Category Archives: Politics

This is what DE-MOC-RACY looks like

Beep – Beep – Beep – Bah – Beep – Bah – Beep – Beep – Beep.

Though there have been many, this is the tune of the “crowd favorite” chant over the past 3 weeks at the Wisconsin capitol. Protesters yell it, car horns honk it, and my mind constantly replays it throughout every part of the day (wait, was that in my mind or did a passing car just honk it?).

This morning, as I sit and drink Just Coffee’s aptly named, “Revolution Roast” and try to get that beepbeepbeep out of my head, I am amazed, once again, looking through the images of the turnout to the state’s capitol yesterday.

Since Clean Wisconsin’s office is located about 4 doors down from the center of the action, it’s been day after crowd-packed day of chants, honking horns, clever signs, free pizza, marching union leaders, marching students, marching firefighters, and marching teachers, all determined, angry, mobilized, and very, very persistent.

While I am usually hesitant to write a blog post about political matters – especially this one that’s about as divisive a topic as you can imagine, I still want to make sure my out of town readers realize just how amazing these protesters have been – that amidst day in and day out of bad news, the crowds come peaceful, organized and in big, big numbers.

On Wednesday, the sneaky Senate found a [potentially-illegal] way to vote on the Budget Repair Bill (the bill that includes the contested collective bargaining piece) without a quorum. Sam and I were at a film festival near the capitol at that time, and went down afterward to see what was going on. It was madness. Before I get to the crowds, you should really watch what it is exactly that happened that night in the Joint Finance Committee before it moved to the Senate. It’s pretty crazy. Watch here.

…Hearing them vote as Rep. Barca is yelling at them that the vote is illegal, while you can hear the crowds yelling right outside the door. Wow. Representative Gordon Hintz also did a good job of expressing the frustrations of many in this awesome speech the week prior:

Well, anyway. The crowds were quite riled up when Sam and I got down there. We made it inside and up to the third floor of the packed capitol and made a few loops around looking for a spot to stand and see the drama unfold in the rotunda below. The place was noisy as hell and filled with such an array of people. Sure, there were your smelly, stoned, dreadlocked protesters that you’d expect at any protest, but for the most part, the capitol was full of normal everyday pissed-off people who are just frustrated, and standing there is the only thing they can think to do at this point.

We ran into the exec director of Clean Wisconsin, many fellow students, interns, UW professors, WI Supreme Court hopeful David Prosser, Tia Nelson (the daughter of Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day), one founder of Clean Wisconsin, the previous mayor of Madison (who had apparently snuck in through a bathroom window at the time the capitol was locked in order to protest the vote) and 8 policemen with mustaches (hey, we needed something to do).

What’s truly amazing though, is with as angry as everyone has a right to be, the protesters have made their occupation of the capitol somewhat of a science. This HuffPost blogger paints a really good picture in his post, “The Unbreakable Culture of the Occupied Capitol,” but that night Sam and I probably got there at 9:30 pm, and by the time we left at 11:30, in anticipation for protesters staying over night, fellow-protesters had come distributing free water, fruit, and pizza to the crowds, and holding “peaceful protest info-session” gatherings in the assembly. There were people delegated to go around and get signatures for recall petitions, and others delegated to go around with mega-phones on each floor announcing over and over: “This is a peaceful protest. The police are waiting for us to become violent so they can kick us out; do not let this happen. Later tonight the police might tell you to leave the capitol. You do not need to leave, but do not resist arrest, do not become limp…” etc.

My pictures don’t do justice, but there are many that do.

Alright, I’m disappointed by my inability to describe the powerful scene that night (and many previous to that night), but it’s time to wrap this up. But I do think that despite all the bad news, the scene at the capitol has been truly amazing, and I feel really lucky to have gotten to see so much of the action. Although I might go crazy if I hear that protest again, this really is what democracy looks like.

Oh also, one major lesson of all this:


Wisconsin elections are April 5th. And according to a friend, “If you were down there protesting this bill and you don’t go vote, you’re the worst kind of person.”

Here is any info you need to know (for Wisconsin).

Beep – Beep – Beep – Bah – Beep – Bah – Beep – Beep – Beep.



Want to make a video?

Hey guys,

I’m sorry this is a little bit of short notice, but in case anyone is interested, a friend told me about this film festival that is currently accepting submissions. I think the idea is really cool and could lead to a really meaningful and inspirational summer project.

Have fun!


Here’s some details:

From the earthquake in Haiti to the Gulf Oil Spill, environmental
disasters are currently at the forefront of world news
. In response,, a non-profit multi-media organization, has recently created the the explore/HATCH Short Film Award to be given to a filmmaker who best tells the story of a remarkable individual’s actions in response to a devastating environmental event.

Our goal? To spread awareness of disasters and bring recognition to those selfless heroes who are making a difference.

Submissions for the film are due August 25th. The winner will receive a full expense paid trip to HATCHfest Bozeman (Sept 22 – 25, 2010), and a prize from explore founder and documentary filmmaker Charles Annenberg Weingarten.

For full submission guidelines, please visit:

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Economy, oil spill and applications

I can’t quite remember how many jobs I’ve applied for now, but it’s well into the double digits.

I’ve received automatic HR emails from two, and nothing from the rest (well, except a rejection from one). It’s hard to keep writing about how great I am with such dismal results so far, although I’m surprised to still come across jobs at organizations that are doing wonderful things for Wisconsin’s environment and citizens. I hope one of them lets me help out! And give me benefits…..

What else is going on in my life aside from editing and re-editing my resume and drafting cover letters?


– On Tuesday I had a can of garbanzo beans with salad dressing for lunch. Delicious.

– I’m also in the beginning stages of training for a half marathon (as promised!). I’m really excited about this free, healthy excuse to be outdoors – daily!

– Yesterday, an enviro-friend and I re-committed ourselves to sticking to this guide for sustainable fish- dining after a guilt-ridden spicy tuna roll. It was delicious, but my enjoyment was tainted by my free-riding, sad, species-endangering conscience. Anyway, here’s the link. use it. (And read more food suggestions here.) In addition to this, I’m also going to try to cut out Styrofoam completely. Here are some facts about why it’s pretty bad for the environment, or you can take my word for it!

Finally, the oil spill has been on my mind a lot. Ugh, it’s just so sad. I don’t want to ruin everyone’s day by discussing it too extensively, although this is a GREAT reflection on that matter, but here is something interesting that Sam found:

As of March 19, 2009, for the first time, Gallup found that Americans were more concerned with the economy than they were with the environment. (Click on the image for the full article)

However, as of May 27, 2010, the Oil Spill seems to have changed this.

Way to look on the bright side in a bad, bad, bad situation! Have a look at this!

This is why we should keep talking about it (here’s an interesting way to do so, thanks to my friends at Clean Wisconsin for the link), ignoring every single thing Sarah Palin ever says, and promoting clean, renewable energy.

But actually, right now!

(ideas: letter to the editor, call your legislator, write Obama!)

Optimistically yours,


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This just in:

Exciting things are happening, people.

Today, the EPA announced their completion of a rule that will regulate smokestack emissions from large-scale polluters like factories, refineries and power plants. Wahoo!! According to an AP story these large polluters will have to,

“…reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that they release. Those emissions can exacerbate asthma and other breathing difficulties, which are worsened by particles in the air.

The rule would require companies to install better technology and improve energy efficiency whenever they build, or significantly modify, a plant.”

EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, even went as far as calling these “commonsense standards.” True. (But you have to ask, then why weren’t they already in place?)

As far as a timeline, the article says,

The pollution rule will take effect in January, when industrial facilities that already obtain Clean Air Act permits for other pollutants will be required to obtain permits for greenhouse gases, if they increase those emissions by at least 75,000 tons per year.

Starting in July 2011, the rule would apply to any existing plant that emits at least 75,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year, or any new plant that emits 100,000 tons per year.

If you’re thinking about how this will affect the climate bill, so am I. My earlier post was a little hazy on the matter, so here’s what I know,

The legislation aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and by more than 80 percent by 2050. Both targets are measured against 2005 levels and are the same as those set by a House bill approved last year.

But in a way, it’s better that the EPA takes action, because large companies tend to bargain and mold bills in Congress more than they do EPA rules. In fact, former bill coauthor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC) was working with Liberman and Kerry but dropped out believing that the bill, though significantly weakened, couldn’t pass in the current “political climate.”

So anyway, this announcement is a big step in the right direction. The GOP has said it’s a job killer, but I wonder what about installing better technology and creating energy efficiency is job killing? Sounds like it’ll make jobs to me. And who would want to complain about cleaner air anyway? Lame.


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Should we pass a weak climate bill?

Today, the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” blog featured the discussion on the Senate’s version of the climate bill which is set to be released on Wednesday by Senators Kerry and Liberman. According to the post,

The bill has been recast to take into account the concerns of farm and energy states, and includes a provision that allows offshore oil drilling. The compromises have not gained Republican support — Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the sponsors, has dropped out — and have alienated Democrats.

Here’s some of the nitty gritty:

Their bill would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, through a variety of mechanisms, including a “cap and trade” system for utilities; it included major sweeteners for nuclear power, offshore oil and gas drilling, manufacturers, “clean coal” research and energy consumers. –LA Times Bog

However, there’s a lot of politics involved. Duh. Something to do with Immigration votes, filibusters, BP support, nuclear…

It’s really all very overwhelming to me… and sad… and scary. (For those of you wanting more specifics on the above, that politics link is a good explanation.)

Ah! I can’t be a politician!

Anyway, I digress. I, personally, believe that it is still important and even though I do not agree with expansion of offshore drilling, or nuclear, I think it’s still necessary to get the ball rolling (even if it’s a little square).

Since I am so lost, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on the matter or even some link suggestions so I can learn more.

But first, let’s just see what you think:

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Free Market Environmentalism: Effective solution or policy charade?

This semester I have been a part of a capstone course for the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies about Free Market Environmentalism (FME).

What’s that, you may ask?

FME says that market mechanisms may be more effective at solving environmental problems than the government.

Hmmm, what do you think about that?

Let’s think of a few cases:

1. Land: maybe instead of regulating or restricting development, we could just purchase the land (As frequently done by the Nature Conservancy).

2. Animals: maybe we can create a market for Asian Carp (meat, fish oil, bow hunting?) to reduce their populations and decrease their potential damage, instead of relying on Congress to close the Chicago canal to the Great Lakes?

3. Waste: maybe we can use an anaerobic digester to turn polluting cow manure on unregulated farms into clean energy and reusable farm resources.

These are some examples that show that it is possible, in many cases, that free market tools can solve some environmental problems in potentially less time, and while making money and benefiting the community (instead of just stopping the problem) in the process.

My group has explored another waste example: could we provide incentive for households to waste less by paying for our garbage by the pound instead of by bin price (and with our property taxes)? Would that system work for a city like Madison? Would we even end up reducing our waste?

WELL, if you want to know the answers to these questions, you’re in LUCK!

This Thursday, May 6 at 7 pm, my class (composed of 4 separate FME case studies) will present our research on whether FME is more effective than government, or what we believe the place for government may be when it comes to environmental issues. The one hour presentation will be in the Red Gym on Langdon Street, next to Memorial Union. Complete info here.

Please Come!

If you read this blog, you already know that I’m a proponent of individual action. While I support government initiatives (and often solicit your support as well), I also advocate for finding our own ways of solving environmental problems … it’s innovation at it’s best. And it’s fun!

So, come find out what the research, interviews, and survey we conducted has to say about waste reduction and if Free Market Environmentalism is the answer we’ve all been looking for.

Can’t make it?

I’ll put our conclusions up on Friday 🙂


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Environmentalists love practicality

Coal plants and vehicle emissions polluting our air? Advocate for a switch to renewables and expanded public transit.

Mangos taste like cardboard in January? Pick a preserved or more seasonal fruit.

Beef industry polluting our water? Cut down on meat consumption.

200,000 gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from the sea floor? Take it as [yet another] a warning sign of our dangerous addiction to oil.


No one likes a doomsayer, and I’m not trying to be one. But my morning news today certainly did nothing to cure the Monday morning blues.

Really, it makes me quite overwhelmed.

When we can’t pass a climate bill for the life of us and Sarah Palin takes this opportunity to advocate for increased domestic drilling, I get a little bit riled up.

[Deep breath.]

The only thing I can do now is remember that my choices make a difference, and hope that you remember this too.

I recall why I don’t mind living without air conditioning and can opt not to buy products that have too much packaging. I recall that biking this summer means fitness, extra cash in my pocket and it means that I think we can change our culture to rely less on our cars. It reminds me to be a voice for climate bills and renewable energy legislation and an advocate for responsible businesses.

So, today, I will advocate for a few things (this is as much a reminder to me as anyone else):

  1. Read the news. Be aware, and get freaked out because it’s motivating (once you pick your jaw up off the floor).
  2. Then read this. It made me feel better.
  3. Call your senator about the Climate Bill (won’t take more than 5 min and is super easy.)
  4. Pick a few things and stick to them. “10 ways to help the environment” lists are everywhere. But here’s one I like. (Annnnd here’s a vastly extended version.)
  5. Once you make the changes and save money, feel healthier, breathe better, and are happier as a result, tell your friends!

Get set, go.


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Why I’m optimistic about Earth Day- Part 1

Well, right now I’m not. But I promise I will be. (That’s why this is Part 1)

This semester, I work at the state’s largest environmental advocacy group, Clean Wisconsin, and I have really enjoyed it. One of my main “projects” has been helping out with anything related to the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which is in game time mode this week at the capitol.

If you don’t know about it, just know that it’s a piece of legislation years and years in the making that calls for increased renewable energy standards in Wisconsin and forces the state to start making new energy technology, create jobs, and stop wasting money importing foreign oil and coal. It used to have a lot of other really neat stuff like Low-Carbon Fuel Standards and Energy Efficient Community Standards… but that all got cut. Hey, it’s still a step in the right direction.

I can’t speak for the Clean Wisconsin guys, but I may have let myself get a little overly excited about the potential for such progressive energy policy to finally be enacted… with me having a [small] hand in it. So, anyway, Clean Wisconsin has been working really hard to get it passed. But then it looked like what actually needed to be done was convincing legislators to even vote on it (it’s an election year, after all). And NOW, the session ends tomorrow and it still needs to pass TWO rounds of voting. Not good.

Ok there’s the background.

So I woke up this morning to this:

So that was, well, really disheartening.

But then, I went to the Earth Day at 40 conference and listened to some really incredible speakers and was inspired by all the accomplished and motivated individuals coming together to celebrate in the place earth day began. So that was cool. Then, I went to the office, and, being the optimistic (well if not optimistic, at least persistent) environmentalists they are, here was the mood there: (you can click on the image to go to the page if it’s too small)

Quite the headline, huh?

So that was uplifting, a little.

But now, some more strongly-worded news came out that is NOT uplifting:

Even though it’s looking pretty grim, the reason I’m sharing all this is because it has taught me a lot.

I have been really discouraged by the misinformation campaign lead by coal and oil lobbyists that were somehow MORE convincing than all these smart people I work with. (huh?)

I couldn’t (and still don’t) really understand why people are so quick to reject new policies and accept the status quo, but I can also recognize that I have been surrounded by nothing but supporters of this bill all semester. Having my first longer-term taste of the political process showed me just how dedicated, persistent, and knowledgeable you have to be to accomplish policy change, and how difficult it is to get people to think long-term in the name of environmental improvement. This was something I vastly underestimated before.

Aside from the political aspect, I have also learned how much work there is to be done, particularly in just convincing others that this “environment stuff” not only matters, but is in the best interest for them. I would like to focus on re-framing environmentalism into a universal goal for bettering the earth, in whatever sector is most important to YOU. (And also do a little work on combating all those negative stereotypes that currently exist out there). One other thing I learned was exactly how riled up I get about all this stuff! (One too many “I-have-to-go-to-bed-at-9-because-I’m-depressed-about-the-environment” days have occurred lately. Time to snap out of it.)

All that said, I am excited for earth day this year because it is a really fun part of being “green.” Getting outside on a spring day, volunteering, sharing information (read: free food), and having community events is not only fun, it represents the crux of this movement.

I am excited to see others who are also passionate about making the world a better place, and I’m even more excited to kick ass in the name of making up for what Wisconsin lost by not passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act.



P.S. Looking for some Earth Day reading? These are awesome:

“As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day the most serious environmental problem that we face is not global warming or the pollution of our air, water, land and food. It is whether or not our country moves forward in developing public policy based on science or whether we make decisions based on politics and fear mongering.” –Let’s Set The Record Straight, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Grist)

And, I’m really motivated by this approach. Very good perspective (except the leaving the lights on thing):

“…Ask why the business is still using incandescent bulbs when there are $1 compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs at Ace Hardware down the street. Ask why the faucet in the restroom pours water out faster than Niagra Falls when low-flow aerators cost about $5. Ask why coffee comes in styrofoam cups when paper cups are used at every Starbucks and Caribou. Ask why the air conditioning is set at 55 when the door is left hanging open. And ask if you can turn the temperature back to 70. Pay attention, and speak up. Write letters, write comments, write letters to the editor, ask to see the manager, and threaten to take your business elsewhere — somewhere that you like the way things are being run.” –For Earth Day, A Plea for You to be a Pain in the Ass, Jenn Henry

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Wisconsin needs your help.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is coming down to the wire. This very important piece of legislation, if passed, would have important implications for Wisconsin’s economy, the well-being of farmers, environment, and leadership on renewable energy policy (25% renewable by 2025!!!).

Individuals, organizations, clubs, campus student groups… anyone… can get involved to make sure a strong bill gets passed that includes a significant renewable and efficiency resource standards.

After discussing with Sam Weis (communications) and Ryan Schryver (grassroots organizer) at Clean Wisconsin, we determined the most important role we as can have is:

a. Call/email legislators! Area representatives can be found here:

b. Write letters to the editor, guest columns, and op-eds to any WI paper. Be it in Madison, your hometown, or just a place that published a negative article, any press supporting CEJA is helpful.

It would be awesome if people around the state could organize some sort of “CEJA day” to write a few letters and make some calls and emails, or start a campaign urging friends/coworkers/etc to do so as well (Also, I’d be more than happy to help out with this… email me!).

Second, it’s just as important that we make sure to collaborate with other friends and groups around the state to make sure that it’s not just the Dane County voice that’s vocal about CEJA.

Specific areas to target are: *Eau Claire, Green Bay and Milwaukee*. SO if you have any contacts at those schools or an idea of how to collaborate, that would be awesome. If you don’t have time to contact them, could you hook me up?

I’ll organize a list of talking points (both with benefits and disputing criticisms) soon, and will happily make that available to anyone who is interested.
Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in organizing or if you have any questions.

Thanks and I’m excited to see what we can do with this exciting and important opportunity.

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Ever since Obama’s State of the Union address last Wednesday, it’s seemed like everyone’s been pretty grumpy and negative (to say the least).

Well, certainly the environmental community has been, and I suppose the liberals who said the speech was too moderate and the conservatives who complained that it was too liberal are maybe a little more than, “a bit grumpy,” but overall, the mood is not something to sing about.

Although it might have started last Wednesday when your issue area didn’t get the coverage you hoped for, or it was too expensive, or not enough, or whatever… the community (at least the one I’m surrounded by) has just remained a bunch of Negative Nancys and I’m sick of it! (As you can see, it’s beginning to affect me too.)

I understand, it was really disappointing when Obama said this (and pretty much only this) about the environment:

…But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

Here are some of the responses from some greenies that I look up to and respect from twitter that night: (fyi- #sotu just means State of the Union)

“Uh, I’m sorry, did he just call the US a “leader” in the fight on climate change? In what universe? #sotu

“Maybe those kids getting that education can breathe in all that clean coal. #ecosotu

“Man, the section of this speech on climate/energy is just depressing. Boilerplate, blah. No urgency. #fucked #sotu

“So, Republicans have refused to clap for bailout bashing or tax cuts. Maybe if he floats torture … #sotu

“Wow, that clean energy stuff came and went pretty damn quick. #sotu

“I must be broken. I just don’t get the old Obama chills any more. This year has drained my enthusiasm for words. #sotu

While the political leanings of these authors are clear, it’s not the politics one way or another that got me the most riled up… it’s all the negativity (and how uncomfortably divided that room was)!

Then, one Thursday I got into a spat with a Monsanto social media stalker who criticized my informing the twitter world that 2 GMO-loving politicians had been appointed into the FDA by sending me this (one is a previous Monsanto employee actually, Michael Taylor, and the other is Tom Vilsack).

At that point, never have I:

a. Been so concerned with national politics that it actually affected my mood (I know this happens to other people all the time, but I usually remain a bit more removed)

b. Wanted to do something about it more

c. Felt so powerless and discouraged!

And then I decided enough is enough. I’m hoping instead of being sad, pessimistic, hopeless, and powerless, we can pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, focus on our communal need for improvement and work collaboratively, deliberatively, and creatively to solve these problems!


Sound a bit idealistic? kinda, I know.

But it makes sense. I’m not saying that these issues are easy, because if they were they wouldn’t be issues. But I think a focus on COLLABORATIVE innovation and not lingering on being pissed will take us a long way.

So, now I’m trying to be super productive. Here are some things I’m up to:

– Working with Clean Wisconsin to promote the Clean Energy Jobs Act

– Working with a group of super engaged students to come up with waste disposal alternatives for Madison to be presented in a public forum at the end of the semester

– Hopefully blogging about being practical, effective, consistent, motivational and positive in green endeavors

– Writing from time to time in the Daily Cardinal‘s “Green Room” column

– Learning a lot in my last semester of college (!!!) so I can use these skills to help get the rest of the environmental community to stop whining all the time. (ok, that’s an exaggeration)

Sorry if this seemed a bit rantish. It’s just that I know we can do better and I want people to be excited for our future, not scared of it.

So, here’s to a good rest of the week, innovation, and making something to be positive about when finding one is tough.



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