SDP 2021-2022 Week 16: Development

The two words that encapsulated this week’s concluding chapter in the Synthesis process were ‘destination’ and ‘vision’. As we shifted our focus to the development side of the Pennington Avenue site, I felt a sense of clarity and inspiration after viewing presentations from Ruth Abbe and Kevin Drew. To quote Anand, “ Our thinking is traditionally linear – waste dies – this destination is a place with life – a transformative vision.” In thinking about regenerative models and the cyclical nature of waste, we are the mycelium within this ecosystem. The interconnectedness of our relationships and skillsets are furthering our collective vision toward zero waste infrastructure in Baltimore.

We started our class session with a recap of Friday’s meeting with admin. From the attendees’ reviews, it sounded like the meeting was somewhat successful with a dash of skepticism. There was support reflected in excessive head-nodding and ‘overall good vibes’ – which is the new way of gauging interest via virtual conferences. It was brought to our attention that there was push-back from the admin’s side in terms of the development itself and buy-in from other institutions. This meeting set the tone for this week’s focus on development and sparked the notion for extending our reach to neighboring institutions.

Our guest presenters, Ruth and Kevin, shared their background, past experiences, and current vision for the development of the Pennington Ave. site. I had a slew of epiphanies and ‘ah ha’ moments during their presentations, because they were able to paint a vivid image of all the possibilities that can come from the 64-acre plot. Prior to the presentation, my vision of a ‘zero waste park’ was cloudy and limited to my own understandings.

Ruth Abbe, president of Zero Waste USA, kickstarted the presentations. She provided helpful graphics, diagrams, and blueprints of current Resource Recovery Parks and Centers in Austin, San Francisco, and Kretsloppsparken, Sweden. Each example showcased how zero waste infrastructure could create jobs, provide education, mitigate hauling, and create behavior changes. These centers celebrated regeneration and new life – it personally gave me chills. Additionally, Ruth introduced the concept of an Airport Model – where there are multiple spaces within the development that could be contracted to outside tenants. I particularly favored this idea, because it allows the facility to bring in local business and cater toward community needs.

Kevin Drew, a leader of the Zero Waste Initiative in Northern California, followed with a presentation of California’s Black Gold and how composting can lead to carbon sequestering. Using San Francisco as a model, Kevin showed the evolution of their composting initiatives – from the ‘fantastic three’ bin system to the carbon and nutrient loop that is essential for soil, water, and overall public health. As a fellow public health student, I appreciated the way Kevin framed his work. There are multiple ripple effects that comes from shifting toward a regenerative society. Kevin described it as “an evolution and revolution of public health for regeneration of soil, bettering our food, and focusing on local entities.” We are transitioning to turn waste into resources.

Following the presentations, we dispersed into four groups. 1. Petition 2. Statement 3. PLAN Organizing 4. Email Response. We are in the momentum-building stage where the gears are turning slightly faster than before. We’ve identified the asks from our community partner and we are hitting the pavement hard with poetic and powerful phrasing from my esteemed group of peers. Writing is not one of my strong suits, so I am constantly in awe at how eloquent yet impactful their pieces have turned out. (shoutout to the SDP 2021-2022 Crew)

On Friday, myself and a few classmates were able to attend Towson University’s PLAN Chapter meeting. It was exciting to meet other co-conspirators that are navigating similar systems on the institution-side. I enjoyed the charisma of Dr. Fabricant – definitely an ally in our mission. In conversing with the Townson students, there was an echo of similar ideals that have been said on Hopkins’ side. Essentially, Towson is waiting for Hopkins’ commitment as an anchor-institution. Dr. Fab described this process as a game – with a lot of back and forth between powerful players. We are all pawns in this bureaucratic game which requires tactful strategizing. We are now in the works of collaborating and co-conspiring with Towson’s PLAN Chapter – game on!

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