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Archive for December, 2011


Rock Creek Sustainability

Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 01:57:16 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

All metro Washington area environmentalists and others are welcome to our monthly brown-bag networking opportunity!

On January 5th at Noon at Global Green USA (1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor), please join the DC Environmental Network and Rock Creek Conservancy for a discussion of the many issues facing Rock Creek. Rock Creek Conservancy Executive Director, Beth Mullin, will lead a discussion about your interest in or activities related to the park, and your ideas about how we can work together to take advantage of opportunities and promote sustainability for this vital green space in the heart of the DC metro area. Tara Morrison, Rock Creek Park Superintendent, will also be participating in the discussion. The Superintendent will give us updates on Rock Creek Park.

Please RSVP Here if you would like to attend this discussion.


“Location, location, location.” Rock Creek is a natural treasure, just a walk or metro ride away for millions of people, many of whom care deeply about the 5,000 acres of parkland that border the creek and its tributaries in DC and Montgomery County. This is both a threat and an opportunity.  The surrounding development creates a green island in a sea of pavement, subject to polluted runoff, sewage overflows, stream bank erosion, damage to fish and wildlife habitat, and invasive species, including vines that kill trees.

At the same time, there are wonderful opportunities for recreation, relaxation, education, community-based environmental stewardship, and engendering a love of nature and history in the next generation.

Rock Creek Conservancy (formerly FORCE–Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment) is dedicated to protecting and restoring Rock Creek and its waters, parks, and lands.  Multiple agencies, non-governmental organizations, property owners, and groups—including many DC Environmental Network members–also have an interest in Rock Creek.

Beth’s Bio:

Beth first joined Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment (now Rock Creek Conservancy) as a volunteer working to protect her local creek, the Pinehurst Branch tributary of Rock Creek.  She became the organization’s Executive Director in October 2007.  She is an environmental attorney with a law degree from New York University and a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  She has worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver, and the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC.

Tara’s Bio:

Morrison comes to Rock Creek Park from the position of Superintendent of the NPS’ African Burial Ground National Monument in lower Manhattan, a site where free and enslaved Africans and African Americans were buried in a 6.6-acre site. Prior to her position as Superintendent, Morrison served for about two and one-half years as Management Assistant at the NPS’ Northeast Regional Office, leading the African Burial Assistance Project, coordinating communication with various NPS offices, the General Services Administration and the public regarding the development of a memorial and Interpretive Center at the Monument, including construction and curation of project collections.  Before the African Burial Ground National Monument positions, Morrison served as Acting Assistant Superintendent at the NPS’ Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, NJ, where she reviewed and assisted in developing park-specific project requests, budget prioritization and recommendations for revision.

Morrison began her NPS career in 1998 as a Park Ranger at NPS’ Boston African American National Historic Site. Morrison joined the NPS’ National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program as the NPS’ Northeast Region Coordinator where she provided advice, subject matter expertise, and technical matter support toward the implementation of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act.

Please RSVP Here if you would like to attend this discussion.


EVENT REPORT: Wal-Mart FAILS on Sustainability!

Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 05:48:58 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

“In terms of the sustainability of the economy, having businesses that are operating at the appropriate scale, when you can have a neighborhood where there are 3 or 4 different grocery stores as opposed to one big Wal-Mart, that’s a much more diverse and competitive and resilient economic model.”

– Stacy Mitchell, Senior Researcher, New Rules Project

Earlier this month the DC Environmental Network hosted a extremely important discussion about the future of economic and environmental sustainability in our nation’s capital city. What made this particular discussion unique was that it was the result of a new and emerging partnership between environmentalists and organizations and individuals who represent workers in the District of Columbia.

This coalition was formed out of the understanding, based on research and data collected from the experiences of hundreds of communities throughout the United States, that Wal-Mart’s current economic model, unless enhanced by a Community Benefits Agreement, will result in an unsustainable economic situation that will hurt both the environment and the quality of jobs in the District.

With Mayor Vincent Gray experiencing only a 34% approval rating (53% disapprove) and the DC Council with an even smaller approval rating of 30% (55% disapprove) (Clarus Research Group, 12/2011), it did not bode well that segments of the environmental and labor community, two significant blocks of voters who helped Mayor Gray, Chairman Kwame Brown and others get elected, expressed strong disagreement with Mayoral action, and Council inaction in representing District citizens interests relating to Wal-Mart.

It seems the only decision maker who has done something substantive to represent the interests of District citizens has been At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson who introduced legislation that could help push Wal-Mart to embrace more sustainability in their business model in Washington, DC.

Our discussion featured two experts, one from the environmental community and one from labor, who gave a concise picture of Wal-Mart’s record on economic sustainability:

– Stacy Mitchell, a national expert on the economic impacts of retail on our neighborhoods, representing the New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, shared the hard cold facts about Wal-Mart’s probable impacts on our local economy. Stacy also talked about the significant disconnect between what Wal-Mart tells the public about its environmental sustainability initiatives and reality.

You can listen to her entire presentation and see some pictures from the DC Environmental Network’s campaign efforts here:

–Joslyn Williams, President, Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, poked holes in Wal-Mart’s claims about the quality and impact of the jobs they would bring to the District.

You can watch his entire presentation here:

At the end of these two presentations, participants were left with a clear and focused understanding that we all need to renew our efforts to make sure we end up with economic development that helps, not hurts District residents.

The DC Environmental Network is committed to participating in the efforts of the Living Wages Healthy Communities campaign to force Wal-Mart to respect the District and do what is necessary to make sure our environment is protected and our economy is not damaged by Wal-Mart’s unsustainable business practices.


Young Voices for the Planet on Climate Change!

Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 08:38:47 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network

On December 15 at Noon, at Global Green USA (1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor) join author, illustrator, originator, producer and director, Lynne Cherry, for a very special DC Environmental Network event!

Lynne Cherry, is founder and director of the organization, Young Voices for the Planet. Young Voices for the Planet is a film series featuring young people who are making a difference. They are shrinking the carbon footprint of their homes, schools and communities. These films demonstrate that you, too, can do something about global warming. As Alec Loorz says, “Kids Have Power.”

  • Date & Time: December 15th at Noon
  • Featured Panelist: Lynne Cherry, Young Voices for the Planet
  • Location: Global Green USA, 1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor (near Farragut North & McPherson Square Metros)
  • RSVP for this event HERE!

Part One – Overview on Young Voices for the Planet!

Lynne will share some of her most recent films and engage the DC Environmental Network in a conversation about how to tap into the power of kids!

Goals of Lynne’s Films & Project:

  • to document youth success stories about reducing CO2–to give young people a voice;
  • to alleviate children’s fear about climate change and move them towards hope, empowerment and action by inspiring them through these youth success stories;
  • to document stories of youth using scientific data to argue their position in order to help other young people and adults understand the role of science in sound decision making;
  • to reach and encourage a critical mass of young people to teach their parents and schools how to reduce their carbon emissions in order to galvanize the US public–adults and kids alike–and create a paradigm shift in the way that society views, and acts to abate, global warming;
  • to encourage youth and adults to speak to elected officials about supporting sustainable energy;
  • to create an interactive website infrastructure to help youth adopt carbon reduction projects;
  • to provide teachers with materials to augment the films to facilitate students involvement in carbon reduction projects;
  • and to have the films seen by as many young people as possible through distribution, dissemination and web-streaming of the films.

Part Two – Book Signing: Lynne Cherry as Author & Illustrator:

The Young Voices for the Planet films were inspired by the book Lynne Cherry wrote with photojournalist Gary Braasch, How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming.

Book Description: When the weather changes daily, how do we really know that the Earth’s climate is changing? Here is the science behind the headlines – evidence from flowers, butterflies, birds, frogs, trees, glaciers and much more, gathered by scientists from all over the world, sometimes with assistance from young “citizen-scientists.” And here is what young people, and their families and teachers, can do to learn about climate change and take action. Climate change is a critical and timely topic of deep concern, here told in an age-appropriate manner, with clarity and hope. Kids can make a difference! This book combines the talents of two uniquely qualified authors: Lynne Cherry, the leading children’s environmental writer/illustrator and author of The Great Kapok Tree, and Gary Braasch, award winning photojournalist and author of Earth Under Fire: Global Warming is Changing the World.

RSVP for this event HERE!

Lynne will also talk about her many illustrated children’s books and how they help her work.

To facilitate your holiday shopping Lynne will bring copies of these books (and others) and make them available for purchase.

All are welcome!


Primer on Urban Forestry & Tree Bill!

Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 05:22:23 PM EST

By Mary Lightle, Tree Canopy Enthusiast

REPORT: DCEN Briefing on the Urban Forestry Administration Reorganizing Act of 2011.

It has been a month since I strolled into the Urban Forestry Brief organized and hosted by the DC Environmental Network with Councilmember Phil Mendelson and Mark Buscaino of Casey Trees. I was curious, how did the District intend to increase the urban canopy? This represented a notion that would exemplify to the rest of the country that the built environment and urban forests will coexist.

“D.C. has a rich history of trees,” expressed Buscaino. “And I think all of us here are a testament to the fact that we really need to hold on to that history…”

The room was full of stakeholders – residents, environmental organizations, arborists, Casey Trees volunteers, and other District employees – sitting shoulder to shoulder listening to Councilmember Mendelson speak on behalf of the Urban Forestry Administration Reorganization Act of 2011. His bill cites amendments to the Urban Forest Preservation Act (UFPA) of 2002 and transfers the Urban Forestry Administration from the DDOT to the DDOE. He emphasized, “The goal here is the macro, not the micro.” When it comes to expanding the District’s current 35% canopy cover to 40% by 2035, there isn’t time to necessarily be concerned about preserving individual trees. “Simplicity, in any kind of legislation, is key,” said Buscaino.

Buscaino had his own recommended actions about the macro goal. He refreshingly described with candor and laconic humor that the size limit for trees covered by the UFPA, currently 55 inches, needed to be reduced and was set by a man hugging a tree at breast height. I had to watch the briefing video again to make sure I heard correctly. View Mark Buscaino’s portion of the brief for yourself.

Mary Lightle Up in the Tree Canopy

Decreasing the average tree circumference to the recommended 29 inches would allow for trees to grow closer together with a more intact canopy. A large gap in the canopy would occur if a tree of 55 inches were removed. An increased tree canopy would not only sequester more carbon emissions, but it would also slow stormwater with foliage and root systems, shade streets, regulate urban heat island temperatures, and improve aesthetics.

The macro is not only about the District either; it is about the global commons.  Where the wind blows, emissions are sure to go. What kind of neighbor do you want D.C. to be? Take your part in being a stakeholder on Wednesday, December 7th, at the Urban Forest Administration Reorganization Act hearing.