Evans works with PUSH to confront social problems that impact community
By Benjamin Blanchet
Laura Evans has always found a way to help, both at home and around the country.
Evans was a peer listener at Hamburg High School in the early 2000s.
She sent public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency, urging them to have more stringent air quality standards.
And today, the attorney works for PUSH Buffalo and shares the stories of community leaders through her podcast.
Evans, an ‘03 Hamburg High graduate, is the force behind “Keeping Things Alive,” a podcast dedicated to environmental and social issues impacting Buffalo and the world. The podcast, which launched in 2017, has spanned over 50 episodes and covered issues such as nuclear waste and criminal justice reform.
Evans is also PUSH Buffalo’s development specialist, writing grants for the organization an advocating for Western New Yorkers’ social concerns.
Evans said bringing awareness to social and environmental issues through audio can help “amplify” critical information for the community.
“I’m interested in shifting culture and making people think outside the box, to take action in their communities,” Evans said. “Hearing from other people who have done that and inspiring others to do that, you can’t really get that from a blog post.”
Evans grew up in Eden and was an honors student who looked out for the needs of others through peer listening and lifeguarding at Hamburg High School.
After high school, she traveled south to study environmental law at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Aside from her work at a law clinic and the Texas Environmental Law Journal, she’s traveled the country and seen clearcutting of Oregon forests and bathtub lines on the Colorado River. She’s also worked with environmental nonprofit Earthjustice in protecting the Tongass National Forest, a rainforest in Alaska.
As Evans learned more about issues impacting the nation, she said she noticed that environmental laws are broken.
“I always felt deeply connected to nature, so all of these different experiences have always reinforced the interconnection of all of it and I also have witnessed the devastation that is happening,” she said.
Evans returned to Western New York in the summer of 2015 and two years later joined PUSH Buffalo, an organization which advocates for sustainability and affordable housing.
This year alone, Evans’ group brought roughly 85 people to Washington, D.C. for The People’s Wave, a convention that addressed topics such as “just energy” economies and Medicare-for-all.
PUSH has also earned $1.2 million from Empire State Development to build a Sustainability Workforce Training Center which Evans said would assist with solar and geothermal education on Buffalo’s west side.
“The transition to renewable energy is inevitable but justice is not,” Evans said. “So, if there aren’t actual measures put in place to actually bring people resources, communities could get left behind.”
One of the ways in which Evans has shined a light on the resources available in the community is through “Keeping Things Alive,” which started as a blog but morphed into a podcast inspired by her interactions with local activists.
“It’s powerful to have these deep-dive conversations with people. They feel heard, they’re able to tell their story and they’re able to share it with others, so it’s very exciting to hear all that,” Evans said.
She began doing interviews for her environmental blog, FedGreen, which led to a four-hour conversation with community activist Jim Anderson at Towne Restaurant. When she rushed home after her talk, she wasn’t sure how to share it.
“I tried to capture the conversation [in writing] but how could I do that after I just talked to someone for four hours,” Evans said.
Since then, Evans’ podcasts have been able to “capture” area issues like the West Valley Demonstration Project along with podcasts centered on self-care.
Jim Anderson, president of Peace Action New York State, has been featured on “Keeping Things Alive” to talk about nuclear peace and social teamwork strategies.
Anderson said Evans’ “heart and spirit” is in addressing environmental issues.
“In a time where a lot of people are looking for entertainment, what she brings is “inner attainment,’” Anderson said.
He added, “We should all be on a rescue mission for the planet and the people, so this podcast is being done by someone walking among the people. I think Laura is a jewel, not only as a friend but the great value of what she’s doing probably won’t be understood until many years later.”
Evans has also interviewed for her podcast Sarah Sorci, owner of community herb group Sweet Flag Herbs. Sorci, a Hamburg High School alumnus, encourages community members to listen to the podcast’s “range of topics,” such as episodes on finance and community advocacy. Evans said it’s important for Western New Yorkers, including Hamburg residents, to see the City of Buffalo as a place of living and not just a place of entertainment.
“We need innovative ideas that build solutions in our communities and don’t push people out and displace them because they’re poor or a person of color,” Evans said. “There’s suffering, poverty and racial/gender-based inequity going on but there’s also incredible ideas, resilience and people having each other’s back in this community.”