Reflections from Judy, February 2021
I hope you are doing okay given the challenges of this pandemic and the crazy weather we have been experiencing across the country.
There has been a lot of interesting climate research of late, so much that it’s a challenge to narrow down which articles to share with you.
That said, I thought it was important to elevate the research regarding how climate change is impacting the ability of trees to absorb greenhouse gas pollution, as well as good news that there is a growing effort to invest in farms as part of the climate solution.
I also wanted to share that I’m receiving an increasing number of emails from people expressing both concerns about, and sometimes support for, solar and wind. This is likely to continue as we face what many are seeing as a blight on the landscape.
I’m hearing many folks say that rooftop solar, and brownfield solar, should be installed first (before “open land” is used). While that sounds good, it doesn’t address the reality of both the need and the economic circumstances—and frankly, for many farms, the need to add elevated or dual-use solar as part of their economic strategy for farm viability.
If we are going to save the lands, waters, and communities we love, we are going to need to think holistically.
Natural climate solutions, carbon payments, and land management will continue to get a lot of press coverage, too. Continuing to showcase a wide variety of solutions will be important to achieve the climate goals we need in a timely manner. Land trusts and conservation groups are starting to do just that. I’m interested to see what you think.
Reflections for land trusts, January 2021
I’m feeling encouraged. Land trusts have been reaching out to me asking how they might play a bigger role in slowing down (mitigating) climate change. It’s a really good sign.
Just five years ago, many land trusts didn’t consider climate change mitigation to be central to their work. Yet, today, it’s a different story.
As you might expect, many are focusing on “natural climate solutions” (using land and water to absorb climate-polluting gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane). That often means changing land protection and management strategies, drafting easements that allow for carbon payments or off-sets, and rethinking the roles of soil, grasses, and trees as parts of the solution.
But, even more encouraging is how many land trusts are also facing the reality that as locally-based conservation organizations, they need to help their communities understand and embrace compatible renewables. Without a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, the lands and waters we love—and are working so hard to conserve—will face unprecedented peril.
And so too will our communities.
Addressing the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities, community partners, and a diversity of landowners, is critical. The good news is that land trusts already have the tools to do this—it simply requires merging their commitment to inclusive conservation and strategic partnerships with a responsibility to mitigate climate change, and be part of the solution.
I look forward to continuing to share articles that feature this integrated way of thinking; an approach that recognizes the urgency of climate change solutions to match the accelerating climate challenges ahead.
Reflections from Judy, January 2021
As you may have noticed, I “hit pause” on the climate eNewsletter, as I thought we all had enough on our plates given the holidays and transition to the new year.
I’ve also spent some time thinking about where we can find joy and resilience to move forward, to inspire others, and find our own inner peace.
I’ve been wondering about how to find shared values around kindness, compassion, and empathy—and how we can value those as much as we do the conservation of land and water; how they are linked and intertwined with conservation, yet overlooked and undervalued.
Vladimir Mayakovsky, a Russian poet and playwright, once said, “Our planet is poorly equipped for delight. One much snatch gladness from the days that are.”
He is, of course, right—at least part of the time. But what if we saw ourselves less as “snatchers,” and instead as givers of “delight”—creators of community and place, where there is no need to “snatch,” because there is no shortage of hope, joy, and delight?
What if we saw ourselves as solution-makers, happiness-creators, empowerment-facilitators, and fearless carriers of the truth?
What if the truth was seen as something to embrace rather than fight, because, in part, we met people where they are and listened deeply to their needs, dreams, and concerns?
I think that’s what the future of conservation looks like. We are in the business of hope.
Our hope is truth-based, solution-based, responsive, inclusive, and creative. You can feel it, smell it, and embrace it. It’s real.
The articles below echo that sentiment. I look forward to sharing the challenges and solutions around climate change, conservation, and community with you in the year ahead. It’s going to take all of us, and together we are going to have to weather the chaos and fear that comes along with it.
Reflections from Judy, December 2020
As we head towards the New Year there’s some good news about climate change.
Okay—so maybe not a lot, but let’s take what we can get. I have purposely provided a mix of articles that aren’t all dreary because we need to find some hope, especially this time of year.
Increasingly people are realizing that we need creative, timely, and integrated solutions to the climate crisis. Natural climate solutions are part of that—and are getting more attention all the time.
So, too, is the realization that we must decarbonize our energy system as soon as possible—and help farmers, communities, and community organizations make that shift. Not only will it be cost-effective, but it will play a critical role in the health and vitality of our families and communities in the coming 20-30 years.
As noted in this recent article, “a growing body of economics research documents the tremendous cost savings associated with implementing climate solutions. But it’s critical to recognize that many climate impacts simply cannot be quantified in economic terms: It’s impossible, for instance, to place a dollar value on human suffering as a result of homes lost to floods or fires, or climate-caused famine, or the value lost in species extinctions and declining biodiversity.”
Thinking outside the box, helping others to see how climate change is here, now—and how we have the solutions to address it, now—is critical to encouraging action. We need to keep working together to move climate change from being seen as a political issue to being understood as a moral, ethical, and quality of life issue.
The shift is underway. More and more Americans are looking for solutions that connect with their core beliefs. Thank you for being part of the change.
Reflections for land trusts, November 2020
All over the country land trusts are working to figure out what role they can, and should, play to address climate change. There’s a lot of good news, too.
Their creativity, partnerships, and respectful messaging is starting to gain a lot of traction.
That’s not to say it’s always easy. It can be challenging to figure out how to connect with different members of the community.
Some ways to identify appropriate messages and timely strategies are to listen to local leaders, draw out personal stories from landowners, and participate in conversations with community organizations. However, depending on the breadth of these voices, it may not capture a more widespread perspective.
If that’s something you’re interested in, you might want to check out the Yale Climate Communication website, including the Opinion Maps. They update these a couple of times each year, so they’re a great way to keep an eye on patterns related to climate change in your region, county by county.
You can access these maps, and review the questions they ask, here. Just mouse over the map of the United States, and click on your county of interest. You will then see a list of questions about climate change (they use the term global warming) and estimations of how people feel about the topics and questions.
As this year comes to a close, I’m hoping you will be inspired by the land trusts below. Together, we need to continue to come up with creative solutions to climate change and be willing to think outside the box of traditional conservation approaches.
That’s why I’m thankful for you. With your help, we can inspire the change we need to address climate change and conserve the communities, lands, and waters we cherish.
Best wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
Reflections from Judy, November 2020
I hope you, your friends, and family are doing okay given the increasing reach of the pandemic. With all that is going on, many of us are finding we need to slow down, get outside, and embrace what we love.
Our personal resilience is more important than ever as we face—on top of everything—accelerating climate change.
Given the growing urgency to take action, I thought I’d share a few articles about natural climate solutions, as well as a video and an article explaining how ground-mounted solar can be installed in a manner that is compatible with agriculture.
Why am I elevating the importance of ground-mounted solar as part of our conservation strategy? Because, while natural climate solutions are critical to absorbing greenhouse gas pollutants, we need to significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels. This will require a marked increase in renewable energy–more than can be installed on rooftops and brownfields (in many areas).
That’s a bit daunting. But there’s good news. Solar installations don’t have to gobble up land nor take it out of production—nor create a conservation “wasteland.”
Well-designed ground-mounted solar projects can be compatible with active agriculture. Indeed, many farmers see properly installed renewables as a way to buffer erratic markets and weather conditions. Depending on the design, solar installations can help increase soil health, allow for food production, increase water absorption, and/or sequester carbon in the soil.
It’s not just for small-scale solar, either. Large-scale solar can also be installed so as to be a “win” for conservation—by helping to keep farms viable and/or create new pollinator habitat.
The challenge (well, one of them) is that many people aren’t connecting the dots. They aren’t recognizing that we have to act now, to dramatically slow down climate change to save what defines our communities, the lands and waters we love, and our way of life.
That’s where you come in.
You can share climate change solutions and talk about the climate impacts you see around you. You can connect to those who care about the same things you care about, and you can help change the paradigm of what is needed (because you know what is at stake.)
It doesn’t have to be hard. Start small. You can always share these articles on your social media feed to get the conversation going. Thank you, and I look forward to sharing what land trusts are doing to slow down climate change when I touch base in a couple of weeks.
Reflections for land trusts, October 2020
I’ve been thinking about climate change, even more than usual, given what the election will mean for future climate policies on a local and national level.
Land trusts are also paying attention to the ballot box.
I’ve noticed that land trusts are posting messages on their Facebook pages for people to cast their votes with water, redwoods, and conservation in mind. So far, I haven’t seen any that are directly suggesting that those who care about land, water, and their communities might consider how climate change will factor into their voting choices. (If you know of some land trusts who are communicating this, I’d appreciate if you could email me about them.)
But, momentum is growing. Land trusts are increasingly taking action to slow down climate change. Many are focusing on natural climate solutions to reduce carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide using strategic soil, wetland, land, and water management.
Others are also recognizing we need to do even more—going beyond the critical nature of natural climate solutions—if we are going to save the lands and waters we love.
These land trusts are helping their communities and state policymakers understand how renewables can (and should) be compatible with land and water—and what’s at stake if we don’t make this transition in the next 10–15 years. It’s not much different than asking people to consider invasive species or the importance of an open space bond act—if you connect the dots to the impacts on land and water conservation.
This push for energy conservation and energy use is a logical extension of our land conservation efforts, given that climate change is the greatest threat to conservation we have ever faced. Partnerships with other organizations can help land trusts be part of the larger solution and help their constituencies recognize the benefits. It is also likely to attract new people who care about climate change to land trusts.
A recent article notes, “as Election Day nears, a majority of registered voters in the United States say climate change will be a very (42%) or somewhat (26%) important issue in making their decision about whom to vote for in the presidential election, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 27–August 2.” Other studies have shown it to be even higher, as since the time covered in the PEW poll we have had even more extreme weather (fires, floods, extreme winds), and community concern has increased.
The examples below convey a variety of land trusts working to slow down climate change. I hope you find it as encouraging as I do.
Reflections from Judy, October 2020
There’s a lot of learning to be had of late.
This week, the national Land Trust Alliance kicks off their remote conference—the most attended conference in their history. The workshops are going to cover a wide array of topics including climate change, communication strategies, and community conservation.
If you’re curious about the schedule, you can view it here.
I also wanted to share American Farmland Trust’s webinar series focused on “smart solar siting” and agriculture. While focused on New England, there are many transferable concepts that you and your land trust might appreciate.
The webinars reflect a wide array of perspectives and partnerships—ranging from Vermont Law School and the Acadia Center to The Nature Conservancy, solar developers, and Maine Audubon.
They note: “Smart solar siting removes unnecessary barriers to solar projects that are in the public interest while providing oversight for projects that will have community or natural resource impacts. It is built upon data-driven analyses that consider the inherent trade-offs associated with ground-mounted solar and the differing values of stakeholders in order to reduce conflict and achieve greater public support of renewable energy siting.”
If we are going to conserve lands and waters for generations to come, we will need to partner at the local, regional, and state-wide levels to encourage policies that bolster natural climate solutions and accelerate transitioning off fossil fuels to renewables.
It’s time for conservation groups to join partnerships around energy conservation as well. Not only will policies that assist in weatherization and energy transition help slow climate change, but they will also help reduce the amount of land needed to provide that energy, while creating more resilient and robust communities and landscapes.
Let’s remember all those who are grappling with the tremendous losses associated with the fires, floods, droughts, and storms. It’s been a challenging time, and we will need each other as we head into 2021. Climate change is ramping up extreme weather. It’s up to us to slow it down.
Reflections for land trusts, September 2020
I hope you are doing okay. Given all we are facing, as well as those grappling with extreme weather, it’s been challenging, and my thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones, homes, and animals. Like many of you, I also think about the millions of wildlife who have perished. It almost goes without saying how much I (and I’m sure you, too) appreciate the first responders, neighbors helping neighbors, and the journalists who are reporting on these events.
Indeed, the year 2020 is something many of us are looking forward to forgetting—yet it is also the wake-up call we knew was coming. We’ve known about climate change for over 100 years; we’ve seen the writing on the wall.
I thought you might appreciate this article that examines what’s happening out West; it’s a snapshot of how a changing climate is changing our landscapes, and I quote:
“Most of the truly unprecedented extreme weather disasters we’ve seen in recent summers throughout the Northern Hemisphere—the floods and heatwaves and droughts. Most of them…have been associated with these resonance [wavy jet stream] events,” [Dr. Michael] Mann said. “And they are getting more frequent because of human-caused planetary warming.”
Long associated assumptions of ecosystem regeneration are now having to be re-examined.
Kerry Kemp, a forest ecologist for the Oregon Nature Conservancy, studies forest resiliency, or the ability of forests to come back after wildfire or other major disturbances. For new trees to grow in the forest, living ones must be nearby to act as seed sources. And then once those seeds start growing, they’re more susceptible to drought than established trees. “The resilience of these forests is likely to be lower when there’s a mismatch between the current climate and the climate niche for tree regeneration,” Kemp said. “As the climate changes, a given location may no longer be capable of supporting tree regrowth the way it could when temperatures were lower and weather patterns were different. In some parts of the West, it’s already happening,” she said.
That’s why land trusts are stepping up to the plate—helping people connect the dots and take action.
I find it inspiring and hopeful. These land trusts are leading and taking risks by learning new communication strategies, rethinking what it means to conserve land, and doing so by working with people from all walks of life.
They are demonstrating, as Thomas Merton once said, that:
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”
Land trusts have always been in the business of hope. Now we need to be entrepreneurial in spirit, too. To do so we will need to be creative, empathetic, compassionate, research-based, practical, collaborative, and above all, determined with a resilient spirit.
Thank you for your partnership as we face the reality that conservation work as we knew it 20 years ago is not the same today, nor will it be the same 20 years from now. You are part of a new breed of those who care and who are in the midst of redefining what it means to conserve land and water for generations to come.
No one said this was going to be easy. But check out the examples below of land trusts taking action. There’s much to share and learn.
Reflections from Judy, September 2020
What a month it has been. I’m hoping this email finds you, your family, and friends healthy—with the support you need to weather the emotional turmoil many of us are facing as this fall (literally) intensifies. I’m thinking of all those grappling with the reality of fires and storms happening now, too.
For me, the last month has been a bit of a challenge to keep going with “work as normal.” I tend to run on compassion, empathy, and the urgency to act while there is still time. Yet all around us, and throughout the country and world, it’s been grim. Among the need to elevate racial justice, the Covid-19 crisis, the acceleration of climate change with its floods, fires, tornados, and hurricanes—and the economic ramifications of all three—things are rough.
But that’s why we do this work, together.
In times likes these, our support for each other and our collective efforts to find the bright spots and solutions to climate change is more important than ever. We are experiencing a time when providing each other space to adapt and respond to the research and situations—while also helping hold each other accountable to the urgency of action—is central to our success as people who care.
To make headway, we’ll need to continue to inspire those around us to see new solutions and ways of thinking to address climate change. That will mean rethinking how natural climate solutions, energy conservation, and renewables can work together to build strong, resilient landscapes, communities, and economies.
It will take integrated thinking and a willingness to face what will happen if we don’t act decisively, now.
The good news is that all over the country, land trusts and people like you see this imperative and are responding in a manner that no longer looks at this challenge in isolation. If we act soon—locally, statewide, and as a nation—natural climate solutions may account for up to 21% of the solution here in the U.S. Renewable energy and energy conservation will need to address the other 79%.
As always, I have selected a variety of articles that you can share with friends, Facebook followers, and organizations you care about. Try selecting one and chatting about it when you are at work, or even on a walk with a friend. Read them all, skim them, or just focus on the topic that is most meaningful to you now. They are available on my website, too.