Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jon Stewart and Danby State Forest

Jon Stewart came to my campus this past Friday night for a stand-up comedy performance and I was SO excited! He is so hilarious and not just in a cheap and typical way... he actually makes some really interesting political and socially-pointed comments.

On the way inside, after waiting online for a while to get in my friend Karen and I realized that we had our cameras in our bags but none were allowed inside. The security people were totally adamant about not letting us in with them but we had nowhere to put them since we had walked from our apartment so I went outside, dug a little hole and buried them, hahaha. I made sure no one was looking when i did it so they wouldn't steal them and then i tried very hard to remember where I put them. Luckily we found them afterwards just fine and I was very proud of myself for thinking of that, hahaha.

In my poetry and drama in performance class we are reading King Lear by Shakespeare and were recently discussing the role of the Fool. He is basically the most upfront, honest and unpretentious character in the play and he's mainly able to get away with that because of his title. He is able to say things to the king and others that are controversial but it's okay because he's just a fool, so what does he know? We expanded on the role of the fool and applied it to our society and I realized the same concept remains true. If a politician said some of the things that Jon Stewart said on Friday night he would be crucified but Jon Stewart is able to get away with it because he's just a comedian, an entertainer. I think that is a really interesting and ironic concept that is remains consistently applicable to society.

The day after the Jon Stewart performance I went for a hike at Danby State Forest with one of the hiking classes that run through my work at Outdoor Pursuits. It was an absolutely beautiful 60 degree day with clear blue skies. It felt great to stretch my legs for the 8.6mi hike. I love hiking so much; i want to just strap on a pack and keep walking!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Community Garden and My Plants

The above photos are of my ecological agriculture building a community garden in Binghamton, NY. Half of my class went this past Tuesday (when I went) and put up a fence, laid leaves down between the beds, and built a couple compost bins. It was a lot of fun! I haven't done fun construction stuff like that since last summer when I worked on the farm in Montana.

The other photos are of the plants growing in my room at 5wks old.

After the seedlings 4th week of life we had a few too many to be able to fit in the number of pots that we had so I got to take some home! I put them on my windowsill which gets some direct light but not enough. I am a very beginner "gardener" (don't know if i can technically call myself that) and I live in a college dorm so I don't have any typical tools. I know that lights help plants so I have been keeping my lamp (in the photo above) on the plants so they only get about 7 hrs of darkness. The tomato plants started out about the same size but the one that has been receiving the most light has really taken off! I also try to talk to them and play music to encourage them! I have seen a couple aphids on them and a couple tiny black flies but i squished them as soon as I saw them and they haven't reappeared since.

I felt that the tomato plant that got a lot bigger probably needed a bigger container but i didn't have anything so I found one of my apartment-mate's liter soda bottles in the recycling, washed it and cut it so I could use it as a planter. I am a bit worried about toxins leaching from the plastic. Does anyone know anything about whether there is a significant amount of that? I looked up the concept of using soda bottles online and found that a lot of people use them, especially in urban agriculture! yay! The plant looks a lot happier in the bigger container. I feel like it can breathe a lot better and this way the roots have more room to move and grow.

Now We're Up to Date...

Okay so the above photos are the most up-to-date pictures of the plants being grown in my class. I took the photos inside, right before we took a bunch of them outside and planted them in the ground under the miniature high tunnel that you see. They are really coming along!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I forgot the Leeks!

Those are the leeks in their 3rd week of life!

Seedling Update!!

I've been so behind in updating this blog! I always remember that I want to write something at the most inconvenient times, when it is impossible. Life is funny like that.

So anyways, I posted photos above of the 3 week old seedlings that were being grown in the classroom. It's amazing how fast they grow into plants!

We pretty quickly had a problem with aphids on the pepper seedlings. Karl (our professor) said he thinks he may have brought them in accidently through the soil that he brought from his farm. We've just been hand picking them off since we don't have too many plants to make it too tedious. They are the most obvious pests that we've had so far (knock on wood!).

Toxic R Us

This is a great editorial! I really like Maureen Dowd.

March 22, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
Toxic R Us


It’s an image that could have come straight out of a McCain campaign ad: Barack Obama growing organic arugula at the White House.

But there was Michelle on Friday, the first day of spring, with a bunch of fifth graders, digging a veggie garden on the South Lawn.

She told The Times there would not be beets, because her husband doesn’t like them, but there would be arugula. And she promised that the entire Obama family, including the president, would go out and pull weeds, “whether they like it or not.”

The tableau of Michelle Obama hoisting a pitchfork on Friday with her sinewy arms and warning that the commander in chief would be commandeered into yard work left me wondering if the wrong Obama is in the Oval.

It’s a time in America’s history where we need less smooth jazz and more martial brass.

Barack Obama prides himself on consensus, soothing warring sides into agreement. But the fury directed at the robber barons by the robbed blind in America has been getting hotter, not cooler. And that’s because the president and his Treasury secretary have been coddling the Wall Street elite, fretting that if they curtail executives’ pay and perks too much, if they make the negotiations with those who siphoned our 401(k)’s too tough, the spoiled Sherman McCoys will run away, the rescue plan will fail and the markets will wither. (Now that Mr. Obama has made $8,605,429 on his books — including $500,000 for letting his memoir be condensed into a kids’ book — maybe he’s lost touch with his hole-in-the-shoe, hole-in-the-Datsun, have-not roots.)

The shafters of the universe have been treated with such kid gloves that they remain obnoxiously oblivious. Vikram “Pandit the Bandit” at Citigroup, which received $50 billion in bailout money, is pulling a Thain, spending $10 million to renovate his Park Avenue offices, complete with a Sub-Zero refrigerator and premium millwork (whatever that is).

Fannie Mae, the mortgage finance behemoth that had $59 billion in losses last year when the government was forced to take it over, and since has asked for $15 billion in taxpayer money, brazenly intends to give $1 million apiece in retention bonuses to four top executives, even though the word retention in a depression is pure Ionesco. Freddie Mac, which has sought $45 billion in aid, has yet to disclose its planned bonuses.

Asked by Jay Leno why our loans to Wall Street haven’t trickled down to Main Street, President Obama conceded that the banks “haven’t started lending it yet.”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who grew up as a Republican and was head of the New York Fed for five years, sees things from the point of view of that wellspring of masters of the universe, Goldman Sachs. (His Treasury chief of staff was a Goldman lobbyist, who fought then-Senator Obama’s attempt to curb executive compensation — just as Geithner has done within the administration.)

At the New York Fed, Geithner helped preside over the A.I.G. bailout in September. But in October, it was Andrew Cuomo, the New York attorney general, who had to threaten to sue unless A.I.G. canceled $160 million in planned expenses for conferences and a $600 million bonus pool.

Virtually unnoticed amid the bonus imbroglio was A.I.G.’s grudging disclosure that it had funneled $93 billion — more than half its federal money to date — to its high-flying insurees, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and a group of European banks.

Goldman Sachs separately got $10 billion in bailout money last year, but recently asserted snootily that it’s doing well enough and doesn’t want our money because of the restrictions attached. Yet as Goldman sneers at the federal money at the front door, it’s taking delivery of billions in no-strings federal money through the back door. Can we taxpayers deduct the difference?

Our gift to Goldman demonstrates why the government’s headless and heedless bailout of A.I.G. is so wrong.

And why are we bailing out foreign banks, including a couple of French ones and UBS, a Swiss bank currently tussling with the I.R.S. because it refuses to hand over the names of thousands of U.S. tax-dodgers?

The issue is how much we must pay to preserve financial stability over all, not how much one company promised to pay. At this point, A.I.G. seems to be the only party paying face value on toxic derivatives.

Ed Liddy was put in charge of an essentially bankrupt company, but he never drove a hard bargain on bonuses or counterparty debts. He honored contracts made by an organization that had become a fraudulent scheme. He could have told the leeches inside the company and out that the world had utterly changed, so the contracts would too — as Michelle would say, “whether they like it or not.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Report on Powershift 09

I wrote the below article for Pipe Dream, the student-run newspaper at Binghamton University. I've never written for a newspaper before so I'm sure it could be improved but I'm posting the rough draft here to help sum up my experience. The only thing I would have changed at the conference was to have more actually strategy discussion instead of the more pep-rally mentality that pervaded over the course of the 4 days. I was very excited by how many people showed up. It is inspiring to know people actually care. The only thing I wonder is where the heck these activists of ages similar to that myself were when I was growing up??!! I often times felt like I was the only one who really cared that so much of the world was going to shit but now all of these people are emerging out of the woodworks!! Just had to note that, haha, but it is truly nice to see people involving themselves in social activism and change. =)

Friday, February 27th through Monday, March 2nd marked the historic national summit of 12,000 citizens at Powershift ’09 held in the Washington Convention Center of Washington, DC.

Among those attending included 18 Binghamton University students. The Powershift conference, as its name implies, aims to “successfully fight for clean energy solutions” such as solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind energy, as well as for “the creation of a new green economy.” Conference-goers made a point, however, to differentiate between true energy alternatives and options like clean coal and ethanol which do not hold up as well in the scientific community.

The conference were hosted by the Energy Action Coalition, a network of non-profit organizations and their member supporters, which aims each year to educate and empower youth to make change in regards to climate and clean energy policies. Energy Action Coalition is responsible for the Campus Climate Challenge, of which a chapter exists at Binghamton University.

During the course of the 4-day conference students and concerned citizens chose between around 200 options of panels, seminars and workshops to attend. These ranged from addressing leadership and campaign development, to empowering youth through special high school based workshops, to nonviolent direct action strategies, questions of faith and its role in eco-activism, and discussions of local food systems.

The conference gave out prizes to the top-attending universities, including optimal seats for the evening addresses and performances. This was just one way of giving youth an incentive to organize and rally up as many of their friends as they could.

“The more people you bring you bring with you, who experience what you experience, the more you can bring the momentum of the conference back to campus and make some real changes,” said Mary Davis, President of Binghamton University’s chapter of the Student Environmental Awareness Club (SEAC). Davis’ efforts ended up bringing more than half of the total participants from the Binghamton University.

The key note address was opened by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, the first African American to hold the position. She spoke about the importance of funds appropriated to the EPA so that it could adequately carry out its duties and praised President Obama for the $10.5 billion budget he proposed the day before. The EPA is entering its 40th year and with proper funding Jackson confidently assured the audience, the “EPA is back on the job.”

Evenings were filled with other high-profile speakers such as Secretary of State for the Interior, Ken Salazar who stated the importance of everyone doing their part to stop climate change. “Our nation doesn’t end at our borders; we are one planet and one people,” says Salazar. Salazar also announced, to a very enthusiastic audience, the plan of the Department of the Interior to create “thousands of jobs in sustainable energy, and resource management, restoration and protection,” to be opened within the next few weeks. One of his other current projects is focusing on creating the “best 21st century youth conservation corps the world has ever seen.”

Jesse Tolkan, the Powershift ’09 Organizer enthusiastically stated, "it was unbelievable for me to stand last night behind the stage with Administrator Jackson and Secretary Salazar and to realize for the first time in my life as an activist that I had partners and allies inside government to work beside us. They literally said we need your help to make this happen, we need your 12,000 leaders."

Some of the lesser hyped but equally powerful speeches came from names like Van Jones, whose organization Green for All is focusing on the creation and expansion of green-collar jobs. Majora Carter, whose work includes the revitalization of communities in the South Bronx, also made an impassioned speech. Carter pointed out that “Obama” is actually an acronym for “Officially Behaving As Magnificent Americans” and said that we need to take advantage of the energy crisis that we are in right now because “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

To round out the very busy days and evenings, the nights were filled with musical performances by groups like The Roots, London Souls, and an eco-friendly fashion show.

The conference culminated on March 2nd on Capital Hill where participants met with their Congressional Representatives to express their support of legislation increasing the viability and use of clean energy alternatives. Although faced with freezing temperatures and less than ideal weather conditions, approximately 2,500 activists toughed it out and proceeded to the Capital’s coal-fired power plant to form a blockade as an act of civil disobedience. The 99 year old plant has been publicly criticized by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and NASA Climatologist, Dr. James Hanson, for emitting almost 1/3 of the capital’s green house gasses. After nearly four hours the blockade broke up. No arrests were made.