Showing posts from April, 2018

Davis Square Master Plan

Five years ago, the City of Somerville began a planning process to develop a master plan for Davis Square. The process has involved many levels of citizen input, some trial runs of new ideas, forward-thinking consultants and dedicated staff. Today, I attended a presentation of a draft master plan , from the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development. They set up roughly six stations and had different personnel discuss a specific aspect of the master plan at each station. Very interesting conversations to be had.

Dinner in our Future Climate

Climate change will have — actually, it already is having — a big impact on the food systems that have grown to be able to keep 8 billion people alive on Earth. It’s more fragile than you think, because climatic systems will have a big impact on intensive agriculture in both developed and developing nations. It’s hard to imagine what our future system will look like. Today, I supported a Kickstarter project that puts a unique spin on that imagination. Dinner in our Future Climate models drought-filled and flooded scenarios, both of which are expected to become more common, to imagine what our diets might look like. It will come to life in the form of recipes — and a photo essay.

Dawnland and Maine-Wabanaki Reach

This weekend is the heart of the Independent Film Festival of Boston, a regular highlight of my year. And this year, we got to participate in a special way: by hosting a subject from one of the documentaries playing at the festival. The film was Dawnland and it’s worth not only seeing it, but also understanding the issues surrounding it. Here’s how an NPR story in 2013 described it: “In Maine, an unusual and historic process is under way to document child welfare practices that once resulted in Indian children being forcibly removed from their homes. Many of the native children were placed with white foster parents. Chiefs from all five of Maine’s tribes, along with Gov. Paul LePage, have created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help heal the wounds.” The process was modeled after the Truth and Reconciliation process following apartheid in South Africa. But of course the circumstances for Maine’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is unique, and the process had to evolve in

The split incentive problem

Among the low-hanging fruit in addressing climate-related emissions is building efficiency. It’s relatively inexpensive to address and it pays for itself in reduced heating and cooling costs over time. But one problem that’s long been recognized is a “split incentive” problem when it comes to landlords and renters: It falls to a landlord to make building efficiency improvements but it’s the renters who benefit from lower heating and cooling costs (or just more comfortable spaces in general). Today, I did some desk research on the split incentive problem, focusing on case studies of Vancouver and Boulder, as well as thinking through some other solutions that might apply to Somerville. This was for Somerville’s Commission on Energy Use and Climate Change; I volunteered for a sub-committee that would look at the problem. Spoiler alert: No magic bullets in program design have emerged yet.

Climate Resilience on the Mystic River

The Mystic River Watershed covers 76 square miles and runs through a critical part of Somerville, near the Amelia Earhart dam. A portion of Somerville’s climate vulnerability stems from its exposure to flooding associated with that dam — not from overtopping, but rather from rising waters being forced around the dam into the neighborhoods of Somerville. It’s a difficult problem to solve, of course, because the effects are spread across Boston, Somerville, Medford and other communities. And, of course, it involves state-owned facilities. Today, I attended a panel on climate resilience on the Mystic River , which brought together the Sustainability Directors of Somerville and Medford, with the Executive Director of the Mystic River Watershed Association and a planner with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The conversation focused on the collaboration required among communities and organizations. They tried to stay positive, but…

Discussing Social & Community Innovation

When you think of innovative startups, what usually comes to mind is hoodie-wearing Millennials solving problems they see in the world. Often those “problems” seem trivial as this tweet lampooned three years ago. But some innovators are focusing on social outcomes — and by “social” I mean for the benefit of the community, not social media. Today, I attended a panel discussion on  social and community innovation. The moderator was Tito Jackson, former Boston city councilor and mayoral candidate, and the speakers included several innovators in the Boston startup community, including Justin Kang, Executive Director of City Awake and VP of Economic Growth at Boston Chamber of Commerce. The focus was on how startups that focus on social impact can gain a foothold and grow.

Urban gardening workshop

Today I visited Groundwork Somerville’s South Street Farm. Last year, on this tiny paved plot, the farm grew 2,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables in raised beds and a small greenhouse. Amazing program which works with youth on the farm and runs a mobile farmers market to address food deserts in the city. They ran a workshop to teach residents how they can grow food at home, with the most modest of plots, even just a 5-gallon bucket. Today, I was also on a cal for the outreach committee of the Climate Reality Project’s Boston chapter.

Gubernatorial debate - for the environment

It’s an election year for the Massachusetts governor’s office. The incumbent, Charlie Baker, is not well regarded for his accomplishments, mostly because he doesn’t seem to have any. That’s particularly true on the environment, which should have been a no-brainer with broad support to act on climate mitigation and adaptation. Today, I went to debate among the three Democratic contenders, focusing on the environment, hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts. The three pretty much agreed on the issues and each was compelling. But each spoke on a different level. Setti Warren, former Mayor of Newton, was down at the city and neighborhood level. Bob Massie, founder of the the Global Reporting Initiative and former President of Ceres, had a systems level, global perspective. And Jay Gonzalez, former budgetary head for Governor Deval Patrick, kept things at a state level. Which made him a more compelling figure for the state Governor’s office. But it’s hard to get away from Massie

Postcards for 1% for the Environment

Two days ago, I sent a note to my Massachusetts State House representative, asking her to support an amendment to restore the state’s spending on environmental agencies. Today, I brought that activity to an Indivisible Somerville new member orientation meeting. Everyone who attended wrote letters to their representatives supporting the budget amendment.

A community space for baking: Elmendorf Baking Supplies

I’m not much into baking. But I do like the idea of retail spaces that serve as community hubs for food. And those hubs can increasingly be specialized. Today, I supported the startup Elmendorf Baking Supplies start-up on Kickstarter. They hope to open a baking supplies retail and community space in Cambridge and they tell a compelling story for its need in the local community. Incidentally, I also tried to volunteer in the City of Somerville’s Earth Day cleanup, but the logistics got snarled. So I ended up walking aimlessly around the city for an hour.

1% for the Environment

The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee released its version of the state budget for fiscal year 2019 last week. And there’s good news: Funding for our State Parks and Recreation was increased to $40 million, $2 million over the Governor’s budget that was released in January.  Even better, Representative Smitty Pignatelli submitted an amendment to increase the line-item further — to $42 million. This amendment would bring us close to the Environmental League of Massachusetts’s Green Budget recommendation of $42.5 million for State Parks and Recreation. That restored funding will help bring back  staffing and begin to reverse deep funding cuts we’ve seen over the past decade. Today, I sent a note to my State Representative, asking her to co-sponsor Representative Pignatelli’s amendment, using ELM’s form .

Actions for Sunday

Today, I prepped for Sunday’s Indivisible Somerville new member orientation. It’s Earth Day, so we’re doing an environmentally focused event, so I had to think of something not too wonky that I could quickly explain to newcomers.

MIT Day of Action

MIT first held its Day of Action, open to the entire community, last year. The Institute “paused everyday activities and devoted the day to engaging with the political, economic, environmental, and social challenges facing us today — through learning, discussion, reflection, and planning for action.” It was such a success they did it again. Today, I attended MIT’s second annual Day of Action . I went to a session that was jointly hosted by Indivisible Somerville and by Sister District, two organizations that I’ve worked closely with. Today, I also dialed into a conference call for the Climate Reality Project’s business working group, an initiative of the national organization.

Launching a rocket

Environmental Defense Fund has an ambitious new project: launching a new satellite. What? Here’s the back story. In 1978, NASA’s Nimbus-7 satellite verified the hole in the ozone layer, and led to a great environmental success story. The same needs to be done for methane pollution, which is responsible for a quarter of climate change emissions, by some estimates. But those are estimates; we need more data to help ensure that companies and countries make bigger reductions faster. That’s where the MethaneSAT satellite fits in: to provide global high-resolution coverage of methane emissions. Today, I donated to EDF to help launch that satellite .

Putting the "green" in the Green Monster

The Red Sox are a big part of life in Massachusetts. The Red Sox have already taken some good steps on sustainability, like installing solar panels to heat water at Fenway. But those lights at Fenway use a lot of energy, so it would make a meaningful difference if the organization moved to renewable energy. It would  will help protect public health and ensure a safe future for our children. In 2015, Boston experienced 92 days with unhealthy levels of air pollution, which can force kids with asthma to stay indoors, off the baseball field. Today, I added my name to a petition started by Environment Massachusetts to ask the Red Sox to lead the way with 100 percent renewable energy commitment. We wouldn’t want the Yankees to get there first.    

Herring Monitor 2018 season kickoff

Today, I took my first shift back at the Upper Mystic Lake Dam, counting herring that come up the fish ladder to spawn, on behalf of the Mystic River Watershed Association . Here’s what I wrote when I first joined the herring monitor program. No fish, which makes sense because it’s early in the season. But it was a cool, clear and beautiful morning.

Kiva loan - organic farm in Michigan

Today, I supported Nate and Jill Lada through a Kiva loan. They started a farm in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2011 through a farm incubator program. They now manage 100 certified organic acres. My loan will help them buy compost for their raised beds.

Business with a Human Rights Core

Today, I attended a fascinating talk by a fellow Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter programming committee member, Colleen Brisport. She spoke about “ Business with a Human Rights Core ” and made the case that human rights aren’t just a negative impact that should be avoided, but also a lens by which a business can view how it should have a positive impact. It was novel framing, to my mind.

Somerville Commission on Energy and Climate Change - April 2018

Today, I attended the monthly Somerville Commission on Energy and Climate Change meeting. I think I may have signed up for a sub-committee, too. I hope I have the time.

Letter to an alderman

Today, I sent a letter to one of Somerville’s at-large alderman. The alderman sends a detailed newsletter of updates and goings on every month. It’s impressive and very helpful. Unfortunately, the latest edition left out any coverage of Somerville’s sustainability efforts, failing to note the upcoming Sustainaville week series of events, which coincides with Earth Day. I pointed out the omission and mused that I hope those oversights won’t continue.

Strategy planning for the climate coalition

Today, we began the strategic planning process for the Climate Coalition of Somerville. We don’t want to over-think things, but it’d be good to articulate a shared mission and vision for the coalition to help guide in the future. It’ll take a few meetings to get there, unfortunately, and our monthly meeting didn’t get as far as we’d hoped.

On Behalf of a Madman: A Pastiche Opera

A Harmonie band was the populist entertainment of the 19th century; the masses heard popular tunes in bootlegged arrangements by Harmonie bands, collections of wind instruments. Boston’s Grand Harmonie is putting together a brand-new opera, arranged for wind band and performed on period instruments. “On Behalf of a Madman” will feature Classical and Romantic arias in new arrangements. It will be a modern satire rich in political messaging, with musicians moving among the players on stage at the Arts at the Armory in Somerville. Today, I supported the production on Kickstarter . I don’t think I can make the performances later this month, unfortunately, but I love the creative thinking behind it and I definitely support local theater.

Still staying angry

Last year, I joined as a supporter to the Angry Asian Man blog. “Stay Angry” is his motto. I’m still angry. Today, I renewed my support for Angry Asian Man .

Conscious Capitalism Boston membership

Today, I participated in Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter’s monthly membership committee meeting. I’m actually not on the committee, but I figured the programming committee, which I lead, needs to be more coordinated with membership, so I made a point to stop by.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Last year, I wrote about my donation to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund . What can I say: legal pressures are still being placed on graphic artists around the world. Today, I made an annual donation to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, because I still believe in the importance of pop art in stretching our understanding of the First Amendment. And I still like a good comic book, too.

Resistance Mic!

The American Repertory Theater in Harvard Square holds a monthly(ish) spoken word event called “Resistance Mic!”  They recruit an amazing array of essayists, poets and storytellers to recite prose and poetry that speaks to power. Today, I attended the monthly Resistance Mic! and had a great time.

ELM Explains: Wind Energy, Transit Emissions, Smart Development, and More

Of all the environmental organizations in Massachusetts, the Environmental League of Massachusetts might be the most plugged in. It’s also one of the oldest: Founded in 1898 as the Massachusetts Forestry Association, it broadened its scope and became the Environmental League of Massachusetts in 1993. With that long history of advocacy, it has a finger on the pulse of all things environmental in the Massachusetts state house. Today, I went to a briefing by the ELM to the Boston Area Sustainability Group (BASG) specifically to hear about green budgets, wind energy and transportation emissions.

Violation notice to the EPA

In January 2017, the EPA concluded that America’s clean car standards were working and achievable, and should not be weakened. Now, even though the facts haven’t changed, the EPA is reversing that decision, ignoring thousands of pages of technical analysis that support keeping the standards in place. Today, I signed on with Environment Massachusetts to issue a ticket to EPA head Scott Pruitt — for heading in the wrong direction on federal clean car standards.

Zoning feedback

I’ve written about Somerville’s zoning revamp a few times. An important hearing for public comment is coming up this Tuesday but unfortunately I can’t make it. Today, I made a number of comments at, which has a nifty pdf commenting tool. I also sent a separate email to the planning department and the chair of the Land Use Committee.