March is Women’s History Month, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day, and the theme for 2022 is the quote above: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. Globally, women and girls, especially those in marginalized and impoverished communities, are feeling the effects of climate change more directly and profoundly than others. Since women are most often responsible for tending to domestic issues like food and water procurement, cooking and nutrition, collecting fuel sources and maintaining gardens, when climate disaster strikes their communities, these necessary tasks become more difficult and time consuming, leaving women farther behind in terms of education, resources and decision-making power.
At the same time, because women feel these impacts so strongly, they often respond to these challenges by becoming leaders in their communities, spearheading the fight to maintain those communities and rally their neighbors to come up with innovative solutions to address these dire problems.
Furthermore, those who do have the opportunity to advance their educations and develop professionally often dedicate their careers to supporting those who lack those opportunities, sometimes in the communities where they grew up. At the Columbia Climate School and in the broader Columbia University community, women are leading the way in the fields of climate science and adaptation, and working to promote equity, sustainability and resilience around the world.
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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 environmental movement, much like the feminist movement, has a tendency to whitewash the contributions of people of color and Black people in particular. The words “climate activist” probably brings up names like Richard Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Bill McKibben for a lot of folks, yet the contributions of Black activists working on climate and environmental justice issues can’t be emphasized enough. So here is a list of five Black leaders we can all learn from and admire:
The first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, the late Dr. Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan social, environmental and political activist. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degress in the US, she returned to Kenya and was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a Doctor of Philosophy degree, from the University of Nairobi.
She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, overseeing the planting of 51 million trees and training more than 30,000 women in forestry, food processing and bee-keeping and more to support their families while protecting the natural; resources of their communities.
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In 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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It’s easy to forget how unusually hot parts of the country got over the summer- we’re looking at you, Pacific Northwest- now that it’s January and temperatures have been dropping into the teens overnight. But 2021 is the fifth warmest year ever recorded, and the past seven years have all been record-breakers when it comes to heat.
“2021 was yet another year of extreme temperatures with the hottest summer in Europe, heatwaves in the Mediterranean, not to mention the unprecedented high temperatures in North America,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which just published their latest analysis. “These events are a stark reminder of the need to change our ways, take decisive and effective steps toward a sustainable society and work towards reducing net carbon emissions.”
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The end of the year is coming up fast, and when it does, our Matching Gift grant from the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh ends as well. So now is the time to make the most impactful gift to Solar One- one that will make a huge difference in the lives of the people we serve, like K-12 students, workforce trainees and downtown residents who are more in need of public green space than ever before.
So here’s what we can accomplish when you make a gift today, which will be matched dollar for dollar:
For the Green Design Lab K-12 Education Program:
One $250 gift (or ten $25 gifts):
Give a class an opportunity to design and build small solar powered cars. GDL educators have helped tens of thousands of students learn about solar power using the solar race car over the past 15+ years!
One $500 gift (or five $100 gifts):
Help us build a 100-watt solar system with energy storage for a Schoolyard Solar project.
For the Green Workforce Training Program:
One $1,000 gift (or four $250 gifts):
Buy solar panels, drills, and other tools for hands-on training in our Workforce Lab.
For Stuyvesant Cove Park:
One $1,500 gift (or ten $150 gifts):
Sponsor one of our new live community education events featuring local artists, farmers, soil experts, and NYC historians.
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