Showing posts from July, 2018

Comprehensive energy plan for Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is developing its comprehensive energy plan that will guide policy for the state for many years. Today, on the deadline, I submitted comments on its draft plan, emphasizing the importance of enabling cities and towns to use progressive zoning code to pursue net zero energy mandates, fixing (and electrifying) the public transit system, and encouraging grid modernization.

Parts and Crafts

Parts and Crafts is a family makerspace and community workshop that runs school-vacation camps, and afterschool and weekend classes and workshops. It’s all based around encouraging kids to “make things” with electronics, science, arts and programming skills. Today, I donated some spare parts to them, including a working amp and some other audio and computer equipment.

Chicago Architecture Foundation

Yesterday, I took a wonderful architecture boat tour of Chicago. It was a great way to learn some of the history of the city, as seen from the development of its downtown. Today, I made a donation to the Chicago Architecture Foundation , one of whose volunteer docents gave the tour.

Chicago Lighthouse

People with disabilities have devoted advocates, yet public awareness about issues of inclusion still remains low. One organization building awareness is the Chicago Lighthouse, which serves the blind, visually impaired, disabled and veteran communities with comprehensive vision care and support services. Today, I visited a public art display presented by the Chicago Lighthouse. They arranged for 51 artists to decorate six-foot lighthouse sculptures along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. I visited five of them. I also made a donation to the Chicago Lighthouse.

Mass Cultural Council budget

For the fourth year in a row, Governor Baker has vetoed Mass Cultural Council funding. Today, I wrote a letter to my state representative, asking her to over-ride the veto. for the fourth year in a row, that’s exactly what the legislature has done.

Chinese Exclusion Act

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act set off a series of discriminatory legal actions by the federal government targeted at Chinese persons. It’s one of many dark stains on American history. There’s a backstory to understand, of how the law came into being, and there are dozens of stories, too, of those who fought the laws until they were finally repealed, over 60 years later. Today, I watched an essential documentary on the Chinese Exclusion Act. Check out the trailer: And here’s why it’s particular timely today, according to historian Mae Ngai: “This couldn’t come at a more important time in our country… because it tells a story, it tells our story. It shows what was done to our people, but it is also relevant to our present moment, and what is going on today, with anti-immigration laws and prejudices and what’s going on with the Muslim ban. They all have their roots, legally and politically in Chinese exclusion.”  

Dunkin Donuts: Adopt a Plastic Straw Upon Request Policy

The number of campaigns asking restaurants and the consumers visit them to stop using plastic straws is astonishing. It all seemingly started from one viral video of a straw being pulled from a sea tortoises nostril. (I’m not going to embed it, but it won’t take long to find it, if you go Google it.) The sentiment is the right one and some of the campaigns have asked consumers to stop using all single-use plastic containers for the month of July. I started making my own yogurt a few weeks ago, inspired by these campaigns. And I’m sure I won’t stop there. Today, I signed a petition to ask Dunkin Donuts to provide plastic straws only upon request. That would help Dunkin keep up with Starbucks, which has already announced it’s moving away from plastic straws. But I was also inspired because the campaign was started by two kids. The more the youth of the country can be activated, the better. And I found another, similar campaign to Dunkin Donuts and signed that one, too.

Shared Nation - Oceans

Today, I voted in the monthly Shared Nations crowdsourcing platform to support a nonprofit campaign. The theme this month is oceans and there were a great group of organizations involved in different aspects of fighting acidification, reducing plastics in the oceans, rebuilding reefs and other sea-specific objectives. This was the quarterfinals, so I voted for four different organizations. I liked them all, of course. One that caught my eye was the Coral Restoration Foundation . Check ’em out. (I won’t share that I vote tomorrow in the semifinals and Thursday in the finals.)

Create the Vote

Creativity builds more vibrant, equitable and connected communities. The arts are vital for a thriving economy and innovative workforce, and they help to bridge differences within the community. But public support for the arts, not just funding but also other kinds of institutional supports, can too easily fall down the priority list. Today, I attended Mass Creative’s launch event for its Create the Vote campaign . They aim to engage more candidates and representatives about the importance of the arts in our communities and economies.


Today, I made a donation to the Better Futures Project in support of the 350Mass Cambridge node. They are running a well-organized team of volunteers to fight for stronger climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Trump Baby

Did you see the Trump Baby balloon in London two weeks ago? Well, the organizers want to go on tour with the giant balloon. Today, I made a donation to the project. I also asked the organizers how much we would need to raise to bring Trump Baby to Boston. We’ll see if I get a response.  

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

It’s too late to stop sea-level rise associated with climate change. While we’re not certain whether the rise will be two feet, four feet or even 15 feet by 2100, there are places in the world that will need to deal with it, one way or another. Today, I went to a book reading for a book called  Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore . The author, Elizabeth Rush, visits six parts of North America where people are already living with sea level rise, places like Miami, where sunny day flooding is as regular as high tide, and Louisiana, where towns like Isle de Jean Charles are already retreating from rising seas. She tells poignant stories of the real people affected by the rising seas today, not in the year 2100.

Solar advice?

Somehow, through my involvement with Somerville climate change activities, people have begun to reach out to me for advice. Today, I corresponded with a Somerville resident who reached out to me for advice on installing solar panels on her home. I told her what I was able to, which was only rudimentary. But I also reached out to another resident who has quite a bit more knowledge and experience with installers, to ask whether she could step. She was more than happy to, so I put them in touch with one another.

Climate Reality Project Business Working Group

Today, I attended a short call with the Climate Reality Project’s Business Working Group. They went over some upcoming meetings on carbon pricing, which I might try to attend in San Francisco. Today, I also attended a development committee call for the Brattle Film Foundation. Look for me to become more active there in the near future.

Climate Reality Boston summer outing

Today, I followed up on a survey that the Climate Reality Project Boston chapter is putting together to organize a summer outing on the Boston Harbor Islands this August. I’ve been pulling some systems and lists together and finally got the chapter’s google group organized, so that the poll could go out to everyone.

Letter to the Boston Globe

Today, I wrote a letter to the Boston Globe , in response to their coverage of the Massachusetts legislature’s actions on energy and the environment. Or lack thereof, in the case of the House. It probably won’t get published, but here’s what I wrote: To the editor: It is hardly true that “Mass. lawmakers [have wrapped] up work on energy legislation,” as the Globe’s headline states on July 13. In fact, the baby steps taken by the Massachusetts House of Representatives amount to kicking the can down the road, ensuring that they will have to take up energy legislation session after session until they can credibly fulfill the state’s obligations under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. The irony is that the House could have had it easy. That’s because the Massachusetts Senate had already thoroughly vetted and passed an omnibus energy bill, a giant leap forward that would have moved the state toward a more resilient energy infrastructure and created an engine of economic growth for

Buy Nothing recruitment

In moderating Buy Nothing Somerville, we adhere to a rule that members must live within the borders of Somerville in order to participate. For those who live in neighboring towns, I simply direct them to their town’s Buy Nothing group. Except for Medford, which does not have a Buy Nothing group; I encourage those residents to start a new group, though no one has taken us up on that. Until now. Today, I sat down for coffee with a potential Buy Nothing moderator from Medford. I talked through all the tools that the Buy Nothing project puts together for its moderators and what moderation actually entails. Our group in Somerville is large, but well behaved, so it’s usually not a heavy lift. I have high hopes that she’ll go ahead and launch.

Somerville Arts Council

ArtBeat is an annual event that shuts down Davis Square for an outdoor festival, with multiple music stages, vendors from across creative industries, food trucks and arts activities for youth. This year, the Esh Circus Arts school set up an awesome demonstration area. Today, I went to the festival, of course, and I also support the Somerville Arts Council , which runs the event, with a donation.

Conscious Capitalism programming update

Today, I called to order a conference call for Conscious Capitalism’s Programming Committee. This call was a bummer, because we actually decided to cancel our upcoming event on July 23. There’s a competing, much bigger event, and we never really got our act fully in gear for our event.

Town Hall with Representative Jeff Sanchez

Jeff Sanchez represents Jamaica Plain in the Massachusetts House. He is also chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which puts him in a very influential position to push legislation out for vote. And, while he has progressive credentials, he has acted in more moderate fashion. Case in point is energy, where the House just passed a few very lukewarm bills, but nothing as transformational as Senate passed. Today, I attended a town hall with Rep. Sanchez. Actually, Sanchez couldn’t make it, but his policy director came in his stead. (I suspect the only reason he agreed to this town hall is that he is actually facing a primary challenge.) The town hall was hosted by the Better Futures Project/350 Mass, and they had some pointed questions for the Representative. Nothing of substance emerged from his policy director, which was very disappointing, but the message that so many constituents care about climate certainly came across.

Commission on Energy Use and Climate Change - July 2018 meeting

Today, I attended the monthly meeting of Somerville’s Commission on Energy Use and Climate Change. Among other things under discussion, the city is planning to pilot a shadow carbon price for use in municipal electricity purchasing, which would be a novel approach. But it was otherwise a slow meeting, in the middle of summer.


The surge in rhino poaching over the past decade is heartbreaking. The number of rhinos poached in South Africa (where the majority of rhinos live) has increased from 13 in 2007 to a record 1,215 in 2014. Occasionally, nature fights back, such as last week’s case of a pride of lions killing and eating a group of rhino poachers. But rhinos, as well as other animals in the African bush, otherwise have a difficult time protecting themselves from poachers. That’s where Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (yes, VetPaw ) comes in. VetPaw is a group of veterans who fought in Afghanistan or Iraq who are committed to training and working as park rangers in Africa to protect elephants and rhinos from poachers. They’re able to use their combat skills and experience to contribute positively. Today, I made a donation to VetPaw.

Climate Coalition of Somerville July '18 meeting

Tonight, I attended the monthly meeting of the Climate Coalition of Somerville. We had discussions about Somerville’s zoning and about the Union Square Neighborhood Council’s negotiations over the Community Benefits Agreement. And we spent more time on our mission and strategy. Good, positive meeting overall.

Climate CoLab contest on absorbing climate impacts

The MIT Climate CoLab has a powerful platform to crowdsource solutions for different climate-related issues. More importantly, they’ve gathered really sharp people to participate in the colab, so there are always not only interesting projects to peruse, but also great feedback that have helped those projects sharpen their propositions. Today, I voted in the Climate CoLab on absorbing climate impacts . My vote went toward a solution focusing on climate-vulnerable populations in tourist economies. Last year’s hurricane season exposed just how vulnerable those people are. Catastrophe insurance works for large companies that can afford the premiums, but don’t really address disaster aid. This proposal is to develop a social protection index, specifically in the Bahamas but extensible to anywhere, to help provide pricing information for insurance underwriting that relief agencies and governments can use.

Bill Plympton animation

The animator Bill Plympton has a series of three episodes now streaming on the New York Times . They lampoon the president by setting live recordings of his voice to Plympton’s signature style of animation. Today, I supported a Kickstarter campaign for Plympton, who wants to continue the series and make a dozen or so more. Love ’em.

Somerville shows up for Net Zero

Two weeks ago, I attended a roundtable on how cities can write Net Zero plans , which govern how they can move their building sectors to can use net zero energy. There’s a follow-up roundtable to that meeting next week, which is targeted toward city officials, so that the US Green Building Council (USGBC) can engage them for input. The USGBC is working on a report with policy recommendations. I’ve been emailing our City’s planning department to encourage them to attend and yesterday a senior planner confirmed to me yesterday that he registered to attend. Today, I contacted the event’s planners to let them know Somerville’s interest in the event. And I also contacted my alderman to encourage him to attend as well. It would be great if Somerville had a strong showing. Today, I also did some more work for the Climate Reality Boston, getting more of our chapter roster data in order.

Shave the Peak

Energy consumption is a spiky business, including for residences. It goes way up in the Summer and Winter, as homes need to be cooled and warmed. And it also peaks according to time of day, with large summer spikes during sweltering afternoons. Those peaks have implications. First off, the resilience of the electrical grid depends on being able to meet those peaks in demand. The grid can fail, even without the influence of storms (and squirrels) that can bring critical pieces of infrastructure down. What’s more, on peak days, the high demand for power is met by dirtier fuels. In Massachusetts, peaker plants are oil fired. Lastly, the cost of peak power goes way up. We currently pay a fixed price for power, but the cost of supplying peak power is built into our basic rates. Utilities can take steps to reduce peak demand through the use of smart grids. But that’s a long way off in Massachusetts. But households have some agency over that peak power. They can purposefully reduce their dema

Member survey for Conscious Capitalism Boston

Today, I spent some time thinking through a member survey for Conscious Capitalism Boston. A fellow board member got started with a draft, so I added some additional thoughts, connected to how our Programming Committee might want to adjust our events this Fall.

Sierra Club renewal

I’m a member of a number of environmental organizations. However, it often takes a little while to get a feel for what each organization brings that is a little bit different. Case in point is the Sierra Club. It’s 125 years old and has the largest membership among environmental organizations. What I like about it is it’s mix of volunteerism and advocacy. It pushes for legislation, as do a lot of organizations, and it encourages responsible consumer behaviors. But it also offers lots of opportunities at very local levels to get volunteers involved with the environment: planting trees, maintaining trails, citizen science, etc. I’ve been tracking those opportunities for a bit, with an eye on taking them up on something, but the right timing hasn’t emerged yet. Today, I renewed my membership with the Sierra Club to stay informed about local chapter activities and opportunities.

Make+Matter Kiva loan

My Kiva experience has so far been good. I’ve made 12 loans, two of which have already been repaid, and I have no delinquencies so far. Repayments have replenished my available capital. Today, I put that capital back to work, making a new Kiva loan. This one goes to Make+Matter , a three-person design collaborative and retail store in Pittsburgh. Each of the designers has her own line of eco-friendly clothing and textiles. And they sublease portions of the store as a sort of pop-up for other designers, in order to supplement their revenues. That leaves with me $0.66 in credit, so it likely will be another five or six months minimum before I make my next loan.

Catching up on Climate Reality work

Today, I put in some time to catch up on some volunteer work, first with the Climate Reality Project. I’ve raised my hand to help on the organizational side of things and I had a bit of catching up to do. Today, I also paid some extra attention to my Buy Nothing Somerville duties. Really, it’s a daily activity for me. But our plan to sprout also took some care and feeding. It’s mundane, I know.