Showing posts from September, 2017

Travel offsets for September

Last week, I spent a few days in Williamsburg, Virginia for work. Using this handy calculator , those flights add up to 0.23 metric tons (507 pounds) of CO2. That seems like a lot for a short hop! Today, as usual, I purchased offsets for that travel, through Terrapass .

Mass Save energy assessment

We’ve made a lot of improvements to our home from an energy efficiency perspective, since we bought it a dozen years ago. We’ve insulated all the walls that we opened up (which is most of them), changed most of our lighting to LED and replaced most of our appliances, for example. But there are a few more details to take care of, for example, an old washer in the basement, one uninsulated wall and potentially some additional attic insulation to bring things back up to the ever-changing building code. Today, I had the Mass Save Energy Assessment. Mass Save is a collaborative of Massachusetts’ natural gas and electric utilities and they arrange for these assessments to provide suggestions for energy efficiency. They also offer financing programs, which I’ll be taking advantage of for my air source heat pump, and big rebates on new equipment. Looks like I’ll be getting a new thermostat and a new washer, for example, because the rebates are too enticing.

Conscious Capitalism Boston planning session

Today, my volunteer work with the Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter continued, with a planning call for the Programming Committee, which I’ll now be chairing. We haven’t gotten into our 2018 plans yet, but we have one more event in 2017 to plan, hoping to squeeze it into the fourth quarter of 2017. Stay tuned…

Community Cooks

There are many human services agencies out there, all trying to support vulnerable, at-risk populations. From domestic violence shelters to homeless agencies to transitional housing to foster care to addiction services, they all do great work. And they all need one support. One support service is Community Cooks , which is an agency that partners with human services agencies and connects them with people who can provide a key resource: food. (Bet you thought I was going to say “money.”) Volunteers get together in teams to make home cooked meals, which are then distributed by Community Cooks to human services agencies. Today, I cooked succotash for 20 people, to be distributed by Community Cooks tomorrow, as part of a Workbar team. We’ll be doing this monthly, and we’ll be rotating dishes, so perhaps next time it’ll be a pasta or a salad for me to prepare. I have admit, I sampled the succotash and it was awesome.

Citizens Climate Lobby

I learn about new climate-related advocacy and activism groups quite frequently. Many are duplicative, of course, and many are a bit all over map in terms of the issues they try to address. Not so for the Citizens Climate Lobby . Citizens Climate Lobby is singularly focused on legislation for carbon pricing, which is possibly the best lever to transform the economy by simply internalizing the cost of carbon emissions. They’re involved in legislation on both federal and state levels. Today, I sat in on a talk by James Booth, from the Citizens Climate Lobby Metro-West chapter. (It’s all volunteer-driven on the chapter level.) It was great to hear more specifics about their particular proposal, which combines a carbon fee with a 100% per capita rebate to households with a border adjustment tax. But it was equally valuable to discuss with him the Massachusetts bills that are currently in committee. I subsequently signed up with the Citizens Climate Lobby, which I’ll get involved with when

Davis Square neighborhood plan

Today, I went to a City of Somerville neighborhood meeting for Davis Square, to participate in the city’s planning process for the area. I estimate around 75 people showed up and there was a facilitated “unconference” style process to break into small discussion groups on topics of interest. I joined a group that discussed how citizens can  take the driver’s seat back from developers. We were pretty harsh; I hope the city got something out of the process. [ Edit: posting this a day late. ]

Free credit freeze

The Equifax hack has put hundreds of millions of people at risk of identity theft. Equifax’s competitors, Transunion and Experian, stand to gain a lot of business. They will also make a windfall on people freezing their credit in reaction to the Equifax hack. The Identity Theft Resource Center’s petition is asking all three major credit to offer free credit freezes. Today, I signed that  petition , which will be sent to all three CEOs of credit agencies, asking them to do the right thing for consumers who have been harmed by one agency’s negligence.

End plastic pollution

Today, I added my name to a Greenpeace campaign to reach out to the leadership of major corporations and convince them to end plastic pollution. Let’s face it, packaging waste is fouling our oceans, waterways and coasts, and these leaders are in the best position to reduce that waste by changing their practices. To be sure, every consumer has just as large of a role to play, and I try to hard to live up to that, staying away from things like bottled water, plastic store bags and other unnecessary packaging. This is a continuation of yesterday’s theme, in which I became a citizen of the Trash Isles to advocate for reducing waste, in particular, plastic waste.

Citizen of the Trash Isles

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a trash vortex into which tons of plastic and other waste has gathered. We’re not talking about a dumpster worth of trash — the patch is as large as a decent size country: France. Some enterprising activists figured out that the France-size mound of trash could actually qualify as a country, under the United Nations’ rules. So they teamed up with environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation, and filed an application to the UN to become the 196th country in the world. The best part is that the first citizen is, wait for it, Al Gore . Today, I signed a petition  asking the United Nations Secretary-General to recognize the Trash Isles as a sovereign nation. The real goal of course is not to colonize the garbage patch and raise an army, but rather to raise awareness about the issue and to raise funds to clean it up. In other words, it’s a country that ultimately doesn’t want to exist.

Indivisible Somerville environment meeting

Today, I went to the biweekly Indivisible Somerville energy and environment lab meeting. Good agenda today, planning some actions later in the Fall. There are really only four of us but we think we can activate a much larger IS community.

Preliminary election 2017

Today, I voted in Somerville’s preliminary election. It’s not a presidential election year, so this election has a low profile. Very low. In my Somerville ward, there are no alderman or school board committee members on the ballot for the preliminary election (which is designed to get the number of candidates down to two for the general election in November). There was only a mayoral decision. To be sure, local elections can turn on a single vote, so turnout is important. More importantly, voting is a right and a privilege. I choose to honor that privilege to its fullest extent.

Climate coalition of Somerville - Sept 2017

Today, I went to the monthly meeting of the Climate Coalition Somerville, representing Indivisible Somerville. Long discussions of Somerville Climate Forward experiences and of some open space zoning brainstorms. Actually, great brainstorming that led to some new ideas to bring city Alderman into the conversation. 

Celebrating the Brattle Theatre's great supporters

Two years ago, I stepped down as board president of the Brattle Film Foundation, which operates the historic Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, after serving the maximum term of six years. But I remain involved as a volunteer, because the theater means so much to me. Indeed I’m a little embarrassed that volunteering for the Brattle hasn’t figured more highly in One Civic Act. My work on the board has involved some of the most rewarding moments of my life and I fully intend to keep that going. The Brattle’s board has included some fantastic individuals and I’ve learned from each and every one of them. Today, I thanked one of them for a major donation she made recently. And I also promised to pull together a board alumni get together, so we can celebrate our successes together.

Boston Mayoral debate

Those in positions of power sometimes feel threatened by debate. They shouldn’t. Healthy intellectual discourse makes democracy stronger. Debate is not just about challenging power structures, it’s about making policies better. That’s because policies are more robust when they’re conceived with multiple perspectives from different stakeholders. Today, I signed a petition to ask Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to engage in a public debate in advance of the preliminary election on September 26. He’s promised to take part in the debate, yet nothing has been scheduled.

I left my heart in Texas (a fundraiser)

Actually, I’ve never been to Texas. Can you believe that? But that doesn’t mean I can’t support a city that’s struggling to recover from the most devastating hurricane in US history. I made a donation a week ago. Today, I attended my friend Devin’s fundraiser, called  I Left My Heart in Texas . He and his sister “donated” their birthdays to raise funds for Texas.

3 Steps to Waging a More Effective Activist Movement

I’m a rank amateur when it comes to activism. So when I saw an evening workshop from an experienced hand titled “3 Steps to Waging a More Effective Activist Movement,” I immediately signed up. Today, I went over to the workshop. But there didn’t was no workshop to be found and nobody there knew anything about it. I double-checked the time and location. And there was no way to contact the organizer. I guess the first step to waging a more effective activist movement is to be prepared for poor organization. #fail

Somerville Commission meeting, Sept 2017 edition

Today, I attended the monthly meeting of the Somerville Commussion on Energy and Climate Change. The prime part of the agenda was the Somerville Climate Forward consultants presenting on how their development of solutions is progressing. Very interesting to mostly be a fly on the wall, and there were some good points to bring back to my working group.

Conscious conversation on culture

Many in business know there’s truth behind the old maxim that “culture trumps strategy.” But few leaders know how to put it in practice.  Today, I helped to facilitate a Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter discussion on culture. We had two speakers, the founders of Boloco and Next Jump, who each told stories of how important culture is to their organizations, and how intentional they are in orchestrating that culture. But the best part of our format is the small group discussions. We had our 50 attendees break into four groups and had small discussions about culture in their organizations, large and small. Wow. Great candor and interesting ideas. The best thing is to get feedback from people who told us they were going to take these ideas to work the next day. That’s why we are doing these meetings, so it was great to hear. [ Edit: Sorry I didn’t get this posted on the correct day. The event was September 12 .]

Deadline for Somerville Climate Forward

I sit on the Community & Economic Development working group of Somerville’s Climate Forward planning process. In reality, the city’s consultants are doing the work; we’re chiming in with “ideas” but you have the sense that the process doesn’t really depend on whether we come up with anything useful. With that said, several working group members have come up with interesting ideas, so I hope the consultants pick up on them. Today was a deadline for submitting ideas, so I put pen to paper with some of the ideas I’ve been thinking about over the weekend and sent them through.


According to a Princeton University study, public opinion has “near-zero” impact on U.S. lawmaking, with one exception. In other words, public support for or against any given idea has no impact on the likelihood that Congress will make it law. What’s the exception? economic elites in the top-90% of the income distribution. Their opinions carry real weight. “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” This comes as no surprise to most of us. We’ve long recognized the rising influence of money in politics (along with reduced social mobility) and lack of political will to address the problem. For the most part, we’ve accepted our powerlessness. Today, I joined with Represent.US , which actually is trying to address the problem, by advocating for laws at the local and state levels that would influence who gets sent to the swamp in Washington, as well as how federal elections are conducted in

Greater Houston Community Foundation

Hurricane Irma is barreling toward Florida right now. But Houston is still assessing just how long and how hard its recovery from Hurricane Harvey will be. Some say the total price tag will top Hurricane Katrina’s record-setting $108 billion. Today, I donated to the Greater Houston Community Foundation , through my friend Devin’s “I left my heart in Texas” fundraiser . He’s donating his birthday celebration to raise funds for Houston’s recover.

Heather Heyer Foundation

The events in Charlottesville remain fresh in my mind, despite taking place almost a month ago (August 12). I don’t think I will forgot it. The most tragic element, of course, was the death of Heather Heyer . Today, I made a donation to the  Heather Heyer Foundation : The Heather Heyer Foundation was created to honor Heather Heyer, a young civil rights activist, who dedicated her life to promoting equal rights for all people. The Foundation has established a scholarship program to provide financial assistance to individuals passionate about positive social change. Scholarships will be awarded to those seeking a degree or certification in, but not limited to, law, paralegal studies, social work, social justice, and education. Help us make a difference, and as Heather had often quoted “If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention” by Anonymous I, for one, am paying attention. And I’m outraged.

A buffet of environmental messages for Congress

Congress is back in session this week. Today, I sent a batch of messages, with scripts arranged by the Environmental Defense Fund , to members of Congress in support of five efforts: • Protect the EPA’s budget : The proposed budget slashes the EPA by nearly a third, cutting funding for everything from cleaning up toxic waste sites to the enforcement office that ensures polluters who break the law are held accountable. It puts us all at risk and raises serious questions about EPA’s ability to respond to future hurricanes and floods. • Safeguard the air we breathe : Nearly 4 out of 10 Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution, where it is literally dangerous to breathe. Yet the House has already passed a bill that would delay the implementation of crucial smog standards for nearly a decade. Don’t let the Senate follow suit. • Keep important safety measures from being bogged down with red tape : The scariest bill you’ve never heard of—the “Regulatory Accountabi

Herring monitor videos

I did my final spring shift as a herring monitor for the Mystic River Watershed Association back on June 25 . Here are the results from the season. Banner year! But I’m not quite done yet. The Watershed Association is doing a study to understand the reliability of in-person versus video counts of the river herring migration. Their making a push to watch 1,000 videos from now through October 1st. Today, I committed to watching to 10 videos per week, so they can get a rough sense on the accuracy of videos versus in-person monitoring. And, of course, I went ahead and watched my 10 videos for the week. Join the fun here .

New Energy Democracy

Today, I went to the Boston Area Sustainability Group’s monthly meeting. This month, we had three speakers talk abut different aspects of energy democracy. It’s a reframing of the narrative away from centralized control, turning energy consumers into energy citizens who have agency over their power. (Yes, power from both a literal and figurative perspective.) Distributed energy, through microgrids and nanogrids, are empowering from that perspective: The transformation of our power grids could enable the transformation of societal power structures. Thought provoking, and a good lens to use for different advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal energy levels.

An Act Restoring Financial Transparency in Presidential Elections

A hallmark of American democracy has been a steady increase in levels of transparency. And that’s good thing; as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “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.” In many cases, voluntary disclosures by individuals running for office have become an expectation. But “voluntary” is no guarantee. Today, I wrote to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Election Laws in support of  S. 365: An Act Restoring Financial Transparency in Presidential Elections . The bill quite simply says one thing: To be on the Massachusetts ballot for President of the United States, you must disclose your three most recent years of tax returns. That’s the least we could ask.

Peaks Island taxi

I’m away for Labor Day weekend, enjoying Peaks Island, which is a stone’s throw off Portland in Maine’s Casco Bay. Really enjoying island life in New England. The spirit of island living is very cooperative. We’re all in this together, you might say. Case in point: The Island Transportation System (ITS ) is not just a taxi service that provides affordable transportation for all visitors and residents, it also provides charitable services to elderly, handicapped, infirm, and low-income residents. We deliver over 300 packages a year, and provide take out service and delivery from island restaurants. We log 40 miles a day on our rounds. And we continue to meet our original goals of providing reliable transportation to islanders and visitors and reducing automobile use on the island – resulting in less air pollution, less congestion and fewer parking problems down front. But we are never too busy to return a wandering dog to its home or answer a frantic call from an islander on the mainlan

Congress should act to counter white supremacists

After the violence in Charlottesville, many members of Congress took to Twitter or released statements condemning white supremacy. Today, I signed a petition from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund , urging members of Congress to: Hold oversight hearings with the Department of Justice and other agencies that enforce criminal and civil rights laws to find out what they’re doing to counter white supremacist groups. Oppose any judicial and executive nominees who have given platform to, supported, or condoned white supremacist activities, organizations, or ideology. Hold hearings on and pass legislation to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, and other bills that would protect the right to vote. Refuse to allocate any funding to the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.