Browngirl Going Green

One Way to Help: A Fundraiser’s Request

I sent this email out to several of my colleagues and friends, because as a fundraiser and an activist I can’t just sit idly by while animals die, people’s livelihoods are destroyed, and an entire eco-system is plagued by man-made death and destruction. It’s bad out there. So please do what you can to help the people who really do care about the environment and communities of the Gulf Coast to hold BP accountable and aid in the cleanup efforts. This is just one way to help, but it is a way.

Hey there,

It makes me so mad to watch the news every night and see how badly the oil spill is affecting the Gulf of Mexico. The environment, the communities there, the whales . . . it’s crazy.

Luckily, there’s one easy thing we can do to help. The Gulf Restoration Network is keeping us up-to-date on their blog, and you can take action to make sure BP cleans up its mess by clicking the link below.

Also, please consider making a donation to their work. I found about GRN through my friend Judy Hatcher, a long-time environmental justice activist who knows what’s what in the movement, and so I trust her opinion. GRN was her first referral to me when I asked about ways that I could help with this awful crisis in the gulf.

Thanks and take care,
Towards a just and sustainable world-


We Need More!
May 27, 2010, 3:39 pm
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While President Obama is expected to announce an extension of a moratorium on deepwater oil drilling today, all I can think is, ‘We need more!’

Not more oil, but more of a lot of other things: more respect for the environment, more public education about and infrastructure-building for alternative energy sources, more protections against the potentially destructive and ultimately unnecessary offshore drilling that’s resulted in the hot mess that is the Gulf oil spill, which the LA Times environmental blog reports as being far worse than the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

The superstitious Roman Catholic in me can’t help but think, ‘Why have two disasters of epic proportions struck the Gulf coast in the past decade?’ First Katrina and now this. And while deep down inside I don’t believe in a punitive God who rains destruction down on sinners, I do believe in karma. And offshore drilling is just wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels, and I’m not surprised if Mother Earth is just sick and tired of our endless plundering of her natural resources and in her own epic way is saying, ‘Enough!’ And now, a the spill has reached a powerful loop current that could move the oil to Florida and beyond. Hot mess indeed! And it was just a matter of time before people started getting sick. And while officials are saying that the leak has finally been contained, I don’t sense anyone out there doing any high fives or holding any celebratory parties.

Because the cleanup on this is going to take a frickin’ long, LONG time, and the impact on wildlife, the ecosystem and human beings will persist long after most of the oil is gone.

The one upshot to all of this could be that this crisis is forcing a lot more people to have deeper and more sustained conversations about our energy usage and the dangers of offshore drilling. Even mainstream nature media stalwart National Geographic is airing a special tonight about the spill.

And that’s what we need more of—more conversation about things that really matter, like how we’re going to sustain ourselves on this planet, and not just distracting, mindless talk about TV shows or celebrities or fashion. Not that I don’t do those things myself, but there comes a point when you have to get clear on your priorities. And now more than ever that’s what we ALL need to do.

First Broccoli Harvest
May 21, 2010, 10:41 pm
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I’m about to enjoy tasting the first batch of broccoli from the vegetable beds I’ve been tending in my friend T.’s backyard. They were a short-season variety that I bought at the Temescal Farmer’s Market a couple months ago, and they sprouted up quickly! Here’s a picture from a couple weeks ago of the broccoli bed:

And here’s a picture of the first few huge heads of broccoli that I harvested today from the garden. I think I probably should’ve harvested the largest ones a few days ago, but I didn’t have time to get out there until today. Lesson learned for next time.

As I was working in the garden today—as I’ve mentioned before, the beds are actually in my friend’s garden, and I visit there about once a week or so to weed, water, harvest, plant, etc.—I realized how luxurious it seemed to have the time to do this. When I was working a regular 9 to 5 job, there was no way that I would have had the time or energy to drive even 10 minutes to a friend’s house and work in the garden for an hour after work. It just wouldn’t happen. But now that I’m working more humane hours (about 4 days a week on average, thanks to my burgeoning fundraising consulting business), I usually have at least a couple hours a week to garden.

As I watered in the ‘urban quiet’ (the sound of birds chirping, wind rustling through trees, and cars rushing by a few blocks away on busy thoroughfare) I thought to myself how much I enjoy gardening. And how much my mother, and my cousin in LA, and my aunts and uncles who are all immigrants from the Philippines, love gardening. Regardless of class background or how long they’ve been in this country. Along with love of pork, fried foods, gambling and the Roman Catholic church, love of gardening is one thing immigrant Pinoys seem to share in common.

I remember though, that when I was growing up in the South Bay, and my mother and step-father both worked full-time in San Francisco, we didn’t have a garden. We had a yard yes—a pretty good size one too, that was mostly made up of lawn, some hedges and an olive tree or two that never seemed to make the kind of olives I saw in the store. But my mom, I’m guessing, didn’t have time to garden. And I bet that that was a bummer for her. Now that she’s semi-retired (she only works a couple days a week), she gardens a lot more, and grows lots of flowers as well as some vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes).

I knew I didn’t want to wait until I was semi-retired to grow a garden. Not just because that seemed like a long way away, but because I NEEDED to have a garden. It’s one of the few things that us city-dwellers can access on a regular basis to put us back in touch with nature’s cycles of birth (seeing the tender young leaves of a seedling), growth (watching the seedling turn into a plant and then a vegetable or fruit that you can eat), reproduction (bolting and flowering) and death (watching the leaves of my crops turn yellow or brown and wither away). Watching this cycle and being part of it by taking care of these plants, these living things, has been immensely healing to me. I crave the solitude and quiet productivity of my weekly garden-time. I have grown to need it the way I need time with friends or good food or even sleep.

So I’m thankful—even though it’s taken me a long time to realize it!—that I always had some form of nature around me, in the form of a garden, when I was a child. From helping my Mom and Aunt weed in the front yard to picking Meyer lemons from our small bush to watching my grandpa grow lush and overflowing cherry tomato plants against a fence in his backyard, next to the carport. I must’ve learned something about the soothing, healing power of nature from these suburban oases of green living things, and I’m grateful and glad.

Inspiring: Going Green (and Super-Cool) in Hong Kong
May 14, 2010, 5:20 am
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I get really tired—as I’m sure we all do—of only focusing on all the bad stuff that’s happening in the world, around the environment, politics, etc. So it’s rejuvenating to find inspiring stories like this one.

One of my theories about the future is that people who’ve had to make do with less—poor people of all colors, immigrants/migrants, Third World people—will have a much easier time adapting to the possibly imminent water and food shortages facing people in the ‘developed’ nations of the world. The example that Mr. Chang gives in the video of his household of five-plus people living in a tiny apartment in Hong Kong reminds me of when I went to the Philippines and was stunned (but tried to hide my surprise so I didn’t appear too ignorant or rude) that while my family let me sleep in the same bed with only one other person (my cousin Shirley, who’s about the same age as me), three of my younger cousins shared a space on the floor that was no more than 2 feet by 5 feet long. AND that sleeping ‘space’ they all shared was sandwiched between the bed I slept in and the bathroom. Yes, I said the bathroom.Needless to say, my very First World sensibilities were thoroughly offended.

Now I’m not saying that everyone should be forced to live in tiny studio apartments with ten other people, but we all have to learn how to live with less—and people that are used to having a lot less are at an advantage in that way. They can be more resourceful, more utilitarian, more practical about how to use what they have to meet their needs. And Mr. Chang, in the video, proves this beautifully.

Reeling: The Oil Spill Continues
May 12, 2010, 5:49 am
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My mind’s still reeling with the news that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has still not been stopped and that thousands of gallons of crude are still leaking. Even more outrageous are the dishonest double-talk quotes from BP representatives. For example, excerpted from the New York Times article linked above:

“‘I wouldn’t say it has failed yet,’ said Doug Suttles, the operating officer for exploration and production for BP, the company that was leasing the oil rig when it exploded April 20. ‘What I would say is what we attempted to do last night didn’t work.'”

WHAT? What’s the frickin’ difference between ‘it didn’t work’ and ‘it failed?’ It’s appalling how these guys just outright LIE to all of us and will most likely walk away from this whole situation with just a few dollars short, maybe their jobs lost, but will probably just end up at some other oil company somewhere else in the world and do it all over again.

And I’m equally pissed at the media (liberal or otherwise), that has ‘moved on’, as the media is wont to do, to the next ‘new’ story: the political drama unfolding during the Senate investigation into what will undoubtedly be the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Not that I’m saying that story isn’t important, but can we please spend more time talking about the environmental impact of this? Like the fact that the oyster-harvesters and other seafood harvesters in that part of the world could forever lose their entire livelihood and way of life? Not to mention what such damage to the ecosystem there would ripple through the rest of the food chain (and I’m not just talking about human beings not being able to get an oyster po’ boy).

This outrages me to no end, and I feel more people should be outraged, but I feel like even amongst my progressive/liberal friends, I hear very little talk about this. It’s like we just expect bad things to keep happening like this, and we just put our heads down and keep doing what we were doing. I’ve been doing the same, so I’m criticizing myself as well, but when do we stop and say, ‘Enough?’ And when, more importantly, do we then DO something different?

If This Doesn’t Change Our Actions, What Will?
May 8, 2010, 6:30 am
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I’ve been appalled, as many people have, by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico over the past week. It’s insane to me that this has not yet been contained. I literally have no words to express how outraged I am about this, and how inane it is that we are even in this predicament. I recently started reading Van Jones’ book, The Green Collar Economy, which starts off with an excellent preface by Robert Kennedy, Jr., who articulates how a nationwide shift to clean(er) energy such as solar, wind, etc. could be both a boon to our struggling economy as well as better for the environment.

Well, all I have to say is, for anyone that believes after this gigantic oil spill—the largest in the history of the US, if not the world—that a fossil-fuel based economy is still a good way to go, they may be certifiably insane.

Too Much Goin’ On
May 5, 2010, 2:42 am
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Where do I start? My life has been super-hectic with work lately, which is good for my pocketbook but not very good for my blogging and other writing (at least not in the short-term). And the world’s been kind of a schizo place lately, it seems—from the celebration of all things Earth Day and enviro this last month of April, to the devastating and tragically ironic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on the last day of the same month, to the craziness around the new Arizona anti-immigrant law.

On a more personal level, I’ve been trying to keep up with my garden while working tons more hours than I have in a long, long time, and mostly succeeded—me and my husband put a couple hours into taking care of the vegetable beds the other day, and were rewarded with the sight of broccoli heads poking out from between the huge leaves on my broccoli plants. I’ll post some pics later.

In other news, I went to check out some local ‘Bay-friendly’ aka environmentally sustainable gardens as part of the annual East Bay Bay Friendly Garden Tour, which was super-cool. Saw three Oakland gardens not more than a few miles from my home: a lovely terraced mini-forest garden shaded by huge redwoods; a C-shaped garden full of plants and flowers suited for its sunny location; and finally my friend Wally’s garden in deep East Oakland, which he pretty much ‘built’ himself, and includes keyhole veggie beds overflowing with fava beans, lots of drought-tolerant and native plants, and a hammock (aaahhh). Wally’s was the only stop on the garden tour, I’d venture a guess, where we were offered wine AND rum and coke.

Also, ate some of the pork chops from the sustainably and humanely raised pig that we share-bought a few months ago. Every bit of meat we’ve had from this pig has been frickin’ scrumptious—dense, meaty, savory.

I hope to put some more time into the garden and use some of my home-grown vermicompost in the beds soon. Which reminds me of something else I gotta do: feed my worms!