The Beginner’s Guide to Countering the Trump Agenda. Resources for Action and Next Steps.

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A marcher holds a sign at the Women’s March NYC that is the embodiment of the Trump Era.

We are living in unprecedented times. Millions of people are engaging in the political process for the first time as advocates for causes they believe in. All the collective fear and chaos can be overwhelming. It is temping to spend all of our time worrying while compulsively scrolling social media and engaging in useless comment wars with people (including trolls) we barely know and whose minds are not open to change. These habits that we’ve developed since the 2016 election campaigns stop today.

Right now you can make the conscious choice to take action. To arm yourself with the knowledge you need to better your community and protect this country from the Trump agenda. This list is by no means comprehensive but my hope is it will provide you with a useful guide of toolkits, resources and immediate actions suited to those who are only just getting started.

Best of luck and see you out there.

Short Term/Take Action Right Now

5Calls.org 

Pressed for Time? 5 Calls to your members of Congress makes getting your progressive point across easy. 

The Sixty Five

->derives its name from the 65 Million people who did not vote for Trump. Find actions and call scripts on the important policy issues of the day.

Indivisible Guide (Find a group near you)

Learn how to influence your members of congress from former congressional staffers and find a local group to get to work. Example of success: How Chuck Schumer Found His Spine

Medium to Long Range Engagement

Adopt a State

Progressives Need to Build Power in Purple and Deep Red States. It is not as hard as you might believe. Adopt a state and help build power across the country.

Sister District

Republicans dominate state legislatures across the country. This has allowed them to redraw congressional districts to favor their party. To win back congress, progressives must win back seats in these states. Sign up to help a sister district or become a district captain.

Swing Left

The 2018 Senate map is bruising for Democrats. Swing Left believes democrats, with your help, can win back the House of Representatives and put a check on President Trump. Type in your zipcode and get connected with your nearest swing district so you can help flip or preserve the seat.

Run for Something

You need to run for office, yes you! Run for your local school board, planning board, town board, mayor, city council, or state legislature. It’s not as daunting as you may think. Run for Something is here to help you raise money and get the word out.

Assigned Reading

From Protests Past, Lessons in What Works – New York Times Opinion 1/31/2017

Indivisible Guide (read it!)

Wellstone Action Toolkit for Progressive Organizing

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action 

Deep Dive on Nonviolent Engagement

Self-care tips for those who are terrified of Trump’s presidency– Washington Post Opinion

Thanks to my wonderful partner Jo Hee Park-Cunningham for editing this post.

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Tell President Obama to Protect Bears Ears by Declaring it a National Monument

Send a message to President Obama to tell him that Bears Ears is a national treasure and he should protect it from mining, fracking and development.

Learn more here: http://wilderness.org/tell-president-obama-%E2%80%9Cbears-ears%E2%80%9D-region-utah-needs-protection-drilling-mining-and-vandalism

Click for interactive map via Protect Bears Ears Coalition

Photos and descriptions courtesy of The Wilderness Society

Bears Ears’ namesake is a pair of sandstone-fringed buttes jutting about 2,000 feet up from the mesa. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

The Bears Ears buttes, viewed from the south. Photo by Tim Peterson.

In October 2015, tribal representatives petitioned President Obama to protect Bears Ears as a national monument. This was thought to be the first time Native tribes had ever joined forces to do this. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

Among Bears Ears’ cultural highlights is Newspaper Rock, a slab of sandstone is covered with recorded history in the form of etched petroglyphs thought to date back about 1,500 years.

Ancient Puebloan ruins. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

Cedar Mesa, an expansive plateau dotted with canyons and sandstone pinnacles. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

According to polling, 66 percent of Utah residents support the creation of a national monument (only 20 percent oppose it). Photo by Tim D. Peterson.

Bears Ears contains a number of cherished rock-climbing spots among other outdoor recreation spots. Photo by Mikey Schaefer, courtesy of Patagonia.

Among the popular rock-climbing spots is Indian Creek, leading from the northern end of Bears Ears to Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Jonathan Fox, flickr.

Wind Whistle Rock, in the northeast section of the Bears Ears region. Photo by Tim D. Peterson.

Along Comb Ridge, a 120-mile-long sandstone fold running through the southwest section of Bears Ears. Photo by Tim D. Peterson/LightHawk.

Rock formation near White Canyon in the western part of the Bears Ears region, an unusually rugged and untouched example of the region’s beauty. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

Manti-La Sal National Forest covers a large portion of Bears Ears with Gambel oak, aspen, fir and pine woodland, which includes habitat for elk, black bear and more. Photo by John Buie, flickr.

A view of the Abajo Mountains within Manti-La Sal National Forest. Photo by Tim D. Peterson.

Hammond Canyon, also in Manti-La Sal National Forest. Photo by Tim D. Peterson.

Valley of the Gods, to the south of Cedar Mesa. This backcountry stretch is similar to the nearby (much larger) Monument Valley, and both are known for red sandstone buttes, pinnacles and cliffs. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

Valley of the Gods’ scenery is so unusual and arresting that it has been used as a science-fiction backdrop for television. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

Goosenecks State Park, south of Valley of the Gods at Bears Ears’ southern edge, is renowned for its stunning view of the San Juan River winding through the desert below. Photo by Rick Bergstrom, flickr.

Bears Ears is as susceptible to human-caused damage as it is spectacular. National monument status would help ensure the area is protected. Photo by Mason Cummings (TWS).

 

 

 

A thin blue line and a place called home

View from Scenic Hudson's Long Dock Park in Beacon, NY

View from Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park in Beacon, NY

Today as I laid in the grass, basking in the Hudson Valley sunshine I couldn’t help but drift upward into the blue sky I so often worry about. I fell (as I often do) into a strange moment of utter content followed by a surge of angst and worry. A cloud passed to ease my mind and I settled on playing a favorite childhood pastime, searching for animals amongst the clouds. How wonderful, for a moment to feel childlike again! Alas! My thoughts came full circle back to that wondrous thin blue line protecting our planet from the cold and unforgiving forces in our solar system.

How fragile a treasure this thin blue line truly is, yet our modern society nearly depleted the ozone through refrigerators, hair sprays and other aerosols. Even today, years after the implementation of the Montreal Protocol (an international agreement governing the phase out of ozone depleting chemicals) a large hole remains in the ozone and will take a long time to close. How arrogant must we be as a society to believe that our industrial activities have no impact on this pale blue dot we live on! Look around and you’ll see one cut among millions (as they say, “death from thousand cuts”).

Long Dock Panarama

However, I digress, the tide is coming in and I hear the Hudson River crashing into the large boulders placed to fortify the park from the steady pounding of the moon. I see the forested shores of Denning’s Point State Park in Beacon and the majestic Hudson Highlands as my fingers run over the fresh blades of spring. I wonder if a future drought will bring fire to the landscape as climate change drives New York’s weather into more extreme periods of wet and dry. This year we have already had two unseasonably early fires in Orange and Ulster County.

We have such limited time here, so few chances to circle around the sun. For thousands of years of human existence we’ve more or less received the perfect amount of warmth from the sun, allowing the earth’s atmosphere to shed the excess radiation. Now, however, we’re wrapping our humble little world in an ever-thickening blanket of greenhouse gasses.

The View from Mount Beacon

The View from Mount Beacon

There’s exciting news on the solutions side and a convergence of many factors, indicators giving me hope. Many companies once resistant to climate policy and science are backing away from that position and embracing the need for action. Renewable energy is reaching price parity with many conventional fossil fuels. If the enormous subsidies for fossil fuels disappears, renewables would be dramatically cheaper than their competitors. The fossil fuel divestment movement is moving into the mainstream and raising questions about the asset-worthiness of fossil fuel investments if the majority of known reserves must remain unburned and forever buried. Lot’s of good things are happening, I can rest in the grass a wee-bit longer.

View of Fishkill RIdge from the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

View of Fishkill Ridge from the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

I guess I never really understood the ‘do-nothing’ attitude, even if the odds seem insurmountable. I’ve always been inclined to root for the underdog. Now, I am the underdog, working alongside millions trying to safeguard this little “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” (astronomer Carl Sagan). Just looking up at this remarkable blue sky makes me feel like I’m a little bit closer to victory, a global average temperature increase of only 2 degrees centigrade. This is a good place, its home. Let’s keep it that way.

View from Storm King Mountain

View from Storm King Mountain

Re: Dear Representative Woodall

Nearly five months later I finally received a reply from my congressman about his stance on climate change policy. Today I sent back another reply and when he finally gets back to me, I will reply again.

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Dear Representative Woodall,

I am deeply grateful for your reply to my concern about your position on the President’s Clean Power Plan, Clean Air Act section 111d.

Please do not take my word on climate change for I am not a climatologist. However, I have received an education that taught me how to balance the weight of evidence, credible vs. non-credible sources. The overwhelming majority of scientific institutions around the world, representing the vast majority of scientific experts in this topic agree that both climate change is real and human activities are the primary driver.

Is using executive authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the most efficient and cost effective way the United States can deal with unfettered emissions? No, not by a long shot. Nearly every reputable economist agrees that a tax on greenhouse gasses would be the fairest way to rein in the negative externalities caused through our burning of fossil fuels. Taxes in other areas such as income or food could be drastically reduced to offset the new cost, the true cost of burning fossil fuels.

There are certainly plenty of policies that we can disagree on based upon the merits of policy design. However, to simply dismiss the necessity of dealing with climate change at any level is both offensive to me as a constituent and to the people you swore to protect and defend.

We have met several times and spoken in person about this issue and I sincerely look forward to the day when we can discuss policy differences— instead of this unfortunate denial of settled science.

Sincerely your constituent and friend,

Jeremy Cherson

Urgent opportunity to fight for clean energy in NY and slow climate change

Reposted from Riverkeeper.org by Jeremy Cherson May 15, 2015

New Yorkers have a unique opportunity to support sustainable energy in our state – and we all need to pay attention and speak up.

Solar_panels_on_a_roofThe state-led initiative Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), seeks to address the immense challenges facing New York State’s energy system, maintain the state’s leadership on climate policy and provide affordable energy to the public. Aiming to radically alter the trajectory of New York’s energy delivery system, the initiative emerged in late 2014 and is planned throughout 2015 culminating in 2016 (see the timeline below).

This timeline demonstrates the how quickly the PSC is moving and why the public needs to act. By William Opalka and Rich Heidorn Jr. of RTO Insider

North America’s energy delivery system, including the grid, is a significant hurdle towards implementing renewable energy. New York’s energy infrastructure is rapidly aging and projected to cost $30 billion dollars to upgrade and replace (New York Public Service Commission, 2014).

Courtesy: Union of Concerned Scientists

But the goal is urgent. Climate change is a great challenge facing the Hudson River. Under high emissions scenarios, our current carbon trajectory, New York is projected to have a climate similar to the state of Georgia by 2100 (Union of Concerned Scientists). Centralized electricity generation powered mostly by coal, oil and gas is a primary driver of climate change.

The REV proceedings have 6 tenets:

“1) Enhanced customer knowledge and tools that will support effective management of the total energy bill; 2) Market animation and leverage of customer contributions; 3) System wide efficiency; 4) Fuel and resource diversity; 5) System reliability and resiliency; and 6) Reduction of carbon emissions.” (Public Service Commission, 2014, emphasis added)

Why should clean water advocates be involved?

Oil sheen after a transformer fire at Indian Point on May 10, 2015 CR: John Lipscomb

Public engagement from the viewpoint of water is imperative in the rapidly changing landscape of New York’s energy system. Many of the challenges the Hudson River faces are due to a legacy of 20th century energy systems such as Indian Point Nuclear Plant and fossil fuel electricity generation plants. (Read more about how the water intakes at these plants harm wildlife and impair our waterways.) Transforming the electricity grid to handle renewable energy such as wind and solar hastens the day when large centralized power plants such as Danskammer and Indian Point close, saving money for the consumer – and billions of fish.

REV is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Promote Renewable Energy

Andrew_Cuomo_by_Pat_Arnow_croppedGov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the PSC to bring together stakeholders from across the state to help re-imagine the New York’s energy system. The opportunity for public engagement, including Riverkeeper and supporters, to influence the process towards aggressive renewable energy and local energy control has never been greater. REV is under an accelerated timetable as part of New York’s strategy to meet the requirements of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan by June 2016. Therefore, the decisions made between now and the end of 2015 will decide the scope of New York’s energy transformation.

“Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), aims to reorient both the electric industry and the ratemaking paradigm toward a consumer-centered approach that harnesses technology and markets. Distributed energy resources (DER) will be integrated into the planning and operation of electric distribution systems, to achieve optimal system efficiencies, secure universal, affordable service, and enable the development of a resilient, climate-friendly energy system” (Public Service Commission, 2014, emphasis added).

1024px-Wind_Turbines_and_Power_Lines,_East_Sussex,_England_-_April_2009
The REV, has been divided into two tracks. Track one of the PCS’s Order, outlining the general vision of a restructured utility market including distributed energy resources and the ownership of those resources. Track two is much more ambitious, proposing a new paradigm for utilities to make a profit. In the old (current) model, utilities make a guaranteed rate of return based on the amount of distribution system they built. The PSC has proposed instead that utilities make profits based on the benefits they provide customers. However, the fight becomes how to design such a framework.

How will various benefits be weighted? Will the protection of water resources be considered a benefit? How will climate protection benefits be weighed against reliability and other system benefits? These are questions the public needs answered.

Track two is now open for public comment and requires immediate consideration. Comments are due on June 1, 2015.

Additionally, NYSERDA has proposed the creation of a Clean Energy Fund (CEF) focused on “market animation” and abolishing most consumer-level, direct financial incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. With the CEF, NYSERDA aims to leverage private capital and focus on maturing the clean energy market in New York State. The public comment period for the CEF has been extended until July 2015.

Submit Comments on the REV and CEF

Submit your comments on the REV through the Alliance for a Green Energy Economy (AGREE) or individually: submit your comments here.

Comment on the Clean Energy Fund here.

The opportunity to act is now. We must seize it and be heard.

The importance of the Reforming the Energy Vision proceedings is an opportunity for New York State to lead the world in a clean energy, and allow the state to dramatically reduce the impacts of electricity generation on our water. The choices New York makes within the next few years will dramatically influence the direction of energy policy across North America.

The Reforming the Energy Vision proceedings and development of the Clean Energy Fund is an important step towards achieving the state’s goal of an 80 percent reduction of GHG emissions by 2050. The public must engage in this process and activate our communities in advocating for a healthy Hudson through our transition to clean energy.

Resources to Learn More

Citizens for Local Power
http://www.citizensforlocalpower.com/utility-reform.html

Alliance for a Green Energy Economy
http://allianceforagreeneconomy.org/content/reclaiming-energy-vision

Natural Resources Defense Council
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jmorris/rev-ing_it_up_in_new_york_a_lo.html

Pace Energy and Climate Center
http://energy.pace.edu/blog/new-york-public-service-commission-approves-reforming-energy-vision-rev-track-one-order-what-we

New York Public Service Commission
http://www3.dps.ny.gov/W/PSCWeb.nsf/a8333dcc1f8dfec0852579bf005600b1/26be8a93967e604785257cc40066b91a/$FILE/REV%20factsheet%208%2020%2014%20%282%29.pdf

Union of Concerned Scientists
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/impacts/effects-global-warming-upstate-new-york.html

Climate Central
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/new-york-smart-grid-research-18874

– See more at: http://www.riverkeeper.org/docket/urgent-opportunity-to-fight-for-clean-energy-in-ny-and-slow-climate-change/#sthash.R1mCjiJD.dpuf

DOT delivers industry wish list on bomb trains

Reposted from Riverkeeper.org
By Jeremy Cherson on May 7, 2015

CR: Jennifer Willis

The final rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation on crude oil trains— more than two years in the making — fails to address critical safety risks associated with the crude oil crisis. This rule will place communities nationwide in harm’s way for nearly a decade to come. The latest regulations continue a disturbing trend — pitting local communities against the multi-billion dollar oil & gas lobby.Read: “Obama Administration Leaves Explosive Oil Trains on the Rails for Years.

With the exception of advanced braking systems required for trains over 70 cars long by 2021, the final rule reads off like the Exxon-Mobil wish list. Dangerous tank cars will ride the rails for years to come. The DOT could have gone further, implementing National Transportation Safety Board recommendations for an “aggressive” milestone based schedule, providing a public reporting mechanism on industry progress, require “appropriately sized pressure-relief devices” and retrofitted tank cars with adequate fire protection.

The feds handed industry a pass to transport flammable and volatile crude oil in dangerous tank cars until 2025. Nearly 10 years from today! Avoiding the “financial burden” on the oil and rail industries’ shareholders, the Department of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget opted, instead, to place the burden of risk on communities from Albany to Seattle.

Most troubling, proposals to notify communities of dangerous cargo were shelved due to “security and proprietary business” concerns. Instead, the railroads will hand out a phone number and say, “Call us!” We believe first responders have a right to know the movements of dangerous cargo to protect themselves and their communities from harm.

How can we be shocked by this rule? This is the dangerous, business-as-usual model of the fossil fuel industry. But, we are dependent on oil, some say, so what is the alternative?

There are new developments and opportunities to quickly transition to a low carbon economy — sparing our water, air and communities from the worst of climate change and the impacts of fossil fuel infrastructure. Alternative energies such as solar are catching up fast both in scale and price.

The first offshore wind development broke ground off Rhode Island. In the first quarter of 2015, renewables represented 75 percent of the total new energy generation added to the grid. Responding to the in-motion threat of climate change to California,Gov. Jerry Brown announced the most ambitious climate target in the United States, a 40 percent cut in planet warming emissions by 2030.

However, we must transition faster, rejecting fossil fuel development for a low carbon future. Building momentum at the local level and holding state politicians accountable to deliver on climate goals is critical.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised an 80 percent cut in planet warming emissions by 2050, yet has no blueprint to get us there. A statewide Climate Action Plan has been in the works for nearly a decade, yet Commissioner Joseph Martens of the state Department of Environmental Conservation says he’s “more interested in actions than words. With Global and Buckeye eyeing boilers to facilitate the movement of dangerous and dirty tar sands through New York, theneed for a Climate Action Plan centered on public health, environmental justice and protection from the worst impacts of climate change is urgent.

Projects like Solarize Hudson Valley, launching in Kingston this week, promise to make solar energy affordable for more people, moving the Hudson Valley forward. The faster we can transition away from oil, coal and natural gas, the sooner dangerous tank cars —no matter the specification — will get off the rails.

Until then, Riverkeeper will keep pushing to protect the Hudson and its communities from becoming collateral damage in the “reckless pursuit” business model of the fossil fuel industry. However, it takes all of us to move the conversation forward. Every advocate, parent, and citizen must demand responsibility from industries placing citizens and the planet in harms way for private profit.

Learn more about this campaign and take action.

– See more at: http://www.riverkeeper.org/docket/dot-delivers-industry-wish-list-on-bomb-trains/#sthash.gOiMhZBV.dpuf

No more waiting, protect our river from a crude disaster

Reposted from http://www.riverkeeper.org
By Jeremy Cherson on April 16, 2015

Crude oil transport via rail has increased by 4,000 percent in the United States over the past six years, with rail shipments of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to New York increasing to approximately 20 percent of the total output from the region (view the dramatic increase via these graphics from the EIA).

10-Major-disasters

Much of this oil is transported in dangerously outdated tank cars that ride overdilapidated rail bridges and tracks, which receive very little government or industry oversight. Additionally, barges carry some 4 million gallons per day and an 8.4 million gallon tanker laden with crude threatens the ecological integrity of the Hudson River and the water supply for over 100,000 Hudson Valley residents(read our letter to drinking water communities at risk). A spill on the Hudson could have devastating impacts on the $4.7 billion tourism economy many waterfront communities depend on. Imagine the headlines if a spill occurred.

Modes of Transport

Recent accidents such as the derailment and fire in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, underscore the urgency of finalizing a rule with the strongest regulations for tank car integrity, brake enhancements and speed limits, among other risk reduction options (read our press release) in the wake of these disasters. Riverkeeper submitted extensive comments (summary here) to the pending rule on High Hazard Flammable Trains by the Department of Transportation aimed at increasing crude by rail safety. Rules are due to be released in May, but will they be enough?

Intro SlideIf a spill occurs, is New York prepared to protect drinking water intakes and sensitive areas of the river? We are working with the Coast Guard to update its Area Contingency Plan for the Hudson River. Together with Scenic Hudson we submitted comments advocating for the pre-deployment of response equipment in sensitive areas of the estuary in addition to plans for oil spill response on the middle and upper Hudson. The current response plan doesn’t adequately address a spill in those areas or a spill of heavy tar sands crude into the river north of the metro area. We are working for the best possible preparedness and response plans, while the risks have been made all too clear.

Lac Megentic

The Governor’s budget increases the spill response fund cap from $25 million (its level since 1977) to $40 million, but this is hardly adequate.The total liabilities for the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, rail disaster in July 2013, for example, could easily reach $2.7 billion over the next decade. Additionally, experts tell us that a “successful” oil-spill cleanup may only recover between 20-25 percent of Bakken oil. If heavy tar sands crude oil spills, we could expect a “cleanup” effort to recover between 0-5 percent!

Michelle

Given the inadequacy of the increased spill fund cap to cover a worst-case oil spill disaster and the low recovery rate projected in the event of a spill, it is clear that prevention is the only option. Therefore, we must collectively demand attention and remain relentless in our efforts to educate communities along the river. Recently Dutchess and Putnam County joined the chorus of Hudson Valley communities demanding action from New York State and the federal government.

Take Action NOW

Dear Wellcome Trust and The Gates Foundation: Divest from Fossil Fuels

My letter to the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust as a signatory of The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground Campaign urging the charities to divest from fossil fuels due to climate change’s dramatic impact on human health and wellbeing.

Dear Wellcome Trust and The Gates Foundation,

I stand with more than 180,000 Guardian Readers. We hope you’re listening.
http://gu.com/p/47b7h/sbl

The work you do to support global health is incredible and makes a tangible difference in peoples lives. However, your investment in fossil fuel companies, particularly the 200 largest means that you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You cannot simultaneously solve world health problems while investing in the fuels and companies responsible for causing climate change and preventing global action on the issue.

As you are aware, climate change is a threat-multiplier– leading to drought, intra-state conflict, heat waves, intense rainfall and additional negative impacts. All of the previously mentioned climate threats directly impact human health and wellbeing, threatening the most vulnerable populations on the planet. I urge you to make a statement through divestment and encourage others in the health philanthropy field to follow suit.

Best,

Jeremy Cherson

The Dollars and Cents of Moving Beyond Polystyene (aka styrofoam)

Polystyrene (aka styrofoam) at Little Stony Point beach

Polystyrene foam (aka styrofoam) is a persistent non-biodegradable pollutant found in the Hudson River Estuary and waterbodies around the world. Primarily used in food service and packaging, polystyrene enters the environment both intentionally and unintentionally leading to negative ecological and economic consequences.  A recent report published in PLOS One estimated the world’s oceans contain a minimum of 5.2 trillion particles of plastic! The combined weight is estimated at 268,940 tons of petroleum-based plastic— including polystyrene in our global waterways.

The photo above shows polystyrene pollution on the shoreline of Little Stony Point in Hudson Highlands State Park in Putnam County, New York. Unlike many products in the waste stream, polystyrene is non-recyclable and non-compostable. Most importantly, many economical and less environmentally damaging alternatives are available on the market.

IMG_5923Recognizing the feasibility of eliminating polystyrene, New York City will ban the product in food service establishments beginning January 1, 2016. On June 1, 2015 Putnam County, New York will ban the use of polystyrene is county facilities. Albany County’s ban for chain restaurants went into effect in 2014. Ulster County, New York is voting on a ban Tuesday, March 17. Across the country local governments are tackling the problem.

However as my title notes, solving this problem goes beyond simply banning the product. For example, New York’s very own Ecovative design grows 100% biodegradable “polystyrene” and “plastic”  materials out of mushrooms. These products are an innovative solution that have applications for packaging, surfboards, construction materials and more. Listen to their story on NPR’s Marketplace.

In Beacon, New York local entrepreneur and owner of Zero to Go, Sarah Womer designed a whole business model around minimizing waste. Her business is creating ripples in the Hudson Valley, through education and contracting with large events to minimize their impact . Zero to Go serves as a wholesaler of compostable food wares and therefore minimizes the cost barriers for large events and local businesses to purchase environmentally responsible products. Read more about Zero to Go in the Poughkeepsie Journal, “Recycle, reuse, renew mission of Zero to Go.”

Polystyrene Yellow at Little Stony PointAlternatives to polystyrene exist. Businesses around the world are reinventing how we design products and deal with waste. Our policy makers at the local, state and federal levels should create the conditions for eco-entrepreneurs to flourish. Designing policies that incentivize the use, affordability and innovation of products to solve our global polystryrene and plastic pollution problem should become a priority. What is missing is the political will to adequately address the problem. It is my hope that emerging businesses like Zero to Go and Ecovative design will help policymakers see the dollars and cents.

A Crude Sunset: Will we ever stop drilling?

Bakersfield Crude Oil Well

Credit: Jeremy Cherson

Crude oil production well at sunset in California’s San Joaquin Valley. At the time, in 2012, US production was ramping up to meet up to 66% of US demand for oil as it did in 2014.

However, there are costs associated with increased production. Oil and gas drilling leads to sometimes dramatic local air pollution by fugitive #emissions from leaks in these wells and in the aging pipeline infrastructure transporting this oil. Globally new wells and fossil fuel infrastructure contribute to climate change as our policy choices now lock in 40 years or more of development.

I remember living in the haze of the San Joaquin and wondering, “how have we managed to foul paradise with choking air pollution?” This photo often leads me to wonder if we can ever break our addiction. What do you think?