Browngirl Going Green

The Antidote to Browngirl’s Eco-Blues: Garden Bounty
July 7, 2010, 2:22 am
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The BP oil spill is still depressing, the City of Oakland is nearing hysteria over the upcoming verdict in the murder of Oscar Grant, and Obama still hasn’t lived up to our expectations. But some things in life are still beautiful: here are some photos of some veggies I’ve been growing in the backyard of my friend T. She grew the zukes, I grew the tomatoes (which are just starting to come in), beets and onions. Yummy and gorgeous!


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-

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?

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.

We Are So NOT in Charge (or That Cloud over Europe is Crazy!)
April 19, 2010, 1:01 am
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Satellite image of volcanic ash eruption in Iceland

I know I’m not the only one who’s tripped out by the huge ash cloud that’s spewing forth from Iceland and caused a virtual halt to all air traffic in Europe, as well as to the US’ military operations in Afghanistan. No matter what you think about this, it’s a major natural phenomenon, and a clear sign that we as humans are so not in charge of this world.

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.

BrownFolks on the Trail
March 7, 2010, 6:08 pm
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POC Hiking Group

One of the POC Hikes of 2009, in Marin

About a year or so ago, I started a Facebook group called, unsexily but accurately, ‘Bay Area People of Color Hiking Group’. My partner, Henry, and I do a fair amount of hiking in the beautiful and numerous public parks in the East Bay, and I wanted to hike with more folks, as well as increase the number of people of color I’d see on the trails. Sadly enough, even for a place as diverse as Oakland, I could usually count the number of people of color I would see on the trails around here on one hand on any given day. I knew that some of my POC friends were a little intimidated by hiking—usually they were interested but hadn’t done much of it and thus it was just an unfamiliar thing—or they didn’t have cars to get out to the hills, or they didn’t have anyone else to hike with. I figured with this group we’d knock all those things out of the picture and make it easy, fun and social at the same time.

Since then, the group—a fairly loose network of about 40 people, only about 15 of whom have actually come on one or more hikes—has stomped out on the trails about once per month, with a winter hiatus starting in November. I’m looking forward to starting up the group again once the rains taper off though.

Hiking is not only a fabulous way to get in touch with nature—I’ve learned how to identify some of the native trees in this area, have seen wild animals such as jackrabbits, and love the scent of the bay laurel leaves that are common in our canyons—but also a good way to get exercise, get to know folks and to reclaim or rediscover the lovely public spaces that are all around us.

I was also happy to find online—and to later discover that many of my African-American Facebook friends were already fans of—the EcoSoul Nature Stroll group, another crew of POC who are making an intentional effort to get out into nature via hiking. I’m hoping to join one of their strolls soon and / or to do a joint hike with the BA POC hiking group. Possibilities abound!

POC Hike - Wind

A windy day on the trail in Las Trampas Regional Park