I posted earlier this week on the enormous financial needs for restoring our water resources and infrastructure within the United State alone. Our water systems have atrophied and are no longer able to provide the same level of services we have come to expect and need to maintain our current standard of living. Below is a picture of what happens when a 66-inch water main breaks. This was near my home in Potomac, MD, on River Road, which occurred several years back. That fateful morning, River Road turned into a torrential river, nearly claiming the lives of several commuters, who had to be rescued, and cost millions of dollars in emergency repairs and lost business due to extended water outages. This senario is occurring far too often as water main breaks and costly outages are becoming the norm in many communities. Continue reading
I 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
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
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 business 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 not 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
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 awareness 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
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
Great discussion today in DC sponsored by the Conservation 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.