Browngirl Going Green

Yes, I am Thinking and Saying Things, Just Not Here
July 9, 2010, 5:30 pm
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Oscar Grant mural in downtown Oakland on 17th and Telegraph

As a person of color, a writer, an activist, as a long-time resident of Oakland and someone who is Bay Area born-and-bred, I have some strong opinions and feelings about yesterday’s verdict in the Johannes Mehserle trial re: the murder of Oscar Grant. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to blog about it now because I have other writing to do, but if you’re interested in finding out more about what I think, please visit my Twitter feed, which is the main way I’ve been communicating with folks about what’s happening here.

And special shout out to Max Elbaum, fellow activist, writer and Oakland resident, whom I ran into at the rally last night downtown. He told me he's been following my blog (not sure which one) so just want to give him special thanks!


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-

Earth Day, Everyday
April 23, 2010, 4:15 am
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Today is Earth Day, a ‘holiday’ to celebrate the Earth and do ‘green’ things to help the planet thrive and become a more sustainable place for human beings and other beings to live. Earth Day is a good thing, for sure—Habitat for Humanity, for example, does a build-a-thon around Earth Day, and I’m sure hundreds of other nonprofits, businesses (including Google) and millions of individuals did things today to heighten public awareness of the dangers facing the environment and what we can all do to be more eco-conscious.

Maybe it’s because I live in the Bay Area, where there have got to be more Priuses and electric cars per square mile than anywhere else in the country, and where two of the biggest counties (Alameda and San Francisco) run extensive public recycling and composting programs for residents and even businesses, but Earth Day is not really that big of a deal to me. Not because I don’t think it’s good to celebrate the Earth on a special day once a year, but because I pretty much celebrate the Earth everyday.

Of course, there are days when my behavior is less eco-friendly than others (like when I give in to cravings and go get McDonald’s french fries or when I drive the two miles from my house to downtown Oakland for a meeting when I could easily take the bus), but most days, I strive to do as many things as I can in a way that’s less harmful to the environment and the living beings that dwell in it.

Some of the things I do everyday to honor the Earth:
– Thank the Earth for all that She gives us: food, water, ground to walk on, flowers, trees, soil.
– Recycle and compost (both through the public compost bin as well as two worm bins)
– Use a steel water bottle instead of buying plastic (90% of the time anyway ;))
– Garden pretty much ‘organically’, no pesticides
– Buy and eat locally grown, organic produce, from farmer’s markets and sometimes Whole Foods in a pinch
– Eat as much sustainably raised meat and seafood products as I can, given the limitations of the knowledge we have about our meat products
– Use cloth bags/sacks when shopping or just put things I buy in my (fairly large) purse
– Try to practice compassion and metta (loving kindness) as much as possible
– Donate money to environmental organizations
– Sign petitions in support of environmental causes and issues, such as this one that is pushing for more low-fat food, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc. be included in federally-funded school nutrition programs, which are largely aimed at serving low-income children
– Serve on the board of an environmental justice organization, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network

There are more things that I do, I’m sure, and there are also plenty of other things that I could do to be even more ‘green’. And Earth Day, I’m sure, helps a lot of people who don’t live in such highly eco-conscious environments learn more about what they can do to walk more lightly on the Earth.

But if we are going to make the big, long-term changes in the way we harness and use energy, in how we eat, in how we share resources and how we treat each other, we are going to have to practice being ‘green’ everyday, not just one day out of the year.

This is What the Future Could Look Like
April 18, 2010, 3:33 am
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As we count down to Earth Day 2010, just wanted to share two examples of what the future could (and hopefully will) look like if we as human beings are able to overcome our prejudices, divisions and the injustices of the past and present.

I just started reading The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones, an old activist colleague of mine. Just reading the preface by Robert Kennedy, Jr. right now, which is in and of itself pretty fascinating, as I didn’t know that he was a big environmentalist and also because there’s some great info in there about the potential economic impact of decarbonizing, or ending our economy’s dependence on fossil fuels and shifting over to solar, wind and other cleaner sources.

Also, found this website recently, for an organization called the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which places war veterans in job training programs on farms in the US, where they can not only learn how to cultivate food but can hopefully gain a respite from the violence and horrors they witnessed during their tours. It’s a brilliant idea—one of healing that reflects the needs of both the people who have been wounded by our society’s overdependence on oil, as well as environmental needs.

It excites me to know that there are many, many people out there striving to create a future where we can all live freely, work with dignity, play joyfully, breathe clean air and eat fresh, healthy food. It’s the kind of life that too few people on this planet experience right now, but I hope that in the future, that will all change for the better.

More Brownfolks Going Green

Jarid Manos and his son Kaiden (from the Ghetto Plainsmen web site)

Thanks to fellow blogger Dianne Glave for giving me the heads-up on two other people of color who are going green and writing about it. It’s been inspiring and cool for me to find these kindred spirits online, and makes me want to plan a cross-country trip so that I can meet these folks and see some of the wild places that have inspired them and their writing.

First, there’s DNLee at the Urban Science Adventures! blog, who recently visited San Francisco and seemed to have had a grand time. She’s a scientist who’s blogging about discovering nature in urban areas—one of my favorite people-of-color-and-the-environment topics. Since so many of us live in and / or identify with urban areas, either by choice or by force of circumstance (economic or otherwise) I think it’s important for people of color to (re)claim nature in the cities and towns where we live. Environmentalism is not just about going to the backwoods and living off the land—it’s about stewarding all of our natural resources in a way that’s respectful and sustainable.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dianne also introduced me to Jarid Manos, whose new book is provocatively and intriguingly titled The Ghetto Plainsman. Jarid is the CEO of the Great Plains Restoration Council, whose mission is to “restore and protect our shattered prairies and plains through developing youth leaders in Ecological Health”. I love this mission statement, and the way the organization integrates the healing of our young people and humanity with the healing of our land and ecosystems.

The time I spent in the Pacific Northwest last year as part of the Windcall Institute—a three-week-long nature residency for activists and organizers to recover from burnout and reconnect to our essential selves—showed me first-hand nature’s power to heal and to grant clarity and purpose. I came back from my time in that rugged, wild part of the world with a renewed sense of connection to the Earth, and a stronger commitment to making environmentalism part of my social justice work as well as my writing and my everyday life. I started this blog in part because of my time at Windcall—so I totally get that we need nature to heal ourselves, and that our acts of healing the Earth are also healing for ourselves.

Lastly, I’m going to be submitting something for the April Diversity in Science Carnival, a sort of blogging festival that’s being curated this month by Dianne, whose book, Rooted in the Earth is coming out in a few months. The theme this month is, of course, Earth Day, which happens every year on April 20th. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to write, but I’ll think of something.

Historic Day for Our Nation’s Health
March 23, 2010, 4:24 pm
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Michelle Obama and friends breaking ground in the White House Garden

Okay, so this isn’t an obviously ‘green’ post topic, per se, but I can’t NOT mention this—and health care (just like our food consumption and the food industry) could and should be a site of great ecological progress and waste reduction, if it were done right. Not to mention that nature is an amazing resource for healing and should be utilized with more respect and care than it currently is. It’s interesting that during this time of heated debate about health care reform, First Lady Michelle Obama has been everywhere talking about how we need to tacklechildhood obesity problem, and has been very vocal about promoting gardening as a way for children to be both in touch with where their food comes from as well as to eat more healthfully.

To me, these are very practical, everyday, accessible steps that many of us can and should take to being more empowered in our health choices—no matter what the state of our health care system is.

I’ve been slowly reading Why Our Health Matters by Dr. Andrew Weil, which is a great treatise on how we need to change the way we think about our health—I love that Dr. Weil calls our current system a ‘disease management’, not ‘health management’ system—and how we all need to take responsibility for our health as individuals, but also how as a society we need to put policies in place that more fully allow people to do so. Dr. Weil also posits that our highly technology-dependent Western medical system is a huge part of the problem, since it drives prices up while also making people over-reliant on pharmaceutical drugs and expensive procedures that are not only not making them well, but may be making them more sick.

As imperfect as the health care reform legislation is, it’s a step in the right direction towards universal coverage and hopefully someday, less of a private monopoly over the health care system. I, for one, am glad to be alive on this historic day, as President Obama signed this unprecedented legislation. But I also know that the real fight for true reform is still ahead—this is just the first big step. We need to make sure that we don’t stop here.

Link Up
February 1, 2010, 5:45 pm
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I’ve posted a bunch of new links in the sidebar to the left that I’ve been wanting to put up for awhile. If you’re a person of color looking to learn more or get into some green stuff, check ’em out. There’s a couple links on local Bay Area restaurants where you can eat mostly organic, locally grown, sustainable food (including humanely raised meat) from a variety of cuisines, such as Farmer Brown in San Francisco which has some slammin’ fried chicken. And if you want to have an event catered and need some good vegan (yes, I said VEGAN) Filipin food, check out No Worries Catering, based in the East Bay. No Worries is going to start selling food at the Jack London Farmer’s Market in April—woo-hoo! Guilt-free vegan kare-kare (oxtail soup)!

The Bay Area is a great place to be if you’re a brownperson trying to go green. Not only are there tons of places to get grub that’s wholesome and natural, but there are also activist organizations to support and get involved in, urban gardens to help out in, and tons more stuff. I’m just starting with the links I’ve got up right now—more will come soon. If you have any suggestions for links I should put up—especially blogs by other people of color about environmentalism or going green—please let me know.