters around the country, to catalyze more action at the local and state levels. Today, I joined a conference call with two other local Climate Reality Leaders and national campaign leadership to talk about a Greater Boston chapter. Spoiler alert: It’s going to happen.

More Hurricane Harvey Relief

Hurricane Harvey is now being described as a 1-in-800-years event. I made a small donation to the American Red Cross on Friday. Today, I doubled it. Recovery is expected to cost more than that from Hurricane Katrina. My contribution might be insignificant but it’s not meaningless.

Arctic drilling

The thawing Arctic was once thought to represent a proverbial gold mine for oil drillers, with an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil reserves yet to be tapped. That’s 16% of the world’s undiscovered reserves. But the oil industry has backed away from the region, principally due to the economics of operating in the region. That, and of course, US sanctions on working with Russia on joint ventures in the region. Even Exxon, whose former CEO is Secretary of State, was denied a waiver from those sanctions. But Norway continues its oil exploration in the Arctic, in defiance of the country’s green reputation as defenders of the environment. Today, I signed a Greenpeace petition , which it will submit to the country’s Supreme Court as further evidence that Norway’s drilling would be in contrivance of its own environmental pledges.

Serving in the military

If you’re willing and able to serve our country’s military, do it. There are high standards both physically and mentally. If you can pass them, then I honor your service. That’s way I don’t really understand the recent ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. It’s not as if there have been any problems, at least that I’m aware. Today, I signed an ACLU petition opposing the action.

Hurricane Harvey relief

Seemingly out of nowhere, Hurricane Harvey changed from tropical depression to tropical storm to Category 4 hurricane. And it’s due to make landfall today in Southeastern Texas as the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental US in over decade. Some meteorologists estimate 35″+ of rain for some areas, because the storm is expected to stall along the coast. While the wind will be powerful and will probably spawn tornados, the flooding could ultimately cause more damage. Today, I donated to the Red Cross of Central and South Texas . They’re going to need every bit of help they can get. [ Edit: This apparently did not post properly on Friday, August 25. Sorry about that. ]

National Association of Rail Passengers

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Trains get a bad rap in the United States. In many parts of the world, they’re the most effective means of inter-city transportation, and they’re well regarded by the population. In the US, by contrast, they’re an ugly step-child of transit. As a result, Amtrak, the quasi-national inter-city rail service operator, perennially struggles from a financial standpoint. Funding from Congress is a constant battle, partly because ridership is very uneven across the country. For me, rail is important. It’s a comfortable way to travel and it’s better from an emissions standpoint than driving or air travel. Much better. Luckily, in Boston, the rail service to New York is great. Today, I signed up for a membership with the National Association of Rail Professionals , which is an organization advocating for a world class train system in the US. H/t to Mike for letting me know about the Amtrak discount and bonus mileage deal , which expires August 31 for an added bonus.    

Climate Reality presentation

Today, I gave my first version of the Climate Reality Project presentation, for an audience of a dozen friends at Workbar Boston. I modified the deck for Boston and added a few notes at the end about what I’m personally doing to address climate change (many things of which I’ve blogged about here). It went pretty well, all in all. I trimmed down the presentation from 400 slides down to about 250. I think it clearly needs to go down by another 50 or so, if not more, because I ran a little over an hour.

Climate actions

Today, I took three actions on climate. First, I sent an email introducing myself to fellow members of my Somerville Climate Forward working group, in an effort to make our session next week more efficient. I hope fellow members will follow suit. Second, I had an installer for an air source heat pump system tour the house. He’s actually the second installer; I’m still waiting on a bid from the first. This system isn’t really needed from a comfort point of view, but it would be great to get more heat from renewable electricity rather than from my current oil fired furnace. Lastly, I finished prepping for a climate presentation tomorrow. More on that in a day…

Climate change vulnerability study

I hope you’re not tired of me talking Somerville’s climate change efforts. Today, I attended a public presentation of Somerville’s climate vulnerability study. I won’t bore you with details – there are a lot of them. You can read the full report here . Suffice to say the City has identified nine priorities, and they seem like sensible ones: PRIORITY 1: Precipitation-based flooding will impact much more of Somerville than coastal flooding. PRIORITY 2: Sea level rise and storm surge flooding associated with the flanking of the Amelia Earhart Dam may occur as early as 2035 if significant investment in infrastructure improvements is not made. PRIORITY 3: The Schrafft Center flood pathway in Boston, north of Sullivan Square, is of immediate concern to Somerville. It has the potential to flood under a present-day extreme event. PRIORITY 4: The Fire Department Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center and the Police Department Headquarters are both vulnerable to flooding, which presents si

Save Democracy! With conference calls?

The conditions that led to Charlottesville put in sharp relief how the dark corners of the Internet have enabled dangerous fringe elements thrive. Yes, many tech firms took action (finally) this week, divorcing themselves from the faux-purity of free-speech arguments and taking a stand against extremist racism that led to a woman’s murder in Charlottesville. But there are darker spaces that are more difficult patrol. I don’t spend time on 4chan or even reddit for that matter, so I don’t really understand the culture there. I’d like to learn more. Today, I supported a Kickstarter project, from the creator of the Ctrl Alt Right Delete newsletter . (Get it?) Melissa Ryan intends to hold a series of conference calls during which she’ll facilitate conversations with experts on the “alt-right.” Here’s what’s planned: Wednesday, September 12, 1 PM EDT Bots & Computational Propaganda  Wednesday, September 26, 1 PM EDT Conspiracy Theories & Right Wing Media  Wednesday, October 10, 1 PM

Counter-protest

Yesterday, I wrote about my donation  pledge , to raise funds for 10 different organizations to oppose the “free speech” rally planned for Boston Common today. That, of course, is a code word for white supremacists like the ones in Charlottesville last weekend. Today, I went to the counter-protest, along with tens of thousands of others. Fewer than 50 white supremacists showed up and they were protected from counter-protests by a barricaded neutral zone filled with cops. After about 45 minutes, they gave up and exited. A victory of sorts, but I don’t like to think about why this kind of counter-protest is still needed in this day and age.

Pledge against hate

Tomorrow, on Boston Common, there will be a “free speech” rally, which is a code word for white supremacists like the ones in Charlottesville last weekend. The organizers were issued a license for 100 people. The Boston Globe estimates 20,000 to 30,000 counter-protesters will arrive. I’ll be among them. Today, I made an additional pledge , which will turn into a $1/donation per white supremacist who shows up. The funds will be donated to 10 different organizations, including  Life After Hate , which is an organization that tries to counsel extremists who want to change their lifestyle. I love how cheeky the campaign is, modeled after one in Germany that Vice featured a few years ago. [Edit: The actual count was just 50 Nazis.]

A survey from the Governor

Today, I responded to a survey from Governor Baker’s office, asking for input on policy priorities. Among the specific priorities he asked about, I focused on fixing the MBTA, which is the region’s creaking mass transit system. But I added an additional request. Baker re-affirmed the state’s commitment to the Paris climate accord in June, which I thanked him for. I asked him to focus on specific policies that would help the state live up to those commitments.

Conscious Capitalism Boston strategy retreat

Today, I spent the whole day with the leadership team of the Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter. We worked through the beginnings of a strategic plan that will focus on inspiring people to become agents of change around conscious capitalism within their own organizations. Looking forward to the coming year!

Asian Americans against white supremacy

From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, white supremacy and nativism is deeply intertwined with the Asian American experience. It was palpable even growing up in a middle-class suburb of the Northeast. Which makes reading about the modern day neo-Nazi march through Charlottesville this past weekend very personal for me. Today, I pledged  support with this Asian Americans Advancing Justice call to action: We call on all Asian Americans to join us in defending our vision of democracy – one where we protect the vulnerable amongst us, resist efforts to erode our hard-won rights and protections, and fight to advance progress for all marginalized communities. We pledge to challenge rising hate, to fight the President’s Muslim bans, to oppose the RAISE Act and the gutting of affirmative action, to fight deportations and defend DACA, to champion health care for all, and to ensure all voters can cast their ballots. We cannot do this alone, an

Climate coalition Somerville

So I’ve written about a coalition of climate change activist groups in Somerville, bringing together Fossil Free Somerville, Mothers Out Front, Somerville Climate Action, Our Revolution and Indivisible Somerville, among others. Today, I went to a monthly meeting for the coalition, representing Indivisible Somerville. Wouldn’t you know one of the items on the agenda was to come up with a name for our loose coalition. I guess you could call it a rebranding, from Somerville Climate Coalition to Climate Coalition Somerville. Okay, so that was really a postscript to the agenda. It was a pretty busy meeting overall. And Bob Massie was there to contribute. Bob is a former Executive Director for Ceres and co-founder of Global Reporting Initiative, two important climate change organizations, among other things. He’s also running for Governor of Massachusetts in 2018. It was nice to have his input on a few things, although he’s clearly also in campaign mode.

Charlottesville

What began as a rally of “white nationalists” (aka neo-Nazis) in a city park yesterday spun way, way out of control. A 32-year-old woman died after a Nazi sympathizer drove a car into the crowd, injuring a dozen others. As the New York Times  led its article , “Heather D. Heyer died standing up for what she believed in.” What she believed in should have been self-evident: that all people in this nation are created equal, that they are endowed by with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, that is enshrined in our nation’s Declaration of Independence. We are moving farther from those values today. Today, I gave to a victim relief fund for the victims of the Charlottesville terrorist attack. It won’t be my last response to this tragedy. Heather Heyer’s Facebook cover photo read, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” I, for one, am paying attention.

Climate change soundtrack

Yes, you read that right: a climate change soundtrack. Today, I gave to this Kickstarter project , which is a collaboration between the Natural Resource Defense Council and an artist collective known as Luftwerk. Here's what it's all about: White Wanderer , an immersive public art installation by Luftwerk, takes inspiration from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, which broke off into the Wendell Sea in July 2017. Using real life recordings of the sounds and frequencies of melting and moving glaciers, the artists will create a haunting and contemplative soundtrack of climate change few have heard.  These incredible glacier sounds will accompany a scaled representation of the 120-mile crack in the Larsen C ice shelf, which will be positioned directly onto the building fa├žade at 2 N. Riverside Plaza in Chicago to help people imagine the scale and scope of climate change. Each day, 30,000 people pass through the plaza, making it an ideal location for a public art installation. I

Voter Choice Massachusetts

Back in May, I went to a Beer Election , in which we learned how ranked choice voting works. As I explained back then: Ranked choice voting is a simple fix, in which you vote for your top choice, as usual, along with your #2, #3, etc. If no one gets a majority, the bottom vote getter is eliminated and his or her #2 votes get added to the tally. And so on, until someone gets a majority. And it’s not a pipe dream. A number of cities across the country use it. And Maine just passed a resolution to use it for state-wide elections.  Voter Choice Massachusetts is continuing to build momentum behind a campaign to change elections in the state. Today, I supported Voter Choice Massachusetts in a small way. A donor has offered to match every new Facebook like for Voter Choice Massachusetts with a $1, through August 31. So I went ahead and liked Voter Choice Massachusetts .

Prospect Hill Tower

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Today, I visited atop three in my tour of Somerville landmarks: The Prospect Hill Tower. Prospect Hill was the site of a Revolutionary War lookout point, with views across Boston Harbor and up the Charles River. It’s also where the first American flag was flown, on January 1, 1776, by the order of George Washington. Later, it was a muster point for the Civil War. You can only climb the tower a couple times a year, on docent led tours. It’s worth it; the views are awesome.

Somerville Commission on Energy and Climate Change

Somerville has a number of commissions, which are mechanisms for cities to advise on important issues. One such committee is the Commission on Energy and Climate Change , which holds monthly meetings. Today, I went to a monthly commission meeting. Packed agenda going over the Somerville Climate Forward plan, the air source heat pump initiative, pending state regulation–and a number of other things I’ve writing about. Full house, too. One commissioner told me the meetingsuse story be empty, but now they run out of space regularly.

Latest climate science report

The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft federal climate change report, a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated. As the New York Times reported, some scientists are fearful that the report will not be officially released by the government. It’s quite blunt in its assessment, apparently: “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans.” Today, I signed a petition on the White House’s own WeThePeople site , urging the government to release the report in its current form, the one peer reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences.

Sierra Club

There are days when I let my civic act slip until late in the day. To be clear, I spent time moderating Buy Nothing Somerville and I read up on Arnold Schwarzenegger's new digital environmental legislative playbook . I thought about a joining in a forest planting campaign of sorts and I monitored updates from Indivisible Somerville . I spent some time on a presentation I'm giving later this month with Climate Reality Project material and about a round table I'm likely moderating for Conscious Capitalism's Boston chapter in September. But it's 10pm and I still haven't done anything that actually qualifies as a civic act, even though my civic activities haven't slipped at all. Today, I joined the Sierra Club as a member, because of their ceaseless citizen-based advocacy and lobbying efforts. I've been following their guidance and suggested activism for some time now any way.

Restoring transparency to the executive branch

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” — Louis Brandeis One hallmark of a functioning democracy is the transparency in its operations. It’s the only way to sustain public trust in elected officials. Indeed, transparency has declined in executive branch operations, and public trust has declined with it. Today, I wrote a card to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, laying out the case for restoring daily press briefings. I want to believe that the executive branch is working in some way for the benefit the American people. Restoring the tradition of responding daily to basic questions from the press would be a solid first step in convincing me.

Peabody Essex Museum

Today, I made a donation to the Peabody Essex Museum . The Peabody Essex is a hidden gem, located in Salem, Massachusetts. If you're not familiar with it, read the Wikipedia page ; it actually has an interesting history. It's expanding right now, and will soon join the ranks of the 10 largest museums in the US. The real draw is the Yu Yin Tang house. The house was home for eight generations of the Huang family in Huizhou, China. It was painstakingly dismantled and reassembled in the museum, opening up in 2003. Today, I also visited the house for the second time. It was actually more interesting to me this time, perhaps because we were the first ones in and could take our time.

Coalfield Development Corporation

One project featured in From the Ashes, the documentary  about the rise and fall of the coal industry, is the Coalfield Development Corporation . Coalfield Development is a trying to revitalize struggling Appalachian towns with economic development programs outside of the coal industry. In From the Ashes, for example, they featured farming program to retrain miners with farming skills. But that’s just one program. Coalfield Development is a whole family of social enterprises working in the region with on-the-job training, professional certifications, property redevelopment and business incubation. Today, I gave to Coalfield Development Corporation as part of the From the Ashes campaign . The transformation of our energy system away from coal creates winners and losers. This is a way to help the miners and their communities.

Gerrymandering campaign

This summer, Tufts University hosted the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group , a team of mathematicians that is studying the applications of geometry and computing to US redistricting — aka gerrymandering. In brief, gerrymandering means re-drawing political district’s geographic borders in order to ensure a political goal. Here’s more about it from the Washington Post . But suffice to say it’s terrible for democracy and both political parties pursue it with zeal when it suits them. Sadly, I don’t have the expertise to help that group, but I can help fight gerrymandering in other ways. Today, I donated to a Crowdpac campaign to support Common Cause, a nonprofit focused on promoting open, honest and accountable government. Common Cause is involved in a key legal review. In January, a federal judge ruled that Wisconsin would have to re-draw its district borders to less blatantly favor one party over the other. The legislature in Wisconsin has appealed to the Supreme Court. Common C

Healthy Texas Women?

In June, Texas submitted an application to Medicaid to extend eligibility for family planning services, at no cost, to low-income women who don’t have health coverage. It’s called the “Healthy Texas Women” program. Sounds like a good thing, right? It’s important to remember context here. Texas had cut two-thirds of the state’s family planning budget and ended state funding to Planned Parenthood in 2011. “Healthy Texas Women” restores some of those services, but wouldn’t restore Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide services in the state. Planned Parenthood provides so many vital primary health care services to vulnerable women. Texas has reported that 30,000 fewer women have received birth control, cancer screenings, and other care as a result of its policies. These policies are hardest on people who already face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes. Now Texas lawmakers are looking for federal money

The cool effect

There's a lot of hot air out there when it comes to carbon emissions reductions projects. So it helps to have credible and thorough analysts to help. Today, I gave to a rather unique methane recovery project, which was vetted by the Cool Effect . This one might be controversial to some, but I had no qualms about it. Here's what the Cool Effect says: Colorado is home to an abundance of coal. When coal emerges from the ground and creates a seam, methane escapes into our atmosphere. While conventional methods are unable to capture this leakage, the Southern Ute tribe found a genius solution. Though they don’t mine any of the coal on their land, they did team up with scientists to use a system of wells to naturally capture the methane and funnel it to existing gas pipelines. Methane leakage is a pretty serious problem, estimated to have 86 times the impact of carbon dioxide. The method is a proven success. The coal mines that are being tapped here already exist, so we're not t