Category Archives: Democracy

Adventures in Virginia’s Renewable Energy Fights

Adventures in Virginia’s Renewable Energy Fights

In summer and autumn 2017, there was a palpable sense of grassroots, progressive energy across the state of Virginia. After all, it was the first major state election cycle since the advent of the Trump administration. I had spent a lot of volunteer time in 2017 working on Fairfax County renewable energy issues at the county supervisor and school board level for much of the year and also speaking as a Climate Reality Leader.

Whenever I had the chance, I reminded people how critical it was to vote in the state election as most climate progress could only be achieved at the state level with Trump in the White House. In fact, fellow environmental activists managed to rally more than 100 people confront then gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam during one community event on his wishy-washy stance on the Atlantic Coast and WB Xpress pipelines. Citizens stressed that the projects would increase our carbon footprint and create more price increases for taxpayers. We let several Democrats know this cycle that business as usual and doing the bidding of Dominion Energy was no longer acceptable. Continue reading

Taking Your House Solar: Five Things You Should Know

Taking Your House Solar: Five Things You Should Know

Find out more about Tesla Energy SolarCity

It’s not easy being a solar guinea pig. But in the Commonwealth of Virginia, that’s what many of us have become. I’m talking about the thousands of others like me rolling the dice to solarize their home and see if it pays off despite an unfriendly atmosphere. At times, it can feel a little bit like you’re on your hamster wheel going around in circles. Solar energy in Virginia is still in its primordial phase.

The state ranks an abysmal 38th out of 50 states, according to Solar Power Rocks.  Virginia boasts anemic state tax credits, rock bottom renewable energy credits, weak RPS laws (which encourage diversification to more renewables) and lots of other impediments. We’re talking about a meager 241 megawatts compared to 1,591 megawatts in Massachusetts.  Much of this is due to the dominance of one power company, Dominion Energy (feel free to swing by their Facebook page to give them a piece of your mind after this post). They dictate not only what kind of power most customers get but also dictate terms to legislators in the capital of Richmond.

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Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project: Getting Inspired to Lead On Climate

Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project: Getting Inspired to Lead On Climate

Greetings from Denver! I’m still processing the incredibly inspiring three days I spent at the Colorado Convention Center with roughly 1,000 other people who were lucky enough to be selected as part of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps. As if I didn’t have enough to do working on fighting climate change at Greenpeace!

Seriously, the reason I began investigating the work of the Climate Reality Project is because my current Greenpeace portfolio keeps me focused squarely on food and sustainability issues internationally, especially our addiction to heavy-meat diets. Since Greenpeace doesn’t currently have an active food campaign in the United States, I find that I spend most of my time thinking about cows and chickens overseas.

Yet as an American citizen living in the age of a Trump presidency,  I felt compelled to devote some of my time in environmental battles certain to take place inside the United States in the next four years. I’m tremendously concerned about Trump’s threat to pull out of the historic Paris Climate Accords, his appointments of climate denier Scott Pruitt to the EPA (who thinks CO2 doesn’t contribute to global warming), former Texas Governor Rick Perry to the Department of Energy (who couldn’t even remember the department he now runs) and ex-Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson (a company that lied about climate impacts to the public) to the State Department. I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines. Since all politics are local, why not focus on civic engagement, local politics, renewable energy and climate change at the local level – in my case, the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.?

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Empowering future Arab leaders: There’s an app for that

Empowering future Arab leaders: There’s an app for that

When Radio Sawa launched as an FM radio station network in the Middle East in 2002, the Arab world had not really experienced anything like it. In many Arab countries, restrictive state control of radio licenses stifled innovation in music programming. But Radio Sawa provided an alternative of a mix of Arab and Western popular music coupled with on-the-hour objective newscasts and magazine shows on social issues.

Launching in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and the Palestinian Territories, Radio Sawa was the “cool channel” on the FM dial at the turn of the century. As the decade continued, a liberalization of the broadcast landscape and local investment in media created lots of competition. In addition, in key countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, terrestrial FM distribution was elusive. Some markets had never even heard of Radio Sawa or its unique news brand.

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PBS MediaShift – ‘Syria Stories’ Uses On-Demand Illustrations to Tell Personal Wartime Stories

PBS MediaShift – ‘Syria Stories’ Uses On-Demand Illustrations to Tell Personal Wartime Stories

Published on PBS Mediashift with Mark Glaser.

This article was co-written by Brian Williamson. It’s a first-person account of a project by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

The news reports from Syria are dominated by casualty counts: 80 thousand… 90 thousand… 100 thousand people killed in the conflict.

Comprehension of Syria’s human suffering is desperately needed to keep the human cost in perspective. Journalists at the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) (part of the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors) felt that a different approach was needed to give an Arab-speaking audience a deeper, personal connection to individual Syrians trying to survive.

Syria Stories is a new online documentary project from MBN that aims to tell the stories of the ongoing Syrian civil war on a very personal, human scale.

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Samsung, iPhone, Nokia and the Next Arab Spring

Samsung, iPhone, Nokia and the Next Arab Spring

If there is to be another Arab Spring in the next few years, it will look markedly different from what has transpired in 2011-12. Social media and mobile phones clearly played a role. But satellite television was deemed the amplifier that took self-organizing groups on Twitter and Facebook and turned them into million-man (and women) marches and armed resistance. Next time the Arab Spring may be more subtle… and more powerful.

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Ashraf Khalil – Reflections on the Meaning Of Tahrir Square in Egypt

Ashraf Khalil – Reflections on the Meaning Of Tahrir Square in Egypt

Ashraf Khalil, an Egyptian-American journalist living in Cairo, literally wrote the book on Egypt’s Tahrir revolution. After writing for the Times of London and Foreign Policy magazine, in 2010, Khalil wrote Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation about the events leading up to the January 25 revolution that brought about the downfall of Hosni Mubarak.

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REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: Egypt Returns to Tahrir Square

REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: Egypt Returns to Tahrir Square

Voice of America dispatched teams to Cairo to cover the historic presidential election between Mohamed Morsi and Ahmad Shafiq. The same week, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces assumed legislative powers as the Supreme Court dissolved the democratically elected parliament. Egyptians sporadically protested in Tahrir that week until after the elections, when tens of thousands marched on Tahrir in defiance of SCAF.

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Covering the Arab Spring With Tumblr In Syria and Bahrain

Covering the Arab Spring With Tumblr In Syria and Bahrain

Before we embarked on re-launching the award-winning Arab Spring blog, Middle East Voices, the Middle East team in VOA English actually learned some tough lessons in creating participatory micro-sites. We originally planned to created Middle East Voices on Tumblr but after two experiences, we realized we needed to use a more robust platform which turned out to be responsive WordPress.

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Analysis: An Agenda for Egypt’s Next President and His First 100 Days

Analysis: An Agenda for Egypt’s Next President and His First 100 Days

All eyes are on Egypt this week as the democratic birth-pangs that began with last year’s Tahrir Revolution seem to be undergoing their final convulsions. Two days of voting May 23 and 24 mark the main event – the heavily anticipated presidential election, the first after the ouster last of long-time president Hosni Mubarak. With this week’s round of votes and a presumed run-off next month, the nation of more than 80 million will decide on which man will set the tone of executive leadership in Egypt’s new era.

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Is the Arab Spring Over? – Reflections on Bahrain

Is the Arab Spring Over? – Reflections on Bahrain

Is the Arab Spring over? It’s a question on the minds of many observers of Middle East politics. Back in 2011, in Bahrain, Syria and Egypt, television stations broadcast scenes of defiant democracy movements and socially mobilized youth taking to the streets, in most cases peacefully demanding the removal of old systems along with their entrenched leaders. The scenes a year later look markedly different.

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The Art of Flight – Documentary on Sudanese Refugees in Egypt

The Art of Flight – Documentary on Sudanese Refugees in Egypt

The Art Of Flight tells the story of refugees fleeing Sudan’s civil war for Egypt and one journalist’s struggle to get their story told. This feature-length film tells the story of three people who have found themselves struggling to survive in Egypt – a U.S.-financed dictatorship which has reluctantly become their home. The film delves deep into the nature of charity, the consequences of American empire and the price of transience.

The documentary debuted at AFI Fest Hollywood, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and Bangkok International Film Festival and is distributed by 7th Art Releasing.

Available on iTunes.