Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Tomorrow night, Charles is back!

Previously on GreenStJohns.blogspot:  I designated Charles the Charonosaurus our mascot, to preside over our table, and let everyone know we're Green Drinks.  And you can see him here in a group photo for last February's meet-up. </end flashback>

But then I did a terrible thing; I left Charles at home for the May Green Drinks.  A MUN professor asked, "Where's the dinosaur?"  I tried to explain, but she hasn't been back to Green Drinks since.  Then I did another terrible thing; I left Charles at home for the August Green Drinks.  And two new Green Drinkers had a hard time finding our table, one of whom had traveled all the way from Attu, Alaska just to come to Green Drinks.  I felt awful.

Well, I'm here to testify that those dark days are behind me.  As you can see, Charles' new sign is made of glitter, so it will not be missed.  And it's held to him with duct tape, so it will not be dropped.  And Charles will be at Green Drinks tomorrow night, proudly . . . doing whatever plastic dinosaurs do in pubs.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Suzuki (et. al.) was stellar!

I'm still basking in what an inspiring event last night's presentation with David Suzuki was!
I'd heard Suzuki on the radio before, but it wasn't until I heard him in person that I appreciated what a passionate, uncompromising advocate he is for environmental stewardship.

Not surprisingly, some Green Drinkers were involved with the event, too.  Third from the left there is our own Joel Finnis.  (I don't know whose head is in the foreground.)  And Lanna Campbell was instrumental in organizing the event.  I even nervously asked the first question, plugging Green Drinks and teeing off Suzuki on the lack of wind development here.  (Mostly I was nervous about the moderator cutting me off.)

The event was also inspiring simply because so many came out.  Some made the point that they were preaching to the "converted."  Perhaps, but it's also important for people who care about the environment to gather together and know they're not alone.  That is Green Drinks' first function, and it's why I'm looking forward to this Wednesday's meet-up.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Suzuki on Saturday--Us next Wednesday

This Saturday, David Suzuki will be in town, presenting a film on climate change and energy in Atlantic Canada.  You can get tickets here.  But I have one extra ticket (courtesy of Michael) for free!  The first person to get in touch with me, David, can have it.  Facebook is probably the best way to contact me.  (However you contact me, be sure to leave a way for me to reply.)
I'll be there.  If you come, do so "hi."

Or just say "hi" in a week at Bitters at our next meet-up.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Worth a listen or two

Recently I listened to two podcasts I thought worth sharing.

First, I listened to a recent episode of the Groks Science Show entitled "Kivalina Climate Change."  Typically, this podcast interviews scientists, but this time they interviewed filmmaker Elizabeth Gaylynn Baker about her recent documentary concerning climate change.  While she didn't express herself like a scientist but rather like an artist, Ms. Baker managed to express a genuinely optimistic view in the face of the depressing subject of climate change.  That was refreshing.
The second podcast wasn't as affirming, but it needs to be heard nonetheless.  The penultimate episode of Harry Shearer's le Show interviewed Yves Smith, a former financial insider, about the pending, little-known free trade agreements between southeast Asia, Europe, and the US (and presumably Canada).  While their conversation focused on the US, their first salient example was corporations' attempting to usurp Quebecois laws banning fracking.  The salient quote was:  "It's a race to the bottom on environmental and labor laws."  It's not good news, but you should know it.  Within the first three minutes, the nature of the bad news was pretty clear.  One galling aspect of these deals was that the terms of those agreements were kept secret--not just from the public--but members of Congress.  Well today, Wikileaks has published a chapter.

See you in two weeks at Bitters!

Update:  Here is a brief article about the trade deal from a Canadian perspective.  It confirms Canada's intention to sign it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

In 3 weeks, Andrew Harvey and Sheilagh O'Leary in our house! (hopefully)

For me, Green Drinks has always been about creating a forward-thinking community in St. John's.  So apropos of that, I invited Andrew Harvey and Sheilagh O'Leary to our meet-up on November 27th (at 7 pm at Bitters).  Both have responded to me in the affirmative, and I'm thrilled. (See their RSVP's for the facebook event.)

Having said all that, Green Drinks has taught me that an RSVP is quite far from a guarantee.  These are two busy people, so I wouldn't want my writing about their reply to put any undue pressure on them. But I hope next Green Drinks is an opportunity for members to connect with forward-thinking people active in local politics.  (And of course, anyone involved in politics is always welcome.)

In other political news, the provincial government has put on holding any applications for fracking rights.  That's great news!  For now.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Meeting this November

Here’s the latest heads-up.  Green Drinks meets again in a month, November 27th 7 p.m. at Bitters.  At August’s meeting, we had a good time, including meeting a grad student whose research took her to the western-most Aleutian Island—quite remarkable.

Nevertheless, more probably would have shown had the meeting not been immediately prior to the Labour Day weekend.  Live and learn.

I’ve asked the NL-FAN director to join our facebook group (as opposed to our page, which doesn’t really facilitate discussion) and post directly to it.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

See you tomorrow!

Tomorrow's Green Drinks is looking a lot like last May's, sparse RSVP's but hopefully surprisingly nice turnout.  I'm going to try to talk to the leader of the NL Fracking Awareness Network and share what he knows.  See you tomorrow!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Why we meet . . . in a week.

When Green Drinks first started, I was so thrilled by all the on-line support it got--over 50 facebook likes among others.  Yet we've never had 50 people at Green Drinks.  I certainly understand we live in a busy world with multiple things competing for our attention.  But the reason we meet in person instead of just chatting on-line (and we know the Green Drinks sites are burning with hot discussions) is because there is something inherently natural about sitting across from someone and engaging them.

The great Noam Chomsky explains it here:

Eh, that wasn't the greatest interview, but it makes the point!  (He's made it better elsewhere, but I couldn't find it.)

Next Wednesday, see you at Bitters!

(And that's more than 140 characters, Professor Chomsky!)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Two Weeks to Go!

I got to spend last week at the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in their new building.
The building was incredible, and not just for aesthetics, but because it demonstrated a government's capacity to do something constructive if so inclined.  Does that have much to do with Green Drinks?  Only that NOAA's concerned with the environment, too.

In two weeks, we're at Bitters!  See you then!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Meeting in August; More on Fracking

We're a month out from our next Green Drinks on August 28 at Bitters.  It should be a good one.
To most of us, this is someone's tap water on fire; to others, though, it's progress.
In other news, concern about fracking on the island continues to grow.  In addition to the two petitions, the NL Fracking Awareness Network has formed and is welcoming new members.  Green Drinks is now part of the network, and I look forward to any insight they can offer.  Last month at Blue Drinks, Titia had some interesting insight into the governmental process surrounding fracking.  Hopefully, she'll join us in August and grace us with her wisdom. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Saving Gros Morne

Last month's Green Drinks was special for two reasons. First, we had our best turnout to date, a group so vast it could only be captured with a panoramic shot.

Second, the prospect of another environmental project emerged, stopping the fracking of Gros Morne National Park. Today Pia Banzhaf has brought to our attention a movement to oppose this travesty. Here are two links to online petitions: one and two. Please sign them and share.

Apropos of that, last night's Daily Show guest was the director of the documentary "Gas Land part II" decrying fracking. Check out the segment and notice the clip with the flammable well water. That's what would happen at Gros Morne to say nothing of its losing its UNESCO status.  In the parlance of "Battlestar Galactica," that's frakked up!

And of course, such a move is completely unnecessary. Newfoundland has a glut of renewable energy that's largely unutilized; it's called "wind."

See you at the next Green Drinks on August 28th.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Looking forward to tomorrow...

We've had such a beautiful spring, I can't think of a better way to cap it off than meeting fellow Green Drinkers on the shore on Long Pond for a pint or two.  Tomorrow night, we're at Bitters.  Blue Drinks is joining us, too.  Can't wait to see you there.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Media to discuss next Wednesday

Next Wednesday we're having May Green Drinks at Bitters.  Recently, I've encountered some compelling media we might want to discuss.  Even if we don't, I highly recommend both.

The radio show/podcast This American Life recently aired an episode devoted to climate change, "Hot In My Backyard."  In general, I'd always recommend This American Life, but this episode is particularly compelling.

Last night MUN's Cineam Politica screened the documentary, "The Pipe," and I'm happy to say I was there.  The film tells the story of an Irish fishing community's resistance to Shell's installation of a gas pipeline through the middle of their community.  Despite the bleak subject matter, I was taken by what a fine film it was, filled with beautiful cinematography and compelling scenes.  And the final outcome isn't a complete downer.  Don't miss an opportunity to see this film.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

In Two Weeks at Newfoundland's Greenest Pub

Things are looking good for the May Green Drinks on the 29th (7 pm) at Bitters.  Initially, I thought we'd do that simply because it had worked so well in February.  But then I checked Bitters' site and saw this:
Well done, Bitters!  Now I couldn't think of a better place to have it.

It looks like the turn out is going to be good, too.  I know that looking at the RSVP's on the facebook events might not suggest it.  But there are actually three events that get distributed--two facebook events and a google calendar event.  Our RSVP's are in the double digits with a few maybe's.  Plus, Blue Drinks' (another environmental group) meeting this Tuesday got scrubbed, because Bitters was closed for a private party.  So Blue Drinks is joining Green Drinks to make . . . Teal Drinks.  Sure, that's it.
(I've got logo envy.)
(By the way, should we ever find Green Drinks booted from Bitters for any reason, our back-up location will be Ben's Pub in Churchill Square on Elizabeth Street.)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!  On this day, I feel very fortunate to be part of our community of Green Drinks where I have met so many great people who all value our natural environment.
So we are meeting again on May 29th at 7 pm.  Bitters worked so well last time that we meet there again!

About my project

At the last Green Drinks, I described my effort with a friend to use the White House petition system to petition the administration to create a national feed-in tariff which would prompt nationwide growth in renewable energy.

What attracted me to the White House petition system was that petitioners were guaranteed an official response from the administration if their petition met a certain threshold (now, 100,000) in 30 days (not much time).  In at least one case, President Obama has even responded directly.  Unlike other on-line petitions which seem to go nowhere, the White House petitions offered people a tremendous lever on power, and I thought we should use that lever to effect some environmental policy.  However, given the absolute gridlock in Congress, I thought petitioning for new legislation was an absolutely futile gesture.  I thought it was imperative to petition for a policy that falls solely within control of the executive branch.  In other words, a policy that President Obama could implement without getting passage from Congress.

So I started asking around, and my friend found this article Beyond Carbon Policy.  The article described using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which allegedly is under the President's control, to create feed-in tariffs.  Worldwide, feed-in tariffs are the single most effective policy for the spread of renewable energy.

With this policy idea, we were off--drafting and revising our petition and strategizing on a campaign to get 100,000 signatures in 30 days.  The White House site really limited text of the petitions, allowing only 920 characters, which was a serious limitation just for introducing the topic of feed-in tariffs, let alone making a case for the policy.  Nevertheless, I was very pleased with the petition we produced.  You can see a later version of it here

With our petition complete, we moved on to the vetting stage, first sharing the petition with Christopher Nelder, the author of "Beyond Carbon Policy."  And that's where things went south.  Nelder informed us that since the publication of the article he had heard from two separate FERC-law experts.  Both of them told him that his policy idea was not possible for several reasons.

Naturally, I was disappointed.  I was all geared up for an exciting (though laborious) campaign for this petition.  (To that end, I'm still set to be a guest on the podcast Professor Blastoff to discuss renewable energy.)  My friend wanted to continue.  But if the policy idea wasn't sound, I saw little point in continuing.  Afterall, my motive was to actually effect a change, not just engage in some on-line activity.  (I do enough of that already.)  And more importantly, I did not feel like I could ask others to get involved (as I would have inevitably done) in an activity that I knew was for naught.

So now the petition idea is shelved until we find some un-used executve authority for improving the environment.  I contacted both of the FERC-law experts for a suggestion.  I tweeted Al Gore, too.  But none of them have replied.  (Thanks, y'all.) 

So that's the unfortunate state of my petition idea.  It wasn't successful, though I did learn a lot about FERC and feed-in tariffs.  That's useful information for a renewable energy professional, though probably not for a cocktail party. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

A Month Ago

A month ago we had our first Green Drinks at Bitters.  There were some familiar faces, a lot of new ones, and great conversation all around.  I shared my storied environmental project (more on that soon).  I was also rather pleased with Bitters--a nice beer selection and several vegetarian options.  The next Green Drinks is in May.  Hopefully by then, we'll have winter behind us.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

All Systems Go for Wednesday!

We've gotten a lot of positive feedback about tomorrow's Green Drinks--February 27th 7pm at Bitters in Feild Hall on MUN campus.  (There's metered parking in front of Bitters and more behind nearby Coughlan College.)  As promised, I'll share an exciting environmental project that I'm working on and would welcome help from fellow Green Drinkers.  So see you then!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Green Drinks in 2013!

As promised, Green Drinks is back for 2013.  As stated in my last post, we're going to make some format changes that should suit the group better--quarterly meetings, last Wednesday of the month at 7 pm.  Our first meeting is one month from today--February 27th 7pm at Bitters in Feild Hall on MUN campus(There's metered parking in front of Bitters and more behind nearby Coughlan College.)  We'll change the venue each quarter, sampling some of St. John's more interesting bars.  Each new location will be posted here (and elsewhere) with ample notice.

Also, I'm working on an environmental project that I'm very excited about.  I'll share that at Green Drinks, and if anyone's interested, they're welcomed to help out.  But I'm not going to post about it just yet.  (Yes, the project is that good.)

In addition to these changes, a number of (new) environmentally-minded MUN faculty will be joining us.  So I'm looking forward to hearing about their interests.

Here's to a great 2013 with Green Drinks!  Hope to see you in February!