Monday, June 27, 2011

Too hot to garden? There are other ways to be active...

DC is a political town. There are at least three protests or marches every weekend (and I know this because tourists clog both streets and metro trains every weekend and talk about their causes rather more loudly than necessary). It seems to happen every time I leave my apartment. Yes, it's nearly impossible to avoid political engagement in these parts, but it is the nation's capital and so it -- like the plethora of free museums -- comes with the territory.

Now, I'll be honest, summer weather can be a little brutal -- whose idea was it to build this city in a swamp, anyway? -- and schlepping around with clipboards collecting signatures or waiting to see your representative can wear a politically active citizen out. But fear not: you can be an activist without leaving the comfort of your living room. Um. Er. I mean home office. Here are a few things that lovers of food access, bicycling, and empowerment might like to support by virtual means:

Act Locally

Make the DC Dept of Transportation accountable to their pledge to increase and improve bicycle lanes in the city. (Seriously, between aggressive traffic and potholes, I almost died about five times on my ride out to ECO City Farm last Thursday; once I hit the Anacostia River Trail System I was golden, but how about some more east-west bike lanes, DC?) I've definitely noticed a marked uptick in bike lane use (by cyclists as well as by cars, grrr) even just in the past year since my return.

With one online form you can send an email to the Mayor, the director and bicycle coordinator of the DDOT, and Tommy Wells (the Ward 6 councilman) and urge them to push for bike lanes along L and M streets downtown. Thanks, WABA, for helping us advocate for a more bike-friendly city!

Act Nationally

Save SNAP (aka food stamp) benefits in danger of being cut as part of the Deficit Reduction Plan. Thanks to the DC Hunger Solutions/Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) website, it's as easy as sending an email or calling your senator (if you have one, ahem). The letter that you can sign -- or edit, if you're a former English teacher like me (what, I can't help myself) -- urges the president to reduce the deficit in ways that won't increase poverty. You know, a little responsible policy making. (Those of you who followed the passing of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act may recall the bittersweet victory that funded improved school food while slashing SNAP benefits. And speaking of bittersweet....)

Act Globally

Perhaps you are more of a "pocketbook activist" -- yes, I just coined a term -- an online shopper who likes to put her money where her values are. Well, then you'll want to check out some of the items offered via Bittersweet -- a local group I've become somewhat enamored with recently. They are putting out a quarterly magazine focused on DC's most pressing social issues, but they also serve as an online outlet for responsibly produced goods from socially conscious groups around the world. (Not cheap, but very cool.) One thing that captured my attention in Bittersweet Zine's winter 2010/2011 issue on economic empowerment was the micro-loan gift cards. (Darn it, I can't find a link to this issue online, but you can go to the Opportunity International website.) If you're on the lookout for a cool birthday gift for a friend or family member, consider giving them a gift card to support a small-scale entrepreneur of their choice.

Speaking of Bittersweet Zine, keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming issue, featuring an article by yours truly on food communities in DC.... (Don't worry, mom and dad, I'll be sure to send you a copy.)

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