Welcome to Action Mom, a space where I will share my experiences advocating for change locally and globally. Certainly, wanting to make the world a better and safer place is by no means parent-exclusive. But the responsibility of protecting tiny little lives—in my case a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old—often spurs some dramatic action.
As parents, we often see concerning things and think, “Someone should really do something about that.” I have a habit of volunteering to be that someone. As a result, sometimes I get stuff done.
When a conversation becomes as extensive as the one surrounding climate change, it can be difficult to remember where it started. Granted, it would be pretty hard to isolate a single point of origin for an entire field of study, developed by decades of observation and research. However, when attempting to identify the moment when climate change became a global conversation, one possible catalyst would be the publication of author and environmentalist Bill McKibben’s 1989 book “The End of Nature.” Considered to be the first book about climate change for a general audience, “The End of Nature” helped spread the idea—from the scientific community to the world at large—that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions affect global weather patterns.
Since then, McKibben has written a dozen books about environmental issues as well as many articles and columns for publications such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic.
It sure seems generous and altruistic to take care of a stray cat. It is, on the face of it, a noble activity. Confronting the consequences, however, isn’t easy.
Birds, small mammals, butterflies—all can end up in the jaws of a domestic cat. Even well-fed domestic cats keep killing smaller creatures for fun, as cat owners know. Hunting might be a natural cat behavior, but there is nothing natural about how our house cats hunt. We’re talking about an exotic species in the Americas that has not evolved alongside our wildlife. And of course we feed cats, boosting their population densities far higher than anything our native critters ever see from natural predators. The effect is disastrous, and a robust body of scientific research backs this up. The domestic cat is responsible for killing at least 1.3 billion birds and at least 6.3 billion mammals in the contiguous United States every year, according to a 2013 study published in the science journal Nature Communications. Outdoor cats’ habits vary, but on average each one kills about 24 birds and 160 mammals per year. And there are a lot of unowned cats in Philadelphia (not counting the pets allowed outside)—estimates range higher than 300,000. Even if we make the conservative assumption that our urban cats have less killing opportunity than their rural counterparts, that’s still a lot of dead birds and bunnies—a lot of wildlife that Philadelphians won’t experience.
Heritage Farm are using Korean natural farming methods to improve the fertility of their soil and increase the farm’s output.
In and around our fine city, CSAs are so commonplace (a wonderful thing!) that we almost considered skipping an explanation of what those initials even stand for. But for those new to the concept, and even just as a reminder for those of us who dutifully pick up our cardboard boxes every week, here goes: CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It’s a seasonal—sometimes yearlong—subscription to a farm or producer, which ensures them a steady cash flow throughout the highs and lows of the growing season and hooks the customer up with weekly deliveries or pickups of seasonal fruits, veggies and other tasty things to eat. It’s a way that, as a society, we can help independent farmers not just stay afloat, but actually thrive in the face of Big Ag. Amid a growing economy of subscription-based businesses, “CSA” has become a bit of a buzzword, and we urge you not to lose the true meaning of what it is: a symbiotic partnership between member and farmer.
Hilary Hamilton, a founding teacher at Science Leadership Academy Middle School located in Powelton Village, is leading an exuberant army of young students sporting headphones through their neighborhood on an unusually warm December day. Like new shoots fooled by a hint of spring, they’re eager to display the fruit of their learning. Along with teachers, family members and community members, they are embarking on a walking tour of the school’s neighborhood that includes podcasts explaining the significance of historical sites in their neighborhood. Each podcast was researched and recorded entirely by students from Hamilton’s and fellow humanities teacher Sarah Bower-Grieco’s classes.
“The Bravery in the Neighborhood Project was meant to combine situated bravery in history with situated bravery in yourself,” Hamilton says.
When I told my friends I would be switching schools, they were stunned. Last year, I chose to transfer from a “high-performing,” well-resourced suburban high school to attend an urban public school in Philadelphia for my junior year. I didn’t get kicked out, and I didn’t fail out. I actually made this choice because I believed it would better prepare me for life.
Like a lot of other families, my parents moved to a “great” school district when I began kindergarten. I flourished in school—I was reading novels at a young age, taking advanced math in middle school and had an active social life. My teachers loved me and my parents were proud.
Going to camp can help turn the lazy days of summer into stimulating experiences filled with learning and adventure. Not only do these programs present a wonderful chance for kids to try something new, they also implement skills and foster friendships that will last a lifetime.
For many kids, camp is one of the first times away from their family or daily social environment, making it a great opportunity to practice decision-making skills in a supportive setting. Being able to make choices is an excellent way for kids to develop confidence and independence—both valuable traits to acquire at a young age. Additionally, learning how to achieve something new as a group helps build camaraderie rather than competition.
You can barely hear Richard Fredricks’ remarks over the sanitation truck across the street and the heavy sheets of rain coming down on dozens of umbrellas at 11th and Spruce streets in December. Barely a month prior, Fredricks’ daughter Emily, 24, was killed on her bike by the driver of a trash truck when she was right-hooked across the bike lane.
Since then, Philadelphia’s cycling community has held several demonstrations, vigils and protests for Emily and other cyclists who’ve been injured on our streets, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, where I work, put out seven demands they want to see enacted now to make the streets safer. As of this writing, the city won’t agree to any of them.
When rethinking the economy, small steps won’t cut it. That’s one of the critical points made by the indispensable Naomi Klein in her latest book, “No Is Not Enough.” She argues that a vision needs to be offered that is radically different from what we currently have, and it must provide a blueprint for a society that could work. I know, who has time for vision when everything we value is under daily attack and must be defended? But as the name of the book states, it isn’t enough to just try to play defense. We have to take the time to flesh out an alternative.
This takes work. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about energy, housing, farming or education. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. And the answers won’t come from one person, or from the top down. While it may be tempting to imagine a kindhearted, larger-than-life billionaire such as Oprah coming in and saving the day, the truth, Klein argues, is that it just won’t work. We don’t need a savior. We need a framework, a values-based vision.