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Archive for November, 2011

27
Nov

What Kind of City Do We Want DC to Be?

Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 12:48:58 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

Walmart’s Sustainability Record: Not Good for DC Jobs or the Environment!

Dear District of Columbia Environmental Community:

A Disappointing Start:

Sustainability calls for policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Mayor Gray, so far, seems to be trying to do something else.

In July, 2011 Mayor Vincent Gray  announced his intention to make DC the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the nation. The Mayor mobilized his agencies to move forward with a new Sustainable DC initiative.  This sustainability  initiative would strive to merge the need to create jobs AND make our nation’s capital city more livable.

This Sustainable DC initiative would be implemented  in a way that would benefit current residents AND future residents. This is a core principle of sustainability.

Just four months later Mayor Gray made another announcement. He announced that the District would be welcoming with open arms as many as six WalMart stores that would impact many neighborhoods.

With the increase from four to six new stores, many labor, environmental and human service organizations (and other District citizens) continued questioning Mayor Gray’s commitment to building a strong local economy and a real sustainability plan. It became even more clear that a WalMart presence in the District, without an aggressive sustainability plan focused on quality jobs and a livable environment, only keeps us from these important goals.

Even with these concerns many of us gave Mayor Gray the benefit of the doubt as he assured District residents he was negotiating with WalMart to create a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), to lock in at least a few community benefits that could be sustained over time for all.

Instead, what the Mayor presented on November 22nd, was Walmart’s very own blueprint called the “WalMart Washington, DC Community Partnership Initiative”, a non-binding list of WalMart’s public pronouncements with arguably zero concessions on their part. What was really sad was that it did not include any substantive environmental commitments beyond following laws already on the books.

Needless to say this is a very disappointing start for Mayor Gray’s first term. The fact that the Mayor does not seem to grasp how important it is to harmonize his sustainability initiative with his efforts to bring jobs to the District is disheartening to say the least. This is not the type of leadership District residents were looking for during last year’s election.

Rev. Kendrick Curry summed it up:

“As a Ward 7 resident, I am very disappointed,” said Rev. Kendrick Curry of the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church. “This (WalMart Plan) has no teeth. This will allow WalMart to drain what is already in the community to nothing.”

Next Steps:

On December 1st @ noon, at Global Green USA (1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor), join the DC Environmental Network, Institute for Local Self Reliance and others for a special briefing on why WalMart’s plan is unsustainable unless the city requires a real Community Benefits Agreement with real input from the people who live here. RSVP for this discussion here!

Our panel will feature:

– Stacy Mitchell, Senior Researcher of the New Rules Project: Stacy will share the real story regarding WalMart’s sustainability initiatives. Stacy is also the author of the book, Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses. Stacy Mitchell Bio.

– Joslyn Williams, President of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO: Joslyn will discuss how unsustainable WalMart’s employment practices are and how District residents will be locked into economic insecurity for many years after our countries economy turns around unless we all work together to come up with a meaningful Community Benefits Agreement. Joslyn Williams Bio.

RSVP for this discussion here!

Both will demonstrate the importance of developing sustainability policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Conclusion:

What it comes down to is for all of us, the citizens of the District of Columbia, to decide what kind of city we want to be. Are we a WalMart city or are we a Sustainable DC. The evidence is clear that we cannot be both.

We can have WalMart in our city and be sustainable but we need to stand up to this very powerful corporation and tell them that they cannot use our countries economic woes to leverage advantageous development terms and that greenwashing will not be allowed in the District of Columbia.

We have lot’s of opportunities to achieve our goals:

  1. Please come and learn why Walmart & Sustainability is a tricky combination that needs our attention. RSVP for this discussion here!
  2. Support Councilmember Mendelson’s legislation, Bill 19-170, “Large Retailer Community Agreement Act of 2011” to require that large retailers (stores over 75,000 sq. ft) enter into a Community Benefit Agreement and Bill 19-171, “Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2011” to establish standards for responsible business practices by large retailers by ensuring that they pay living wages and provide benefits. More to come.
  3. Join the RespectDC campaign.

Hope to see you on November 1st at Noon at Global Green USA!

Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

The DC Environmental Network has worked hard to promote the Mayor’s Sustainable DC initiative. We have held over 15 meetings, forums and other events, some open to the public, with hundreds of DC environmentalists sharing their vision for a sustainable DC. We are hoping the Mayor will come to understand how true sustainability will only come when we utilize the leverage we have to make sure the interests of District residents are taken seriously by corporations that come into our city to make profits.

19
Nov

WalMart & Sustainability in DC

Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 05:00:02 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

How Mayor Gray’s Plan to Bring WalMart to the District, Without a Strong Community Benefits Agreement, is Incompatible with a Sustainable DC

On December 1st at Noon, join the DC Environmental Network, Institute for Local Self-Reliance and other metro region environmentalists for a discussion on Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative and how it may not be compatible with his efforts to bring six WalMart’s to the District.  We will talk about how a strong, well designed, people driven  Community Benefits Agreement might help.

Our panel will include Stacy Mitchell, Senior Researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and author of the book, Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses.

RSVP for this discussion here!

Background:

In July, 2011, Mayor Gray announced his intention to make DC the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the nation.  In the four months since his announcement District residents have not heard all that much from the Mayor himself on this new initiative. What District residents have heard more frequently from Mayor Gray are plans to bring anywhere from 4-6 brand new WalMart stores to the District.

As environmentalists and others start to look closely at WalMart’s record on sustainability many are finding it hard to reconcile Mayor Gray’s vision for a Sustainable DC with the reality of what has happened at the thousands of WalMart stores world-wide.

Walmart’s six-year-old sustainability campaign has helped improve its public image, enabling the company to grow bigger and faster. That growth, ironically, has dramatically increased the retailer’s environmental footprint, and hurt local economies and the U.S. job market along the way. Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self Reliance

Even on an issue many would consider the greatest environmental challenge of our time, climate change, Walmart’s sustainability efforts have not come close to mitigating for the over 21 million metric tons of greenhouse gases their facilities contribute to the planet each year.

While the company has been talking big about renewable energy, its greenhouse gas emissions have been rising steadily. Between 2005 and 2009, Walmart’s reported emissions in the U.S. grew by roughly 7 percent. In Asia, they doubled. The company says its operations produced 21 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2009, and it expects 30 million metric tons of cumulative growth in emissions by 2015.Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self Reliance

Stacy Mitchell and other panelists will help us get behind WalMart’s public relations campaign and demonstrate how the District will need a strong community benefits agreement to make sure the public good is served more than corporate profits and in a way that helps, not hurts the environment we live in.

Our panelists will make 15-20 minute presentations and then open up the discussion for questions and comments from the audience.

Stacy Mitchell Bio:

Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher with the New Rules Project and directs its initiatives on community banking and independent business.

Stacy has served as an advisor to numerous community and small business organizations, and has helped cities and states implement new land use and economic development policies that curb the power of big-box retailers and strengthen locally owned businesses.

Her latest book, Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses (Beacon Press, 2006), has appeared on several top-ten lists and was described by Bill McKibben as “the ultimate account of the single most important economic trend in our country.”

Stacy is frequently interviewed by news media and has contributed articles to a variety of publications, including Business WeekThe NationGrist and others. She also writes about banking issues for The Huffington Post and produces The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, a popular monthly newsletter.

An engaging speaker, Stacy has given presentations for many organizations, including the American Booksellers Association, American Planning Association, National Main Street Center, and National Trust for Historic Preservation. See details of upcoming speaking engagements.

In addition to her work with the New Rules Project, Stacy chairs the American Independent Business Alliance and is a founding board member of the Portland Independent Business & Community Alliance. She lives in Portland, Maine.

In the last three months the DC Environmental Network has held over 15 meetings and discussion bringing over 600 District residents and environmental leaders together to talk about sustainability in the District.

10
Nov

Wildlife, Natural Systems and a Sustainable DC

Thu Nov 10, 2011 at 10:32:06 AM EST

by Kara E. Reeve, Manager – Community Based Climate Adaptation, National Wildlife Federation

Photo by USFWS/Terry Cacek

How do we sustain wildlife and natural systems in the face of climate change? That question was considered by over 20 local leaders, climate and sustainability experts, and students from the DC metropolitan area who came together in late October at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

The recommendations from the group will be submitted to the DC Office of Planning and the DC Department of the Environment as part of the process to develop a city-wide sustainability plan.

In particular, participants focused on the ways that natural systems approaches can be used to provide benefits for both people and wildlife.

USDA NRCS Photo

Many people at the meeting indicated that education and outreach to residents is critical, and one suggestion included the development of programs to help the public understand the ways in which protecting and enhancing the city’s green infrastructure can not only support habitats, but can also reduce private property loss from flooding.  Active education was emphasized, including outreach and education to residents about street tree health and maintenance to reduce tree mortality.

Some other Ideas included mapping the location of habitat corridors and open existing spaces, identifying the ability of different habitats to attract certain birds, butterflies, etc. and quantification of the ecological values of trees and plants.

Photo by Carine Thomas

The District of Columbia’s Wildlife Action Plan will be updated in 2015, so it presents an opportunity to incorporate climate change vulnerability data into the plan to make it a “climate-smart” approach.

Meeting participants acknowledged that although much work remains, the meeting represents an important first step to make DC a “climate smart city” that supports people and wildlife.

Please contact Kara Reeve with any questions: reevek@nwf.org

The event was co-sponsored by NWF and the DC Environmental Network (DCEN).

3
Nov

Climate Change is Already a Reality in Africa

Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 01:15:59 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

A discussion about the profound connection between our high-consumption carbon intensive lifestyles, climate change and poverty in the global south.

On November 11th at Noon, join the DC Environmental Network, Urban Solar Solutions LLC, Global Green USA and other DC based climate organizations and activists for an important opportunity to meet with African faith communities as they work to persuade U.S. constituencies of the reality and urgency of acting on climate change. RSVP for this event here!

“Climate change is already a reality in Africa, it is a profound existential threat, we are well past the stage of debating whether or not it is happening, and we urgently need developed countries to commit to changing lifestyles, reducing consumption and most particularly, carbon emissions. If you care about African poverty, you have to change your ways, now.” – Green Anglicans

Background:

The world urgently needs to adopt dramatic and sweeping cuts to carbon emissions in the context of a fair, adequate and legally binding deal.

One of the greatest current obstacles to progress in the international climate negotiations is the resistance of the United States to adopting any targets for emissions cuts. This resistance reflects the fact that human-driven climate change is for most Americans either a low priority, or a phenomenon whose existence they dispute altogether. Therefore, if there is to be any significant shift in domestic US politics on this issue, it is vital that Americans accept the reality of climate change and the urgency of acting to deal with it.

Representatives from African faith communities will discuss the profound connection between high-consumption carbon intensive lifestyles, climate change and poverty in the global South.

All are welcome! RSVP for this event here!

1
Nov

Communications for DC Advocates!

Tue Nov 01, 2011 at 01:34:31 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

On November 16th at 10:00 AM, join the DC Environmental Network for a special opportunity to polish your advocacy skills and learn about a new resource available to help guide your efforts to influence decision makers here in the District of Columbia.  Susie Cambria, a public policy consultant, will share more than 15 years of experience working on public policy and budget advocacy issues and talk about her new book, “Communications for DC Advocates: How-to’s and Lessons Learned Over 15 Years.”

RSVP Here & Learn More About Communications!

Background:

As environmental advocates in the District of Columbia it is often necessary to communicate our story and ideas to decision makers and the staff they work with. We communicate in many ways including through letters, meetings, fact sheets and briefings, to name a few. We often ask ourselves questions like (partial):

  • What is the best way to write a letter to the Mayor or DC Council member?
  • How do I prepare and deliver testimony and statements for the record?
  • How do I create a fact sheet?
  • What is the best structure for a meeting with an elected official or their staff?

Susie Cambria will share her insights and experiences that have made her one of the most effective advocates walking the halls of the John A. Wilson Building.  She will talk about the communications tools outlined in her new book, “Communications for DC Advocates” designed to give advocates a fundamental advantage when they walk into the legislative offices of our decision makers.

About Susie Cambria:

“The guide reflects the years of experience I have in advocacy and the many lessons learned doing public policy and budget advocacy work nationally, in Connecticut and most extensively in the District of Columbia.

I have more than 15 years of experience in DC Children’s policy and budget issues. In my work at DC Action for Children (1997-2008), I helped create a robust budget analysis and advocacy operation by establishing and maintaining relationships with elected and appointed officials and engaging the community in the work of protecting and nurturing children and youth across the District. I also created public education materials, trained others on effective budget and policy practices, and was (and remain, I am told) a respected advocate and analyst.”

RSVP Here & Learn More About Communications!

DC Environmental Network Training Opportunities: The DC Environmental Network has held many training opportunities over the years on grassroots organizing, working with the media and to educate about important environmental initiatives. In the last decade the number of environmental advocates roaming the halls of government in DC has increased ten fold. This is a special opportunity to meet with a very effective District advocate and to learn about communication practices that are easily transferable to our environmental advocacy efforts. It is strongly recommended that you take advantage of this opportunity.

All are welcome.