1f15gq

portrait

 

 

 

Andrew Van Gorp 29 November, 2016.

(800 words)

2013: A young, naive, freshly-graduated Andrew Van Gorp was appointed to a three year term as an Environmental Commissioner for the Village of Glen Ellyn, swearing an oath to uphold and protect the United States Constitution. In brief, he thought he was hot sh*t. He’s had many small wins over his term, but autumn of 2016 brought his first BIG WIN.

As he entered the volunteer Commission he voiced to his fellow commissioners the one thousand project ideas that he hoped to achieve during his three-year tenure. As you all know, he’s a Sustainable Community Development geek.

giphy

One of those ideas was that he thought Glen Ellyn needed more bus infrastructure, specifically heated bus shelters. It may not seem consequential to the uninitiated, but bus shelters are VERY CRUCIAL. Here’s why.

SCENARIO:

Install a heated bus shelter. When it’s raining, bus-riders are protected. When it’s snowing, bus-riders are kept alive with warmth. This creates a non-hell-like rider experience. More people decide to ride the bus.

bike_car_comparison

A photo of 60 people and the amount of road space they take up based on different modes of transportation.

Roads become less congested. Quality of life improves with less traffic. City planners no longer need to beg for yet another lane-widening project, which would actually just add to road congestion anyway. Less impermeable surfaces are needed. With less traffic, the air becomes less fatal for local neighborhoods to breathe. More groundwater is absorbed directly into the ground and streams begin to rebound with less salt runoff.

So really, if you care about air health, water health, soil health, animal health, and/or human health, then you should definitely care about bus shelters too. Especially since the Village of Glen Ellyn has no heated bus shelters (and barely any bus shelters to begin with #notsayinjustsayin). A young and enthusiastic Andrew Van Gorp asked at an EC meeting if we could change that, way back in 2013.

The Village put Andrew in contact with PACE. PACE let the Village know that the Village had bought a bus shelter many years previously and never installed it- so it was sitting in PACE storage. Andrew asked if maybe we could… install it… since… we… had… already… paid for it?

giphy-1

A great idea! We met with PACE and went through a list of best intersections. Andrew was really pulling for a spot on Roosevelt, since thousands of people pass through our Village every day and watch as people on the side of the road are forced to stand unprotected from the cold, wind, and/or precipitation at multiple stops. He tried to make the argument that it might appear to many commuters that Glen Ellyn doesn’t really care much about the planet or its Villagers by not providing necessary infrastructure for active transportation.

Unfortunately, the sidewalk is designed right up to the curb in many places along Roosevelt (anyone who’s ever walked there knows how horrifying of an experience it is as semi-trucks zoom by within a few inches of your body and you are just praying to the Good Lord Jesus that you don’t trip on the quilt-work of uneven brick, broken cement, and puckered asphalt). Since the path’s so close to the curb, and the streetlight posts are posted in the center of the “walking path” there is no space for a bus shelter. Bummer.

Andrew asked if PACE might consider putting a bus shelter the next street over to the South (on Taft Avenue running parallel to Roosevelt) so that people waiting for the bus didn’t have to breathe in the micro-particulate matter of uncombusted fossil fuels from the motor fumes of Roosevelt Road. He thought, why should making the choice that’s better for the planet come at the cost of adenocarcinoma? PACE said they don’t track the hazard of particulate matter exposure for their customers along their bus routes and that it would be too costly to place new bus shelters in low-particulate areas that might be slightly off of their regular route. Bummer.

Ultimately, we decided on an intersection at the College of DuPage campus. After all, increasing student ridership would fall in line with national investment trends. And so, in September of this year, the bus shelter was installed. Who knows? Maybe a strapped college student will be protected from the rain while waiting to be driven home some day and think, “hey, this isn’t so bad” and become a lifelong bus rider. 

I did that. My three-year-crusade that started as a dream for a Village-wide installation plan for heated bus shelters shriveled down into installing a bus shelter that we’d already bought and never used. Someday, once I’m a Village Trustee, I can rev back up the ol’ heated-bus-shelter-near-every-major-intersection gag. But for now, I’m pretty damned proud of myself and thankful that the Village of Glen Ellyn empowered me with the ability to make a change by serving as an Environmental Commissioner.

LESSON: Never doubt the power you have to change the world. If you give a sh*t, if you show up to meetings, if you do what you say you’re going to do, you can do anything!

Rock on DuPagers.

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

abolish

Andrew Van Gorp, Fossil Fuels Abolitionist

 

 

 

Andrew Van Gorp 23 November, 2016.

The content of this piece does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Sustain DuPage.

Note: Discussion of Human Chattel Slavery, Earth Degeneration & Collapse, Corporate Oligarchy

(2,122 Words)

As a people, we need to be moving away from fossil fuel interdiction, which is the small-scale, piecemeal shut down of individual fossil fuel projects. We need to begin to move toward a demand for a constitutional amendment that would abolish fossil fuels and allow for a peaceful and rapid transition to renewable energy resources. 

I’m not alone in this call. In 2014 the journalist Chris Hayes wrote an article entitled, “The New Abolitionism,” which related our current fight to end the fossil fuel era to the historical slavery abolition movement in antebellum USA. Slavery abolitionists were some of the most visionary and brave Americans to ever live. They risked everything to end the reprehensible practice of human chattel slavery and I believe that if they were alive today, they would be fighting for fossil fuel abolition (amongst a host of other pressing social issues). Calls for the abolition of unjust societal practices have been a tradition ever since slavery abolitionists set their brave example, whether it be for the abolition of child labor, the death penalty, or even most recently the electoral college. This leaves me to wonder, why is there no self-identified fossil fuel abolition movement?

I am a proud fossil fuel abolitionist. A few weeks ago I was reading the compiled works of Frederick Douglass. I can not explain it in any other way than to say that he spoke to me through time and space on a spiritual plane through his writing. His impassioned calls for social justice emboldened me to envision a world that was unravaged by the destructive and corrupting powers of fossil fuels for the first time in my life. I have long known what we all know- that this fossil fuel era must soon draw to a close somehow- but thanks to Douglass I am no longer unclear on how that can be accomplished.

Frederick Douglass shared this about slavery, “It is such a giant sin- such a monstrous aggregation of iniquity- so hardening to the human heart- so destructive to the moral sense, and so well calculated to beget a character, in every one around it, favorable to its own continuance,- that I feel not only at liberty, but abundantly justified, in appealing to the whole world to aid in its removal.” For the humanity-killing practice of fossil fuel burning, I feel the same. When I first passionately shared my inspiration for abolitionism over dinner there was a brief silence at the table until my mom’s friend eked out, “you’re the first fossil fuel abolitionist I’ve ever met.” In a time when communities of many intersectionalities, (foremost POC communities, who are the most vulnerable to climate change) are converging to fight for the end of fossil fuel use, I hope to embolden us to reframe our demands and declare that we aim to eliminate the damaging practice in its entirety. It was Frederick Douglass who invented the famous phrase, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” We must make clear our true demand!

I attended the #NoDAPL rally in Chicago on November 15th and everyone I interviewed agreed to every concept that makes someone a fossil fuel abolitionist (a ban on new fossil fuel resource exploration/mining, the end of fossil fuel subsidies, the increased subsidization of renewables, the implementation of a #carbontaxNOW, the need to demand rapid investment into sustainability infrastructure, etc.) but when I asked them if they identified as a fossil fuel abolitionist they had to think about it! Many people responded as if it was an idea that they had never considered before. “Hu… Yeahhhhhh. Yeah, I guess I am? Yes. I’m a fossil fuel abolitionist!” 

Many people I’ve talked to can’t even imagine a world where fossil fuels are no longer used in any shape or form. In fact, some people believe that it would be impossible to achieve a world without fossil fuels. Similarly, people in the antebellum South could not imagine their economy without slave labor, and yet by the toil and blood of thousands, we are here today. The people of this nation can demand a constitutional amendment that abolishes fossil fuel exploration, mining, processing, shipping, and combustion.

I’ve grown encouraged and inspired reading the news of successful movements like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, #NoDAPL, and Idle No More. The divisions between the fights for social, environmental, economic, and political justice in this nation are blurring into one singular fight against neo-liberal corporatist, ableist, homophobic, war-mongering, anti-environment, patriarchal, white supremacist, christian supremacist, oligarchical power structures. 

We are at a crucial juncture in history when these movements for justice are joining forces in order to demand real societal change. I hope that the demand for fossil fuel abolition can become a rallying cry to solve a multitude of our societal ills. We are vulnerable to losing all the social progress that we have gained up to this point when we depend upon a finite and conflict-ridden energy resource that destroys water, soil, and air for our every way of life. It is imperative that we establish a clean energy future before it is too late, or we can collectively kiss all of our human rights goodbye. This isn’t a paranoid personal conspiracy theory, this is coming from the Department of Defense.

Right now the world is focused on the fight to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, and many of us are missing the fact that the fossil fuel industry is building several other pipelines at this very moment. It’s important that groups like 350 are helping to chip away at fossil shares with their divestment movement. It’s important that the Sierra Club is helping to implement a Clean Power Plan. There are many important steps toward abolishing fossil fuels for good. But if scientists are correct that modern society will collapse if we experience an increase of 3.6° F of global warming [we’ve already caused a .8° F change], then we can not afford to continue our current practice of reactively blocking the power elite’s radical fossil fuel expansion projects as they show up in our backyard. We can no longer petition shareholders to divest from fossil fuels on the basis of goodwill (or more likely on the basis of public scrutiny) without stemming the problem at its source. We can not stop at being pro-renewables, we must become actionably anti-fossil fuels in sentiment, action, and in legislation

Coal plants in the United States alone cause 13,000 deaths every year according to a study done by the Clean Air Taskforce. We can not be willing to accept that number as common-place or somehow morally ambiguous. Needlessly killing thousands of people for profit is wrong. There are business leaders and investors who will lose NO SLEEP tonight, kissing their children’s heads before bed, knowing that they profit financially from blood-invested-money. I agree with a friend of mine who believes we must not demonize the resource itself, for what is a fossil fuel but accumulated and captured organic matter from millennia ago? I happily concede that fossil fuels have made possible many of humanity’s greatest accomplishments: modern medicine, greater access to water, the United Nations, the internet, etc. (I am not a luddite calling for a return to agrarianism). The true evil of fossil fuels lies in the select few hearts of the power elite, who knowingly betray their own species by ensuring the prolonged use of a material that risks our national security, just to provide themselves with short-term profit. Our lives and the lives of future generations depend upon the environmental rights activists of today to proactively demand the legislative abolition of fossil fuels with a constitutional amendment.

Hayes describes in his article that, “the total amount of proven, extractable fossil fuel in the ground at this very moment is almost five times the amount we can safely burn.” According to Hayes, all that fossil fuel wealth summed up equals $20 trillion of assets (twice the amount of economic value assigned to chattel slaves just before the Civil War, adjusted for inflation). I’m not deluded enough to believe that the fight to dissolve fossil fuel monopolies will be easy. Recently we have been reminded that the power elite will use the might of the militarized police state to protect their interests with violence, even operating outside of today’s laws. 

Today, we see images of people’s suburban backyards being flooded with oil, the death of an entire gulf and its people, bakken crude explosions that destroy entire towns, South American workers cleaning oil spills without safety equipment… We’ve had imagery of many many potential Hindenburg moments with this industry profiting from a violent and archaic (centuries old) energy resource, and we’re still killing for more today. There will be no Hindenburg moment for fossil fuels if we haven’t had one already. We can no longer stand idly by as we watch corporate oligarchs burn away our future and the future of our children.

We are lucky that today we live in an era where we are surrounded with technologies that could replace fossil fuel use in our country. In fact, Costa Rica (roughly the land area of Kentucky) powered it’s entire population with 100% renewables for 150 days this year, and counting. Electric airplanes are beginning to take flight, organizations are fighting for high speed rail that would travel four times faster than the current system (with current technology). The transition is already happening, but it needs to happen faster. Much faster. It will not happen fast enough until a vocal majority begin to call for a constitutional amendment for complete abolition. If this becomes our rallying cry it would set in motion a series of divestments from big-time investors seeking to avoid being caught with stranded assets, the size of which could potentially pose a serious threat to our economy the longer we wait to transition over to renewables.

This constitutional amendment to ban fossil fuels will force us to radically redesign our society. But even transitioning to 100% renewable energy will not be enough to save us. In tandem with fossil fuel abolition, we must deconstruct the radical consumption disorder which is plaguing our communities and completely rediscover our formative relationship with our ecosystems, agriculture, and our communities. This redesign will require our best thinkers, historians, elders, and problem solvers. (I will be posting more articles on redesigning our communities to eliminate the individual need for fossil fuels in the future).

The famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass might have been the most important figure to help demolish the public’s moral justification for the continuation of chattel slavery. Douglass, a fugitive slave himself, was writing what were considered audacious (if not lunatic) visions of a slavery-less future at a time when people could barely conceive of the notion.  He was successful because he chipped away at the cognitive dissonance experienced by those who were directly or indirectly complicit in slavery. Through personal anecdotes, Douglass addressed every argument which tried to justify the oppression of African peoples in this nation. With every commonly-accepted myth Douglass dispelled, he brought the reader closer to transformative learning, wherein cognitive dissonance becomes too great and the reader must experience a base change in their meaning perspective of the world, ultimately becoming active in bridging the gap of their own dissonance through action

I believe we are faced with three paths: one of optimism, one of realism, and one of pessimism. The path of optimism allows that we will be able to have a just and peaceful transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and simplified living, preserving our structure of non-anarchistic/non-fascist society. The middle path of realism leads to the collapse of modern society. We assume then that the lowest we can descend is on the pessimist’s path which, due to rampant climate change and earth collapse, is not only the disassembly of society but also a descent to that darker benthos of total extinction with the rest of all multicellular creation of Earth.

I am hopeful that my fellow Environmental Rights leaders like Naomi Klein, Van Jones, Katherine Hayhoe, Susan Sarandon, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Winona Laduke, Vandana Shiva, Elon Musk, Annie Leonard, Mark Ruffalo, Bill Nye, Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, and Shailene Woodley will call for a constitutional amendment for fossil fuel abolition.

These are all environmental leaders who do great work to advocate for the end of the fossil fuel era in some way, but they fall short of demanding what is necessary. Abolition. We must come together as a united front and begin the many-year-fight for complete abolition. I call on them to adopt the word and strengthen the movement to end the use of fossil fuels once and for all. Let’s #AbolishFF!

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

top-soil

By: Caroline Golbeck 7 November, 2016.

Note: Vulgar Language

ForeverDirt cologne sells for $20.00 per ounce online. How do you feel about that?

If I’m lucky enough or if I really try, I can sometimes recreate the smell of it in my mind. Excessive rain planted us in way more antique shops than beaches on a family vacation to Michigan a few years ago, and in maybe the fifth shop we stopped at, I came across a tiny bottle of the dirt cologne. I’ve thought about it ever since.

So why? Why would a company pay money to create something that emulates what we all try to avoid smelling like? And more importantly, why am I so into it?

I’m slowly finding answers to these questions through a class that I’m currently taking at the College of DuPage. It’s a class that I didn’t mean to take – two classes, actually. It’s an honors seminar course called Seed, Soil, and the Soul: A Critical Analysis of World Food Practices. Basically, we learn about environmental biology through the context of films (usually documentaries) in an attempt to help us answer a few questions. Why do we eat what we eat? Where does it come from? How fucked is the future of our land, and what can we do to apologize to Mother Earth?

You’ve probably got a question too by this point – why am I telling you all of this? Well, I’m bad at deciding on what to watch during my free time, and when I finally do make up my mind, I probably could have watched one Harry Potter movie and at the very least, two episodes of The Office. Since time is the number one nonrenewable resource we have, I want to provide suggestions on some of the fantastic documentaries I’ve had the pleasure of watching – all on accident.

A Place at the Table, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, and Dirt! are the three that I’ll recommend in this article. For starters, we have A Place at the Table, which focuses on the concept of food insecurity in America.

food in·se·cu·ri·ty

noun

the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food

I won’t go into detail on what’s considered ‘sufficient’, but through watching the film, you can gain a better idea on the scope of this problem as a whole. A Place at the Table puts a face to hunger, and that’s what’s so striking about it. In our minds, we probably all have a mental image of what ‘malnourishment’ looks like.

Think about that image.

Delete it from your mental browsing history.

Now reread the definition of food insecurity.

rosie

Rosie, one of the kids facing food insecurity featured in A Place at the Table.

Do you see the part about “affordable, nutritious food”? That’s the kicker. An overwhelming number of people facing food insecurity are also struggling with obesity. Why? Because a mother faced with the choice of buying one apple for the same price as a family sized bag of potato chips will almost always opt for the bag of chips, because it yields more for the same price. As a grocery store employee, I see this pretty frequently and, on occasion, will get remarks from other customers about the bad example mothers are setting for their kids. A Place at the Table reminds us to stay empathetic, because that “bad example” could be the difference between a child having two meals a day or one.

Why it’s important: Food insecurity is a real issue affecting many in DuPage County alone. It’s such a growing problem that students at the College of DuPage (myself included) have been working to open a food pantry on campus to provide for those in need of sustenance. A Place at the Table brings much needed awareness to the ever-growing problem.

 

The Real Dirt on Farmer John is about an eccentric Illinois born-and-raised farmer named (you guessed it) John, whose experience at a liberal arts college transforms his family farm into a creative safe-haven and an experimental disaster all at once. For me, the film is a whirlwind of emotions. We smile as Farmer John rides his tractor while wearing a bright feather boa. We laugh as he prances through his fields in a bee costume (fully equipped with wings and antennae). And we cry when his life-long neighbors turn their backs on him as he’s forced to give up the land that, in essence, is everything he has.

farmer john

Farmer John looking fabulous in his bee ensemble.  

Through further experimentation and a few failures, John finally gets the farm up and running again as a CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture) farm.

com·mu·ni·ty-sup·port·ed ag·ri·cul·ture

noun

a system in which a farm operation is supported by shareholders within the community who share both the benefits and risks of food production.

This practice of community involvement in his farm (Angelic Organics, as he named it) gives John a sense of purpose again, and perhaps more importantly, the support he needs to believe in himself and his ability to create again.

Why it’s important: CSA farms are cropping up (get it? crops) in more and more areas across the US – including right here in DuPage! A perfect example is the Sustain DuPage Victory Garden that came to fruition just this summer. Community members worked together all summer long to sustainably grow fruits and vegetables on a small plot of land, and the bounty was incredible. CSAs are tremendous community implements because they not only provide stellar food from stellar farmers – they bring people together in ways that only food can.

Okay, time to bring this thing home with the last documentary I need to talk to you about – Dirt! The title really sums up all 86 minutes of the film – it’s about dirt (soil, if we want to be more environmentally literate). Right from the beginning, dirt is personified as the living, breathing skin of Earth. To keep with the theme of providing definitions for each of these films, I quickly looked up ‘dirt definition’, and I hate what I’ve found.

dirt

noun

a substance, such as mud or dust, that soils someone or something

Synonyms: grime, filth

 

dirt

noun

something or someone vile, mean, or worthless

 

dirt

noun

any foul or filthy substance, such as mud, grime, dust, or excrement

Alright, what? Why so much negativity? My initial anger was eased by looking up ‘soil definition’ and finding some more positive descriptions, but still. Regardless, let’s get to…

Why it’s important: DuPage County is home to multiple prairies, and prairies are environmental powerhouses. They build nutrient rich soil through decomposition cycles, trap sediment, sequester carbon, and support pollinators. Through many different avenues, these things join together to promote a healthy community environment. And isn’t that what we’re all striving for?

vandana shiva

Vandana Shiva, environmentalist and dirt lover featured in the film.  

On a final note, I want to touch on one of the main things I took away from Dirt! It’s this:

We treat dirt like it’s dead because we don’t understand its language.

I think it’s the French farmer named Pierre who brings this up about halfway through the film. Farmers in certain parts of the world still treat soil as a sacred being. At times, the farmers are fathers, making sure that the soil is cared for. During harvests, soil becomes their mother, providing them with food. All the while, their intimate understanding of one another and their give-and-take relationship links them as lovers.

Maybe that’s why there’s a dirt cologne out there after all.  

Link to purchase dirt cologne, if you’re so inclined: http://demeterfragrance.com/dirt.html

Dirt Cologne

Reviews from ‘real people’ consider it:

“A masterpiece” – Lotte from Denmark

“Pretty DIRTy” – Nikki W.

“Just like it sounds like” – Mrs. S

and just because we can all relate:

“I love dirt LOL!” – Paisley

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons