Sustainability Journal | October 2020

Welcome to Sustainability Journal, where I document what I’m reading, learning, thinking, and doing in the sustainability space.

Been a little bit since I’ve written a post for this section. How are you hanging in there? A highlight in the past several weeks for me was definitely going raspberry picking in a town nearby. Raspberry picking in October you ask?! I. know. It feels bonkers, but because of the drought this year, a lot of harvests in New England had been delayed. Even though I didn’t get to eat my weight in berries while picking (thanks covid), it was still so delightful to do something outside that I really love despite us not getting our act together earlier. (ahem, I’m not saying droughts are good…but) And yes there is of course still fall apple picking, but it’s always over so fast and I never know what to do with so many apples!

Although there were these joyous moments, I have to admit this month was filled with mostly dread. Dread for the election, for a “third wave” of covid surges, for the winter, etc. I don’t typically have strong feelings about winter, where for several months I can’t get myself places on bike. But since we are a little farther away from the city now and I’m trying to avoid public transit, the prospect of a snowy winter kinda feels like an impending doom. I’ve been telling myself for years that I should brush up on my driving, and the need sure feels more urgent this year. Our local library was recruiting someone to deliver books to homebound folks, and I couldn’t quite balance the time commitment with work because doing bike delivery just takes so much longer than a car. Similarly, I couldn’t go on any of the gleaning volunteer trips because the farms are too far away to bike to, and carpooling isn’t allowed during the pandemic. Not driving (something I’m usually proud of) feels like an extra big impediment to many of the things I want to do right now, but maybe it’s the final push I needed for driving lessons?

An individual action I’m focusing on at the moment: slowing down. You may not be aware, but I might be the most impatient and antsy person you know. Like, if an idea comes up to do something, I must do it right away, whether it’s deciding to bake at 11pm or painting an entire room on a Sunday because I woke up with the burning urge to do so. This tendency to do all the things has led to some pretty bizarre multitasking behaviors, like…reading while stretching…”because if you can read and stretch at the same time to free up more time, why wouldn’t you?!” (a thought that has crossed nobody’s mind.)

This is why some things – that might not be difficult for other people – have always felt mentally tortuous for me: waiting for a library book to arrive, making a sourdough bread over the course of a weekend (carb! now!), or taking a walk just for the hell of it (because “if you aren’t walking with a purpose toward a destination while catching up on 3 podcasts, what are you even doing?!”). The pandemic has forced many of us to slow down, so I’m definitely learning (unwillingly) how to get more comfortable with uncertainty, with waiting (e.g., much longer lines in the farmers market), and with in-betweenness (e.g., this room will miss a chair for a while because finding secondhand furniture will take longer if I don’t visit stores).

A community action I’ve taken: hosting a virtual discussion on sustainability! Sarah from Cleenland (our local zero waste store) and I facilitated a community chat about sustainable behaviors and how to nudge people in our lives in a respectful way. We had about 20 participants join us, and it was very fulfilling to get to know more people I’ve only interacted with on social media and hear others’ experiences. Would love for a re-do!

Where I sent my dollars: Polly Barks and Sunrise Movement.

Although the internet might have led us to believe that everything should be free, “content” has never been free to create. So when Polly, one of my favorite sustainability educators (who has stopped doing ads or sponsorships) started a Patreon, I was happy to join! If you also have a favorite educator, advocate, or influencer whose work you admire, please find ways to support them!

My friends Rebecca and Erin are fundraising for the Sunrise Movement and even made it a fun music video to go along with it. Check it out here and donate if you can!

Books I’m reading:

Jenny Odell | How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. A book that is not about literally doing nothing. Rather, it’s about thinking outside of the capitalist market framework where our value is measured by productivity, and where every minute is captured, optimized, and financially exploited. Odell, an artist and academic, draws from naturalism, political history, art theory and a range of personal experiences to show us how “to hold yourself still so that you can perceive what is actually there.” This book is connecting a lot of dots for me (including from an environmental aspect), so thumbs up for How to Do Nothing.

Kate Raworth | Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century. In this book, Raworth challenges the need/myth for unchecked economic growth and theorizes how we can reach the balance between human and environmental needs. “Doughnut economics”, the term she coined to summarize her theory, has now been embraced by cities like Amsterdam to structure it’s post-pandemic recovery. My honest review is that I liked the ideas in the book, but had trouble really getting into the text. (If you are an audio learner, this Freaknomics episode with Raworth is an alternative format to get her ideas!)

A thing I’m enamored with: this vegan Korean food blog. I stumbled upon this blog browsing for recipes recently, and ended up pinning just about everything on Joanne’s site. Growing up, Korean food is often our go-to if we ate out for non-Chinese food, and it’s still some of my favorite things to eat. I’m by no means good at cooking Korean food, though it’s not for lack of trying…I’m reluctant to buy an ingredient that I might only use a few times (dried anchovies), and we don’t usually have a lot of meat at the house. The Korean Vegan is going to be a gamechanger for me since we are always well stocked with produce and some basic Korean pantry staples. You can also follow Joanne on IG, Youtube and a lot of other places, and I especially loved reading her personal stories on IG!

More stuff you should check out:

  • This online cookbook on carbon-conscious cooking. It’s created by Margaret Capetz (a Bay Area high-school student) and entirely free. I’ve marked quite a few recipes to try out!
  • This New Republic article on how “Amazon has pledged to offset carbon emissions – while donating generously to Republicans who are bent on letting the planet burn.” Welp, no one saw that one coming.
  • How China will reach carbon neutrality by 2060. China’s announcement to reach carbon neutrality is month-old news in the climate world, but I’m just catching up on the various takes and analyses. I linked an article from the Carbon Brief here, but there’s lots more to read on their site and elsewhere!
  • You must check out the How to Save a Planet podcast asap! Co-created by marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Alex Bloomberg (of This American Life, Planet Money and Gimlet Media fame), it is a “climate podcast you actually want to listen to.” I’ve been loving every episode, but a recent favorite is definitely Making Republicans Environmentalists again.
  • Tree planting has been in the news a lot lately with Trump’s Billion Tree Project. 99 Percent Invisible has a nice podcast story on why blindly planting trees everywhere is a terrible idea. Their story is about peat lands; you can read more cautionary tales from my post here.