Even when the problem seems too large...

Posted on August 16, 2014 22:30 by Sabineah
The same type of bacteria (Cyanobacteria) that has been causing problems in the Lake Erie area is being linked to a dog's death in Long Island.  <http://inhabitat.com/nyc/dog-killing-blue-green-algae-bacteria-found-in-parts-of-long-island/>  

Algal blooms are nothing new, and we know one of the root-causes is excessive nutrient load in water streams which provide food for the algae to over-reproduce to the point of saturation.  The excessive nutrient levels are often linked to sources such as lawns, agricultural farms that use excessive fertilization practices.

So, we know there is a problem.  Now, what can we do about it?  

Here are some thoughts to consider:

1) Build rain-gardens and practice rain-capture at your home and your business.  Rain-gardens help filter water that comes from an area of potential issue so when it reaches ground-water or river-sources, it has gone through a filtration system which nature provides - we just need to plant them in strategic areas where they can do the most work.  Rain capture keeps water out of the system so the outdated infrastructure has a chance to function properly without constantly being overburdened.  

2) Choose organic: supporting organic farming methods puts pressure on commercial agriculture to adopt the practices most desired by the consumer.  Our choices make a difference - the more who choose better - the better practices become.

3) Plant using organic techniques and always choose native over imported.  There are many ways to have a beautiful, colorful and interesting garden and landscape without using harsh chemicals and excessive fertilizers to achieve the desired effect.

4) Build and support efforts that fund development of building-side vertical garden murals and green-roofs.  These not only help with water filtration but also help with air pollution.  

My approach to the big-wide-world of Sustainability is that the real impactful change should come from the top down - but will most likely occur from the bottom up.  What we demand and support is what will become.  Even when the problem seems too large - there is always something we the real change agents of the world can do to drive reality in the right direction.

Here are some links that are related to this topic and/or initiatives I have read about that are possible models to be reproduced elsewhere to make a difference.  I would love other links to add to this!


Sincerely!
Sabineah 

Understanding Sustainability

Posted on July 29, 2014 09:07 by Sabineah

I am helping to organize a conference attached to a year long project with the objective of organizing work-groups who work together to become actionable change agents to build a progressive attitude of sustainability, starting in this region and potentially becoming a model for other areas attempting to do the same.  One of the first steps in this process is gaining understanding.

Buzz-words can be good for getting a message out to a large audience quickly, but they unfortunately can become vague and muddled in meaning when used too often or used in too many circumstances without proper definition/discussion.  In this context I can say that,
sustainability has become the new green or the new natural or the new organic or... "insert buzz-word here".  


Products and businesses make claims to having green or sustainable materials and following sustainable practices.  Customers should always get in the habit of thinking the word "more" in front of most sustainability claims.  Much like a product using the term natural and then taking the time to compare that to an organic product and then realizing that 100%-organic actually has the product qualities you want and thought you would get from all-natural.  They are different, but no one tells you that, it is something each consumer is tasked with researching on their own time to find out for themselves.  

Having a discussion about the adjustment of living normally and transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle, my son offered the analogy of living an omnivore lifestyle and deciding to change to a Vegan lifestyle.  Imagine the level of understanding you would need to be able to choose properly and how often you would inadvertently end up with something Vegetarian because you hadn't yet learned the difference.  


Sustainability for societies is having the mindset and choosing practices that balance the efficient function of societal, economical and environmental factors and resources.  But, even with a definition - understanding the concept of sustainability is a process.

Annie Leonard has provided a video series that helps you walk along the journey of evolving the concept of Sustainability.  I encourage you all to enjoy and experience the Story of Stuff Project.  This will provide you a good foundation upon which you can place building blocks of understanding the complex idea that we call Sustainability.  One very good video in the series is the "Story of Solutions" video.

I like to hope that is not the end of the story, because eventually we will reach beyond better and achieve real sustainability.

Sabineah


Incentives

Posted on July 18, 2014 10:07 by Sabineah
So, you may ask - what does this post on "Incentives" have to do with sustainability?  

Well - let's say you start preaching to the masses about how the Earth is going to end and how Climate Change is bad for the environment... what % of the crowd do you think will continue listening after the first couple of minutes... the answer: probably just those who already believe in similar ways of thought as what you are speaking.  

So, how do you engage the other people?

Check out this cartoon and think this thought...
step 1) know your audience...
step 2) proceed... 



rewording the problem of Climate Change being bad for our existence to it being bad for our ECONOMY, allows for the presenter to reach more people - it's still the same problem, just put in words that more people will care about.  

Sure, it goes against your philosophy that we should be changing because it's the "right thing to do"... so what... that is your philosophy and if you haven't learned that most others don't subscribe to that mantra, then you probably have a big bump on your head from constantly beating it against a brick wall.

So, back to the question - how does the sustainable mindset begin to work it's way into our lifestyles... the answer: "incentives".  It's damn near a magic word... so you ask... What are incentives?  Well, they can be viewed as "bribery" but really, at the core, an incentive is just a reason that powers the individual to choose a desired option.  

Restating a problem infers an incentive... 

Climate Change threatens our Existence (or the environment) does not provoke the same level of urgency as Climate Change threatens our Economy.  We've been fighting this battle since the industrial revolution (you know people knew this would happen, even way back then...), it has reappeared over an over - especially since the 60's - and we're finally realizing our weakness has been in our marketing strategy all along!  Let's put it this way... We are still mucking our way through trying to climb out of a bit of a recession, we all feel the pains of a suffering economy.  Unfortunately the idea of our existence is too abstract for us to be able to attach emotions to... and the pains of the environment are not immediate enough for us to spend our energy there either.  Imagine people thinking something like: "Sure, the weather is acting a little weird and I hear there are people suffering other stuff other places - but right here, right now is ok - so I am too busy trying to make and keep my money to worry about "the future"."

Incentives are a way for Environmentalists and Economists to learn to work together.  They are trying, but having taken a recent course titled Environmental Economics... I can tell you, this little play-date has a long way to go before there is a friendship created.  These two areas of interest are working from different play books with different incentives and speaking different languages - individuals able to be effective translators are few and far between, so we are facing an uphill battle indeed.  But, there is hope - if we change our incentive from "because it's the right thing to do" over to something more actionable like "because we're doers not just talkers"... think of the doing we can do (together).

here's a totally random but oddly related podcast which in some way inspired this post:
http://freakonomics.com/2014/07/17/why-you-should-bribe-your-kids-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

Enjoy!
Sabineah

Green vs Sustainable

Posted on June 18, 2014 04:06 by Sabineah
We have become accustom to hearing the word "Green" and many of us associate the term as defining a product, practice or event as being proven to be environmentally safe or at the least friendly. 

There is a huge difference between "Green" and "Sustainable". When defining the reality, Green is the bare minimum and Sustainable is the ideal. 

"Green" is used to distract us, make us feel better about our purchases and/or actions - but quite often, the result does not equal a true gain in it's implied suggestion of being better for the environment. It is a marketing term, and is a lie.

For example: Biodegradable. This term makes one think that this item will miraculously disintegrate once it reaches the landfill. The reality is that this item has been shown in testing to degrade at a faster rate than it's comparable non-biodegradable version. There is no easily found conversion chart for the defined rate difference. Some items that are biodegradable still take 100's of years to degrade... granted, it may be compared to 1000+ years, but this can not be considered a "gain" for the environment overall. The effects of this one item still span more than one generation. This amount of "better" does not equal real, tangible and valuable change. We must reach deeper and higher in our aspirations to define "better" for real and significant change.

This link has examples of "green" happening - some of these ideas will have a greater impact than others. If we are to really begin making a difference, the changes we must face and embrace will require real dedication and while some consider this to sound like sacrifice - the end result will not be by giving up anything, but simply making up our minds to commit to making decisions based on sustainable reality rather than hoping we can mask the issues by putting on the "green-colored glasses".

http://guidetogreeningcities.org/

Link with descriptions about biodegradability: <
http://wwf.panda.org/.../webfieldtrips/bio_nonbio_materials/>

Conversations

Posted on May 28, 2014 11:05 by Sabineah
As I engage myself deeper into the Sustainable movement, I feel more and more conflicted.  Not about what I believe.  My scientific nature doesn't allow me to ignore the understanding that the Earth is a system and much like our own physical bodies, when sick the system adjusts to attempt to fix what is causing the sickness.  This is my most simplistic explanation of the Climate Change phenomenon as I have at the moment.  

My sense of conflict comes from the individuals with whom I communicate regularly.  There is a substantial divide between those who understand, those who sympathize but desire no action and those who simply have written it off as not concerning them.  There is a political divide, a corporate divide, a religious divide, a monetary divide, an educational divide... all of these divisions make the conversation a delusional maze of miscommunication. So, the question on everyone's lips is "how do we become unified, in what ways can we discuss this concept together and act to progress toward real and substantial change".

That is a great question and the truth is "We need to talk".  It's time.  And to quote Victor Hugo "Nothing is so powerful as an Idea whose time has come".

Peace,
Sabineah 



System's Thinking

Posted on March 29, 2014 20:03 by Sabineah

A little Earth System's Science and Environmental discussion


The ocean's currents are one of the major controls for the Earth's weather. The acidity levels (salinity) of the oceans are already rising due to pollution and climate change. The temperature of the water and the salinity of the water (density) help regulate the natural system of currents within the ocean... (it's called the global conveyor belt). <http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/ocean-current.htm>

 

The process of desalination, extracts "clean" water from the ocean by filtering out the "brine" - that "brine" is concentrated salts/minerals/etc... the "brine" is poured back into the ocean. This article, posted by a provider of water desalination, explains monitoring and best management practices for return to the ocean and claims positive impact results for the process. As with any article, there is a bias and it is up to the reader to do research to find the knowledge behind what information is being provided. The article does confirm the link between some of the other points mentioned in my post. <http://www.watersecure.com.au/pub/community-and-environment/release-monitoring>

 

Israel has been developing and using desalination practices for years now and has shared it's technology with California who has a few small desalination plants in use already (so do Florida and Texas). California will be breaking ground (2016) on a new facility in light of the extensive drought they are currently experiencing. The article claims, "the plant is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of fresh drinkable water–enough for 112,000 Californian households–every day." (how much ocean water is extracted daily to provide that amount?) <http://inhabitat.com/desperate-for-water-california-breaks-ground-on-the-largest-seawater-desalination-plant-in-the-western-hemisphere/>

 

Here are a few quotes and articles with more information. "Food & Water Watch advocates instead for better fresh water management practices. "Ocean desalination hides the growing water supply problem instead of focusing on water management and lowering water usage," the group reports, citing a recent study which found that California can meet its water needs for the next 30 years by implementing cost-effective urban water conservation. Desalination is "an expensive, speculative supply option that will drain resources away from more practical solutions," the group says." <http://environment.about.com/od/biodiversityconservation/a/desalination.htm>

 

"Of course, as supplies of fresh water dwindle, the economic cost of desalinization‚ especially in coastal areas with easy access to ocean water‚ begins to look competitive with traditional water sourcing. To date there are about 300 desalinization plants in the United States, with 120 in Florida and less than 40 each in Texas and California. Some 20 additional plants are planned for the coast of California in the coming years, unless environmentalists extolling the virtues of conservation and wielding low-flow shower heads and toilets prevail."<http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-impacts-of-relying-on-desalination/>

 

So, where is the tipping point? The truth is, we don't know and our actions prove we don't care. It works now, and it can be done now... this is an immediate gratification solution available and in true human form, we will develop and use that one solution as much as and as fast as possible until something breaks and then attempt a reactive fix for whatever problems arise down the road. In the back of our minds (those who try to at least pay some attention) we simply hope that a fix is possible for whatever ends up broken by our short-sighted, singularly-focused, immediate-gratification/selfish practices (anthropomorphism). 

 

The Jevons paradox was first described by the English economist William Stanley Jevons in his 1865 book "The Coal Question". Jevons paradox is the proposition that as technology progresses, the increase in efficiency with which a resource or technology is used tends to increase the rate of consumption and practice of that resource or technology. 

 

So, why did I take the time to post on Facebook? Because, I'm concerned - this concerns me... I am curious - this interests me. I'm hoping some of you might be curious and will read and learn something about environmental sustainability as well. Energy can not be created or destroyed - only changed (2nd law of thermodynamics). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (3rd law of thermodynamics). Everything is a system, everything has a balance (balance is delicate) and every balanced system works together - a balanced Earth system is important!!! *How do you feel when you get sick? If you have a prolonged fever of 106 you could lose brain cells or even die! why? because your systems are designed to function within a specific temperature range, when unbalanced - the system can not function properly!* 

 

Humans "should be" ethical, responsible, intelligent and wise stewards of the environment which it has learned to manipulate (with great power comes great responsibility). As a whole (en masse) we have shown the inability to regulate ourselves properly in a way that respects our unique human-brains' infinite capabilities. Individually we feel secure in our lifestyles, but as a population our cumulative actions tip the scales of balance. (united we fall, divided we stand? what?? that's not right...) The connections are easy to make when connecting the dots, but the conundrum of determining solutions is mind-numbing in it's complexity. 

 

I do not propose to have the answers (I am not perfectly environmentally sound in my own lifestyle - but everyday I actively seek out and learn new ways to do my part). In beginning discussions - enough people with ideas and actions can become answers... so, why not? There's no legitimate reason not to start the conversation - even if someone disagrees, doesn't believe or if no one replies/comments at all, hopefully someone will read and learn something... 


Housework

Posted on March 28, 2014 14:03 by Shana
Few love it, but it still must be done to keep the living space...well...livable.   So please read the two sections below: "What the hunh?" (what is this) and "Just don't, ok!?!" (basic rules). Thanks ~S

"What the hunh?"
What are we doing here?  Well, The Hedge is a natural extension of V.I.N.E.S, which started as a thought experiment in idea sharing and networking for sophisticated, environmentally conscious inhabitants of the world.  It's predicated on the idea of everyone doing a little toward accomplishing something larger than oneself.  

It's a big world out there, and we each run across so much information in our daily lives- - fascinating articles that make you think, a cool seminar or conference, a great training website, an amazing resource, an astoundingly innovative new idea, a job opportunity or idea that simply needs the right person(s) to make it sing....you get the idea.

What would happen if a lots of individuals - - students, consultants, government officials, educational experts, career professionals, and environmentally conscious individuals - - started sharing the little bits of information they ran across in their daily lives?  Is it possible this would make each of us more effective, more satisfied, and more informed?

Well.....let's find out!

but first...."Just don't, ok!?!" 
  1. No restricted/proprietary items should be posted
  2. No personal promotion items in the comments/posts
    1. this is not a jobs board or a personal marketing site.
    2. this is an information, idea sharing, networking site.
  3. Nothing offensive (Examples shouldn't be necessary, but just in case: no demeaning or derogatory items that target anyone's personal race, gender, faith, orientation, etc.)
  4. Moderators discretion on what is considered personal promotion and offensive, but use your common sense.
    1. We believe in freedom of speech, but don't push the envelope.
    2. Remember, freedom of speech doesn't give you the right to yell "fire!" in a crowded theatre.  It also doesn't in our opinion, give you the right to be hateful, demeaning, or derogatory in this space.  
    3. Moderators reserve the right to warn and delete content, if necessary, but please don't make us go there. 
  5. Finally, we are not aligned with any specific Environmental Groups, and respect for all opinions is a requirement to play.