National Park Week and Earth Day 2017

(photo by Dawn Kish)

In last weekend’s Baltimore Sun, a “Readers Respond” letter was offered by Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):

“Last month, Sens. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, introduced bipartisan legislation dedicating funding to tackle the backlog [needed repair/maintenance of National Park Service sites/infrastructure] over the next 30 years.

“…we must…take this time to recognize that our national parks are facing $12 billion in needed infrastructure repairs and not enough staff or money for them.”

(photo my Logan Mahan)

A 3/28/17 press release from Sen. Warner’s office (linked here) says: “This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects, including $75 million of deferred maintenance in Ohio’s eight national park sites.” Further:

“Eighty percent of the funds in the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund will be dedicated for the repair and rehabilitation of key assets, including historic structures, visitor facilities, water utility systems, disability access, health and safety, and recreation. Twenty percent of funds will be allocated to roads, bridges, and other transportation-related projects. Amounts from the fund will not be used for land acquisition or used in lieu of funding made available for recurring facility operations and maintenance needs of the Park Service. The bill will also encourage public-private partnerships to help reduce overall deferred maintenance costs by allowing the Secretary of the Interior and Director of the Park Service to accept qualified private donations.”

Please–don’t miss this chance to inform your representatives in Congress of your full-throated support for S. 751 bill, the Warner-Portman National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund, and its funding provisions! (I have.) It’s a generation-to-generation thing, right?

Let’s not risk these most special places of recreation and life-long learning throughout our land to…

(2015 NPCA “Parks in Peril” campaign poster)

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Solar Power to Light Up Coal Mining Museum

Kinda ironic, eh? Old jobs lost / new jobs created.

(source: U.S. Energy Information Admin.)

Don’t get me wrong. Around the turn of the 20th century, coal supplied nearly 80% of all U.S. power. Miners back then were nearly a million strong; today, about 77k.

In certain of its forms, it remains necessary. But, “mining” by mountain topping (blowing up the mountain top “overburden” for access to coal seams) defiles nature in a hopelessly irretrievable way.

Coal as fuel for power plants? Thankfully, the market seems to be taking care of that so GHGs are being lessened by the use of cheaper, less-polluting natural gas instead. Asthmatics, suffering from dirty air, and our youngest people whose respiratory systems are still developing, may go on breathing with a bit less difficulty.

About the museum

“Tucked into a holler of Harlan County – the heart of Kentucky mining country – is a museum dedicated to all aspects of extracting coal from the state’s mountains,” begins a Washington Post story last weekend. The museum is called The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum.

Benham, KY, a so-called coal camp town, where it’s presently sunny and 78°F as I write, is the host of this museum which is situated on Main St. next to City Hall. Benham is located in the southeast corner of the state, bordering NC.

Enter renewable energy

The installation of an approximately 80-panel solar PV system was started last week atop the museum’s roof.

“‘We believe that this project will help save at least $8,000 to $10,000 off the energy costs on this building alone,'” an official of museum owner Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College told local station WYMT-TV. Philanthropic donations are covering the estimated $400-500k cost. (That would to panels plus  a bunch of roofing work, I’m guessing.)

The maximum of 60 watts output from the PV array should cover roughly a third of the average monthly electric bill. Any excess power generated will be redistributed to the grid. So, the local utility is cooperating…

“The museum will offer anyone passing through Kentucky a glimpse into an industry that help define part of America. Only it will be looking to the sky, rather than in the earth, to light the way,” concludes Post writer Travis Andrews.

OBTW, the museum has an exhibit dedicated to country music singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn whose repertoire includes the memorable “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. She was born in Butcher Hollow, KY, a 2-hour drive north of Benham. (Lynn once famously said about her rocky 50-year marriage, “he never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice”.)

A localized after-effect

A word about abandoned mines:

These are some of the most dangerous environments you will ever encounter. Never access an abandoned mine of any sort without the proper training, people, equipment, and procedures in place. Mines were not designed to last for centuries, yet many were built hundreds of years ago leaving perilous conditions behind. Unstable rock, old rotted timber supports and ladders, unexpected drops (winzes), sudden roof collapses, invisible (flammable) gases, rattlesnakes and being buried alive are very real possibilities among many others. Deadly flammable gasses and black damp are of special concern in coal mines, in addition to the already formidable list of dangers mentioned above. Barometric changes above ground can cause the airflow underground to change, moving bad air into the area you are, or were; making escape impossible.

© Jeremy Blakeslee

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“Mercury Rising?”

That’s the title of a Spring 2017 National Parks magazine article by associate editor Nicolas Brulliard about the increase in mercury in the air we breathe and the food we eat.

Accompanying the text is this picture showing an adult dragonfly at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in AL.  At once beautiful and a marvel of aeronautics. )This insect has been a personal fascination ever since I was a kid.)

Looking again at coal and its deleterious effects on the biosphere, here’s a basics refresher.

“Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in rocks, including coal. Emissions from coal-fired power  plants and the burning of other fossil fuels and certain waste are the primary sources of mercury pollution, but it is also released into the atmosphere through natural events such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.”

“Wearing waders, the students [from a school near Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller National Historic Park in VT] enter the boggy waters and use their dip nets to scoop up peat-like muck from the pond floor. They’re looking for brown, alien-like larvae that can grow up to one-and-a-half inches long and eventually turn into one of the pond’s most scintillating residents: dragonflies.

Lake Pogue, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park

“Before they morph into their adult form, these larvae can spend years underwater. During that time, they gobble up smaller insects and accumulate mercury, a toxic metal that can have a devastating impact on wildlife.”

These samples are then sent by the students to scientists for mercury testing. The results? Anything but encouraging.

“The [mercury] pollutant can remain in the atmosphere for years and travel thousands of miles before falling to the ground in the form of raindrops or dust, so even isolated wilderness areas can be effected.

“Bacteria then combine carbon with mercury to create methylmercury, a compound that is ingested by creatures large and small. Because fish and other wildlife eliminate mercury very slowly, their contamination levels increase over time as they continue to feast on mercury-rich prey.”

There have been numerous studies of mercury’s effect on fish populations, but scientists offer that dragonfly larvae are even better candidates for sampling because they can also be found in waters where no fish live. The larvae are “relatively similar to each other, physiologically speaking. ‘It makes for an easier apples-to-apples comparison,’ states a scientist quoted in the article’.”

Humans can be harmed. Neurological disorders have been seen in a study of Minamata, Japan, residents who’ve been exposed to mercury pollution (poisoning) for decades.

“Almost everyone has trace amounts of methyulmercury, but the [EPA] estimates that each year more than 75,000 newborns in the U.S.A. are at increased risk of developing learning disabilities because of their exposure to the pollutant while in the womb.”

Mercury’s effects on the Adirondack Park in New York State as well as other national forests is well documented. Fish populations have been lost in the lakes there. Loons, other aquatic birds and bats have been and are being poisoned. So too are the evergreens.

A civil war continues, in a certain respect, at Gettysburg. Acid rain has been wreaking havoc on the monuments there for years. (The President’s donation of salary to the NPS will be used specifically for monument restoration/maintenance.)

The Islands and the Wales,” a 2016 documentary just screened at the Annapolis Film Festival, calls attention to the effects of mercury poisoning in the North Atlantic archipelago of the Faroe Islands.

At this link is the website for the movie which includes a trailer.

When next thinking about buying fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, and disposable batteries, think again about alternatives that don’t contain mercury or are longer-lived as with re-chargeable batteries. Yes, they can be recycled by those of us who are so committed, but what about everyone else who doesn’t know or, worse, don’t care?

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Goodwill Stitched into the Urban Fabric

Late last year I wrote about GE’s new HQ, choosing new construction and renovation in Boston’s Seaport District in favor of its grassy suburban digs in Fairfield County, CT.

© Gensler

“We want our [new] campus to be a global epicenter of innovation, a place to foster relationships among our employees and the greater community,” said Ann R. Klee, GE’s head of Boston development and operations, in a statement.

“The 2.4-acre campus, designed by architecture firm Gensler, will open in two phases in 2018 and host 800 employees,” according to a 8/1/16 Boston Daily article.

© Gensler

“It will include a classroom workspace for startups, as well as university and high school students interested in STEM fields; a “convener space” for GE and community events; a co-working area for visitors; an incubator laboratory for between six and 12 early stage life science companies; and an innovation and exploration center, highlighting GE’s 124-year history.

“Plans also include an expanded, 1.5-acre Harborwalk, along with a coffee bar and ‘bistro-style restaurant’.”

The new HQ is situated in the Fort Point neighborhood of the Seaport District and borders the waterfront on one side. The lack of built infrastructure from that direction is addressed to the degree possible by a large pier and floating dock that now accommodates water taxis, boaters, public launch and boat (kiyak) rentals.

Given its immediacy to the Fort Point Channel, the buildings are designed to be resilient to sea level rise by raising the ground floors and critical operating systems in all buildings by about 4 ft., as well as through landscape design strategies such as green roofs.

From the company’s submission to the Boston Redevelopment Authority: “The GE Foundation is investing $50,000,000 in a series of initiatives to assist the Boston Public Schools, Boston area community health centers, and other area priorities.” The buildings will be LEED® certified.

© Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Likable too is what architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop and client Columbia University have planned for the new Manhattanville campus in West Harlem (upper Manhattan).

The first structure, now nearing completion, is the 450,000 sq. ft. Jerome L. Greene Science Center. The pen-and-ink drawing immediately spoke to me about protecting the private space overhead while welcoming public activities at grade level.

“Of course, Columbia’s new buildings touch the ground, but they are public on the street level; they’re permeable, porous, and accessible,” says Piano. “There is no frontier between the buildings, the city, and the street.”

As further quoted in the Spring 2017 edition of Columbia Magazine: “… Piano says the building’s glass facade provides the scientists inspiring views of the city while enabling passersbys to observe the researchers working in their laboratories.

How is this achieved? How does the new campus project a sense of dignity and trustworthiness without being guarded?” the writer asks.

Piano’s firm, along with SOM | Architecture, has planned no gates or walls for the new campus. This contrasts with the original Morningside Heights campus, opened in 1897. (The campuses are separated by about a 10-minute walk.)

“In fact, several streets that intersect the land on which the campus is now being built will remain open to traffic.”

“Beautifully landscaped pedestrian paths will extend out into the surrounding neighborhoods, beckoning local residents into the academic sphere.” I’ll be curious to see how these actually work beyond campus boundaries.

At the Greene Science Center, which is home of the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, there will be an education lab where school children can learn about brain science. A wellness center there will offer free medical care to community residents.

Yellow line/arrow delimits 125th St. Harlem corridor. Blue colored buildings to either side denote Columbia campuses.

Multiple buildings of varying academic disciplines and totaling about 6.8M sq. ft. will be built over the next few decades on the 17-acre Manhattanville campus between 125th and 133rd Sts. They’ll be LEED® certified under the Neighborhood Design rating system. Targeted for the Green Science Center is LEED® Platinum, the rating system’s highest.

What’s not to like about the approaches to integrated urban living shown in these examples by corporate and institutional leaders? They excite me as vibrant urban fabric where exchange, learning and understanding are fostered.

“Design is inherently optimistic.  That is its power.”  –Wm. McDonough



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Black Rail Bird Threatened (last week) – Offsetting Good News

Last week’s post ended:

“As sea level rise has been noted more recently, you might ask yourself if something else contributed to the Eastern Black Rail’s near-extinction over the 25-year period? How ’bout substantial coastal urbanization that’s included paving over wetlands? ‘Dozer blades versus biodiversity.

“Yes, several islands have already disappeared in the Chesapeake Bay, but inhabitants had somewhere else to move to.”

Today’s post –

Good news last year for jobs chipping away at climate change

New solar PV arrays being installed over white membrane roofing at St. Margaret’s Church, Annapolis, MD (2016)

“The U.S. solar industry added 51,000 jobs last year, report says.” (The Washington Post, 2.8.17)

In the year ended 2016, the solar industry has shown 4 consecutive years of job growth with a 24.5% gain from 2015 to 2016.

The Solar Foundation recently reported that more than half of the 51k jobs were in solar panel installations. Also noted as contributing to the rise in jobs was the expiry of the Federal solar tax credit in 2016–causing a spike, if you will. But, that tax credit has been extended through a phase-down period from 2019 and  2022.

That’s unless the climate-change skeptics now in charge decide to roll it back.

Meanwhile, the Foundation estimated that about 14 billion watts of electric power from solar was added to U.S. grids in 2016.

Wind turbine – ground up view

Wind energy installed ranks largest in Texas with 20,321 MW capacity as reported by the American Wind Energy Association. Gov. Rick Perry’s successful nomination as U.S. Energy Secretary brought this to bear when the president told him, to the effect, “keep doing what you’re doing,” a reference to energy production–fossil fuels, and (I hope he realizes?) renewable.

Texas is one of the biggest manufactures of wind turbines and component parts. Other related stats from the AWEA’s website:

Wind Generation
Percentage of In-State Energy Production: 10.8%
Equivalent U.S. Homes Powered: 327,000

Economic Benefits
Wind Industry Employment: 24,001 to 25,000
Wind Manufacturing Facilities: 40
Total Project Investment: $32.7 billion
Annual Land Lease Payments: >$50 million

Environmental Benefits
Annual Water Savings (gallons): 14.7 billion
Equivalent Bottles of Water Saved: 111 billion
CO2 Emissions Avoided (metric tons): 28.3 million
Equivalent Cars Worth of Emissions Avoided: 6.0 million

Today is U. N. World Water Day

From EarthEcho International’s website: “[Today] individuals, schools and community groups around the world will take a stand for clean water and healthy waterways by participating in the EarthEcho Water Challenge (formerly the World Water Monitoring Challenge).   Through the simple actions of testing and sharing data about a community’s water, EarthEcho Water Challenge participants become part of a growing movement of 1.4 million citizens in 143 countries who are working to conserve and protect water resources around the globe. Click here if desiring actual engagement with your kids/grandkids one day soon. (It’s easy.)

Reminder: Earth Day’s coming in just 30 days. It’s yours and mine to restore so how ’bout we get busier about it?

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Black Rail Bird Threatened – Offsetting Good News (next week)

The 6″ small Eastern Black Rail bird as harbinger of something huge

I once wrote for the worthy “Bay Journal Daily News” a story about natural shorelines; a particularly great project just off the Severn River at Annapolis.

In its lead piece on Monday, I was dismayed to find an article by Karl Blankenship about the Eastern Black Rail bird population being threatened by sea level rise. Their habitat, marshlands along the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere along the Eastern Seaboard, is being drowned.

But, let me interrupt this post for a certain kind of context-

“Regarding the March 10 news article ‘EPA’s leader dismisses climate-change science’: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has said that ‘measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do.’ I can note with experience that we can say the same about hurricane landfall: not precise, but devastating. We know it’s going to happen and the lack of precision does not stop coastal communities in harm’s way from preparing for the worst.

“D. James Baker, Washington. The writer was administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration from 1993 to 2001.” Letters to the Editor, The Washington Post, 3.13.17

Back to the small Eastern Black Rail bird and the “Bay Journal” article.

“‘We know almost nothing about this species,’ …ornithologist Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology in Virginia, [told Blankenship]. ‘It’s very tiny and incredibly secretive. Even most bird watchers have never seen this species before.'”

The Black Rail bird is about 6″ long, and is active between midnight and about 4am.

“Now, even hearing their call is unlikely. Its habitat, a delicately balanced zone deep within coastal marshes, is being flooded by rising waters. And the Eastern black rail is disappearing fast — potentially becoming the first victim of sea level rise around the Chesapeake Bay and other areas of the East Coast.”

Its nests and eggs are what are going under as entire marshland habitats are flooded.

Because the bird’s population has dropped some 90% in well less than 3 decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may protect it through the federal Endangered Species Act. A recommendation is expected to be made in later 2018.

As sea level rise has been noted more recently, you might ask yourself if something else contributed to the Eastern Black Rail’s near-extinction over the 25-year period? How ’bout substantial coastal urbanization that’s included paving over wetlands? ‘Dozer blades versus biodiversity.

Yes, several islands have already disappeared in the Chesapeake Bay, but inhabitants found somewhere else to move to.

 BTW, Earth Day 2017’s coming soon (Saturday, April  22)

Consider doing something about it. Check with local schools or area environmental non-profits for their sponsorship programs.

Among my choices are planting trees along Catoctin Creek, MD, sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Or, closer to home: Community Trash Cleanup with Friends of Herring Run Park, sponsored by Blue Water Baltimore.

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Protect/Sustain our Way of Life!

My reading digest suggests rather clearly that we humans are losing the variety of life on Earth–biodiversity–at an accelerating rate. Chief among reasons: air pollution. And ocean acidification and warming, induced by fossil fuel burning, where coral reefs are dying as are other marine life, such as sharks, which feed there.

Hawksbill turtle – poached

Another is poaching where the elephant is nearing extinction; to name one animal.

In last week’s post, I mentioned learning about USGBC board member Dr. Aaron Bernstein of the Harvard School of Public Health. I said he’d co-written/-edited the book called Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. It’s a tome; textbook format with beautiful cover and over 540 pp. (Got a used copy nearly new for a nearly give-away price.)

I think a good share of the “Preface” is worth offering you. We need to sharpen our awareness of human’s place in the biosphere!

“Edward O. Wilson once said about ants, ‘We need them to survive, but they don’t need us  at all.’ The same, in fact, could be said about countless other insects, bacteria, fungi, plankton, plants, and other organisms. This fundamental truth, however, is largely lost to many of us. Rather, we humans generally act as if we were totally independent of Nature, as if we could do without most of its creatures and the life-giving services they provide, as if the natural world were designed to be an infinite source of products and services for our use alone and an infinite sink for our wastes.

Extracts from plants, such as the rosy periwinkle, are used to make life-sustaining pharmaceuticals

“During the past 50 years or so, for example, our actions have resulted in the loss of roughly one-fifth of Earth’s topsoil, one-fifth of its land suitable for agriculture, almost 90 percent of its large commercial marine fisheries, and one-third of its forests, while we now need these resources more than ever, as our population has almost tripled during this period of time, increasing from 2.5 to more than 6.5 billion.

“We have changed the composition of the atmosphere, thinning the ozone layer that filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation, toxic to all living things on land and in surface waters, and increasing the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels not present on Earth for more than 600,000 years. These carbon dioxide emissions, caused mainly by our burning fossil fuels, are unleashing a warming of Earth’s surface and of the oceans and a change in the climate that will increasingly threaten our health and the survival of other species worldwide. And we are now consuming or wasting or diverting almost half of all the net biological production on land, which ultimately derives from photosynthesis, and more than half of the planet’s renewal fresh water.

Malayan Flying Fox – Nipah virus moving from the Malayan Flying Fox to humankind by loss of natural habitat

“We are so damaging the habitats in which other species live that we are driving them to distinction, the only truly irreversible consequence of our environmental assaults, at a rate that is hundred to even thousands of times greater than natural background levels. As a result, some biologists have concluded that we have entered into what they are calling ‘the sixth great extinction event,’ the fifth having occurred sixty-five million years ago when dinosaurs and many other organisms were wiped out. That event was most likely the result of a giant asteroid striking Earth; this one we are causing [italics mine].

“Most disturbing of all, as a result of all of these actions taken together, we are disrupting what are called ‘ecosystem services,’ that is, the various ways that organisms, and the sum total of their interactions with each other and with the environments in which they live, function to keep alive life on this planet, including human life, alive.”

Kind of a wake-up call–if not an indictment. Tons more to learn in this tome…

Tailed amphibians, Earth inhabitants for more than 350m years “are among the most threatened group of organisms” for extinction.

P.S. Use the search tool to find previous posts about air pollution and ocean acidification.

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Explore the True (Lifecycle) Costs of Coal – Harvard School of Public Health

The U.S. Green Building Council recently called for its members to vote in an election of new directors to its board. Before casting my vote, I, of course, thought it a good idea to review the background of the candidates.

One is Aaron Bernstein, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Director and Program Director, Climate, Energy, and Health at Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Bernstein is also a practicing physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and co-author/-editor of the award-winning book, Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. He’s an “avid bicyclist [who] peddles to and from work year round” as per his bio seen at the USGBC website.

Looking up Dr. Bernstein at Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, I stumbled across this marvelous, interactive schematic illustrating the life cycle of coal.

This image may be explored interactively by visiting here.

Make time to see it.  C’mon, it’s an “Ivy League” product. Seriously, a very user-friendly representation of scholarly, important research on the costs of coal to the environment and human health.

To see the highly technical report (published in the annals of the New York Academy of Sciences) that informs this graphic, go here.

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R.I.P., Trailblazer David Burwell

For some years, walker and bicyclist friends of mine have talked about outdoor pleasures found along the Baltimore and Annapolis (B&A) Trail running 13 mi. from Annapolis to Glen Burnie, MD. There are 2 stops along the way where food/refreshments can easily be procured. The paved, 8′ wide Trail runs in the roadbed of the old B&A rail line that connected Annapolis to Baltimore. At Glen Burnie, the replacement Baltimore light rail runs into Baltimore City and further to its terminus in Hunt Valley.

The Trail is a part of the East Coast Greenway which runs from FL to ME. Over 30% of this span is traffic-free. ECG was founded in 1991.

Elroy-Sparta State Trail, WI (probably the oldest rail-trail in the U.S., ca. 1965)

But, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) was co-founded 5 years earlier by David G. Burwell who died 3 weeks ago at age 69.

Inspiring the vision of RTC was Burwell’s mother (foreground right in a family photo) who successfully campaigned to turn a defunct Cape Cod railway into the 11-mi. Shining Sea Bikeway there.

Burwell and co-founder Peter Harnik became the first to coordinate national efforts to build a network of abandoned rail lines into bicycle and nature walk trails. Burwell was RTC’s president for its first 15 years. Prior to co-founding RTC, he worked on transportation issues for the National Wildlife Federation.

“It was David who turned ‘rails-to-trails’ from an idea with very good potential into a powerful force backed by firm legal standing, true political muscle and undeniable financial backing,” said Harnick in a recently released statement from RTC quoted in The Washington Post. The National Park Service’s National Trail Systems Act of 1968 was a progenitor.

The late Laurance Rockefeller, an environmental activist, championed the launch of RTC with a grant of $75k, calling Burwell “a fireball of energy and determination and talent.”

Among Burwell’s credentials was his 1973 UVA law degree, the training for which he skilfully employed in helping officials of the Interstate Commerce Commission write new regulations making it easier to convert abandoned rail lines to active people trails. Among RTC’s early competitors were the road building industry; and right-of-way ownership issues across jurisdictions. Another credential was his public advocacy guide, The End of the Road: A Citizens Guide to Transportation Problemsolving, published in 1978.

As WaPo writer Matt Schudel says: “In 1991, the conservancy won a major battle with the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act which mandated that a small portion of federal highway funds be reserved for projects other than paved roads. That money helped groups buy old railroad property, rip up the tracks or build new trails alongside existing rail lines.”

“At office functions he could always be found in the corner energetically chatting with the interns. He felt it was his duty to find future leaders and push them towards public service,” said Shin-pei Tsay, Executive Director of the Gehl Institute, in a memoriam piece written 2 weeks ago. Tsai worked as an intern under Burwell at RTC .

the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage spans from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD

“Today, often in conjunction with the National Park Service, the [RTC] has helped build more than 2,000 trails on more than 22,000 miles of rail corridor in all 50 states and the District [of Columbia]. Another 8.000 miles of trails are in the planning stage.”

I like to think of New York City’s The High Line as a rails-to-trails conversion. After all, it was originally designed and used as an elevated freight railway along the Lower West Side of Manhattan. Its inspiration is said to be the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy movement across our land.

The High Line, New York City, photo (c) Richard G. Williams

Opening Day for Trails, RTC’s 5th annual, occurs on April 8th when people across the country will walk, run, ride or other special event along the trails.


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Not St. Paddy’s Day (yet) but let’s have a look at “Green Beer” – 2

Last week’s post left off by stating that Guinness Storehouse No. 4 is now a carbon-neutral building.

Meanwhile, in Mills River, NC, Sierra Nevada’s new brewery was opened in 2014. LEED® Platinum certification was awarded last year.

USGBC magazine writer Hennick’s piece quotes Sierra Nevada’s Cheri Chastain, sustainability manager, who says: “With Mills River, we were coming into a new community. We wanted to set the stage to show [that] this is how Sierra Nevada does business.

“We made the decision that we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do it right, and we’re going to get that third-party validation that tells us that we did it right.” (Amen.)

About sustainability, she says: “Sustainability is the ability to sustain something, whether it’s lifestyle or a business. Every project that we decided to do or every change in operations has an economic, environmental, and social benefit. We’re trying to get people to shift away from thinking that sustainability is synonymous with environmentalism.”

Permit me to opine that sustainability is ultimately about the biosphere and all its components; a would-be holistic truth.

Hennick notes: “The…brewery includes nearly 2,200 [PV] solar panels and uses microturbine technology to convert methane biogas captured from an onsite wastewater treatment plant into electricity.” Between the solar PV system and the microturbines, an estimated 32% of electrical power needs will be satisfied on-site. Green power is also contracted.

tree-like “solar canopies” installed in visitor parking areas

As with Storehouse No.4, rainwater at Mills Creek is captured for on-site irrigation and other purposes. Notable are the parking areas which were constructed with permeable pavers to allow immediate area percolation of what otherwise would be rainwater runoff.

Also interesting is the fact that engineers “built” a model of typical energy usage within a brewery of same size for comparison with energy modeling based on the actual brewery design specifications and commissioning protocols. According to the Sierra Nevada website: “…heat recovery and recycling, automation, and process controls can have a significant impact on energy conservation…” for an estimated 49% greater efficiency than “our theoretical brewery”.

OBTH, Sierra Nevada works with growers towards sustainable farming practices.

LEED ON! Enjoy Guinness and Sierra Nevada (responsibly), readers.

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