Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Spill

Haven't watched it yet over here, but it's probably awesome. CUNY Appleseed hearts PBS.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Race and food justice take root in Bronx, Brooklyn

Over at, writer Natasha Bowen has turned her attention to New York City's growing community of black and Latino farmers and organizers within the sustainable food movement here. In researching her piece, she met an impressive number of farmers and food organizers from organizations in every borough, including Just Food, the New York City Community Garden Coalition, the New School's Living Concrete/Carrot City series, the Brooklyn Rescue Mission, which runs a farm in Bed-Stuy, the Bronx's Tagwa Community Farm and La Finca del Sur, led by women of color, and finally, Dennis Darryck, who started a farmshare project for residents of the South Bronx and Harlem recently profile in the New York Times.

Bowen also mentions the Community Vision Council, a group organizing the first annual Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference just a month from now, from Nov. 19 to 21 at Brooklyn College. The conference will explore how activists and workers can examine the intersections of food, race, poverty and social justice and tackle issues around hunger, access, food-related illnesses and more.

Critics of the food justice movement most commonly, and justifiably, decry it as Whole Foods-elitist, white, wealthy and largely oblivious to the realities of most Americans and unable (or unwilling) to address said issues. How great to see these much-needed conversations and activism take root here.

Anyone plan to attend the conference?

Photo credit: David Barrie via Flickr

NY's solution to under staffing?

As blogged here a few days ago, apparently the solution is to just cut out the agency head. ProPublica (a constant source of excellent journalism) has been covering the enforcement, or lack thereof, of natural gas drilling for years now. They have a state-by-state breakdown site.

Here are some of the graphs for New York:

So if you click the image I think you can see it larger, but the important points to note: down to 16 people enforcing regulation of natural gas wells in NY State.

And look at this:
A nice steady increase of wells being drilled by year, with a dwindling staff. Note the number above the graph - 19 enforcement staff for 13,684 wells in 2008.


Good thing Paterson just sacked Grannis, for sure... Even though he was supporting hydrofracking, he internally spoke up about an inability to manage what we're already doing.

In light of these realities, Grannis' memo is quite grim:

Monday, October 25, 2010

LEED green building officials blue under new lawsuit

Founders and members of the U.S. Green Building Council, who maintain the popular LEED rating system and guidelines for green building design and energy use, have been slapped with a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for allegedly fraudulently misleading consumers and misrepresenting energy performance of buildings with LEED certification.

The filing plaintiff, longtime outspoken LEED critic and engineer Henry Gifford, owner of Gifford Fuel Saving of Manhattan, is part of a class of plaintiffs consisting of business owners who paid for LEED certification and taxpayers who claim they helped subsidize LEED buildings. Gifford, deemed worthy of a New Yorker profile in 2003, not only claims he has been harmed by USGBC, but claims to represent the interests of the other plaintiffs who say they paid for LEED certification under false promises. Under the suit, they demand that USGBC pay $100 million in compensation and legal fees to victims, and stop their alleged deceptive practices.

But the case seems shaky, at best. Gifford cites his evidence of misrepresentation on his own analysis of data from the most thorough study done of LEED construction to date, a 2008 study from New Buildings Institute (NBI) and USGBC. Gifford claims that, under his own analysis, LEED buildings are, on average, 29 percent less efficient -- a sharp contrast to the findings from the NBI study (supported by the National Research Council Canada) which found LEED-certified building an average of 25 to 30 percent more efficient than the average building.
Gifford (EBN)
Meanwhile, the class action suit might fall apart, as each plaintiff's case varies widely and the lead plaintiffs may not be the best to represent the class. Then there's the question of whether Gifford specifically was truly harmed from the alleged fraud. Oh, and there's this statement:

"I'm afraid that in a few years somebody really evil will publicize the fact that green buildings don't save energy and argue that the only solution [to resource constraints] to more guns to shoot at the people who have oil underneath their sand," he told Environmental Building News.

Hmm. EBN interviewed several lawyers who explained that consumers have numerous opportunities to verify their energy consumption under LEED and that LEED design alone could not reduce energy use if residents do not also adjust other living factors. They're sure the suit won't get too far.

But if the suit succeeds, what could it mean for green building? Read more details to the debate here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gov. Paterson fires environmental leader over leaked memo

Gov. David Paterson is doing his darn best to tick off environmental advocates just months before he leaves office.

After writing a completely legitimate memo critiquing budget cuts to already strapped state environmental programs, Pete Grannis, New York State's commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation was fired Thursday, prompting environmental activists and other politicians to call for his immediate rehiring.

Former commissioner Grannis

In his memo, published Tuesday by the Albany Times-Union, Grannis wrote that cuts to the state's environmental programs -- two offices' budgets were slashed about 12 percent from last year's totals -- have left them "hanging by a thread." About 209 people would lose jobs, bringing the total lay-offs to nearly 800 within the past few years, and leaving even fewer people to manage all the offices oversee.

Since when is critique of Albany's disastrous budgetary crisis worthy of firing? Perhaps if Grannis had been talking crazy -- instead, tons of Albany insiders back his concerns. So far, state Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, Assembly member Kevin Cahill, head of the Energy Committee, and eight other Assembly members including Jim Brennan of NYC have all spoken up in favor of rehiring Grannis, writes Brian Nearing of the Times-Union. Leaders from more than a dozen environmental groups have spoken out Gov. David Paterson for the firing.

In its statement on the firing, the Sierra Club called it "the latest in a series of appalling assaults to the environment coming out of Governor’s office." "While we may have locked horns with Pete over gas drilling, he has 40 year record of protecting the environment and has fought to keep his decimated agency together – always doing more with an ever-shrinking pool of funding and staff." Others critique the suddennes and process of the firing, especially since the governor's office moved without consulting the Assembly or Grannis.

Grannin also wrote in his memo that the budget cuts, and future cuts, will not only devastate programs based in state parks, hunting, hiking, fishing and camping, but also weaken the state's efforts to reign in the corporate push for the uber dangerous, environmentally devastating natural gas drilling within the Marcellus Shale further upstate. (Check this video here).

Irked? Call or email the Governor's office at 518-474-8390 and to call for Grannis's reinstatement.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Event: Campus Clothing Swap!

Hold on to your socks! Well, actually, let 'em go, along with your shirts, pants, jackets, skirts, bowties, zoot suits, cowboy hats, whatever. Bring them all to the Green Coalition's Second Annual Clothing Swap, at SIT time (12:15 to 1:45 p.m.) Thursday, Nov. 4, location TBA!

(Something like that)

For those who have never attended a clothing swap, it's super fun, super simple, super cheap (i.e. free) and green, based on that good old theory of "one person's trash is another person's treasure," etc., etc. Drop off your gently-used clothes at the swap, sift through the pile of awesome used clothes donated by your classmates, and pick up new duds for yourself! If you hadn't noticed, CUNY Law students are an extremely well-dressed bunch. Trust us, you'll definitely go home happy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reduce your "forkprint"

Stuck on campus all day, with the need to eat lunch (or dinner -- poor souls), one's likely to need some forks, knives, spoons at some point. Most of us scrounge up some plastic silverware from the cafeteria or a random seminar room. Of course, we throw out the plastic. It may be recycled but most likely ends up in a landfill or in our oceans, leeching chemicals into the ground, groundwater and ocean water, devastating to ecosystems over time and to our health.

Why not carry some resuable utensils? Why didn't we think of this before?

The Green Coalition is again selling some high-quality, convenient reusable silverware sets (above) for $10 in the cafeteria by Margie. The sets include a fork, knife, spoon and two chopsticks and come in a colored canvas case.

We've only a limited number of sets (for now). Get 'em while their hot!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Save the earth with adoption?

While population arguments often pop up within environmental circles, NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday" host Scott Simon raises more discussion of whether adoption could help assuage the much-debated effects of more babies on climate, waste, energy, production and consumption in an already crowded planet with millions of orphans.

After reviewing Simon's new book, "Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, In Praise of Adoption,"'s Lisa Hymas interviewed Simon and asked whether he felt parents should justify their adoption by environmental concerns.

Simon, rightfully, argues parents shouldn't be solely motivated by reducing their carbon footprint or eco-claim. Why? "Because I think you ought to have children out of joy, not out of sense of duty."

But nor should prospective parents be solely motivated by the fact they cannot conceive children themselves, which is often the case for parents who adopt children today.

"We've known people who have gone through so many rounds of assisted fertility, and that just strikes me as utterly useless when there are already children in the world," said Simon, who with his wife underwent fertility treatments before adopting. "If somehow you could connect the number of people in this world who want to have children and more of the youngsters out there who could use families, that's a kind of global warming we could all use."

The decision and act of raising children, of course, remains incredibly emotional, personal and difficult, thus it is tough to make many arguments in terms of any sort of public policy. Any thoughts on Simon's book and population arguments in terms of climate and environmental concerns?

Photo credit: BZO via Flickr

Monday, October 11, 2010

new goal for Green Coalition

Our new goal is to tag along with this plan:

let's get CUNY Central to commit to building a windmill on the new building too!

Just imagine....:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lisa Jackson is an impervious, immune sovereign of all things green.

Although we're most likely a bit past high noon of a Democratic White House, at least in that time frame executive branch can take some of the right action (editorial opinion, at least) and maybe even leave a lingering impact.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Lisa Jackson swings back at critics - Darren Samuelsohn -

“It’s definitely anti-lobbyist rhetoric,” Jackson said. “It’s definitely meant to reflect the fact that, when I go around the country, people want clean air. They are as passionate about clean air and clean water as any of a number of issues; they want protection for their families and their children.”

Look at her getting all fierce.

This writer is currently in Public Institutions, so it's nice to see one of those acting as it should, at least in the public sphere. It's also unfortunate that the expansion of federal power doesn't run consistently through agencies drawing power through the APA. But why doesn't it? Shouldn't the EPA have sovereign immunity from individual suits brought by corporate polluters that challenge its authority to like, I dunno, grab em by the balls and throw them against the wall? Perhaps this blogger should study more before asking such questions in a public forum.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

From my tumblr.



10/10/10 wins this weekend!

Take a break from midterm studying this weekend for this awesome event: 10/10/10 Global Work Party.

It's pretty fantastic: Organizers and everyday people in more than 150 countries will be building solar panels, working in community gardens, constructing wind turbines and running bike workshops and much more, all to fight climate change., the main organizer of the day, says this: "We're getting to work--what about you?"

In Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Food Coalition is hosting a day of work at BKFarmyards to support the High School for Public Service Youth Farm with a pot luck communal dinner following from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative will lead a cleanup along Columbia Street, part of a larger project to clean up the Greenway, a planned 14-mile, off-street, landscaped route for cyclists and pedestrians, from Greenpoint through Sunset Park. Here in Flushing, the Queens Botanical Gardens will host demonstrations of how to compost and how to turn items like old clothes into new things from 1 to 4 p.m., along with a cleanup of the Gardens, devastated from the recent tornado.

To join, or to find more events planned near you, visit:

Monday, October 4, 2010

New library food policy, just a little greener...

Hey y'all, according to new small signs posted on library desks, the library has updated its food policy (since no one really followed the old "no snacks allowed" rule).

For the heck of it, let's just tack on a couple green edits, shall we?
- If possible, use spill-proof containers that are "perferably" reusable water bottles and thermoses, and..
-If possible, recycle or reuse small snacks packaging (recycle bins conveniently placed around the library).

Guess that'd be tough to get on a small sign...

Friday, October 1, 2010

11-year-old breaks down the broken food system

What's wrong with the food system? Let this 11-year-old explain...

Green Coalition returns!

Following up two super productive, whirlwind years on campus, the CUNY Law Green Coalition is back in business this semester, with a slate of events and campaigns already in the works for the fall and spring. At this group's first fall meeting Thursday, old and new members discussed upcoming projects including a continued sale of portable silverware in the cafeteria, logistics of school-wide composting system, a clothing swap sometime in October (date TBA), and a future panel discussion tentatively focused on the broad health implications of urban water and air pollution, particularly from a race and gender lens.
Last spring's clothing swap

Check back here regularly for updates and more details! If anyone has any questions or ideas for the Coalition, or would like to get involved, please contact