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S1 BLOG

Non-Profits Partner to Bring Solar Power and Utility Bill Savings to Brooklyn Homeowners

Barrio Solar InstallationFifth Avenue Committee, in partnership with Solar One and with support from Enterprise Community Partners, has launched Barrio Solar, a program to provide financial assistance to low- to-moderate income Brooklyn homeowners to help them install rooftop solar panels. Solar can help homeowners lower their Con Edison bills, lower their property/income taxes, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The campaign is open to all Brooklyn homeowners, and participants will receive free solar consultation from trusted non-profits and discounted pricing through a solar purchasing group. The first 25 low- to moderate-income homeowners that sign up will receive a campaign-specific incentive of $3,500 to apply towards the cost of solar panels or roof repairs, helping make solar affordable to the homeowners who can benefit most from the savings. Barrio Solar is also connecting homeowners who can’t install solar with local community solar projects that provide guaranteed utility bill savings.

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Who Was Eunice Newton Foote?

Climate scientists today are pretty much unanimous in their conviction that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause higher temperatures. But who was the first person to discover the connection between CO2 and a warming planet?

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in 1856, a paper detailing experiments on the effects that carbon dioxide had on air temperatures, Circumstances Affecting the Heat of the Sun’s Rays, was presented by John Henry of the Smithsonian Institution. But Henry had not written the paper, nor conducted the experiments described in it. The author was Eunice Newton Foote, a suffragist, amateur scientist and distant relative of Isaac Newton, who theorized that changing the proportions of CO2 in the atmosphere would change its ability to retain heat.

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Black Contributions to Sustainable Agriculture Have a Long History

Photo: Corinne Singer/Edible Magazine

As we come to the end of another Black History Month in the US and Canada, it’s a great time to reflect on the enormous contributions that people of African descent have made in the realm of agriculture and farming. Since the colonial period, when so many Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas to provide slave labor, Black people have influenced and created innovative and highly successful farming techniques and practices, and introduced new foods- despite controlling less than 2% of the farmland in this country to this day.

While concepts such as sustainable agriculture and community farming may seem like recent developments, they are rooted in ancient land practices that Black and Indigenous farmers have been perfecting for centuries, and in many cases, we have BIPOC activists to thank for keeping those traditions alive and relevant in the present day.

This photo, taken by Dorothea Lange for the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, shows a man and his son watering their mules on their family farm, owned by the man’s father. While some of the Black farmers Lange photographed in this series shot in North Carolina were tenant farmers and sharecroppers, others owned their own farms and worked their own land.

Here are some of the innovations that we can thank Black farmers and activists for introducing to our agriculture system:

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North America’s First Free Black Settlement

February is Black History Month in the US and Canada, and one historical fact that was brought to our attention by FABNYC and the Village Preservation Society is that the very first community of free Black people in North America was established in lower Manhattan beginning in 1643, more than 200 years before the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery in all US states.

To see exactly where the settlement was, you can check out the Village Preservation Society’s Civil Rights & Justice Map here. Based on the research of historian Christopher Moore, the settlement was made up of individual landholdings bequeathed to former slaves of the Dutch West India Company, as a “reward” for years of loyal servitude. Of course, this was not a purely altruistic act; the settlements conveniently served as a buffer zone between the colonial invaders and the indigenous groups they displaced. Sound familiar?

Even though the English subsequently outlawed the settlements when they took over from the Dutch in 1664, demoting the settlers from free persons to “legal aliens” who were not permitted to be landowners, some biographical information about the free Black settlers is still available, as well as the exact boundaries, sizes and locations of their individual properties.

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The End Is Near for Gas Power in New Buildings in NYC

Ravenswood PlantIn December, NYC became the largest city in the country to agree to phase out the use of fossil fuels in all new buildings. The New York City Council has passed a bill prohibiting natural gas hookups in new buildings, beginning next year.

NYC’s largest source of carbon emissions is from buildings- at 27%, more than double the amount that building emissions account for in other places (13% in the US as a whole), more than transportation, waste or any other category.

Appliances that run on gas — stoves, furnaces, boilers, and water heaters — also come at another cost. When natural gas combusts indoors, a mix of particulate matter, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, and volatile organic compounds is released — air pollutants that have harmful effects on respiratory and cardiovascular health. Gas-fueled appliances are also frequent emitters of methane, a more impactful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

With the new bill, New Yorkers can expect to see some changes by the end of 2023, when developers of new buildings under seven stories won’t be allowed to put in natural gas-powered stoves, boilers, or water heaters. Instead, these buildings will use electricity, relying on a mix of technologies like heat pumps and induction stoves to replace gas and oil.

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