Sciencewriters Archive


Gene Logsdon: Farmer, Philosopher, Curmudgeon

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Unlike most octogenarians, author Gene Logsdon is picking up steam as he rolls into his ninth decade. He has developed a prolific body of work as a writer, novelist, and journalist on topics ranging from a philosophical look at woodlands (A Sanctuary of Trees) to the higher calling of manure (Holy Shit). Who else could accomplish such a task, but the beloved Gene Logsdon.

In his latest book, Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmer’s Thoughts on Living Forever, we find Logsdon at the top of his game as he reflects on nature, death, and eternity, always with an eye toward the lessons that farming taught him about life and its mysteries—including those of parsnips. Yes, parsnips. In Gene Everlasting, Gene has an imaginary interview with a parsnip and seeks its advice on everlasting life. “Mr. Parsnip” responds:

Develop a distinctive personality like we parsnips do, with a taste only appreciated by the few rather than by the many. You want to appeal to the discerning minority, not the herd-like majority, which is always susceptible to the moneychangers. If you are too desirable as a plant, the gene manipulators will bioengineer you into oblivion. 

Publishers Weekly calls Gene Everlasting, “Great bedtime reading, these succinct, thought-provoking, life-affirming essays are a perfect gift for your favorite gardener, nature lover, philosopher, or curmudgeon.”

Gene Everlasting is praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “perceptive and understatedly well-written meditation.” Booklist adds, “While his legion of fans may pale at the thought that Logsdon has just written his swan song, his recent remission from cancer offers hope that his writing days are far from over.”

As any regular reader of his blog can attest, Gene is hardly letting cancer slow him down as a writer. “I think cancer drove me to write more rather than less for the same reason that a fruit tree will increase output if its bark is lacerated with cuts and slashes,” writes Logsdon in Gene Everlasting. “Threatened with danger, the writer as well as the apple tree is frightened into greater production.”

Here’s to a healthy future, Gene. We look forward to more musings and contrarian output. In the meantime, take advantage of this opportunity to download a FREE CHAPTER and read an excerpt from Gene Everlasting. We dare you not to be touched by this author’s humor, insight, and endearing, curmudgeonly spirit. 

Sign up here and we’ll email Chapter 7: Georgie the Cat right to your inbox along with a special 35% discount code good towards any book. But hurry – this offer only lasts until 03/05!

Updated: Our limited time, free download has ended. But don’t forget when you sign up for our enewsletter you get 25% off your next purchase in our online bookstore.

Zero Waste: A concrete step towards sustainability

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

By Dr. Paul Connett

I can’t remember exactly when I concluded that we were living on this planet “as if we had another one to go.”

We would need at least four planets if the whole world’s population consumed like the average American and two if everyone consumed like the average European. Meanwhile India and China are copying our massive consumption patterns. If we want to move in a sustainable direction then something has to change. In my view, the best place to start that change is with waste. Because every day every human being on this planet makes waste. All the time that we do that we are living in a non-sustainable fashion, but with good political leadership – especially at the local level – we could be part of a movement towards sustainability. A sustainable society has to be a zero waste society.

The zero waste approach is better for the local economy (more jobs), better for our health (less toxics), better for our planet (more sustainable), and better for our children (more hope for the future).

How do we get there?

Zero Waste a New DirectionIn The Zero Waste Solution I outline “Ten Steps to Zero Waste,” which are essentially common sense. Most people would have little trouble dealing with the first seven steps:

• source separation
• door-to-door collection
• composting
• recycling
• reuse and repair
• pay-as-you-throw systems for the residuals, and,
• waste reduction initiatives at both the community and corporate level.

However, it is Step Eight where some people are going to have trouble and where, if we are not careful, the waste industry could easily co-opt all our good work.

The incineration industry has discovered that by introducing two words it can continue to insert its poisonous, polluting activities into the mix. The phrase “Zero Waste to Landfill” cynically takes the good intentions of the Zero Waste movement and moves it back in a non-sustainable direction.

Instead, step eight calls on communities to build a residual separation and research facility in front of the landfill. The point of this step is to make the residual fraction very visible as opposed to landfills and incinerators that attempt to make the residuals disappear.

It is at this facility that we have to introduce a new discipline on waste. The community has to say to industry “if we can’t reuse it, recycle it or compost it, you shouldn’t be making it.” In other words waste is a design problem, and that is Step Nine: We need better design of both products and packaging if we are going to rid ourselves of the wretched “throwaway ethic” which has dominated both manufacture and our daily lives since WW II. We need to turn off the tap on disposable objects.

The final step is to create interim landfills — and I use interim because the goal of zero waste initiatives is to eliminate the need for traditional landfills. These interim landfills should be seen as temporary holding facilities until we can better figure out how to recycle, reuse, or better dispose of these materials than just tossing them in the ground, and capping them.

Summing it up with the Four Rs

Zero Waste four RsThe simplest way to explain Zero Waste is that it involves four Rs. The three familiar R’s of community responsibility—Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (including composting)—are joined by the less familiar “R” of industrial responsibility: Re-design.

In fact, the first person that talked about zero waste was one of the greatest designers of all time: Leonardo da Vinci. Somewhere in his writing he said that there is no such thing as waste: one industry’s waste should be another industry’s starting material. No doubt he was copying nature’s approach to materials. Nature makes no waste; she recycles everything. Waste is a human invention. Now we need to spend some effort to “de-invent” it.

Dr. Paul Connett is the author of The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time.

Intelligence and Intuition: Ben Kilham’s Groundbreaking Work with Bears

Monday, November 18th, 2013

A man who holds hands with full-grown bears, crawls into their dens to photograph their cubs, and comes face-to-face with their sharp teeth? It sounds crazy, but it’s just another day in the life of Benjamin Kilham, author of Out on a Limb.

Kilham has been studying and researching wild black bear behavior for nearly two decades. See some of that groundbreaking (and, at times, yes, cute) work in this video footage, complete with images of cute bear cubs.

Kilham’s dyslexia—which initially barred him from traditional academic outlets for his research—has offered him the chance to provide us with unique observations that offer a fascinating glimpse at the inner world of bears. In observing how bears communicate to one another, Kilham has made some startling discoveries—ones that may provide insight into how early humans communicated and shared resources in order to thrive. It’s also helped Kilham gain additional insight into his own dyslexia.

“Different minds work in different ways, and we need to find ways to foster a variety of talents,” writes Temple Grandin in the Foreword. “Ben forged ahead and did what made sense to him, despite tough times in the academic world. As a result, he has unveiled their wild world for us, helped orphaned bears reenter it, and helped solve human-bear conflicts.”

Many of the bears Kilham works with view him as a surrogate mother, especially Squirty, a 17-year-old bear who is the matriarchal bear who grants him a unique perch into her territory. He feeds them, walks them, and helps them discover their natural habitat before reintroducing them into the wild.

“Like Jane Goodall’s studies of chimps, Ben Kilham’s work with black bears is more than just revealing: it’s revolutionary,” writes Sy Montgomery, author of Walking with the Great Apes and Search for the Golden Moon Bear. “This riveting book supports two astonishing conclusions: that bears are far more sophisticated than most scientists dared imagine, and that dyslexia, once considered a failing, may simply be another, and often valuable, way of thinking. Ben’s work will transform our understanding of how animals live—and how science should be done.”

Kilham’s discoveries and methods are now being recognized in China, where he is working with researchers who are emulating some of his tactics in order to improve their own program to reintroduce Pandas in the wild.

Of possible interest to Chelsea Green’s longtime readers: We published Ben’s father – Lawrence Kilham, too. Lawrence Kilham’s book On Watching Birds (1988) similarly approaches bird watching with the same kind of keen eye and mind that Ben Kilham uses in approaching bears. On Watching Birds was also awarded the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for environmental writing.

Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition is available now and on sale for 35% off until November 22nd. Read the foreword (by Temple Grandin) and Introduction below.

Seed Diversity: The “Other Currency” Required for Food Security

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Below is an article that recently ran on Grist.org by author Gary Nabhan, who’s recent Chelsea Green book is Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land.

Earlier this year, Gary penned a popular Opinion piece in The New York Times (Our Coming Food Crisis, and was later featured on Tom Ashbrook’s NPR program, OnPoint examining the impact of the extended drought and changing climates on food and agriculture.

In this piece Nabhan looks more specifically at the growing rise in seed saving and non-GMO seed plantings and the decline in Monsanto’s global sales. A promising trend?

Below is the full piece, and you can go over to Grist and weigh in with comments there.

———

It is puzzling that Monsanto’s Vice President Robert Fraley recently became one of the recipients of the World Food Prize for providing GMO seeds to combat the effects of climate change, just weeks after Monsanto itself reported a $264 million loss this quarter because of a decline in interest and plummeting sales in its genetically-engineered “climate-ready” seeds. And since Fraley received his award, the production of GMO corn has been formally banned by Mexico, undoubtedly seen as one of Monsanto’s major potential markets.

The World Food Prize, offered each year on World Food Day, is supposed to underscore the humanitarian importance of viable strategies to provide a sustainable and nutritious food supply to the billions of hungry and food-insecure people on this planet. Ironically, what is engaging widespread public involvement in achieving this goal is not Monsanto’s GMOs, but the great diversity of farmer-selected and heirloom seeds in many communities. Why? Because such food biodiversity may be the most prudent “bet-hedging” strategy for dealing with food insecurity and climate uncertainty.

Consumer demand in the U.S. has never been stronger for a diversity of seeds and other planting stock of heirloom and farmer-selected food crops, as well as for wild native seeds. One of the many indicators that the public wants alternatives to Monsanto is that more than 150 community-controlled seed libraries have emerged across the country during the last five years. And over the last quarter century, those who voluntarily exchange seeds of heirloom and farmer-selected varieties of vegetables, fruits, and grains have increased the diversity of their offerings fourfold, from roughly 5000 to more than 20,000 plant selections.  During the same timeframe, the number of non-GMO, non-hybrid food crop varieties offered by seed catalogs, nurseries, and websites has increased from roughly 5000 to more than 8500 distinctive varieties.

And yet, these grassroots efforts and consumer demand are largely being overlooked by both governments and most philanthropic foundations engaged in fighting hunger and enhancing human health. Even prior to the partial U.S. government shutdown, federal support for maintaining seed diversity for food justice, landscape resilience, and ecosystems services had begun to falter. Budget cuts have crippled USDA crop resource conservation efforts and the budgets for nine of the twenty-nine remaining NRCS Plant Materials Centers are reportedly on the chopping block. As accomplished curators of vegetable, fruit, and grain diversity retire from federal and state institutions, they are seldom replaced, leaving several historically important collections at risk.

It is as if Washington politicians and bureaucrats were failing to recognize a simple fact that more than 68 million American households of gardeners, farmers, and ranchers clearly understand: seed diversity is as much a “currency” necessary for ensuring food security and economic well-being as money. These households spend on average hundreds of dollars each year purchasing a variety of seeds, seedlings, and fruit trees because of their concern for the nutritive value, flavor, and the quality of food they put in their bodies. While it should be obvious that, without seeds, much of the food we eat can’t be grown, few pundits recognize a corollary to that “food rule.” Without a diversity of seeds to keep variety in our grocery stores and farmers markets, those who are most nutritionally at risk would have difficulty gaining access to a full range of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics required to keep them healthy.

However, despite what portions of the government and agribusiness don’t seem to fathom, consumer involvement in recovering access to diverse seed stocks since the economic downturn began in 2008 has been nothing short of miraculous. Some call it the “Victory Garden effect,” in that unemployed and underemployed people are spending more time tending and harvesting their own food from home orchards and community gardens than they have in previous decades. Public involvement in growing food has increased for the sixth straight year, according to the National Gardening Association. But even financially strapped gardeners are not shirking from using their limited resources to purchase quality seeds of heirloom and farmer-selected vegetables. The Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa reports that its sales of seed packets have nearly doubled over the last five years. Another non-profit focused on heirloom and wild-native seeds—Native Seeds/SEARCH of Tucson—saw its seed sales triple since the end of 2009. And there are between 300 and 400 other small seed companies supported by consumers in the U.S. that offer seeds by mail-order, by placing seed packets racks in nurseries and groceries, or via on the internet.

Nevertheless, the U.S. may now be approaching the largest shortfall in the availability of native and weed-free seed at any time in our history due to recent climate-related catastrophes scouring our croplands, pastures, and forests. While a few large corporations focus on a few varieties of corn, soy, and other commodity crops, there is unprecedented demand for diverse seeds to be used for a great variety of human and environmental uses in this country, and elsewhere.

It has become painfully clear that America needs to recruit and support a whole new cohort of dedicated women and men to manage seed growouts, nurseries, and on-farm breeding and crop selection efforts for the public good. To further evaluate crop varieties for their capacity to adapt to climate change, we will certainly need many more participants in such endeavors than a charismatic Johnny Appleseed or two. They must stand ready to harvest, grow, monitor, select, and store a diversity of seeds for a diversity of needs in advance of forthcoming catastrophes. And they must value acquiring and maintaining a diversity of seedstocks, much as a wise investor relies on a diversified investment portfolio. Diverse and adapted seeds are literally the foundation of our food security infrastructure. Without them, the rest is a house of cards.

Fortunately, courageous efforts have been initiated to rebuild America’s seed “caring capacity.” The collaborative effort known as Seeds of Success, which is part of an interagency Native Plant Materials Development Program, has trained dozens of young people at the Chicago Botanic Garden to collect seeds of hundreds of native species over the last few years. In the non-profit sector, Bill McDorman of Native Seeds/SEARCH has organized six week-long Seed Schools around the country that have trained more than 330 gardeners and farmers to be seed entrepreneurs.

Elsewhere, Daniel Bowman Simon, now a graduate student at Columbia University, has helped hundreds of low-income households (eligible for USDA Food and Nutrition Program assistance) to use their “SNAP” benefits to purchase diverse seeds and seedlings of food crops at farmers markets in order to produce not just one meal, but many. In light of recent unjustified critiques of the SNAP program during Farm Bill debates, it is surprising that fiscal conservatives did not acknowledge how providing financially strapped families with seedstock may be one of the most cost-effective means of reducing food insecurity over the long haul. It is tangibly giving the poor the “means to fish” rather than a single meal of a fish. With more than 8150 farmers markets in the U.S. today, compared to 1775 in 1994, the potential for this seed dissemination strategy to help meet the nutritional needs of the poorest of the poor has never been greater.

Regardless of whether U.S. states ever require GMO labeling or ban GMOs entirely as Mexico has done, there is abundant evidence that we need to shift public investment–from subsiding market control by just a few “silver bullet” plant varieties, whether genetically engineered or not, to supporting the rediversification of America’s farms and tables with thousands of seedstocks and fruit selections. Instead of spending a projected forty to one hundred million dollars on developing, patenting, and licensing a single GMO, perhaps we should be annually redirecting that much public support toward further replenishing the diversity found in our seed catalogs, nurseries, fields, orchards, pastures, and plates. With growing evidence of the devastating effects of climate uncertainty, now is not the time to put all of our seeds into one basket.

Photo Credit: jaroslavd

Zero Waste: How to Untrash the Planet

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Waste. We make it every single day. But how often do we think about it? It’s easy enough to throw your garbage in a trashcan and never think of it again. Out of sight, out of mind—right?

Not for long. “New research showed that the annual volume of that waste could double by 2025, thanks to growing prosperity and urbanization,” writes Paul Connett, author of The Zero Waste Solution and contributor to the documentary film Trashed. “Translation: Rather than producing 1.3 billion tons per year, as we do now, we could soon be producing 2.6 billion tons.” Soon, it will be impossible for us to avoid our own waste.

But there’s hope. Through research, case studies, and profiles, Paul Connett’s The Zero Waste Solution introduces problem-solving techniques to rid the planet of as much waste as possible by 2020. “If we lave the waste problem to itself, we are part of a nonsustainable way of living on this planet with huge consequences for human health and the global environment,” writes Connett in the Foreword. “However, with good leadership we can become part of the solution.”

Inspiring Zero Waste initiatives already exist worldwide, in places like:

  • San Francisco, CA: By 2012, they achieved 80 percent waste diverted and are continuing to move forward;
  • Austin, TX: Has plans to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills 90 percent by 2030;
  • Sicily, Italy: This small island is playing a large role in the fight against incinerators—expensive, unsustainable, toxin-producing waste disposers; and many more.

In his latest book, Connett imagines a world in which cities, regions, and countries with zero waste initiatives were not mere case studies and hopeful examples, but the worldwide norm.

The Zero Waste Solution is for all those concerned about humanity’s health and environment, writes Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons in the Foreword. “Essential reading for anyone fighting landfills, incineration, overpackaging, and the other by-products of our unthinking and irresponsible throwaway society.”

The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time is available now and on sale for 35% off until November 11th.

Read Chapter 2: Ten Steps Toward a Zero Waste Community:

Reinventing Fire at the End of the Oil Age

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Forty years ago, key members of OPEC embargoed oil exports to the U.S. and other countries. Oil was scarce and prices soared. So what have we learned from the 1973 incident?

In short, not much. We are still largely living under the illusory belief that we can burn oil forever.

Four times since 1980, U.S. forces have intervened in the Persian Gulf to protect not Israel but oil. The Gulf hasn’t become more stable. Readiness for such interventions costs a half-trillion dollars per year—about ten times what we pay for oil from the Gulf, and rivaling total defense expenditures at the height of the Cold War. And burning oil emits two-fifths of fossil carbon, so abundant oil only speeds dangerous climate change that destabilizes the world and multiplies security threats.

In 2011, Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute penned a comprehensive guide to weaning the United States completely off oil and coal by 2050. Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era details how, by 2050, the United States could triple its energy efficiency while switching to more renewables and increasing the economy with no oil, coal, or nuclear energy and one-third less natural gas. All of this could cost $5 trillion less than “business as usual” and allow the United States to run a 158 percent bigger economy.

Reinventing Fire is a wise, detailed and comprehensive blueprint for gathering the best existing technologies for energy use and putting them to work right now to create jobs, end our dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels, and unleash the enormous economic potential of the coming energy revolution,” writes President Bill Clinton.

Now, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the oil embargo, we’re releasing Lovins’ book in an updated paperback edition.

Fracked oil and gas, Canadian tar sands, Saudi oil—none can beat modern efficiency and renewables on direct cost, price stability, or impacts, notes Lovins. The end of the conflict-creating, climate-threatening Oil Age is coming clearly into view, and not a moment too soon.

“Imagine fuel without fear,” writes Lovins in the Preface. “No runaway climate change. No oil spills, dead coal miners, dirty air, devastated lands, lost wildlife. No energy poverty. No oil-fed wars, tyrannies, or terrorists. Nothing to run out. Nothing to cut off. Nothing to worry about. Just energy abundance, benign and affordable, for all, for ever. That richer, fairer, cooler, safer world is possible, practical, even profitable—because saving and replacing fossil fuels increasingly works better and costs no more than buying and burning them. We just need a new fire.”

Reinventing Fire (Paperback edition) is available now and on sale for 35% off until October 23rd. Read an excerpt of Chapter One: Defossilizing Fuels below.

Defossilizing Fuels – An Excerpt from Reinventing Fire

Renewable Energy for Resilient Communities

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

How can we successfully bring our neighbors together and relocalize our food, energy, and financial systems?

To glean some of the best ideas percolating throughout the United States, and the world, sign up for the Community Resilience Chats—a webinar series that delves into details essential for communities that are ready to take the necessary steps to reclaim their future. These online discussions stem from The Community Resilience Guides co-published by Post Carbon Institute and Chelsea Green.

These online chats are co-produced by Chelsea Green, Transition US, and Post Carbon Institute.

In the next chat — Power from the People — community clean power visionaries, Lynn Benander of Co-op Power and Lyle Estill of Piedmont Biofuels will share their experiences in moving away from big energy. Join the conversation:

Community Resilience Chat: Power from the People – Webinar
September 10, 2013 at 2:00pm (EST)

The webinar is free, but space is limited so don’t wait to sign up. Participants will receive an exclusive 35% discount on Greg Pahl’s Power from the People. There will be a presentation and time for Q&A, but send in your burning questions on community clean power in advance to help shape the conversation.

If you missed the first Community Resilience Chat: Rebuilding the Foodshed with Philip Ackerman-Leist, you can watch it here:

 Next up on Community Resilience Chats: Local Dollars, Local Sense. Michael Shuman’s perspective sheds light on rebooting the economy to meet the needs of investors and entrepreneurs for a healthy and secure local economy.

Want to learn more about these books and how to make your community more self-reliant? Chelsea Green is offering  The Community Resilience Guides series as a special book set to make sure you and your neighbors have the tools and strategies you need to become more resilient.

Flying Blind: Buckthorn, Bureaucracy & Bats

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Flying Blind is more than just a story about one man’s battles with bats, buckthorn, authority and byzantine government regulations.

Celebrated author Howard Frank Mosher says Don Mitchell’s forthcoming memoir “does for rural New England what Wendell Berry’s essays do for Kentucky and Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It does for the American West.”

As the title suggests, the book is also about…bats. Not just any bats. Endangered bats. Or, as Mitchell first thinks of them — “flying rats.”

“On the few occasions when I’d actually seen a bat skitter through the night sky—flying with the crazy, unpredictable movements that call to mind the way a fox can dance across the land—my response was apprehensive,” writes Don Mitchell in the opening of his new book, Flying Blind. “Flying rats, they seemed to me.”

How could a man with such an aversion to these nightly creatures dedicate much of his post-retirement to their conservation, literally crawling on hands and knees to create a safe, nesting habitat?

It wasn’t easy. Flying Blind tells the story of Mitchell’s coming to terms with authority figures, whether in the form of his father or the federal government, as he navigates—mentally and physically—regulations, pesky invasives and ends up connecting deeply with a species that once gave him “the willies.”

Flying Blind is now available. Take 35% off through August 19, 2013.

Click below to view photos of Mitchell’s work at Treleven Farm:

Flying Blind Slide Show by Chelsea Green Publishing

Mosher, the author of Where the Rivers Flow North, and Walking to Gatlinburg, among other novels, notes that Flying Blind is “the story of how place, the past, family, and meaningful work can still form character at a time when much of America is increasingly alienated from nature, history, and community. Beautifully written, relentlessly honest, and unfailingly entertaining, Flying Blind is the book Don Mitchell was born to write.”

Join Don Mitchell for a Bat Walk
Interested in experiencing the book’s setting firsthand? Don is offering tours of the forest at Treleven Farm in Vermont to take readers through the bat zones, share his experiences and discuss Flying Blind. If you’re visiting the green mountains during leaf peeping season, stop by Don’s on a Saturday morning at 10am to take the 90-minute tour (last tour will be Saturday, November 2, 2013).

Read an excerpt from Flying Blind below.

Authority by Chelsea Green Publishing

DIY: Cut Your Electric Bill and Beat the Heat

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Is your electricity bill rising with the soaring temperatures as you try to stay cool this summer?

By changing a few simple habits you can reduce the heat and your energy costs. Such as: Unplug your electronics when you’re not using them; grill or prepare food instead of cooking with the stove or oven; hang your laundry to dry, draw your drapes during the day – and more.

Already doing these simple things but still sweating?

While these small habitual changes can make a difference, there are deeper, structural changes you can make, too, to make your home more energy efficient. An efficient home is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and it can help reduce your environmental impact and save you a considerable amount of money.

Jeff Wilson, author of The Greened House Effect, shows you how to slash your energy costs up to 90% in this video, where he does a spray insulation as part of a Deep Energy Retrofit (DER).

Before you rip off your roof and get in over your head, be sure to do a thorough evaluation of your home. A HERS (Home Energy Rating System) test or other energy audit will help you determine where your home is leaking air. Wilson recommends getting an audit because it “will allow you to target the worst perpetrators of energy wasting crimes in your home so that you can concentrate on fixing the big problems first.”

Once you complete your evaluation, you can begin analyzing your problem areas and determine where to start. A full-on DER may not be for every home, but there may be some areas of your home where you can significantly improve your energy efficiency.

Get started by reading the excerpt on Designing Your Deep Energy Retrofit from The Greened House Effect below.

Excerpt: Designing a DER by Chelsea Green Publishing

Five Ways You Can Support Climate Change Adaptation

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

In response to the widespread and overwhelmingly positive responses to the guest editorial by Gary Paul Nabhan in Monday’s New York Times titled The Coming Food Crisis — many people have been wondering what they can do in addition to applying the heat and drought adaptation strategies mentioned in Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land.

Nabhan and some of his colleagues have come up with a list of action.

One of the most critically important efforts you can make is ensuring the wild and cultivate plant diversity is available to heal our foodsheds and watersheds after climatic disruptions and to adapt to hotter and drier conditions. Unfortunately, several key programs that allow effective collaborations among federal agencies, farmers, ranchers, non-profits, and grassroots community groups are threatened with budgetary cuts or closures, as Nabhan mentioned in his op-ed. In addition to voting with your fork for the right kind of food system, contact your Congressional delegation and federal program leaders to express your continuing programs, some of which are now on the chopping block. Good policy and good practices are needed to survive the coming years, and there is no time better than now to ramp up these efforts.

Nabhan, and others, recommend helping these valuable programs as either an advocate, volunteer, or collaborator:

1. Plant Materials Centers of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

The 27 Plant Materials Centers play vital roles in collecting and evaluating native plant materials for ecological restoration and reclamation after catastrophic events, and for wildlife and livestock production in many habitats. Despite an outstanding legacy of service in the public interest, several centers are now threatened with closure due to budget cuts. Write your Congressional representatives expressing continuing support for their good work—especially if they are in a district which hosts a plant material center—and copy the letter to the following national staff leaders. See

John Englert, National Plant Materials Program Leader
USDA-NRCS, Ecological Sciences Division
PO Box 2890, Room 6157, South Bldg.
Washington, DC 20013
Phone: (202) 720-0536 | Fax: (202) 720-1814
Email: [email protected]

Shawn Belt, National Plant Materials Center Acting Manager
USDA-NRCS, Norman A. Berg National Plant Materials Center
Bldg. 509, BARC-East, Beaver Dam Rd.
Beltsville, MD 20705
Phone: (301) 504-8175 | Fax: (301) 504-8741
Email: [email protected]

 

2. Seeds of Success

The Seeds of Success (SOS) program is part of the Federal interagency Native Plant Materials Development Program. It supports and coordinates seed collection of native plant populations in the United States to increase the number of species and the amount of native seed that is available for use to stabilize, rehabilitate, and restore lands in the United States by partnering with the seed producing industry. The program began in 2001 through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for collections on public lands in the West. The need for geographically and ecologically diverse collections from across the United States led to partnerships with eight additional institutions. It and its partners draws upon a number of funding sources, some of which (like NFWF, below) are threatened with closure. Write your Congressional legislation and express support for a broad interagency plant diversity conservation initiative with funding equal to what mammals, birds and fish receive. Copy your letters or emails to the following national leaders.

Native Plant Materials Development Program
Bureau of Land Management Plant Conservation Program Lead
Peggy Olwell Bureau of Land Management
1849 C Street NW, Rm 2134LM
Attention: Peggy Olwell
Washington, DC 20240
Tel: 202-912-7273
Email: [email protected]

Seeds of Success National Collection Curator Megan Haidet
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C Street NW, Rm 2134LM
Attention: Megan Haidet
Washington, DC 20240
Tel: 202-912-7233
Email: [email protected]

 

3. National Plant Germplasm System

The National Plant Germplasm System holds more than 561,000 accessions of more than 14,800 plant species useful in adapting crops to heat, drought, and other climatic or ecological stresses. Despite its international leadership in plant conservation and many crop-specific climate adaptation projects underway, it is chronically underfunded relative to its significance. Write your Congressional representatives to express continuing support for their good work—especially if they are in a district which hosts a USDA/ARS Plant Introduction Station—and copy the letter to the following national staff leader. You can also check out their holdings and programs online.

Peter K Bretting
Crop Production and Protection
General Biological Science
Plant Germplasm & Genomes
[email protected]
Phone: (301) 504-5541
Fax: (301) 504-6191
Room 4-2212
5601 Sunnyside Avenue
GWCC-BLTSVL
BELTSVILLE, MD, 20705-5139

 

4. USDA Strike Force

Last year, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack launched the StrikeForce Initiative, a cross-agency effort to accelerate assistance to Historically Underserved groups. Through this initiative, USDA is working to ensure all producers have access to programs that can help them thrive, including proven conservation programs. In partnership with local community-based organizations, three USDA agencies—Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency and Rural Development—are working to improve USDA’s outreach to these communities in order to increase their access to—and participation in—these valuable programs. The StrikeForce Initiative is currently being piloted in 12 states stricken by poverty to help farmers, farmworkers, and food microenterprises adapt to changing conditions. Write your Congressional representatives expressing continuing support for their good work—especially if they are in a state which hosts a Strjke Force Initiative.

5. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

After years of supporting national plant species conservation initiatives among agencies and non-profits, NFWF has closed its program and restructured its assets away from plant conservation to animal conservation. Write Executive Director Jeff Trandel and VP for Evaluation Claude Gascon to request they reconsider:

Executive Director and CEO: Jeff Trandahl
VP for Evaluations: Claude Gascon
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
M 1133 Fifteenth St., N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: 202-857-0166


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