Environmental Artist Lougee: Call To Action, in Plastic, Through March 5

Michelle Lougee's work is on display at Simmons College's Trustman Gallery through March 5, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.
Michelle Lougee’s work is on display at Simmons College’s Trustman Gallery through March 5, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Concurrent with exasperation over the details of Cambridge’s erstwhile plastic bag ban (progress toward which has been stymied, this time, by a snowstorm cancellation) is a relevant exhibit by Cambridge sculptor Michelle Lougee at Simmons College’s Trustman Gallery. Lougee’s work, much of which is painstakingly forged from plastic bags, is not a tsk-tsk. Instead she fingers a delicate boundary between horror and love. The horror at the enormity of our cumulative acts of ransacking is there for the taking, if one is so inclined. But the work is also a love story, a paean to the organic forms (and vicissitudes) of nature—even as they are refracted through the lens of our plastic addiction.

This exhibit goes beyond some of her other recent collections, however. From the catalogue:

Lougee is also showing a series of drawings, not made with traditional materials but with her signature bags, layering elements like papyrus paper and fabric with the “line” created by stitching. These textural works evoke microscopic structures, suggesting an underlying, unseen world that is bulging with possibilities and life.

To me, the work evokes Alexander Calder and Jean Arp, but is distinctly situated in a 21st century conflict— in a world of “advanced” materials science.UbiquitousEpromo_vertical

ENVIRONMENT: One Day, Four Venues, Nine Films







On the heels of Cambridge’s Screen-Free/Screen-Wise Week, in which I’ve had a hand, here is a screenful dessert: The Boston Enviro-Film Festival arrives Sunday, May 18th, for one day only. One film showing is “Symphony of the Soil.”

From the program of the (6th annual) event:

Symphony of the Soil examines our human relationship with soil, the use and misuse of soil in agriculture, deforestation and development, and the latest scientific research on soil’s key role in ameliorating the most challenging environmental issues of our time. Filmed on four continents, featuring esteemed scientists and working farmers and ranchers, Symphony of the Soil is an intriguing presentation that highlights possibilities of healthy soil creating healthy plants creating healthy humans living on a healthy planet. bostonenvirofilmfest | Symphony of the Soil.


Panels and speakers during the film festivalTrailers for filmsFilms listed by schedule


Wetland Love: A Local Shindig with “The Loomers,” March 1, 2014

I’m passing along an announcement of an upcoming event:

The Coalition is currently challenging a sprawling housing development with nearly 300 units and 600 parking spaces proposed to lie in the middle of the forest and encroaching on the surrounding wetlands.  The mostly upmarket housing development would fragment wildlife corridors and degrade the natural value of the surrounding 120-acre Alewife Reservation.  Friends of Alewife Reservation, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and local environmental groups are opposed to the development.  It would also adversely affect surrounding neighborhoods by increasing flooding in Little Pond, increasing air and water pollution and increasing traffic congestion as far as the Fresh Pond Rotary.

Expert naturalists, hydrologists, and wetlands scientists supported the 20 faults listed in the Belmont Conservation Commission’s findings against the development.  The Belmont Conservation Commission had  challenged the development from 2007-2013. The Coalition continues to challenge the development.

via Coalition to Preserve the Belmont Uplands – Coalition to Preserve the Belmont Uplands.


Coal Plant Shutdowns: Economic Justice for Communities

On November 12, 2013, I attended the hearing of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy at which Rep. Lori Ehrlich of the 8th Essex District testified in support of H. 2935. Here’s my Storify record.

  1. Here @ state house 4hearing on H.2935, An Act to Transition to 2 #CleanEnergyCommonwealth and its community transition fund #climatechange
  2. Amazing confluence of several streams this morning at #MA state house: #Parenting, #ClimateChange, #Envirojustice. 1/2
  3. #Climatechange hearing @ MA state house. I’m here w/ @mothersoutfront and residents of communities w/#coal plants t.co/M8IVYir6AF
  4. Gr8 2B w/so many @MothersOutFront 2day 2demand progress on #climatechange WITH attention 2communities impacted (jobs, tax revenues). #MAPOLI
  5. Cancer survivor, Somerset resident whose grandson is an asthmatic now speaking. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront t.co/ZkBjR2tfd7
    Pro-active approach needed so towns historiclly dependnt on taxes from coal plants=better prepared.@BetterFuturePro t.co/Z3JKxvXrxj
  6. #AppalachiaNorth is what those who support H. 2935 feel Holyoke, Somerset, Salem should be considered. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront
  7. Resident of Salem since ’79 now speaking …Salem skyline dominated by stacks..visited Appalachia to see what #coal co’s do when leaving.
  8. Toxics Action Center Campaigns was proud to co-host a lobby day with Coal Free Mass today! Coal plant owners… t.co/pBSQzfXRic
  9. @loriehrlich speaks at Coal Free Day. Natural gas prices leading to closing of coal plants. #mapoli @EnviroLeagueMA t.co/gvulWRFqPi
  10. Three residents (Holyoke, Somerset, Salem) now testifying in support of H.3945. #climatechange #ecojustice #coal t.co/J4kbYbIIGt
  11. Holyoke res Carlos Rodriguez: wife has been 2ER 4x this yr (asthma). 1visit: half of others in ER were there for same reason. #Envirojustice
  12. Pauline Rodrigues:Somerset tax base red. fr $13M to $975K now that #BraytonPoint closure.. 200 workers now @plant. Asks 4healthy industries.
  13. Reuse planning needs 2have community voice, restoration of land and water, says Salem resident supporting the bill #CleanEnergyCommonwealth

A day for outrage, a year for exponential change


Today my twelve-year-old daughter and I joined hundreds of men, women and children at Brayton Point, a coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. We were with Mothers Out Front and 350.org; we were with an angry mother from West Virginia coal country; we were in a community that deserves not to be the seat of protest, but rather the locus of hope that a radical turnaround in the use of fossil fuels could bring.

Indeed, it’s the economic predicament of towns like Somerset and coal towns in Appalachia that seem to give my daughter the most pause.

It’s the feeling of imposing, even intruding, on a community, that made me balk, even as I walked and shouted in view of the plant. There were a few protesters who voiced their support of the Somerset community to the onlookers whom we assumed to be local.
“We want you to have good jobs,”
called out one, passing a teenager with two adults (and a dog) who stared at the procession en route. However weak the delivery, however it may have raised more questions than answers, that sentiment was–is–right. And if it’s not right up front, and backed with deeds, not pledges, then this isn’t a transformation that’s going to have wings. I’ll trade you those for the lead boots of political pandering and the duplicity of coal companies any day.

We’re tired, and a bit dehydrated, but with much more to say later about our experiences. Stay tuned for profiles of some of the people we met in the shadow of the power plant today. Meanwhile, my twitter feed will give you a window on our day of outrage and incredulity that coal still plays a role in our power supply.

O! Ye Briny Deep: Fracking vs. Nurse Carver

Donna Carver, an Ohio nurse and environmental activist, has taken a stand against the use of “brine” on the grounds of her local county fair.

What is brine? It’s a euphemism for oilfield waste. She’s petitioned the body governing the fairgrounds to cease using it. According to Carver, the study claiming the product is safe was based on only one year of research. The study concentrated on the use of “brine” as a de-icer on little-travelled roadways. The fairgrounds use it for “dust control.”

A few of the inorganic compounds found in the brine include arsenic, barium, lead, mercury and uranium. A few of the organic compounds include benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene. The health effects these components can cause include leukemia, neurological disorders, respiratory system irritation, cancerous tumors, birth defects and other developmental disorders.

via Letter to the Morrow County Fairboard Executive Committee Members – Frack The Media.

Dear reader, what does “brine” connote to you? To me it does not connote anything but the irrefutable Good bestowed on the world by pickles, that all-American half-sour, general-store, vegetable version of Apple Pie. Shucks, with all the fuss about fermentation and so forth, it’s even got  a new-age shimmer of simplicity and health about it. Brine. Use it for your pickle, use it for a turkey. Heck, it even carries a swashbuckling bravery in its salty little syllable:

Come listen to me story
 Of ships so proud and fine
Of captains and of fishermen
 All from the Maritimes
Great carpenters and craftsmen
 Who worked with skill and pride
Built mighty ships of the bluenose line
 to sail the ocean widecho: The Bluenose Line,  the Bluenose Line
     Fastest ships in all the world
     To plow the stormy brine

I’d need more chemistry under my belt—enough to decipher this scholarly paper about contamination of groundwater in Morrow County by oilfield waste would be nice.  Nonetheless, I think I’m coming down with a parody.

Come listen to me story
Of the Morrow County Fair
Of  4-H calves and human kids
Who went a-playing there....

Carver seems, from the little I’ve read, to be another angry parent. Notice I didn’t say “just another.” She’s another mother out front. If we’re there, or if we’re going there, it’s not because we’re having fun; it’s fueled (you’ll excuse that) by a very specific kind of desperation.

“Out front” is not where I’m happiest. It’s just where I’ll have to be if we’re going to restore a realistic hope of a livable earth. I’m getting ready to swashbuckle, harness outrage, and channel incredulity. It might just  turn the tide on corporate doublespeak, lobbyism, and the seas of red tape that conspired to get us to the current sorry state of human and environmental health in the first place.