Plant Fruit Trees in Public Spaces to Fight Climate & Hunger

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 22, 2022 by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author; Image Credit: AdobeStock

The Trillion Tree Campaign was announced in January 2020 at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos 2020. This bold initiative grew from the Billion Tree Campaign launched in 2006 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This valiant vision, which will hopefully motivate all nations around the world to participate, has already inspired 193 countries into action, planting 13.6 billion trees. Amazing results, but we’re still a long way off target.

“It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees,” said Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founder of the Green Belt Movement. With 2.7 billion people who are food insecure across the globe in 2022, choosing native fruit trees to plant in public spaces, will not only store more carbon but also curb hunger through healthy, nutritional means, feeding hungry families, birds and animals. Thinking smarter with our limited time and resources will save many lives. Recommended locations for native fruits trees and berry bushes:

  • parks
  • school yards
  • playgrounds
  • library grounds
  • university campuses
  • churchyards
  • corporate campuses

Different types of fruit trees thrive in different regions of the country. It’s wonderful to see families stop and pick wild raspberries on the trails in my county. Here are a few that grow well in the East Coast, South & West Coast Regions:

  • apple
  • pear
  • peach
  • avocado
  • grapes
  • black berries
  • raspberries

According to the World Economic Forum video above, there are a number of cities who have jumped in with the dual purpose fruit tree initiative. Not only do these trees cut carbon, they also curb hunger through healthy, nutritional means. When one solution can address two of the world’s most dire circumstances, you know this is money and action well spent.

With hundreds of thousands of American youth actively participating in plant-a-tree programs, as well as large corporations joining the effort, it’s time to promote the multiple benefits of scaling up the planting of fruit trees in communities around the country.

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Informed Action Will Help Restore Biodiversity | Thomas Crowther & Restor

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 21, 2022, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author; Image Credit Noreen Wise

The World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader Thomas Crowther gave an impassioned Countdown TED Talkrecently in which he emphasized the risks of restoration done wrong. “Simplicity was the strength” of the global Trillion Trees initiative that was launched in January 2020 at the 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, “but it came at the expense of nuance that is so important,” Crowther bemoaned to his TED audience.

“Countdown is a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, turning ideas into action.” 

Countdown Website Home Page

During his Countdown TED Talk, Crowther humbly rephrased the noble mission of planting a trillion trees in the .9 billion hectares of ideal land where the trees will likely thrive as that of “restoring nature’s biodiversity.” It’s estimated, that if we succeed at this, we would drawdown 30% of the excess carbon that’s currently stuck in our atmosphere with no place to go which is causing global warming and climate change.  But Crowther insists that this shaving off of 30% of our legacy carbon is NOT the solution for curbing annual carbon emissions. In short, the planting of these Trillion Trees is NOT a carbon offset for big corporations.

Additionally, Crowther spoke of his regret that anyone would plant monoculture forests that were void of biodiversity and emphasized the difference between the two concepts through two opposing audio tracks: one that highlighted the sound of biodiversity (bird chirps, frog gribits, crickets and insects) versus the lifeless sound of silence of monoculture forests. 

Crowther’s humility — at one point, he referred to his mistakes as “naive” and “stupid” — immediately erased two years of frustration for me, someone who has had to fight very, very hard to include biodiversity in the local “tree planting” projects in my county, Fairfax County, Virginia. Most local and state grants are only for tree planting, no biodiversity allowed (deer might come). In one cornerstone county tree planting project, with a large number of volunteers and a collection of decision makers, my being what seemed like the lone voice emphasizing the benefits and importance of biodiversity (planting native diverse shrubs, perennials and ground cover in natural layers beneath each tree, and mapping out small pocket forests that group a handful of diverse native tree species and all the biodiverse layers beneath them) landed me in a corner where I felt side-lined and shunned. 

There are many other biodiversity project managers like myself who have experienced similar isolation these past two years because of the odd way that many leaders interpreted the Trillion Trees initiative. “Trillion Trees” became an impossible barrier to navigate around. Meanwhile, passionate nature book lovers like myself rely on resources like Douglas W. Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope (2020) and Bringing Nature Home (2007), Gabe Brown’s Dirt to Soil, David R. Montgomery’s Dirtthat reinforce the vital and life-saving importance of biodiversityAnd how about the documentaries: Kiss the GroundA Life on Our Planetand Breaking Boundaries. With these books and documentaries reinforcing the importance of biodiversity, seemingly at odds with the “just trees” movement, it became a pitched battle. 

CREDIT: C. Newman-Corkin
CREDIT: Noreen Wise

Passionate people devoted to nature, surround themselves with, and are captivated by, all types of varying species found in nature. A hike on a forest trail (the Appalachian Trail as often as possible for me) is an adventure of endless discoveries. Traveling to experience the many different types of ecosystems and to learn more about biodiversity and wildlife, as well as devour as many books, documentaries, and movies we can find is what most of us do with our free time. Thus, Trillion Trees was an anomaly from the start that left many of us scratching our heads. 

Through this very powerful, necessary and brilliant Countdown TED Talk, Crowther bridged the gaps, mended the fences, and united all of us who are focused on rewilding and nature-based solutions in our climate emergency. He announced the creation of his new nonprofit Restor founded by Crowther Lab, which is a new open data platform network equipped with a machine learning model that is powered by Google Earth Engine and Google Cloud for the purpose of helping “anyone be part of ecological restoration.”

“Biodiversity underpins all life on earth.”

Thomas Crowther

Crowther explained the important benefits of such an innovative global platform:

  • We can all learn from each other by sharing our successes and failures.
  • Protection of the land so that trees can recover.
  • Amendment of soil so vegetation can return.
  • Promotion of the health of grasslands and all types of ecosystems.

Global restoration is a very steep mountain that we have to climb, especially when it’s complicated with extreme weather events which can destroy a landscape within a few hours. The volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai that exploded on January 15 was completely obliterated. All the rich tropical biodiversity has been lost forever. Extreme tornadoes and hurricanes level biodiversity in a blink. Years of biodiversity restoration can be erased in a few minutes.

Crowther appealed to viewers to join the action. “We need the whole ecology of humanity” to restore our global ecosystems and all its biodiversity.

© Copyright 2018 – 2022. ALL Rights Reserved.

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US Schools Are Climate Action Champions | Top 10 Climate Actions

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 28, 2021, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author 

From the IPCC Report boldly stating a Code Red for Humanity warning in August 2021, to the COP26 global conference in Glasgow a few months later in November, (both which urgently pleaded with communities across the globe to act immediately to lower carbon emissions), now is a great time to look back and see who was paying attention.

“It’s simple. Will we act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the enormous opportunity before us? Or will we condemn future generations to suffer.”

President Joe Biden, COP26

Based on the following 10 bedrock climate actions, which are basic requirements for reducing carbon emissions, boosting biodiversity, and drawing down legacy load carbon, it’s very exciting to see that our schools have become a bright beacon of light at the top of the hill. Additionally, not only are schools leading the way to a green community, they’re also climate action accelerators that transmit vigorous energy through a very powerful nationwide network.

Join the conversation and receive regular climate action tips, and soil health and biodiversity advice by staying engaged at Act Now for the Earth Cafe. You’ll feel hopeful when you ask questions and interact with like-minded others about finding solutions that will help the earth recover from the damage of climate change. You’ll feel confident that we can succeed at staying below tipping points. It’s all about community. We’d greatly value you being part of our ecosystem. CLICK here today and join the conversation at  Earth Cafe!

The combination of quick climate action that improves the well-being of our children, as well as provides significant financial benefits that enable school districts to have budget surpluses and finally offer teacher raises, is a win-win combination that is topped off with interactive hands-on science learning opportunities for students.

Did you know that our schools collectively are one of the largest landowners in the US?

The following list of 10 key climate actions pertain to K12 public schools, which have the most public data available. Private K12 schools are likely moving forward at the same quick pace. Colleges and universities with their larger campuses and sustainability departments may even be doing that much more than K12. The awesomeness of K12 schools, though, is that parents can learn from their children and establish the same habits at home. 

  1. EV buses

School districts have begun switching to EV buses at a faster rate than the general public is transitioning to EV cars. According to the World Resources Institute, in a report released in August 2021, data shows that 258 school districts out of 13,500 have committed to one or more EV buses. Fourteen of these districts have procured 10 or more, and 5 of these 14 are the largest school districts in the country. 

Just last week SEA Electric announced that it reached a deal with Midwest Transit Equipment to convert 10,000 diesel school buses to EV over the next 5 years. According the Live Green, districts save 80% on maintenance and 72% on fuel costs when they switch to EV. Montgomery County, Maryland has made the largest investment so far, committing to a procurement of 326 electric buses over the next 4 years. Fairfax County, Virginia just rolled out its first 8 EV busesin October 2021.

  1. Solar Panels

Installing solar panels on school roofs, as well as open fields have become a very big deal to superintendents. These savvy “just do it” community leaders are motivated by the substantial financial benefits that clean energy provides. Seven thousand schools across the country have solar power, and nearly 200 schools operate using wind energy. An Arkansas High School was able to install solar panels on their open field and within three years their budget surplus grew so large they rewarded all teachers with raises between $3,000 – $15,000. Arlington County, Virginia public schools are ranked number 4 on a list of the top 30 school districts with highest green power usage.

  1. White Roofs

Painting school roofs white lowers the heat inside schools by 10ºF, which cuts carbon emissions by as much as 29% and decreases electricity bills significantly. The Chelsea school district north of Boston, a sweltering heat island across from Logan Airport, painted the middle school roofs white during the summer of 2021. Superintendent Almi Abeytawas looking forward to the lower electricity bills and the various ways that the much needed extra money could be used.

Back in 2009, Nobel laureate and President Obama’s Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, announced at a global conference, “If you take all the buildings and make their roofs white, and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of color rather than a black type of color, and you do this uniformly…it’s the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions of all the cars on the road for 11 years.” 

  1. High albedo parking lots

Large stretches of black asphalt becomes a danger as well as a health risk in high heat. Black asphalt is 40-60ºF warmer than the air temperature which can become a major safety risk for children playing at recess. Light concrete or asphalt painted with a high albedo color such as white or light grey, not only lowers the heat bringing it closer to the air temperature, but also reflects more of the sun’s energy just like the shrinking icecaps, which helps to cool the entire planet.

  1. Composting

In many cities and communities, the town waste management facility partners with schools to incorporate waste management into the curriculum. Most provide lesson plans. Composting is a big part of this educational opportunity. Schools that have vegetable beds, pollinator gardens and tree planting programs, likely have their own compost pile outside near the gardens. Every school produces hundreds of pounds of organic waste each day. Schools now know not to throw food scraps away anymore. They’ve created efficient composting systems. Students are quickly becoming the composting experts in our communities. 

  1. Recycling & Upcycling

Many school districts consider their students citizens of the earth and stewards of the environment. Recycling is part of the daily routine. Teachers are quite resourceful, taking students on field trips to the landfill and town recycling center. Teachers also host fun activities such as upcycle night where students transformed newspaper into pencil holders, a juice box into a wallet, jars into piggy banks, etc. Recycling and upcycling develop critical thinking skills, inspire innovation and are now a part of most STEM learning programs. 

  1. Food Program

Our flawed food system emits 9 billion tons of carbon per year. In order to stay below 1.5ºC, we have to cut 7 billion tons of carbon per year, beginning immediately. As John Doerr pointed out recently, “humans have never been able to cut any carbon in the history of our planet, so this is a tall order.” But schools are moving quickly on the food front as well, much faster than any other mass population. 

One hundred large school districts and counting, including Los Angeles Unified School District and New York City Public Schools, have adopted the Meatless Monday campaign. According to FoodPrint, between these two large school districts alone, 1.5 million meat-free meals are served each Monday. Additionally plant-based meat alternative companies (ie Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods) have begun connecting with schools through the K12 marketplace, hoping to inspire school districts to switch to plant-forward recipes.

By the way, School districts will want to buy Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD’s new book Recipe for Survival(available January 27, 2022). Dr. Hunnes shares invaluable tips on the health impact of climate change, food choices and food insecurity. Hunnes is a Senior Dietician at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Assistant Professor at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA.

  1. Pollinator Gardens

Our overall pollinator populations around the globe have shrunk significantly in recent decades and scientists worry that our food supply is at risk. Thankfully, teachers are coming to the rescue. Pollinator gardens are popping up on school grounds from coast to coast. These vast displays of native flowers not only provide food and shelter for our life-saving pollinators, but they also boost campus biodiversity, create biodiversity corridors within our communities, beautify campuses, brighten moods, and store more carbon above ground in the plants themselves, and in the soil. Schools across the United States and Mexico are embracing pollinator gardens as a STEM teaching tool and are all in on planting lots of milkweeds in the mix.

  1. Tree planting

Schools are major property owners, and the vast majority of our schools are eagerly taking ownership in increasing the tree canopy in our communities. Trees beautify the school campus, increase carbon storage, stabilize the soil, purify the air and the water, lower the heat, reduce noise pollution, and increase privacy. Tree planting is also a STEM tool for teachers.

  1. Vegetable beds

Vegetable beds are an ideal learning environment that inspire students to eat more fruits and vegetables. Vegetable beds promote the scientific method through inquiry, observation and experimentation. Movement is also a big part of the outdoor gardening experience which improves dexterity. The USDA promotes Farm to School programs and provides much guidance. Home grown produce is also that much more nutritious, containing higher vitamin content. 

If climate action is this beneficial, quick, easy and fun for schools, why is it so hard for everyone else? 

Just imagine how quickly we’d be able to cut carbon emissions if every household, business, organization and community quickly implemented these same 10 climate actions in 2022. We’d then have no problem staying below 1.5ºC. 

Let’s do this!

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.


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Biodiversity | 8 Major Takeaways from Kunming UN Biodiversity Conference

Washington (CAN) Analysis | October 25, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

Biodiversity is beautiful. And biodiversity is a happiness and mental health booster. Thus, how beneficial is it that one of the solutions to the climate crisis is increasing biodiversity everywhere, in yards and communities across the globe, even on the small tiny postage stamp-sized specks of land that are often found in front of townhomes.

Join the conversation and get regular climate action, soil health and biodiversity tips by staying engaged at Act Now for the Earth Cafe. You’ll feel hopeful when you ask questions and interact with finding solutions that will help the earth recover from the staggering damage of climate change. Feeling confident that we’ll succeed at staying below tipping points is all about community. We’d greatly value you being part of our ecosystem. CLICK here today and join the conversation at  Earth Cafe!

Nations across the globe met virtually in Kunming, China for COP15’s Kunming UN Biodiversity Conference Part 1, October 11-15, 2021. At the conclusion, the Kunming Biodiversity Declaration was adopted and spells out the global aspirations for the next 9 years. Part 2 of the conference will take place in April of 2022, and is projected to be in person, at which time the participating countries will sign an agreement similar to the Paris Agreement, that will address biodiversity, nature, and the environmental side of the climate action coin.

The only country not participating in the biodiversity conversation at this time is the United States.

“Addressing the challenge of halting ongoing losses of species and genetic diversity and the damage to our ecosystems will determine the well-being of humanity for generations to come,” [CBD Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema] says. “Protecting nature’s invaluable contributions to people requires that we harmonize our policies and actions at every level. The global biodiversity framework, based on the best available science and evidence, is fundamental to meeting these needs.”

Decision-making in the planning & development offices in each and every town in the world will either be working in alignment with the global biodiversity goals, or will be working against it. The choices are binary. In or out. 

Micro pocket of biodiversity in townhome community in Fairfax,Virginia

The following are the 8 key takeaways of the Kunming Biodiversity Conference & Declaration:

  • 30% of land and sea must be protected
  • Reduction in rate of invasive alien species being introduced to new habitats
  • Nature-based carbon drawdown goal should be 10 gigaton of carbon per year, and all planting efforts should avoid harming nature
  • Reduction in nutrients lost to the environment
  • Reduction in pesticides
  • Elimination of plastic waste 
  • No incentives that are harmful to biodiversity, and reducing them by at least $500 billion per year (ie fossil fuel subsidies)
  • Increased financial resources for projects that address these targets from all sources to at least $200 billion per year

The global push to immediately address our biodiversity crisis must be acted upon if we want to save the human species. The US may not end up being a signatory on to the Biodiversity Agreement in spring 2022 (believed to be because of our extensive use of glyphosate), but the American people can still be all in on transitioning our toxic monoculture lawns, to biodiverse no mow lawns. 

The United State has 40 million acres of pesticide-covered monoculture yards with no biodiversity. Mowing our grass for 1 hour creates as much carbon emissions as driving 650 miles. This is no longer acceptable. HOAs must adjust bylaws and covenants quickly.

No mow biodiversity yard in Carrboro, NC.
The entire community was designed to maximize biodiversity with all yards being biodiverse no mow.

The following are two essential books that will help readers understand the science behind the importance of transitioning our yards to biodiverse no mow:

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy, 2007

Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy, 2020

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also a tale that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

Subscribe to Force of Nature to stay connected to the insights we provide in our effort to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, eco-friendly, carbon neutral global community. Click here to subscribe.

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Are HOAs as Much the Villain as Fossil Fuels? | Climate

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 16, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

From climate action landscaping to white roofs and solar panels, Americans are heeding the warning of the IPCC Report released on August 9, 2021 and jumping into action. Code Red for Humanity. We only have until 2030 to dramatically slow our current global warming trajectory of 4.4ºC above pre-industrial levels, and get it down to 1.5ºC. 

System change is the way out of this nightmare. As we rush to apply the climate action tips we see on social media platforms and online webinars, we find themselves eventually getting all tangled up with our HOA. In fact, HOAs and its members have been battling over climate action in courts for years, with homeowners typically being on the losing side. That is, until recently. “The impacts of climate change have become clear to the person on the street,” explains Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, and Director, Earth System Science Center at Penn State, as well as one of the lead authors of the August 9, 2021 IPCC Report. HOAs now have their backs against the wall. They have to quickly decide between two options.

We only have until 2030 to cut carbon emissions by 50%. Half the battle is knowing what to do first. Reach out so we can help you figure out the best path forward.

(1) Give it up and let their members rush forward with:

  • solar panels
  • no mow permaculture lawns filled with biodiversity
  • pollinator gardens
  • composting 
  • white or light roofs
  • light colored driveways

(2) OR, continue with their hardline approach and decline most, if not all, requests to establish new breakthrough standards in order to create sustainable systems in the community.

Currently, the HOA system running through the bedrock of our local communities, has been exposed as one of the greatest barriers to keeping global warming below 1.5ºC, which is the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement. With Biden recently announcing that we only have 10 years to turn things around, HOAs are now the obstacle to immediate action and have to accept the reality that they have no choice but to change the bylaws.

“When our mind is clear…Joy follows.”

Heart of the matter. For more than 10,000 years, planet earth has fluctuated between +/- 1ºC. Under these stable conditions of reliable seasons and predictable weather patterns, humankind has prospered. Being at 1.2ºC, for the first time in the history of human civilization, we now find ourselves in uncharted territory. Predictions are difficult if not impossible. Weather patterns are very unreliable. We see how dangerous and deadly 1.2ºC is, and most humans instinctively know something has to give. The majority realize that the extreme weather events this past summer were absolutely dreadful and don’t want to find out how dangerous life above 1.2ºC might be. 

According to HOA-USA, there are more than 370,000 HOAs in the United States that represent over 40 million households. If our current trajectory is 4.4ºC, which is technically uninhabitable, and we only have ten years to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent, we must move quickly to uproot the existing systems that have landed humans on the endangered species list.

Existing HOA landscape and roof color policies have been a major contributor to climate change.

States have begun passing laws that prevent HOAs from restricting homeowners from acting on climate:

  • Virginia passed SB 504 Virginia Energy Plan in March 2020, limiting HOA restrictions on solar panels.
  • Maryland passed HB 322 The Low-Impact Landscaping Legislation in May 2021, allowing “bio-habitat gardens and other features designed to attract wildlife; pollinator gardens and other features designed to attract pollinator species.”
  • Minnesota appears to be one of the most advanced states in creating a path forward into the world of new sustainable systems with lower carbon emissions. Minnesota has established an impressive stepped ascension called the Minnesota GreenStep Cities and has a list of Model Ordinances for Sustainable Development that helps towns navigate the legal side of things. IE, Minneapolis: “…the right to install and maintain a managed natural landscape.”

These are just a few of the many examples that show the momentum of the climate action transformation and should provide homeowners with confidence that the law, and global community, are on their side. The strong, positive momentum empowers members in every HOA community to let their HOA know that the HOA is obligated to be resilient, adapt and change the rules, and policies that have helped cause global warming, and are thus now outdated. 

NEXT STEPS:

  • Review your HOA bylaws that pertain to landscape, solar panels, roof and driveway color.
  • Contact your HOA and explain your plans and ask for approval.
  • If they say “No,” then meet with your neighbors and start a petition in your community, aimed at getting 100 percent of the families to sign the petition.
  • Inform the public on social media about any challenges you might have with your HOA, (HOAs hate bad publicity).
  • Outline the details of any difficulties you might have with your HOA on Google reviews.

Sadly, we can’t rely on our politicians to uproot all the systems. With extreme polarization, getting legislation passed will likely take longer than 10 years. Thus, we the people have to uproot the system. Let’s begin with HOAs. 

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

Subscribe to Force of Nature to stay connected to the insights we provide in our effort to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, eco-friendly, carbon neutral global community. Click here to subscribe.

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