Sustainability Journal | June 2020

Welcome to another installment of Sustainability Journal, where I document what I’m reading, learning, thinking, and doing in the sustainability space. (Wow, that sounded weirdly formal. Ahem.)

Personal update: we welcomed our usual group of fellows for the summer at work, but this year the fellowship program is entirely virtual. All of them are between their first and second year of their masters program, so most are spending the summer at home or in their apartment. One of the fellows is working out of Taiwan, where she describes life as “completely normal.” (Taiwan has had one of the best global responses to the pandemic, managing to have fewer than 500 total cases and 7 deaths – which is stunning considering its proximity to China.) This makes me wonder how it is possible that so many Americans still consider themselves “not political” – because it’s pretty apparent these days that having a “completely normal life” vs “whatever the hell it’s still going on in the US” (e.g., Florida) – is the difference good leadership and policy make.

I spent the last two weeks either at home, or at the garden. As we are now officially into summer, a “quick” watering trip to the garden plot almost always turns into hour(s)-long weeding, trellising, and harvesting session (with lots of chit chats in between). For many of us, community gardening has been the only in-person interactions we’ve had since stay-at-home order began several months ago, and I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have this little patch of dirt in the middle of the city.

An individual action I’m focusing on at the moment: managing air conditioning use. Having an AC is a bless and a curse, because it makes it that much harder to not turn it on in the sweltering heat! We got a Nest thermostat last winter, and it shows you a green leaf each time you are using an energy-smart temperature. I’ve been weirdly obsessed with adjusting our temperature until the leaf appears; I guess I’m craving an adult version of the gold star? Ha. But mostly we try to have the thermostat completely off (no central AC or fan) and use an open window and ceiling fan to circulate fresh air.

A community action I’ve taken: sharing the bounty! I’m completely overwhelmed with kale at the garden, so I’ve been giving them to friends and other gardeners. (This flood of kale was sheer coincidence, as the seed company packed the wrong variety of kale – I had purchased a dwarf variety and ended up with a completely different kind that has taken over the bed – click on the link above and read the comments). A few weeks ago I donated some seeds to a local lady who set up a seed/gardening supply give and get station outside of her home, and I’m hoping to drop off some more supplies this week.

Where I sent my dollars: Charlie Proctor Memorial Fund (via Massbike) and Neponset Neighbors Together Fund

Charlie Proctor was a local cyclist killed during a bike ride in May, just before his 28th birthday. Charlie’s family established this fund, which will be used to support advocacy efforts for safer roadways. The Neponset Neighbors Together Fund is a funding initiative started by several local orgs and municipalities. It is a COVID-19 fund that supports the residents of Milton, Mattapan, Hyde Park and Dorchester through the current health and economic crisis. 

Books I’m reading:

Daniel Imhoff | The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide. The Farm Bill is arguably one of the most importance pieces of legislation in the US that no one’s heard of. In grad school, we spent weeks learning the alphabet soup of programs throughout history – each shaping a little piece of the food system that we have today. As the book tagline reads: “if you eat, pay taxes, or care about our nation’s food supply, this book is for you”, and I agree. It is textbook-like, so I’ve been reading one chapter at a time, and spacing out my reads with Holy Land (MEH) and Heads in Beds (thumbs up).

A thing I’m enamored with: this newsletter. The creator Lawrence is a friend of a friend, and the weekly newsletter is full of goodies on the topic of social justice, mindfullness, productivity, community organizing, etc – it is so good, and you should sign up.

More stuff you should check out:

  • NYTimes keeping track of all the environmental regulations that the Trump Administration has rolled back. Boo.
  • A great, up-to-date resource for petitions to sign, where to send money, etc.
  • Op-ed: “Yes, we mean literally abolish the police.” (Boston friends, here is a good intro on BPD funding.)
  • A Growing Agriculture’s Juneteenth broadcast featuring an amazing array of black voices in the food system. I spent 7 hours tuning in on Youtube on Friday, and laughed/cried/nodded throughout the broadcast. You should listen/watch the whole thing if you can, but if I have to pick, these segments resonated with me the most: “Ask a sista farmer – the plants of black freedom” (starts ~3:47), “Restoring democracy and agriculture” (2:57), and “Seeds laid dormant” (4:48).
  • Good editorial from The Economist on the shortcomings of green investing.
  • From Politician to Priest – interview from The Ezra Klein show. If you have not heard about Cyrus Habib, you should read about him stat. This was a remarkable conversation.

(Header image: Imhoff’s book, and a million other books I’m trying to get through. Bah.)