Monday, February 2, 2009

Books: Why The Adks Looks The Way It Does

If you want to consider yourself knowledgeable about the Adirondacks you must own and have read Mike Storey’s Why The Adirondacks Look The Way They Do. That’s not hyperbole – that’s a simple fact.

Storey self-published this guide to Adirondack natural history in 2006 and sold out the first printing in the first year. The reason, no doubt, is that it’s readable and relevant. Storey was the former Chief Naturalist at the Adirondack Park Agency (24 years at the APA!) and he wrote the book we all need to keep in our car, backpack, and back pocket. In fact, my only complaint is the book’s format doesn’t make it easy to pack – it could have been a lot smaller, even with all the info and images packed in there!

This book is more than a guide to our local flora and fauna, more than a wildlife guide, it covers geology, geography, forestry, history, cultural anthropology, environmental politics, from the life cycle of the black fly to the problems of upland development. The diagrams, illustrations, photographs, are illustrative beyond comparison. From “Grenville Continent Rifting and the Lake George Rift Valley” to the illustration of a 50-years of a hemlock and yellow birch growing on a rotting log resting on a glacial erratic rock, this book shows you the basics and backs it up with detailed explanations. The tracks of common animals, identifying common birds, leaves, trees, fish, soils, insects, eskers, kettle holes – its all there and more.

This book will do what it says it will – explain, in vivid and easy-going detail, why the Adirondacks look the way they do. I’ve been thinking about doing a “Ten Books Every Adirondacker Should Own,” and when I do, this book will be on that list.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Golden Arrow Retires 132 Tons of Carbon Dioxide

The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, New York retired 132 tons of carbon dioxide for the month of December 2008. The Golden Arrow accomplished this by working jointly with the Adirondack Council and their Cool Park/ Healthy Planet Carbon Retirement Program. The program was created by the Adirondack Council to prevent thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted by power plants from Maine to Delaware.

The Golden Arrow committed to retire enough carbon credits to offset the total number of occupied room nights for the month of December. It has been estimated that the there are 100 lbs of carbon emitted per room night. The Golden Arrow had a goal to retire 100 tons of carbon credits through the program. A total of 2590 rooms were occupied at the resort for the month of December.

The resort through the program permanently retired 132 tons, which was almost one third more than their original goal. It was their objective to make guests and the public to understand that they can really help make a difference. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Nature Conservancy, State Finalize Domtar Lands

The Domtar land purchase – now known as Sable Highlands and located in Franklin and Clinton Counties near Lyon Mountain – has been finalized with the protection of 104,000 acres, an area seven times the size of Manhattan. New York State purchased a conservation easement from the Lyme Timber Company on December 24, 2008 and that transaction ended four years of efforts to preserve the acreage once owned by Domtar Industries in the northeastern corner of the Adirondacks.

In addition to the continuation of sustainable forestry, the conservation easement also includes access to nearly 30,000 acres that have been off-limits to the public for decades, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Norton and Plumadore Ranges, and Barnes, Grass, Figure Eight, and Fish Hole Ponds. Combined with the 20,000 acres of new state lands, the public now has access to about 50,000 acres in a part of the park that has had limited opportunities for public recreation in the past. The Sable Highlands includes 220 miles of permanent and seasonal streams, 2,600 acres of wetlands, and 20 lakes and ponds in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain drainages. Among the lands protected in the Domtar deal are Lyon Mountain (14,400-acre habitat for Bicknell’s thrush), Ellenburg Mountain (1,700-acre tract of roadless forest that adjoining 7,100 acres of Forest Preserve lands), Whistle Pond / Keniston Meadows (920-acre tract adjoining existing state Forest Preserve), and East Chazy Lake.

In December of 2004, Domtar sold all of its Adirondack holdings in Clinton and Franklin Counties to the Lyme Timber Company and The Nature Conservancy. Working in partnership with Lyme, the Conservancy, and local community leaders, New York State has now fulfilled an agreement to secure the permanent protection of those properties.

A few months ago, the state made an outright purchase of 20,000 acres as new public lands from The Nature Conservancy. The purchases help foster the Adirondack Park’s role as a conservation model for the world and is another important investment in the local forest products industry. Last week, the state purchased a conservation easement to protect 84,000 acres owned by Lyme Timber. This “working forest” easement promotes sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, restricts residential development and subdivision, and creates a balance of public recreational access and continued private recreational leasing on the property.

The recent state expenditures were previously budgeted to the Environmental Protection Fund from money provided primarily from a real estate transfer tax. Private contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Sable Highlands Campaign since 2004 totaled some $4 million and also helped to offset the overall costs of conservation.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adk Council: Budget Will ‘Savage Environmental Fund’

Governor Paterson released his budget proposals today and it doesn’t look good for the Environmental Protection Fund. Here is a note, just received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan:

There is a great cause for worry about Gov. David Paterson’s first Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) spending plan, which was released today.

The governor proposes deep cuts in the programs supported by the EPF and proposes a fundamental change in the main source of revenue for the fund – from a stable, adequate source, to a speculative, untried funding scheme that has been blocked by the Senate for 20 years – threatening the EPF’s very survival. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DEC Seeks Comments on Firewood Measures

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced it has proposed making permanent a regulation to restrict the import, sale and transport of untreated firewood to aid in the fight against the spread of tree-killing pests and diseases. A public-comment period on DEC’s proposal runs through Feb. 9, 2009. DEC encourages interested parties to weigh in on the proposal – which can be viewed on the DEC website — at two public hearings or through written comments. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Adk Climate Conference Final Message to Nation

Conference leaders from The American Response to Climate Change released their detailed plans today [pdf] that include specific recommendations designed to harness market forces to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emission in the United States. The plan says that fast action in energy efficiency alone would result in $140 billion in economic benefit in the next 20 years. Drafting this report was a principle focus of a national gathering of leaders from industry, finance, academia and non-governmental organizations held at The Wild Center this past June according to conference leaders

The report was quickly emailed to key figures advising the next administration, according to Kate Fish, the conference director. “They’re asking to get copies of the report because many of the leaders who participated in the conference are being consulted on strategy.”

“The whole conference was timed so that we could produce this document in time for this planning stage for whichever new administration was going to decide the American response,” said Ross Whaley, former President of SUNY ESF and conference co chair.

In its opening pages the report’s authors, Carter F. Bales, who was conference co chair and Richard Duke, who heads the Center for Market Innovation at the Natural Resources Defense Council, call on the United States to take a world-leading position. “The time has come for the United States to lead the fight against global warming at home and abroad. We are the world’s leading innovator, and many U.S. businesses are beginning to recognize the profit potential of clean-energy alternatives. With forceful federal legislation and global negotiations, our nation can transition to real investment in a new energy economy that restores economic growth by building a world-class domestic energy infrastructure while protecting the planet and improving energy security.”

The report details four main action areas, and warns about the high costs of a failure to act quickly and decisively, including a predicted 5 to 20 percent collapse of global GDP from climate-related disruptions. The report also stresses that the four planks are designed to support each other, and that all four are needed to deliver an effective action plan. The report says that three criteria drove the decision about where to focus the plan, that it was market-driven and not driven by regulation, that it was fair so that it did not impact one group more advantageously or negatively than another, and that it could be rapidly enacted and implemented.

The first part of the plan is a declining cap on the total carbon emissions produced in the Unites States. The cap would encourage investment in low-or zero carbon energy solutions by setting a firm and predictably increasing price for carbon pollution. Companies that needed to continue to pollute, a power plant for example, would buy the rights to do so from organizations that were cutting their emissions and didn’t need their rights. Companies would earn money buy cutting their carbon pollution, and the more they could cut, the more they could earn. The money from selling those rights would be used to invest in more low carbon solutions. This cap-and-trade process would use market forces of supply and demand to move energy production from carbon to non-carbon sources according to the report.

The second action area outlines a series of strategies to promote energy efficiency that would in many cases have a zero cost. Setting energy efficiency standards on appliances that would save consumers money is one example. Using the new appliance would cut energy costs by more than the cost of the appliance, resulting in lower costs and lower emissions. The third plank recommends a major federal effort to encourage new energy technology investment and create an energy innovation explosion similar to the technology revolution that transformed the economy in the 1990s. The final plank is a plan to maximize the amount or carbon taken back by forests and agricultural lands to help buy time for the plan’s other steps to cut into the rate of emissions. According to the report, an improved plan for managing these lands could absorb 500 million tons of carbon per year. A report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a conference participant, states that the 500 million tons represents a third of all U.S. emissions.

The full report calls for a reduction in U.S. emissions of at least 80 percent by 2050, and says the solution is affordable and would rely for almost 60 percent of its funding on redirecting investments away from low efficiency into high efficiency areas. The report says that even using conservative numbers the total cost for the plan would be 1 percent of national GDP by 2030. “We have a really good idea of what the cost will be if we don’t act,” said Bales. “We don’t need to get more scared, what we need is the political will to turn this crisis into an opportunity. We believe that the work represented by this “Message to the Nation” can help define that opportunity.”


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Adirondack Hotel Wins DEC Environment Award

An Adirondack hotel that has gone all out to go green and educate guests, a Capital Region college that has taken big steps to reduce its ecological footprint, and a Hudson Valley school district effort to protect the water supply, reduce waste and run an organic garden are among the winners of the 2008 Environmental Excellence Awards announced today by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis.

The fifth annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony took place in Albany today to acknowledge the winners and their projects. There were more than 40 applicants, with submissions coming from industry, local governments, advocacy groups, educational institutions, and the hospitality sector. A committee of 20 representatives from the public and private sectors selected the winning submissions.

“The projects selected are outstanding examples of how we can solve environmental challenges by using innovative and environmentally sustainable practices or creative partnerships.” Grannis said. “By recognizing New York’s environmental and conservation leaders, we hope to inspire stewardship so that others can make significant positive impacts and protect New York’s natural resources.”

Summaries of this year’s winners are below:

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid, Essex County

Energy efficiency. Water conservation. Recycling. Green grounds. Environmental education. The Golden Arrow Resort has instituted green programs on a variety of fronts to reduce the environmental impact not only of the hotel, but also of the traveler. It features a “green roof” – a rooftop expanse of native plants that provides wildlife habitat, reduces water runoff and helps keep the inn warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A limestone beach reduces the impacts of acid rain. In-room recycling, insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures are also part of the mix. The hotel offers incentives for guests that travel by foot, ski, bike or hybrid car. The Golden Arrow also assists others in the hospitality industry find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Brewster School District, Putnam County

Through its multi-faceted “Environmental Education/Sustainable Practices Project,” the Brewster Central School District has demonstrated leadership in protecting the environment and in promoting environmental education. This project includes significant capital improvements and managerial processes to save energy and to protect the region’s water supply by preventing excessive plant growth, loss of oxygen and fish kills in the receiving waters. The project also includes educational activities that have developed students’ awareness of environmental issues and have empowered them with opportunities to participate in meaningful, innovative, hands-on activities that have measurable environmental impacts. Accomplishments have already included a 50 percent district-wide reduction in solid waste production, a student-run organic garden, and a technologically advanced wastewater treatment facility built in 2007. Improvements have resulted in more than 17 percent in annual energy savings, 1,724,388 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions prevented, and 250,000 cubic feet each of paper and plastic waste diverted from landfills.

Union College, Schenectady County

Union College has instituted the U-Sustain initiative – an innovative, campus-wide program that involves faculty, staff, students and administrators with the goals of reducing the ecological footprint of the college, increasing environmental awareness on campus and in the community, and making the college more sustainable. Accomplishments thus far include the renovation of student apartments to be an eco-friendly house, energy reduction strategies, dining options that include student volunteers working with dining services to provide fresh, local and organic meals, initiatives to offset energy consumption, and increased recycling/waste reduction opportunities.

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District and Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, Chemung County

These public agencies worked together to develop an innovative guide, “Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams,” that describes how streams work and why functioning floodplains are integral parts of the stream system. The guide contains dramatic photographs that help promote the need for sound management practices. The lessons learned can be applied to stream channels, floodplains, stream corridors, and watershed activities that do not trigger regulatory actions. The guide has already begun having a positive effect on decisions made by Chemung County landowners and local highway departments and its reach is expanding as a result of more than 30,000 guides being distributed to a variety of audiences throughout New York State.

Aslan Environmental and City of Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant, Ulster County

The City of Kingston partnered the Aslan Group to develop a new and innovative system – the first of its kind in the world – for managing wastewater treatment plant residuals in an economical and environmentally sound manner. Waste “biogas” is captured from the plant’s digesters and utilized as the only required fuel to turn 10 wet-tons-per-day of municipal wastewater sludge into one ton-per-day of an EPA-recognized pelletized usable “biosolid.” The biosolid is distributed free of charge for use as a lawn fertilizer or furnace fuel, which costs less than the previous practice of landfill disposal. Also, methane gas is efficiently utilized within the process as a fuel and since very little methane is flared, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutant emissions have been reduced.

New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Albany County

The committee’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) – Farming New York Cleaner and Greener program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach to agricultural management can successfully protect and enhance soil and water resources, while preserving the economic viability of a diverse agricultural community. AEM assists farmers in making practical, cost-effective decisions that result in the sustainable use of New York’s natural resources. Recently the program has expanded efforts to assist vineyards. Currently 52 growers have completed a new self-assessment workbook, which has resulted in the development of 16 action plans that implemented an average of nine improved farming practices at each location. While AEM supports voluntary environmental stewardship, it is also a vehicle by which changes in environmental regulations have been effectively implemented at over 600 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Plans have been successfully developed for all 147 large CAFOs and 92 percent of the state’s 472 medium sized CAFOs. More than 10,000 New York farm families participate and receive information, education and technical assistance so that farmers are able to operate cleaner and greener while competing in today’s global market.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gillibrand Is First To Retire Carbon Credits

On Monday Representative Kirsten Gillibrand became the first American to permanently retire carbon dioxide pollution allowances from a government-mandated carbon dioxide reduction program. She did it through the Cool Park/Healthy Planet Program [no web page that I could find!] created by the Adirondack Council to prevent thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted by power plants from Maine to Delaware.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first government-mandated carbon dioxide control program in the United States. It requires power plant emissions reductions in New York and nine other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States. Over a period of years, the 10 states will steadily reduce their power plant carbon emissions through a “cap-and-trade” program. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Discussion: An Adirondack Green New Deal

At the end of last month’s global warming conference a few participants were standing around talking philosophically about how to position the Adirondacks as a leader in the future green economy.

One local planner saw abandoned DOT lots along the Northway becoming park n’ rides, linked to local communities by bike and hiking paths, others envisioned them as green centers that connected mass transport, local information centers, and charging stations for locally produced energy. Someone else suggested painting a green stripe across every roadway that enters the Adirondacks – an unambiguous sign that you are entering a region where economics and the environment live hand and hand. Redraw the Blue Line as a Green Line.

SUNY Albany History Professor Lawrence S. Wittner, in a recent article at the History News Network, suggested that cuts in programs for education and healthcare proposed by Governor Patterson is the wrong way to climb out of our current economic recession. He pointed to the the inequities Adirondackers, and all New Yorkers, face:

The major reason the New York State budget is out of balance today—and has been intermittently for decades now—is that, for the last thirty years, the state has been cutting the tax rate for the top income New Yorkers. Specifically, driven by the desire to create a “business-friendly environment” in New York State, successive governors have succeeded in gradually lowering the tax rate for people in the top income bracket from 15.38 percent to 6.85 percent.

Thus, today, despite its liberal image, New York has a rather flat income tax rate, ranging from a low of 4 percent to a high of 6.85 percent… One of the state’s highly-respected think tanks, the Fiscal Policy Institute, estimates that a very small, temporary increase in the tax rates on the highest-income New Yorkers could yield as much as $7 billion per year—more than enough to cover the state’s projected fiscal woes.

Witner argues nothing less then that “government spending—and particularly spending that is funded by taxes on the wealthy—can also help to jump start the economy.” Witner connects his plan with the New Deal plans of FDR, which began with New York:

During the first years of the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt served as governor, New York was one of the incubators of the New Deal’s Keynesian approach. A staunch backer of unemployment insurance, Roosevelt became the first governor in the nation to demand state aid for relief. Moreover, New York’s Temporary Emergency Relief Administration served as the first state relief agency in the country. Governor Roosevelt was also a keen advocate of expanding New York State’s investment in public power programs and of having the state buy up abandoned farms for the purpose of reforestation. In New York City, too, the municipal government reacted to the Great Depression by investing heavily in upgrading the city’s infrastructure. It established new (and free) city colleges like Brooklyn College (in 1930) and Queens College (in 1937), and opened its first city-owned subway line (in 1932).

So folks, if we need a New Deal, and we want it to be a Green New Deal led by our region – what proposals do you have?

What projects, small and large, can we do locally and regionally to advance a Green New Deal?


Monday, December 1, 2008

John Sheehan Responds to Attacks by Todd Shimkus

If you missed last week’s debate at the economic development symposium on the Northern Forest region at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, you can see it the way it happened on YouTube here. The discussion featured Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal; Todd Shimkus of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce and Joe Short of the Northern Forest Center in New Hampshire.

The Northern Forest is a 70-million-acre swath of very big forests and very small towns ranging from Tug Hill, eastward through the Adirondack Park, northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and to the coast of Maine. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 24, 2008

5 Questions: Ecology Minister Katharine Preston

I asked Katharine Preston of Essex five questions about her Ecology Ministry. Katharine came to the North Country almost four years ago from the Boston area but she has been coming to her family’s camp in the High Peaks for almost 60 years. You can reach her at katharine.preston@gmail.com.

AA: What is an “ecology ministry”?

KP: An Ecology Ministry is a lay ecumenical ministry of creation awareness and care with particular concern for the social justice ramifications of climate change. I am particularly influenced by reputable science, a more inclusive understanding of God’s love for all of creation (not just humans) and the compassion for justice modeled by Jesus. I seek to help others sort through the prophetic and pastoral implications of this.

AA: What is your background?

KP: I received a Master of Divinity degree in May, 2000 from Andover Newton Theological School, in Newton, MA, where I studied and explored the integration of ecological concepts with theology, ethics, biblical studies and pastoral counseling. I also hold a Master of Forest Science from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and spent 20 years working for government, non-profits and academia in the environmental field.

AA: What denomination is your ministry?

KP: I like to think of it as non-denominational, as we are all in this together and such divisions seem superfluous to me, given the peril of the planet.

AA: What does your ministry look like (congregation, building)?

No congregation or building. The ministry is my work: guest preaching, workshops and writing.

AA: What are most pressing issues facing faith based communities with regards to ecology?

The same as the rest of the human community and the planet: climate change. For the record – this is intimately tied up with the economic crisis. The two “ecos” are interrelated. An integrated response, such as a “Green New Deal” will be the most successful on all fronts.

The warnings from scientists and environmentalists seem to have had little effect toward transforming the consciousness of humans as to the changes needed. As communities of faith, we bring an indispensable and strong moral authority to the table. Although there are differences in theology and worship, all major religions agree on certain moral tenants such as the sacredness of the earth and concern for the less fortunate. We need to work together to help.

There is a lot to be done, and not much time before the planet as we know it is radically changed. In the north country, there are things we will be very sad to see go, like snow cover for half the winter or maples trees. But for others, it is already a matter of life or death.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adirondack Climate Conference Final Thoughts

Well it’s over for today, but it’s clear that it’s not over forever. I think it’s fair to say that there was a collective sense that the Adirondack region is a unique place to lay out a framework to achieve local, national, and international changes in attitudes, policies, and our cultural and natural economies. One of the conference leaders (Howard Fish) put it succinctly when he said that residents of natural places like the Adirondacks play a critical role in ensuring both the survival of the world’s natural places and sustainable urban and suburban environments – the world looks to us to lead the way to, as the Adirondack region has for more then a century, coexistence between the natural and the human made world.

Here a few of the more important priorities that will likely be included in the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan:

Education / Outreach / Clearinghouse of Technical Information
Improving Building Codes to Reflect Carbon Concerns
Incentivising / Creative Financing of Efficiency Retrofits
Advancing (Appropriate Scale) Local Energy Production for Local Consumption
Adopting Smart Growth Standards Across the Park
Promoting Alternative Energy Usage
Facilitating Local Green Business and Local Green Branding
Implementing Climate Change Research, Assessment, and Monitoring
Promoting Management of Our Adirondack Carbon Sink
Building Resiliency to Climate Change Through Local Planning / Action

Those were the ideas that seem to rise to the top. There were a lot more that will be incorporated into the draft action plan.

The three top priorities and three ways we’re moving forward:

Retrofitting Residences
Energy $mart Initiative will Approach 26 Communities Over the next year.

Clearing House / Education

There will be a new web site that hopes to be comprehensive on this issue in this region: WWW.ADKCAP.ORG

Leadership
Thirteen volunteers will form a steering committee to keep us on track and moving forward with the writing of the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan.

Two final points:

The Seattle Climate Action Plan took two years to put together, so our task is going to be long but promises to be ecologically and economically rewarding for all Adirondack residents. We are looking at having a good draft document within a year.

An important point I think we’ve come away with is the notion that the Adirondack Forest, regardless of the value we ascribed to it before, now seems even more valuable as a carbon sink and nationally important precedent. Thankfully, it looks like local residents will lead the way to our climate future, whatever that may be, and that in itself is the most significant outcome of our little meeting here in Tupper Lake.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bringing In Our Climate Change Friends

One of the interesting things to come out of this morning’s presentations was the idea that we need to involve all residents. In particular for municipalities that means fire, ambulance, police, and highway departments. After all, they, along with the local library and town hall, are often one of the single biggest energy users in many small towns. I’m afraid that aside from planning departments and some local government types, these folks have been absent from our discussions over the last day and half – that’s a testament to the need for better local education.

One of the things that really struck me came from Rhett Lamb, the Planning Director of the City of Keene, NH when he said “historic preservation people are our best friend.” It makes perfect sense. The carbon footprint of an old building must be better then starting from scratch, even with the cost of efficiency retrofits. The last thing we want to do is tear down old buildings and send them to the landfill, when we could reuse them and refit them with new technologies.

Check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog post “Combining Sustainability with Historic Conservation: the English Experience.” Here is quite a sentence:

Decades of neglect and little investment leads to slum clearance and wholesale redevelopment, while whole life costing tied to embodied carbon modeling has been using carbon calculations (15-20 years) assigned by bankers and investors that are likely less than the true value of our material culture. In terms of ecological sustainability, models suggest that melting ice caps will cause a breach of the Thames and catastrophic flooding of London.

Now that’s something historic preservationists need to be concerned with. The National Trust has been evaluating their properties with regards to climate for a number of years. Here’s more:

In England, they are specifically identifying impacts to their properties from warmer temperatures, drought, coastal erosion, storms, flash floods and heavy rainfall. At Stourhead in Wiltshire, for example, a very wet summer followed by a crisp, frosty winter led to a “soup of green algae” in their bucolic lake. It should be noted though that it wasn’t climate change alone that caused this algal bloom. The nitrogen run-off from synthetic fertilizers used in the region combined with the unusual rainfall have presented the perfect conditions for the algae growth – a sort of one/two whammy from human impact. One of the most arresting images, was the slide of historic cottages dropping off the side of cliffs in Cornwall as coastal erosion overwhelms the coastline. Again and again, Sarah showed devastation at their properties which may have been caused by increased rainfall but was often exacerbated by irresponsible land use.

The National Trust is taking direct action to mitigate these impacts, wherever it is reasonably possible. These efforts include:

1. Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases: Changing to low energy lightbulbs including the ubiquitous CFLs. But they’ve gone one step further by working directly with light bulb manufacturers to develop new low energy bulbs for their historic fixtures.

2. Improve energy efficiency of their buildings: Here, because of their massive landholdings, they are actually able to use their own sheep to produce thermafleece for insulation, for example.

3. Reduce carbon footprint: They are evaluating their fuel sources, changing to more efficient boilers (often developed by German companies) and avoiding the use of electricity from non-renewable resources.

4. Generate energy on site: They have begun using thermal and photovoltaics at many of their sites including directly on the roofs of some of the Grade 2 listed buildings. And on support buildings of lesser importance at some of their sites, they have begun installing the PV slates.

5. Reduce embodied energy: In an effort that Sarah calls “slow conservation” (which she compared to the “slow” food movement) they are looking to building new construction in ways more sympathetic to the environment.

In order to adapt to these climate induced changes, the National Trust is looking at short, medium and long term adaptations such as installing larger gutters, going back to traditional practices (these were often done for good reason) and most importantly, managing properties better with cyclical maintenance programs.

There is a lot more. Check it out before you give Adirondack Architectural Heritage a call.

More this afternoon.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adirondack Greeenhouse Gas Inventory Results

I’m back at the Wild Center climate conference today. One of the highlights of this morning was hearing from the 80-year-old town supervisor of the Town of Franklin on that tiny town’s climate program. Another was a presentation from the City of Keene, New Hampshire about a climate program they established in 1999 that is really bearing tremendous fruit in financial savings, and raised awareness of the public and local officials.

The highlight of the morning was one of the shortest presentations on the results of a year’s worth of research (supported by the Wild Center and the Association to Protect the Adirondacks Energy $mart Park Initiative) to establish a baseline of just what exactly our region’s greenhouse gas emissions are. I will post a link to the full draft asap.

Compared to the rest of the United States, we look pretty good, but there is some question about whether or not our actual impacts are reflected in the study. We know what we’re doing here for instance, but what about the impacts of goods and service that originate outside the blue line but are consumed here?

Here is what the study found with regard to where our biggest emissions are coming from:

38% Transportation – this category well outpaces the national average of 28%. Obviously, our geographic situation makes this one of our more difficult areas. Denser development, focused public transportation programs, and walkable, skiable, and bikeable hamlets could all help in this area, as would converting municipal fleets to biodiesel and hybrid / electric.

29% Residential – we are much higher than the national average (17%) mainly because of the high use of bulk fuels, very dirty and inefficient electric heating, and old housing stock. This makes us a perfect candidate for weatherization programs, which, due to our cold climate would improve the payback.

21% Industrial – a large portion of this comes from one plant, the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga. we are below the national average in this category (29%) for obvious reasons. It should be noted again, that this does not reflect industrial operations carried on outside the Blue Line that are consumed here.

Our per capita greenhouse gas emissions are, as expected, high for the rest of the world, but lower than the national average:

US 23.6 metric tons per year
ADK 17.5
Germany 12.3
UK 11.1
France 8.7
China 3.9
India 1.8

Another interesting fact is that it’s believed that about 25% of our emissions are sequestered in the great carbon sink that the Adirondack forest provides. One commenter went so far as to say that the Adirondacks “should be receiving carbon offsets.”

More to come.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Study on Climate Impacts on Adirondacks Released

Here is a press release from the Wild Center on the report on Adirondack climate change impacts which was first posted here at the Almanack earlier today. I’ve been live blogging the Wild Center’s climate conference today and will continue tomorrow – you can read all the posts here (start from the bottom).

From the Wild Center: An advance edition of a sixty-two page report detailing potentially radical shifts in the ecology and economy of the Adirondack region was released today as part of a climate change conference held at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The document was produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and authored by Jerry Jenkins, with support from The Wild Center and The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The report analyzed data from the Adirondacks and looked at projected changes based on a range of peer-reviewed climate change models. The report states that even if fossil fuel use were immediately reduced, the upstate New York region would still experience a warming of about six degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The report details a recent rise in temperatures in the Adirondacks. Highlights of the report include: » Continue Reading.