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EVANSTON, IL Pop-up Newsletter: Leaf blowers, sexual harassment, air travel

In a corrupt, confused, and outdated political system, implementation is always the hardest part of good public policy. I think this is why Evanston and other U.S. governmental units are having such public trust problems these days. In this situation, I find it helpful to spend time bouncing back and forth between the nitty-gritty — the details — and the abstract — the big picture messaging.

This newsletter contains some bouncing on three hyper-current issues. I hope Evanstonians find it helpful in thinking things through, making personal decisions, and/or taking action. 

Evanston voters, media, political groups, businesses, activists
Residents in my neighborhood (Nichols Neighbors)
Some non-Evanston voters with Evanston connections & interests

A.  LEAF BLOWER SURVEY (Sept. 3 deadline)
1. Details
2. Big picture
Women’s Public Authority: Resources for young women, old women, and others
Climate petition for academics & others associated with universities

A.  LEAF BLOWER SURVEY: Details + Big picture

The City of Evanston is considering a change in leaf blower regulations in order to reach our climate goals (carbon neutrality by 2050) and is seeking input on various issues. I applaud the City for putting these surveys together, although there are some major holes in the surveys, as well as a complete avoidance of the bigger picture—desertification and ecological destruction.  

In the interests of moving all pieces of the conversation forward, here’s the details of the surveys as well as some big picture comments.

City of Evanston landscaping survey
Deadline Sept. 3, 2021
English & Spanish
Different surveys for:
—Commercial/institutional property managers
—Landscape/Lawn Care service providers & employees

My survey answers & comments
I filled out two of the surveys (landscape providers and residents). As I noted on my survey answers, I was a professional gardener in Evanston for 25 years (now retired). I have lived in Evanston for 40+ years. Here are a few of my answers (in bold) that I thought might be of interest.

Question #7: Rate from most concerned to least concerned
–Potential need to modify existing service contracts
–Inability to serve all my customers
–Potential need to increase service charge to my customers
–Increased labor costs
–Cost of new equipment (electric leaf blowers, rakes)
–Effectiveness of alternative methods of debris removal
–Additional limitations on hours/days of operation
Other (comment): 
Keeping leaves, grass clippings on property outweighs any negatives. Rakes are not expensive.

Question #10: Please share how a ban of leaf blowers would impact your business.
No negative impacts.
Positive impacts: 
–more pleasant to be at work
–keeping leaves, grass clippings, etc., on property would promote community awareness of healthy soils, biodiversity, etc.
–reduce water use (because of better soils, mulch effect of leaves, etc.)

Final comments?
I was a professional gardener for 25 years in Evanston & Chicago area. I never owned a leaf blower because leaf blowers are more responsible for the desertification of urban soils and destruction of urban ecosystems more than any other tool. 

a. Questions that didn’t get asked on surveys:
— If you regularly remove leaves & grass clippings from your property (or clients’), do you regularly spread compost or mulch? Do you charge for spreading compost or mulch?
— If you bring in compost or mulch, are you concerned about bringing in invasive or exotic species (plants, insects, micro-organisms)?
— If you view your landscape maintenance as a “care” service, are you concerned about:— bare soil in winter (4+ months), summer droughts (weeks), loss of evergreens over-winter?— loss of biodiversity (pollinators, micro-organisms, native plants)?— an increasingly threadbare web of life?
— If you use a leaf blower, are you concerned about (a) hearing damage or (b) respiratory damage to COMMUNITY MEMBERS (neighbors, passers-by)? (Surveys rightly express concern for workers’ health.)

NOTE re the late Lynn Lawson, long-time Evanstonian and environmental health pioneer. Author of Staying Well in a Toxic World.  Here’s an April 2016 story about her memorial, by Bob Seidenberg. I enjoyed taking care of Lynn’s garden for a few years (before I retired in 2007) and can confirm that she had to be very proactive whenever there were leaf blowers in her neighborhood. 

b. Cosmic context: Desertification and ecological destruction
— Leave the Leaves: Thinking like an Agroecologist — the latest version of my annual letter to clients and neighbors. A version was published in this year’s New Farmer’s Almanac (2021), titled Urban Soils, Urban Consciousness.
— Natural Habitat Evanston, a project of Citizens Greener Evanston.There are many ways to get involved with NHE (and CGE), by direct action or by just following NHE activities (website, newsletter, Facebook).
— Evanston Environmental Assn. / Evanston Ecology CenterEvanston is lucky to still have the original pioneer of Evanston’s climate movement. Activities, classes, event and meeting space, newsletter, etc. — a history of resilience, adaptation, and stewardship.


[UPDATE: Added on Sept. 1, 2021, after I sent this to my Evanston networks.
As most Evanstonians know, many young women (50+) are dealing with (a) sexual harassment that they experienced as City employees at the lakefront over the last 1-2 years, and (b) City denial, apathy, and ?? for at least a year after the employees presented a petition to the City (July 2020). An independent investigation is on-going, while there have already been some consequences for City staff (resignations, suspensions, etc.). WBEZ radio (Chicago’s NPR station) broke the story in June 2021. This is the context for this section of my pop-up newsletter.]

“One day the woman who thinks will speak to us again…”
In the context of this beautiful line by the late Paula Gunn Allen, below is a short list of some recent blogs that may be of interest to Evanston women (young and old). The blogs contain quotes, anecdotes, and tactics as well as concepts, principles, and strategies that I have found useful and meaningful in my political activism. 

First, here is the full paragraph from Gunn Allen’s 1986 essay, “Where I Come from is Like This” (in Face to Face; Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening, edited by Linda Hogan & Brenda Peterson). What the past few years have shown us — in Evanston, in the U.S., and globally — is that the waiting time is over. I feel blessed to have witnessed so much truth-telling.

“Through all the centuries of war and death and cultural and psychic destruction have endured the women who raise the children and tend the fires, who pass long the tales and the traditions, who weep and bury the dead, who are the dead, and who never forget. There are always the women, who make pots and weave baskets, who fashion clothes and cheer their children on at powwow, who make fry bread and piki bread, and corn soup and chili stew, who dance and sing and remember and hold within their hearts the dream of their ancient peoples — that one day the woman who thinks will speak to us again, and everywhere there will be peace. Meanwhile we tell the stories and write the books and trade tales of anger and woe and stories of fun and scandal and laugh over all manner of things that happen every day. We watch and we wait.”

WOMEN’S AUTHORITY: Resources for young women, old women, and others
— Women’s Authority, Women’s Lives: The ERA or the Great Law of Peace (2018) 
I’m currently updating this post, hopefully for future publication.
— U.S. 2018: For Women who are Feeling like Livestock (2018)
— WHO’S YOUR CLAN MOTHER? Saying STOP is women’s public authority—including Impeachment (2019)
—  Camp Auschwitz and an Ancient Women’s Peace Center (Chicago) (2021)
— My Twitter timeline: I frequently post new articles, events, etc., by and for women.
Follow me or check in once in a while @DLHillman
For those not on Twitter, you can still read my public timeline.

Climate petition for academics & others associated with universities

I normally don’t share (or sign) petitions, mostly because they’re often
— overused as a substitute for meaningful organizing (I call it “cheap organizing”)
— not well crafted or supported
— written to make people feel guilty (not a productive tactic, in my opinion) 

I found that this petition is a worthy exception, co-organized by a food & farm colleague at Tufts U. (Parke Wilde, professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy). It is also applicable to many Evanstonians who fit into the four target audiences of this petition:
–universities & research institutions
–academic associations
–individual members of academic communities (incl students, staff, faculty)

Evanston is not only the home of Northwestern University. It is also the home and/or workplace of many others associated with Loyola, U. of Chicago (yes, there are some crazy commuters), Oakton Community College, DePaul, as well as academic associations and funders.

PETITION LINKS: Flying Less — Reducing Academia’s Carbon Footprint
Homepage with link to petition 

— From co-organizer sent through COMFOOD listserv (Parke Wilde
“People on this list frequently reflect on connections between the food system, the fossil fuels economy, and the climate crisis. This has especially been on my mind recently as the international Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) plans to rely heavily on offsetting and on food-competing biofuels production rather than directly tackling the consequences of continued aviation industry growth after the pandemic. 

“In this policy setting, aviation growth presents grave concerns for sustainable and affordable food, preventing deforestation, and promoting food security.” 

— My Twitter thread (7) with links in which I also share details of a climate scientist at Northwestern U. who quit his job to start a hyper-local construction cooperative building “backyard homes”. From global aviation to hyper-local community involvement, including what’s become super-popular — walking tours. Recent article about Evanston Development Cooperative’s latest tour.

— This petition is a meaningful climate action, with specifics, in language accessible to the general and voting public. Good updates and other support on petition website.

a. Watching evening flight patterns from my front porch…
As someone who lives close to the flight paths of Chicago’s O’Hare airport, I can confirm that people seem to be flying as much as ever. During busy periods, I’ve counted the seconds between planes coming in over Lake Michigan — 30 seconds. Often they’re using two runways at a time. (Once I saw three planes lined up side-by-side, so they must have been using 3 runways?)

b. Air freight in our food system?
Note that this petition does not address the use of AIR FREIGHT for food transportation; it only addresses AVIATION for people transport. I’ve sent this query to Parke and the COMFOOD listserv (largest & oldest in N. America), but haven’t received a response yet:

Question: Per aviation in our food system — is anyone analyzing the use of air freight for bringing in tropical fruits, coffee, etc., to the U.S.? I realize that many local food systems in Central America, etc., are dependent on that part of the food chain, but I haven’t seen much data or analysis on air freight in the food system. What about California to the east coast — is there much air freight involved there, especially in winter? etc., etc.