Contributed by Dr. Sarah
This year on our family summer vacation, the SilverLEAF got to join us– on our staycation. The SilverLEAF happily brought us to downtown Chicago, to the streets of the south side of Chicago, and to the Skokie Lagoons. Usually the all-electric SilverLEAF gets left behind while we rent a conventional gasoline-powered SUV for a road trip, or take a plane. But the SilverLEAF served us well on this year’s urban adventures.
Our plan this year was that each of us— the two dudes, my mom, and me— would plan a day, including the all-important meals. My 11-year-old dude chose a trip on the Chicago Water Taxi to Chinatown. We’d done the trip some years ago and enjoyed it, so it was time for a reprise. I chose kayaking. My 13-year-old dude chose a history tour. My mom chose an outing to see the new-ish Stony Island Culture Bank, created by the great designer and urban thinker, Theaster Gates.
Here are some photos from our ride on the Chicago Water Taxi to and from Chinatown. The pagoda that serves as the entrance to the park where you get off the water taxi in Chinatown:
We really enjoyed the dim sum at Three Happiness. We way over-ordered, and ended up bringing home about 10 pounds worth of leftovers. No pics, sorry!
I personally really like this artistic rendering of a map of the Chicago river on the river-facing side of a downtown building as we rode back from Chinatown:
The coolest thing— in my opinion— about the water taxi to Chinatown? You get to see parts of the city that you literally can’t see from anywhere else.
The 11-year-old DudeSter’s assessment: “10 out of 10. Would do it again!” Spoken like the tween he is.
My mom’s pick— a visit to the rundown South Side bank that urban re-designer Theaster Gates’ turned into a lovely cultural center— was preceded by a meandering trip in pursuit of soul food. With Yelp as our guide, we decided to check out Five Loaves. Our trip was so circuitous that we got there just after it closed. Thanks again to Yelp, we found our way to Daley’s, where the dudes loved the fried chicken and the fries, and my mom enjoyed the chicken noodle soup so much that we took extra home for her.
We then made the short hop over to the fabulous, rustic-yet-classy Stony Island Arts Building. Very accessible from Lake Shore Drive, not far south of my old stomping ground, the University of Chicago campus.
Take a look at these photos of the current exhibit and the building which convey the roughness of the old structure while capturing its renewed elegance.
For backstory on this exciting urban culture project, see this article in Slate.
In a non-urban vein, my 11-year old and I went kayaking at the Skokie Lagoons, off the North Branch of the Chicago River. We got really up close and personal with a gray heron who was slowly, slowly stalking a fish.
When my 13-year old dude’s day came, instead of touring historic sites in Chicago, like the site of the Haymarket riots— his original idea— he just wanted to hang out with us, and mostly with me, so he said. He can be a little excessively sincere at times— which makes me doubt his sincerity— but I took it at face value. On his day, we did hang out, mostly at home, he rode his bike quite a bit (per usual), and we ate pizza— his pick.
We spent one night at The W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive. The decor was a little too “Las Vegas” for us, but there was a great view from one of our rooms:
We didn’t make it to the National Mexican Museum, which had been on our tentative wish list. Next time!
My take on the staycation concept. This was our first. One challenge was that as a self-employed professional, it was a bit hard to fully disengage from work. The calls and emails kept coming in… However, I really liked not having the stress of hauling ourselves over some long distance. And of course, as a committed eco mom, I loved how low our ecological impact was. Oh yeah, and it’s a lot to cheaper do a staycation. We’d do it again!
Contributed by Julia Sanders
A meeting of the minds occurred June 1, 2015 between Ian Urbina and Brad Warren, addressing some of the most serious threats facing the ocean today. In an hour-long discussion moderated by Dr. Sarah Warren, Founder of Spheres of Influence, participants learned about the lawless world on the seas, and were offered a new way to tackle some of the ocean’s biggest threats.
Ian Urbina is an investigative journalist for The New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of The New York Times series “The Outlaw Ocean.” In the series, Urbina witnesses and reports on the savage lawlessness of the high seas, where slavery, human trafficking, abuse, murder, deliberate pollution, and many other shocking abuses happen daily — with impunity. He describes the rural men of the Philippines who are drawn in by false marine recruiters promising high wages working on foreign vessels, and instead find themselves facing grueling 20 hour days, constant beatings, and sometimes death. Even when they survive those conditions, and complete a lengthy “contract,” they find themselves unpaid, often deep in debt, and abandoned in a foreign port. Other stories follow stowaways thrown overboard by ruthless captains, scofflaw ships that dump oil slicks 100 miles long, and floating armadas of armed men and weapons caches, ready to come to the aid of ships facing what have become commonplace attacks from pirates, spawning an industry of on-call armed protection.
Urbina’s work paints a picture of a jurisdictional mess, in which a ship buys a country’s flag, and that country is nominally responsible for policing the vessel, while other agencies or countries who may want to investigate criminal activity are legally denied access. Responsibility is handed off in a circle, with each agency (the flag country, Interpol, the International Maritime Organization, etc.) passing responsibility to another — while long-time sources within maritime law enforcement admit that there is no person or agency capable of truly investigating and punishing these often horrific crimes.
On the other side of the discussion was Brad Warren, Executive Director of the National Fisheries Conservation Center, a non-profit devoted to helping people understand, adapt to, and mitigate the changing ocean conditions caused by climate change — especially by man-made carbon emissions. About 25% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, lowering the pH and creating a crisis for many marine animals. This is known as ocean acidification, and it has already had a devastating effect on the West Coast oyster industry, causing wild baby oysters (known as oyster seed) to die in the first 72 hours of life, because the calcium carbonate they rely on to build their shells has become unavailable, transformed by the absorbed carbon emissions into bicarbonate. Since about 2008, Northwest oyster growers, many of them deeply multi-generational family operations, have been unable to rely on wild oyster seed from the ocean, but instead must buy it from hatcheries. And the harm doesn’t stop with oysters: all shelled organisms and many other types of ocean life have proven to be vulnerable to ocean acidification: mussels, shrimp, crab, lobster, coral, finfish, and countless others are under threat. That’s food we eat. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the pH of the ocean has already experienced a 30% change in acidity, at a speed the world has never experienced before.
In addition to this threat, there are several others caused by CO2 emissions. Hypoxia — at lack of oxygen— causes vast “dead zones” such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico where all life dies, and harmful algae blooms (which thrive in today’s higher temperatures) become even more toxic in a high CO2 environment.
In the discussion, Urbina focused on the perilous “blue/green” divide that exists among organizations working to combat environmental human rights problems, while Warren focused on the largest waste stream in human history, and how to tackle it.
Want to learn more? Listen to the archived discussion and see the webinar slides below!
Contributed by Dr. Sarah
The SilverLEAF got tested. As did I. As did my kids.
We were displaced from our home for 3-1/12 months by a neighbor’s construction dust. (Yes. It’s true.)
We have an outlet at home that allows me to charge every night when I get home from work. When you have to evacuate your home, you grab a few things and find a place to stay. Fast.
If you’re me, you don’t necessarily think about where you’re going to charge your all-electric car.
The first hotel we checked into didn’t have any charging stations or outlets available.
About a day in, I realized I had to move us. To a place with a swimming pool (for the kids), and access to a charger for The SilverLEAF.
Thankfully, I found a hotel that offered overnight parking in a lot with a charging station. Problem solved.
If the parking lot with charging stations hadn’t been an option, I would’ve had to rent a car. Which have been an additional expense, but would still have been cheaper than owning and operating a gas-fueled car year round. Glad I didn’t have to go the costlier, polluting rental car route…
We recycled. We didn’t use paper plates or plastic-ware– where is that photo of the pile of dishes I had drying in the bathroom?? We declined to have our sheets and towels changed for as long as possible–there is an outer limit when you’re in cramped quarters with two tween boys.
After three weeks of expensive hotel bills, we moved into an apartment close to our permanent home. This solved the problem of unsustainably high living expenses. It also got my kids out of a cramped hotel room, a way of living that rubbed their nerves raw. It was especially hard on my struggling, introverted 13 year-old. And it solved the problem of being able to charge the car–I could park at home and charge overnight as usual.
After 3-1/2 long months of displacement, sharing a bathroom with two messy boys, and day-to-day creative problem-solving, we finally got back to our permanent home. Our patience and resilience was tested. My empathy has grown for the many refugees from natural disasters and political unrest. We had it easy by comparison. But it wasn’t easy. Phew. Onward.
Contributed by Dr. Sarah
Our SilverLEAF would’ve been right at home among all the Priuses and all-electric Teslas and NissanLEAFs in charming Ohai, CA. But alas, our the SilverLEAF had to stay home while we flew to sunny Southern California for spring break.
My sister recently moved her family from the shores of the Atlantic to the desert of California to take a position at (super-green retailer) Patagonia’s headquarters. So I took the kids to see their cousins.
This was our first chance to see them in their new digs. And it was my kids’ first trip to CA.
These palm trees in their back yard are amazing to eyes that are habituated to life in the north.
Highlights of our trip included:
- A cerebral #toocoolforthat thirteen-year-old dude discovering that he actually likes hiking. That he likes anything other than his girlfriend is a bit of a miracle.
- Finding fossil-rocks that had bunches of fossils all fused together.
- Seeing a sign on the freeway that announced that there was an electric car charging station at the next exit! (#OnlyInCA)
Perhaps the eleven-year-old DudeSter’s favorite moment: Finding hemp cookies in the grocery store. I don’t want to even imagine what they taste like. (#OnlyinCA)
One of my favorite moments was touring the grounds of my niece’s school, where they have mindfulness classes and eat in this “cafeteria.” Makes me rethink where my kids go to school…
Here’s what happens when an eleven-year-old DudeSter gets hold of your iPhone while you’re driving:
Turns out this photo is only a (well composed!) semi-random pic. This building is home to the designers of one of my son’s favorite games. Other photos taken by my son while I drove: totally random.
One last photo. The view from my niece’s bedroom at dawn on our last day. (Think of the window screen in an artistic light!)
About the emissions we generated by flying instead of driving our zero-emissions SilverLEAF: Sometimes you gotta fly. As Stephen Dubner has said on the Freakanomics podcast, it’s all about trade offs. This is what I call eco reality.
And those emissions from our flight to CA can be offset by purchasing carbon offsets at my favorite source, Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
While we were in CA enjoying the scenery and the camaraderie of so many people “driving green,” Tesla announced it is taking pre-orders for a new model that is priced to compete with the modestly priced NissanLEAF. The SilverLEAF may have some competition for my heart. Stay tuned!
Spheres of Influence
Fall 2015 Virtual Fireside Chat
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
noon-1pm ET/11am-noon CT/ 9am-10am PT
Harnessing “Human Systems” for Innovation
Featured Global Guests:
Previously a sustainability leadership catalyst at Smart Cities and IBM
co-founder of PresenceAtWork (Netherlands)
Former CEO of Ardanta (Netherlands)
CurrentDirector of Life Insurance at ASR
a global insurance company & pioneer of collective leadership
About Melissa O’Mara:
Melissa O’Mara’s mission is to maximize institutional and cultural response to environmental and economic challenges through activating teams and communities of purpose, accelerating public/private collaboration and innovation, and enabling collective leadership. She founded i3Activate, LLC, as a platform for transforming the way we lead organizations and address today’s complex challenges.
Prior to founding i3Activate, LLC, Melissa was an intrepreneurial corporate leader with 28 years of experience at US Smart Cities, Andersen Consulting, Schneider Electric, and IBM.
About Philippe Wits:
Philippe Wits of the Netherlands is former Director/CEO of Ardanta, a global life insurance company and a pioneer of collective leadership. He currently serves as Director of Life Insurance at ASR. Philippe is focused on continuous improvement through lean and collective leadership to empower employees to reach their full potential, as well as reach the company’s and their own goals.
About Roelien Bokxem:
Based in the Netherlands with background in the Financial Sector, Roelien Bokxem is co-founder of PresenceAtWork. She is a certified coach and systems consultant with broad experience delivering experiential learning for executives and teams. She finds pride and joy in co-designing PresenceAtWork’s collective leadership curriculum.
Listen to Melissa and Roelien here on this podcast. Check out the first 15 minutes in particular. (The start button is on the upper left.)
THIS ONLINE EVENT IS FREE BUT WE WELCOME DONATIONS TO COVER THE COST OF OUR INTERNS!
We hope you can join us for this participatory event!