Posts Tagged ‘wild’

Five modern trends in sustainable architecture


Five modern trends in sustainable architecture


Posted24 September 2011, by Pratik Basu, EcoFriend (Instamedia),



With so many ecological concerns coming up every year, the need for the hour is to grasp the concept of Eco-friendly and sustainable architecture. The dawn of this green architecture came from the Eco-build in London, Cannes and the Earth Day and it seems to be develop rapidly in the developed countries. Green architecture can change the world. With rapid advancements in the field of Eco-friendly products, there is a huge demand for making buildings and construction techniques more greener and sustainable and less harmful for Earth. The world has grasped this idea very well. The need for new techniques and materials which can be easily recycled are taken into consideration. Here’s showcasing 5 trends in green and sustainable architecture which is a focus of attention amongst Eco-designers.


1. Vertical Farming


Vertical farming. Trends in sustainable architecture


With an expected increase in population to 9.1 billion people within the year 2050, feeding all the people around the globe is a cause for major concern. Food production needs to increase by 70%. This would mean having higher crop yields and expansion of the area cultivated. However land available for cultivation is not evenly distributed, while others are suitable for cultivating only a few crops. Thus architects have been designing buildings where one can grow crops on all the edges surrounding the building. This gives more area for cultivation and helps solve the expansion crisis. The vertical farms can be integrated with residential buildings too, with farms being set up on the external periphery of the buildings. This provides a clean environment for the residents to live in.


2. Straw


Straw House. Trends in sustainable architecture


Straw is a sustainable material which can be used as a building material. Many designers and builders today are making use of this natural material to make phenomenal designs which are Eco-friendly. These buildings can be made from prefabricated panels using straw. These panels can be assembled from locally sourced star which can be fit into the panel frame made from timber. This production style helps save money and energy and decrease build times and carbon emissions. Electricity can be generated by photovoltaic and solar thermal panels and the extra electricity can be sold to the electricity grid. The homes made by straw would be considerably cheaper, as straw is a product which is available in vast quantity. This low cost makes it more popular to the general masses.


3. Phase change materials (PCMs)


House from PCMTrends in sustainable architecture


Phase change materials are used to store both cooling and heating energy. These new age materials can be embedded in the ceiling and the wall tiles from where they absorb heat to keep the space cool and reduces the need for air conditioning. These Phase change material tiles have micro capsules made of a special wax which is developed to contain heat during the day. Some companies selling phase change materials claim that using the material reduces temperature of your indoor surrounding by almost 7ºC, hence reducing air conditioning costs.


4. Bees and biodiversity


Bees and diversityTrends in sustainable architecture


Bees are an integral part of our biodiversity. A small garden or a rooftop is all that is required to keep bees. They help in making delicious honey from plants and flowers in your gardens, parks and the tree lined roads. It is important to make an environment in cities that safeguards wildlife and also helps in further diversity. By incorporating biodiversity into architecture, we can make a cleaner and greener world. Hence keeping bees and making bee hives are an important step that needs to be taken to ensure a cleaner, greener environment. In London, vast number of bee hives have been created on the roof tops of buildings, attracting many bees.


5. Sustainable materials


Sustainable materialsTrends in sustainable architecture


Apart from the many products used in construction made from recycled materials, many researchers are looking at the construction industry for other sustainable materials from other sectors which are rarely used in design and construction.

Thousands of samples have been taken from countries all over the world. These selected materials provide an Eco-friendly alternative to other resource hungry materials which generally have many by products which are harmful to the environment. These samples are being studied and their properties are made good use of. So it is essential that we find sustainable materials which can be easily recycled and are durable and appropriate for construction.


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Eco Factor: Laboratories for University of Sheffield designed to have minimal impact on the environment. Bond Bryan Architects has designed modern and sustainable laboratories for the University of Sheffield. The laboratories will serve as a new…Sustainable Development in Architecture and Construction

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Hands Off Our Land: Women’s Institute joins battle to save the green belt


Hands Off Our Land: Women’s Institute joins battle to save the green belt

The Women’s Institute is joining the fight against the Government’s controversial changes to planning rules and is calling on its 208,000 members to write to their MPs and organise public meetings.

Ruth Bond, Chairman of the National Federation of Womens Institutes, in her London office Photo: GEOFF PUGH


Posted19 September 2011, by , The Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Ltd.),



Ruth Bond, the chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said there was a “groundswell” of concern among her members about the new National Planning Policy Framework, which includes a presumption in favour of ”sustainable development”.

The WI joins groups including the National Trust, the Countryside Alliance and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which fear that the new rules, that distil thousands of pages of planning rules into fewer than 60, will allow builders to develop green belt land. The Daily Telegraph is also running a Hands Off Our Land campaign urging ministers to reconsider.

However, a group of 22 businessmen claim in a letter to The Times newspaper today that the “creaking” planning system is driving investors away and threatening economic recovery.

The group, which includes Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, Sir Stuart Rose, the former Marks & Spencer chairman, and Ron Dennis, the executive chairman of McLaren, claim that the Government “must tackle head–on the sluggish pace and disproportionate costs of planning”.

But the criticism from the non–political WI could cause nervousness in Downing Street. Mrs Bond said her advice to members was to “write to your MP, newspaper, where someone will listen, where it might make a difference, never give up”.

She added: “It is not a call to arms, but a call to the pen, a call to discussion and conversation around where you live.

“See what is happening in your area, whether they have got development plans in place, if not see what can be done about that.

“Don’t give up until you get the answer that you feel is what the country needs. It’s not the personal thing, it’s the whole community.

“Engage your community in conversation, do call a public meeting, raise the issue, because there will be lots of people in villages who don’t know anything about this.”

When Tony Blair was Prime Minister in 2000, he was slow hand–clapped and heckled during a meeting of 10,000 WI members in Wembley arena. The moment was later viewed by some as a turning point, when the relationship between the then popular Labour prime minister and ”middle” England turned sour.

Mrs Bond said she was considering writing to Greg Clark, the planning minister, about the changes, as well as ensuring that the WI contributes to the consultation on the changes, which ends in the middle of next month.

The WI is the largest voluntary women’s organisation in Britain with more than 208,000 members in 6,500 WI branches. “They have got to take more into account, more of people, environment, wildlife,” Mrs Bond said.

”It is a bit ‘here’s a new idea, let’s do this, it will help the economy’. OK, but you have got to think of other things – will it help the economy further down the line?”

The WI is concerned that too few councils had published development plans, which will offer more protection from builders being given a free hand.

The Great Bee Count

The Great Bee Count

Long-horned Bee or Sunflower Bee - Svastra obliqua by Lynette S. (Photo not part of the original article, retrieved from the Web by Only Ed)


Posted 18 September 2011, by Ben Gelber, NBC4i,


Please visit the original site to view the News Video associated with this article, or click the following link:


OSU Scientists Abuzz About Bee Population, In the wake of the loss of a quarter of Ohio’s bee population, OSU experts are looking at ways to maintain diversity among the population of bee survivors—-who are critical to successful crops.



The loss of about a quarter of Ohio’s honeybees, due to a mysterious illness and parasites in the past several years, has forced researchers to take a hard look at the diversity of Ohio’s 500 native bee populations to ensure their environment is protected.

Ohio State researchers in the Environment Ecology and Organismal  Biology Department, such as Dr. Karen Goodell, are studying bees in the Wilds in Muskingum County, an area once mined for coal that has been restored as prairie land.

The Great  Bee Count on July 16 and August 20 brought attention to USA bee populations by enlisting tens of thousand of volunteers around the country to count bees on Sunflowers and other target plant species during a 25-minute period.

This project will provide “a foundation for asking more detailed questions about the status of bees,” said Dr. Goodell.

While not identifying specific bee populations that may be at risk, the volunteer information nonetheless is “complementary to that collected by ecologists.”

For additional information, stay with NBC4 and refresh

View More: Biology Department, Environment, Goodell, Karen, Muskingum County, Ohio, United States


Road Ecology: An Often Overlooked Field Of Conservation Research

Road Ecology: An Often Overlooked Field Of Conservation Research


Posted 19 September 2011, by Caitlin Kight, Science 2.0 (ION Publications LLC),


Earlier this year, the open access journal Ecology and Society had a special feature called The Effects of Roads and Traffic on Wildlife Populations and Landscape Function. The issue featured 17 papers plus a guest editorial all devoted to discussing the ecological impacts of roads, the efficacy of road-related mitigation techniques, and the future of road ecology research.

One of the themes highlighted in the introductory editorial is the need for greater public awareness about the effects of roads, as well as a greater emphasis on collaboration between managers, politicians, and road ecology experts. There are an estimated 750 million vehicles utilizing approximately 50 million kilometers of road worldwide, with increases in both road network and traffic volumes continuing to occur globally–especially in developing areas such as eastern Europe, China, India, and Latin America. The known effects of roads include loss and fragmentation of habitat, injury and/or death of wildlife after collision with vehicles, changes in microhabitat (e.g., light, moisture, wind) due to increased exposure, pollution, and facilitation of invasion by non-native species.

Roads can have negative impacts on humans, as well–by reducing the aesthetic qualities and the recreational value of habitats. Perhaps more immediately important is the massive amount of injury and property damage associated with animal-vehicle collisions; in North America alone, 1-2 million collisions are thought to occur each year, causing several hundred human fatalities and over a billion US dollars in damage.

Despite the clear drawbacks of roads, they are often not considered in the same light as other human-induced habitat changes; ask the average person what anthropogenic disturbances are most destructive, and he/she is more likely to focus on factors such as pollution, urban sprawl, and climate change. Although roads are often associated with these things, they are generally not pinpointed as a dangerous habitat feature unto themselves, perhaps because they lie flat to the ground and do not have the same obvious physical presence of, say, skyscrapers or strip malls.

Pretty much since the first road ecology study was conducted  in 1925, it has been clear that animal abundance is negatively impacted by the presence of roads. The extent of the effect varies for different species and at different distances from road. Among frogs studied in Utah, for instance, the “road-effect zone” included land up to 1000 m from the roadside, and reduced abundances of 4 of 7 frog species examined; among small mammals evaluated in a desert environment, however, 11 of 13 species could be captured under vegetation right next to the road. Roads may also affect behaviors. Traffic noise, for instance, causes some bird and frog species to alter their vocalizations, thus potentially impacting their ability to communicate effectively. Roads can also disturb migration patterns, slowing down progress or forcing migrating individuals to take more circuitous routes, as observed in northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens).

Encouragingly, some relatively simple mitigation techniques are effective at reducing the negative impacts of roads on wildlife. For instance, moving salt pools farther from roadsides can reduce moose (Alces alces)-vehicle collisions by 50%, saving lives of both moose and drivers. The installation of both over- and underpasses can allow safe passage of wildlife, not only preventing accidents on the road, but also preserving or even improving current rates of gene flow. Preliminary cost-benefits analyses have already suggested that, in many areas, the efficacy of some management methods exceed the costs required to employ them, indicating that increased implementation of a few simple techniques could save money and animals.

Because roads keep humans connected, they are an integral part not only of our daily lives, but also of our social structure. In other words, they are not going anywhere soon. Although the major goal among road ecologists is developing mitigation techniques that keep wildlife safe for generations to come, there is still a dearth of the very data that are necessary to make logical management plans. For instance, we still know relatively little about how roads affect long-term viability of populations, what effects they have on the landscape, and whether/how they alter ecosystem function. The authors of the guest editorial encourage road ecologists to center their future work around these questions. Furthermore, they encourage research that is applied in nature and can have direct, obvious value for road agencies, conservationists, wildlife, and motorists alike. One important goal–shared by biologists in a number of fields–is education of the public, including those individuals that make policy decisions. Hopefully, greater awareness will lead to smarter, safer use of roadways, and choices that bode well for the future of wildlife that live in heavily-trafficked areas.

van der Ree, R., Jaeger, J.A.G., van der Grift, E.A., and Clevenger, A.P. 2011. Effects of roads and traffic on wildlife populations and landscape function: road ecology is moving toward larger scales. Ecology and Society 16(1): 48 [online].

Thanks to the following websites for providing the images used in this post:……


I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’


I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’

George Petty who blazed a new wildflower trail soon to open in Jonathan's Woods. He ID'd all the wildflowers and which needed to be planted and he'll be leading wildflower hikes there. He also writes poetry about wildflowers. George is 82 and used to go on scout trips in Jonathan's Woods as a boy. (note: wildflowers were not in bloom)_BOB KARP/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER / Staff Photo/staff photo


Posted 14 September 2011, by George Petty, The Daily Record (Gannett),



I believe the beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows, those quiet green sanctuaries where we can recover ourselves without having to buy gas or turn on a light.

Scientists tell us that even in land that has been farmed, logged, lived on, or burned over, the seeds of old native wildflowers, shrubs and trees lie buried, waiting for the trouble to pass so they can grow again. Even if science didn’t think so, I’d believe it.

Mostly because I’ve seen it happen.

Twenty-five years ago a group of my neighbors in Denville banded together to prevent developers from building condominiums in the forest around Bald Hill. They called their group POWWW, Preserve Our Wetlands, Water and Woods. Today, after a long patient struggle, 650 acres of the Beaver Brook watershed have become Morris County’s newest forest park, Jonathan’s Woods, named for Denville’s last native American.

I roamed these woods when I was a youngster. I loved the freedom to delay and discover. Flowers, trees and animals were my companions, and I could drink safely from cool woodland springs and brooks. But every year new houses consumed the edge of the forest, detergent chemicals bubbled through the water, and one by one the flowers decided not to risk the air.

The preservation of Jonathan’s Woods has given me another chance, right here near my back door. In the very same curve of the brook where I walked with my high school sweetheart, I am building a wildflower trail. With the help of friends in POWWW, we cut and drag away blowdowns, and pull out invasive species. We buy plants from specialized growers, who propagate them from wild seeds. We believe we can encourage our own seeds, that have survived under the leaves during history’s turmoil, and are waiting there for the chance to bloom again.

It’s not that we think the past was somehow more noble than we are. We know the early settlers struggled for survival, for wealth, for influence; they fought over land, a few owned slaves, in hard times they sold their woodlands to loggers.

But it inspires awe to see physical evidence in the woods of what they accomplished with hand tools and animal power; long stone fences to contain cattle, a test shaft dug in hard bedrock for iron ore, wagon roads over steep rocky hills, large old trees that once stood alone in an open field now surrounded by younger growth. Their lives were hard, and usually short; they cultivated simple homespun pleasures. We feel how easier and more convenient, how longer, safer and healthier are our gas and electric powered lives, all covered by medical and hazard insurance.

And yet we are so much the same; our heart beats, our breaths, our hungers and ambitions. When we walk through the quiet woods, the soft sounds of the rustling leaves are what those early settlers heard in the twilight of their day, whispering of our common humanity.

George Petty of Denville has been an insurance underwriter, airplane mechanic, airline flight engineer, union president, newspaper reporter, college teacher, tennis coach and a racing sailor. He is also the author of ‘Hiking the Jersey Highlands,’ published by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.Through his varied career he has always thought of himself as a poet, even when the world required him to appear otherwise. His poems have been prize-winners in national contests and have been aired on National Public Radio, appearing in Water-Stone, Two-Rivers Review and “Boulder Field,” a chapbook from Finishing Line Press, 2004.His work has taken him all over the world, but he has always come back to Denville, where he lives and writes today.


The Fringed Gentian

Walking into the October woods I look
for the fringed gentian my grandfather loved
by the spring the years have covered over,
though I remember where it was. My wistful
mother said they survive even frost, blood blue
against the dead brown in high hidden meadows,
where she and my father tramped so painfully
toward their griefs, taking almost a century to leave me,
a grizzled child searching for a small joy in the leaves.
But, of course, it’s not there, wasn’t last year either,
though my cousin says he saw one near the swamp,
the seeds are tiny and easily wash that way;
and I push through thickets and blow-downs,
relishing the knocks and scratches, the stiffening gusts
and the crackle of coming frost that remind me I’m alive,
till standing in the muck, the cool fire of age
creeping slowly over my ankles, my fingers numb
like leaves dying back from the edges,
I believe my cousin never saw a gentian here,
and only I care that it might – must – have ever been.
It’s not that I doubt there is one in these woods,
but that I know surely there is not,
and every year, following the old steps, I try to find it.
— George Petty



Book Reviews – Newly Received Titles: “The Biodynamic Farm – Developing a Holistic Organism” and “Biodynamics in Practice – Life on a Community Owned Farm”


Book Reviews – Newly Received Titles:

“The Biodynamic Farm – Developing a Holistic Organism” and “Biodynamics in Practice – Life on a Community Owned Farm”


Posted 14 September 2011, by Staff, Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Bio-Dynamics, Inc.,




JPI (Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Bio-Dynamics, Inc.) has recently added the following new titles

Osthaus, Karl-Ernst, The Biodynamic Farm – Developing a Holistic Organism, Floris Books, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2010. (First published in German in 2004). 93 pp. $14.95

To my knowledge this is one of the few available titles in biodynamic literature that makes an effort to address Rudolf Steiner’s concern that the farm “individuality” ought to possess the ‘due amount of cattle.’ Steiner expressed that concern at the very beginning of the second lecture of the Agriculture course, and while many people have subsequently spoken and written about the farm individuality, the author of this book has managed to translate that term into a practical example of how that individuality manifests through the animal kingdom on a specific farm. In developing his own farm, Karl-Ernst Osthaus apparently took very seriously the question of determining the “due’ number of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and other animal members of proper biodynamic farm individuality.

While his experience must be seen in the context of his particular farm, it is most helpful to have such a picture available in developing one’s own farm. He gives a very specific emphasis to the development of hedgerows between fields not only as a “fence” to separate pastures, but also as important forage for the livestock and habitat for the birds, insects and other wild animals.

It would have been most helpful if the author had provided more details on exactly how he arrived at the several livestock populations. Regrettably, he is deceased, and one cannot seek answers to some of the questions that might arise when reading some of his statements and conclusions. However, that forces one to arrive at answers for one’s own farm individuality, which is precisely how it should be for the biodynamic practitioner.

The one major criticism of the book I found is his description of the production of the preparations in the latter part of the book. In several instances, his description deviates from Steiner’s indications in ways that I would judge quite serious and such as would affect the ultimate efficacy of the finished preparation. Digging up BD #501 at Michaelmas does not qualify as “late fall” as Steiner’s instructions state. BD #502 is made in early summer, hung in a sunny place, buried around Michaelmas and dug up at Easter, and the contents of the bladder are stored in an earthenware pot. This is a process which ignores Steiner’s requirement that the yarrow spend a full year in the bladder. Unfortunately, the time frame described seems to be a practice that is widely followed among biodynamic practitioners, to the probable detriment of the finished preparation. In like manner, the author’s description of the making of BD #504 omits the indication Steiner gave that the stinging nettle should spend the winter in the earth and through the following summer. I believe most sincerely that we cannot allow ourselves to blithely ignore the complete indications Steiner gave for the making of the biodynamic preparations. To do so can only be a detriment to achieving the maximum quality and effectiveness of the resultant preparations. It is most distressing to realize that somehow over the years certain modifications have crept into the instructions for making the preparations and are subsequently perpetuated in otherwise valuable biodynamic writings.

Petherick, Tom, Biodynamics in Practice – Life on a Community Owned Farm, Impressions of Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch, Sussex, England. Photography by Will Heap. Sophia Books (an imprint of Rudolf Steiner Press), Forest Row, England. 132 pp. $38.00

This book features an abundance of photographs (thus the expense) detailing the transition of two struggling farms to ownership by an entire community. These two farms in the immediate neighborhood of Emerson College in England formed a cooperative beginning in 1995 with the people living in their vicinity to establish themselves as a major focal point of the community. The text and the photographs describe the many aspects of both farms and the important role they have within the surrounding community. The message of the book is stated as follows: ‘Biodynamics seeks the holistic and interrelate health of the diverse creatures and beings composing a farm, including human beings and the wider, surrounding community.’ Biodynamics is identified as not just a “method” but a whole approach to life. The model developed here is one that may be highly appropriate for emulation in England, but it is probable that other parts of the world will need to develop their own unique models of biodynamic farming support within a surrounding community. One such example that comes to mind is the Sekem endeavor in Egypt.

The lack of captions for the photos in at least a few cases is a drawback to the message being communicated, but altogether the book presents a very positive case for biodynamic agriculture as an important factor in influencing the culture within society as a whole.


Murphy Oil faced with Indigenous women’s blockade on fracking site

Murphy Oil faced with Indigenous women’s blockade on fracking site


Posted 09 September 2011, by , Intercontinental Cry,


A group of women from the Kainai Nation have confronted the US oil company Murphy Oil, at a fracking development site on Kainai lands in Southern Alberta.

Blood Reserve, Alberta, Canada


According to an initial report from the Indigenous Environmental Network, early last night (Sept. 08, 2011) the group of women parked in front of Murphy Oil’s fracking site on the Kainai Nation (Blood) Reserve and vowed not to leave until they are confident that fracking won’t happen.

For background information, see IC’s previous report: Blood Tribe Members Call for Moratorium on Hydro Fracking and visit

IEN Report cross-posted from Climate Connections.

URGENT ALERT! Murphy Oil faced with Indigenous women’s blockade on fracking site.

Early last night, numerous women from the Blood Nation (Alberta, Canada) courageously parked in front of Murphy Oil’s fracking development site vowing not to move until plans of fracking for oil and gas are stopped. The women are part of the Kainai Earth Watch and have been active advocates to stop the fracking due to the major threat to human health, wildlife and livestock and the irreversible damage to the land and water on the Blood Reserve and surrounding areas. They feel this is the only choice left to them to stop the operations as plans for construction begin tomorrow.

In late 2010, Kainaiwa Resources Inc. (KRI) quietly signed off on a deal with the Calgary-based junior mining company Bowood Energy and the U.S. company Murphy Oil. In exchange for the $50 Million, Bowood Energy and Murphy Oil gained a five-year lease to roughly 129, 280 acres, almost half of the Blood’s reserve, for oil and gas exploration.

Since that time local residents of the Blood Nation and surrounding communities have come together to oppose the projects. Members of the KaiNai Earth Watch have partnered with numerous community groups, including the Lethbridge Council of Canadians, to host numerous educational workshops, organize petitions, and meet with government officials. Despite their efforts, nothing has been effective in actually preventing the fracking from going ahead.

Plans of construction on 4 new fracking sites begin TODAY. The women have vowed not to leave until they are confident the fracking won’t go ahead.

Show some Solidarity! **If you are interested in helping to support this action please contact:

Louis Frank 403-795-7945

Mike Brucehead 403-737-2194

For a good backgrounder on the plans for fracking and the concerns with the impacts check out:

Media are encouraged to come on site

**Directions to the site:

Take Hwy #2 South, just after Standoff at the large Blue Co-op at the Blood Nation turn East. Follow the road 5 mins and you can’t miss it.

Profile: Kainai

Learn more about the and other Indigenous Peoples around the world
(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more content associated with this article.)


Conversation: Kieran Suckling


Conversation: Kieran Suckling


Posted “Autumn 2011” (September), by Jason Mark, Earth Island Journal (Earth Island Institute),



Kieran Suckling doesn’t suffer fools gladly. As the founding director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity(CBD), Suckling is often invited to represent the environmentalist position on cable news shows, national radio programs, and at public debates. Employing a combination of acerbic wit, lighting intelligence, and red-hot passion, Suckling usually flattens his adversaries from the logging, mining, and fossil fuel industries. He’s a rhetorical pugilist who knows that it takes muscle to win arguments in today’s shout-fest public discourse.

Suckling’s street-fighting skills are a major asset for the green movement – until he turns them on putative allies. Suckling has boasted that CBD is “like fire and wolves and Apaches to big environmental groups.” Not surprisingly, that attitude has made some greens uncomfortable. It has also made CBD one of the most successful environmental outfits around, a group with a string of victories protecting wilderness. “Uncompromising” is a word that comes to mind.

Suckling, a former Earth First! member, contests that label, and says his group has no problem cutting deals. But he also warns that there’s no use in talking to adversaries unless you’re negotiating from a position of strength, a political truism that, he says, green groups forget too often: “You’ve got to be willing to negotiate hard and ruffle feathers,” he says.

The line is classic Suckling – unvarnished, ballsy, and, I think it’s fair to say, right.

—Jason Mark

As a former member of Earth First!, it’s not surprising that I’ve heard you complain about the “professionalization of the environmental movement.” Yet you’re also the founder of a multimillion-dollar organization. So what do you mean exactly by that concern?

It’s not so much the size or wealth of an organization. What it’s really about is this switch that happened in the mid-late 1990s where people came into the movement…. Well let’s put it this way: Prior to the late ’90s or so, a lot of people came into the movement who had their college degrees in anything you can imagine, but not necessarily anything directly having to do with the environment. And they got involved in the movement because they had to: because the forest outside their town was being logged, because the river that they lived near was being dammed. And they got in environmentalism because of the passion to save a place, or to save a species, not because they ever thought it was going to be their career. And then, in part because of the success of the environmental movement, because of the success of ecological education, we’re now churning out many, many people with natural resource degrees of various kinds. So they begin their adult life with the idea that they’re going to have a job in the environment, rather than coming to it sideways. I think that there tends to be a very different level of experience and a very different level of passion that comes in there – and a much greater willingness to compromise generally. So I think the movement is stronger and more vibrant, more successful, when it has a higher percentage of people who come into the movement sideways because they were driven to do so, not because they decided they’re going to have a career in the environment when they’re 18.

Aren’t there are still people who are coming in sideways? Think of the Tim DeChristophers of the world.

Yeah, well he’s a perfect example, an excellent example. It’s not that it’s not happening. It’s just I think the balance has shifted a little more toward professionalism. There’s good aspects of that as well. I’ve found that generally the most passionate, the most creative people – if you look around at all the people who started environmental groups, who head up environmental groups, who run major campaigns – very few of those people have a college degree related to the environment. It also, I think, brings in a much broader worldview, which is really helpful.

Politics 101 says, “unite your friends and divide your enemies.” Yet CBD sometimes ruffles feathers among allies. Do you ever worry that you’re alienating allies?

No, I don’t. Originally all of our campaigns are done in a coalition setting. At this very moment we’re working in 30 different coalitions, whether it’s dealing with pesticide spraying, lead bullets, protection of wolves, or the EPA regulating greenhouse gases. And that’s just a small sample. All of our work is done in a coalition setting. It’s true that we very often shore up the left-most position in these coalitions, and we’re very often the group most willing to criticize Democrats. I think that one of the weak points of the environmental movement is it has become so strongly associated with the Democratic Party that it doesn’t have the level of independence it needs to pressure the Democratic Party. Whereas [CBD], we’re truly nonpartisan. It’s not because we have some naïve concept of nonpartisanship. It’s that the Democratic Party is not adequately looking after the needs of nature, and therefore it’s counterproductive to completely ally with them. We obviously have a stronger relationship with the Democratic Party, but we feel like the movement is most effective, most powerful, when it is able to step back from the Democratic Party and apply pressure to it. Very often the movement doesn’t do that. It’s so close to the party that it’s not able to apply political pressure.

Where do you think that compromise makes sense? What is your policy about when you bend?

Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t realize: The great majority of [our] legal victories have come through settlement agreements and have not come through court orders. So we negotiate all the time. And in fact I feel like negotiation is one of the center’s strongest suits, so we’re not at all against negotiation. One of the reasons we’ve had so many victories over time is we always negotiate from the position of strength. So, for example, if you’re trying to stop logging in a forest, you don’t go into a negotiating posture before you’ve shut down logging somewhere, because you have no position of strength. Our strategy is to develop a strong position through using law, science, and legislation that puts us in the position of being able to negotiate strong, long-term agreements. But you’ve got to go at the negotiations from a position of strength and you’ve got to have a bright line, know when to walk away and not be afraid to walk away. And you’ve got to be willing to negotiate hard and ruffle feathers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

You mean within the environmental movement?

Yeah, I think too often the movement enters negotiations before it has built up any strength or capital. It starts from the position of weakness and then it lacks a bright line, so it gets talked continually downward because it doesn’t know when the line is crossed and when it’s time to walk away from the table. For example, the collaborative and consensus groups we’ve seen being developed around forest management issues – many of those are just not set up from a position of environmental strength and consequently don’t result in a strong position when the day is over.

Over the last couple years CBD, along with WildEarth Guardians, has been at the front a “bioblitz” to get the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list many more plants and animals on the endangered species list. The Fish and Wildlife Service recently reached a settlement with WildEarth Guardians to list a certain amount of species. You all opposed it. Why?

This is actually a good example of one of the things I was talking about. In the final years of the Clinton administration, the Secretary of Interior really slowed down the listing of species for political reasons, and it virtually stopped during the Bush years. So through the filing of strategic litigation, we were able to convince the Department of Interior that it was at great risk of having the court specify its entire workload for many years. And that potentiality put us in a strong negotiating position to go in and work out a long-term deal with them. So we began those negotiations, while the Guardians came into them later. They lacked a bottom line, so when negotiations got to a point where we were just not willing to accept what Interior wanted to put on the table, we walked from the deal knowing that we still had our position of strength and that Interior was going to have to come back to us. They didn’t really have a choice.

Because the court will order it?

Yeah, all the court cases are still active. The administration’s legal position is very vulnerable. They know that we’re not going to walk away and give up this mission, so if we walk out of that room, Interior knows it’s still facing all the same threats and vulnerabilities it had when we came into the room. So it’s got to come back. But Guardians was lacking that sort of clear strategy and identification of a bright line of what’s needed, so they ended up striking a bad deal, a weak deal. It doesn’t cover all of the species that need to be covered, it’s largely unenforceable, it allows Interior to walk away whenever it wants from the deal, and it’s too limiting on what Guardians itself is able to do in the future of endangered species conservation. So we went to the court, told the court, “Don’t approve the deal, it’s not good enough.” The court said, “Go back and try to renegotiate this.” And so we got sent back to the negotiation table, which is how we were going to end up always, and now we’re working out a new deal with the Department of Interior, which we just finalized.

A lot of your petitions for listings have referred to the dislocations from climate change. But as Eric Wagner wrote in our last issue, events may have passed by the Endangered Species Act as it was conceived in the early 1970s. Do you think the Endangered Species Act is up to the task of confronting climate change?

Well, I thought Wagner’s piece was pretty dumb, frankly. It kind of missed the boat on the whole thing. Did Wagner bother to interview anyone who had ever used the Endangered Species Act? He interviewed all people who did not actually litigate the Endangered Species Act. Very odd strategy for an article about the Endangered Species Act.

The environmental movement starts from the position of weakness and then it lacks a bright line, so it doesn’t know when it’s time to walk away from the table.

… There’s two points about the value of the Endangered Species Act in climate change. The first is a broad one that is really important – which is that every major environmental issue in this country has always been solved by a web of multiple laws and policies coming together to solve the problem. For example, overhunting was a very big issue in the US. We didn’t solve that by coming up with one national hunting law. We have several federal laws regulating hunting and importation of animals, and then we got multiple state laws governing them, and those all come together to create the solution. And today, hunting is not a major threat to endangered species anymore in America. Or take pesticides. We don’t have one law that says, here’s what you can do with pesticides. We’ve got many laws that deal with it at different levels, from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, FIFRA, various state laws, and these all come together. If you go down the line – mining, logging, overfishing, whatever it is – there’s no silver bullet. You always have a repertory of laws coming together. So the critique that Wagner has, which I’ve seen elsewhere, is that the Endangered Species Act all by itself can’t stop climate change. Well no shit, dummy. Who ever said it would? It’s a ridiculous argument. It’s a total straw man argument. Turns out nobody believes or asserts the position that Wagner has effectively refuted. So what was the point of that, exactly?

So with climate change, for example, the center is working on the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, and a whole bunch of lesser-known laws. The Endangered Species Act is one piece in the puzzle, and nobody has any expectation that it will all-by-itself solve climate change. That’s actually the major flaw of that article. It just misses the actual way that environmental issues are dealt with by acts and agencies in this country, and consequently it builds up a straw man and then knocks it down.

Then secondly, in terms of what Fish and Wildlife can do under climate change, it already is doing some of the things that Wagner says are impossible. For example, it already is looking at greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and its impact on endangered species at far distances. Turns out the agency is capable of doing it, actually is doing it, and Wagner is just apparently ignorant that it’s actually already happening.

… The point here being: there’s lots of actions that the Fish and Wildlife Service can and already is taking under the Endangered Species Act to help species survive global warming. It’s just sort of silly to say it’s not happening. It’s sillier to say it can’t happen. And it’s just foolish not to see how the Endangered Species Act operates in a greater context of many laws and policies all bearing down on this issue from various angles. That’s where your solution comes from – is from that whole web of activity.

Well, I guess we’ll use that as a detailed letter to the editor in our next issue.


Jason Mark is the editor of Earth Island Journal.



Nobel Laureates join the ranks against Keystone XL


Nobel Laureates join the ranks against Keystone XL


Posted 07 September 2011, by ,Grace Scott The Hook (The Tyee),



A group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates has written a letter urging the Obama administration to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the latest in a string of protests aimed at stopping the construction of the oil pipeline that would stretch from Alberta to Texas, which activists and scientists are saying could have dire environmental effects.

Nine laureates, including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, signed the letter released today by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which comes days after a two-week stint of public protests against the construction of the pipeline occurred outside the White House.

More than 1,250 were arrested between August 20 and September 3 as demonstrators called on U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, initiated by TransCanada, which would create a 3,200-kilometre-long pipeline carrying 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day from northern Alberta tar sands to Texas refineries.

The letter released today addressed Obama directly; “(We) ask you to do the right thing for our environment and reject the proposal to build the Keystone XL…”

The Tyee has been following the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which has fostered a complicated debate between environmentalists, scientists, the oil industry, and the Obama government, who will be making a final decision on whether or not to give the pipeline the go-ahead in November.

Today’s letter voiced concerns about the environmental destruction the pipeline could cause along its path. “All along its prospective route, the pipeline endangers farms, wildlife and precious water aquifers — including the Ogallala Aquifer, the U.S.’s main source of freshwater for America’s heartland.”

The Canadian Press reported in late July, “A recent independent study by a University of Nebraska water resources engineer suggested that Calgary-based TransCanada has underestimated the number and volume of leaks that could occur along the pipeline and had not fully assessed the impact of spills on water supplies in the U.S. heartland.”

However, the U.S. State Department released a final environmental impact study a little over a week ago, stating that the Keystone XL pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment its route traverses.

In an interview with the Canadian Press published today, Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said he hopes that facts determine President Obama’s decision — not politics. “The pipeline’s proponents, (Doer) added, are hoping politics don’t come into play as U.S. President Barack Obama embarks on a re-election campaign that aims to vilify congressional Republicans.”

Grace Scott is completing her practicum at The Tyee.