Native Permactulure

Inspired by the recent Environmental Studies on the Piedmont trip, as well as my recent in class presentation on permaculture I have been thinking a lot about Native Americans, our environment’s history, and sustainable permaculture.

As thanksgiving comes near, more thought goes into Native Americans. However, this holiday does not coincide with any of their traditions at all. The typical thanksgiving dinner corresponds with 44 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, not to mention piles of pollution created from factory farming. This certainly goes against the Iroquois principle of seven generation sustainability; a concept urging the current generation to live sustainably and work for the benefit of the generation seventh into the future.

Native Americans domesticated many staple food which are eaten around the world today. These include: corn, wild rice, potatoes, yams, peanuts, squash, pumpkins, and numerous species of beans. All of these are good options to consider in making a sustainable and healthy thanksgiving meal; making it a great time to help support local farms. Thanksgiving is also a great time to start composting; a lot of scraps are bound to be leftover.

It is unarguable that our environment, in America, has changed drastically for the worse since the mayflower arrived in 1620. These maps show the deforestation that has occurred since then:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”. This Chinese proverb is a very inspiring message for us. We each have our trees we want to plant, both literally and figuratively. A great motto for our involvement in the future of sustainability. By checking out http://www.globalforestwatch.org/map/ you can see that much of the deforested area above has gained tree cover over the past decade.

Many people, including Native Americans, have developed ingenious ways to sustainably take care of the land. These techniques are defined as permaculture. As pointed out in http://www.iiirm.org/publications/Articles%20Reports%20Papers/Environmental%20Protection/SD-Cornell-2.PDF , “We are conditioned to take infrastructure for granted in our everyday lives until something goes amiss”. With all the light shed on climate change and sustainability nowadays, the flaws in man-made infrastructure are most visible, and open to the most change. It is the perfect time to push new and old permaculture designs into our society and the environment.

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Giving back to the Earth :)

I would like to tell a story that I think has very much to do with being sustainable in several ways. One day before I left for school during the fall of my senior year of high school I found out that one of my cats died. His name was Teddy, named after Teddy Roosevelt because he was a big game hunter; and this cat kept the balance of life at my house. He hunted A LOT; moles, mice, squirrels, and occasionally some birds, which was a little unfortunate but hey that’s how the world works. This cat was a natural way for us to keep pests out of our yard, instead of using pesticides or mouse poison.

When one of my friends found out that my cat died she was very very disheartened; keep in mind that this girl really loves cats. She was so upset about my cat dying that she wrote invitations for several of our friends to come to my house after school to have a funeral for Teddy. That evening my friends came to my house for the service. We dug a hole in my back yard at the edge of the woods. My friend read a poem that she wrote for Teddy as she cried over his body. She placed the poem and some flowers in his grave as we buried him, giving his body back to the Earth. It was a sad time but it makes me feel better knowing that Teddy came from the Earth, and to the Earth we returned him. After the touching service had concluded we ate some apples from a tree in my yard, and some scuppernongs from a grapevine in my yard.

There are several morals to this story:

If you don’t have a cat your shed will be full of mice.

Don’t tell your friend that your cat died unless you want her to cry for hours.

If you want to dig a grave for a cat in hard red clay get someone else to do it.

If you offer your dead cat to the Earth as a sacrifice it will give you fresh fruit.

But seriously, disposing of degradable items by putting it back in the Earth, whether it is food waste or a dead animal, is an easy way to do something sustainable by nourishing the soil.

Sustainable Vancouver

Vancouver is set to becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020 according to the City of Vancouver Action plan seen here at http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Greenest-city-action-plan.pdf. This report is highly detailed and I would sincerely encourage everyone to take a look at it because for now I will only be providing a brief detail of its contents.

 

In their plan 10 goals are outlined. They are: 1. Green Economy, 2. Climate Leadership, 3. Green Buildings, 4. Green Transportation, 5. Zero Waste, 6. Access to Nature, 7. Lighter Footprint, 8. Clean Water, 9. Clean Air, and 10. Local Food. These are clearly important points that every city should include in their action plans for sustainable development. Unfortunately not all cities in the world will emphasize as great a need or urgency I should say to be as sustainable so soon as does the city of Vancouver. I will say that every city should look to Vancouver as a model city for what the entire would needs to achieve and in doing so we might just have more than 100 years left on this planet before it is ruined beyond habitability for humans.

 

Now to get to the point I would like to dive into Vancouvers action plan a little by jumping to point number 5, Zero Waste. There plan by 2020 is to reduce solid waste going to landfills or for inceration by 50% from 2008 levels. This certainly is an ambitious goal given they only have 5 years and a cities worth of trash to take care of. How will they do it? Well some of the plans they have already put into action are things such as expanding the residential food scrap composting program, an extremely useful public resource in that it reduces landfill waste an increasing the availability of compost to grow richer more nutritious produce right from your back yard. Another important method they are using is public education programs toward reducing the amount of recyclable goods that are accidently or purposefully placed into the waste stream, aka “landfill”.

 

Finally, in the coming future there are many more goals that Vancouver has set for itself in order to become the greenest city in the world. Such as opening its first tool library or eliminating the use of plastic bags. One topic and goal for Vancouver that I think is vitally important is access to nature. In Vacnouver by 2020 they hope that all residents will live within a 5 minute walk of a park, greenway, or green space. As well they want to plant 150,000 new trees by 2020 according to the action plan. Personally I think it is vital not only that we live in a sustainable world but that sustainability should really be a regenerative process that seeks to replace more than what we have taken. It also should be self evident that this world is not worth living in if you can’t enjoy the simple pleasures of nature on a daily basis and preferably multiple times a day in my opinion. One day I hope I can retire in Vancouver or a city similar to it.

Native Plants

I am very excited to be working on the native plant garden. As an environmental science major concentrateing in conservation I find biodiversity very important. My favorite part about working on the garden will definably be learning the different roles of all kinds of pants. Working with John is something I am also looking forward to and I hope to learn from him during the project.

I have learned some about native plants from the previous trip to the food forest. Also I learned that a south facing garden is beneficial to it due to our location in the Northern hemissphere. Different plants provide different benefits to a garden and should compliment each other.  However it is scarcly anything.

I don’t know very much about gardening or native plants however. Which is one of the reasons I chose this project group. Someday I wish to start my own native plant garden and this experience with the GMU one will help me reach my future goal. There is a lot of work to be done. Learning to navigate through the school’s many departments and apply for funding will add to my experiences and make me more capable in the future.

My job in the group at the moment is assisting in coordination of different plants and learning how different flora interact with others. Learning to place plants in a way that will compliment each other will be a major reason that I will be able to use for the rest of my life.

The effects of certain plants on the local fauna is also of great interest to me. I hope we are able to include plants that will help not only promote plant biodiversity but animal biodiversity as well.

I think restoring the native plant garden will help Mason students learn about the efforts of groups lHowever Sustainability LLC and spread knowledge on the benefits of campus gardens, particularly native gardens. The sign in front of the garden will hopefully be a source on information for GMU students.

The garden will be around after I have left and leave a lasting impression on the campus.

Is Bird Flu Coming for You?

NO. But it is coming for our wallets…and maybe our diets.

This year, 2015,  has had one of the most devastating cases of Bird Flu  in decades…and it’s predicted to become worse. The cost of a dozen eggs could rise to $6.00. That is incredibly high for a carton of eggs that could be found for $1-$2 in previous years…even last year.

The virus may somewhat be controlled now, but prices will continue to drive up while poultry farms work on rebuilding their stock. But what can we do in the mean time? Go VEGAN. I am not vegan, but if the cost of eggs is bringing you down look into some alternatives! I may even give some of these a shot.

Tofu is an excellent substitute for eggs, you can use it for eggless egg salad or even eggless scrambled eggs. It doesn’t stop there, with the holiday season approaching quickly think of ALL of that baking you will have to do. Some replacements for eggs in baking are apple sauce, and bananas…pretty sweet if you ask me. There are many recipes online that provide numerous ways to prepare what your hankering for. Here’s a link to help get you started.LINK

However, if you just can’t give up the egg game and are nervous about Bird Flu I can give you a couple of tips on how to stay healthy. Most consumers do not need to fret over contracting bird flu, however proper cooking techniques can assure you of killing the virus. I will say that feeding wild birds may not be the smartest, you want to be sure to wash your hands and avoid bird droppings with the increase of birds flying south for the winter. The bird lady from the Christmas classic  Home Alone probably shouldn’t be your remodel at this time…I’m sure you can guess why.

If you have any questions about bird flu, eggs, or experimenting a vegan diet be sure to comment below and I will do my best to answer ay questions you have. Thanks for keeping up with me.

-Meghan Noble

 

 

 

Starving Ecosystems Through Beach Nourishment

A few weeks ago a friend of mine excitedly explained her epic spring-break beach plans to me. I immediately questioned her on the beach she was visiting and its history of beach nourishment. Based upon her incredulous look, not everyone knows about beach nourishment. Though I don’t like to be a buzz-kill, I feel like I have to drop some knowledge on the ecosystem degradation caused by commercial beaches.

Beaches not only serve as a vacation hotspot for millions of tourists around the world, but also as important protections for people living and working close to coastlines. The severity of beach erosion differs from area to area depending on climate, tide patterns, class of sand, human intervention, and submerged currents. The loss of beach area can result in economic devastation for communities that rely on the health of their beaches.

Beach nourishment is the relocation of sediment to an eroding coastline in order to create a new beach or increase the width of an existing beach. Though this process does not stop erosion, the increased sand volume slows further deterioration of the beach itself. Because newly transplanted sand erodes up to three times faster than naturally occurring sand, the beach must again be renourished before the end of its “lifetime.” This is enough to protect businesses and other structures near the beach, but does not necessarily provide safe beaches for wildlife.

In order for beach nourishment to make a safe impact, the project must be carefully managed. Sediment that does not match the original sand particles is often used for nourishment. A “perfect match” is nearly impossible to find when considering both grain-size and sand composition. Even small differences in the size of sand particles can alter wave patterns on the beach, transforming its shape very quickly. During beach nourishment, the area resembles a construction zone. Bulldozers can bury marine life to destroy insects, turtles, and shorebirds. Plants that ironically help to fight natural erosion are uprooted or smothered with newly-added sand. The increased turbidity can also threaten vital nurseries for aquatic organisms, as  displace sediment suffocates the vulnerable young.

Altering the natural geography of a  beach can also prove hazardous. Beach inclines are often made steeper by beach nourishment, making it impossible for sea turtles to climb and lay their eggs. Other species that rely on natural formation of sand dunes can also find themselves without nesting grounds. On the other hand, beach renourishment offers additional area to valuable migration and breeding grounds for coastal birds. During beach nourishment, the area is destroyed, but the process also protects the existence of these areas in the long-term.

Lake Erie and its Dirty Mess

Lake Erie is a name I’ve heard so much as a kid that I pretty much know it like the back of my hand. For all that don’t know, Lake Erie is a one of the five great lakes that surrounds mainly Ohio. The lake also extends a bit into Pennsylvania and Michigan, but not as much as Ohio. Growing up 15-20 minutes away from this lake made it the prime environmental topic for all of my school projects, allowing me to gain an extensive knowledge about all of its “dirty habits”; however if you aren’t from the northeast, it is understandable why others may not realize that Lake Erie has been and still is in fact very dirty.

Lake Erie has had a long history of environmental pollution. During the 1960’s the lake itself was so polluted that it actually caught on fire multiple times. The lake even helped to inspire The Clean Water Act of 1972. After the late 1970’s, the lake’s quality improved by 60% but later went back down to its normal polluted standing, similar to the way it is today. There were and still are multiple reasons for this sudden change. A few being the runoff from sewer overflows as well as poorly treated wastewater. Increasingly large amounts of fertilizer from local golf courses, farms, as well as general residential lawns, tend to flow into the sewer and filtered right back into the lake.

The combined sewage overflow and poorly treated wastewater lead to more deadly problems that Lake Erie faces such as, high phosphorous levels and harmful algae blooms. Being that Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the lakes, it doesn’t take much for an algae bloom to form. In the right conditions, an algae bloom can last weeks or even months.  Algae blooms are a major problem as they can occasionally block sunlight from reaching underwater ecosystems that need it. When algae blooms die off, the decomposition from them can suck up a lot of the oxygen in the water, creating “dead zones” within the lake. Algae blooms also smell gross, look gross, and can even sneak its way into tap water if not treated carefully.

In conclusion, I believe the water quality within Lake Erie will always be a growing problem until the city of Cleveland, as well as the state of Ohio demands change and action. I love my hometown and I believe Lake Erie  has the potential to be an amazing lake, but it will take much work, patience, and change.

Time is of The Essence (De-convenience Your Life)

As I try to strive towards the more sustainable lifestyle over the past few years, I learn to pick my battles. I have become more educated in the externalities and negative ecological impacts involved in our everyday actions and choices. There are those times when I have to consciously choose whether to follow the path of convenience or that of more time & effort. The American society and what is expected of us leads to adopt a life of fast pace. It is funny how it is a life of doing more but only those actions that may lead us to assumingly more money. However it also leads us to a life of doing less, the actions that may be better for our actual well-being. Fewer actions that require our bodies, more actions that require machines. This is how sustainability is severely crippled in our country and the modern era.

For example, do I choose to use the dryers or use a drying rack? Do I choose to use the elevator or take the stairs even though I am carrying things or might be running late to something? Do I use paper towels when cleaning or reusable rags to wash? Obviously the more sustainable options have been laid out in these scenarios but when one has more things that occupy their time, they make these choices harder. But how we usually occupy our time ends up being for some way to make money or be part of some systematic tools that have been laid out for us through this society. These are things that include going to school, committing to other obligations like clubs or jobs that will ‘look good’, to get a job, to make more money. And at the end of it, you don’t feel happy anyways as you remember you were just rushing towards making more money for you to live a more comfortable life with little considerations towards the actions you could have been doing in your everyday life that would have made for a more fulfilling impact.

I challenge those to de-convenience their lives. In ways, you will learn the effort it takes to do some actions, you will become more mindful, and appreciate those things much deeper. By doing this, you make the invisible, visible again. Our society’s processes and procedures shroud a curtain over how things are done to make us abide by the unsustainable systems. We do because that is all we know. But when you figure out how to do things, make things, instead of just ordering it with free shipping online or walking into a fluorescently lighted Wal-Mart, you see what really goes into precious processes that have been taken for granted if obtained otherwise. However with the pressure from society to do so much so fast, if you fail, you are seen as left in the dust. So I am left to choose, with the two lifestyles pulling me in two different directions.

Yet we can’t look at sustainability as a sacrifice.. Actions that are good for the Earth, are also good for you. Because we are a part of it, we have to be to live. Even when you are doing these actions as a community, you take more pride in it. It doesn’t seem as hard to decide on which path to take if those around you can help you on your goals. Sustainability is really more so about simplifying things. “The hardest thing to do is simplify your life, it’s so easy to make it complex” as said in the documentary 180 degrees South. And from the words of Gandhi, “Live simply that others may simply live”. By living ‘simply’, you see how things work, the effort put into it, and how it affects others and the planet from first-hand experience.

Environment and Politics

Typically, I am not the one to speak on politics, yet I feel that this topic never gets discussed. Environmental Policy has slowly creeped into U.S. Politics, however, it has yet to make a “breakthrough” in many liberals eyes. After all, people still claim global warming does not exist. However, I challenge us to look further. I find that the U.S. loves to stick its head in the world’s problems. We often see ourselves as the “watchdog” of the world as we peg ourselves as having the best economy and, therefore, ultimate power. Yet, I believe that the U.S. often doesn’t help in the most beneficial way. The U.S. typically operates in its own interest, a per the capitalist way. Yet, for those of us who care about the environment, we know that the environment is a worldwide problem. And as globalization forces industrialization out of the U.S. and to developing countries, the problems that once plagued us is now inflicted on others. Yet, the U.S. offers no advice or incentives to keep environmental problems at bay. Environmental problems aren’t in our face, so they are no longer our problem. The Political leaders which are running the countries taking on industrialization do not have the environment on their political agenda. In fact, they often align with the contrastive notion that global warming doesn’t exist. But how could you blame them? As leaders, they have to care about their people first. And while environmental problems do harm their people, it is a long-term worry. What the developing countries leaders worry about is primarily keeping their nation alive, healthy, and with food on the table. I think the best way the U.S. could help, while not becoming too involved, as well as carry their interest in the environment, would be to establish a sort of loan which would force these governments to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices, while supporting their growth in the economy. And with a growth in their economy, comes food on the table.

upcycling

Black Friday? A crazy shopping day! Thanksgiving break is tomorrow! And then it is the black Friday! There might be a lot of people who have been waiting for this moment shopping everything into their pockets. It is good to buy some necessary new clothes for winter or necessaries. How to deal with your old clothes though? Donating to people who need them and up-cycling into a new object and keep it forever!! (Please comment below if you can think more ways.) Last week, Mason has a quite big event happened at the northern plaza, which is donating the food, clothes and imperishable stuff to homeless people.

Upcycling is process the waste materials, useless or unwanted products into new products for a better environment. Upcycling reduces the CO2 emission by reusing the old materials instead of new ones from factories, saves you money and keeps the precious memories of your life about this object. It reduces the human trafficking as well. When people buy less products from the market, the factory won’t sell that much amount of products that they less likely to buy low price labors. Importantly, making something special! Once you made it, that achievement promotes to do more. They are also inexpensive. There are some simple ones you can make just by using what you have right now in your room! It is an easy loose-leaf notebook!

There are plenty websites inspire people with what they can come out with old materials. Here is a cool link.

http://www.viralnova.com/upcycled-products/