Starting tomorrow, Friday, my visionary ecofiction novel
The Erenwine Agenda will be available for free, worldwide, on any digital device.
Visit the Kindle page all weekend to download.
Thanks, enjoy, and spread the word!
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Morning thoughts from me. 🙂
This inspired video by Finite Visual captures the essence of my visionary ecofiction novel, The Erenwine Agenda. Click the Youtube link to watch in higher resolution. There is also one on Facebook in a lower resolution.
Please enjoy, share, and let me know what you think!
7 May 2017
Dear Ms. Trump,
I am an Architect and once worked on one of your grandfather’s Trump building projects in New York when I was an intern. Forgive me for being forward; this has made me feel a particular connection to your family’s work in the real estate world of New York.
The building site I worked on is at approximately 4.43 feet above sea level, by current map estimates. Although there are ground floor lobby spaces that could accommodate a storm surge or monthly higher tides, there are still mechanical spaces below, and elevator access above, through which the residents of the building need to access basic utilities, services and vertical transportation. Most of the residents are long term, and elderly.
As an Architect, this concerns me. And even though an intern on that particular project, I feel a connection to the site, the building and its residents, even today. Such is the inner world of the Architect: we remain connected, and we care. That does not go away.
I learned a lot about my desires and my limitations on that project. In fact, part of the experience spurred me on to create my own business, and prior to that, was even a step to meeting my now-husband, becoming a new American citizen, and having American babies here, now growing up as young teens. I have your grandfather’s legacy in building to thank, in small part, for this trajectory in my life.
And so I am connected, and as such, I must speak out. Not about the politics of the day (which frankly overwhelm me) but of this one building site that connects us, and that sits at approximately four feet above sea level.
There is an easy path to doing our best to preserve building sites—legacies—like this one. The preservation (or adaptation, as the case may require) will be in response to three things:
1. monthly high tides increasing;
2. storm surges; and
3. general sea level rise.
I don’t need to tell you this is a controversial topic today in politics. You know that. What I will affirm, is that there is a mechanism already in place to address and to mitigate the changes I listed above, that involve our waters. And it does not require that the body politic agree on every aspect of this, or that governments follow the same guidelines. It is a flexible mechanism.
It is the Paris Agreement.
By upholding and remaining true to the Paris Agreement, we, as an American nation, are saying that we care about sites like the one I worked on, that we care about the people who inhabit those buildings, and that we will do our best and give it our brightest advancement of thought in extending care to those intertidal edges we find ourselves inhabiting.
I live in New Jersey now. The coastal edges of New York and New Jersey are often impacted by the same storm systems and similar tidal experiences. I see that:
1. NY/NJ are partly coastal and are subject to sea level rise.
2. Sea level rise, like it or not, is occurring. It does not matter whether one believes in climate change being largely human-driven.
3. NY/NJ are subject to hurricanes, and those hurricanes become more frequent as ocean waters warm.
4. Ocean waters are warming, like it or not (see #2).
5. The Paris Agreement deals with the human-controlled impacts on the environment.
6. It does not matter whether one believes…(see #2).
7. The Paris Agreement allows for goals and targets to be set by every country involved, in order to minimize human-controlled impacts on climate, that in turn affect sea level rise and warming oceans.
8. NY/NJ’s coastal and inland river-edge towns that are subject to storm surge, will benefit from reduced damage from storms and flooding. A win for the region.
9. NY/NJ will benefit from reduced insurance premiums if flood zone maps are able to be redrawn as a result of lower sea level/flooding/tidal range that are touched on by the Paris Agreement. Another win for the region.
10. NY/NJ will stand out as state leaders among other states, in a bipartisan act to support livable, manageable and resilient communities.
By staying true to the Paris Agreement, we show global respect for those built edges, where grandfathers and grandmothers worldwide have invested in families, communities and infrastructure. By staying in the Paris Agreement, we show our ability to work beyond politics, and with ecology and love of nature at our back, ever the driver of the healthy world I know we want to leave our children, to leave our grandfathers’ great-grandchildren, and beyond.
I come to this last part, “my ask” as we say in my women’s business networking group: I ask you, with all your power and conviction, to stand strong and with all the care in the world, to speak truth to power, and to help to turn the tide in the White House on this issue.
Maia Kumari Gilman,
Registered Architect, LEED-AP BD+C
Chatham, New Jersey
I had a dream in the early hours this morning – an Earth Day dream.
Near my office—we’re somewhere northern—closer to the Arctic Circle.
next to my friend’s office window,
in the river that ran clear past by the office building—
under a train bridge,
parallel to a turning train line.
Stood with my kids while we visited.
All so amazed!
Took out cameras to video the salmon run.
People are in with the salmon.
All so amazed!
Train comes by—whooshes through the salmon.
I’m on the train:
video still rolling,
young folks in bucket seats laughing and chatting and
About the salmon they’ve just trailed through.
The power is in the train,
with the kids;
the power isn’t with the salmon.
The salmon’s power transferred to the young kids on the train.
We’re sitting in the laps of the young kids who are holding the salmon-power.
p.s. This Earth Day, we are celebrating a birthday with a sleepover of young salmon-power-holders. Not marching. Just celebrating.
Tomorrow is the March for Science, coincident with Earth Day. I’ve been a fan of the “Every Day is Earth Day” mentality for a long time and so to recognize this particular Earth Day as unique, is a mindshift. It is unique. It is a day to focus on the direction we want to go.
To that end, I dialogued with multiple-award-winning eco-Interior Designer Tracey Stephens of Tracey Stephens Interior Design, Inc.: EcoSmart Kitchens & Baths about recent proposed cuts to the US federal government’s Energy Star program, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the direction in which we might choose to go as a result of such cuts. Tracey’s passion about the March for Science and the overlap of our interests in green design spurred us to a dialogue about those proposed cuts around the corner for the EPA.
These are our back-and-forth questions and answers.
Maia: Tell me in a couple of sentences about your work.
Tracey: Using my 25 years of interior design experience, I help homeowners bring their vision to life by creating kitchens & bathrooms that reflect who they are and how they really live. From space planning to selecting cabinets, tile and other finishes, my goal is to turn the daunting task of renovation into a fun journey. And with my background in green design, my interiors make the planet happy, too.
Maia: What kinds of products do you specify?
Tracey: I specify both building materials such as non-toxic stone sealer, formaldehyde-free insulation, and LED lighting and finish materials such as cabinetry, appliances and tile. I find my clients are eager to choose healthy products that don’t harm the environment so my job is to stay informed and share with them what’s available. I refer my kitchen clients to appliance showrooms — the technology changes so frequently I rely on my network of experts to help them. People also really want to avoid adding to the landfills so I coordinate donations of items like old kitchen cabinets or bathroom sinks to places like Habitat For Humanity. If something is too worn or broken I use a construction debris recycling company that grinds up materials into either alternative wood fuel (lumber and paper) or road paving materials (toilets, tile, concrete).
Maia: How do you use ratings systems as a guide for making product recommendations to clients?
Tracey: Product information can be very technical and vetting very time consuming so I rely on ratings systems evaluations. I prefer 3rd party certification to guide my decisions on what to recommend for example Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that cabinetry lumber has been responsibly harvested and GreenGuard for indoor air quality. But I have not found FSC certified kitchen cabinets within my New Jersey 500 mile radius so I buy from companies who participate in the Environmental Stewardship Program of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (2nd party certification).
Maia: What do you think of the Energy Star rating system? How have you used it in the past?
Tracey: I’m a big fan of the Energy Star program. It’s an easy way for the average person to compare products while shopping. In a nod to the program’s popularity and recognition, many websites now have a search function that allows the buyer to select only Energy Star products.
Since its launch in 1991 starting with rating light bulbs, the voluntary program has grown to include office equipment, heating/cooling, audio/visual equipment, windows and appliances and even certification of buildings. Since 1992, the EPA reports that the Energy Star program has helped families and businesses save an impressive $430 billion on utility bills, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.7 billion metric tons.
Maia: What options do you see available instead of using the Energy Star system?
Tracey: If there is no independent rating system then the average consumer will have only the information from a company rating its own product which I do not feel confident about. Trade associations will likely step up with more 2nd party certifications. Consumers and designers will still want to know about the environmental impact of the products they’re buying.
Maia: How do you feel about the proposed elimination of the Energy Star system?
Tracey: Protecting the environment used to be a bi-partisan issue with wide support. The EPA was created under Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970. While not surprising considering Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it is infuriating to hear Budget Director Mulvaney say “We’re not spending money on [climate change] anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.” The Trump proposal to slash the EPA budget by 31% and eliminate 56 of its programs is short sighted. As part of the Climate Protection Program, the Energy Star program is on the chopping block, along with the Green Power Partnership (encouraging the use of renewable energy).
Fortunately there are many manufacturers, states and countries who have committed to sustainability regardless of which US administration is in power. For example, California will not roll back fuel economy standards.
Maia: What recommendations do you have for other designers in light of this proposed change?
For designers who care about sustainability, and honestly that should be all people everywhere, it is time to become an environmental activist.
If the federal government is going to roll back protections and programs we need to push our state governments to step up. I’m very hopeful about the state of New Jersey right now. An exciting new broad-based coalition of labor, faith, social justice, community and environmental organizations has launched Jersey Renews to urge our NJ elected officials to act now in support of climate justice, clean energy and good green jobs. And the People’s Climate March on April 29 in DC is going to be massive! We have at least 6 buses going for the day from Montclair. Click here to sign up to join a bus ride to Washington this weekend.
Maia: What recommendations do you have for legislators in light of this proposed change?
Tracey: Legislators at the local, state and national level need to reject climate denial and big business profits at the expense of our health and safety. And we the constituents need to encourage our legislators to support the crucial work of protecting our nation’s climate, people and natural resources, and hold them accountable. So please sign this petition urging Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R- NJ11), chair of Budget Appropriations Committee, to maintain the EPA’s full funding!
Maia: What could be an upside to this proposed change, that others might not have seen yet, and that you have a unique perspective on to share with other design professionals? What is your big picture scenario?
Since so many of us feel under attack, we are galvanized and energized to act.
Maia: There’s one last thing I would add to your big picture thinking scenario, and it comes directly from your website. It’s quote from Sufi poet Rumi, and I think if we step out with this attitude blazing forth, we will find a path to a new system, or way of thinking of these systems:
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. Do it now. -Rumi
Tracey can be reached in Montclair, NJ at:
Tracey Stephens Interior Design, Inc.
EcoSmart Kitchens & Baths
Let us know if you attend a March for Science near you!
I am personally very moved by these marches, although I won’t be able to attend this Saturday. Instead, I created two resources to share.
One: a printable poster in support of the March for Science (spoiler: includes a poem by me): https://www.maiakumarigilman.com/downloads
Two: a resource base online, of many of the US government’s energy and climate-related PDF documents: https://www.maiakumarigilman.com/resources.
As my website says,
These PDF files are archived US federal government documents relevant to architects, engineers and planners with energy and climate-related interests in historic preservation, community planning and disaster mitigation.
This is not a complete list and we do not have any further information about the files. Consider these archived/cached internet files that you may download and use in your work. Click on an image and then “Go to link” to access, then save to download.