At the peak of February’s ice storm, 715,000 households in the Philadelphia region were without power. But is being “without power” the same as being powerless? I live in a Montgomery County neighborhood that has managed to escape weather extremes: no tornadoes, hurricanes or drought-induced wild fires. But icy rain and bitter cold overwhelmed us. Towering trees glazed and shattered. Power lines festooned the streets. Sudden silence fell, leaving thousands of people powerless. Gov. Tom Corbett and President Barack Obama, in a rare show of accord, declared our region a natural disaster emergency area.
Entries in Dispatch (33)
I could be the safest bicyclist i know. I teach people how to ride bikes in the city as part of my job at two nonprofits—the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and Gearing Up. Off the clock, I’m a bicycle evangelist who encourages everyone to give two-wheeled transportation a try. But my enthusiasm was recently challenged.
Days before Christmas, I was biking home, heading west on Reed Street past the Acme in South Philly. I turned south where the trolley tracks turn north at 11th and Reed, and suddenly, my bike slipped out from under me and I was on the ground.
Connecting the Dots: Civil rights protests, Woodstock, a Commodore 64 computer and my inevitable path to Greenbuild
It is the night before greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council’s international conference and expo, and tens of thousands are flocking to Philadelphia to celebrate and promote sustainability as a genuine worldwide movement. As an architect and professor of sustainable design, it’s more than an amazing moment in our city’s history; it’s a validation of 18 years of hard work and dedication. Too excited to sleep, instead, I think back on the moments of my life that brought me here.
Not long ago, people would react with surprise when I told them that what brought me to Philadelphia was my desire to work in the local, sustainable agriculture movement. But Philadelphia has long been at the forefront of the local food movement, and as you can see from the ever-expanding Local Food Guide, more and more people—more and more Philadelphians—are learning what it means to be connected to their food.
I became aware of the importance of that connection at a young age, but it had nothing to do with bucolic ideals or insight into the plight of the modern farmer. Growing up outside Cleveland, Ohio, the connection was as simple as the Midwestern ideal of home-cooked meals, made-from-scratch. Early on, I was obsessed with the queen of all things homemade—Martha Stewart—and I grew up most interested in learning how to make the perfect piecrust. But despite my suburban roots, the memories from my childhood that stand out the most are of pick-your-own berry farms, bonfires, and hands stained from cracking piles of black walnuts from our neighbor’s tree.
I was born in southwest philly and lived there until I was 9. The sights and sounds of that time are vibrant — hopscotch, penny candy, water ice, jump rope. It would never be called a “good” Philly neighborhood, but it’s what comes to mind when I think of a typical one. I remember starkly when things began to change for the worse — the crime, the drugs, the poverty. A standout event was the time a neighbor broke into our house when my mom and I were home alone. We heard the glass shatter and my mom told me to run. I did, as quickly as I could, up the street to my grandmom’s house, the wind roaring in my ears, my heart a drumbeat. We moved soon after — by then, we could afford it, my parents having both recently attained professional degrees. The new neighborhood, Wynnefield, was nicer and safer.
Over time, I noticed what happened to those we left behind in the other neighborhood. How poverty kept them from learning, and blocked their access to fresh, healthy food. How it incarcerated them and killed them. How poverty led many to accept that there was not much of a world beyond the confines of their block. That to me is about a lack of equity and it is what attracts me to the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) and the sustainable economy movement. I believe that over time this effort will ensure equity.