All posts by Rachel

Book recommendation: When Doing the Right Thing Is Impossible, by Lisa Tessman

I’ve been meaning to read Lisa Tessman’s When Doing the Right Thing Is Impossible for some time – and I’m very glad I finally got around to it!

This book is both accessible for a general audience and dense with food for thought. When we see people around us, in the news, and maybe ourselves in positions where some sort of moral failure seems guaranteed, that can really wear on us. But I think it feels better to openly acknowledge that reality, as Tessman does, than to try to fool ourselves about the possibility of always keeping our hands clean.

I’ll admit that I went into the book already very sympathetic with the conclusion that, indeed, sometimes one is going to violate a moral duty no matter what one choose to do, but I wouldn’t have been able to articulate why nearly as eloquently and thoroughly as Tessman has. I’m less sure where I stand on Tessman’s constructivism, but that is something to continue pondering for the future (for me).

If lots more people would read this book and take some of the central ideas on board, I think that maybe we could be both more forgiving of ourselves and each other, and also more motivated to change social structures for the better – so that the moral dilemmas she discusses wouldn’t arise quite so often in the first place!

To improve our electric grid, transportation system, and buildings, I support the ICJC platform.

This week, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition announced a comprehensive legislative platform to boldly and rapidly accelerate the state’s climate, equity, and clean energy goals.

The platform is a set of bills (the Clean and Reliable Grid Act, the Clean and Equitable Transportation Act, and the Clean and Healthy Buildings Act) that will lower greenhouse gas emissions, create green jobs, and improve health and safety in our communities. Together, these bills would be transformative in helping us work toward climate stability, financial security, fairness across communities, and health statewide.

If you live in Illinois, I invite you to join me in supporting the ICJC platform.

Ror folks who don’t live here, with your help, the ICJC’s work can serve as a model for related efforts elsewhere!

Upcoming Food, Family, and Justice Conference

I’m excited to be presenting “Unjust Social Structures and Plant-Based Caregiving for Kids” with my co-author, Jeremy Fisher, at the upcoming “Food, Family, and Justice” conference June 21-23, 2024.

Even more exciting for me, though, are the amazing presenters from around the world who are slated to share about a whole bunch of fascinating, important, related topics! I’ve got my eye on multiple sessions by folks whose work I’ve read and enjoyed, but who I’ve never had the good fortune to meet before.

This conference will be a hybrid of remote and in-person presentations at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. My heartfelt gratitude to the organizers and sponsor (the Society for Applied Philosophy) for pursuing the hybrid format, which makes participation possible for those of us who are minimizing travel for environmental, health, family, financial, or other reasons!

DePaul student Charlie LaBerge’s “Future of Chicago Climate Change” Podcast

Recently, Charlie LaBerge, a student at DePaul University taking a course in climate change communications, interviewed a couple of my fellow Climate Reality Project volunteers and me about our chapter’s work – our past, present, and future efforts to respond to the climate crisis locally here in Chicago.

I really got a kick out of the experience – working with students is something that I miss, and it was a great opportunity to reflect on our collective efforts!

Charlie used that interview, along with some other materials, to create an impressive podcast for his class project, and was generous enough to share it publicly, so you can listen here to check it out.

Book recommendation: Solidarity, by Leah Hunt-Hendrix & Astra Taylor

I can’t tell you how many times, over how many years, I’ve said, “Why don’t people write/talk/study about solidarity more? I want to read a book about solidarity! When is someone going to write a good, detailed book focused on solidarity?”

Well, the universe (or more specifically, Astra Taylor & Leah Hunt-Hendrix) listened and granted my wish!

Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea is a great place to look for a more-than-introduction to the important concept of solidarity. Whether you are an activist, a historian, a philosopher, or just an engaged member of a community (large or small), this book almost assuredly has something that you didn’t already know about and that is worth thinking about some more. I know that I’m going to be returning to it again and again!

Building Decarbonization on Chicago Campuses

This past week, as a team leader for the Chicago Metro Chapter of the Climate Reality Project, I hosted a Zoom event about building decarbonization for various student groups around the city. Since about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in the city come from our buildings, we simply must reduce emissions from buildings in order to meet our climate commitments!

It was great to be able to share what my team has been learning with folks from multiple universities, and to help energize and support the students’ own campaigns for greater on-campus sustainability. We’re in the beginning phases of some collaborative efforts, and here’s hoping for many fruitful interactions to come!

If you want to watch the presentation, you can find it on our chapter’s YouTube channel.

Supporting DePaul Students’ Climate Activism

As part of my volunteer work with the Chicago Metro Chapter of The Climate Reality Project, last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rose O’Keeffe, a student journalist at DePaul University.

The short version of the story is that, in response to learning about some of the high-emitting and energy-intensive buildings on their campus, the student government leadership at DePaul has called on the university president to direct the development of a campus climate action plan. I’m delighted to have been able to play a small role in pushing DePaul’s decision-makers in a more climate-friendly direction, but more importantly, I’m really impressed with what the students are doing under their own steam and I look forward to supporting them in any way I can!

Take a look at Rose’s article here.

Chicago: Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO)

In Chicago, about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from our buildings. Part of that is because here, it is common to get heat our homes and cook our food with gas appliances (unlike in some other parts of the country where I’ve lived).

To make matters worse, because of repeated, record-breaking rate hikes, 1 in 5 of Chicagoans are behind on gas bills. And in some neighborhoods, up to 50% of households are in chronic debt due to high gas bills. But if folks switched from using gas to electricity, they could save $15,000 to $20,000 over 20 years, according to a study by NRDC.

Burning gas inside your home or business is not only expensive, but it is also detrimental to your health. For just one example of the harms it can do, 1 in 5 cases of childhood asthma in Illinois is attributable to cooking with gas.

The good news is that a Clean & Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO) is being considered by City Council. This ordinance would insure that (with a few exceptions) new buildings and substantial renovations to existing buildings would have to meet a strict indoor emissions standard.

CABO is just a first step away from reliance on fossil fuels, and it is supported by a coalition of more than 50 consumer, community, environmental, environmental justice, and faith organizations as a way to lower utility costs, improve public health, create jobs and reduce pollution.

For more information, and form for contacting your alderperson in support of CABO, check out the Citizens Utility Board Q&A.

Drop Off Locations for Free Food Scrap Composting in Chicago!

Food waste makes up about 22% of municipal solid waste in America. When this organic material is sent to landfills, it produces methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. Composting food scraps avoids that and also creates a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can help manage stormwater, prevent erosion, and improve plant and soil health. Plus, composting creates more jobs and revenue than landfilling or incinerating garbage!

Chicago residents can now, for the first time, at no charge, drop off their food scraps at one of 15 sites that are open 7:00-7:00 daily.

To get started, check out the city’s food scrap drop off website to watch a short instructional video and find your nearest drop off site on the map, and sign up to receive updates about the program and show that Chicagoans support the composting of food scraps.

ONLY food scraps can go in the compost bins. NO BAGS, not even ones labeled ‘compostable’ can go into the compost bins – but there will be a regular black bin for bags and other trash at each site. Preventing contamination is key to the success of any composting program! 

I recommend storing food scraps in the freezer to avoid attracting bugs or generating smells – as an added bonus, this makes storing and taking out your regular trash easier and less yucky!

Directory of Feminist Philosophy Archives

Back when I was working for Hypatia as a graduate student, I helped set up a digital archive for the journal’s own internal use. It was a huge project (one that has continued and morphed since my time with the journal), but it was also one that I really enjoyed working on, in no small part because of the crucial role that archives play in helping transmit knowledge about our past, our present, and our future possibilities. Such knowledge is especially valuable for historically marginalized communities.

So it was with great pleasure that I learned about a new directory that makes various feminist philosophy archives more accessible to all sorts of scholars and members of the general pubic.

I encourage you to check it out!