Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Alive, Just Not Coherent

Good Afternoon,

Winter has arrived, even in California. It's terrible! No sunshine. Cold breezes. Wearing the only two pairs of jeans I own over and over again. I would like to stay under my covers watching romantic comedies and sipping on whiskey until April, please.

But instead I have much much to do, including more travel before the next big move. At least the holidays mean I get to drink Bailey's and coffee every morning without the usual long quiet stares from loved ones. Just kidding, I get those during the holidays too.

Anyways, I've been absent and I'm not going to lie I will be absent for a while more. I thought I would just say a quick hello before I hibernate for a while longer. In the new year, be prepared for lots of news and exciting stories.

And if you would like to get me a present, please make it this or these. Either one will go well with my new bedazzeled climbing harness and helmet.

I'm off in the search of a good soup.

Renee Claire

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Fantastically Large Hair

Hello Boys and Girls.

I just arrived home from a quick holiday in Seattle to visit one of my love's Liam and his mom and dad are pretty cool too. Liam is two and half. He has blonde blonde hair and q huge smile and is constantly laughing, so obviously we really hit it off. Like most two year olds he can't say my name and reinvented it as ka-né. I can live with that.

I know I haven't rambled to you in a while, but my life has been pretty busy over the past several weeks. I realized that I drink whiskey more than white wine spritzers these days. I love my new hair color, Lucy red. I will be buying a car really soon. And I will soon be relocating (yes again) to Baton Rouge for 3 months and then New Orleans for a long long while.

As I was checking out at Trader Joe's with my dinner. Mac and cheese, cranberry sauce and a bottle of Woodford, the TJ dude asked, "you have really big hair, don't you?" "yes. It's big." "I love big hair." A much better come on then the other night as I was leaving a pizza place down the street and some guy approached me with "hey, you want to smoke some weed?" Not quite my style unfortunately. Commenting on my big laugh is stale, but the big hair was pretty fantastic.

I'm reading this great new book called Whatever It Takes. It's about the Harlem's Children Zone started by Geoff Canada. A South Bronx native who grew up poor but with a looming draft to Vietnam found a way to attend Bowdin College in Maine where he participated in a racial justice movement on campus to increase the tiny African American student body beyond 75. The story chronicles his efforts to change the story of black boys and girls growing up in Harlem. Realizing that in order to give any child a chance to succeed we need to restructure the society in which they are born, starting with making sure soon to be parents read and sing to their unborn child. It's a great book so far.

I'm also reading a book by Robert Putnam called Better Together. Putnam wrote Bowling Alone about the American trend to step away from community into a more solitude life. Better Together goes through stories of communities coming together to fight against injustices. It's a great book for anyone interested in understanding what community organizers do. And for community organizers who need some good reminders.

And a little reminder that just because you are recycling your old electronics doesn't mean you are actually doing anything to protect the environment. Hint: Don't buy crap you don't need, like iPads. Seriously. That's ridiculous. The coffee shop I frequent uses an iPad as their register where they email your receipt to you. Ridiculous.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday Gumbo: Old blogs and Don't Pay Any Attention To Me

whoa, as I was discovering those 5 fancy dresses I never ever wear anywhere, I also discovered this . . . 2007 - 2008 Renee.

It's as hilarious as me strutting around in that still tagged black little thing and cranberry Manolo's. I may have just convinced myself that Manolo's, a jean jacket, and a plum A-line skirt is what I need to wear to the next happy hour I attend.

But at 27, evidently I was advocating for "just as non-violent direct action can change the world, travel and art can change your life. So what are you waiting for? Head out on the road and visit a couple museums while you're out there".

Oh my goodness. Really, Renee 2007?

So, I may have not changed at all. I kind of still think travel and art can change your life. It's a nasty habit I'm not prepared to overcome.

Renee Claire

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday Gumbo: Gulf

Good Morning!

It's in the 60's today in Oakland, bright and sunny with a slight chill. I'm cozily wrapped up in a blanket on the couch catching up on the news from yesterday. I love these days!

Oil Spill Commission: Yesterday was the first day of a two day hearing by the Oil Spill Commission. Johanna at Gulf Restoration Network wrote a fantastic blog about it. You can listen to day two here. But learn from my actions from yesterday, don't listen to it editing a report. Not helpful. PBS news has a good segment on yesterday's findings.

The main finding . . . no instance was found that someone or three people made a calculated decision of money over safety. That sounds soooo familiar. Oh right, its the same thing communities being poisoned by polluting facilities are told when they realize they are being poisoned by the polluting facility in their community. Another thing that is important to know is that the commission wasn't given subpoena orders. They weren't allowed to look at classified information that any party didn't just provide to them. I bet that is comforting to those 11 families and millions of people impacted by the 87 days of leaking oil into their lifesource. None of the three companies involved were even legally required to participate, contribute fully or partially in the investigation.

Chickens: My Aunt Opal and Uncle Harvey recently started raising chickens. They are kind of adorable. The chickens and the aunt and uncle.

Prop 23 and Why We Must Beat Climate Change at the State Level: On the ballot in California last week was Prop 23. A proposition funded by Texas oil companies to stop those crazy Californians from continuing to create an alternative energy economy. A lot of environmentalists are providing their assessment of why this measure was beaten when the climate bill in DC was eviscerated by oil lobbyists earlier this year. NRDC says . . . Grist provides one of the best assessments I've seen yet. It really goes into detail about why we aren't going to win in Washington until we win in California and New York and Florida and Kansas and etc.

I'm starting to feel like maybe I'm not the crazy one that has been saying all along that spending all that money in Copenhagen and Washington DC is a big fucking waste and the other side knows it. We are wasting valuable resources participating in these fruitless fights when we could be investing in iconic projects on the ground and training the workforce and passing local incentive policies to create the market we want ourselves. Maybe I'm not the insane one, maybe all those groups that refuse to learn the lessons of failure are the crazy ones.

Time for the next project . . .


And for those of you who remember 1998.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Let's Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow

And just when I needed someone to explain the past fourteen months to me, I found these little words today.

"Let's make better mistakes tomorrow. Let's scratch our heads and give up and wake up and try it again. Let's fail at digging the well the first three times to get it right the fourth. Let's build faster horses, and then strap rocket ships onto them. Let's start a company, let's watch it fail, and then let's start another one. Let's be the boss. Let's take the boss down. Let's order too much of something just to see where our limits are. Let's take a chance precisely because it might fail. Let's take the hard way out. let's go to the moon. Fuck it; let's go to the moon again. Let's quit our jobs. Let's work at being better at what we do by fucking up faster , not less. let's fuck up really fast. Let's wrestle sharks, fight monsters, and disagree with the board. lets borrow so much money it becomes someone else's problem. Let's start a 10 hour drive by announcing "I'm not into you anymore" Let's dump everything out of the garage onto the sidewalk and build something really cool in that space. Let's start out to build a better mousetrap, and halfway there lets decide to jump on the mice's team. Let's bet on a longshot. Let's buy her a drink. Let's start baking bread in our cubicle. Let's try bringing fresh water to distant villages precisely because we have no idea how to do it. Let's pool our money. Let's take their money. Let's solve that hard problem. You know that one that keeps you up at night? Let's tackle that bastard. let it kick our ass a few times, and then finally get it right. Let's find out what's at the bottom of the ocean. Let's tame the Kraken. Let's just fucking tell people we've read Infinite Jest and move on. Let's forgive our parents. Let's do something with the god damned planet. Let's rent an electric generator and open a food cart that sells nothing but frosted PopTarts, but makes a lot of fucking noise. Let's have a breakthrough. Let's have a breakdown. Let's agree that bruises fade, bones heal, hearts mend, and that tomorrow we're right back on that horse and that this time, THIS TIME! we've at least got a rocket strapped to its back."

It was only fourteen months ago that I quit my job, broke up with a very lovely boyfriend, put everything into storage, and bought a one way ticket to another country without confirmation of a job and no savings. Since then I've lived in eleven different houses in two countries and three states, signed five job contracts, traveled nine countries, drove across the United States in a Uhaul, danced until the sun rose, had my heart broken, and broke a couple hearts myself.

I'm a teeny bit tired.

Renee Claire

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Since I'm Sure You Don't Read The Greenpeace Blogs

Here is my friend James talking about Lauren's confrontation with those Rand Paul thugs on Monday night. I'm warning you about the comment underneath his post up front. It's delusional at best. I believe this woman may have forgotten to take her medication. It's something similar to 'i want my country back from all you corporate whore Nazi's. yeah, i'm talking to you Greenpeace hippies who never take corporate money and carry non-violence pledges around.' It's a bit infrutiating, but James' rebuttal is another example of how violence (even in words) shouldn't ever be met with more violence.

And in case you didn't see Lauren on CBS this morning. Check her out. She's kind of amazing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Gumbo: Amazing-ness

Home: I arrived into the Bay area on Sunday afternoon. It was cold, grey and pouring rain. I hopped into a cab at the San Francisco airport. I just couldn't bare to take Bart all the way across the bay. And I thought I might as well have stayed in Amsterdam with this shitty weather.

$70 and 25 minutes later, I made it home. Sat on my couch, chatted with my roommate, took a much (much!) needed shower, and fell asleep by 6pm. I woke around 2am for a brief moment, then when 5am came around I ran around with my head cut off trying to get online to catch my European colleagues before they went home for the day. Mostly because there was much unfinished work for a report that was released today. No wireless. My roommates had switched internet companies while I was away and things had gone wrong. A little odd that the decision was made completely without me, but hey I just live here.

Breaking Bread: I made bread today! a flaky white loaf and an olive, rosemary and onion loaf. I can't believe it. It was so easy. I'm totally making bread instead of buying it from now on. Yay, me!

The Tea Party: I woke up this morning to a whirlwind of news articles about the Rand Paul debate last night. It seems that a friend of mine, a 23 year old woman, was thrown to the ground and step on by a number of grown men including Rand Paul's Bourbon County, Kentuky campaign coordinator because she was protesting against Rand Paul. So . .. let me get this right. . . Men in their 50's (I'm assuming from their photos) decided that the correct response to a 23 year old woman (she's tall, but its pretty obvious she's really young) protesting in a funny way (blonde wig and ironic yard sign) was such a threat to Rand Paul's safety that the only thing they could think of doing was throwing her violently to the ground and then stepping on her head. So violently that she received a concussion in fact. Watch the video. It's upsetting even if you don't know Lauren.

Lauren is an incredible activist. I've known her for many years. We've worked together in a number of different capacities. But its a conversation we had about four years ago over a couple beers after a 16 hour work day that best describes how gentle and young this woman is. A group of us were talking about how long term change happens. How do people stop deforestation of the rainforest for instance? I talked about campaign strategy and tactics that have been working. And she seemed confused that organizations had discussions on long term strategies of how to end deforestation. So I asked how she thought it happened. She said with a great smile and meek voice, "organically?" It was adorable. No, Lauren long term change to end deforestation doesn't happen organically. Here is the latest article on Lauren.

But all this makes me think once again. What is it that the Tea Party wants? Because it's hard to remember with all this violence and hate. Was Tim Profitt (the grown man who stepped on top of a 23 year old woman who was being held down against her will by two other grown men) trying to take his country back? Was he trying to put an outspoken woman in her place? Was he trying to discuss his perspective of the issues? Whatever it was, it was violent and those men were so riled up by hate and anger that they couldn't see what they were doing. What they were doing to a 23 year old woman who disagreed with them. I wonder if any of those men have daughters or nieces or sisters. I wonder what they would do if that had happened to one of the women in their families.

Juan Williams:
This is an amazing story that is digging deep into our national conversation on racism. The Atlantic has had some really good coverage of it. Is Juan Williams a bigot? Does it make a difference that he said his comments on Fox news given that he works for NPR? Does his comment belittle the work he has done on civil rights?

I don't believe that Juan Williams is a bigot. I think his comments were stupid, but I don't think he was expressing an uncertain and deeply held racism that needs to be punished by his employer. Unlike Rachel Maddow, I don't believe this was just one more comment that is inciting people like the Rand Paul thugs to be violent and racist. I can't believe I'm disagreeing with Rachel Maddow right now. For ten years we have been told that we need, for the sake of our lives and our country, to be scared when we get on a plane. That racial profiling is an appropriate way to deal with extremists. Our brothers and cousins and fathers are being sent to war to kill muslims or islamic extremists, depending on the news source. These are the images that we see and hear everyday. Mix this in with the rest of our historic and deeply held racism in our country and out comes irrational fear of normal everyday people who are brown and who might or might not be muslim. He expressed something sincere, but not something that should vilify him as a racist.

Racism is involved in every part of our social structure. It comes out in places and moments we don't expect and in places and moment we knew it would. That doesn't make each of us so racist that we should be fired if we speak these thoughts aloud. If we don't speak and think about the parts of our culture that are full of racism, how are we going to eradicate our society of them? NPR fucked up.

I'm going to eat the rest of my bread now. It's sooo good. You should come over and have some too.

Renee Claire

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Update: Kiddie Kollege and its Toxic Siting

The devil is beating his wife over here in Amsterdam. You know, its sunny and raining at the same time. Anyways, only a few more days until I can rest my head in my own bed. I'm so excited!

Parents whose children attended Kiddie Kollege, a nursery school that was inside an old thermator factory, settle the lawsuit for medical monitoring for their children. Yes, boys and girls someone opened a day care center with children in a building where people made thermametors with real live mercury. The story that follows is one with odd twists that include the legal system attempting to decide who is really at fault here. The people that sold the building, the people that bought the building, or the people who ran the day care center.

You can read my past posts on this story here.

I'm almost done with my book Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast. It's a fantastic book about the wetlands loss on the Louisiana coast written by Mike Tidwell. He is a travel writer. I've never read any of his books before. Mostly I don't like travel writing. I don't know why. I just haven't found much that I enjoy. I prefer older fiction where the plot takes place in multiple locations that I have never traveled to. There is a difference.

Ok goodbye.
Renee Claire

Saturday, October 16, 2010

[Repost] Bad Editing or . . . huh?

I'm not lazy, I'm just misunderstood. Actually, I'm just really fucking behind at work. (Casey, please unremember the preceding and following sentences.) My trip to New Orleans was extremely fruitful but taking this trip and thinking I could do 2 jobs has eventually come at a price. I have this habit of foolishly thinking I can do anything. I'm not sure if you have noticed. It leads me to take wonderful risks and to believe that you just have to jump because the safety net will eventually appear, but sometimes it leads me to work from 9am until midnight on a Friday and all day on a Saturday and possibly all day on a Sunday too. And still be a week behind. Anyways, I have been absent to my devoted (and small) blog audience. I've reposted this oldie but goodie. Enjoy!

A colleague of mine sent me a link to an unedited version of the article I posted earlier today, "Wal Mart, The New FDA?". It seems that CNN is more of a money making machine than a journalism machine. After reading the article I posted earlier today, I couldn't stop thinking about it. On my bike racing through the terrorists scare in downtown DC (really . . . half the city's blocks were closed and road rage was out of control - this is dude in a truck was just screaming,no words, just screaming when he couldn't go on green quickly enough but that's a different post), in the bookstore when I kept getting text messages about the street closures, and sweating to the oldies at the gym, there was something really odd about that article. I kept doubting as to whether I understood it or not. Was he saying that consumer activism was bad for science? Was he saying that the chemical industry doesn't have enough power over the chemicals that they produce because environmentalist keep using the internet? Was he saying the internet is providing radical environmentalists with new ways to punish the free market? What the fuck was he saying?

Then I got this link.

And I realized he wasn't actually saying much of anything, because a whole bunch of industry lines had somehow fallen out of the ACC communications department and landed all over an article about an endocrine disruptor that is used in baby bottles. baby bottles. I'm sorry I don't think I mentioned that all this controversy is over a chemical that disrupts human endocrine systems and is used in products that hold infant formula. Just thought I'd mention that.

One thing is for sure, the edited version of the following article says a lot about how much power the chemical industry has in this country. How is it even possible that chemicals that is known to cause harm allowed in products that go into the mouths of children? I'm so confused right now how the people that work at these chemical companies think that is ok to argue against laws that protect their children's health. Because these aren't just 'companies', these are people who leave their families each morning and show up everyday to work in an office to make decisions on what chemicals get put into our computers, our shower curtains, and our children's car seats and they know that some of these chemicals are extremely toxic to their children's health. I'm sure some of the people that work in the chemical industry have children. And they know the effects of what they are doing. And they do it anyway. I'm just so confused.

Anyways, that went into a spiel I wasn't prepared for. The bottom line is here is the real article, not some weird version fit for . . . who knows what happened there, but read this one. And if you have a minute tell me why you think there are two very different versions of this article.

Renee Claire

How Wal-Mart Became the New FDA"
by Mark Gunther

The plastics industry is dealing with a nightmare these days when it comes to potentially toxic chemicals. Because so many people no longer trust big business or federal regulators to protect them and their health—perhaps with reason, perhaps not—companies are vulnerable to campaigns by activist groups, politicians and trial lawyers who want to get alleged dangerous toxics off the market. The latest example: Bisphenol-A, the chemical used in polycarbonate bottles, including baby bottles, and in the linings of aluminum cans and in many, many other products.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time—more than I’d intended to—looking into the controversy around BPA. The result is a column that was posted today on fortune.com and cnnmoney.com. The FORTUNE websites is also running a video in which I talk about the issue. Originally, I had hoped that my research into BPA would develop into a much longer story for FORTUNE but the piece never really came together, in part because I found myself conflicted over the safety issues. Also, to be honest, it became clear to me that I don’t have the depth of experience reporting on the FDA or on toxic chemicals to write a definitive FORTUNE story about BPA.

Having said that, I’ve come to the conclusion that the BPA story is, in essence, about trust. It’s another bit of evidence to support my argument that it makes business sense in the long run for companies to be responsible and prudent, even if that costs them money today; regaining trust, once it’s been lost, is both terribly difficult and expensive. It also strikes me that industries that try to weaken government regulation or plant their own people inside regulatory agencies run the risk of getting burned in the end. That’s because when we lost trust in our regulators—as we seem to have lost faith in the FDA—we are left with mob rule, as manufacturers and retailers (i.e., Wal-Mart) come under pressure to stop making and selling perfectly legal products. Strong and predictable regulation, it seems to me, is better for business as well as for the rest of us than the chaos now surrounding BPA.

So feel free to look at the column which is a much abbreviated version of a longer draft that I will post below. Here’s how it begins:

How, exactly, did Wal-Mart become the new Food and Drug Administration?

The giant retailer, along with CVS and Toys ‘R Us, announced recently that it plans to stop selling baby bottles containing the chemical bisphenol-A.

The question is, why? Bisphenol-A has been widely used since the 1950s. The Food and Drug Administration, as well as Japanese and European regulators, have no problems with it. Canada is about to ban it from baby bottles, but officials term the move purely precautionary

And here, for those who want to know more, is my full story:

When did Wal-Mart become the new FDA?

The giant retailer, along with CVS and Toys ‘R Us, says it will stop selling baby bottles containing a controversial chemical called bisphenol-A. The California state Senate has voted to prohibit the use of BPA in children’s products. Nalgene, which makes water jugs, is phasing out BPA, too. And powerful Congressmen want BPA removed from cans of infant formula.

The question is, why? The FDA says bisphenol-A is perfectly safe. So do Japanese and European regulators, who tend to be more cautious. Even the government of Canada, which plans to ban the chemical from baby bottles, recently assured its citizens that this was done “as a precautionary measure.”

BPA, you should know, is everywhere. The chemical is used to make polycarbonate, a rigid, clear plastic used in bottles, bike helmets, CDs, DVDs and automobile headlights. It’s also used to make epoxy resins, which are used as coatings in food and drink cans as well as dental sealants. You’re probably carrying around some BPA right now: About 93% of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control had the chemical in their urine. About 6 billion pounds of chemical were made last year.

The trouble is, numerous studies of laboratory animals have linked small doses of BPA to breast cancers, prostate cancer, brain abnormalities and reproductive health problems. Other scientists argue that the chemical, which has been widely used since the 1950s, is perfectly safe. The fact is, there’s a good deal of scientific uncertainty about bisphenol-A. That’s not surprising, because we rely on animal studies to predict the effects of chemicals on humans, and extrapolating from mice to you and me isn’t easy.

But this story isn’t fundamentally about science. It’s about the politics of BPA. More broadly, it’s about how we, as a society, make decisions about health and safety, at a time when we no longer trust the government or industry to protect us. Because we’ve lost faith in those big institutions, battles over a slew of products and processes—genetically modified foods, the irradiation of meat, or phthalates in cosmetics or children’s toys—are being fought in the court of public opinion, for better or worse.

In the case of BPA, the market for hard-plastic baby and sport bottles collapsed suddenly this spring because of a hard-hitting campaign against the chemical by activist groups, concerned scientists, politicians, and trial lawyers. They spread fears about BPA that eventually convinced nervous retailers to turn away from children’s products containing the chemical. As an expert in crisis PR noted, wryly, “Wal-Mart is the new FDA.”

For companies that make chemicals or use them in consumer products, this is a real worry. It’s a whole lot easier to frighten people than it is to reassure them, especially when talking about kids. “The science can’t compete with the emotion,” says Steve Hentges, a chemist and a lobbyist with the American Chemistry Council, an industry group that lately has been on the losing end of the BPA battles.

If the most determined opponents of BPA get their way and drive the chemical out of the food supply, consumers will pay the costs. Some BPA-free plastic bottles sell for $10 each, more than twice the price of bottles with BPA. Baby bottles made of glass can break, potentially causing injury. Replacing BPA in the lining of aluminum cans would mean retooling all that packaging, and it’s not clear that there are safe alternatives.

Those costs are worth paying to protect our health, environmentalist say. They argue that if government regulators can’t or won’t do the job of regulating potentially toxic chemicals, then it makes perfect sense for advocacy groups, politicians, an aggressive media and even Wal-Mart to step in.

“The federal regulatory system for chemicals is broken,” declares Richard Liroff, the executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, a nonprofit that works with companies on issues of toxics. “We have largely incapacitated the government to make the kinds of decisions that we ought to be able to look to government to make. So there’s a lot to be said for having big companies slice through the knot and say we have to make decisions for our good, for our customers’ good and for the good of society.”

If nothing else, the BPA battles underscores how rapidly markets can by reshaped by activist campaigns and consumer sentiments, both magnified by the Internet. A handful of companies emerged as winners this spring: Whole Foods Market, which pulled BPA baby bottles and cups off its shelves several years ago; Eastman Chemical, which introduced a plastic alternative called Triton last year; and Born Free, a private company started in 2006 specifically to provide BPA-free baby bottles. Others, including SABIC Innovative Plastics, which was formerly the plastics division of GE and is now the U.S.’s biggest manufacturer of BPA, presumably saw sales decline. (SABIC declined to comment on the financial impact.) Baby-bottle makers including Avent America, Evenflo and Gerber Products are now being sued because they sold products made with BPA.

This spring’s BPA battles were fought like a political campaign, complete with catchy soundbites, press releases, personal attacks, and warring websites. One prominent and controversial crusader is Dr. Frederick vom Saal, who has been researching BPA for more than a decade. Vom Saal has testified before state legislatures and appeared on such TV programs as PBS’s Frontline and ABC’s 20/20 to denounce BPA in terms that gloss over scientific uncertainty. Referring to the fact that BPA is a mild estrogen, he says things like “the idea that you’re using sex hormones to make plastic is just totally insane.”

Vom Saal has contempt for the chemical industry. He accuses a Dow Chemical executive of trying to bribe him, a charge the company strongly denies. “The willingness to be dishonest seems to be the criteria for these people being hired and representing the chemical industry,” vom Saal says.

The chemical industry, in turn, wants to discredit vom Saal. One industry source showed FORTUNE a video news release produced by Born Free, which makes BPA-free baby products, in which vom Saal warns of the dangers of BPA. “We know it causes breast cancer and prostate cancer when exposure occurs in early life,” he declares. He also consulted with the New York-based law firm of Robert Weiss, which has filed three class action lawsuits against baby bottle manufacturers, according to the firm’s website.

Asked about this, vom Saal says he has not taken any money from any company or law firm, although he may testify as an expert witness, as many academics do, if the class-action suits against BPA go to trial. He notes—accurately—that it was only after lawyers brought civil actions against the tobacco industry and asbestos makers that we learned the full truth about the dangers of their products, and how the industries failed to protect the public health.

If vom Saal were the only scientist warning about the dangers of BPA, he could be marginalized. But dozens more are sounding alarms. Sarah Janssen, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, is a medical doctor with who a master’s in public health and a PhD in reproductive biology. She won’t let her 10-month-old daughter be exposed to BPA through baby bottles, sippy cups or infant formula. “For peace of mind,” she says. “really what we need is a comprehensive ban.”

Fenton Communications, a Washington, D.C. PR firm, is another key warrior against BPA. Fenton’s clients have included Born Free and its BPA-free bottles; an activist group called the Environmental Working Group that has led the fight against BPA for years; and trial lawyers. Fenton also works for liberal advocacy groups like MoveOn that support Democrats in Congress—New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, among others—who have sponsored legislation to ban BPA from children’s products..

Sometimes these groups appear to work in concert. Last year, the Environmental Working Group tested canned foods for BPA and found that “many Americans are exposed to BPA above levels shown to be harmful in laboratory studies.” This year, a congressional investigation led by Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak asked manufacturers of infant formula (including Hain-Celestial Group Inc., Mead Johnson & Company, Nestle USA, Abbott and Wyeth Nutrition) to provide information on their use of BPA in the lining of cans. The companies said the linings did contain BPA (as everyone knew by then) and that the cans were safe to use. Nevertheless, Dingell and Stupak subsequently asked the infant formula companies to voluntarily remove BPA from their cans. They declined. All this generated headlines—and worry.

The chemical industry has tried to get its message out, too. See the websites www.bisphenol-a.org and www.factsonplastic.com , which come up at the top of Google’s search offerings to offer a defense of BPA. But the industry is often depicted as a “special interest group,” while environmentalists and politicians are seen as serving the “public interest.” It isn’t that simple, of course. Controversy helps the green groups raise money, Democratic politicians look for ways to find fault with the Bush administration. And the trial lawyers sense a big payday.

The problem for the chemical industry is that its track record doesn’t inspire confidence. The Dingell-Stupak investigation of BPA looked at what the congressmen call “science for sale,” and uncovered embarrassing documents. One target: The Weinberg Group, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that has made a business out of defending products that are under attack. (Its clients included the American Chemistry Council.) In a 2003 letter to DuPont, a Weinberg consultant wrote that, “We will harness … the scientific and intellectual capacity of our company with one goal in mind – creating the outcome our client desires.” Needless to say, this is not how science is supposed to work.

David Michaels is a George Washington University professor and the author of new book called Doubt is Their Product, about the misuse of science by industry. Corporate efforts to manipulate science and avoid regulation are now backfiring, he argues, because all science funded by industry has come under a cloud. “The work of mercenary scientists hurts the credibility of all scientists,” Michaels says.

This became a key element of the attack on BPA. When an FDA executive told Congress that the agency had relied on two industry-funded studies in its analysis of BPA, Dingell pounced. “This raises serious concerns about whether the science FDA relied on to approve the use of Bisphenol A was bought and paid for by industry,” he said. The problem is, the FDA does not have the money to conduct independent studies of the thousands of chemicals on the market. It has to rely on industry research. “It’s industry that’s required to do the testing, and then FDA reviews that,” says Hentges, of the chemistry industry group.

In April, all the news had turned bad for BPA. Media reports stoked fears. “There is no safe level of BPA,” declared Dr. Nancy Snyderman, an NBC medical reporter, on the Today show. (Maybe NBC is the new FDA?) The Canadian government recommended its ban on baby bottles with BPA. A lengthy draft report from the National Toxicology Program, a federal body that is part of the National Institutes of Health, found “some concern” about the effect of BPA on fetuses, infants and children at current exposure levels and concluded that “the possibility that bisphenol A may alter human development cannot be dismissed.” The NTP report (available at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/media/questions/sya-bpa.cfm ) is a model of clarity in the sea of uncertainty surrounding BPA. But it is too long and nuanced to be appreciated in the court of public opinion, where the BPA battle is being fought.

In the space of a few days, Wal-Mart, Toy ‘R Us and CVS said they will phase out baby bottles containing BPA. Nalgen and Playtex also said they will stop using the chemical.

I emailed Wal-Mart to ask why the company is removing a legal product, which may or may not be dangerous, from its shelves, while continuing to sell other products, like cigarettes, which are incontrovertibly harmful. Linda Brown Blakley, a company spokeswoman, replied: “We sell products our customers want to buy. Our customers are telling us they want this option.”

Now that the retailers have agreed to take baby bottles with BPA off their shelves, you can be sure they will come under pressure to get rid of infant formula cans lined with the chemical. Will cans of soup, soda and beer be next?

And is this any way to make judgments about public health?

“The market can’t solve this problem,” says David Michaels, the professor who has written extensively about science and regulation. (His website is www.defendingscience.org.) “Wal-Mart and Target may stop selling the products, but I’ll bet you that the Dollar Store will keep selling them, just as they sold tainted toys from China.”

Hentges, the industry lobbyist, says: “You want qualified scientists making these decisions.” Well, sure, but qualified scientists disagree about BPA.

There’s an irony here. Traditionally, industries have opposed strong regulation. They don’t want the government looking over their shoulder or telling them what products they can and cannot sell. The BPA saga might be a reason for companies to rethink that position—because, at least in this case, the fact that the government regulators are perceived as weak or under-funded or too friendly to industry has helped create the nightmare the chemical industry is now living.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Festival Season of Travel

I'm only five hours into my ridiculously wastefully long voyage to Amsterdam. I woke (not sure if you can wake from not sleeping) at 4am, drove to the New Orleans airport at 5am, hopped on a flight to Houston at 7am, found a flight heading for San Francisco at 8am, and am now sitting at Firewood Cafe 2 (yes 2!) at the San Francisco airport enjoying a Pinot Grigio where I will wait for the next two hours until my 4pm flight to Amsterdam. Sunday IS my funday!

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. I decided when I first arrived sleep is not my priority and so not much of it was had. I am tired. In fact, this may be the first time ever that I would prefer to go home to my own bed instead of continue exploring. Two weeks in Amsterdam sounds good only because I know there is a bed there, where I will have an excuse (just traveled a looooong time) to snuggle inside of it early tomorrow afternoon. Yes, I'm dreaming of my next sleep that won't arrive until tomorrow. I'm thinking a 5pm bedtime. If sleep doesn't come right away, a bottle of Jack Daniels has stowed away inside my running shoe just in case.

Sleep. I miss you.

I miss my very comfy bed in Oakland. I miss my bike. I miss 72 degree days where I drink my coffee on the front porch sunning my exceedingly white legs, that because of short dresses and South Louisiana heat are no longer white. I miss open windows and cool breezes. I miss Lake Merritt. I miss going to the gym. I miss my early morning runs. I miss thinking that if only I knew how to build a fire I would totally use my fireplace. I miss staring at the desk I have yet to complete building and thinking fuck I soooo don't want to finish building this desk. I miss my tiny closet that barely fits all my coats, much less dresses, shirts, the dozens of scarfs I've collected over the years, and my shoes. Oh I really miss all my shoes, especially the ones I use for sitting.

But mostly I miss sleep. Restful sleep. I miss my restful Oakland sleep.

Don't get confused when I mention all the things I miss. I happen to be at the very beginning of a deepening loss for New Orleans and Acadiana. I almost did not get on my flight this morning. I paused . . . just for a moment, but I paused and thought of staying.

There are many things I want to share about my trip to New Orleans. Darryl, Cyn, Manhattans, Biloxi, the gobs of oil I grabbed from the bottom of the Gulf, the New Iberia Gumbo Festival, the BP tent at the New Iberia Gumbo Festival, Oaklawn Manor, Franklin lamposts, St. John Elementary, the country of 601 Napolean Ave, that tiny little kid playing the accordian, Centerville Grocery, the PT cruiser, the Bayou, and a number of other fascinating things that I made me pause outside gate D3. But right now, I'm going to finish this second glass of wine, download the latest Rachel Maddow podcast, and get on my very long plane ride to Amsterdam.

au revior,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Stories are Coming

Four more days in Southern Louisiana, then two weeks in Amsterdam. I have had so many wonderful experiences over the past three weeks, including a three day long working conference to develop gulf coast recovery priorities with the most incredible environmental and social justice leaders and countless pints of whiskeys.

More to come.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Gumbo: New Orleans Bloggers

Though not has humid as the past three days, the gentle breeze swirling through Bayou St. John today barely cuts through the warm damp feeling of the city. Having spent the past year in dry cold climates, I've forgotten what a real summer feels like, but mostly what this kind of heat and humidity does to you. I've been exhausted. I'm a rather slow moving Southern girl anyway, but the glacial speed in which I speak and move these days is almost . . . relaxing.

Yesterday, I woke a tad hungover and decided a nice long run was in order. I found a gym nearby that has a one month membership for out of towners. Inside the gym was only slightly cooler than outside. I wasn't 15 minutes into my run before my shirt was drenched and I was out of breath. I kept going but by the end of only 3 miles, I called it quits. Maybe just some weights and lunges. Nope. One set of biceps curls and 25 lunges made me want to crawl up in the corner and take a nap. The mysterious lack of cold water in the shower didn't help.

My failed attempt to complete a full workout led me to my other option. A beer and a bowl of Gumbo. I immediately perked up when I stumbled upon an old style 7 piece brass band standing in middle of Chartres St and St. Anne. I sat on my cruiser and listened and danced. The dripping sweat down my cheeks didn't bother me nearly as much this time. It was 330pm before I realized I hadn't eaten yet, was still hungover, and growing more exhausted by the second. Gumbo. Beer.

Not wanting to stray too far from hearing live music I wandered into a restaurant that had a big boiled crawfish sign outside. Not too touristy for a French Quarter place, but the Gumbo wasn't that great and the crab shells kept jabbing my tongue. Sleep was sneaking up on me fast. I barely made it the 2 miles up Esplanade Ave. to my apartment before crashing. The heat, the humidity, the too many Maker's Marks the night before, my throbbing left hand from crashing on my cruiser after leaving Pal's Lounge on the notoriously unrepaired roads, and the unstoppable sweating finally caught up with me.

Inside the tiny studio in the back of a multi-unit shotgun was almost hotter than the courtyard. I wish I could string up a hammock and sleep outside instead. Yesterday was pretty much a bust, but the brass band and the various sounds blasting out of all the little places on Chartres made the complete exhaustion and sleep arriving at 8pm worthwhile.

New Orleans Bloggers

Fix the Pumps: After Katrina the Army Corps of Engineer took responsibility for fixing not only the levees but also the sewage pumps that had given out under the stress. One blogger, Matt McBride, has been following this process and keeping up the pressure to make sure this is (1) done and (2) done correctly.

Library Chronicles: One librarian's observations on post-Katrina rebuilding and oil spill clean up. I can't find a profile on the author but each post says 'posted by Jeffery' underneath it. His archives go back to 2003 and when searching through 2005 posts, it seems that he moved to Nashville for a while after the storm. He is clearly a city man. "Last week I was horrified to peer out through the kitchen window and discover a deer.. an actual friggin deer.. merrily loping through the neighborhood as casually as though he were out for a morning stroll. What the hell!"

His posts are short, usually something snarky about someone at the library asking a stupid question. But there are really great links to interesting articles.

New Orleans Slate:
An interesting mix of recent New Orleans culture and emails sent to friends and family in the 2005 and 2006. His writing reminds me of the book Why New Orleans Matters, written by the author of My Cold War and New York transplant when he and his girlfriend moved to New Orleans, Tom, Piazza. Sam, the New Orleans Slate writer, also writes a sister blog called Katrina Refridgerator. It looks to be solely his emails to friends and families and the blog's tagline is "Some smells, like fear, anger, incompetence, death, mold and rotting meat, stay in your nostrils forever."

Mostly Cajun: And for a taste of a Southern Louisiana conservative, Mostly Cajun is written by someone whose name I can't find. Mostly political commentary with a good mix of receipes and what it means to grow up in Southwest Louisiana, which isn't New Orleans, but relevant enough.

Rene Claire

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Story from a Humid New Orleans

On the plane my computer stopped working when it got friendly with a cup of water. My phone died because I didn't plug it in, then somewhere along the way I lost the charger anyway. I arrived to a dark and locked apartment and a land lord that didn't answer her phone for most of the evening. The cab driver conflicted by his southern hospitality and the need to make money that night, waited with me on a dark porch in a neighborhood I've never seen for as long as he could but insisted I would be just fine right where I was. Of course I could always just scream real loud if something bad happened.

Two days lost to travel and a sudden halt to anything but the hot and humid city I saw in front of me, I inhaled New Orleans. The landlord finally arrived after I had the luxury of a glass of wine with a new friend I met in while in peril. The laptop eventually survived the trauma. And I connected with the people from the Gulf Restoration Network. But one question continues to stump me: what am I doing in New Orleans?

Being forced to sit and watch the people walk down Esplanade instead of write a report that is due in two days or that script due tomorrow or even contact the people I'm ultimately here to meet was surprisingly wonderful. That first morning wasn't so humid that I couldn't enjoy the view of exceedingly beautiful homes and pleasant 'good mornings' from strangers while drinking my coffee. Even the quiet breeze and the gentle warm overcast sun made my unexpected solitude seem as though I had planned this disconnection all along.

My morning experience reminded of a Dave Eggers statement in Zeitoun. People in New Orleans never had a lot of money, but they've always had a lot of time. So they visit and in this visiting grew community. I got to know the people sitting near my table well. The night before, however, while I was stuck outside my new apartment, slow growing anxiety began to compound as I might have just been swindled out of $300, stuck in the city with no place to live and an already used one way plane ticket. I eventually ended up drinking wine with my two new friends. Deep in conversation, I realized even if I had been conned, it still wasn't the worst thing I've incountered while on travel.

Both of my new friends lived in new Orleans for years before Katrina. I have begun to understand that the storm comes up in odd moments not unlike the source of a great heart brake. As I laughing shared all the things that had gone wrong that week even before getting on the plane, my friend smiled and said 'yeah, reminds me of trying to get out of the city during Katrina. It took me 13 hours to get to Lafayette. Usually only a 2 hour journey.'

The question of what am I doing here always lingers while I travel. Perhaps a powerless search for purpose or maybe an unquenchable curiosity. Probably a little bit of both. Sharon grew up in New Orleans, lived for short periods outside the city just twice. College and Katrina.

After Katrina she bounced from friend's guest room to friend's guest room all over the country. When asked if she would ever live somewhere else she said no. No hesitation but a small acknowledgment that she would travel to other cities, just not live in another. This is her home. Part of my unquenchable curiosity and powerless search for purpose comes from not, even just once, having that same thought. I've reached a point where people ask 'how long are you going to stay there?' Maybe to get a sense of how long they have to visit or how far along I am in planning my next quest. I don't have one home, but it sounded nice when she said it.

The American flag waves on many front porches as I bike the city. Mostly the same flag, which looks like it was dipped in black and gold for the Saints. A team that resided in Texas post Katrina, whose owner dropped the New Orleans part on merchandise that same year, and lost 13 out of 16 games in the 2005-2006 season but walked into their first game to a standing ovation from the crowd and the opposing team. Banks closed and schools go out early last week when the Saints played and won their first home game since last season's Superbowl. Every bar has a Saints schedule and a plea to watch the game, all the games, there.

Last night I met a man who identified himself as 'the man', as in he is an engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers. I responded with who I was, not the man. He spoke to me about the levees, Amsterdam, the flow of Mississippi River sediment, the need to filter out pesticides upstream, and his quest to build a water softener for his home. He is a lifelong New Orleanian though lived briefly near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco about 15 years ago. We bantered over the art scene in Oakland, tequila drinking and the murder that had taken place in the spot where I was sitting at Pal's Lounge a couple years ago. But mostly we talked about Katrina.

Friday, September 17, 2010

One More Unsafe Siting

I promise to update you on my goings on in New Orleans, including my new big pimpin' yellow cruiser I can now be find riding around Bayou St. John. It's amazing and you will be jealous when you see it. I'm currently on the search for a matching fedora. Because every cruiser riding lady needs a matching fedora.

Here is my latest Momsrising blog post. Turns out the Carson-Gore Academy for Environmental Sciences was built on contaminated land. Yes, you may recognize the names Carson and Gore from Rachel Carson and Al Gore. Cheers from a hot, humid, and spicy New Orleans.

A new school year, a new article on our country’s lack of safe school siting policies. More evidence that a tidal wave of debate over why building schools on top of contaminated land is a bad idea has washed over our country. In fact, that’s exactly what The New York Times article entitled, “Tainted Al Gore School Poster Child For National Toxics Debate”, states. The author, Elena Schor, described the latest in school siting scandals, this one with the just opened Al Gore school in Los Angeles. This school’s contamination is so well known that Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller have both mentioned it and its ironic connection to pioneering environmentalists on their shows.

EPA, mandated by Congress in 2007, to create and release voluntary national guidelines on how to safely site a school without exposing students and staff to a cocktail of toxic chemicals in the summer of 2009. Guess what, folks? It’s the summer of 2010 and there are still no such guidelines in the hands of school board members and parents alike. EPA, who was notoriously on permanent vacation during the Bush years, had a late start. Last summer they enlisted a large and diverse stakeholder group to help them craft these guidelines and we have all been waiting patiently since those recommendations were sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

The Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Sciences, named after lauded environmentalists Rachel Carson and Al Gore, has been built on toxic land. What I find a more important piece of the conversation is that California actually has the toughest school siting regulations and mechanisms in place to prevent such things from happening in the country. The state has been at the forefront of this issue. Just this past weekend, contaminated soil was removed from the school prior to its opening on Monday. But I wonder, with mechanisms in place, why did it take until mere hours before students arrived for their first day of school to remove contaminated soil?

As we know from No Child Left Behind and cross district busing, anything related to school districts is much more complicated than meets the eye. Often times, school boards are gifted cheap land by residents or businesses to build a new school. This gifted land is often cheap for a reason. It’s undesirable. Sometimes, many times, that reason is because of past contamination or proximity to a highway or under power lines. All things that can cause life long health problems for the students and faculty that spend so many hours there.

Sometimes nobody in decision making authority even knows that the land has been contaminated. But more often, decision makers simply do not know what to do or how to remediate or have any power to raise enough money to do so if they did know the answers to these questions. EPA’s guidelines are an important step in providing the right tools to those that are in charge of building our nation’s schools. With the average age of our nation’s schools reaching 50 years old, we need these tools more than ever. But what we need more than voluntary guidelines are laws. We must prevent exposing our children to toxic chemicals just by going to school.

Please urge EPA Administrator Jackson to hurry up, release these guidelines and get them in the hands of those that need them. You can leave her a message on her facebook page or you can call her office and leave this simple message “Administrator Jackson, please release the voluntary national guidelines to safe school siting today.” 202-564-4700

For a toxic free future,
Renee Claire

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stop the Madness

Oh my goodness.

I've had no fun for almost a week now. Except for my bike rides and I sat at the end of the pier of Lake Chalet eating $2 tacos and drinking $4 margaritas one day last week. The rest of my time has been working, mostly on things that I will probably never get paid for, like research for my trip to New Orleans and creating a long term strategic plan for one of the organization's I volunteer for and becoming obsessed with walking each aisle of REI. That place is amazing!

And now I'm almost done reading Zeitoun. I've paused at about the most horrible point in the book for a moment to collect myself. I've almost convinced myself to stop reading, but since I know the dude is alive and well and will be speaking at Tulane in October, I will finish it if nothing more to feel a little better before I go to sleep tonight.

This one is particularly trying, especially after the 9/11 anniversary, where of course I read article and article about the 'ground zero' mosque and had to defriend people on Facebook who were updating their status with racist remarks against muslims needing to prove to us (Americans) that they would be good from now on by not building the victory mosque so close to where the twin towers fell. I'm not kidding.

Can't we all just get a.l.o.n.g.?!

For three nights in a row I've eaten beef jerky, chocolate ice cream, and whiskey for dinner. And that's why I love America!

This song is fun to listen to in the morning while getting ready for the day!

Renee Claire

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ashley Morris: Fuck You You Fucking Fucks

In case you haven't watched the first season of Treme, I'd like to introduce you to Ashley Morris. An outspoken, angry, New Orleanian, who in the months after Hurricane Katrina became an internet sensation through his profanity fueled blog posts. He passed away in 2008. Treme had the character based on his life commit suicide by jumping off the Mississippi River ferry, but in reality the real Ashley Morris died suddenly of heart failure while visiting Florida in 2008. You can read Ashley's obituary at the bottom of this link.

Last night I watched a sneak preview of a film called Land of Opportunity. The film carves out the multiple layers that have defined the right to housing struggle by following eight people from 2006 to 2010 in post Katrina New Orleans. The movie intimately details the developing process of the rebuilding of the city through the lens of community activists, urban planners, young adults, and South American undocumented day laborers. It's a great film. Check it out.

Ok . . Here is Ashley Morris' Fuck You You Fucking Fucks. God bless Ashley Morris.

Fuck you you fucking fucks.

I don’t give a damn what the hell you Yankees/Texans do, do it in your own yard, and shut the fuck up. We don’t care what you do, and we don’t want your damned PVC sided beige square houses uglying up our town. Go home, and quit looking at my home as simply a chance to line your wallets.

I’m so glad all you Chicagoans have figured out exactly how to fix New Orleans. Look at your own nasty city and explain why you can’t deal with the snow other than to throw tons of salt on the road, and why you can’t buy a beer for under $5. Fuck you, you fucking fucks.

What about you fucks that don’t want to rebuild NOLA because we’re below sea level. Well, fuckheads, then we shouldn’t have rebuilt that cesspool Chicago after the fire, that Sodom San Francisco after the earthquakes, Miami after endless hurricanes, or New York because it’s a magnet for terrorists.

And fuck Kansas, Iowa, and your fucking tornados.

Fuck you, San Antonio. You aren’t getting our Saints. When I get to the Alamo, I’m taking a piss on it. You probably go to funerals and hit on the widow. Classless fucks.

Fuck you Houston and Atlanta. No matter how many of our residents you steal, how many of our events you pilfer, you still ain’t got no culture. One of our neighborhoods has more character than all of your pathetic cookie-cutter suburbs laid end to end. Fuck you, fuck you all.

Fuck you Tom Benson. I hate you on so fucking many levels, but the main one is this: they aren’t your Saints, they’re ours. The NEW FUCKING ORLEANS Saints. All you had to do was say that you were coming back. But you didn’t. You had to fuck around to try to get more money. Fuck you, you greedy bastardo. Don’t think we haven’t noticed that you have phased out all of the merchandise that has the state of Louisiana on it. Don’t think we haven’t noticed how hard it is to get some Saints merchandise that actually says “New Orleans” on it. Fuck you, Fuck San Antonio, Fuck your whole fucking family. And if you and Rita think that anybody is going to patronize your car dealerships, then you got another thing coming, fuckface.

Fuck you New York. You lose a neighborhood and get scads of federal aid. We lose an entire FUCKING COAST, and the freespending W administration finally decides to become fiscally responsible. And fuck you all for taunting the New Orleans Saints fans, who have to deal with playing a home game in the Meadowlands. Fuck you, you classless motherfuckers. New Orleans donates a fire engine to the FDNY after 9/11, and you give us shit. Fuck you, fuck your town, fuck your residents, fuck your politicians. You. All. Suck.

Fuck you governess Blanco. Get your act together. Get a clue, or at least hire somebody who does.

Fuck you army corps of engineers. You are so full of yourself, and you don’t have clue fucking one. Building levees on jello. You should be tried and convicted of treason, or mass murder. Fuck you all, let’s give our money to the Dutch – they seem to have this shit figured out.

Fuck the Bush administration. Putting Mike Brown in charge of FEMA, you clueless fucking scalawag. You said “we will do what it takes”. Then do it.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday Gumbo

On The Berkeley Bayou:
Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I celebrated with dinner at a Korean Tofu House on Telegraph (yum!) and apples, honey and figs at my roommate’s friends’ home. I was raised Catholic in a very religious Southern family, but spent most of my childhood in South Florida, where the New York Jews come to winter and so almost feel as though Judaism is my second religion, if I were religious. I also say that about Buddihsm and spirituality as a whole. Can every religion be my second religion? You know kind of like Amanda’s house is my second home. I’m not committed to this line of thinking but I’m going with it.

At Michael’s Rosh Hashanah celebration last night I met Ariella. Ariella is originally from Rockville, MD, which we initially bonded over. 8 years in DC for me. Yes, I get around. Then Ariella said the one thing I wasn’t expecting. “I live in New Orleans now and am an Independent journalist who just started a non-profit website dedicated to highlighting the recovery effort and keeping politicians accountable.” Ok, that’s not actually what she said word for word, even though I put it in quotes, but eventually this is the path our conversation took. In fact, Ariella’s non-profit was profiled in Good’s New Orleans edition that I wrote about earlier this week.

She offered to meet up with me once I arrive in New Orleans to discuss what’s going on and to whom I should be speaking. I’m planning on writing a series of articles about New Orleans and am trying to figure out exactly what I’m most interested in discussing in these articles. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to focus in on the emerging green economy. I’ve ranted before about the environmental movement’s obsession with international and national legislation at the expense of creating pockets of green economies in places that could use the jobs and community stimulus. I still believe this and I’m interested in being able to better articulate what a green economy could look like and how it could empower communities hardest hit by climate change and dirty energy. No better place to start than in New Orleans.

Besides volunteering for a kick ass organization (Gulf Restoration Network), visiting family, and meeting the people doing the hard work in New Orleans, I going to New Orleans so that I can understand and speak out for those that are having to make the choice between protecting the Gulf coast that they know and paying their mortgage. I don’t actually believe that this is the real choice communities have to make. I think framing the recovery of the Gulf coast in this way is irresponsible and not solution based. It’s not going to get us where we need to go in order to truly protect Gulf coast communities or create a new more sustainable economy and energy system. And I want to see for myself how that conversation holds up on the ground.

Religious Tolerance:

Every evening and morning I watch the news. Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams, sometimes I throw in some Katie Couric for good measure. And the latest round of religious intolerance circulating our nation is vomit inducing. As President Obama, General Petraeus, and multiple religious leaders around the nation have expressed, burning Muslim holy book’s isn’t exactly how we are going to safely bring our troops home or how to remember those that died on September 11 or anything to do with the founding of our country. It’s an example of irrational fear of brown people that our country said we were finished with the day after President Obama was elected. Remember all those news reports about how we have finally achieved a color-blind country? What was that?

The Islamaphobia in our country right now is terrifying. I can get over the party of No, refusing to work with the Democrats. I can get over the slow progress of ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I can even get over the failure of the climate bill. But the increasing intolerance of Islam that is bubbling into violence (cabbies being stabbed, mosque’s being burned down, Quran book burnings) is real. And it has a real potential to turn into a tsunami of hate that we haven’t seen since 1963 Mississippi.

Unfortunately, I keep hearing Christian right who truly believe that for those practitioners of other religions to feel safe in our country means they must give up some of their freedom. Religious freedom is not a zero-sum game. We actually can all have religious freedom without stepping on, killing, or even speaking to each other. This actually is the only thing that makes me hesitant about going to Southern Louisiana for a month. It’s a hot bed of religious hatred.

Happy Birthday Christie!
Renee Claire

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What a Dash of Community Service Can Do

I just posted this on Momsrising. Warning: No curse words or angry rant involved. You might want to wait until the next post to read Renee Claire.

I’ve been dedicated to community service since I high school. The whole idea of volunteering for an organization came about in school for me. Each year, since Elementary school, we would take a trip to some type of food bank or national park, something where it always came up that you could come here and work for free, if you wanted. That you could help protect the work that is happening here and therefore impact your entire community for the better.

During my freshman year in college I was hired to run the Children and Education program for our campus’s Volunteer Center. I, not knowing what I was doing, created an email list (first for our center), held weekly meetings, and created a monthly volunteer Saturday with different organization’s around Orlando taking care of children and promoting education. I partnered with a local underfunded elementary school to spend a day on our campus with a dozen student organizations. We had the school’s mascot come out during lunchtime. We took a tour of the campus and we set up a festival where each child got a passport that was stamped after you hung out with a UCF student group.

It was one of my most rewarding events. I learned how to pump up college students to spend an early morning with 3rd graders. I learned that you have to call people the day before an event to remind them (I didn’t do that). I learned how much public school buses costs to rent for the day ($300). I learned that even I could organize a big event with hundreds of moving parts and serve a purpose in the process. I could do something bigger than me.

My Junior year, I was asked to run the entire center, which meant I had to give up my weekly student meetings and my monthly Saturday commitments. But it also meant I could tag along with one of my 15 employees during one of their events, without all the stress. Running the center was fun and challenging. I learned that managing people is extremely difficult. I learned that people think because you are in charge you have all the answers. My friend Joe, who I met in 10th grade and had been very close with ever since, would stop by to make fun of me for being really into my college. This was not entirely true I didn’t enjoy UCF or Orlando, but I loved all the opportunity being so involved gave me, including free trips all around the country to national student activities events. I learned about Burma during one of these trips, which has taken me to the Thai/Burma border 6 times, including documenting the life of living inside refugee camps and internally displaced communities. Travel I never would have experienced without community service.

Community service has been a big part of my life for the past 10 years. When traveling Eastern Europe after a devastating heartbreak, volunteering for a local organization in Budapest helped me forget about the boy and focus on things more important. In more than one occasion it has taken me out of my own self-centered head to be somewhere else. Somewhere it didn’t matter that I had gained 10 pounds or failed chemistry (again) or accrued over $300 in overdraft fees.

One of my roommate’s friends was here on Sunday morning. I had never met him before, but he was in obvious trouble. He told me that he had worked several years ago at a pretty well known anti-deforestation organization but was now completely jaded that anyone could do anything to make the world a little better. I, being the eternal optimist, proceed to talk it through with him. I just can’t leave comments like that alone. He said that wall st owns everything. Nothing can happen without profit. I said it’s time to redefine the way we do business. Make money solving our world’s problems not contributing to it. The system doesn’t work so let’s change it. Let’s create laptops that are put together like pieces of a puzzle where broken parts can be easily replaced. Creating a potential end to the dangerous and often poisonous lifecycle of electronics. This is how we are going to save ourselves. Through innovation and creativity and whole systems design.

He still looked sad. The weight of what I have no idea sitting on his shoulders. “You need to get out. You need to do something beyond yourself”, I said to him. He didn’t respond, so I kept talking about things he could be doing to get back to where he was when he felt he could make a difference. Take a week off and volunteer for a small organization that is doing really good work. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

We are much too involved in our own heads. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored and by sitting in our homes and reliving the day’s drama over dinner and bad prime time tv, we aren’t experiencing what the world has to offer. Community service can help us move on and our community move forward.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Good New Orleans

This month's Good Magazine is all about New Orleans. Not surprising given the month long coverage of the 5th anniversary of Katrina we have all witnessed on every news outlet from CNN to Rachel Maddow (I love you!) to my little ditty 'Renee Claire'. The rebuilding of New Orleans is on everyone's mind.

I lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1994 in South Florida and Hurricane Juan in 1985, which until this very moment always though it was named after a princess wand, not a man named Juan. Welcome to Reneeland. Neither of those hurricanes had the impact on the entire nation that Katrina has had. Andrew tore apart South Florida, destroyed communities, and sent our part of the state into chaos for a long time, but it was manageable chaos. I went back to school, children from Miami were bused to Broward, people didn't go homeless, they weren't given up on, the government was there to help.

Mention Katrina to anyone for any moment, even someone whose name is Katrina and there is a moment of pause. There is a moment where we stop and whatever photo most impacted your experience during the Fall of 2005, is what flashes before you once again. It has forever changed who we are or more what we thought we were.

In late 2006, my family went for a visit to New Orleans, Lafayette, and New Iberia where we were all born and raised and where the bulk of our family still lives. We stopped in New Orleans for 2 days to visit a cousin, Johnathon, who had been flown out of combat in Iraq to help at the Superdome two days after the storm hit, then to spend to next year patroling alongside the New Orleans Police Department. We all went to dinner and drinks and then I stayed with him for the rest of the evening. He showed me around the city, what his normal patrol looked like. We even met up with the rest of the Louisiana National Guard boys that were on patrol that night. We drank beers in the parking lot of some high school just outside the more touristy areas of the city. Just me and 10 National Guard dudes in full gear sitting in a Humvee drinking beers on a sweaty New Orleans evening.

The other thing I did that trip was visit Shylia Lewis. In 2004 Greenpeace partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build pvc-free homes for four families in the seventh ward neighborhood of Roche. I wasn't part of that project, but I went to visit her to see how her family and the pvc-free homes had stood up to Katrina. Besides about 4 feet of water damage on the inside of the homes, they stood up nicely and better than the homes that were built with pvc siding.

Shylia, returning each weekend from Houston to fix the damage, said that if she hadn't partnered with Habitat to build her home her family could never have moved in so quickly after the storm. She built new cabinets, took down the drywall and then built it back up again on her own. Shylia is raising three children, not all her own. The kids in 2006 had to attend a private catholic school since there weren't any public schools open near her home. There was still no school bus service to the Roche neighborhood. At the end of the street from Shylia's home was a FEMA trailer park. Hundreds and hundreds of empty FEMA trailers sat in a lot. Her neighbor to her left lived in a trailer in the front yard as they had been unable to repair all the damages to their home.

Shylia, two of her children, and I drove to the lower Ninth ward, where her grandparents house stood before the hurricane. We all know the images of a demolished lower ninth ward, so I'm not going to repeat them here. I will tell you that we had hard time finding the drive way of her grandparents home even though Shylia had visited for almost 40 years and on more than one occasion I saw one house resting on top of another house. At one point one of the boys said "mom, can we leave now?" Then we drove to see the Musicians Village that Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation is building. Later that afternoon Shylia dropped me off in the French Quarter where my family was staying and whispered "we don't come down here too many gays and prostitutes". You can read the article from Greenpeace about my time with Shylia and our work in New Orleans here.

Good Magazine's September edition is thorough and unique. Did you know that Louisiana passed the Digitial Media Act in 2009 to help attract companies working on software and mobile and video gaming applications. There is a 35 percentage tax credit on labor expenditures and a 25 percent credit on digital media expenditures made in the state. It's the most robust of its kind in the nation. Given the kind of literature and art that has seeped out of New Orleans for the past hundred years or so, I bet this will impact the kind of games and stories being sold to kids for the next several years. There is also an article about comic books. New comic books about the storm and alarming high murder rate are also on the rise.

There are also short articles on New Orlean's 25 best and brightest. Those that are changing politics, community, and renovation in the city. One of the best articles is about new media. How New Orleans bloggers are setting new standards on eliminating corruption by bird dogging and researching those that are vying for power. An interesting new concept in Louisiana. As Eli Ackerman, blogger of We Could Be Famous, stated, "Politicians in New Orleans have learned that people can google them." Ackerman's blog hasn't been updated since June, though his blogroll includes a dozen other local New Orleans blogs that are worth a scan.

The article continues, "Just like it did everywhere else inthe world, blogging took off in New Orleans in the early 2000s. But after katrina, when many New Orleanians grew tired of the way the government and national media were ignoring them, new media got a boost. Citizens turned to blogs to rant, inform, and otherwise take ownership of the city's rebuilding process. The impact as been tremendous. Blog reporting has spawned FBI investigations of the city programs, affect the 2010 mayoral election, and resulted in an injection of funding from the Rockerfeller Foundation. It also inspired old-dog media to embrace its online counterparts - which is no small feat in itself - and together, they have found innovative ways to foster collaboration: New media brings off the beaten path stories, and traditional media brings a massive audience, legitimacy, and infrastructure."

I'm leaving for a month in the city on Sept 15. I'm excited and overwhelmed by what I will do during my time in New Orleans, but I think I know I will have some good stories to share with you.

Renee Claire

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"What! You're Not My Mom!?"

Kids say the darndest things on a two hour plane. I sat just one row in front and across the aisle from what I can only image to be the type of child that I will be given one day. A little girl with long blonde hair who sang about EVERYTHING the entire plane ride from Austin to Phoenix. It was amazing! She sang her book that she was reading, she sang 'mom', 'mom', 'mom', and what we learned was the 'I love you' song, 'I love you', 'I love you', 'I love you', with her mother never lifting her head or acknowledging, even during terrible turbulence.

It was obvious this mom was completely and utterly exhausted! At one point, when mom woke for just a couple minutes to make some playdough snowmen, the little girl in the most inquisitive and innocent voice said, 'what! you're not my mom!?' I have no idea what 'mom' had said to her, but 'mom' wasn't shocked by the comment. In fact by her response, 'you know better than to behave like this', it became evident the little girl's shocking comment was nothing more than a little manipulation to gather other passengers attention. I'm totally going to have a child like that one day.

I'm currently reading Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I've been threatening myself with this book for about a year. I finally found it on a bookshelf in my living room. It's pretty fucking good. Living in the bubble of North Oakland with two UC Berekely grad school alum and having watched an array of food industry documentaries, I'm pretty aware of much of what he is describing. This prior knowledge doesn't make the information any less jolting.

Here is an excerpt:

"One reason that obesity and diabetes become more prevalent the further down the socioeconmic scale you look is that the industrial food chain has made energy-dense food the cheapest foods in the market, when measured in terms of cost per calorie. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the 'energy cost' of different foods in the supermarket. The researchers found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips and cookies; spent on a whole food like carrots, the same dollar buys only 250 calories. On the beverage aisle, you can buy 875 calories of soda for a dollar, or 170 calories of fruit juice from concentrate. It makes economic sense that people with limited money to spend on food would spend it on the cheapest calories they can find, especially when the cheapest calories - fats and sugars - are precisley the ones offering the biggest neurobiological rewards.

Corn is not the only source of cheap energy in the supermarket - much of the fat added to processed foods comes from soybeans - but it is by far the most important. As George Naylor said, growing corn is the most efficient way to get energy - calories - from an acre of Iowa farmland. That corn-made calorie can find its way into our bodies in the form of an animal fat, a sugar, or a starch, such is the protean nature of the carbon in that big kernel. But as productive and protean as the corn plant is, finally it is a set of human choices that have made these molecules quite as cheap as they have become: a quarter century of farm policies designed to encourage the overproduction of this crop and hardly any other. Very simply, we subsidize high-fructose corn syrup in this country, but not carrots. While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories int he supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest."

The chapters on corn is incredible. If you don't want to read a whole book on our food industry, then just read the first 100 pages of this. It's like a novella. The size of a Capote story. I've heard issues around farm policies and of course the plight of the small American farmer but I didn't really understand it until I read these pages. It's an easy read and fairly beautiful prose as well.

I'm now reading the section on the organic industry. I love my weekly CSA box and my handful of veggies in my backyard. I do not love organic tofu from Trader Joe's.

I'm also reading Natural Capitalism. Just as shocking and interesting, but much more dense. It's not a train reading book. It's a sit down, grab a pen, and be prepared to learn kind of book. Little mind bombs of 'ohhhh that's what those people in suits have been talking about!" Totally worth the read. If you are interested in learning some new theories on how to restructure our private sector to prevent the wasteful use of natural resources, but not sure you want to dedicate the end of your summer to 347 pages, take a read of an article by the authors in the Harvard Business Review.

The basic premise is:

"Critics on the left may argue that business people pursue only shortterm self-interest unless guided by legislation in the public interest. However, we believe that the world stands on the threshold of basic changes in the conditions of business. Companies that ignore the message of natural capitalism do so at their peril. Thus our strategy here is not to approach business as a supplicant, asking corporations to change and make a better world by respecting the limits of the environment. Actually, there are growing numbers of business owners and managers who are changing their enterprises to become more environmentally responsible because of deeply rooted beliefs and values. But what we are saying is more pressing than a request. The book teems with examples and references, included to show that the move toward radical resource productivity and natural capitalism is beginning to feel inevitable rather than merely possible.

It is similar to a train that is at the station about to go. The train doesn't know if your company, country, or city is safely on board, nor whether your ticket is punched or not. There is now sufficient evidence of change to suggest that if your corporation or institution is not paying attention to this revolution, it will lose competitive advantage. In this changed business climate, those who incur that loss will be seen as remiss if not irresponsible. The opportunity for constructive, meaningful change is growing and exciting."

Really good stuff.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Gumbo

Another beautiful day in Oakland. I keep hearing from my Amsterdam friends that monsoon season has officially started in the Dam. I will see for myself in mid-October.

New Orleans: I got an apartment! It's a little cheaper than my room here and I have a subletter for while I am gone, so it will fully cover my New Orleans rent. Yes! Also, the landlord is here in the Bay area this week. We are going to get together tomorrow to meet up and nail down the details. Very serendipitous!

Green for All posted a new video from their green jobs work in New Orleans. It's a great video. Share it far and wide!

I'm trying to find a copy of The World that Made New Orleans, but having a difficult time. I have to keep reading a couple pages at a time at the library. I don't have a library card because I don't have a California ID. It took me 6 years to get a DC ID and I'm not sure how long it will take me to get a CA one. Too much trouble!

I'm Feeling Good: I'm a little obsessed with this song right now. I just listed to Michael Buble sing this song. He is pretty fantastic! And of course I'm making everyone who will pay attention to me listen to Kat Edmonson. In fact it was the only thing my dad would listen to on the entire trip from DC to Oakland. Luckily I had my ipod to keep me entertained with Radiolab, Planet Money and This American Life podcasts.

I couldn't mention this song with also mentioning Nina Simone. An old high school friend introduced her to me when I was 16. He was only trying to make out, but I'm really glad he used Nina Simone as his mood setting music. I've been in love with her ever since!

The New Yorker:
I finally get my New Yorker each week again! And Foreign Affairs and our dream house gets the Sunday edition of the New York Times for free. It just appears each Sunday on our doorstep. Kind of wonderful.

This week's New Yorker has a great story about the Koch brothers. Billionaire brothers who are funding the tea party and climate deniers. It's really good. Check it out.

People You Don't Want to Hang Out With: And if you didn't get a chance to check out Glen Beck's rally this weekend, read about the people that attended. Seriously, its good.

Renee Claire

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Gumbo

Good Morning sunshines!

It's quite beautiful over here in Oakland today. The sun was out from behind the clouds and fog before 10am, which was a pleasant surprise. Sometimes it takes until mid-after to shine through.

Drinks: I'm a little quiter this morning because I discovered a new whiskey last night. Four Roses. Ever since C and I and H and I spent several long hours at the Whiskey Bar in Amsterdam, I've been a little more curious about the drink.

Climate Change: I stumbled upon this Grist article that I found really interesting. It breaks down the winning components of the NRA in beating back gun control laws and how climate activists need to rewrite their rule book to look more like the NRA's. It's a quick read and well worth it.

New Orleans: I'm in the process of trying to find a place to stay while I'm in New Orleans. It's a bit more difficult than I first thought, especially since I don't really know anyone that lives in the city. But I think I found a place in the Bayou St. John neighborhood. I have to finalize a couple more things but this could be the place! I also got a subletter for my room, which makes it actually economical for me to take this little side trip. Which is good because I spent all my money driving across the country last week!

Also, I'm going to be writing a series of articles on the work that I will be doing while I'm there. Hopefully they will be interesting. More interesting than these blogs have been lately.

GreenTech: I thought this was an interesting article. I'm still in discussions with my family about offshore drilling ban and the future of the industry is southern Louisiana. No it has not been a civilized discussion, but thanks for asking.

One of the things that I keep repeating is that current technology is going to beat those in gulf that don't think outside oil and gas extraction into the ground one day. Better more efficient technology built around sustainability and environmental protection is here and gaining power and building infrastructure. Denying that the families in the gulf that completely depend on offshore drilling will be impacted by this one day is silly at best and self-destructive at worst.

Here is an article about 5 new start ups in greentech.

Working from home: It's getting old! Even though I work from about three places a day, cafe's, the couch, or the library, sometimes it's just nice to be around people that do the same type of work as you do. Oh well . . at least I can sit in my garden and drink fresh watermelon juice and those at an office can't say that.

Renee Claire

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fort Hays Kansas and Michelle Obama

Late Saturday night my father and I started driving from Washington DC to Oakland, CA. We are now resting in Fort Hays, Kansas. Kansas on a whole has been pretty lovely, but I think driving through Illinois has been my favorite so far. Really beautiful.

I also got word today that I will be volunteering for the Gulf Restoration Network for 3 weeks in late September, early October in New Orleans. I'm very excited to finally feel not useless about the oil spill. If you know of a place that may be free or extremely cheap for me rest my nappy head in New Orleans, please let me know.

Anyways, I will not be writing a whole post today, but I thought I would share with you a post I did for Momsrising late Thursday afternoon before I hopped on a plane from Amsterdam to DC.


I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but I guess that’s what happens when you really care about something. Children are a vulnerable population. They eat more food, breathe more air, and drink more liquids per pound than adults. They are also more curious exploring the world around them in more tactile ways than the rest of us. This all means that children are more susceptible to the impacts of toxic chemicals. While all of this is happening in our own communities, our nation lacks important laws to prevent children from going to school on, near, or inside sources of pollution.

The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) has been calling for action and standing up for children’s health for 30 years. Today, CHEJ is asking concerned parents (and non-parents alike) to sign on to a letter to Mrs. Michelle Obama. The First Lady’s Lets Move campaign is getting children away from the TV by encouraging them to get active by playing sports, gardening, and eating healthy food in order to combat children obesity. Really good stuff. CHEJ thinks this campaign could be even better by expressing the need to eliminate toxic chemicals and sources of pollution from where children play, learn, and grow.

Join CHEJ and ask Mrs. Obama to strengthen the Let’s Move campaign to acknowledge that in some places in the US the air outside is so polluted that sometimes getting active can trigger asthma and expose children to nasty chemicals.

As CHEJ’s letter to the First Lady states, “new schools and playgrounds are still being built on or near toxic contaminated land across the country, although there is an effort by the EPA to establish a policy that provides guidance for school districts on safe school siting issues. Unfortunately, these are just guidelines and are intended only for schools, not playgrounds and other areas where children commonly are active. Siting schools on or near sources of environmental contamination as well as a lack of comprehensive remediation of already contaminated schools will only broaden the scope of childhood health concerns such as obesity.”

Toxic chemicals released from things like incinerators, coal fire power plants, and pesticide spraying can cause reproductive and developmental disorders at an important point in life, ultimately impacting the health and economy of the entire community. But by reducing the amount of toxic chemicals our children are exposed to in the first place, we are providing our children with a better quality of life and our community with a greater chance of success.

Please help CHEJ and ask Mrs. Obama to strengthen the Lets Move campaign.

For a toxic free future,

Renee Claire

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Het Best!

Yesterday, a group of us loud North Americans sat at lunch and recounted every detail our little brains could think of about the Jetblue "I've had it. I'm done." flight attendant. It's officially one of my all time favorite moments in this world.

If you haven't read everything you can read about it, check out the The Colbert Report's tribute.

Jetblue finally after three days of silence, came out with a statement. Basically, they said meh, we're so funny.

I wonder how Richard Branson would react to this happening one of Virgin's planes. I think Richard Branson because I'm currently reading his book "Business Striped Bare". It's excellent. Definitely one of the best business books I've read in a long time, maybe ever. He's pretty great, both in his approach to business, attention to details, having fun, and learning from your mistakes, and his sense of humor.

I was reading this book the other day at my favorite cafe on that street near the canal with the bikes. The one that H and I get terribly lost trying to find every single time we want to drink wit wine and cappuccinos with Cointreau all day long. This man who I had been listening on in of his conversation with two women at the table next to mine saw me reading Branson's book and offered a couple other entrepreneurial book suggestions. I was listening to him because (1) he sounded like an arrogant asshole and (2) he was interesting. Well, now I can't remember what those books were, but you are well aware of my constant reading of business books and magazines, so maybe I'll stumble across it regardless.

I'm on my way back to the states tomorrow afternoon. It's been an odd trip here. Lots of . . . well, lots of personal growth experienced actually. I had this incredible zen moment the other night, where many outstanding questions about my life and the people in it just clicked. I'm an odd bird, not sure if you have noticed and sometimes it sucks, but there isn't much I can about it all now, so I might as well enjoy the ride.

I'm on the hunt for new adventures, so if you have any ideas, pass them along. But the next couple months should be pretty intense. My dad and I are driving cross country starting on Saturday evening. I'm on a mission to visit Wyoming and all the rest of the states on I-80 I've never been to before! Then I might hop over to Louisiana for some volunteering with a small organization working on gulf coast restoration for a couple weeks and I'm planning a 350 event with a local Oakland organization. At least I'm going to try to convince them to do an event in Oakland. So those are two good adventures for the Fall I'm looking forward to.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, then check this out. It's pretty easy to get involved. Just gather a bunch of your friends on October 10, 2010, take a picture, and try to do something to help your community mitigate the impacts of climate change. Since most of you that read this blog are from Florida or Louisiana, there's no excuse in not getting involved.

Alright, I'm off.

Renee Claire