They’re spraying what!?


I received this notice, from my apartment complex, warning residents that MDA would be spraying the property for mosquitos.  And while I completely understand the seriousness of mosquito related diseases, I cannot get past the first sentence of this notice.  The property manager wrote as if mosquitos are large enough, and rare enough, for people to notice a mosquito trying to work its way onto the property.  Although this notice was quite amusing, it reminded me of the threats pesticides pose to our health.  There is obviously a reason that mosquito spraying took place between 12am and 5am and there is certainly a reason they warned residents to close all windows and doors and remain inside.  These substances are meant to kill.  It may be intended for insects, but these pesticides and insecticides are still toxic.

It is one thing to know about the impending mosquito treatment, but it is quite another to know exactly what the complex was treated with.  Who knows what else is applied to the lawns, gardens, and farm fields in our neighborhood?  Pesticide use transparency is imperative.  These pesticides are not being sprayed in enclosed facilities in a structure where only the applicator is exposed.  The public has a right to know what they are being exposed to and the potential risks associated with exposure.

The Maryland Pesticide Network, supported by the environmental community, worked vehemently throughout the 2013 Legislative Session to pass a pesticide reporting bill.  The bill was moved to summer study where the appointed workgroup will provide recommendations on the need for a pesticide use database.

Pesticide exposure has been linked to chronic diseases such as asthma, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.  With these health impacts do we really want industry representatives to win the argument that pesticide regulations are just fine?  I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure I do not want to put my health in the hands of an industry representative who is focused on their company’s bottom line.

Ruth Berlin, Director of the Maryland Pesticide Network (MPN), wrote a great blog on the pesticide workgroup, which was posted on MomsRising.  If you are interested in learning more, MPN’s website is packed with incredibly useful information!

Granting environmental progress

I was recently interviewed by Jesse Schaeffer ’12, Alumni Relations and Annual Giving Associate at Washington College and fellow WAC ’12 alum, about my position at Town Creek and my experience at Washington College.  Below is the great story she put together!  Click here to learn more about Washington College.

Granting environmental progress

MMilliken WACAt Washington College, Megan Milliken ’12 developed a comprehensive view of environmental issues. Now in her role at the Town Creek Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation based in Easton, Megan uses this perspective to make grants to nonprofit organizations and support initiatives across the State in an effort to achieve Maryland’s loftiest environmental goals.

“I love the thought that we put into our work…Our grantees are accomplishing so much here in Maryland and it’s such a rewarding position to be in.” Megan cites a recent grant to support a project through the Friends of Frederick County that deployed a mobile app to empower citizen-led enforcement of environmental laws; the app permits citizens to submit photos and information about potential land use violations impacting local water quality.

Megan joins Town Creek at a critical point in the foundation’s history. In the fall of 2010, Town Creek’s Board of Trustees made the decision to ‘sunset’ the organization, believing that “the urgency of the challenges and the promise of the opportunities is such as to warrant a full commitment” of the Foundation’s resources. Trustees pointed to the evolution of Maryland’s efforts to restore the Bay and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as evidence that a “special window of opportunity” had emerged in which they could make “substantial progress” toward State goals. In accordance with this decision, the pace of the Foundation’s grantmaking has accelerated with aims to exhaust the endowment sometime around 2021. Just last year, the Town Creek Foundation awarded 77 grants, totaling $5,340,600.

As Megan and her colleagues carry out this vision, administering grants to support existing State initiatives while promoting work that responds to questions about the fundamental sustainability of existing social systems, Megan has both the opportunity and the responsibility to retain a comprehensive view of the environmental work being conducted in Maryland. Megan reviews proposals and reports; attends committee hearings and tracks legislative bills with environmental impact; researches and reports on innovative initiatives in the Foundation’s blog; and at every turn, does her part to connect like-initiatives and build coalitions in the environmental community.

Throughout this work, Megan cannot help but be reminded of the tenet underscored in her undergraduate experience, the interconnectedness of the environment. “I often wonder: if I didn’t go to WC, would I be in the same position I am in now? I got such hands-on experience in the environmental program and working with Dr. Munson, my advisor. [He taught me that] there is more to the environment than just the Chesapeake Bay. It is important to keep that in mind and to put your work in perspective.”

Megan graduated from Washington College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies, receiving honors on her thesis entitled “The Taxonomic Recognition of Eubalaena japonica, the North Pacific Right Whale, and the Decisional Implications on the Recovery of the Species.” Before joining the team at the Town Creek Foundation, Megan interned in both the nonprofit and government sectors, having worked most recently with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Protected Resource – Endangered Species Division.  While at NOAA, she conducted literary searches for recovery plans and completed the first draft of the Fin Whale Five-Year Review. Megan also worked as a legislative intern for the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Food for Thought

Drum roll please … badadadadadadadadadadadadadada … After an almost 2 1/2 month hiatus we have returned to blogging!  I know what everyone is thinking – “Thank goodness!  We have been waiting with bated breath for your next post!”  Well lets not keep you waiting any longer.

We are keeping ourselves pretty busy at the Town Creek Foundation.  I cannot believe we are already halfway through July!

A few weeks ago I attended the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders11th Annual Forum: Rethinking Risk and Resilience in Providence, Rhode Island.  It was an incredible experience and well worth putting on my big girl pants and getting over my fear of flying (which I had not done since 5th grade, let alone, by myself).  I now consider myself a world traveler…or more like a state traveler…and navigated BWI like a champ.  I’m pretty sure I annoyed the TSA agent with all my questions, but in my defense, I just wanted to make sure I did everything properly.

Okay back to the conference …

The conference was packed with three days of thought provoking plenaries and informative workshops focused on various aspects of food system work.  It was a valuable opportunity to learn what other funders, from across the country, support on food (e.g. healthy food in schools; market based approaches; farmer education and organizing; policy reform).

Though no two funders’ goals were identical, they were built on the common recognition of the need for a transformed food system that breaks from the industrial and creates a space for local, sustainable food economies to thrive.

I left the conference with a long list of thoughts and valuable insights.  I thought one in particular, on re-industrialization, was especially valuable to be mindful of as we continue down the path of food system reform.  We want to break away from our unsustainable industrial food system, but how do we do that without re-industrializing?  With 313 million people in this country, I can imagine that it would be very easy to fall into a path of re-industrialization.  The speaker, who highlighted this point, characterized our current food system as depersonalized and distant and looked to relationships and networks as the key to avoid re-industrializing the system.  

The concept of unintentional re-industrialization was one of many light-bulb moments for me at the conference. I had not thought re-industrialization was a possible outcome of our focus on food system reform, but it makes complete sense.  Duh, Megan.  Maryland food system reform work is still in the early stages, but I think the issue of re-industrialization has real potential for us today.  If we are not mindful of the potential for re-industrializing, as we develop a collective strategy, our work could fall short of really moving away from our present day food system.  Just a thought.