Public Health Perspectives on Sustainable Diets

Coursera offers this excellent 7-hour intro-level class from Johns Hopkins (no charge so long as you don’t need the certificate). In addition to the easy-to-follow lectures and short assessments, the class offers downloadable reports and other resources, and enables you to download the videos and slides as well.

Overview

What we eat and how we produce that food have significant effects on human health and the sustainability of our planet. But what is a ‘sustainable’ diet? A sustainable diet, as defined by the FAO, promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations. This short course looks at the urgent need to address the sustainability of our food systems, including better understanding the complex relationship between diet and climate change. Learners explore current research on dietary shifts needed in high, middle, and low-income countries to achieve both sustainability and food security goals and discuss evidence-based strategies to promote sustainable diets. This course is offered by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and draws from the graduate-level food systems curriculum at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. You may also be interested in our eight-week flagship Coursera course, “An Introduction to the US Food System: Perspectives from Public Health”.

Introduction to Food Systems Sustainability and Public Health 

Our food system is much more than a supply chain that brings food from the farm to your plate. What is a food system? How can thinking about food as a system help us understand and address the messy overlapping issues of diet, food production, planetary health and climate change? What does ‘sustainability’ mean, in the context of food systems, and is it the same as resilience? How has COVID-19 pandemic amplified the many challenges faced by vulnerable workers and consumers? Roni Neff addresses these questions – and many more – in this opening series of lectures. 

Sustainable Diets and Climate Change

What defines a sustainable diet? Why do sustainable diets matter? And what might sustainable diets look like in the US and around the world? The answers may surprise you. In this engaging and thought-provoking set of lectures, Brent Kim will address these questions and explain recent research that compares the impact of different diets on greenhouse gas emissions and water use across 140 countries. 

Strategies for Advancing Sustainable Diets 

The final week explores sustainable diets through the lens of a public health practitioner and registered dietician. They apply the concept of a sustainable diet to different parts of the world, considering the nutritional needs of different populations and why it is difficult to define a ‘sustainable’ diet for everyone. They share evidence-based strategies for communicating about sustainable diets and how different sectors can play a role in advancing change. 

For FMN members: The course has been submitted to the continuing education calendar for credit. check back for information on approval.

The Secret Life and Folklore of Winter Trees, January 21st

Thursday, January 21, 2021
12-1pm
Please register for the free event here. It will be recorded.

Join Capital Nature and well-known local naturalist Alonso Abugattas, the Capital Naturalist, for a fascinating talk on trees during the winter months. Evergreens like American Hollies and the Eastern Cedar provide life-sustaining food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, and reward us with sightings of refreshing green and red in the winter environment. Deciduous trees reveal stunning winter forms while they gather strength for spring blooms.

With a keen eye you can recognize amazing oaks, beech trees, and sycamores by their distinctive bark, nuts, and fruits. Alonso will draw on his abundant knowledge of the natural world, and on the legends of indigenous peoples to reveal the amazing living world of trees in winter.

Find out more about Capital Naturalist at http://capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com

Taking Nature Black Conference, February 23rd- 27th

Online Tuesday, February 23 – Saturday, February 27, 2021
Register here.

Taking Nature Black is an event, an opportunity, a time to pause for the cause. It’s a regional and national environmental lovefest. And it’s a Black healing, welcoming, organizing, celebrating, networking space. The theme is Call and Response: Elevating our Stories, Naturally! This year the stories are elevated chautauqua-style, so be on the lookout for speakers, creators, innovators, scientists, educators, musicians, artists, and entertainers telling their stories about everything from climate change to environmental justice and environmental joy in creative ways. Brought to you by Audubon Naturalist Society.

Full conference schedule here.

City Nature Challenge, April 30th – May 3rd

Photo from City Nature Challenge

Invented by citizen science staff at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Lila Higgins) and California Academy of Sciences (Alison Young). The City Nature Challenge is an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. It’s a bioblitz-style competition where cities are in a contest against each other to see who can make the most observations of nature, who can find the most species, and who can engage the most people.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers made some modifications to City Nature Challenge 2020 to help keep everyone safe. Firstly, CNC 2020 pivoted to be a collaboration rather than a competition. Instead, they wanted to embrace the healing power of nature and encourage the celebratory aspect of the CNC. This allowed people to safely document biodiversity in whatever way they could, even from the safety of their own homes. They urged all participants to carefully follow public health guidelines provided by their local governments, as they are changed in real-time. Individual safety and public health were and will be their utmost priority. The decision as to whether CNC 2021 will be a competition or collaboration will be announced in 2021.

The observation period for the City Nature Challenge will take place April 30th through May 3rd. Then during May 4-9, observations can still be uploaded to iNaturalist and identified. The global results will be announced on Monday, May 10. Please join the project on iNaturalist which will automatically collect all of the relevant observations during those 4 days.

For the DC metropolitan area (including DC and parts of MD, VA, and WV), we’ll have monthly meetings to coordinate our activities and foster new collaborations. Any organizations or individuals who want to play a role in encouraging and supporting participation anywhere in the metro area are invited to join these calls. January 29 will specifically be a call for anyone new to the City Nature Challenge, so please invite others who may be interested to join.

This year, all calls will take place on Fridays from 11 am to noon.

Call dates for organizers:
Jan 22: meeting for returning organizers
Jan 29: first time organizers (if you haven’t participated in the City Nature Challenge before, this will orient you)
Feb 19: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
Mar 19: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
Apr 16: monthly meeting for all CNC organizers
May 21: post-CNC debrief call for all CNC organizers

Science Fair Judges Needed, dates various

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair
Online judging is scheduled during the week of March 13-20, 2021
Register on the category judge website

Mount Vernon High School, 8515 Old Mt Vernon Rd, Alexandria VA
Tuesday, February 2 to Saturday, February 6, 2021
Judges will have several days to review student videos, evaluating the work with a simple rubric.
Please contact Alexander White for more information or to volunteer, especially if you have a particular category you would like to judge.

New School of Northern Virginia, 9431 Silver King Ct., Fairfax VA 22031
Wednesday, April 14, 2021 — all submissions will be available on Wednesday evening and all judging forms will need to be completed by noon on Thursday, April 15th.
Sign up here.

Virginia Association for Environmental Education Virtual Mini-Conferences, Feb. 20, July 17, Oct. 23

Want to connect with other environmental educators? The Virginia Association for Environmental Education (VAEE) is offering a virtual mini conference series! Each day will highlight one of Virginia’s different regions, seasonal changes, and the educators that work within that area.

February 20 – Winter in the West
July 17 – Summer on the Shore
October 23 – Fall in the Piedmont

Registration is currently open only for the full conference (all three dates together as a package) and the February event.

VAEE is now also accepting proposals for presentations, so if you would like to lead a session or workshop, submit your proposal. Many volunteers have had great presentations at past conferences.

Please see the VAEE website for all the details you need on both registration and submitting a proposal.

Spruce Up your Foundation Plantings

Photo and article by Plant NOVA Natives

When developers build a neighborhood, they almost always add some shrubs against the foundations of the houses to soften the lines of the buildings. Just as they paint all the interior walls white, they use just a few conventional plant species for a uniform look until all the houses are sold.  The new owners get used to the look and never bother to change it. But the foundation planting area offers a big opportunity to beautify the landscaping, eliminate the need for pruning and help support our local birds and butterflies at the same time.
 
Native shrubs constitute an essential middle layer of the ecosystem, providing food and shelter for songbirds. Providing this layer in our yards is even more important in areas where the deer have eradicated native shrubs in the woods. Unfortunately, at the time when most of our houses were built, the importance of using native plants was not known to the builders, and so most of the commonly used plants are species that were introduced from other continents. Not only do they not provide food for wildlife, many of them have escaped into nearby natural areas, where they proceed to destroy the ecosystem there. Examples of that include Nandina (also problematic because its red berries are poisonous to Cedar Waxwings), Japanese Barberry (also problematic because it harbors ticks), Privet, Burning Bush, Leatherleaf Mahonia, Double-file and Linden Viburnum, and several species of Bush Honeysuckle.
 
Luckily, there are many non-invasive alternatives. Best of all, many of these are native plants and therefore support the birds and butterflies with which they evolved. These plants have become increasingly available at our local garden centers. For the area under a window, it makes sense to choose one whose ultimate height when full grown will not block the view, thus making pruning unnecessary and allowing the plant to assume its own graceful shape. Many have beautiful spring flowers; others have striking red berries that provide interest well into winter.
 
Of course, most people don’t know the names of the shrubs in their yards. This can be figured out by using a plant ID app such as Seek or iNaturalist. Residents can also get a free visit from an Audubon-at-Home volunteer to help identify invasive plants and strategize about alternatives.
 
Shrubs are not the only plants that are suitable for foundations. Small trees where there is room, native ornamental grasses in the sun and native ferns in the shade are all natural choices. For those who like the conventional look that came with the house, there are plenty of native shrubs that can achieve the same aesthetic. Other people might want to add character to their yard by choosing something a little different.  And rather than planting annuals every spring, why not plant a few native perennials just once to get that pop of color year after year? For more details, see the shrubs page and the foundation planting page on the Plant NOVA Natives website.
 

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Find the list, ways to engage, and lots of resources here.

The UN asked musician AY Young to be its only US ambassador on behalf of the 17 SDGs–because he powers all of his concerts with renewable energy.

Plant Trees While You Search the Web, with Ecosia

Ecosia is both a search engine and a social business founded in 2009 after CEO Christian Kroll took a trip around the world.

The idea is that you, as a user of the search engine, plant trees while you search the web.

Ecosia uses the profit they make from search ads to plant trees where they are needed most. As of this writing, Ecosia has planted more than 117 million trees. Yes, they publish their financial reports.

In terms of privacy, Ecosia does not create personal profiles of you based on your search history. They anonymize all searches within one week. In addition, they do not sell data to advertisers.

Here’s a review of the company.

Get the free browser extension and plant trees with every search.

Proposals to Reintroduce Red Wolves to Virginia, webinar January 27th

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wednesday, January 27, 2021
6:30 -7:30 pm
Hosted by the Great Falls Group of the Sierra Club
Learn more and register.

Richmond-based journalist Stephen Nash has been looking into proposals to reintroduce red wolves, Canis lupus rufus, to Virginia. In the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service caught the last 17 known representatives of this critically endangered species. The agency has worked to enlarge the captive population, and reintroduce these animals to the wild. Today, only a handful of red wolves remain in the wild in coastal North Carolina, and 200 or so are in captive breeding facilities, including nine at Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Zoo.