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Climate-informed Voting

920x920Over the past few years we have gotten a taste for how ravaging a run-away climate can be. The damage to homes and infrastructure, the economic and health impacts, and the threats to our national security are significant. These events will not stop until we act to slow down the warming of our atmosphere. We therefore need to get this issue on the table now before the election and then keep it on the table after the election. The problems won’t go away without our full commitment. Our best hope is to elect people who will work together to cool the climate, reduce the suffering, and prevent these weather events from getting worse.

As a businessman, I stay abreast of issues that could affect my bottom line. I was therefore curious about the World Economic Summit in Davos this past year. I wanted to know what they thought were the biggest challenges on the horizon. I was surprised to hear that the greatest fear they had about the future is that people were not fearful enough about some of the most important threats facing our economy. This was unsettling. Here is the list of top concerns from the conference:

Extreme Weather Events

Natural Disasters

Cyber Attacks

Identity Fraud

Failure of climate change mitigation and adaption

I think we all would agree that cyber attacks and identify fraud are huge concerns. But for three of the top five risks to our economy to be largely related to and exacerbated by a changing climate is pretty sobering and well worth our full attention. The changing climate is indeed the challenge of the century.

The first two threats are pretty clear – we see them on the news way too often. Our federal government spent 4 to 5 times more money on disaster relief for flood and fire victims last year, some $500 billion dollars. I wish that money had been spent over the past three decades on incentivizing the move to clean energy and a stable climate. A lot of lives, homes, and communities could have been saved if we had acted sooner.

The fifth item on this list of major threats is most striking to me. These corporate leaders are stating that we have to do a lot more to prevent as well as to adapt to a changing climate and their fear is that we might fail. We might not act soon enough or seriously enough to slow down the warming.

As a health advocate I was also struck by a report by the world-renown Lancet Commission on Heath and Climate Change. It concludes that man-madeclimate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health. This is really significant realizing how far we have come in saving lives and preventing disease. The corollary to that statement is that a comprehensive response to climate change could be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

My last point is on national security but it also applies to local security issues as well. The Pentagon has released a report calling climate change a threat multiplier – a driver of regional instability from the forced migration of people escaping drought, fire, and flood damaged areas. Mass migrations not only disrupt families and economies but add stress to areas receiving these climate refugees. We have seen this over and over again as families from drought-disrupted parts of the Middle East and Africa flood into Europe, and Americans flee floods, fires, and drought across the country. This instability feeds into the growth of hate groups and terrorists.

These three sectors of our society all realize the importance of slowing down the changing climate. But it sounds like a tall order to most of us. The good news is that there is a lot being done by business, governments, and individuals all around the world (see Drawdown by Paul Hawken). The challenge is that all of us are going to have to do more.

We need to make decisions in our daily life, at work, and in the voting booth that are “climate informed”. We need to elect politicians who willcreate the policies for a healthy future, and who will use their bully pulpits to inspire all of us to make the steps that will be needed to slow down and stop this warming trend. We can’t just sit back and accept the suffering that will result from a 7 degree increase in global temperatures this century.

 

Ned Tillman is an earth and environmental scientist, a health advocate, and an award-winning author. His new inspirational climate novel, The Big Melt, is available on Amazon. He can be reached at ned@sustainable.us.

The Chesapeake Watershed used across the region by Master Naturalist programs

Watershed

 

A copy of Ned Tillman’s book The Chesapeake Watershed: A sense of place and a call to action is presented to each of the participants in the University of Maryland sponsored Master Naturalist programs. If you are interested in these programs contact one of the following sponsoring sites.

There are 31 Master Naturalist program Host Sites in 12 Maryland counties (plus Baltimore City and in Washington, DC) with one program (DNR) using volunteers state-wide. They include:

 

  • Adkins Arboretum (Caroline)
  • American Chestnut Land Trust (Calvert)
  • Anita C. Leight Estuary Center (Harford)
  • Audubon Naturalist Society (Montg.)
  • Co. Environmental Protection & Sustainability (Balt.) (2017)
  • Banneker Historical Park (Balt.)
  • Bear Branch/Piney Run Nature Centers (Carroll)
  • Brookside Nature Center (Montg.)/Montgomery Parks (Countywide)
  • Catoctin Creek Nature Center (Fred.)
  • Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (Queen Anne’s)
  • Cromwell Valley Park (Balt.)
  • Cunningham Falls/Gambrill State Parks (Fred.)
  • Cylburn Arboretum (Balt.)
  • Eden Mill Nature Center (Harford)
  • Elms Environmental Education Center (St. Mary’s)
  • Fountain Rock Nature Center (Fred.)
  • Hashawha Environmental Education Center (Carroll)
  • Howard County Conservancy (Howard)
  • Howard CC – Belmont (Howard)
  • Irvine Nature Center (Balt.)
  • Lake Roland Park (formerly R.E. Lee) (Balt.)
  • Locust Grove & Meadowside Nature Centers (Montg.)/Montgomery Parks (Countywide)
  • Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources Wildlife & Heritage Service (A.A./Statewide)
  • Marshy Point Nature Center (Balt.)
  • Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center (Balt. City)
  • National Aquarium (Balt. City)
  • Phillips Wharf Environmental Center (Talbot)
  • Pickering Creek Audubon Center (Talbot)
  • Oregon Ridge Nature Center (Balt.)
  • Quiet Waters Park/Anne Arundel County Rec & Parks (Anne Arundel)
  • Robinson Nature Center (Howard)

If you are interested in multiple copies of The Chesapeake Watershed, volume discounts, or classroom sets please contact: ned@sustainable.us

 

 

“Saving the Places we Love” is HoCo Book Selection of the Year.

bookI am delighted to share the great news that Saving the Places we Love, my second book, has been picked as the Howard County Book Connection selection for 2016-2017. The book was chosen by the Howard Community College, the Howard County Library System, and Hocopolitso.

You can join the county-wide discussion to see how we can create a more sustainable community by ordering a copy of the book from Amazon. If your community or organization would like to buy multiple copies, volume discounts are available at ned@sustainable.us. All proceeds go toward efforts to improve our environment.

 

 

Please come participate in the following events:

  1. Thursday, October 20, 2016, 7pm. Meet the Author: Ned Tillman – Saving the Places We Love at the Miller Branch of the Library. RSVP
  1. Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 11 am. Nature Walk Howard Community College Campus on College Sustainability Day.
  1. Tuesday, April 18, 2017, 3:30pm. Keynote, Q&A, book signing, and reception at Howard Community College, 3:30pm – 5pm.
  2. Thursday, April 20, 2017, 7:00pm. Presentation on Saving The Places We Love at the Main Branch of the Howard County Library System.

Please feel free to contact me at ned@sustainable.us if you would like to create another event for your friends, your community, or your business or non-profit organization.

 

Ocean friendly choices for the consumer

Guest post by Mark Southerland, PhD

edible 6 packWe are all familiar with the pervasive effect of electronic devices on communication worldwide. Nearly everyone uses texts, emails, digital documents, e-books, and social media as their primary means for conducting business and personal affairs. This has allowed communication to grow exponentially without a concomitant increase in paper production. It is now common knowledge that everyone can make specific consumer choices to save paper, and the forests that produce it, such as by receiving financial statements and medical records electronically.  There are, however, many other inventions that provide consumers an environmentally friendly choice. Here are two recent inventions where the consumer can choose to reduce their impact on our marine ecosystems.

  1. Reduced, recycled, compostable, and edible packaging – six-pack rings that fish can eat

The change to more environmentally friendly packaging for consumer products has been a more gradual evolution, often associated with advent of environmental brands of products and stores. The most recent innovation in packaging is the creation of an edible six-pack ring from barley waste produced in beer brewing .This product addresses the tragic effect that six-pack rings have on sea life through entanglement and ingestion, resulting in thousands of deaths of fish, birds, and sea turtles each year.

  1. Guilt-free seafood — removing invasive species by eating them

Lion fishRecognition of the declines in fish populations and other seafood species spawned the sustainable seafood movement in the 1990s, producing lists of sustainable seafood that has been caught or farmed in ways that protect the long-term vitality of harvested species. While many consumers make their seafood choice based on these lists of sustainable alternatives, such as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, there is now the opportunity to seek out invasive species for your dinner plate. Wegmans in Columbia (and at other stores throughout the country) has recently added lionfish to their shelves. The red lionfish of the Indo-Pacific, whose populations have exploded in the subtropical waters of the southeastern U.S. and Caribbean, is devastating local coral reef ecosystems. Let’s work together and help remove these fish by eating them.

Take-a-way: These are two easy steps that you can take to make a difference and to encourage more innovation like this.

Ellicott City Floods – The Need to be Proactive

ellicott-city-flood-july-31-2016-3-CREDIT-Scott-Weaver

Ellicott City Flood 7/30/16 photo by Cody Goodin

Many of us want to know what we can do to help our neighbors in Ellicott City. We feel a strong need to react to this incident. I am sure there are some short term things that could help reduce human suffering. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, their homes, and businesses.

But fixing this city built in a creek is not a simple thing, especially with the expectations of more frequent and bigger storms. We need to be very thoughtful on how we proceed. We need to be reactive and proactive in our response.

The greatest opportunity to help our neighbors in Ellicott City and across the entire county and country are the actions that we take tomorrow, next week, and next year. We all need to be much more proactive in order to reduce the deaths and damage to our greater community in the future.

Storm waters do need to be managed better. We have known this for years. We all need to step up and put in rain gardens to capture rainfall and slow the flow of water off our properties. We also need to adequately fund the restoration of our storm water management systems.

But we also need to do whatever it takes to reduce the growing threat of more and bigger storms (rain and snow) resulting from the warming and moister atmosphere. We as a community have not taken this threat seriously, yet. We are not talking about it enough. We are not doing enough. There is so much more that we can do as individuals, businesses, and communities. We need to get serious and start doing it. Each of us can take steps at home and where we work. We each need to reduce our use of fossil fuels as much as possible to slow climate change and reduce these big storms. We can do that by:

  • reducing energy use in our homes by insulating attics and upgrading appliances.
  • reducing fossil fuel energy use by buying our electricity from solar and wind farms
  • reducing fuel use by driving less and using more efficient cars.
  • buying less stuff and always insisting on the most sustainable products.

Let’s support our neighbors both short term and long term by acting now to create a safer future. These are simple, concrete things that each of us can do today that will help prevent the next big catastrophe.

The Anthropocene merger of ecology, economics, and politics can no longer be ignored.

Anthropocene globeJedediah Purdy’s essay in AEON may be challenging bedtime literature but it’s worth reading, and rereading, if you want a more holistic view of our current planetary predicament.

I find his conclusions to be a theoretical exploration if not a remedy to the daily frustrations that I run into. The whole idea of being able to do nothing about everything does not sit well me. I much prefer the lessons we have learned in the past that we can change behaviors and cultures, but it often takes a lot of effort and it can take decades.

The Transcendental Movement of the early 1900s took decades but eventually changed the American perspective of the human ability to change – to change one’s situation, one’s place in life. It gave us the sense that we can achieve much more than the life we were born into.

The Conservation Movement of the late 1900s taught us that we can and should preserve our natural resources including lumber, land, water, and of course our great national parks. We went from a culture solely focused on exploitation to one that started to balance other qualities of life into the equation.

The woman’s suffrage movement also took decades as did the human rights for people of color and sexual preference.

limits of life on earthThe basic idea and struggle for human rights – such as the right to democratic standing in planetary change – allows us, in fact, impels us to challenge our institutions to create a better and more sustainable world. We need to turn what appears to be an unmanageable situation into a campaign where we can all better focus our energies.

Purdy’s  concept of a “democratic Anthropocene is just a thought for now, but it can also be a tool that activists, thinkers and leaders use to craft challenges and invitations that bring some of us a little closer to a better possible world, or a worse one. The idea that the world people get to inhabit will only be the one they make is, in fact, imperative to the development of a political and institutional program, even if the idea itself does not tell anyone how to do that. There might not be a world to win, or even save, but there is a humanity to be shaped and reshaped, freely and always in partial and provisional ways, that can begin intending the world it shapes.”

Purdy is Professor of Law at Duke University in North Carolina. His forthcoming book is After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene.

Signs of Summer

day lilliesThe fireflies are in full mating season flashing their unique signals trying to attract just the right partner for the evening. My uncle once told me that he courted his wife while trying to figure out the details of these dramatic insects. He later published his findings of some very exotic fireflies from New Guinea. They are a fascinating species that is trying to share this planet with us.  I am glad we stopped wiping out so many insect species by the indiscriminant spraying of pesticides to keep mosquitoes under control. Even with the Zika scare, it seems like most people are not over-reacting and are following the guidelines of the CDC.

Daylilies are in full bloom these days as well. I love seeing them along country roads. The ones I photographed here were grown in a well landscaped garden. They are so large, they must have been fertilized. I wonder how much of the fertilizer fed the flowers and how much of it washed off in a rain.

Judging by the massive amount of submerged aquatic vegetation in the nearby lake, some of the fertilizer must have washed into the lake. This is a summer long problem. We use way too much fertilizer on our lawns and gardens and it ends up causing over-nutrification of our water bodies.

harvesterHere is a photo of how our local HOA (Columbia Association) tries to manage this excess nitrogen – they have fossil fuel driven harvesters and essentially mow the grasses in the lake. This is another sign and sound of summer. Things look better for a while, but as we continue to over-fertilize, the grasses come roaring back. In many cases they grow so long they end up floating on the surface. If we all cut back on fertilizing, and installed rain gardens to slow the flow, this problem would go away.

But in general things look very good this time of year. Enjoy it – get outside and go for a walk. Eat black raspberries along the paths – they are ripe now. Mulberries will be coming soon and then the blackberries. It is a glorious time of the year to forage.

Take-a-way: Let’s learn to work together with nature so we can co-evolve a future that is healthier for us all.