Reflections for land trusts, September 2022
I want to share a bit of good news with you.
With the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act, there are significant opportunities to increase the pace of nature-based climate solutions (woodland/forest/wetland conservation, soil health, etc.) and increase renewable energy.
That’s the good news.
Now comes the vision. “Blanket solar” (my term for traditional ground-mounted solar that covers the land in a blanket) is likely to become the de facto norm unless communities, and conservation organizations, demand more creative and responsive solar projects.
Traditional ground-mounted solar is convenient and can often be installed in a way that works with pollinators. And we need more pollinator habitats, for sure.
But we also need to treat our farmland — and our farmers — with respect and face the reality that climate change is making farming harder, not easier.
That’s why I continue to advocate for elevated solar (solar that’s at least six feet off the ground), or solar that can be managed to tilt upward to allow large animals to graze underneath. We need to ensure that solar installations can be part of soil health, water management, farmland viability, and new farmer economic development.
That’s where there is increasingly more good news: land trusts are recognizing that there’s a new way to make a difference. They are working on natural climate solutions, promoting energy conservation incentives (so we need less energy overall), and sharing the vision of what solar could be… all as part of their mission to conserve land for generations.
Just as community conservation is no longer seen as mission creep, no longer is an integrated approach to climate change action viewed as a waste of time and focus. In fact, given the critical nature of climate change impacts on soil, habitats, farms, water, and communities, it’s likely the most important thing conservation groups can do.
Hats off to the land trusts helping to lead the way.
Reflections from Judy, August 2022
Have you been following what the new Inflation Reduction Act means for your region, your climate change work, and local and regional conservation efforts?
As land trusts increasingly think about how they can amplify the importance of slowing down climate change, including supporting energy conservation and compatible renewables, this new legislation is worth a look.
That’s true for its impact on nature-based climate solutions, too.
I think you’ll find this article from the Bipartisan Policy Center helpful in summarizing the funding sources and strategies within the bill.
Our next challenge will be to figure out how the funding is distributed, including how conservation groups and communities can tap into these funds in a timely manner. You may want to contact your legislative leaders to let them know how important these funds are to the change you are working towards — and while you’re talking to them, inquire as to how that can happen ASAP.
This is potentially a game-changer. Now we need to make sure we are part of the “game.”
Reflections for land trusts, August 2022
I don’t know about where you are, but it’s too dang hot here today. We are expecting temperatures of almost 100 degrees.
More and more, summer is a difficult time for people, wildlife, and farms. With the erratic jet stream — increasingly caused by melting ice — we are experiencing heat domes, droughts, and extreme weather.
There was a recent article talking about how summer is becoming more hazardous because of extreme heat and related weather challenges.
For those who can relocate or “summer” in cooler and more stable weather, it’s an inconvenience. For others, it can be much more devastating.
The impact, of course, goes beyond humans. Wildlife and farm animals are more vulnerable than ever to extreme flooding, fires, and drought. There is no question that we have entered a different pattern of climate. Our choice, therefore, is to act so as to decisively slow it down.
That means that land trusts and conservation groups will need to advocate for climate solutions beyond nature-based approaches, just like they do for conservation funding and policies. No longer can climate change be seen as “not my job”; too much is at stake.
And the solutions are all around us, we just need to prioritize them.
The good news is that land trusts are increasingly aware of this challenge and are picking up the pace to talk about and implement solutions that will benefit communities and the lands and waters important to their identity and survival.
Others are beginning to promote the need for elevated solar and agrivoltaics (solar that’s been designed to work with farms, soil health, water management, and farm viability) as part of the solution to protecting crops, pastures, livestock, and soils from extreme heat and erratic weather.
Indeed, the concept of “flash droughts” is becoming well-established. Farmland without water is an increasing risk no matter where you are in the country. Corn, soybeans, vegetables, and orchards are all feeling the stress; agrivoltaics (often elevated solar) could make a difference.
This is why I think you will appreciate the leadership of land trusts like Conserving Carolina (featured below), and Coastal Rivers, who are making it clear that an integrated approach matters.
I appreciate your willingness to think outside the box, recognize that past paradigms need to shift, and see that we have a tremendous opportunity to slow down climate change.
Reflections from Judy, July 2022
I hope this email finds you to be OK.
With extreme weather occurring across this country and indeed the world, it is unfair to assume that anyone is OK. Omnicron, of course, makes this even more true. Climate anxiety, combined with economic uncertainty, adds another layer.
That’s why I’m prioritizing checking in with friends, family, and colleagues more than ever.
To me, the extreme weather serves as a cry for action, a warning of what we can address or ignore. It is our moral choice, as well as an ethical imperative that we step forward and amplify the change that needs to happen. Nature, farms, and our communities need us to take action; there are people and animals whose voices are not heard nor valued.
One of the speakers you might appreciate is Dr. Michael Mann. Dr. Mann is a climate scientist who, in addition to his ground-breaking research, is also a widely-respected climate communicator.
I recommend you watch this short interview he had with CNN this week about the extreme weather and the connections between climate change, its drivers, and what can be done. It might be something you can share with friends, family, and colleagues.
For conservation organizations, it is an opportunity to focus on climate drivers and climate solutions.
Thank you for caring and for being responsive and adaptive to the solutions to climate change.
Reflections from Judy, June 2022
How have you been experiencing a changing climate of late?
For me, this past May was notable for a number of reasons. I traveled to New Mexico to be part of the Land Trust Alliance training team for executive directors. This was the first time in two-and-a-half years that I had flown. It was, as you might expect, a semi-nightmare as extreme weather caused flight cancellations. It took me almost 36 hours to reach Santa Fe.
Fires were raging, with hundreds of firefighters staying in the area. Every time we saw a firefighter we thanked them.
Then, there was the announcement, per The New York Times, that “the concentration of [carbon dioxide] gas reached nearly 421 parts per million in May, the peak for the year, as power plants, vehicles, farms, and other sources around the world continued to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Emissions totaled 36.3 billion tons in 2021, the highest level in history.
“As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, the planet keeps warming — with effects like increased flooding, more extreme heat, drought, and worsening wildfires that are already being experienced by millions of people worldwide.”
Oy. And that’s just two of many revelations.
There are those who throw up their hands and say, “Whatever…” And I know it’s overwhelming and often frustrating.
I too wonder what difference I am making. Yet we can’t give up.
We have a moral obligation to work together to transition to compatible renewables and find climate solutions that will support the lands, waters, communities, and people we love. We have a window of time to lead, to recognize that old paradigms of what it means to be a land conservationist, or a community member, are shifting.
There is urgency. And there are solutions. There is funding. And there’s opportunity. We just need to knit them together.
Reflections for land trusts, May 2022
Remember the song with the line, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful…“? Yes, it’s from Let it Snow! and it’s been in my head lately. Not because of the snow, but rather the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing.
Here in upstate New York, we’ve had fifty-degree temperature swings in two days. That’s not great if you suffer from migraines that are triggered by pressure differentials; it’s not great for a lot of reasons.
But here’s the thing: an estimated 72% of Americans believe climate change is real. That’s hopeful.
With the growing urgency to transition off fossil fuels — and finding ways for renewables to work with lands and waters, while accelerating land protection, restoration, and natural climate solutions — funding is increasing in various ways.
Check out New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Minnesota. There are more examples, for sure. Here’s a list of Funding Opportunities from the U.S. Climate Resilience Tool Kit. And agriculture — as one of the highest stressed industries by climate change — is also leaning in. The USDA will invest $1 billion in climate-smart commodities, expanding markets, and strengthening rural America
The question is, how are land trusts helping their communities take advantage of these opportunities? How agile are the conservation groups in your region to shift, grow, adapt, and persuade in a changing landscape?
How might you help elevate new thinking and new approaches to climate solutions to increase people’s commitment to making timely, and impactful, change?
You can start by sharing climate solutions on social media and connecting to what people care about. You might find one of the examples below something that could inspire hope or change.
If you’d like more ideas about solution-based, conservation-related, examples check out hundreds of examples on my website. The reason Kate Belton and I continue to provide this email, and catalog the articles online, is to make it easy for you to share climate solutions and encourage new thinking and leadership from land conservation organizations.
Thanks for caring, and sharing, about how land trusts are working to slow down climate change.
Reflections from Judy, May 2022
This month, I want to share how much I appreciate your efforts to talk about climate change and solutions to slow it down.
The key is to connect around shared values and ensure that the solutions we propose don’t come across as elitist or out-of-touch. Telling stories about why you care, and why you are doing your part, will create a sense of shared purpose and change.
I rely on people like you to give me hope and to spread the word about taking action. Thank you.
Reflections for land trusts, April 2022
I’m noticing that more and more land trusts are “leaning in” and talking about climate change. They’re working to find shared values and positive solutions, and increasingly connecting the urgency of slowing down climate change to save the very things they (and you) love.
For many, that means helping people understand that natural climate solutions are less than half of the solution — and that the success of those natural climate solutions rests on transitioning soon to renewables.
But not just any renewables. Instead, advocating for what I call “compatible” renewables. Those that help pollinators, soil health, farm viability, and water management: those that add dual value.
You’ll find several examples of that type of approach below, with American Farmland Trust working to change the narrative around solar — and demonstrate how it can be beneficial for farmers and farms alike.
Check out the work that these land trusts are doing to encourage new conversations and approaches related to climate solutions. I’m interested to see what resonates with you, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have a minute.
Reflections from Judy, April 2022
I hope this email finds you to be OK. Here, in Kinderhook, it’s predicted to be 80 degrees. In April.
All over the country, the weather has been whacky. Flooding. Snowstorms. Hail. Fires. Tornados. Extreme winds. It’s enough to make you run and hide.
It’s no surprise. The recent climate report made it very clear that we are going to have to move away from fossil fuels rapidly and that farms, forests, woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands are an important part of the natural climate solution.
As shared by The Nature Conservancy, “the latest IPCC report shows greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and current plans to address climate change are not ambitious enough to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels — a threshold scientists believe is necessary to avoid even more catastrophic impacts.”
The key is to remember that natural climate solutions are central to pulling climate polluting gasses from the air (and helping to manage extreme weather events). They can help reduce the impacts of extreme weather. And they can provide for better production of food, assist with plant and animal survival, and improve water quality.
But we must also realize that we will need to support these natural climate change solutions by finding ways to increase energy conservation and move to renewables. Soon.
It will take a dual approach. And it will take leadership to reshape expectations and what is considered conservation work.
Research is documenting the opportunities — and the challenges — of our response to climate change. There is an opportunity to share articles, stories, and vision.
That’s part of the reason I select these articles for you; my hope is that you will share them with others and work them into your own conversations with friends, family, and your community.
Change won’t happen by chance. But neither will land and water conservation. That’s why I know that you know how to lean in — and make the change we need, happen.
Reflections for land trusts, late March 2022
I hope this email finds you well. I continue to grapple with the climate news, the war in the Ukraine, and how they are actually linked.
I don’t know if you’ve been following this line of thinking, but there’s a lot of data on what this means.
There is also the realization that we can turn this around. Check out this post, “Feed People, Power Economies, Foster Peace with Agrivoltaics.”
At a time when it’s important to lean in, and provide hope, land trusts are providing a bright spot in climate action. Many are embracing natural climate solutions, including regenerative agriculture, prairies, older growth trees, and restoration.
Others are realizing that without energy conservation and renewables, those natural climate solutions are increasingly at risk. As a result, they are talking about the importance of well-designed, and scaled, renewables and the dual benefits of land conservation. That’s leadership — because conservation folks haven’t historically seen the urgency of renewables.
There’s recognition that urban, suburban, and rural conservation efforts are intertwined with climate action. Local conservation, and local energy, is now something that can — and should — work together. The saying, “Think globally; act locally,” has a new ring to it in the face of war.
The examples below capture some of this three-pronged approach to climate action: natural climate solutions, energy conservation, and renewables.
That’s very hopeful.