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some inspiration from my friends back home.

12 Oct

Ok don’t get me wrong, I’m super stoked to be in Brazil. But I’m missing out on some seriously amazing activism back home. First, the Occupy Wall Street protests in NY and tons of other cities? Thank goodness the left is showing signs of life. I was getting pretty depressed that the Tea Party was able to rally so much energy and passion while we were seemingly doing nothing. I would love to hear your opinions on it as I’ve basically only heard I have seen on Facebook, the Daily Show, and this editorial from the NY Times (both worth watching/reading).

But next came one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard from some of my best friends in Pittsburgh, Eva, Seth, Nikki, and the rest of Free the Planet. I’ll let Eva tell it from her blog post that appeared on,, and good ole’ (and has since racked up over 250 “likes” on Facebook). I’m so proud and WISH I could have been there.

This past Friday, the only thing I was worried about was coming up with a good presentation for the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference. While relaxing on my porch after a strenuous week of midterms, our student government president happened to walk by and inform us that the White House had just contacted her about President Obama coming to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. We had been planning to confront the Organizing for America office the following Friday to tell Obama to stop the pipeline, but if Obama was in town, we had to send the message to him directly. I, however, had a midterm during the exact hour that Obama would be coming and resolved to recruit a few friends to greet him.

On Sunday at the AASHE conference, we grabbed Bill McKibben right before his speech and let him know we planned to greet Obama on Tuesday. At the end of his speech to a national conference of hundreds of climate leaders, he said the best thing they could do was attend the rally to meet Obama with a strong message to say NO to the Keystone XL pipeline at 11AM, Tuesday at 313 Oakland Ave. My heart skipped a beat- Bill McKibben, one of my idols, had just announced my house address to a national conference. What’s more- he then told us to stand up so everybody knew who to find. I hesitantly stood up with two of my friends, Nikki Luke and Seth Bush, who looked around nervously.

What happened after was chaos. Within five minutes we were interviewed by the City Paper, the Tribune Review, and asked by dozens more what our plans were. The problem was—we didn’t have a plan. And I had a midterm when Obama was coming. Here’s the thing: if Bill McKibben calls you out at a national conference to organize a rally, you are going to organize a rally, whether you have a midterm or not.

…read more


leaving on a jet plane…

31 Aug

Wow it’s been a long time since I last posted. In the mean time I wrote a 46-page final paper for my summer research project (on the symbolism in natural gas industry media), got my visa (at the last minute!) and filled out about 1,532 pieces of paperwork. Now I’m sitting in DC waiting for my plane to Brazil!

I’m making a new blog for my trip to Brazil. Please check it out at

why white men deny climate change.

4 Aug

It’s a sad reality of the conservative party that most of their most vocal media figures are stubborn, grumpy, intolerant, chauvinist, white men. At least that’s the impression I’ve always had. But I always figured it was my liberal bias; I mean, most conservatives seem crabby to me, especially when they’re arguing against my beliefs. But now two sociologists have taken a stab (a real, scholarly stab) at explaining why conservative white males (CWMs) are like this, particularly in the context of climate change. Yes, it has been experimentally shown that white men are more likely to deny climate change than any other group. Here are some explanations for why, put forth in the paper and paraphrased by David Roberts at Grist:

  • First there’s the “white male effect” — generally speaking, white males are less concerned with a variety of risks. This probably has to do with the fact that they are less exposed to risk than other demographics, what with running things and all.
  • Then, as Chris Mooney notes, there’s the “social dominance orientation” of conservatives, who see social life as following the law of the jungle. One’s choice is to dominate or be dominated; that is the natural order of things. Such folk are leery of climate change solutions premised on fairness or egalitarianism.
  • Then there are the well-understood “system-justifying tendencies” of conservatives. The authors explain that conservatives strongly display tendencies to justify and defend the current social and economic system. Conservatives dislike change and uncertainty and attempt to simplify complexity. Further, conservative white males have disproportionately occupied positions of power within our economic system. Given the expansive challenge that climate change poses to the industrial capitalist economic system, it should not be surprising that conservative white males’ strong system-justifying attitudes would be triggered to deny climate change.
  • Finally, there’s “identity-protective cognition,” a notion borrowed from Dan Kahan at Yale. (See this PDF.) Here’s how Kahan and colleagues sum it up:

    We propose that variance in risk perceptions — across persons generally, and across race and gender in particular — reflects a form of motivated cognition through which people seek to deflect threats to identities they hold, and roles they occupy, by virtue of contested cultural norms.

    “Motivated cognition” refers to reasoning done in service of justifying an already held belief or goal. It helps explain why the CWM who know the most about climate science are the most likely to reject it; they learn about it in order to reject it. See Chris Mooney’s great piece on that. Point being: when facts (or the implications of those facts) threaten people’s social identities, they tend to dismiss the facts rather than the identity.

In short, CWMs have historically sat at the highest rung of the social ladder which gives them an incentive to uphold the status quo and their conservative views only reinforced that fear of change. Conservative ideology also holds a “dog-eat-dog” view of the world so they reject movements promoting equality. The last point means that people, particularly individualistic white males will not perceive something as risky if that behavior is critical to their way of life, in this case they cannot perceive the danger of global warming because then they would have to perceive that consumption, capitalism, and social inequality are contributors, and this would be an attack on the forces that keep white men at the top.

it all ends tonight.

14 Jul

I’ve talked before about how much I love the Harry Potter series. When something has been part of your life over 10 years (over half my life), it moves from the role of “really good book” to something totally different… and as the movie posters have been trumpeting, “it all ends” tonight. While I have been pretty disappointed with some of the movies I thought the last one was really really good so I’m excited for this one.

In celebration of the premiere we made butterbeer cupcakes, a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while after I saw it on amybites. I’m forgoing posting the recipe/steps because she did such a nice job in her post.

I would definitely recommend this recipe, it’s delicious and tastes just like the drink at the theme park (not that needs to be the official standard of taste, but I thought they did a great job). The only change I made was making the frosting with 1/3 cup cream soda in place of the 1/3 cup butterscotch the recipe calls for and I used vanilla bean instead of extract. Also I made only half the amount of ganache and still had a lot left over so I would cut the proportions of that. Otherwise it’s a very well written recipe, the cakes is light yet moist and not too sweet which is good because the filling and frosting is very sweet. Check out the butterscotch filling below!

I’ll get back to you with what I think of this movie (and whether it makes me cry like the last one did…). Let me know what you think too!

the owls are gathering!

17 Jun

Apparently JK Rowling is going to make an announcement on Thursday! What is it? No clue. Is this an obvious marketing ploy? Yes, of course. Am I still excited about it? You bet. (See previous posts for how much I love HP).

back in seattle.

30 Apr

Happy to be back home in Seattle again! We were lucky enough to have a super summery finals week in Pittsburgh so I guess I got spoiled. Things in Seattle are more on the gray side. Today we’re going to Portland for the weekend, but this week I will be free if anyone is available to hang out.

I just wanted to share this quick packing tip that helped me out a lot (and will be a life saver for packing for Brazil): rather than folding your clothes, roll them into hot-dog shapes. It takes up a lot less space and doesn’t create creases in your clothes. Check out this little head-to-head….

Folded clothes... clearly not gonna' fit.

And rolled... wow I can close my suitcase now!

powershift recap.

20 Apr

Just a quick repost of my Powershift recap from the PSEC blog.

Just got back from one of the most empowering weekends of my life at Powershift 2011. Being surrounded by 10,000 other young people who were as excited and energized to fight for environmental justice felt awesome.


  1. I think we were all presently surprised at how strong the anti-fracking contingent was. When Lisa Jackson of the EPA mentioned natural gas in her speech, almost the whole room, several thousand people, stood up shouting “NO FRACKING WAY.” Ms. Jackson had to just stand there waiting for us to stop for at least a minute until finally she said, “Okay I hear you guys!!” We definitely got our message across.
  2. My favorite panel was “What to do when the President’s just not that into you” with leading environmentalist Bill McKibbon, gay rights activist Lt. Dan Choi, and Jane Hamsher, blogger from Firedoglake. The basic message was that we may want to like Obama but we can’t just sit back hoping he’ll make good on his campaign promises eventually. It’s our job to push him. And we need to remind the Democrats that they can’t take the young progressive vote for granted. They know we’re going to vote for them because we’re scared that “Sarah Palin will shoot us like a moose,” but we need to remind them that they still have to work for us if we’re going to support them. Out of this talk (which you really should watch yourself) we got an idea for a campaign we can do along those lines which I’m excited to start.
  3. Our last activity before we had to leave was the state breakout session led by PSEC folks Sasha and Angela, and it totally blew my expectations. We got to meet filmmakers Josh Fox of Gasland and Mark Dixon of YERT and record a video telling Obama not to “pass gas.” Then we got the opportunity to meet other PA activists and network with other people in our region and coordinate a state-wide action. We were excited to see some Pittsburgh high schoolers there so I hope we can start getting the high school community involved. We came up with some new ideas for a summer campaign for PSEC to lead so look out for that at the first summer meeting.

Thanks everyone for a great weekend. It really challenged me to work harder and made me question a lot of what I’m doing… at what point will the global climate crisis become more important than our school and career paths? At this point it feels like spending another 4+ years in grad school to prepare for the fight will send us out too late to make a difference. The point was made that if everyone at Powershift was willing to spend one day tree-sitting in West Virginia, we could have 30 people sitting every day for a year… if it even took that long for the coal companies to break a deal. This energized a lot of us to help out with a mountain top removal tree sit this summer. Can’t wait for school to end, I have a LOT of cool stuff planned including my fracking research.

powershift this weekend!

15 Apr

Super excited to head down to DC for Powershift this afternoon! Powershift is 10,000 young people converging on DC to talk about the environmental issues facing us today and to lobby the government to move past dirty energy in the largest grassroots organizing training in history. We have about 40 Pitt students coming which as of a few weeks ago was half of all PA registrations. Go Pitt! Also can’t wait to hear Al Gore and Van Jones speak tonight.

…and then it’s on to finals week and move out (and flying to Seattle!) so I probably will not be posting much in the next two weeks.

we heart dan savage.

31 Mar

Tonight Dan Savage, one of my all-time heroes came to talk at Pitt. He’s best known for his “advice column,” for redefining “santorum” and now for launching the It Gets Better Project in response to the spate of teen homosexual suicides last fall. As I expected, Dan was both poignant and hilarious. And he certainly didn’t have to work for comedy material tonight. Next door to the room he was speaking in, a fraternity was auctioning off frat boys… I think you can imagine the sort of jokes that ensued.

After his talk, I asked him why he thinks the Christian right has chosen homosexuality as their “thing” to attack. His answer, which I loved, was that homosexuality is something that these people can condemn without sacrificing anything themselves. These are people who may be divorced, using birth control, or are unfaithful to their spouses. But by pointing the finger at GLBTQ people they can scramble up to moral high ground without any sacrifices. Wow, that whole “lack of personal sacrifice” idea is something that pops up a lot in the environmental movement too.

Below is the first It Gets Better video made by Dan and his HC-BA (pronounced “hic-bay”, husband-in-Canada-boyfriend-in-America). There is another that Dan recommended as one of his favorite videos of the project that gives a fresh perspective on the issue. There are thousands of other videos, by President Obama, Tim Gunn, and the team from Pixar (I really like this one).

hearts + hands for Japan.

24 Mar

In the aftermath of the disaster(s) in Japan, Americans have donated about half of what they have to Haiti. Yes, Japan is one of the richest countries in the world but does that make them any less deserving of our aid? Remember, donations don’t just send money overseas, they send much-needed manpower and supplies that an overwhelmed government, however wealthy, may have difficulty rallying.

The first thing you should do is donate to whatever student or workplace group is trying to raise money. I find giving to real people always affects me like giving to a computer can’t and the people collecting funds will receive a boost of energy from receiving your donation (remember: asking people for money takes courage).

The next thing you should do is check out this site and, if you have another $10 dollars in you to give (I know you do), send it their way. You could win an amazing prize for your generosity.

Donations go to Shelter Box and Save The Children, two charities from which the Japanese government has officially accepted aid (uncoordinated giving has been an issue, see this article).

Before you go, check out these hauntingly beautiful photos from the NYT’s Lens blog.