Monthly Archives: October 2014

Where Do We Go From Here?

As I compose this entry, I find my hand empowered with a renewed sense of vigor and creative passion.  The pen flies faster than the ink can flow as I desperately grasp at the energy and intellect emanating throughout this remote campus.  The Omega Institute is a Mecca for environmental educators, activists, and students alike providing a platform for globally minded citizens to share, collaborate, and inspire.

This past weekend I had the immense honor of attending a workshop at Omega in Rhinebeck, New York and got a firsthand look at a revolution in action.  There, I sat in on presentations from some of the world’s most prominent environmental leaders as they all helped to create a framework for one thing – Change.

From Van Jones, to Jeremy Rifkin, to Vandana Shiva, we heard stories from around the globe about the need for change and how we can achieve it.  There were moments of hope and inspiration, as well as heartbreak and compassion.  Some messages were technical and instructive while others were heartfelt and full of emotion.  Together, these stories created an overwhelming sense of community and breathed new life into an exhausting movement.

As we know, life on Earth is in serious trouble.  Atmospheric compositions are changing, sea level is rising at an exponential rate, vast numbers of species are dying out, and all the while we continue to burn away at a finite stock of ancient fuels.  Our infrastructure is entirely dependent upon 20th century technology set to collapse with the imminent exhaustion of these limited resources.  Yet, we continue to invest.

All in all, the United States (along with the rest of the world) is headed in a very ominous direction.  So, “where do we go from here”?  That was the theme at Omega this past weekend, and as it turns out we’ve come up with a few solutions.  From persistent activism to investments in technology and the engagement of underprivileged youth, there are so many things to be done, but so little time to do them.

As the world responds to our legacy of pollution, we are moving closer and closer to the edge of a steep cliff.  But what’s to stop us from walking in the other direction?  As Van Jones put it, “break down leads to breakthroughs.”  We are at a unique moment in human history where we are finally beginning to understand the depth and magnitude of our impact.  In response to this understanding, we are seeing changes in policy, land and energy use, and the involvement of people everywhere.

In his talk, Jeremy Rifkin explained the transition we are making into a “sharing economy on collaborative commons.”  As we develop more efficient technology and move toward an integrated, collaborative lifestyle, we will see communities working together to achieve a more sustainable future.  But it all starts at the ground-up; with equality, sharing, and organization.

Our future is not to be determined by a select few profiteers, but by all of us.  And thanks to places like the Omega Institute, environmentalists from around the globe are able to collaborate on and explore alternative pathways to a communal future.  All we need to do is work together.  Through local collaborative efforts, we can inspire global change.

– A big thank you to the Omega Institute for organizing such an inspirational event and to all who shared their stories and helped me to attend.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

A popular topic in sustainability and a key component in any discussion of ecosystem services is biodiversity.  Put simply, biodiversity is the variety and abundance of organisms in a given landscape or ecosystem.  When thinking about biodiversity, most people begin with the plants and animals that they can visually identify.  While these macroorganisms certainly help to define the biodiversity of an area, they make up only a fraction of a given ecosystem.

The abundance of flora and fauna in an area is dependent on a number of variables, but especially soil composition and health.  Thinking in terms of trophic levels, this makes sense.  Without healthy soil there is a limit to plant development and diversity, which in turn limits the ability of animals to populate an area.  Therefore biodiversity starts from the ground up.

ScienceDaily recently summarized a study focusing on soil biodiversity and its influence on grassland structure and performance.  This study (led by Yale) determined that plant diversity and performance is especially influenced by soil organic content.  Researchers found that the absence of earthworms, beetles, and other soil-based organisms had a remarkable effect on plant productivity.

This study helps us to understand the relationships between organisms and the influence these relationships have over the surrounding landscape.  “The results reflect the long-term ecological impacts of land use changes, such as the conversion of forests to agricultural land, researchers say.”  Understanding the connections between soil biodiversity and landscape structure is of increasing importance as our population grows and agriculture intensifies.  If we continue to apply toxic chemicals to our crops, we might discourage soil biodiversity and eventually condemn these landscapes to a barren state.

To read more about the study follow the links to the summary or the scientific article.

Here is the link to the ScienceDaily review

Here is the link to the full scientific article