Blogging & Web

Black History: Craig Hooks

As an African American scientist managing the administrative arm of the agency, I am keenly aware of my unusual background, professional journey and the successes of African Americans who have contributed to environmental protection and energy efficiencies and EPA’s progress in sustainability. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Florida and a Masters degree in Oceanography from the Texas A&M University. I worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a physical scientist prior to joining EPA in the mid 1980s.

At EPA, I worked in a variety of organizations including the enforcement and the water offices. In 2009, then-Administrator Lisa P. Jackson asked me to serve as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Administration and Resources Management. I was honored and excited about this opportunity. OARM provides national leadership, policy, and management of many essential support functions for the agency, including human resources management, acquisition activities, grants management, and management and protection of EPA’s facilities and other critical assets nationwide. I also serve as the agency’s Senior Sustainability Officer, providing leadership in implementing Executive Order 13514 which is aimed at improving Federal environmental, energy and economic performance.

It is EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. Environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive. African Americans with noteworthy accomplishments in environmental protection helped pave the way for EPA’s progress. For example, George Carruthers invented the far ultraviolet camera/spectrograph in 1969. It was plated in gold and carried aboard the Apollo 16 mission, where it was placed on the moon’s surface. The camera used ultraviolet light, invisible to the naked eye, to capture high-quality images of Earth. Carruthers’ invention helped scientists see how air pollution forms, allowing them to develop new ways to control air pollution. Clarence L. Elder, head of his own research and development firm in Baltimore, was awarded a patent in 1976 for a monitoring and control energy conservation system. His “Occustat” is designed to reduce energy waste in temporarily vacant homes and other buildings, and especially useful for hotels and school rooms.

I am especially proud to share the many successes EPA has achieved in the sustainability area. EPA scored green in every category for the 2011 and 2012 OMB Sustainability/Energy scorecards, demonstrating the success of the agency’s long-term, comprehensive approach to sustainability. EPA is a leading agency in sustainability in the federal government and only one of two (GSA being the other) agency to achieve green in all categories for two years in a row. Additionally, EPA is again leading the government by being green in 2013.

Through increased video conferencing, EPA was able to reduce green house gas emissions associated with air travel by 46 percent in FY 2012 compared to FY 2008. And employees increased their average telework hours per pay period by 35.3 percent compared to the previous year and by 136.4 percent compared to FY 2009. Due to several major energy projects and mechanical system upgrades, EPA reduced its FY 2012 energy intensity by 23.7 percent compared to its FY 2003 baseline. In FY 2012, EPA achieved a non-hazardous solid waste diversion rate of 63 percent, far exceeding the EO 13514 target of a 50 percent diversion rate by FY 2015.

And EPA continues lead federal agencies by purchasing green power and renewable energy certificates equal to 100 percent of its annual electricity use.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Twitterers, Speak Up!

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993 to help protect the ozone layer. He is now the National Web Content Manager.

Ever notice that link on the right of our blog pages that says “Follow us on Twitter?” Twitter.com lets people get short, real-time updates from other people who are also on Twitter (it’s called “microblogging,” and there are other sites besides Twitter). Most of it is friends chatting or colleagues sharing tips. And that seems to be the best possible use for microblogging.

But another way to use it is to post your headlines. It’s like RSS plus: no feed reader needed and you get everyone’s feeds in one window.

Our friends at usa.gov put post titles from their blog, GovGab. on Twitter a few months ago using their RSS feed. It took them only a few minutes to set up, and then it ran by itself. That seemed like an easy way to check out this system, and it’s free, so Greenversations has been on Twitter ever since. And boy, were we surprised at what happened.

With no advertising, 25 people started following us, making us wonder what would happen if we made it easier. So we added the link on the right. On Wed., the 300th Twitterer started following us: @thegreenscene. And a few more pile on each day. With that success, we decided to try our news release headlines on Twitter, too.

This is a great example of using a Web 2.0 tool to put information where the people are, instead of making them come to us (speaking of which, have you seen our Question of the Week widget?). As of today, most of our blog’s traffic is people reading on this site. But between Twitter and our RSS feed, I think that will change.

Changing gears a bit, I’d like your help if you’re a Twitterer. You all have people following you, and some of you have hundreds or even thousands. Let’s try an experiment, to see whether people who already follow us influence people following them. If you’d like to help:

  1. Please tweet us (post on Twitter). It could be as simple as “Check out EPA’s blog on Twitter: @greenversations” or “EPA’s tweeting its news releases: @usepanews”
  2. Leave a comment here introducing yourself.

And whether you’re on Twitter or not, tell us how you use Web 2.0 to stay in touch with what’s going on with EPA, this blog, and environmental protection in general.

I’ll be checking our numbers and will report back with what happens.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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September 11

About the author: Marcus Peacock is the Deputy Administrator of EPA.

In 1940 Nazi Germany was consuming Europe. The United States was doing its best to stay neutral. In fact, it was illegal for a US citizen to join a warring power’s military or even ‘hire someone for the purpose of traveling outside the United States to enlist in a foreign country’s military.’ The penalty for doing so was a $10,000 fine and five-year jail sentence.

Despite this, dozens and dozens of US citizens tried to leave the country and join the fight against the Nazis. They included Billy Fiske, who a few years before, at age 16, was the youngest American to ever win an Olympic gold medal. They included a budding poet, John Magee, Jr., who gave up a full scholarship to Yale to fly for the Royal Air Force (see poem below).

And then there was Art Donahue. Art grew up on a farm in Minnesota and at age 19 became the youngest qualified commercial pilot in the state. War broke out when he was 27. The bumper corn crop that year didn’t obscure his view of what was going on. He said, “I felt that this was America’s war as much as England’s and France’s, because America was part of the world which Hitler and his minions were so plainly out to conquer.” In July of 1940 Art wangled his way to London believing it was his mission to defeat what he called barbarism. He saw first hand the courage and composure of the English people. “To fight side by side with these people would be the greatest of privileges,” he said.

Over the next two years Donahue fought all over the world. He flew in England, the Mediterranean, and Singapore. He was shot down twice and horribly burned. Yet he returned to fight again. On September 11, 1942 he went out on a mission over Ostend, and didn’t return. His body was never recovered.

High Flight
by John Magee, Jr
killed December 11, 1941

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds…and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space…
…put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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To Blog or Not to Blog

About the author: Jeffrey Levy is the Greenversations Editor.

Yesterday, we observed completing a year of EPA blogging by asking whether you’ve been inspired or surprised, or learned anything from our blogs. As usual with our questions, we got some thought-provoking answers. I’d like to thank everyone who’s commented so far. We really do appreciate hearing your thoughts, both positive and negative. Without anyone criticizing, we lose the nudge to keep trying to improve.

The comment that started me writing this post was from “Seagul,” who asked how much time the blog takes, wondering whether it was a waste. I could spend some time developing an estimate of how much time we spend on the blog, but to what purpose? Even if it was only one hour a week, someone would still think it was wasteful. The good news is that we’re getting more efficient at managing the blog.

A more important point is that this blog is part of a much broader exploration of how best to use available tools to carry out our mission. Our regulatory, enforcement, and science staff continue with the important work they’ve been doing. Here in the communications area, we contribute primarily through education and outreach. Aside from the blog, we’re looking at podcasting, wikis, photo and video contests, etc. Admittedly, we’re a little slow compared to some of the private sector, but we’ll get there. And you’re helping us with your feedback.

Over the past year or so, we’ve launched a bunch of new things on our Web site. Have you seen our widgets? We’re looking at widgets as a way to get information to people who might never come to our Web site. The one that provides a daily environmental tip was seen 363,000 times in June, which is more than any single page on our site other than the home page. An example of new blog concepts is that last week, we launched Science Wednesday in the blog.

Reasonable people will always disagree as to whether a particular project is worthwhile. But rest assured, we’re looking at the least expensive, simplest way of doing all of them, to the point we won’t do a lot of stuff. Some of what we do try will work, and some won’t. That’s how it works when you try new things.

The upshot is, we’ll continue to learn and explore new options. And that, I think, isn’t a waste.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.