World Water Day: Water Ethics

“The definition of ethics from the Greek means customary or habitual and what’s customary or habitual with Americans regarding water use is that it’s plentiful and it’s clean and we don’t have to think about it. We just use as much as we want until some conflict arises.”

– Rick Kyte, D.B. Reinhard Institute for Ethics in Leadership

imgres-1If you think technology is going to be the big fix for issues and problems associated with the  availability, use, and conservation of water, especially in the context of global warming, you might want to balance that view with a better understanding of how important is the ethic of water by listening to seven thoughtful leaders from the Center for Humans and Nature as part of their project,  Fostering a Water Ethic.

In this Humans and Nature video, The Importance of a Water Ethic, their contributors contemplate the many compelling reasons why a water ethic is essential for helping us do the right thing by each other, by the generations that follow us, and by the whole community of life.

The video (12:39) features these EarthSayers addressing a water ethic and who are “thinking creatively about how people can make better decisions — in relationship with each other and the whole community of life.”

  • Dorene Day Midewaunnikwe (Water Woman);
  • Jane Elder, Executive Director, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters;
  • Cynthia Barnett, Environmental Journalist and Author;
  • Jeremy Schmidt, Assistant professor, Carlton University;
  • Rick Kyte, Director, D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership;
  • Christiana Peppard, Associate Professor, Fordham University; and
  • Josephine Mandamin (Ojibwe), Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve.

It’s World Water Day and the perfect day to take twelve minutes out of your busy schedule to listen (hereScreen Shot 2016-03-22 at 11.59.40 AM) to these seven bright minds and soulful thinkers.

You might also subscribe to their YouTube channel (check the box to receive an email notification when new videos are posted).

The Volume 9, Number 1, January 2016 issue of their journal, Minding Nature, is available as a PDF here on the Humans and Nature Website.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, March 22, 2016, Portland, Oregon.

 

 

 

 

Living Sustainability

robin kimmererIn this presentation (video*) Dr. Robin Kimmerer clearly and beautifully teaches us the relationship of living The Honorable Harvest to our quest to live in balance with Mother Earth; how to save ourselves by coming into relationship with Nature. She is Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York (SUNY), College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Indigenous Peoples from all four directions of our planet are calling for a change in our consciousness, a move from head to heart guided by the Laws of Nature. The Honorable Harvest is a “covenant of reciprocity” and a guide to living sustainability in all aspects of our life. Dr. Kimmerer reminds us that in the indigenous way of thinking matter and spirit are mutually reinforcing whereas in the scientific world they are mutually exclusive.

What makes her voice so important to all of us is she speaks the language of reciprocity as a scientist (botanist) and Indigenous leader (Potawatomi Nation) drawing on “the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.”
Dr. Kimmerer is a voice you may not have heard yet, but need to hear now especially if you are asking yourself, what is sustainability and how do I live it?

Her most recent book is  Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.

*This video presentation was published on YouTube on Aug 6, 2014 by the Center for Humans and Nature and recorded at their 2014 Forum on Ethics & Nature held at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The theme was A Cascade of Loss, An Ethics of Recovery. The Forum explored the topic of extinction, balancing information with ethical reflection about the possibilities of biodiversity and bio-cultural recovery.

The Big Picture of Oil and Our Troubles

lincoln quoteIf we are going to pursue sustainability as an operating principle of our planet, then it can’t remain business as usual when it comes to the buying and selling of oil as we are denying and acting against the basic principle that a country belongs to its people.  An especially treacherous situation made worse when coupled with the bad, old rule, ‘Might Makes Right.’

leifI found Professor Wenar’s speech given in Seattle, Washington last week (January 27th) educational and realistic, yet hopeful in our ability to retire dysfunctional rules and embrace our principles when it comes to the buying and selling of oil and other natural resources.  Yes, the going will be tough, but this is one of the major ‘somethings’ that has got to give. This post is a summary of his hour long teaching and includes two video excerpts (1) The Hope for Change: Ending ‘Might Makes Right’ and (2) the Second Ground for Hope.

Leif Wenar author of the book, Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World holds the Chair of Philosophy & Law at King’s College London. After earblood oil bookning his Bachelor’s degree from Stanford, he went to Harvard to study with John Rawls, and wrote his doctoral thesis on property rights with Robert Nozick and T.M. Scanlon. He has worked in the UK since 1997.

Might Makes Right: A bad, old rule

“Because we have this bad old rule oil is the largest source of unaccountable power in our world. Because we use this rule of might makes right, it’s like there are these giant reservoirs of cash underground and whoever can dig down and keep control over the holes in the ground will generate a tremendous amount of cash with which they can buy arms and security and torture chambers. The money is almost entirely unaccountable. Basically it goes to whoever has the most guns. Unlike foreign aid, oil money comes with no strings attached and unlike foreign loans it never has to be paid back. And the people of the country have no chance to control the resources of their country. They just have to watch while the natural wealth of their country is sold off beyond their control.

So all of this means that we are in a bad place. For over forty years our worst crises have come from oil states from the Soviet Union to the Middle East and Africa. Our money has been funding conflict and oppression and intolerant ideologies. And I’m sad to say our problems may really get worse.

arc of oil

Arc of Oil

What we’ve seen for the past three decades is bad but there’s this arc of oil running from Siberia through the Middle East and Africa. In the red you see failed states and authoritarian states and as you can tell from reading the news for the past few years that arc of oil is getting more and more unstable. Green revolution, Arab Spring, now the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Libya and Yemen and the cold war between Saudi and Iran heating up that Arc of Oil is already getting more unstable and experts in Washington say that’s just the area that is now going to become hotter, more crowded, hungrier and thirstier which means it will probably be even less stable than it has been so if we thought that the last forty years were bloody and scary the next 15 years may be really terrifying.

Is there any hope for change? So after all that you are going to be surprised to hear, that I’m extremely optimistic that we can make this change.The hope for change comes from two big picture facts about our world its history and where we are now. The first great hope that we can overcome ‘might makes right’ for resources is that throughout history humanity has overcome ‘might makes right’ in other areas many times before. (video clip) And in fact these are some of the greatest moral milestones in human history, the kinds of things you would teach to a child, the high points of our achievements.”  The second great hope is included on this video clip of Professor Wenar’s presentation.

Being on the right side of history.

Listen to Leif Wenar in this video of his hour long presentation, a teaching, as he makes the case for our ability to overcome the rule of “might makes right” and offers a plan for how we can still end up on the right side of history with regards to the issue of buying and selling of natural resources. There is an opportunity for America to take the lead and stop buying authoritarian oil, convince others to do the same, all while reaffirming the American principle, articulated by Lincoln and adopted pretty much worldwide, that a country belongs to its people and that includes the oil and natural resources.

If someone is selling off the natural resources of a country without approval of the people, then what they are selling is stolen and we are not going to buy from them. Can we do that? Yes, the window of opportunity is now.

Read the book, listen to his January 27th speech published by the Talking StickTV channel on Youtube, January 30, 2016 and included in the special collection, Transforming Our Economy, on EarthSayers.tv, Voices of Sustainability.

With Leif’searthsayers ad copy 2 help, be better able as a proponent of sustainability to recount the Big Picture of oil, discuss the upgrade called for, and continue to champion the sustainability path as a way to move to the right side of history when it comes to buying and selling oil and other natural resources.

There are over 2,000 curated voices of sustainability accessible through EarthSayers.tv, a search engine advancing sustainability leaders who are citizens from all walks of life addressing the needs of our children and the future seven generations.

 

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, EarthSayers.tv, Voices of Sustainability, February 1, 2016, Portland, Oregon.

 

 

 

Spongy Parking Lots and Sustainability

 

Oregon Drought

It takes a drought sometimes for a fresh approach to catch on.

An NPR Morning Edition program (January 2015) was about the urban planners in Los Angeles seeing npr citiesthe need to view the city as a sponge, absorbing water, rather than corralling, then whisking it away down the drain and into our waterways.  “Engineering water into submission” is how they talked about it on NPR and it dates back to the Romans and aqueducts.  It also is how I got to the idea of retrofitting existing surface parking lots to be spongy ones as part of my neighborhood work as a sustainability advocate.

I live in the Old Town Chinatown (OTCT) neighborhood of Portland, Oregon.  One rarely hears the word, sustainability pass anyone’s lips at land use meetings despite the City’s reputation for sustainability, awards for its healthy, connected neighborhoods and a significant number of LEED certified buildings.  Similar to skid row landscapes in other medium and large-sized cities, OTCT is peppered with surface parking lots, many waiting for infill or development especially those owned by the redevelopment agency, with centrally located ones returning money in the manner of a cash machine to its owners and managers.

After listening to the broadcast, it wasn’t hard to extend this fresh idea of spongy to the problem we face here in Old Town Chinatown. Not only are the surface parking lots signals of a blighted landscape, but planet-wise they waste precious water; pollute as water run-off contains toxins e.g. gasoline, heavy metals, and nasty Polycyclicheat islands Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) with heavy rain days being particularly worrisome as they may result in combined sewage overflow* (CSO); and they contribute to the overheating of our urban areas as heat islands, “pushing air temperatures up to 10°F (5.6°C) warmer than surrounding areas with open land and vegetation.” Portland State University’s Vivek Shandas has lead an effort to map heat islands and make the tool available on-line.

Surface parking lots, impervious surfaces, are a sustainability nightmare.

The advantages to local businesses of  “parking” as a requirement by cities to attract employers and shoppers is hardly offset by the damage to our environment, the health of our residents, the local economy (they are not taxed at the same rate as nearby buildings) and to those elements of sustainability often referenced to as “externalities.” Economic factors, money, often reigns supreme in much of local decision making.  Of course the costs to mitigate the damage done to our planet and people is born, eventually, by the taxpayer, those living in blighted areas and our children and grandchildren.

“An awful lot of urban planning particularly in poor areas has doubly impoverished

the poor by the ugliness which surrounds them and its understandable that it so difficult to

reach and sustain gentleness there..” John O’Donohue

cover for spongyThe good news lies in retrofitting many of these surface parking lots.  Locally we put together a cross collaboration team of architects, engineers, designers, and our resident expert on low impact development also known as green infrastructure, Maria Cahill.  Retrofit tools and methods are readily available for conserving water, then returning it to the ground or filtering it for re-use in nearby parks and gardens; decreasing pollution of nearby rivers and streams especially in times of heavy rain days – projected to increase here in Portland in this age of climate change; reducing the heat by increasing the tree canopy; and using rain gardens, living walls, and swales to significantly reduce the harm done by surface parking lots.

City documents, plans, or RFPs don’t often call out retrofitting surface parking lots. It must happen in some cities because Toronto, for example, published a Guide for Greening Surface Parking Lots which covers mainly new lots and in Portland’s Climate Action Plan decreasing Urban Heat Islands are called out “… especially in areas with populations most vulnerable to heat, through strategies such as revegetation, tree preservation planting and maintenance, de-paving and porous pavement, green infrastructure like bioswales and eco-roofs and site development performance standards.”  The Climate Action Plan also addresses sequestering carbon “through increased green infrastructure (trees, plants, soil) and natural areas. Reduce effective impervious areas by 600 acres. Expand the urban forest canopy to cover at least one-third of the city with a miclimate action plannimum canopy cover of 25 percent of each residential neighborhood and 15 percent of the central city, commercial and industrial areas.”

Retrofitting doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in parking spots if that turns out to be a gating factor in getting local support for a demonstration or pilot project, as we are doing.  The effort to retrofit Spongy Parking Lots is an opportunity to take a closer look at mobility options (where “by car” and “more parking” is not the default option for solving issues raised by employers in our central city and by retail merchants and the entertainment/hospitality industry.

The OTCT Community Association, made up of primarily business owners and some non-profit organizations serving the homeless and providing addiction treatment, recently formed a new committee, Transportation and Mobility of which “Mobility & Parking” is on the agenda.  Too soon to tell how it will function as a gateway to fresh ideas and innovation, but our team is ready with the recommendation for our redevelopment agency in collaboration with our Bureaus of Environmental Services and Planning and Sustainability  invest in demonstration project for spongy parking lots here in OTCT given their number and the harm they produce, and, in terms of the neighborhood’s role in the emerging mobility movement to get people out of their cars in this age of climate change.  Be it a private or public surface parking lot Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 11.37.15 AMdoesn’t matter as long as the owner, along with a majority of Oregonians, “values the state’s natural beauty, outdoor recreation opportunities, and relatively clean air and water. They also value a good economy, but they want an approach to economic development that recognizes the importance of the state’s natural environment to its quality of life.”

We have been identifying our spongy champions working in the many agencies that would be involved in bringing a demonstration project forward and raising awareness through social media, especially videos on our PDXdowntowner YouTube channel.  There is our webpage at www.spongyparkinglots.com where we have included an overview of spongy parking lots, relevant links to videos, articles and whitepapers,  and an overview of our team members.

Like our Facebook page to indicate you support thinking spongy when it comes to surface parking lots.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Portland, Oregon, August 31, 2016

Note:

*CSO has been a big issue in two cities I have lived in – Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California.  Portland’s CSO Control Program (December 2011) reduced CSOs to the Columbia Slough by more than 99% and to the Willamette River by 94%.

 

 

 

Sustainability with Resiliency

Sustainability with resiliency is how I think about these two important concepts working together.  Which is why I started to pay more attention to those talking about resiliency and  then created a new Resiliency and Communities collection on EarthSayers.tv, voices of sustainability.  At first, I recognized that there is quite a bit out there on personal resiliency. Three years ago I interviewed Raz Mason, who is trained as a chaplain, on the topic of sustainability and resiliency. Although I didn’t agree with her that the term sustainability suggests a steady state, I was impressed how she talks about resiliency as it relates to the individual and family.

bookHowever, in terms of community resiliency, I was moved to action by the voice of Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, author of The Resilience Dividend, and one of the world’s leading public thinkers. She was the first voice added to the Resiliency and Communities special collection on EarthSayers.tv.  I discovered that resiliency at the community level incorporates what we traditionally call emergency management yet moves us towards being better able to plan for and then recover from not only the weather, but social and economic shocks.
And exactly how do we do resiliency planning and investment, to prepare, when crisis seems to be the new normal?  How do we revitalize, not just build back our communities?
Well, I recommend you give a listen to Dr. Rodin’s hour long discussion brought to us by The RSA, a London based, British organization committed to finding practical solutions to today’s social challenges. And circulate* an excerpted version (six minutes) of her talk (bit.ly/adaptandgrow) to friends and colleagues who you know are looking for fresh ideas. I let our local emergency management director, Carmen Merlo, know that I had heard Dr. Rodin and was very supportive of Ms. Merlo being Portland’s first Chief Resiliency Officer, a CRO being a recommendation from Dr. Rodin’s experience with the Rockefeller project, 100 Resilient Cities.
Our worldview influences the actions we take and so it’s possible that with crisis being the new normal we all are hearing the call to action to bring resiliency planning to our cities and towns, making it part of every sustainability plan, program, bureau and initiative. We just need help doing it and the courage.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, March 30, 2015, Portland, Oregon.

* Suggested tweets: Our communities and #resiliency benefits of planning explained by Dr. Judith Rodin (video), http://bit.ly/adaptandgrow and/or Advice we need to hear: How to Build Better, More #Resilient Cities with Judith Rodin (video), http://bit.ly/adaptandgrow

Inspiration from Three Leaders of Sustainability

This is the time of year I often return to those EarthSayers, the voices of sustainability, that have inspired me. The voices of our citizens who offer me helpful solid advice for weathering the storms of war, global warming, economic instability, injustice, and disasters of all kinds while keeping focused on identifying and promoting those among us who are sustainability leaders. Here are three such leaders on EarthSayers.tv that I want to share with you.

jmroberts2_bio2The 2009 video by John Marshall Roberts is entitled, Inspiring Sustainability in Skeptics, and he does address skepticism and the challenge of communicators to be more effective, but he begins by advising us to tap into the present with a sense of awe in order to create radical change and commit “to redesigning our society so it can last over time.” Six minutes in length, these are words that stick.

annieIn October I had the opportunity to interview Annie Leonard best known for her Story of Stuff Project. This series of videos woke up many of us to not only mindless consumption, but to the story of bottled water, cap and trade, cosmetics and, in 2013, The Story of Solutions. It explores how we can move our economy in a more sustainable and just direction, a huge task, but possible if we focus on game changing solutions rather than just a “better way to play the old game of more.” In my eyes Annie Leonard is a sustainability champion so we created an EarthSayers.tv special collection. You can see her work and interviews in one place on EarthSayers.tv and return to them for inspiration and motivation. Here is my interview of Annie entitled, On Being Biased.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 2.08.35 PMAnd if we are to move our economy there is one game changing concept called the circular economy which is being primarily defined and implemented by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. I met Ellen MacArthur just after she completed her single handed sail around the world and before she found her calling to “rethink the future” and become a game changer. In this 2011 interview by Jon Snow I find find her energy and self assuredness catching. Visit the Circular Economy special collection to view videos that define and explain the Circular Economy along with individuals in business adopting the framework.

I could go on and cite more of the EarthSayers who inspire and motivate me in my work as a sustainability advocate, such as Roz Savage on Taking Responsibility; Aveda President, Dominique Conseil on Changing Our Habits; Kind and Generous by singer Natalie Merchant; Recognizing the Great Mystery by Mayan Elder Flordemayo; and Wendell Berry reading his poem on Hope, but you need to take time to find the voices that speak to your needs when you visit EarthSayers.tv.

EarthSayers.tv content is curated for relevancy and quality so as to save you time searching for the hundreds of sustainability leaders who are citizens from all walks of life speaking on behalf of Mother Earth and her peoples. They will inspire and motivate you I promise.

Warmly and with best wishes for 2015,
Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, December 30, 2014 from Portland, Oregon.

Sustainability in Higher Education

Occasionally we create a special collection on EarthSayers.tv because a particular person, organization or event inspires us.

asshe4blogIn the case of the newly created, all video collection, Sustainability in Higher Education, the inspiration was the 2014 Annual Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) held here in Portland, Oregon, the last week in October.  The video interviews we conducted at the conference form the basis for this special collection and were combined with other speakers from previous AASHE conferences as will future conference video content.  Over 2,000 faculty and students attended this year putting to rest the idea that sustainability is a passing fad.  An even higher attendance rate is expected next Fall in Minneapolis, Minnesota where the best of campus sustainability practices will be in the spotlight along with thought leaders, student advocates, and faculty members.

At this year’s conference we video interviewed Stephanie Herrera, AASHE Executive Director; Annie Leonard of the Story of Stuff Project and Executive Director of Greenpeace, USA; Marcelo Bonta, founder of the Center for Diversity & the Environment; and eco-artist and activist, Amy Livingstone of Sacred Arts Studio.

Stephanie of AASHEThe major challenge for organizations to integrate planet, people, and prosperity elements into a cohesive strategy that is then reflected in tactics such as programs, products, and services is one AASHE is facing head on.  Stephanie Herrera called it out as major emphasis of AASHE’s  intention to encompass not just the environmental, but the social justice and financial elements of sustainability.  Having grown up on a Superfund hazard site located in the Denver neighborhood of Globeville, Ms. Herrera continues to be engaged with the struggles of impoverished communities and their efforts to address their health and economic issues. It’s a perspective she brings to her work at AASHE and a challenge reiterated by keynoter Marcelo Bonta in his very personal story of how he came to create the Center for Diversity & the Environment. Their Mission is to racially & ethnically diversify the U.S. environmental movement by developing leaders, diversifying institutions and building communities.

Annie Leonard directed our attention to our under-developed citizen muscle and an economic model emphasizing unrestrained growth and over consumption resulting in an Citizen Muscle Logo copyover-developed consumer muscle.  “There is a better way to live on this planet in a more sustainable, more healthy, just, and way more fun way” she advises and the solution lies in exercising our citizen muscle and moving towards an economic model that reflects values of empathy, respect, and collaboration.  She adds: “It is important to seeking a better life for us all that we believe that things can get better.”

We noticed that many students and faculty were wrestling with the issue of integrating sustainability throughout the curriculum in an environment of disciplines and departments. They talked about a significant amount of fence jumping, mountain climbing, and intense paddling up rocky rivers along with reports of “engineering” programs to build bridges and, on the very practical side, achieve environmental objectiAquinas-College-squareves such as zero waste. In one workshop I attended I was paired off with Dr. David Weinandy of Aquinas College where here he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Communication and Management. His colleague Jessica Eimer is the Director of Sustainability. David talked about sustainability being the “essence of our college identity.”  Their Faculty Sustainability Fellows Program, open to all faculty members, consciously implements sustainability throughout the curriculum. It’s not limited to any one discipline, but is interdisciplinary. Incentives include a small stipend, educational opportunities, and a mode to discuss their projects with the greater campus community.

Next year we are hoping to be able to interview more of the faculty and students who, like Professor Weinandy and his colleagues at Aquinas, are teaching us all how to better weave sustainability into the fabric of organizations to increase awareness and adoption, especially among and for our youth and their children and grandchildren.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, December 15, 2014, Portland, Oregon.

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Sustainability Awareness and the Content Requirements of Social

A recent study by the folks at Chief Marketer supports my experience with clients when it comes to social media.

The Chief Marketer Studycontent requirements of social media outpaces even measurement issues as an obstacle.  On the positive side it’s rare to find a CEO or Executive Director who does not understand that social media is very relevant to their core audience.

Our search engine to the curated collection of sustainability leaders and citizens, EarthSayers.tv, provides a wealth of quality content for social media.  See how we use our curated video channel on EarthSayers.tv to seed our social media network –  here on LinkedInYouTubeSustainability Advocate blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter using not only the content we create, but more importantly, content we aggregate then curate for relevancy and quality. This is particularly relevant for organizations who invest heavily in events, the source of invaluable content in terms of video from both the sessions as well as interviews at the Conference. It’s content that needs to be carried well beyond the sponsoring organization’s Website in order to impact search rankings and to significantly advance leaders in both thought and action.

sustainability awareness largeWe are able to private label this search engine for organizations with a commitment to increasing sustainability awareness, be it for their sustainability initiatives or for an environmental, social, cultural, or economic cause.  As a sub-domain to their Website, the EarthSayers.tv affiliate provides a premier advertising and sponsorship platform, like keyword driven Google, to generate revenues for organizations working towards a sustainable future. Video content advances the unfiltered voices of our sustainability leaders and citizens and, practically, the EarthSayers content management system (CMS) manages both the original and aggregated content and is the driver for seeding the Web, increasing awareness, using all channels both social and direct.

A reading of Noam Cohen’s article, As Online Video Surges, the .tv Domain Rides the Wave, in the New York Times, supports leveraging the CMS and content of Earthsayers as “yourorganization.tv,” or wisdomkeepers.tv or oceansadvocacy.tv as the most effective, efficient, and affordable way to ride this wave for the benefit of environmental, social, cultural, and economic objectives today; to generate income for years to come from sponsors and advertisers who share your goals through their programs, products, events, and initiatives; to begin to seed the Web with relevant and quality content, emphasizing leadership, using both social and direct media; and to be found with top page rankings on Google and YouTube, the top two search engines, on hundreds of keywords our citizens are using to find your content.  Here is the sustainability taxonomy we created as part of our search strategy and may be useful in putting together keyword categories and subcategories.

Click here to download a short presentation featuring examples of how one video interview of Roz Savage for EarthSayers.tv is used to seed the Web – LinkedIn, blog post, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. While this is original content, it works pretty much the same, except it generates clicks to the YouTube channel hosting the content.  In this respect all of us benefit on what my friend, Barry, calls “networking the Web of life” and it leverages the free hosting service of YouTube.

P.S. I want to take this opportunity to thank my brother, friends, colleagues, and neighbors for supporting my work with EarthSayers.tv through kind words, cash, pro-bono camera and production services, consulting, technical support, software design, lodging when I go out of town to cover events as press (another positive attribute of a .tv) and friendship.

 

 

 

 

Carbon: Cows and Grasslands, Part II.

Grass-fed Beef landsOn Friday I published a post entitled, Sustainability: Cows, Sage Grouses, and Grasslands. It included reference to a newly released environmental documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret and two video interviews, one with Jeff Goebel and another with Allan Savory.  Jeff wrote me back and emphasized the relationship of cows and grasslands to the central issue he sees as “to pull carbon and water vapor back to the soils of our earth.”  Cowspiracy, like other documentaries such as Meatrix and the Lie We Tell Ourselves or Back to the Start sponsored by Chipotle drive home the costs of corporate farming to Mother Earth, her ecosystem, animals, and people.  This, however, is just one part of the story.

Here is Jeff’s message to me (and you) that deserves your attention.

Dear Ruth Ann:

The message in this film (Cowspiracy) is good, from the standpoint of the problems with the conventional system of cattle production and consumption.  Unfortunately, the message completely misses the point of the need for ungulates (hoofed animals) on grass and savanna lands, and sets up the condition “to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”  This is very serious to solving our climate change issues.

Our greatest opportunity to pull atmospheric carbon and water vapor back to the soils of our earth are through migrating ungulates.  If we still had the bison and antelope populations (and other ungulate species globally) with the associated predator behavior, we would be fine.  However, this is not the case.

Jeff Goebel

Jeff Goebel

If we have 10-15 years (and I am not sure we have that), we need to throw everything that we can are reversing the issues of excess carbon in the atmosphere.  Anything that takes away from this mission is very challenging.  These massive forest fires (with carbon pouring into the atmosphere, damaged soil productivity, and lost photosynthesis abilities); massive clear cutting of forests and poor management of forest lands; poor carbon intensive cropland management; and overgrazing and over-resting of grass and savanna lands are major opportunities for us to reverse the trends to our atmosphere.

There is a very significant difference between grain-fed beef (and other livestock) and grass-fed beef.  Usually those who management for grass-fed beef are doing things that are very healthy for our landscape and our well being.  Better land management changes succession of the landscape so you end up with species that are healthier for higher life forms, like humans, and returns water back into stabilized soils.

While I agree that conventional livestock production is very destructive, there are many producers that are doing very beneficial things for the earth and the people on this earth.

With respect and gratitude,

Jeff

 

One action you can take is to buy grass-fed beef which if you are on a budget will mean eating less beef as it is more expensive but, on the positive side, most likely locally sourced and found increasingly in grocery stores and restaurants as part of their sustainable sourcing practices. There are programs such as Ecotrust’s Food and Farms Program as well as articles detailing potential health benefits.

Resources:

Video Interviews

Jeff Goebel, Grasslands, Carbon, and Climate Change

Allan Savory, How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change

and Capital Institute‘s John Fullerton, Grasslands and Carbon

 

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, July 28, 2014, Portland, Oregon.

Sustainability: Cows, Sage Grouses, and Grasslands

cowspiracyTwo disconnected events yesterday and today were linked in my mind to the large, open spaces of the West and the challenges we face in striving for a sustainable future.  The first was spotting this marquee yesterday with “The Sustainability Secret” catching my eye.  The cowspiracy took longer to process.

Cowspiracy is a new environmental documentary (trailer here) with the emphasis on the industry with tCowspiracyhe link to a sustainability secret being secondary as suggested in the title. After reading about the intrepid filmmaker “uncovering the most destructive industry facing the planet today, and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it” I don’t think the film reflects a whole systems approach to problem solving, but I won’t say much more until I have a chance to see it.  And there was that nasty situation in 1998 summed up in this story headline as “Oprah Winfrey vs. The Beef People.”  Will maintain an open mind.

What came along today in my inbox was a New York Times documentary on the Sage Grouse and Wind Turbines.  These two events together got me thinking of several sustainability champions that address climate change from the perspective of grasslands, carbon, cows and (what wasn’t mentioned much) climate change:

Allan Savory

Allan Savory

In this videoGrasslands, Carbon, and Climate Change, Jeff Goebel talks about the importance of restoring grasslands to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, doing so rather quickly, and the relationship of grassland restoration to climate change. His interview relates to cows and places like Wyoming where sage grouse live.  Jeff has been influenced by the work of Allan Savory who isPresident and Co-founder of the Savory Institute in Boulder, Colorado and is featured here in this video interview, How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change.

“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And terrifyingly, it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.

As an urbanite I feel more comfortable learning about the economic and social aspects of sustainability especially when it comes to understanding the conversations and recommendations of experts. Yet my roots are firmly planted in the farmlands of Ireland and Canada, my family having been dairy farmers so I’ve been interviewing farmers and experts like Jeff Goebel and Allan Savory then adding them to the EarthSayers.tv in special collections addressing biodiversity and climate change.  I hope this post proves useful to understanding what may well be a sustainability secret, one I would argue of many.

 

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, Portland, Oregon, July 25, 2014