Archive for September, 2011

A new venue to share creative ideas about conservation and environmental policy – yay! A few years out of school and heading back for my PhD in January, I’m excited to become a part of your online community. Currently, I am working with the US Forest Service in Golden, Colorado. My job with the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition involves dealing with a lot of issues (fire, water, climate change, forest products, etc.) that cross ownership boundaries (federal, state, tribal, and private) and engage a lot of different agencies (US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, State Forestry and Wildlife agencies, etc.) and organizations (The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Northwest, Center for Biological Diversity, etc.).

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at Colorado State University on large landscape conservation in Australia. Closely tied to the work I did during my master’s at the University of Maryland and my current work with the US Forest Service, I was interested to hear what someone from another country had to say about “connectivity conservation.”

Green Infrastructure BookWhat I was brought up on is a concept called “green infrastructure.” Defined in the text “Green Infrastructure: Linking Landscapes and Communities” by Mark Benedict and Ed McMahon, green infrastructure is “strategically planned and managed networks of natural lands, working landscapes and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functions and provide associated benefits to human populations.” Put more simply, it’s all the green (and blue and brown) places that produce the clean air, water, habitat, and other stuff we need to live and be happy. Critical to keeping this green infrastructure highly functioning are two concepts: connectivity and strategic planning. For water to flow, species to migrate, and other ecosystem processes to remain intact, landscapes need to be physically connected. New urban and suburban development are major contributors to fragmentation, or the loss of connectivity, but can be planned in such a way as to avoid damaging impacts. This strategic planning that balances conservation and development needs is often called green infrastructure planning and is carried out by many states and counties in the US.

Landowners doing conservation workWhat Carina Wyborn, a PhD student at the Australian National University, talked about was large landscape connectivity conservation. Motivated by a desire to halt biodiversity decline and preserve ecosystem processes in the face of climate change and habitat fragmentation, these initiatives are driven by individuals, institutions, and agencies collaborating across large geographic scales. Australia is creating a National Wildlife Corridor Policy that includes a system of conservation lands across the country that connects both people and landscapes. The idea of people in the landscape and as integral parts of highly functioning ecosystems is central to their ideas about conservation.

Most striking to me was the way Carina talked about a concept similar to green infrastructure using different words that are resonant in her place and culture. Being able to understand and communicate conservation concepts across perspectives is important and will help make us more effective stewards of the environment we care so deeply about.


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Given the wealth of discussion on the previous post relating to the land requirements for sustainable food production for a family of four, and the subsequent difficulties that would pose in the Urban Environment. I wanted to link to this really interesting article, The Rise of Urban Farming, that talks about the large amounts of food that is currently being raised on far less land than was suggested by the infographic that I originally presented from One Block off the Grid.

I firmly believe that it is worthwhile to produce what you can, where you can — with the ultimate goal of trying to reach total sustainability. As many of the comments seems to illustrate, this is admittedly a difficult proposition. But I would like to ask that you at least approach the idea with an open mind and look carefully at what some of these people are currently doing in their own progress toward that goal.

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A Liter of Light

I ran across this today in my stumbles through the internet. I had heard about this project a few months ago, but only that it was occurring. The joy of seeing a project like this that is truly the project of re-purposing objects that had previously been though of as trash is something that I don’t have the words to express. I have to say that I am very happy that this video has been made and I am very happy to see it being shared around the world.

Personally I am going to make a pledge to help. What about you?


Website for the Organization: Isang Litrong Liwanag

Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Tumblr Page


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Jamie Oliver is a renowned chef and food activist, who is currently best known for his prime time show on ABC, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. He was  awarded the prestigious TED prize in February of 2010, and as part of that prize selection, he had the opportunity to present his acceptance speech. This was given just at the conclusion of the first season of the Food Revolution TV show. Jamie stands up in front of the audience and instead of talking about himself and lauding his own accomplishments, he instead tells the story about his wish for the children of the US and the for the world itself.

This is an powerful and moving video and I fully support him in his wish.

I wonder what the world would be like if we could all decide to work together, and with a concerted effort to make his wish into a reality…

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I came across this great article from The Hindu, “Neyyattinkara municipality turns to natural farming .” As I read into the article I realized that this method is something that I have never heard of before and after reading a bit more about it, it seems like a no-brainer. I mean why wouldn’t a farmer, especially a poor farmer, want to use resources that he/she already has in abundance to fertilize his/her crops? Even more so when this usage would reduce the amount spent on commercially prepared (expensive) fertilizers that have to be brought in from outside the farm!

This article tells how a province in India is planning to implement this method across its agricultural areas in the near future. Below is an excerpt from the same:

“ZBNF is an emerging trend in agriculture that propagates use of natural manure and nutrients for farming instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Unlike organic farming, this method of farming focusses on using things that are naturally available inside or around the farm so that nothing is purchased from outside.
“Most prominently, it focusses on the use of dung and urine of local breeds of cows that are considered to be the best source of nutrients and microbes for cultivation. This method has been successfully tested in Palakkad district and has proven to give high yield in vegetable cultivation,” Neyyattinkara municipality secretary G. Sudhakaran said.”

Once again I am struck at how it seems that much of the agricultural production in this country (USA) is focused on the production of food and grain crops not for the food value, but rather for the commercial benefit of producing, and then selling, the industrial fertilizers and pesticides and other chemicals that fuel the system in the US. I bemoan the failure of the FDA and the USDA that now say specifically that any “food” grown where animal waste has be used as fertilizer is considered tainted and possibly not safe for human consumption……

Some more resources about Zero Budget Natural Farming from the web:

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

ZBNF in India

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So apparently the great Chesapeake Bay, the historical local for the harvest of oysters in the US and the primary source for the same, is in danger of being closed permanently!

This great Bay yielded 15million bushels of oysters a year back in the late 1880’s. Now I will grant you that sounds like an impressive sum, but it also begs the question “How much is that really? I mean, how many people will that feed?” Well for those of you who do not know a great deal about oysters, a bushel is approximately 50lbs in weight and will feed 4 – 5 people. So basically this one location yielded 750 MILLION pounds of oysters, that would feed 3 million people!

Now to put the level of overfishing in perspective, the total harvest for the year in 1994 was 79,000 pounds. To put this in perspective — this total catch is less than 1/2 of one percent of the catch in the 1880’s.

Now the truth is that there are a number of causes for the decline in the oyster populations. You can point your finger at overfishing, poor management of resources, changing climate patterns, chemical influx to the bay from FRACKING wells, raw sewage from the commercial chicken farms that line the bay, or any one of another hundred plus alleged sources.

What is known more than anything else is this — populations are so low currently that many are convinced that while extinction is not really a concern (the oyster lives along the entire Atlantic coast), the continued presence of this vital filter feeder in the Chesapeake Bay system is questionable.

Read the original article here for a deeper perspective on the issue. The comments (here) add even more depth to the complexity and controversy that surround this proposal.

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Ray Anderson, the advocate of sustainability in business, died on Monday at age 77. Share his powerful TEDTalk — in which he explores the personal, ethical and practical motives for building a responsible business. The company he founded, the carpet manufacturer Interface, “set what may well be the highest sustainability benchmark of any industrial company,” writes Joel Makower in a tribute on Greenbiz.com. Anderson led the company to think about every step along the manufacturing chain, down to their standing offer to recycle used carpet at the end of its life.



Truly, he was an inspirational businessman with a big heart that could change the world we live in. If you haven’t heard him speak, please take a moment and learn a bit about the heart and economics of sustainable business. No excuses can be made anymore. Industry, itself is the only entity powerful enough to lead this change and it must start from within.

“If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”



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