Green Jobs Report: Community-Based Solutions for a Diverse Green Jobs Sector, Recording and Report

The short- and long-term projections for the renewable energy sector are growth.

Renewable energy is expected to continue to increase in popularity and usage as utilities and regulators look to it as a viable option for replacing retiring capacity and customers choose it to save money and address the climate crisis. This interest is aligned with a recent poll that found 81% of Blacks, 73% of Latinos and 71% of white respondents think “clean” energy jobs can help people in their communities.

So how do we prepare the U.S. workforce for growth in the renewable energy sector? And ensure the process is just and equitable?

Members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum – Deep South Center for Environmental JusticeGreen Door InitiativesWE ACT for Environmental Justice – along with GRID Alternatives answer these questions via their contributions to the “Green Jobs Report: Creating a Green Workforce, Community-Based Solutions for a Diverse Green Jobs Sector.”

This report outlines imperatives for bringing underrepresented groups into climate change work and the clean energy economy, and offers policy and best practice prescriptions for closing diversity gaps in the renewable energy industry and was released via webinar on December 9. Here is the recording.

Fairfax County Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) News

Monthly CECAP Update: November 2020

Throughout November, the Fairfax County Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) team of staff and consultants have been working to prepare for the initial meetings of the CECAP Working Group sector-specific subgroups, taking place in early December. Per the CECAP Process Update shared in late October, the planning model has shifted from an approach based on the involvement of nine district level Focus Groups and one Task Force to an approach involving a single Working Group. The Working Group is composed of members of the former Focus Groups and Task Force, with a few new faces in the mix.

To advance discussion of emission reduction strategies and to allow all Working Group members the opportunity to actively participate and be heard, the Working Group has been split into two sector-specific subgroups. The first group, the Energy Subgroup, will focus on issues of energy efficiency, renewables, energy generation, and supply. The second group, the Transportation/Development Subgroup, will focus on transportation issues, land use, waste, and water. This group will have a more diverse portfolio. To read the full November CECAP update, please click here.

CECAP Working Group December Meetings Announced

All members of the public are invited to attend and observe the initial meetings of the two, new sector-specific CECAP Working Group subgroups, taking place December 1st and 2nd, 2020. These meetings will focus on emission reduction strategies that may help the Fairfax County community meet CECAP goals in the long-term. The meetings will take place online via WebEx. Meeting access information is available at the links below.

Join the December 1 CECAP Energy Subgroup meeting

Join the December 2 CECAP Transportation/Development Subgroup meeting

Public Feedback Summaries Now Online

The results of the public feedback provided between August 27 and September 13, 2020 via an online survey, three virtual public meetings, and via email to the public CECAP mailbox are now summarized and available online. A narrative summary of the survey results provides a question-by-question rundown of the responses given, and an overview of the public comments provides a window into the thoughts and concerns of the community. The findings of the public engagement process will be reviewed by county staff at the December 1 and December 2 CECAP subgroup meetings (see above).

Introduction to Statistics Virtual Program (Presented live December 3rd)

Presented and recorded by Clifton Institute

This talk is intended for community/citizen scientists who help collect data but may not have the knowledge they need to analyze it, for nature journalers who record numbers in their journals but aren’t sure what to do with them, and anyone else who is curious about how scientists use data to understand the world. Managing Director Eleanor Harris, Ph.D., will give a brief introduction to the statistical methods biologists and other scientists use to analyze data. Eleanor will use interesting examples relevant to the ecology of northern Virginia throughout the talk. No mathematics beyond high-school level will be required. By the end of the talk you’ll understand what a p-value is and what it means when they say the phrase “statistically significant” on the news. And she hopes you’ll be inspired to try analyzing some data of your own.

Here is the recording of the talk.

Befriending the butterflies all winter

Article and Mourning Cloak Butterfly photo by Plant NOVA Natives

Where do butterflies go in the winter? If you are picturing the adults hibernating like bears, that’s actually not that far from the truth for a few of them, including Mourning Cloak butterflies. This handsome creature reappears very early in the spring because it overwinters as an adult in crevices of bark or in leaf litter. Most butterflies and moths overwinter as eggs, larvae or pupae, starting off in the tree tops and riding the leaves down in the autumn. Once they land in our yards, what happens next is up to us. To support butterflies, planting the native plants that are their food source is only half the job. The other half is to create the conditions that allow the butterflies and other beings to complete their life cycles.

Many of us were raised to think that dead leaves should be ejected from our yards as quickly as possible. The concern was that they would smother the grass. Green grass all winter was seen as a sign of a healthy landscape. It turns out that we had that exactly backwards, because the natural color of winter in the Mid-Atlantic is golden brown with a sprinkling of dark green evergreens, not the light green of turf grasses that were imported from Europe. But for those who want a green lawn, dead leaves add valuable organic matter to the soil, making fertilizer unnecessary. It is surprising how quickly dead leaves shrivel up and disappear if there aren’t too many of them. If they are piled too thickly on the grass, they can be spread under shrubs or trees where the shade makes lawn a poor choice anyway, or added to a flower bed, or consolidated in a pile to turn into compost. They can also be left in place on the lawn by mowing them over with the lawn mower, although of course shredding the leaves may also mean shredding the butterflies.

Another landscaping misconception that has been turned on its head is the idea that garden beds need to be “cleaned up” for the winter by cutting the plants down to the ground and removing the stalks. If instead the native plants are left standing over the winter and the leaves left underneath, the garden will provide a source of seeds for the birds and shelter for a myriad of other little critters including native bees and fireflies. What formerly might have been a dead landscape made up of empty mulch beds is transformed into a scene of life and growth, even if most of it is not immediately apparent to the human eye.

In some ways, caring for a landscape that supports life means working less, not more, with less work needed for tidying. Admittedly, humans have devised ways to save even more labor (and labor costs) by turning yards into barren landscapes where every weed is suppressed by chemicals or by thick expanses of toxic mulch that have been sprayed with herbicides, barely a step removed from asphalt in terms of ecological value. Fortunately, as a species we are coming to see that welcoming life into our yards benefits us as well as our fellow beings. For some basic tips on how to achieve these benefits, see the management plan page of the Plant NOVA Natives website.

A New Take on “Curb Appeal”

Article by Margaret Fisher, Photo by Plant NOVA Natives

A strip of lawn is the default landscaping choice for the area right next to a street. But is that the only option? Not necessarily, as gardeners are discovering. In many situations, boring lawn can be replaced with pizzazz.

Lawn has its advantages and disadvantages next to a road. It can be walked on, and short plants help preserve important sight lines. However, turf grass (which is from Europe) does nothing to support the local ecosystem which depends on native plants, and compacted lawn does a mediocre job at absorbing stormwater runoff.

Replacing lawn with native plants is an increasingly popular choice. The results can add a lot of character to a property. Certain native plants are particularly suited to the harsh conditions found next to roads, which often include compaction, salt and reflected heat. Deeper roots soak up and purify water before it ends up in our streams.

There are a number of considerations to take into account before planting. Do you actually own the strip of land next to the street? Does your neighborhood or jurisdiction dictate which plants can be used, or their height? If people park next to the curb, where will the passengers step when getting out of the car? Are underground or overhead utilities in the way? Do you know how to design the plantings so they don’t flop over the walkways? Check out the Plant NOVA Natives page on streetside gardens for details and for examples of how several residents have handled these challenges. Their practical solutions have turned ecological dead zones into an asset for the birds and butterflies as well as for the humans who get to appreciate them.

Making Friends with the Hummingbirds

Article by Margaret Fisher, Plant NOVA Natives

Fall is a great time to work on the guest list for next year’s garden party. Hummingbirds make some of the best guests of all, or to put it more accurately, we can make ourselves better guests of them by providing what they need around their homes, otherwise known as our yards. Our local Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migratory, departing Virginia in September for Central America and returning to the place they were born in mid-April. It will not surprise anyone to know that what they need when they arrive back is not sugar water but an intact ecosystem that provides food and shelter for them and their offspring.

It is well known and indeed true that hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, especially red, so for viewing opportunities, do plant Eastern Red Columbine and Coral Honeysuckle for spring blooms, Scarlet Beebalm for early summer and Cardinal Flower for late summer. It is fun to watch the hummingbirds make the rounds from plant to plant, timing it exactly to when the nectar has had a chance to re-accumulate. All of these plants co-evolved with hummingbirds and have the tubular-shaped red flowers that fit the bill – literally. Hummingbirds have incredible memories and know the location of individual flowers not only around their own homes but along the thousands of miles of their migration routes. They also recognize humans as individuals, learning to trust you and hovering in front of you when they are wondering when you are going to refill their feeder, if you have been in the habit of providing one.

Although we think of hummingbirds as nectar eaters, the great majority of their diet is made up of insects and spiders. We can provide them with insects by planting native plants. Because most insects can only eat the plants with which they evolved, a yard full of European and Asian plants such as turf grass and Japanese azaleas is largely an empty yard, devoid of food sources not only for hummingbirds but for songbirds in general. The red-flowering plants that were named above are all native to our area, as are hundreds of other garden-worthy plants which are increasingly being planted in our yards as Virginians start to recognize the beauty of our own flora as well as its value for the non-human residents of our properties.

The ideal time to plant is in the fall, which gives the plants a chance to become well established before facing the heat and droughts of summer. To help you plan, the Plant NOVA Natives website has a plant finder function in which you can search specifically for plants that attract hummingbirds. There are also lists of local garden centers that specialize in native plants as well as lists of conventional garden centers where Plant NOVA Natives volunteers are labeling the natives with red stickers. Just for fun, check out our silly one minute video of local hummingbirds and other critters interacting with native plants. And when your neighbors stop by to gawk at the sight of hummingbirds in your yard, you can give them this pamphlet so they can learn about planting natives in their yards to attract hummingbirds, too.

What Can You Do About Climate Change? Make It Personal (With Rare)

According to Rare’s Center for Behavior and the Environment: “Two-thirds of Americans think that citizens should do more to address global warming. And yet, most of us don’t really know what to do. We recycle, carry our grocery bags. But turns out that’s not enough.

Rare recently conducted research to identify the individual behaviors people can adopt with the greatest potential for climate impact. And it turns out, there are 7 things that many Americans might find surprisingly within reach. If each of these changes were adopted by even 10% of Americans, it would reduce the gap to America’s emissions targets by over 75%.

While we still need larger changes from corporations and governments, it’s pretty empowering to know we do not have to wait. We can each find at least one way to start making positive changes now. When it comes to our environment, we are all in this together.”

Food for thought from Rare: Seven behaviors with the largest climate impact

Rare Conversations, with Robert Frank and Madhuri Karak: Can Peer Pressure Solve Climate Change (43 mins of sensible, inspiring exchange)

Robert Frank, in the New York Times: Behavioral Contagion Could Spread the Benefits of a Carbon Tax

Making Scents of Your Yard

Photo: Ana Ka’Ahanui

Margaret Fisher

Fragrant flowers can add a whole extra dimension to gardening, and the flowers of native plants are no exception. The scents are there for the sake of the pollinators, but we can enjoy them as well. If you try putting your nose up to every flower you meet, you will have some interesting surprises.

Modern day humans are good at identifying human-made smells such as suntan lotion or diesel fumes but are pretty oblivious to the smells of nature.  This may be partly from lack of practice and partly because of our species’ tendency to run roughshod over the planet which includes the olfactory environment as well. If we pay attention, though, we can experience some of the sensations that are so important to other animals. Can you sometimes predict a rainstorm by the smell of the air? You already have developed some skill at interpreting nature’s cues. That slightly metallic odor is ozone, pushed down by atmospheric disturbances. If you have a dog, he or she may have introduced you to the scent of foxes, which is surprisingly strong and similar to a skunk. Once you learn to recognize it, you may find yourself spotting foxes that would have sneaked by you otherwise. The smell released by rain after a long dry spell has its own name – petrichor – and is created by a combination of chemicals released by plants and soil bacteria.

As you walk along in the woods, you will notice that the scent of life and decay (which is actually just more life) is subtle and complex but distinct enough for you to know when you are passing from one layer to another. In this unusual year when so many people are out walking their neighborhoods, one local resident has watched as folks stop in front of the Common Milkweed that volunteered itself near her sidewalk. Some people comment on the beautiful flower, one person only noticed the bees, but many were brought to a halt by the intoxicating fragrance. So many people inquire about it that she plans to put up a sign.

Why not create a natural olfactory landscape in your own yard? Planting fragrant native plants is the perfect way to do that while simultaneously pleasing the butterflies. Many have sweet smelling flowers, some faint, some strong. Some are a little unusual. The tall white spires of Black Cohosh, for example, smell simultaneously sweet and barn-like. Wild Bergamot smells like, well, bergamot, which gives Earl Gray tea its flavor. The flowers of American Holly trees are tiny but fill the air with sweetness for many weeks in late spring. Arguably the winner of any fragrance competition would be the aptly named Sweetbay Magnolia, with its large, soft flowers that smell of lemony rose. Plant one by your front door and you can inhale a lungful of beauty whenever you pass by.

For a list of fragrant native plants and where to buy them, see the Plant NOVA Natives website. The site index will point you to sources for signs. Let your neighbors in on your secrets! Why should the bees have all the fun?

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures, by Merlin Sheldrake

Reviewed by Diana McMillion

Merlin Sheldrake uncovers the surprising magic of hidden worlds in his fascinating book, Entangled Life.

Published in May 2020, Entangled Life takes the reader on a journey through the rich and varied worlds of fungi and the often-invisible struggles and triumphs of these essential organisms.

Looking beyond the fungal fruits we can see, such as ordinary toadstools, Entangled Life explores complex concepts in beautifully explained, simple language that non-scientists can feel a connection to. Sheldrake examines the inter-workings of fungi and plant roots, the extraordinary ability of lichens to survive in improbable places, and the ways in which fungi can affect the human brain.

Merlin Sheldrake has a wonderful ability to explain the arcane workings of fungi in ways that make these concepts easily understood to laymen. I give this work 5 out of 5 stars for conveying the complex in a simple way, and for its thoroughness in showing how fungi are entangled in all the doings of plants and animals, including humans. It’s an essential read for anyone curious about the natural world.

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.

Order Your Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit Today

Place your order for an Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit now. The toolkit contains everything you need to prepare for Earth Science Week (October 11-17, 2020), which celebrates the theme “Earth Materials in Our Lives.” This year’s toolkit includes:

  • 12-month school-year activity calendar, suitable for hanging
  • New Earth Science Week poster, including a learning activity
  • Factsheet on minerals in cellphones and Navy gear from USGS
  • NASA materials on water science and a poster on agriculture
  • National Park Service resource on paleontology in our parks
  • Factsheet from the Soil Science Society of America
  • Geologic Map Day poster dealing with Earth materials
  • Mineral Education Coalition material on mineral science
  • IRIS flyer dealing with seismology and earthquakes
  • AmericaView Earth materials board-game poster
  • Geothermal Resources Council poster on energy science
  • American Geophysical Union poster on environmental science
  • UNAVCO sticker and poster on geoscience measurement
  • Switch Energy Project sticky notes about energy science
  • Hydrology flyer from Nutrients for Life Foundation
  • Bureau of Land Management dinosaur coloring page
  • National Science Foundation worksheets on rocks and water
  • GemKids poster from Gemological Institute of America
  • Water Footprint Calculator information on water science
  • Forest Service, Paleontological Society, AIPG items and more

Order the Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit today. The toolkit is free and available for the cost of shipping and handling. Pay just $8.50 for the first toolkit and $2.25 for each additional toolkit in the United States. See the AGI Store for special pricing on a multi-pack of three years’ toolkits addressing different topics.

Toolkits are available for advance order now. The Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit will begin shipping in August 2020. For ordering, special shipping, bulk orders, and more information, email AGI Publications at pubs@americangeosciences.org

About AGI

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is a nonprofit federation of scientific and professional associations that represents over a quarter-million geoscientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society’s use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

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