Frogs are Green – or at Least the Living Ones

Just like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, where canaries served as human sentinels in subterranean conditions, amphibians today are viewed by many as serving thatcropped-FrogsRG_header-2013 same role for the terranean landscape.  Because amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders, are sensitive to habitat loss and environmental pollution, they have become the biological sentinels of the environmentContinue reading

Obduracy of Climate Politics Creates Real Risks

Michael Gerson, a conservative and former speech writer for Bush 43, has a very thoughtful article this week on the climate change debate.  I have grown increasingly frustrated by those voices within the Republican party who, for whatever reason, refuse to  consider the possibility that human activities are contributing to climate change.  Yes, I know, environmentalists have overplayed their hand, made predictions that haven’t materialized, and have exploited fear to leverage action.  The consequences have been greater cynism and, what I refer to as, a crisis of credibility.  However, this crisis of credibility doesn’t diminish the very real possibility that climate change, caused in part by human activity, is occurring.  However, as Gerson argues over in WashPo, politics is poorly suited to address global warming. Continue reading

Contemplating a Conservative Response to Climate Change

Wanted to bring attention to a new blog, The Climate Conservative, the brainchild of my friend, Rob Sisson, over at ConservAmerica.  I’ve long believed the topic of anthropogenic climate change (AGW) is an emerging issue that warrants thoughtful debate and discussion, but have witnessed the serious erosion of credibility by both the political left and right who have used the controversy to obfuscate and advance their own political agendas.  Trying to “scare” the public into action hasn’t worked and won’t work by those who continue to play fast and loose with scientific facts and uncertainty.  And the strategy of denial, relegating AGW to nothing more than a mere hoax, does nothing to advance the interests of wise stewardship if, in fact, humans are influencing the climate.   Continue reading

Connecting the Dots, Collecting the Drops

global-water-volume-freshI love this picture – as it puts into perspective the importance of Earth’s finite water resources.  The largest, blue sphere represents the total volume of all water on Earth.  The medium size one over Kentucky represents all useable freshwater, including surface and groundwater.  And the tiniest one over Atlanta, hardly visible, represents the amount of water in lakes and streams, the same water that gets recycled and filtered everyday through biological systems and has been available to sustain life for millions of years.  It’s limited, that’s all there is.  Just think, the water you drink from your tap was at one time filtered through the kidneys of dinosaur.  Someone’s waste is another’s treasure or, in this case, water.   Continue reading

Human Carrying Capacity – Fanciful Fiction or Deadly Reality

One of the first courses I took in college toward my degree in wildlife management was a Isle Royal Moosepopulation dynamics class.  And one of the first readings was the classic story of the boom-bust population cycles of the moose and wolf of Isle Royale Michigan, where, prior to the wolf as a keystone predator, the island’s moose herd would overpopulate and overgraze, resulting in starvation and mass die-offs.  When the wolves were eventually introduced the belief was that the keystone predator would help stabilize the moose population.  But the history of Isle Royale moose and wolf populations have been wildly unpredictable, affected not only by availability of food, but by disease, tick outbreaks, wolf0422severe winters, and immigrant wolves.  Every five years has brought unpredictable fluctuations in both populations, and every five years has been different from all other five-year periods.  Even in the 1980s when my classmates and I were closely following this study, it was believed that the populations would reach equilibrium.  But that never happened.  Continue reading

Africa’s Black Rhino Driven to Extinction

Very sad news to learn of the confirmed extinction of Africa’s western black rhino.  The blackrhinoblack market for rhino horn, which fetches upward of $1,400 an ounce for medicinal witch-doctory in countries like Vietnam, where demand is at its highest, was a death sentence for this species.  According to CNN reports,

Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network. Continue reading

Our National Treasures – Was Secretary Watt Correct?

Interesting article in American Spectator this week by Robert Smith titled, An Environmentalist Deception, wherein Smith takes issue with fellow conservatives at the R Street Institute for celebrating the anniversary of Reagan’s establishment of Mount St.imagesCAOFESOR Helens National Volcanic Monument.  Here’s what prompted Smith’s retort:

R Street Associate Fellow Ryan Cooper pointed to research from the Headwaters Economics showing that since the monument’s establishment, the surrounding region has seen population grow by 30 percent, real personal income has grown by 62 percent, total jobs have grown by 42 percent and real per-capita income grew by 24 percent. Headwaters’ data suggests that in many cases, employers have explicitly chosen the area for its beauty, a major drawing point for highly skilled employees. Continue reading

Coase and Environmental Externalities

With the recent passing of Ronald Coase, much tribute has rightly been given to his inordinate contributions to the world of economics, here by Peter Boetkke and here by Patrick Lyons of the NYT.  I’m not an economist and don’t even pretend to be one on TV, but have followed and appreciated Coase’s contributions to the scholarship of environmental policy involving the economic problem of environmental externalities.  Most modern economists, save Coase, believe that environmental pollution is the result of market failure.  Adler has a good piece today on Coase’s rejection of the concept of externalities and corrects those who may misunderstand or misinterpret Coase’s argument.  According to Coase, when property rights are clear and well-defined, contracting parties, including the polluter, will allocate resources effectively and efficiently, as the economic benefits and costs – read environmental – are fully borne by the effected parties.  This idea was coined the Coase TheoremContinue reading

Death Panel Proposed for Pandas

Interesting and thought-provoking article this week by Tim Lavin over at Bloomberg pandatitled “Why I Hate Pandas and You Should Too.”  The gist of Lavin’s discrimination and hatred toward the cute and cuddly panda stems from his violent disagreement with spending tens of millions of conservation dollars to save a Darwinian-challenged species, when that money could be better spent on more important, sustainable conservation efforts.  Excerpts of Lavin’s article,

Congratulations on your new panda cub, Washington! You’re prolonging the existence of a hopeless and wasteful species the world should’ve given up on long ago.  I understand the impulse. Some people find them cute.  Pandas don’t have much of a habitat left in the wild, thanks to heedless human development. And zoos imagine they’re doing the right thing, pulling in some extra visitors while helping conservation efforts. Continue reading

More Chicken Wings = More Environmental Challenges

chickensWe have a lot of chickens in Maryland.  And, in fact, we humans are outnumbered 1,000 to 1 along Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Lots of chickens also means lots of chicken poop – something you probably don’t care to think about as you’re nibbling on that chicken wing.  And fact, most of the chicken manure (a/k/a chicken litter as it’s called locally) is land-applied, which is also what’s affecting the quality of water in the Chesapeake Bay.  More manure equals more algae, equals less oxygen for fish, crabs and other aquatic critters.  But, as a vital nutrient resource that keeps on giving, it can also be transformed into a renewable energy source as discussed below. Continue reading

Some GOP Propose Taxing Carbon Not Income to Mitigate Climate Change

Art Laffer, former Reagan economic advisor, and Bob Inglis, former GOP Congressman from South Carolina, discuss options for responding to climate change. Tax carbon not income. What do you think?


Check out the Energy and Enterprise Initiative and decide for yourself.

Nature – an abstraction to far too many

Author and ecologist, Daniel Botkin, in his new book, The Moon in the Nautilus Shell, offers an important perspective on humanity’s connectedness to nature.  Using the fascinating ecology of the Nautilus, Botkin argues that we too are deeply connected to nature in ways beyond our own conciousness.  When we lose touch with our surroundings, nature becomes but a mere abstraction bereft of relevance and meaning. According to Botkin, the only way to solve many of our environmental problems is through our understanding of our connection to nature, an important part of ourselves.  Here is a four-minute video of the unique story of the Nautilus and Botkin’s sentiments.

Crunchy Con Manifesto Redux

Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate Rod Dreher’s contributions to environmental discourse and advancing the better elements of conservativism.  Some may recall his work at National Review, where he was the king of Crunchy Con.  It’s difficult to improve upon his Manifesto, which I’m reposting here:

  1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
  2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
  3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
  4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.
  5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
  6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
  7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.
  8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
  9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”
  10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

I would love to hear from anyone, liberal or conservative, with ideas on how this set of guiding principles could be improved.

James Hansen Rebuffs Environmental Groups

I have had harsh words previously for Jim Hansen, former NASA scientist and climate change alarmist who called for oil executives to be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature, but here we are in complete agreement.  Well worth the viewing.

Unfortunately, many environmental groups and one very powerful political figure, Harry Reid, continue to stand in the way of viable alternatives to fossil fuels, such as nuclear energy.

EPA’s Assault on State Sovereignty

Is the title of a stinging new report by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  For those who are unfamiliar with ALEC, it’s a non-profit composed of legislators, businesses, and foundations, and is strongly supportive of state rights, free-markets, and limited government.  It’s a good organization and on balance promotes thoughtful ideas and policies on more effective government.  The report itself was authored by William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose tagline is “Free Markets and Limited Government” and leans notably libertarian.  So, right out of the start-gate, one can appreciate the underlying anti-EPA biases that may emanate from its pages. The raging battle is particularly acute with respect to national energy policies and air regulations (think climate change regulations), as reflected in a July 10 CEI report titled EPA’s Woeful Deadline Performance Raises Questions About Agency Competence, Climate Change Regulations, and “Sue and Settle”.  Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently weighed in with a report challenging EPA’s long-standing claim that more regulations yield more jobs.  Make no mistake, this reflects an all out insurrection against a powerful and oft tone-deft Agency by freedom-loving, large-government hating groups. Continue reading

Conservation 2.0 – regulations alone won’t fix a broken earth

I spent some quality time this week in the wonderful city of Cincinnati, home of the great WKRP radio, with a lot of tremendous folks discussing how we as a society can make meaningful progress toward protecting the environment and restoring our nation’s rivers, streams and estuaries.  This was a great week for Conservation 2.0 as Joe Whitworth of The Freshwater Trust likes to call it.   Continue reading

Conservatives – or at least one nervous House staffer – call for GOP to lead Climate Debate

Am posting a thoughtful article by an anonymous House GOP staffer, writing underelephantimages the pseudonym, Eric Bradenson, on why conservatives need to think and act differently on climate change.  Eric, or whoever he is, has concealed his identity to protect himself and his boss.  The article reportedly won second place in the “Young Conservative Thought Leaders” contest from the Energy & Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University.   Whether or not you agree with Eric on his policy idea, he makes some good points.

How the GOP Could Win the Climate Debate

By Eric Bradenson

Someone in the GOP needs to say it: conservation is conservative; climate change is real; and conservatives need to lead on solutions because we have better answers than the other side.

From traditionalists like Russell Kirk to progressive conservatives (far from an oxymoron) like Theodore Roosevelt, to movement conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, conservatives have long fought to protect the natural rights and property rights of individuals, living and unborn, from infringement by environmental degradation and pollution. Continue reading

China – A Growing Threat to the Earth

Listened to a sobering interview yesterday on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, with Craig Simons, author of the new book, The Devouring Dragon, which chronicles imagesCACN1XEPChina’s insatiable appetite for natural resources – an emerging global threat to biodiversity and water and air pollution.  This story should make us all take pause.

China’s rise is assaulting the natural world at an alarming rate. In a few short years, China has become the planet’s largest market for endangered wildlife, its top importer of tropical trees, and its biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Its rapid economic growth has driven up the world’s very metabolism: in Brazil, farmers clear large swaths of the Amazon to plant soybeans; Indian poachers hunt tigers and elephants to feed Chinese demand; in the United States, clouds of mercury and ozone drift earthward after trans-Pacific jet-stream journeys. Craig Simons’ The Devouring Dragon looks at how an ascending China has rapidly surpassed the U.S. and Europe as the planet’s worst-polluting superpower. It argues that China’s most important 21st-century legacy will be determined not by jobs, corporate profits, or political alliances, but by how quickly its growth degrades the global environment and whether it can stem the damage. Combining in-depth reporting with wide-ranging interviews and scientific research, The Devouring Dragon shines a spotlight on how China has put our planet’s forests, wildlife, oceans, and climate in jeopardy, multiplying the risks for everyone in our burgeoning, increasingly busy world. Continue reading

Funny Wildlife Footage

Saving the planet can be really heavy and heady stuff at times – so, occasionally it’s good to step back from the edge, enjoy a laugh or two, and appreciate what all the fuss is about.  And then get back to work.

For some enjoyable weekend reading, I’d commend a recent article by Caitrin Nicol over at the New Atlantis titled Do Elephants Have Souls?  Thought provoking and it’s definitely stirred some controversy.

Reagan’s Conservation Legacy – still timely and relevant today

Eli Lehrer has a great piece today in The Blaze on the conservation legacy of President Reagan.

I’m proud of having been one of the first to recognize that States and the
Federal Government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the
damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development.
Ronald Reagan, July 14, 1984

Although Reagan certainly made his fair share of mistakes on the environment – the left-leaning NYT calling his legacy on the environment a stalemate – the Gipper’s instincts and actions largely helped to advance important farm and wetlandsconservation efforts through a judicious balance of traditional top-down regulations and market-based approaches.  It’s a timely discussion as Congress continues to debate the future of the Farm Bill, with huge implications for conservation across the Nation’s landscape.  According to Lehrer

By measures environmental groups typically use, Reagan’s environmental record should be considered a success. Under Reagan’s leadership, new lead production essentially ceased; particulate air pollution fell by 40 percent; a record 10 million acres of land received wilderness designation, the highest level of protection available; and the United States pushed for, and signed, a major agreement to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that were driving the then-pressing problem of ozone depletion. Continue reading

The Farm Bill – Perhaps a Moment for Liberals and Conservatives to Hold Hands

Seems no one except special interest is happy with the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill passed today and which establishes U.S. Agricultural Policy over the next decade at the tune of nearly one trillion dollars.  Folks over at Grist are fuming about the Senate’s version while other unnamed “environmental groups” in the NYT are saying it does some good, but not enough.  The current bill cuts $24B from current spending and does a better job at saving jobs and helping the starving poor in this country, while cutting conservation by $3.5B.  Some conservatives, like Senator Ted Cruz, are unhappy, arguing the Bill does more harm than good, spreading the love among politicians and special interests while perpetuating entitlements unrelated to agricultural policy – nothing new there.  Unclear how this will be resolved in reconciliation, but given the Houses’s more aggressive cuts, more cuts are inevitable [Update:  On June 20, in a 195-234 vote, the House rejected a five-year Farm Bill, with 62 GOP Members voting against the legislation in favor of a smaller more conservative bill].

Nathanael Johnson, over at Grist, refers to the Senate’s passage as “late and lame”: Continue reading

A Loss of Aesthetics in the Name of Greening

For you weekend warriors, before you go out and purchase “plastic wood” for that next deck project, you may want to think again if your motivation is being more sustainable.  An article in this week’s Nature by Jeff Tollefson titled ‘Plastic wood’ is no green guarantee, reveals that carbon emissions from plastic-wood manufacturing are 45-330% higher than redwood production, based on a study by the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials, a public-private partnership based at the University of Washington.  Another article by Julia Pongratz, Plant a tree, but tend it well, reveals some potential limits of forests as carbon sinks from nutrient constraints. Continue reading

“Nudging” versus “Coercion” – Balancing Environmental Protection with Liberty and Freedom

The recent controversy over the U.S. Government’s increased proclivity to secretly paw through the electronic communications and telephone records of Americans has prompted some soul-searching by many.  Is this just one more step imagesCAPHOYBVtoward fulfilling the Orwellian prophecy of 1984?  Has the citizenry ceded too much of their freedoms and liberty for the sake of feeling safer and more secure?

Some conservatives, like Andy McCarthy, over at NRO, argue the hype as non-sense and claims the government’s action is not only constitutional, but completely appropriate and necessary to change and stop some very bad human behavior.  McCarthy believes it’s not “big government” to blame but the little people in whom we’ve entrusted the keys to the government, and our human frailties.  Jonah Goldberg, over at NRO, however, takes issue with McCarthy, and argues there is more behind the secret curtain that deserves our skepticism. Goldberg contends that we should look askance at new powerful mega-computers and technologies that equip us with the ability to crunch huge amounts of data heretofore never possible.  Goldberg cautions

The arrival of “big data” — the ability to crunch massive amounts of information to find patterns and, ultimately, to manipulate human behavior — creates opportunities for government (and corporations) that were literally unimaginable not long ago. Behavioral economists, neuroscientists, and liberal policy wonks have already fallen in love with the idea of using these new technologies and insights to “nudge” Americans into making “better” decisions. No doubt some of these decisions really are better, but the scare quotes are necessary because the final arbiters of what constitutes the right choice are the would-be social engineers. Continue reading

Crunchy Con is Back – GOP break out your Birkenstocks

Thank you to Robert Costa over at NRO for this week resurrecting the term Crunchy Con.  Ever since Rod Dreher left NRO, I’ve missed his thoughtful and witty narrative on why it is okay for Republicans and conservatives to care about the environment.  sandlesSounds really silly I know, but so many on the political right have forsaken the conservative principles of conservation and environmental stewardship due to the unfortunate politicization of the topic.  During a talk last Friday at the Reagan National Library, Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian conservative, and self-described “crunchy conservative,” wasn’t holding back his respect and love for the environment.  Costa reports,

Long before he was famous for a filibuster, Senator Rand Paul was a  cargo-shorts-wearing ophthalmologist who lived in Bowling Green, Ky. His  political activity, beyond supporting his father, was relegated to reading  through his bookshelf, which was stocked with the works of Austrian economists  and obscure philosophers.  He wore hemp shirts, bought organic vegetables, and  canoed. But since winning his Senate seat three years ago, Paul has mostly kept  that side of himself — his “crunchy conservatism,” as he calls it — under wraps.  Instead, he has played up his tea-party persona, and focused on legislating in  the buttoned-down Senate.

Costa continues

Paul’s unabashed crunchiness — the term was popularized by former National Review writer Rod Dreher to describe some conservatives’ taste for granola, Birkenstocks, and Mother Nature — wasn’t just a stylistic aside. He argued that his lifestyle is a reflection of his reform agenda for the GOP, which is founded on themes of local control, states’ rights, and free enterprise. He spoke about how the party needs to be a voice for those who love the environment but want the government to stop intruding in their lives and livelihoods. “When we as Republicans wake up and tell voters that we want to be the champion of the small farmer and the small businessman or woman, then we will thrive as a party,” he said. “Republicans care just as deeply about the environment as Democrats, but we also care about jobs.” Continue reading

Changing the Dialogue, Economics and Cultural Valuation of Species Protection

Props to Todd Gartner, of the World Resources Institute, and Laura Huggins, of the Property and Environmental Research Center, for joining efforts to promote innovative new ways to protect threatened and endangered species.  Todd and Laura are bold new voices on leveraging markets to accelerate the protection of habitat loss for many species struggling for their continued existence.

This work is absolutely essential for protecting T&E species of which over 75 percent can be found on private lands.  While the Endangered Species Act is an important piece of legislation, serving as a backstop from keeping species from being driven into extinction, ESA can also create perverse incentives to landowners who, rather than conserve critical habitat, quietly eliminate it before ESA locks down the uses and economic value of their property.  These new market-based initiatives enimagesCABAICJYcourage landowners to take proactive steps to conserve habitat before species are required to be listed under ESA.  Our goal as a society should  must be to transform species protection into a positive rather than a negative.  And the efforts of Todd and Laura are helping to change not only the economics but the dialogue and cultural valuation, which is even more important.

Emerging Markets are Helping Accelerate Environmental Restoration

Spent several days this week in Racine, WI, at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread, which the H.J. Johnson Family (think SC Johnson Wax) has set aside to convene environmental leaders to think and go big on matters of environmental restoration.  Great example of how a family who has been richly blessed in life and wingspread_thumbbusiness can use the fruits of their labor to give back to society.  We in the U.S. have a great opportunity to continue to advance and accelerate environmental restoration more than ever before through emerging innovative market-based approaches.  One thing that drove me nuts during my tenure at U.S. EPA’s Office of Water was the development of national policy and regulations wherein the value of many services and attributes provided by nature (e.g., wildlife diversity, soil and plants, carbon, nutrient cycling, endangered species, wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, flood control, water quality) are not traded in the market place, not easily monetized, and thus are often undervalued or Screen-shot-2012-07-18-at-2_50_20-PMnot valued at all.  Think about it – what value do you place on having clean water to swim in, to fish in, or to drink from?  If it’s not valued, how can society best protect these things that we depend upon for life and our standard of living?  Groups, such as Ecosystem Marketplace, among others, are helping to fix that problem by creating markets – and the supply and demand – for these otherwise valuable things. Continue reading

Thoughtful Reflections on the Environment by a Conservative Thinker – An Evening with Roger Scruton

I had the roger-scruton-16-70dpi-photographer-by-pete-helme-200x300recent pleasure of sitting down with the English philosopher, Roger Scruton, to discuss his new book, How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism.  It was my first time meeting Roger, and the evening lived up to every bit my expectation.  I, along with my good friend, Tracy Mehan, spent an enchanting evening with Roger, tucked away in a second-floor corner of the quaint, Tabard Inn, here in the Nation’s Capital, swapping stories and enjoying each’s company over dinner and a couple of bottles of Verget Bourgogne.

A self-described conservative Tory, and author of over 20 academic books, Roger has made the most of life, sporting as a fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, a barrister, novelist, opera composer, journalist, former professor, teacher of aesthetics, church organist, radio personality, and anti-communist warrior.  When he’s not ferrying imagesCAR98L8Lacross the pond to the U.S., where he is currently a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, he resides in Wiltshire with his wife, Sophie, and their two children, tending to the daily demands of an aging 250-year-old farmhouse surrounded by 35 acres of land.

Continue reading

Busy as a bee, unless you have CCD

Linking to a report over at ConservAmerica regarding the recent collapse of bee colonies here in the U.S.  The cause is still not clear but, since 2006, over 25 percent of domestic colonies have died off from what is being referred to as Colony Collapse isDisorder.  If this trend continues, it could be devastating to agriculture that depends upon commercial bee hives for crop pollination.  New research suggests that feeding bees high fructose syrup, as a substitute for honey, could potentially leave them vulnerable to disease due to a weakened immune system.  Another possible explanation is poisoning from pesticides.  Given the direct link to food production and prices, this is an issue that warrants more serious attention. Continue reading

What is the Best Antidote to Environmental Irrationality?

The material well-being of a democratic society depends on its ability to rationally manage a nearly limitless variety of often competing risks. - Dan Kahan, 2006
The material well-being of a democratic society depends on its ability to rationally manage a nearly limitless variety of often competing risks.
– Dan Kahan, 2006

Environmental rationality of course.  But ever wonder how it is that some members of society, even experts, can hold such polar opposite views on the dangers of climate change, guns, nuclear energy, terrorism, or legalization of drugs?  Perhaps I’m naive, but I find it baffling that seemingly intelligent and well-intentioned people on the political left and right can observe the same facts and reach such vastly different conclusions about the risks to individuals and society writ large.  I posted previously my thoughts and concerns about society’s increasing obsession with conspiracy theories and environmental hysteria.  And I link to a very entertaining Penn & Teller Bullshit clip on the rise of environmental hysteria – well worth the viewing – that sort of reinforces my point.

So how does society rationally function in an increasingly irrational environment filled with seemingly irrational actors?  And how does government reconcile and ably govern within the penumbra of such contrasting cultural visions for society.  This is the question of the century and one that must be addressed in the midst of some very challenging social, economic, and environmental issues facing our times.  This is a tall challenge – but not nearly as tough as understanding why so many find Pee-wee Herman entertaining. Continue reading

Student Conservation Association – helping promote environmental stewardship

For those budding conservationists in high school or college in the U.S., or those with just a passing curiosity in the topic, I highlight an organization that helped to shape my interest and career in environmental stewardship, the Student Conservation Association, that you might want to consider.  The SCA is not an environmental advocacy or lobby group – they do something more important.  They help place young professionals in key internship opportunities that enable them to pursue an interest in environmental stewardship and conservation.

I first learned of this organization in 1988 when I was studying for a degree in wildlife management at the University of Maine Orono.  After applying, I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work as a conservation intern for the National Park Service in Yellowstone National Park to participate in a predator-prey study leading up to the reintroduction of the wolves in Yellowstone.   CCF04292013_00001Here I am, all of 147 pounds on Druid Peak, with Mount Norris in the background in the Lamar Valley area of the Park after a long day of tracking elk (with a can of bear spray on my hip).  My team and I spent several months tracking 50 yearling around the Park documenting and researching predation rates and causes, including black bear, grizzly, and coyote kills.  Continue reading

The Face of Conservation is Changing – Cheers to Today’s New Leaders

The pros and cons of living in Washington DC are receiving all sorts of invitations to political events, fundraisers, forums, policy roundtables, and various other sundry functions, all aimed at highlighting a special need, cause or accomplishment or raising imagesCA8UY72Cawareness of some sort.  Some are more memorable than others.  And yet few have as important a value as the function I attended last evening, bringing together leaders of eNGOs, agriculture, industry, and civic groups to celebrate the future of conservation, exemplifying humanity at its best, not an earthly plague as recently recounted by Sir David Attenborough. Continue reading

My Infinitesimally Small Contribution to Earth Day

Inspired earlier this month by the conservation work of Chris Bayley out in Oregon, and his 12,000 rain garden campaign to improve water quality in Puget Sound, as discussed here, I finally committed to trying my hand at constructing a rain garden as my small contribution toward helping improve water quality to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  After a few sore muscles and a couple of Advil, and seven hours of labor, and for a grand total of $255.09 (including band-aids for a couple of pesky blisters), I’m pleased to report back on the project.  The proof of success was in the final reveal and my wife’s comment, “wow – I really like it” – turned out even better than I expected.  Hope others will be similar inspired for this year’s Earth Day, April 22. DSC_0059

Continue reading

The GOP’s Environmental Challenge

Can one be a social conservative or member of the GOP and be an environmentalist?  Although I’ve long argued what I believe to be the fundamental distinction between being an environmentalist and a conservationist – and perhaps that’s arguing the number of angelic beings dancing on the head of a pin – the obvious answer to the above question is a resounding yes.  To me, it’s a rather silly question, but it’s one with legs.  As with other social and cultural issues, the GOP’s environmental positioning has long been on the losing side of public sentiment, rhetoric and imagery. Continue reading

Platoons for Conservation and the Healing Power of Water

Attended an awesomely moving tribute last evening to our Nation’s imagesCA3U5AMLveterans. This marks the third year that Trout Unlimited has held an annual dinner, A Salute to Service, in honor of our Nation’s wounded warriors.  These courageous men and women have returned home after fighting for our freedoms and bear not only the physical scars of war, but often the deep psychological and emotional wounds that can have such profound  impacts on these veterans and their families.   Continue reading

Red Snapper and Dynamite Don’t Mix – Fish Policy 101

The family and I were watching the national news the other night and saw this undercover video about major fish kills of red snapper (hundreds of thousands of pounds) and other ocean life as a result of a federal program aimed at ridding the Gulf of Mexico of abandoned oil rigs.  The silver lining to this photo – if there is any – is there appears to be a fairly healthy population of red snapper in the GOM, the bad news is these guys doing the back stroke are no longer part of the population.  Sadly, many fishermen and their families depend upon these fisheries for a living.eU5Hn

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The Bureaucratization of Environmentalism – can we survive good intentions?

[Update: This post has spawned a fair bit of discussion and represents many things that are wrong with the current way in which we as a society approach environmental problems.  This quaint little bridge is an apt metaphor for the fork in the road, which will always present choices, some of which are better and more correct than others.  Which path we pick is often influenced by competing factors.  A path that is selected solely for monetary reasons, disregarding all other sensibilities, will invariably be the wrong path chosen.  An aspirational goal for government ought to focus on eliminating those barriers – or helping build the bridge – to our picking the more correct path.]

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Sarah Palin has her bridge to nowhere story. This is my story of the bridge to somewhere – a 24 foot 11 inch bridge that spans a beautiful little perennial creek that bisects my neighborhood into Rockville and North Potomac.  And a bridge whose history made me madder than hell – and still to this day makes me shake my head in amazement. Continue reading

Calling all Good Samaritans

We all know the parable told by Jesus regarding the sojourner who was robbed, pillaged, and left to die along his journey to Jericho.  While some passed him by – because they did not bother to care or care to be bothered – a Samaritan who came upon him, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, and took him to an inn to take care of him.  The next day the Samaritan gave the inn keeper two silver coins and said “look after him . . . and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”  Jesus asked, “which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers.”  The expert in the law replied “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Awesome story – whether factual or not – and one that I strive to live up to in my life.  So you ask, what does this have to do with environmental stewardship?   Continue reading

Nature’s Resilience – Chesapeake Bay and Signs of Hope

Promising news flowing from the Chesapeake Bay.  U.S. EPA is reporting that pollutants, such as phosphorous, nitrogen, and sediment, entering the Bay have fallen significantly since 2009.  And the Bay is showing resilience as its inhabitants, such as bluecrabblue crabs, oysters, and rockfish are beginning to show signs of thriving once again.  While much credit goes to the U.S. EPA, USDA, and the Bay States for continuing to work tirelessly to fix a very complicated environmental and sociological problem, we can thank many organizations, landowners, farmers, businesses, and local communities for their individual actions which collectively have resulted in a positive good. Continue reading

Tragedy of the Commons Strikes Again

We each have them, those childhood experiences that shape our life perspective and canvas our memories of youth.  Mine was spending summers in Maine.  I still feel it as though it were yesterday, that building excitement as we crossed the Piscataque River Bridge in Kittery Maine after a long and grueling road trip.  My brother, Scott, and I would roll down our windows, stick out our heads, and deeply inhale that first breath of salty air, tinged with the acrid smell of sour mud and clam flats.  I can smell it now.  Among the many wonderful memories of sailing, digging claims, eating lobster, and hunting for crabs was that special deep-sea fishing trip with our dad that we had dreamed about for the past eleven months.  Deer Isle Maine was our point of departure and the cod fish – the holy grail for the day – was our quest.

I was saddened to read an article in this morning’s NYT that describes the cod’s current plight.  Continue reading

Society’s “little platoons” for conservation

aspensI’ve just finished a new book that is a must read for the political right (and for those on the political left who may be interested in what conservatives think about environmental issues).  Roger Scruton’s “How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism”  is a page turner on why conservatives need not shy away from advocating environmental protections; rather they should embrace the topic and advocate for approaches that not only advance environmental stewardship but conservatism.  In a recent book review by Peter Blair over at The Witherspoon Institute, Blair critiques:

Conservatism aims to preserve and maintain renewal of [homeostatic] systems, especially the “civil associations” that Scruton calls society’s “little platoons,” in the words of Edmund Burke. The little platoons—families, local clubs and institutions, churches and schools—keep us accountable to ourselves and our environment, teaching us how to “interact as free beings, each taking responsibility for his actions.” Daily life in these civil associations assimilates and connects us to a settled home, a place and a people we identify as peculiarly “ours.” Continue reading

Conserving Nature by Conserving Liberty

In a newly released article, The Heritage Foundation offers the following eight principles for conservation:

  1. People are the most important, unique, and precious resource.
  2. Renewable natural resources, are resilient and dynamic and respond positively to wise management.
  3. Private property protections and free markets provide the most promising new opportunities for environmental improvements.
  4. Efforts to reduce, control, and remediate pollution should achieve real environmental benefits.
  5. As we accumulate scientific, technological, and artistic knowledge, we learn how to get more from less.
  6. Management of natural resources should be conducted on a site- and situation specific basis.
  7. Science should be employed as one tool to guide public policy.
  8. The most successful environmental policies emanate from liberty.

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Conservatives Promote Environmental Stewardship

Great discussion today in DC sponsored by the Conclc_010813bservation Leadership Council carried by C-SPAN – on advancing principals of environmental stewardship through more bottom-up cooperative conservation as opposed to top-down regulatory approaches.  The CLC has released a new report highlighting successful community-based projects aimed at conserving endangered species, enhancing water quality, and protecting fragile ocean resources through more public-private partnerships and market-based approaches.   Lots of discussion about the need for deeper, more meaningful trust among the stakeholders and greater transparency in the development and use of environmental metrics to measure our progress.  Numerous eNGOs, including EDF, TNC, NWF, NFWF, and other groups around the table.   As always, Lynn Scarlett did a masterful job of facilitating the discussion, with Gale Norton and Ed Schafer, former Secretaries of DOI and USDA, at the table.  My former boss at EPA, Ben Grumbles, President of U.S. Water Alliance, discusses the interconnectivity of local, regional and national water issues.  (49:46 – 52:08)  Other good minds contributing to the dialogue – Gary Burnett, Terry Fankhauser, Greg Schildwachter, Alex Echols, and Doug Domenech.

An incontestable truth!

Excerpts from Edmund Burke in “A Vindication of Natural Society” in 1756 and his cautionary observation of man’s potential destructive forces on natural order.

This society, founded in natural appetites and instincts, and not in any positive institution, I shall call natural society. Thus far nature went and succeeded: but man would go farther. The great error of our nature is, not to know where to stop, not to be  satisfied with any reasonable acquirement; not to compound with our condition; but to lose all we have gained by an insatiable pursuit after more. Continue reading

My new year’s wish – for less politics and more credible voices!

My friend, Larry Schwieger of National Wildlife Federation, tweeted out his new year’s wish, “for a 2013 that ushers in a deeper understanding of how important it is for all to come together to solve the climate crisis.  We owe it to our children and all those who may follow after us.”   It’s a noble wish, and a conservative wish I might add, but one that has about as much chance of happening as hell freezing over.  I have no doubt that Larry genuinely believes that climate change is the most serious threat facing the planet – but Larry’s problem, from my perspective, is that far too many don’t believe what he believes.   It’s not because the object of his wish isn’t important and worthy of discussion or action.  No, it’s because the issue of climate change has become so politicized that there is a paucity of credible, authoritative voices on the matter. Continue reading

A Case for Environmental Conservatism

Are conservatives better able to handle environmental problems?  A re-post of a June 2012 lecture by Roger Scruton of AEI, and author of “How to Think Seriously About the Planet,” and great commentary by Steven Hayward, who argue that conservatives are in fact better equipped to handle pressing environmental issues due to their commitment to sovereignty and personal responsibility.

Why Conservatives Should and do Care About the Environment

What can be more conservative than the impulse to protect and conserve earth’s natural resources, air, water, and land, which give and sustain life.  Just as political conservatism is deeply rooted in the philosophy of providing stability and continuity in our political and social institutions, environmental conservatism is rooted in the notion of promoting and conserving those earthly tendrils that sustain life on earth.   Continue reading