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.

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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Fairfax Ninth Grader Places Second in Well-Timed Science Experiment

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 20, 2021 by author and journalist Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is very excited to report that Julia Victor, a ninth grader at W.T. Woodson High in Fairfax, Va, placed second in her unique and timely science experiment, which is part of the build up to the annual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. We’ve been following Julia’s progress since October 2020 as she’s made her way through this intricate labyrinth of competing in a science fair during a global pandemic with schools closed and students distance learning. Julia was determined to find out which NoVA natives store the most carbon, and whether shrubs can stores as much carbon as trees, so she decided to conduct her own science experiment to discover the answer. We were impressed with Julia’s original idea that ties so closely with the international greenup movement, that of planting lots of trees and nature to restore our habitat. Julia has taken it to a new level, though. She challenges us to be strategic about what we plant as we all strive to find more ways to store more carbon to reduce global warming.

Meanwhile, President Biden, on behalf of the United States of America, officially reentered the 2015 Paris Agreementyesterday, Friday February 19, 2021. The ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement is to become carbon neutral. Carbon neutrality will be accomplished through the global framework established within the Paris Agreement — an international treaty on climate change signed by more than 196 countries. The Paris Agreement outlines a combination of aggressively cutting carbon emissions on one side of the coin, while simultaneously boosting carbon sequestration on the other. Substantially increasing carbon sequestration will be accomplished most notably by a significant increase in soil health as well as the restoration of our habitat, particularly trees and shrubs… and as Julia has proven with her science experiment, the right native trees and shrubs make a difference. 

What’s the heart of the matter? The hard truth is that in order for us to hit the targets outlined for the US in the Paris Agreement, we each have to do our own little bit, by lowering our individual and household carbon footprint, as well as by storing more carbon in our yards (ie, planting more trees, shrubs, flowers and ground cover, and improving soil health through the diversification of the species we plant, as well as composting and biochar). To make this simple, the easiest way to process our individual contribution in reaching the US target, is by living a sustainable lifestyle and planting smart.

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember those we lost to covid, thanks to the generosity of ranch owner Byron Richard. Join us in GreeningUp to help US hit our Paris Agreement targets. CLICK to see details.

The Paris Agreement measures the contribution each country is making in its effort to curb global warming. It checks to see if countries are doing their “fair share.” The expectation is that large countries like the United States, one of the largest contributors to global warming, will reach the highest level of effort, that of “Role Model.” Currently, the United States is ranked at the very bottom, Critically Insufficient. The following are the Paris Agreement levels of contribution:

  • Role Model
  • 1.5° Paris Agreement Compatible
  • 2° Compatible
  • Insufficient
  • Highly Insufficient
  • Critically Insufficient

The term “role model” is what immediately comes to mind when I think of Julia and her science experiment. Julia’s findings highlight that quality matters, especially when available land to plant is constrained. Although, if possible, a high quantity of high quality plants, sure would help the US make up for lost time. (Click here to read the details of Julia’s experiment.)

I asked Julia if she would be so kind to walk us through the science fair process. In her own words:

“The virtual science fair included only students from my school as a preliminary level. It was all grades, so most of the participants were older than me. There were 7 categories ranging from micro-biology to computer science. I was in the environmental science category and placed second. Environmental science was the largest category with around 25 students in it. The top three projects in each category move on to the regional fair. The school-wide science fair was set up so each student could present their pre-recorded video to three judges and then answer questions. As it started, it became clear that coordinating around110 students and all the judges would be difficult. The links for the judging rooms were broken and it was too much for the coordinators to fix. Eventually, they gave up on the judging rooms, and the judges reviewed the projects and videos by themselves. Overall, the setbacks didn’t affect the quality of the science fair too greatly.” 

Ninth grader, Julia Victor’s 25 seedlings planted and tested to find out which NoVa native species stores the most carbon.

Now that you’ve placed second, Julia, what’s the next round all about

“The next round will be very similar to the school-wide science fair, except it will be better coordinated. It uses an online program made for science fairs and programs like this. It has the same process as my school’s fair. It has a video presentation stage and then a synchronous time for questions. The fair will include all of Fairfax County Public Schools so it will cover much of Northern Virginia. I’m not sure the exact number of students participating, but I know there will be hundreds of them. Due to the virtual setting, the fair is not hosted by a specific school, but by the school district. There are many different types of awards at the regional fair. Depending on the award, students may move to the state-wide science fair, or even straight to the international science fair (Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair).”

And the winners are…

We have our work cut up for us that’s for sure. Biden committed to being at net-zero no later than 2050. But many of our allies have been working at a brisk pace these last 4 years while we’ve been slumped on the sidelines. Our allies have submitted new pledges that will hopefully bring out the best in the US as we reach higher and rush faster. Julia’s experiment gives us a new lens to use. Let’s be smarter about what we put in the ground, so we can build that all important ladder to pull ourselves out of this hole we jumped into back in 2017 when we exited the Paris Agreement.

  • EU has now pledged to cut emissions from the 1990 level by 55 percent by 2030. Insufficient.
  • UK is striving for a 68 percent reduction from the 1990 level by 2030. Insufficient.
  • Canada has pledged to come in at 30 percent below 2005 level by 2030. Insufficient.
  • Costa Rica and Bhutan are both ranked highest on the main list. Compatible.

Congratulations, Julia! Best of luck in the next round.

Order now so you’ll receive in time for spring! Takes about 3-4 weeks to arrive.

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Let’s Rush to Win One Eco Battle | Commit To Zero Waste 2021

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 6, 2020 by Noreen Wise

It’s exciting to think about all the ways we can rush forward on the climate front in 2021, with John Kerry as the US Climate Envoy, and our 46th President, Joe Biden promising to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the day he’s inaugurated, January 20, 2021.

Let’s nail the waste scene as soon as possible. It’s not complicated. It just takes focus.

I look forward to 2021 super jazzed to be living a circular economy life. I took the leap year ago, and was pumped to have it nearly perfected by December 2019, which is when I successfully managed a zero waste month. I felt like I’d won an olympic gold medal, not to mention the excitement of having extra money in my pocket the way Wall Street geniuses always do.

Waste is something we can all manage on our own without being forced by laws. We just wake up one morning (this morning hopefully) and say, “I’m in!” And voila, we’re three quarters of the way there.

A zero waste life is about setting up a defined circular economy zone in our households where we can easily breakdown everything we consume so that it can quickly be turned around for multiple uses. The goal is:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle & Upcycle

Refuse is a big deal. We have the power to motivate businesses to do the right thing very effectively by refusing to buy certain products that create waste. For example, back at the beginning of October 2019, I made the decision to never buy ketchup packaged in plastic again. This was very difficult, because Heinz has cornered the market and there were no glass alternatives. I called Heinz, but Heinz refuses to sell ketchup packaged in glass in the US the way they used to. So I made the bold decision to switch to BBQ sauce, 85 percent of which is packaged in glass.

HillReport2-6-2020

•A month later, Red Duck created a brand new product, ketchup in glass. It’s delicious, so much healthier. And it’s organic too. Thank you, Red Duck! A responsive American corporation meeting consumer demand.

•Additionally, I now use the recyclable paper towels made from bamboo that can be washed a hundred times. They dry on the counter so quickly. This has dramatically reduced our household waste.

•In 2020, wonderful new eco-products have been rolled out, shunning the standard plastic packaging and using paper instead: toothpaste tablets, laundry detergent sheets, shampoo and conditioner bars, and more.

•I recently purchased my first vegan leather tote bag, handmade from cork in Portugal. Vegan leather is a massive new industry. No more animal cruelty.

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We must all transition to these new basics. We hold all the power in this climate crisis. By wielding our money in the right direction, we can preserve our children’s future.

Composting kitchen scraps is a very big deal. Our oceans are stuffed with carbon and can’t handle one more ounce. We lost billions of trees in 2020 as a result of the infernos out West. We suddenly find ourselves at a staggering loss in the ability to sequester the carbon we emit in the US. Soil holds 70 percent of the carbon stored in forests. We must rush to plant tons of green —trees, shrubs, ground cover, flowers — as well as fill the soil with compost from home kitchen scraps in the hopes that we can move the needle at twice the speed we’d otherwise be able to do. This is life or death. It’s an imperative.

US household kitchens should have multiple bins just like in Canada and the EU:

  • Composting for food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Paper recycling
  • Plastic recycling
  • Glass recycling or reuse for storage containers, drinking glasses, vases, etc
  • Aluminum recycling

Once this is all set up, you’ll soon find that you have no garbage. It’s startling. A year ago, on New Years Eve 2019, I lifted the lid and my garbage bin was completely empty.

We’ve got this. Let’s rush!~

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Portugal Ascending in the Age of Sustainability | Cork Element

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 9, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Portugal is ascending. Sustainability is the the critical path forward in our effort to curb global warming and become carbon neutral. For ambitious overachievers, sustainability will ride us all the way to carbon negative. Successful sustainability is about adjusting every single one of our everyday small choices and shifting to sustainable options. What food do we eat? How is it packaged? Do we drive an EV, or walk, ride a bike? Are we using a bamboo toothbrush, refusing plastic straws? Do we have a vegan leather cork bag?

Yes, that’s right. A luxurious, sustainable, vegan leather cork bag? The new vegan leather that shines a glowing spotlight on the green horizons of the $32 billion women’s accessories industry. In fact, according to Infinium Global Research, by the year 2025, the vegan leather industry alone will be a massive, thriving $89.5 billion industry.

Cork stands out amongst other vegan leather alternatives. The cork comes from cork trees, native to Portugal, which according to Cycling Centuries, produces approximately 50 percent of the world’s supply of commercial cork, and 70 percent of cork’s world trade. These evergreen oaks cover the the Alentejo region of southwest Portugal, with their knotted forms quickly catching the eye of passersby. Many of the trunks are marked for harvesting the cork, or have the outer bark of their lower trunks already peeled off, exposing the reddish wood underneath. 

Thankfully, peeling the cork from the evergreen oak trunk causes no harm. These mighty beauties live approximately 200 years; their cork bark is harvested every nine years. I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the vital importance of high quality cork in preserving our favorite wines, with some of these cork plugs protecting the quality of standout rare wines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus, consumers should have full confidence in cork’s durability in serving as the ideal leather alternative.

With sustainability becoming such a huge global issue following the 2015 Paris Agreement, innovative solutions have sprung up everywhere. Enter three creative Portuguese trailblazers — Joao Guimaraes Paiva, Hugo Diaz and Debasmita Bhattacharjee — who knew all about cork and were excited to step into this maximumly competitive ring and introduce their handmade line of vegan leather cork bags to global consumers. It was exactly a year ago, in November 2019, that they founded Cork Element.

It’s exhilarating to see such a beautiful collection of luxurious handmade bags crafted by a brand new company and founded for the sole purpose of delivering sustainable vegan leather bags to meet the goal of lowering our global atmospheric carbon level. Many of the top fashion designers now have cork bags as an alternative to their animal leather products. However, I personally feel it’s much more gratifying to purchase a cork bag from an ethical innovator that doesn’t believe in killing animals for profit and doesn’t simultaneously sell such products alongside their cork leather line. 

Cork Element bags are all manufactured in Portugal. The team outlined the process for manufacturing their high quality handmade products as follows:

  • the cork is harvested and stripped from the trees
  • it arrives at the factory and is boiled in water, which expands the cells and makes the cork more pliable 
  • no toxic chemicals are used
  • the cork is shaved down into thin sheets the same thickness as tissue paper
  • cork is naturally water and dust resistant, but Cork Element seals the cork sheet with a non-toxic sealant to keep it from getting dirty
  • cork can get wet, but leather cannot; in fact, cork leather can even be washed in the machine

Cork Element: “Cork fabric is durable as leather and as versatile as fabric. This material is environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic, water resistant and stain resistant as well as easily cleaned and long lasting.”

I asked the Cork Element team what official statement they’d like to make to American and Canadian consumers about their fabulous cork leather collections:

Cork is an extremely good alternative to leather and it’s a much better material than leather. Cork is water resistant, stain resistant and a durable material. As we are fighting for animal rights every day, cork is a material with a cause. Cork Oak trees provide home to biodiversity around Portugal and Mediterranean regions. It’s a very simple material with no chemical processes unlike leather. If you love animals and like leather, America and Canada should definitely try out this beautiful tree leather.

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, what better way to celebrate a new US president, as well as our renewed commitment to curb global warming by rejoinig the Paris Agreement, than by purchasing a cork bag for all the women in your life.

Cork Element bags are currently available:

We hope many more US & Canadian retailers and online marketplaces will pick up the Cork Element brand and offer these beautiful handmade collections to their animal loving, eco-friendly, suitability focused customers!

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“Yes” to Paris Climate Agreement

On June 1, 2017 at 3:00p, the President of the United States of America stood in the White House Rose Garden and formally announced that the United States was pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement that President Obama spent years negotiating along with 193 other nations.

The momentary shock and outrage have become transformative. Michael Bloomberg immediately stepped up and pledged $15 million to the UN operations fund from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the amount the US had previously pledged to contribute under Obama.

Three states—California, New York and Washington—have committed to meeting the United States’ greenhouse gas targets despite the White House’s opposition. Hundreds of cities and universities are also on board. According to the Los Angeles Times, the mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti stated, “Our message is clear: Americans are with you, even if the White House isn’t.”

This begins a new era for the American public. An era of personal responsibility and commitment to save our planet. Together we can to do this, we can make the Paris greenhouse gas targets a reality. Together we can can cool the planet by 2 degrees.

Climate change impacts all of us. Reversing climate change is relatively simple in the big scheme of things, it’s all about consumer choices and daily habits. Let’s make the correct choices by following the example of a state that’s already achieved significant progress: California!

Michael Bloomberg phrased it this way: “Americans will lead from the bottom up, and there isn’t anything Washington can do to stop us.” ~