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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Americans once moved away from forests. Now forests are moving away from Americans./Washington Post

More bad news on the eco-capital side.  Preservation of land, forest has amazing environmental and economic benefits.  They are well documented around the world.  Saving open space, vegetation, tree canopies, natural habitat for wildlife is a proven winner.  Why are we not listening and holding on dearly to our woods?

Of course urban forest are critically important to the long-term health of our cities.

Study co-author Sheng Yang shows an example of tree canopy loss and receding forests on the campus of the State University of New York at Syracuse. (Wendy Osborne/SUNY)

Over several decades in the past century, city populations swelled as Americans moved away from rural forests. Now the forests are moving farther away from Americans.
A new study of satellite images taken over 10 years starting in 1990 shows the rural forest canopy disappearing. Forest space disappeared from the United States in such big chunks that the average distance from any point in the nation to a forest increased by 14 percent, about a third of a mile.
While that’s no big deal to a human driving a car with a pine-scented tree dangling from the rearview mirror, it is to a bird hoping to rest or find food on epic seasonal flights across the globe, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.
But forests aren’t just for the birds. They improve the quality of life for fauna and flora, from bears to flowers. Altering forests can change the dynamics of ecosystems and can potentially “affect water chemistry, soil erosion, carbon sequestration patterns, local climate, biodiversity distribution and human quality of life,” a statement announcing the report said.
Using forest maps over the continental United States, researchers Sheng Yang and Giorgos Mountrakis of the State University of New York at Syracuse marked tree canopy that disappeared over a decade in red to highlight the change. In one illustration included in the study, the page appeared to bleed.
“So if you are in the western U.S. or you are in a rural area or you are in land owned by a public entity, it could be federal, state or local, your distance to the forest is increasing much faster than the other areas,” Mountrakis said. “The forests are getting further away from you.”
One of the findings of the study is a twist that Yang, a graduate student, and Mountrakis, an assistant professor at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, didn’t anticipate. The disappearance isn’t happening in cities, where people often complain about the uprooting of trees for development. It’s happening in rural America, where trees are falling and hardly anyone hears.
That finding turns conventional wisdom about forest loss on its head, Mountrakis said. “The public perceives the urbanized and private lands as more vulnerable, but that’s not what our study showed,” he said. “Rural areas are at a higher risk of losing these forested patches.”
“Typically we concentrate more on urban forest,” said Sheng, “but we may need to start paying more attention — let’s say for biodiversity reasons — in rural rather than urban areas. Because the urban forests tend to receive much more attention, they are better protected.”
While people in the sticks are losing their forests, the relationship between urban dwellers and trees is a love story. Dating back to when President Thomas Jefferson denounced the removal of trees that cooled the new capital city as “a crime little short of murder,” Jill Jonnes wrote in her book, “Urban Forests,” city slickers have fought to defend the little green space they get.
Rock Creek Park in the District of Columbia, Central Park in New York, Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco are examples of urban forests that are fussed over, pampered and protected by law. They are also cherished gathering places that help define their cities.
The remote areas that Americans have come to know as wild lands are being whittled away by farms, development and wildfire, particularly in the West, Mountrakis said. Arizona, Colorado and Nevada saw significant attrition or separation of forests, according to the satellite images.
In California and Colorado, trees stressed by drought are being eaten to death by beetles, standing dead on mountainsides by the hundreds of millions, virtual ghost forests. Ecologists argue whether fires that might consume them are a good or bad thing, in that it would kill the beetles yet threaten homes too close to the forest edge. Human development is another grim agent of tree canopy loss.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Launch of 500 Cities Interactive Web Tool

We've enjoyed working with Green and Healthy Homes, and applaud them for their good work.  Here's their latest initiative.  We have no doubt this data will help shape our future in a smart way.


GHHI Partner Resource

GHHI has worked with our partners across the country around utilizing data to align efforts, braid funding streams, and coordinate activities across different departments and agencies. Having resources such as this new toolkit and web tool will be invaluable to understand the relationships between multiple factors that impact families, and allow programs to have the information they need to identify opportunities to best target their efforts. We encourage our partners to check out these new resources from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

500 Cities Interactive Web Tool

The launch of the 500 Cities interactive web application is on Thursday, March 2. The new interactive feature enables the retrieval, visualization, and exploration of city and census tract-level data.  

Join in the #500Cities social media Thunderclap to ensure the release of the new web interactive will rise above the noise of our social media lives when it releases Thursday, March 2. When you offer your support, you can decide if you'd like to share a simultaneous tweet or Facebook post that will automatically post on noon, March 2.

500 Cities Interactive Toolkit

This resource includes key messages, social media language, and other communication resources to help spread the word about the project. If you have questions or need assistance in customizing the press materials, please email

More Information and Contact

For more information, please contact the project managers at

Newport closer to banning single-use plastic bags

We have been advocating, in every community, to ban retail use of plastic bags...which are an environmental nightmare.  Kudos to Newport, RI for teeing up to get the bags out of their city.

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Newport city councilors have unanimously voted to approve an ordinance banning single-use plastic shopping bags in an effort to make the city more environment-friendly.
The 7-0 vote Wednesday came after a series of supporters of the ban addressed the council and no one voiced opposition.
The Newport Daily News reports that an ordinance must pass on two separate votes at two separate council meetings. The council will hold a second vote on March 8.
If approved, Newport would become the second municipality in Rhode Island to ban plastic bags.
Councilman John Florez says the world produces 1 trillion plastic bags annually, and studies have shown that 90 percent of all marine birds and 35 percent of all fish have plastic in them. Florez introduced the resolution.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Advanced Energy Economy: Who and Why?

This week the conversation at RN is converging around building the low-carbon economy.  Here's a group doing a great job shaping that conversation around shared contribution from business and government.  Look for them to join us soon on a radio segment.

In the meantime take a closer look at their work and the data on how big this financial transition is for each of us, and note the countries leading the way:


AEE is an organization of businesses working to make energy secure, clean, and affordable
ADVANCED ENERGY ECONOMY (AEE) is a national association of business leaders who are making the global energy system more secure, clean, and affordable. Advanced energy encompasses a broad range of products and services that constitute the best available technologies for meeting energy needs today and tomorrow. Among these are energy efficiency, demand response, energy storage, natural gas electric generation, solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, electric vehicles, biofuels and smart grid. It's all the innovations that make the energy we use more secure, clean, and affordable.
AEE's vision is of a prosperous world that runs on secure, clean, affordable energy.
Our mission is transforming public policy to enable rapid growth of advanced energy companies.
AEE engages in policy advocacy at the federal, state, and regulatory levels; CEO-to-CEO convenings to identify and address cross-industry issues; and targeted outreach to key stakeholder groups and policymakers.
We also work with a growing coalition of state and regional partner organizations across states and industries to help the advanced energy industry succeed nationwide.
With global energy consumption projected to rise nearly 40 percent by 2030, future prosperity depends on meeting growing demand with energy that is secure, clean and affordable - that is, advanced energy. Advanced energy solutions create value for customers and for the economy. It is this value that contributes to long-term growth for the economy overall, and to growth of advanced energy companies specifically. Just as the Internet economy transformed society in unexpected ways, the advanced energy economy has the potential to create dramatic new opportunities for economic growth in the U.S. and around the world

Investing in Green: Corporate Strategies That Address Environmental Sustainability

Exactly what we discussed yesterday on the radio show--pushing into the low-carbon economy is a multi-trillion dollar investment opportunity, loaded with new co's, thousands of jobs and powered by incredible technology.  Our guest yesterday, Lynn Scarlett, is quoted here as well.

Green infrastructure...what it it a foundation for smart growth.  We thing it is., stock quotes, stock exchange, market price, stock market advice, technical analysis, stock chart analysis, Company News

Terry Tamminen, co-founder of the R20 Regions of Climate Action, speaks at the Scher Sustainability Forum on May 18, 2016.

Major financial investments - from both public and private sources, and guided by smart and equitable policies - are required to transition the world's economy to a low-carbon path, reduce greenhouse gas concentrations to safe levels, and build the resilience of vulnerable countries to climate change. But how can we manage this shift?

Three environmental leaders recently discussed these issues at the AU School of Public Affairs' Scher Sustainability Forum on Private-Public Financing for Global Sustainability. Held on May 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., panelists included Terry Tamminen, co-founder of the R20 Regions of Climate Action; William K. Reilly, former Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency and member of the President's Global Development Council; and, Lynn Scarlett, Global Managing Director for Public Policy at the Nature Conservancy.

'We need trillions, not billions, if we're going to solve the world's environmental problems,' said Tamminen. 'There's an enormous amount of capital needed if we're going to move our economy from brown to green.'

Dan Fiorino, director of SPA's Center for Environmental Policy and event moderator, spoke about the importance of overcoming environmental challenges with relatively small global investments.

In his remarks, Fiorino described the need to identify smart public policy and innovative investments, noting that the United Nations reports that 'investing two percent of the global GDP into 10 key [green] sectors could kick-start a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy. That's a little under 2 trillion dollars. Is it doable? We'll find out.'

Lynn Scarlett talked about ways to put nature to work for the economy by investing in green infrastructure, such as increased greening to mitigate storm water runoff - which costs billions annually - or in coastal protection.

'We need better, cheaper, smarter, greener,' said Scarlett. 'The Nature Conservancy is looking at how we can put nature to work. For example, we've been looking at the role of oyster reefs in coastal resiliency and the role that restoration plays.'

When discussing the best scenario for climate change, insurance companies offer one opportunity to leverage change for governments around the world. Tamminen mentioned that British officials were alarmed in the 1980's when they discovered that insurance companies would no longer issue policies in the city of London because of climate risk and flooding. Working with the insurance companies, London officials were able to make a few billion dollars of changes to underground electrical lines and to add green space and natural flood barriers. According to Tamminen, these flooding and energy inefficiencies would have cost 10 times the amount to fix in the future if left unaddressed. And Londoners can once again buy insurance policies.

Bill Reilly talked about green infrastructure taking hold across the United States. Reilly said that in Chicago, the mayor asked what could be done in preparation for climate change. He worked with the city's universities and installed permeable concrete, expanded emergency services in preparation for heat related illnesses, increased green roofing, and planted trees that help to mitigate storm water runoff.

'A lot of very good things are happening at the local level, and undertaken even when Congress wasn't interested,' said Reilly. Investing in nature is not without its challenges. The panelists talked about how countries around the world work in different ways, with different politics and policies that can sometimes work against environmental solutions. There are many global challenges, but the panelists identified waste, transportation, and energy efficiency as opportunities ripe for investment and collaboration.

'Nature really does make a difference and investing in it properly can be a very cost effective solution,' said Scarlett.

The Scher Sustainability Forum was established by Peter Scher, a graduate of SPA, and his wife, Kim Tilley. Their passion for environmental responsibility in both the public and private sector inspired the founding of this series. The Forum explores the most pressing environmental and energy policy issues of our time.

Please visit SPA's Center for Environmental Policy for more information.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Making the Switch: Smart Technology and Grid Reform for the 21st Century/Nature's Conservancy

As promised, here's the first of Lynn Scarlett's work that we will profile over a couple of days:



It’s that time of the year again.
We’ve been having those tricky weeks here in the Southeast, where one day it’s mild enough for a fleece jacket and the next you have to put on a parka and tall boots. The house is too cold, so you adjust the thermostat; then it’s too hot.
Technology is reimagining all that, changing how we manage our daily routines. We have ‘smart’ thermostats that learn how we use heating and cooling and adjust to our preferences. We have refrigerators that will tell us if we are out of milk. And soon, we’ll have more cars on the roads that drive themselves (well, maybe).
As consumers, we are growing to expect that the technology we use will adapt in real time to how we live our lives. And technology companies are meeting the challenge.
So it’s surprising that the tech sector hasn’t applied these same expectations, with the same spirit of innovation, to how we generate, transport and use electric power. We are only just starting to see the types of storage technologies that enable and adapt to renewable sources like solar and wind, allowing these sources to truly replace traditional generation. Energy-efficiency technologies offer consumers, businesses, and governments the opportunity to save energy, emissions and money all at the same time. But despite their popularity, uptake and innovation are still slow.
Solar panels adjacent to an elementary school in Antelope Valley. Photo © Dave Lauridsen/TNC
lSoar panels adjacent to an elementary school in Antelope Valley. Photo © Dave Lauridsen/TNC
Technologies are available that can monitor and optimize our electric grid’s ability to deliver power where and when it’s most needed — and save consumers money.
Investments from the U.S. Department of Energy have led to the deployment of state-of-the-art grid technology, including 15 million smart meters, 8,500 automated feeder switches and over 1,000 phasor measurement units. But even with these initial modest successes, full integration of these technologies into our massive grid remains mostly an idea.
The Energy Department estimates that with an additional $100 billion investment by the industry as a whole — building off of the $10 billion DOE has already invested — we could fully modernize the grid, saving consumers $2 trillion over the next 20 years.
The electric power industry is as interested in grid reform as anyone. Industry leaders recognize we’re moving toward a world with more electricity generation sources — especially renewable sources — distributed more widely across the grid. Adapting to the new reality will require new technologies and functionalities that will make our grid more secure and efficient, but also save consumers money.
One of the most crucial first steps is visibility — enabling those managing the distribution of power along the grid to actually see, in real time, which sources are connected and what power is being drawn or produced from each source. Visibility is critical to managing a more distributed renewable generation-based grid from solar panels, wind turbines, storage batteries, electric cars and smart technologies.
This new, highly distributed, nimble grid will also be more reliable. More visibility not only allows generation to be deployed more efficiently, but also allows operators to see potential trouble spots and address them quickly and more effectively.
California poppy preserve in Antelope Valley. Photo © Dave Lauridsen/TNC
Visibility also empowers consumers by allowing users to see how their energy is delivered to them, including rate structures, costs and usage patterns. Consumers armed with such information gain an ability to alter their own usage patterns to reduce their consumption at critical times, saving themselves money and ultimately making the grid more efficient. Empowering consumers also, to some extent, means empowering innovation — giving entrepreneurs who are developing new energy delivery products and services the ability to access the grid and develop solutions at a reasonable cost.
None of these capabilities is so futuristic that they could not be realized in the very near term. In fact, some of this technology is already available, even if it is not yet widely used. Yet the smart grid of the future exists more as an ambition than an achievement.
Our focus as a nation on reinventing our electric power grid, much like the weather, has been running hot and cold. We need to make the switch — to turn up the heat on the demand for innovation. We need more capital, more research and development, and more commitment from policymakers at all levels of government.
The time has come for those of us who use electric power to demand more from our grid, those who manage it and the technologists who would take it to the next level.

Go to our main site to register/Renewable

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