water leak

Bringing Reality to the Climate Change Table

water leakSeveral years ago, I had the privilege to volunteer with the US National Park Service (NPS). At the time, I was working with the US Forest Service(USFS). Both my volunteer work and actual work focused on restoration.

While they may seem similar, the missions of the two agencies differ. The NPS’s mission is one of preservation. Their mission states:

“. . .purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The USFS’s mission, on the other hand, contrasts the other agency’s mission on one key point.

“Our mission, as set forth by law, is to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple-use management concept to meet the diverse needs of people.”

It’s that bit about multiple-use. And it is an important one. I believe it’s a guide to dealing with climate change.

The Triple Bottom Line

While not stating it overtly, the USFS operates with a triple bottom line approach (TBL). Coined by John Elkington, TBL is an accounting framework that recognizes not only the financial, but also the social and ecological measures.

Back in the day, conservation used to embrace more of the preservation aspect. Forget the people; limit their access. (Definitely sounds like the NPS.) And for a while, it worked. Lots of restoration and preservation moved forward. We cleaned up the streams and the air.

Unfortunately, some of the dialogue on climate change has taken up that charge, with a little twist added. The limit exists but as a control or regulation. That’s not always a bad thing. It does take a sharp downturn though if it ignores the financial and social factors.

It’s the Reality

The push toward doing something about climate change often ignores the social and financial factors. It’s one thing to say that we’ll cut emissions or increase our use of renewable energy. It’s another thing to implement them.

The global economy has stumbled. We have aging infrastructure—just ask California about its water situation. Hell, the water infrastructure in my neighborhood is showing signs of wear. City workers are repairing a water main leak down the road as I write this.

Renewable energy still has some significant hurdles to overcome. And it’s not a nationwide solution. The resources are better suited in some areas versus others. Then, there’s that bit about the infrastructure and billions and billions and billions of dollars.

Considering the Social Side

No matter what the cause, dissension will always exist. However, since climate change now wears a robe of ideology, it makes no sense to ignore the dissension. If governments want to make drastic changes to our quality of life, we better damn well have a say in the matter.

Climate change demands a rational approach. The only way to have a meaningful dialogue about it is to consider the triple bottom line. A solution doesn’t have to ignore social or financial constraints. Rather, it must work with them for solutions that everyone can live with.

http://exploring.weborglodge.com/By Chris DR
photo credit: BerwickDam01 via photopin (license)

Green Roofs, a Top-Notch Solution

If you live in an urban area, chances are you are familiar with the heat island effect. Ambient temperatures in the city often hover up to 6 degrees higher than in rural areas, especially during the summer. Dark-colored roads and roofs absorb more heat from sunlight, making you feel more uncomfortable. One effective solution for making summers in the city more bearable are green roofs.

What Are Green Roofs?

Just as the name implies, green roofs replace asphalt either partially or completely by all things green. It could be a garden for food or one for show. The vegetation helps lower the ambient temperature by absorbing less heat. As you can imagine, a large group of these roofs in a city can counter the heat island effect and make things much more pleasant–and attractive.

Benefits of a Green Roof

Lower temperatures are not the only benefit. The plants can reduce runoff by absorbing storm waters. The runoff that falls from your roof is cleaner because of the filtering action of the plants and soil. The vegetation can also reduce cooling in the winter by acting as insulation and helping you save on energy costs year round.

But, wait, there’s more. A green roof gives you added garden space to grow fruits and vegetables to save money on your grocery bill. You could also make it a green sanctuary with an array of colorful plants and flowers. You might even consider choosing plants to create habitat for birds and butterflies.

A green roof has the other advantage of being an option if solar panels are not practical in your area. As the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows, some areas are better suited for solar cells than others. A green roof offers an eco-friendly solution if solar power isn’t a viable solution in your area.

The Bigger Picture

Green roofs are an important part of the bigger solution. The heat island effect carries large environmental costs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains that it can increase air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Green roofs, therefore, are a good environmental choice that benefits the entire community.

In fact, they have received a great deal of attention because of these benefits. The French Parliament recently passed a law stating that all new commercial buildings must install a green roof or solar panels. And New York City’s CoolRoofs program is trying a similar approach with white roofs instead of the traditional asphalt. Either way, it pays to start at the top.

A green roof offers an environmentally-friendly choice that can help you save on energy costs while making your neighborhood a little more beautiful with some attractive plants. It’s a good way to do your part to reduce the effects of climate change.

This is a good quality article.

References:

Digital Journal
http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/france-new-rooftops-must-be-covered-in-plants-or-solar-panels/article/428773
Eureka Alert
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/nsfc-bit030712.php

National Renewable Energy Laboratory
http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.epa.gov/hiri/