Category Archives: New Chapter

Chapter Three

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Terms like ‘green’, ‘sustainable’, and ‘eco-friendly’ have become increasingly common in our day-to-day lives.  We see them on packaging, menus, in TV ads, and in the speeches of our more progressive politicians.  It may at times be dismissed as trendy, but overall this is a good thing.  It means that as a society, the environment is on our minds.  But as the terms become more commonly tossed about, they run the risk of becoming diluted palliatives, geared more towards making us feel better about ourselves than inspiring real change.  Your dishwasher detergent may be phosphate-free, but your dishwasher still wastes a lot of water.

The fact is, leading a sustainable life can’t be simply a matter of informed purchasing.  After all, the term sustainable really means never-ending, which in this context means a complete independence from non-renewable resources.  Striving towards such a goal requires transformative changes in how we live our lives.  In this month of Living Chapters, I encourage Beth to approach this goal through introspection and advocacy.

PART ONE

Take A Position, Make It Known

I’ll start with advocacy since it’s shorter.  Beth has spent the last few years doing some impressive work around environmental issues in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.  In Western Maryland, she organized community events to discuss natural gas extraction, and on the Eastern Shore, created a series of videos and community events highlighting different perspectives on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  Both projects inspired much-needed dialogues in their communities, but lacked one thing: Beth’s own voice.

Now that she has spent time in these places learning about these issues, Beth has become if not an expert, at least a well-informed citizen when it comes to natural gas extraction (fracking) in the Appalachians and water quality in the Chesapeake.  By now, she must have opinions about what should be done in these communities to move forward.

During the month of August, Beth will create two ‘opinion pieces’, one on each topic.  The pieces can take the form of her choosing (written, audio, visual, etc) and must be shared in a public forum (newspaper, radio, gallery, etc). The pieces will be timely, responding to current events in the realms of fracking and Bay protection, but will be grounded in her experiences working with the stakeholders in both places.  The pieces will be clear, concise, well-researched, and heart-felt.  Should she choose a medium that requires jurying (for instance an op-ed section in a newspaper, or a curated show at a gallery), actual acceptance is of course out of her hands, but submission is required.  They also must be posted to the Living Chapters blog and Facebook account.

PART TWO

Cap and Trade For The Rest of Us

The EPA first tested the effectiveness of a ‘cap and trade’ system for the abatement of acid rain in the 1990’s, by restricting the amount of sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions allowed by industrial polluters.  It proved effective enough that they’ve expanded the system to cover carbon emissions, a move that has been replicated internationally,  creating a global carbon market and reducing emissions in many countries.

How does it work? Very simply put, the government established an emissions limit that polluters must adhere to (the cap).  If a polluter manages to pollute less than the cap, the company earns credits, which they can sell to other polluters who cannot or do not meet the limits (the trade).  The system rewards innovations that reduce emissions, but still allows some flexibility for industries to comply.

During the month of August, Beth and I (and any of you who want to join in) will participate in our own cap and trade game.  This is where the introspective part comes in: this game will require close attention to the actions in our own daily lives.

Using the point system I’ve devised (below), we’ll tally our wasteful practices against our sustainable practices.  At the end of each week, we’ll have the opportunity to trade credits, hopefully balancing our collective point consumption under the cap.  At the end of the month, anyone whose points are still over the cap must donate the equivalent amount in dollars to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  There is no reward for having the fewest points; we’re all in this together!

A few notes about the point system:

1. The goal is to have as few points as possible. “+” points are bad.

2. I’m not a numbers person and this system has very little to do with any kind of accurate metric.  It’s just a game.  But if you happen to be someone that knows a lot about measuring embodied energy, please feel free to suggest amendments.

3. Additionally, if readers want to suggest other activities to be counted in the game, feel free.

4. Participants will have to track their point count daily in this Google spreadsheet.To join the game, email Beth at livingchapters@gmail.com.

5. I’ve divided the point system into four categories: Food, Air, Water, and Waste

FOOD

Eating a meal whose origins are unknown = +1 (vegetarian) +2 (with meat)

Eating a meal that is sourced locally (100 mile radius) = 0

Eating a meal at least part of which was grown or harvested by you or a friend = -1

Throwing away food (not composting it) = +2

Eating food that’s going to be wasted (either your friend’s left-overs, dumpster diving, etc.) = -2 

AIR (assuming non-renewable electricity and fuel sources)

Driving a car = +1 per 20 miles

Taking public transit = -1

Carpooling = 0

Riding a bike = -1 per 2 miles

Flying in a plane = +5

Charging your phone = +.5

Charging your laptop = +1 (if a desktop user, equivalent to 7 hours of use)

Lights and other household appliances = +1 per hour used

Hanging clothes in the sun to dry = – 1 point/load

Converting your BGE/energy supplier to a partially or entirely renewable source (solar/wind) = 1 time applicable – 20 points (some energy companies now offer the option to pay a bit more and have your power sourced from these options).  People can contact their supplier for more information.

WATER

Taking a shower = +1

Flushing a toilet = +.5

Running a dishwasher or washing machine = +2

Other faucet uses = +.5 per gallon

Re-using water (i.e. dish or bath water) = -1

Installing rain water catchment system at your home (or a friends) = -10 (one time only)

Using harvested rain water = -2

Bathing in a natural body of water = -1

WASTE

Producing 1 cubic foot of garbage = +1

Producing 1 cubic foot of recycling = 0

Producing 1 cubic foot of compost = -1

Creative re-use of anything (for instance, wine bottles, shopping bags) = -1 per use

The weekly cap for each participant is 56 points (8 per day) (note: this may be adjusted at the end of week 1 if that is way too hard or too easy).  Credit trading will happen on August 10, 17, 24, and 31 (August 10 will be a ten-day point tally with a total cap of 80).  Participation will require fastidious attention to all your activities (it may even require keeping notes).  Hopefully it will also require all participants to rethink their consumption habits and make changes for the better.  It may be difficult, but in the words of Jim Henson as sung through a frog puppet:  It’s not easy being green.

lc andy beth

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

chapter two

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Theme: Logic/Order

For those of you just joining the story now, allow me to catch you up to speed:

After spending her early years in Dillsburg, PA, hanging out in cemeteries and recording lo-fi experimental music on boomboxes, our Protagonist Beth left her bucolic hometown to attend Western Maryland College in the slightly bigger town of Westminster, MD.

Not finding satisfaction there, she transferred to Goucher College in Baltimore, MD where she continued to explore her desire to build abstract sculptures out of wood and mirrors.

What’s that? You thought Beth was a photographer? Well, her switch from sculpture to photography was but one of the first seismic shifts that Ms. Barbush has undertaken to revamp her life.

Because Baltimore wasn’t enough for Miss Beth, in her third year of college, she jetted off to Scotland for a year, where she majored in Chatting In Pubs and Dark Beer Drinking, as well as taking some seriously excellent photos.

In her fourth and final year of college, and continuing the year after graduation, Beth lived in the darkroom. Well, technically, she lived with me in a ramshackle apartment in Charles Village with a Living Ghost and then a Dude Who Lived on Peanut Butter, but for all intents and purposes, Beth didn’t see the sun from the fall of 1998 until the spring of 2000.

Her college education complete, BB burst forth from Baltimore and flew out into the world on many, many adventures. She taught photography for a year in the miniscule Australian town of Jindabyne. She moved to Rhode Island as an AmeriCorps volunteer to do some amazing work with the RISD Museum. She nabbed a job with Art on Purpose and spent five productive years with them documenting all sorts of social change in Baltimore, including publishing a book. She spent multiple summers teaching at the prestigious St. George’s School in Newport, RI, which puts Hogwarts to shame. She ran volunteer photography programs in Cambodia and Tanzania. She took a position with the Maryland Humanities Council, where she has been fostering conversations about controversial topics.

Did I mention conversations? Did I somehow leave out the part where she became interested in audio? Oh yes, from projects with Art on Purpose to Remington Youth Community Radio, Beth started combining audio with her visuals. That includes a documentary project that she did with me in rural Japan…

In between all of this, Beth has squeezed in showings of her artwork in coffee shops, libraries, and honest-to-goodness art galleries, not to mention museums. She ran a program called Porch Art for local kids for many years with nothing more than her creativity and the junk she had accumulated in her basement and closets.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but I’ve had a front-row seat to the flowing river of Beth’s life for almost two decades now, so you’ll have to forgive me some lapses.

“Where can I see all of these amazing projects?” you ask.

Nowhere. That’s the problem.

Here’s where I come in:

Beth was extremely modest in her intro bio, only touching on the surface of her past accomplishments. She, like me, is focused more on the future than on the past. The “Living Chapters” project, by its very nature, is a forward-looking endeavor.

But, as all good storytellers know, sometimes you have to take a few steps back to set the stage before proceeding.

One of my hopes for “Living Chapters” is that, through the combined power of her self-made community, Beth will be positioned in a fantastic place at the end of this year for wherever she may decide to head off next.

Because of the nature of her work, Beth’s accomplishments are not well-served by a paper resume. A portfolio would be better, but with Beth always reaching out to the wider world, a physical portfolio is not practical. For years, I have listened as Beth has lamented her lack of an online presence.

***

So, using my powers of Logic and Order, here’s my challenge to you, Beth: by the end of July, you will have completed an online ePortfolio hosted at the FREE site www.mahara.org

With all of your accomplishments, your professional life can be arranged in any number of ways: chronologically, community vs. fine art, visual vs. audio… The organization is part of the challenge. My only request in this area is that your AmeriCorps service, your major projects with Art on Purpose and Maryland Humanities, your international work (Australia, Cambodia, Tanzania, Japan), your teaching at St. George’s, selected fine art exhibitions, and your community involvement (Porch Art, RYCR, etc) be included in some fashion.

Here is the schedule I am setting up for you:

By July 3rd: Create your account on Mahara. Also, you must post to the “Living Chapters” Facebook page the major divisions of your ePortfolio. It can be the names of the groups you have worked for, the types of projects, whatever you wish. (Divide those topics into four, because you will have a deadline on each of the following Wednesdays to submit ¼ of the ePortfolio to the “Living Chapters” community for review.)

By July 10th: One quarter of the topics (the first of four, two out of eight… however you have divided your professional life) should be loaded onto Mahara and the link posted on the “Living Chapters” Facebook page so that your readers can see what you have done.

By July 17th: Another quarter of the topics should be completed and posted for viewing. (You will have half of a complete ePortfolio!)

By July 24th: The third quarter of the topics should be completed and posted.

By July 31st: The final quarter of your ePortfolio should be uploaded. You will now have a complete ePortfolio to share with whatever future employers or organizations you wish to work with!

I am hoping that the pressure of having the “Living Chapters” community monitoring your progress will help to give you the motivation to complete this project that has been perpetually looming but perpetually being postponed. Also, I am hoping that using an open-source, web-based program will allow your community to give you constructive criticism as you build the ePortfolio, improving the final product.

Also, I just spent a boatload of money on a Master’s Degree. One of my final assignments was making a physical teaching portfolio to bring along to interviews. At the time, it seemed like a burdensome requirement, something that should have been taking the backseat to the more pressing needs of my daily lesson planning. But, after being forced to make it, I am glad I have it. My portfolio is a concise record of my life as a teacher, and it can speak for me when I am not there.

However, my portfolio is merely a physical item and I never had the time to build an electronic version. Therefore, as part of my participation in “Living Chapters” and also to help me on my current job search, I too will be building my ePortfolio and keeping to the deadlines listed above!

Good luck, and we all look forward to finally seeing Beth Barbush properly reflected in cyberspace.

 Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Visit the Living Chapters facebook page for more updates, images and day-to-day activities.

Visit the June Gallery for images and videos from the first chapter.