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By Meagan Knowlton

It only takes five second to produce a plastic spoon. It takes 500 years for that spoon to break down.

That disparity is one of the many reasons we all need to take action to reduce the impact of our waste on the environment. One way to do that is to clean up trash already littering our natural spaces.

I recently attended the International Coastal Cleanup day hosted by the Ocean Conservancy (OC) at Kingman Island here in D.C. – a man-made island in the Anacostia River filled with early fall greenery and chirping insects.

I met up with two other women working in environmental jobs here in D.C. After enjoying catching up and finding delicious cold brew, we heard from several speakers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and OC, as well as the ambassador from the European Union, who talked about how important it is to keep our oceans and waterways healthy and trash-free.

The crowd of volunteers ready to scour Kingman Island for trash.

A beautiful day for cleaning up trash along the Anacostia River.

After the welcoming speeches, we got to work but first we had to find a good spot to find trash. The popular areas of the island were already very clean– the Living Classrooms Foundation, which manages the island, does a great job keeping the trails free of trash. However, when we passed below overpasses and bridges, we found cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers, and beverage bottles, which, according to NOAA, commonly end up in our oceans.

Volunteers pick up trash below a bridge on Kingman Island.

Finding trash treasure troves required digging into the marshy areas of Kingman Island. Once we crawled under cattails and other tall vegetation, we found great piles of trash — most of it plastic, particularly plastic bottles of all kinds, and sports balls. The three of us ended up with two soccer balls, one basketball, one tennis ball, and one football. For all the times you lost a ball as a kid and wondered where it went, we found your answer: It went downhill until it reached your local waterway.

We aren’t afraid to get a little muddy in the name of cleaning up our waterways!

At the end of the day, OC tallied up our total results and announced that 1,153 volunteers had collected 6,365 pounds of trash. We were proud that we beat last year’s haul of 5,000 pounds of trash!

Learn more about ocean trash, current efforts to solve the crisis, and what you can do to help here.

Meagan Knowlton manages sustainability programs at Optoro, a technology company that helps retail be more sustainable by eliminating waste from returns. Prior to Optoro, Meagan was a corporate sustainability manager in the Coca-Cola bottling system. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Tulane University. In her free time, Meagan can be found baking pie, escaping to the mountains, or exploring yoga studios in D.C.

 

 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Climate action must engage and benefit women and girls

As the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit gets underway today in New York, DC EcoWomen asked UN Women  to send us their thoughts about why it’s important to integrate gender equality into the fight against climate change. The following blog post by Ulrika Modéer, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, and Anita Bhatia, UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships, talks about the challenges and opportunities women and girls face because of climate change – and introduces a gender equality initiative that will be unveiled at Monday’s summit.

Climate action must engage and benefit women and girls

By Ulrika Modéer and Anita Bhatia

Photo: UN Women/Bundit Chotsuwan

Climate change is already altering the face of our planet. Research shows that we need to put all our efforts over the coming decade to limit warming to 1.5°C and mitigate the catastrophic risks posed by increased droughts, floods, and extreme weather events.

But our actions will not be effective if they do not include measures to ensure social justice, equality and a gender perspective. So, how do we integrate gender equality in climate change actions?

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on women

Climate change affects women and girls disproportionately due to existing gender inequalities. It also threatens to undermine socio-economic gains made over previous decades. With limited or no access to land and other resources including finance, technology and information, women and girls suffer more in the aftermath of natural disasters and bear increased burdens in domestic and care work.

Droughts, floods and deforestation all impact duties typically carried out by women and girls – such as water, firewood and fodder collection. These duties take more time or are thwarted in the face of these climate disasters, causing them to take up time that could have been used for education or leisure. For example, women and children accounted for more than 96% of those impacted by the flash floods in Solomon Islands in 2014 and in Myanmar, women accounted for 61% of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Despite challenges, women play a key role in climate-related sectors

Women and girls also remain marginalized in decision-making spheres — from the community level to parliaments to international climate negotiations. Global climate finance for mitigation and adaptation programs remain out of reach for women and girls because of their lack of knowledge and capacity to tap into these resources.

Despite these challenges, women and girls play a critical role in key climate-related sectors and have developed adaptation and resilience-building strategies and mitigation techniques. Women and girls are driving the demand for renewable energy at the household and community levels for lighting, cooking and productive use solutions that the international community must now support. Women are holders of traditional farming methods, first responders in crises situations, founders of cooperatives, entrepreneurs of green energy, scientists and inventors, and decision-makers with respect to the use of natural resources.

Women comprise an average of 43% of the agricultural work force in developing countries and manage 90% of all household water and fuel-wood needs in Africa. Some studies have shown that if women were afforded equal access to productive resources as men, their agricultural outputs would exceed men’s by 7-23%. It is therefore imperative to embrace and scale-up the initiatives of the 51% of the world’s population.

Women and girls lead in mitigation efforts

In recent times, women and girls have used their knowledge and experience to lead in mitigation efforts. From developing apps to track and reduce the carbon emitted as a result of individual consumption, to reducing food waste by connecting neighbors, cafes, and local shops to share leftover and unsold food. Young women scientists, like South-African teenager Kiara Nirghin, are making a difference in the fight against climate change. They are building on the legacies of women and girls such as Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who empowered communities to manage their natural resources in a sustainable way.

At the same time, UNDP and UN Women have been collaborating to advance gender equality and women’s leadership on climate change. For example, in Ecuador, the two UN agencies have teamed up with the government to support the inclusion of gender in the country’s climate action plans. UNDP and UN Women have also collaborated globally to ensure that gender remains a key factor when world leaders make critical decisions on climate change.

Engaging women will help limit warming

If policies and projects consider women’s particular roles, needs and contributions to climate action and support women’s empowerment, there will be a greater possibility to limit warming to 1.5°C in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must continue to engage women and women’s organizations, learning from their experiences on the ground to build the evidence for good practices and help replicate more inclusive climate actions.

The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, September 23 is a unique opportunity to elevate at the highest level the need for substantive participation of women and girls in efforts against climate change.

Gender equality initiative to be presented at UN Climate Action Summit

At the Summit, there will be several initiatives put forth to address climate change, including one focusing on gender equality. The initiative recognizes the differential impact of climate change on women and girls, and seeks support for their leadership as a way to make climate actions more effective. It calls for the rights, differentiated needs and contributions of women and girls to be integrated into all actions, including those related to climate finance, energy, industry and infrastructure. It promotes support for women and girls in developing innovative tools and participating in mitigation and adaptation efforts and calls for accountability by tracking and reporting progress towards achieving these goals.

For climate action to get more traction and be effective, we need a critical mass of governments and other stakeholders to sign on to the Climate Action Summit’s gender-specific initiative. The world cannot afford to keep limiting the potential of women and girls in shaping climate actions, as all evidence points towards the benefits of their involvement.

There is already interest by United Nations member states, as shown by the increased integration of gender considerations in their national climate plans, but a broader movement is needed. We need multi-stakeholder partnerships and to engage a critical mass of supporters – governments, UN entities, financial mechanisms, and civil society organizations to support the gender-specific initiative of the SG’s Climate Action Summit.

The time for gender-responsive climate action is now.

 

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Five Rewarding Jobs for Women in the Environmental Field

By Kyaira Ware, Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy

Working in the environmental field can be a fun, rewarding alternative to the traditional corporate-office position. Whether you’re looking to change careers or simply want to see what’s out there, scroll down to read about five rewarding jobs for women in the environmental field!

Community/Grassroots Organizer

If you can enjoy working one-on-one with communities, organizing events, and managing large groups of volunteers, community organizing might be a good fit for you. The entry to mid-level salary ranges from $38k-$55k, and usually comes with other perks such as less time in the office and more time leading events in the field. For this position, you’ll want to make sure you’re organized, can meet strict deadlines, and feel comfortable speaking to large groups.

Keywords for job search engines: community organizer, grassroots, volunteer management, coordinator

Social Media/Communications Strategist

Know your way around social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook? You just may have what it takes to become a Social Media Strategist. Though a relatively new job field, social media positions have become essential components to many organizations. Starting salaries in the non-profit sector range from $38k-$60k. Many employers will want to see prior experience writing a variety of blogs, social media posts, and other digital content, as well as the ability to think strategically about engaging audiences on social platforms.

Keywords for job search engines: social media, strategist, communications, digital, writer, journalist, Instagram, Facebook

Development/Operations Associate

Fundraising is an essential responsibility of most development positions. If you enjoy using your creativity to attract new donors, planning large-scaled events, and making relationships with important stakeholders, this might be the perfect fit for you. Entry to mid-level salaries range from $38k- $50k.  You’ll want to have solid writing skills, work well with deadlines, and enjoy engaging higher-up stakeholders.

Keywords for job search engines: development, operations, board, fundraising

Grant Writer

Similar to development positions, grant writers are responsible for increasing funding through timely, high quality grant submissions to family foundations and corporate companies. There is usually no prior experience required, however, you want to make sure you can write concise, narrative-like content with tight deadlines. The average salary for a non-profit grant writer is almost $46k/year.

Keywords for job search engines: grant writer, writer, development, operations, foundations

Start your own consulting business!

As a wise woman, and the author of this blog, once said, “The most rewarding job is one that allows you to work for yourself.” If you have any specific skill sets that could be useful to an organization, consider offering your services as an independent consultant. Typical services range from communications strategy to the development of diversity, equity, and inclusion plans. Consultants are usually seen as experts in their field and are often not treated as regular employees, meaning they set their own hours and rates. The average salary for established consultants with many clients range from $50k-$100k+.

Kyaira Ware is the current Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy. She is passionate about connecting urban communities to environmental sustainability and looks forward to the day when we can all agree that climate change is real.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on A Note on 2019-2020 Leadership Transition

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

It is with gratitude and every other kind of emotion that I reach out to you as I conclude my board service with the District Chapter of Ecowomen. In the six or so years since I returned to Washington D.C. to pursue another chapter of my career, to marry, and make friends in a new city I have been rewarded. I have taken part in so many great conversations with leaders across the field, enjoyed opportunities to grow my leadership in ways that no single job could offer, and have helped to guide the evolution of our “moose lodge for women” where we have explored ideas for how working life balance may be made to meet the needs of modernity. And I have blogged about so much of it.

In my board service terms’, I have been fortunate to have worn a few hats. As a member of the professional development team, I supported two years of Ecohours, Mentor Dinners, and special programs that are a part of the forty program offerings each year put on by your chapter of volunteer board members. Next, I held the position of vice president of professional development where I focused on revamping the organization’s signature salon and monthly educational forum—Ecohour. During my tenure the professional development team changed the format, of our salon, from  a lecture program to a fireside chat style and worked hard to add some humor, accessibility and humanity to the offering. In those years, I thoroughly enjoyed the twenty or so Ecohours where I engaged in one hundred eighty hours of preparation for twenty hours of interviews, dialogue and discussion with women who are reshaping the world of work for women in the environment in the District.

In the last two years, April Martin and I joined forces to lead our chapter as a co-chairs. This was an intervention to the tradition of one woman as a single source of leadership and guidance as an experiment in governance based on our experiences in the chapter. I can say without hesitation that it has been a sincere pleasure to try on each of these roles and to continue to advance my personal mission and life work in this space—the meaningful engagement of women in the environment across, race, class and ability as partners, champions and principals.

Our work at Ecowomen has resulted in the intentional inclusion of black, indigenous, and women of color who have been thought leaders in environment and conservation, non-governmental organizations, federal agencies and start-ups. In my oversight of the salon we set goals for and provided real time demonstrations of the ways that the work of black, indigenous and all women of color is always present. And with intention provided a space to reflect with agents of change, in a public dialogue on the many ways our shared work has been made invisible as the status quo.

If I could do anything differently, I might have tried to organize a space where our community could more explicitly examine the role of a feminist practice in our work; and programmed for reflections on the ways that racialized dynamics are heightened amongst women who should be allies and often don’t quite make it. As I leave the chapter, but not this deeper work and conversation, I look forward to seeing what the new leaders, the board members, President and what each of you bring to this discussion and to our shared goals to create an equitable and healthy society where we live, work, and exist as Ecowomen.

Thank you for taking the time to connect over the last six years, to add your energy and talents to the building and rebuilding of this community. Thank you to the women on the board from 2013 to the present day who work consistently and constantly to make Ecowomen a space where good things are made to happen for and with women.

As I leave the District chapter, I have been thinking a lot about the dormant Baltimore City chapter and what I might bring to it as I make my home there. In the meantime, I will continue in my day job as the North America Director at 350.org and hope to see you in it  as Ecowomen and as fellow humans in adult and aging ally response to the youth call for climate action on September 20-27, 2019. It looks to be the largest global climate mobilization to date and will be followed by a week of action that will only strengthen the work of our lives to protect people and planet.

Feel free to reach out to me directly If you ever want to talk. And do sign up today to get involved in the climate mobilization which is already supported by partners including the Women’s March and 500 women in Science among others.

Fondly,

Tamara  Toles O’Laughlin

@Tamaraity

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mosquito Misconceptions and Protecting Yourself from DC’s Skeeter Scourge

By Mayda Nathan, insect ecologist

DC’s mosquitoes are enough to drive a person crazy. Abundant and stealthy, they make enjoying the DC summertime a real challenge, and they can transmit some nasty diseases, to boot. But they’re a natural part of this swampy environment, probably playing some underappreciated but pivotal ecological role, so we should accept their annoying presence at our barbeques and in our gardens…right? Wrong.

As an insect ecologist, I have a dark fascination with these maddening fellow residents of our city. Over the years that I’ve lived here, I’ve read about our mosquitoes, talked to experts, and participated in a local monitoring program. I’ve run into many misconceptions about who these critters are, what they’re doing here, and the ways we can protect ourselves and stay sane during the summer months.

Misconception #1: There’s just one kind of mosquito in this region.

In North America, we have about 200 species of mosquito. A very small fraction of those bite humans (and, of those that do, it’s only the females who do the biting). There are 30+ different species of “DC mosquitoes.” They all depend on standing water to reproduce, but the type of water they want varies – for some species, only saltmarshes will do, while others insist on ephemeral pools in woodsy settings. Some species prefer the sorts of little pools of water that us humans are great at (unintentionally) providing, like in the form of abandoned tires and clogged gutters. Those are the species we tend to encounter most often in our neighborhoods.

Misconception #2: Mosquitoes are a natural part of this region’s ecosystems.

Yes, there are native mosquitoes here, but most mosquitoes in your DC yard are relative newcomers to the regional ecosystem. The most abundant, irritating mosquitoes in DC neighborhoods are of one species: Aedes albopictus, AKA the Asian tiger mosquito. As its name implies, this species is not from around here. Accidentally imported to North America sometime in the 1980s, the Asian tiger mosquito has taken a liking to its new digs and is now found throughout eastern North America, even becoming the most abundant mosquito in some cities.

We also have several non-native Culex mosquitoes in our midst (though they don’t seem to reach the same aggravating densities as the Asian tiger). Additionally, we have a new arrival. In 2011, Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, was discovered in Capitol Hill.

Misconception #3: Bats and other predators in DC depend on mosquitoes for food.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could conscript our bat, bird, and spider friends to wage war on mosquitoes, on our behalf? Alas, while this may be true in wetlands and boreal zones, there is very little support for this idea in urban settings.

Bats in the DC area, for example, are almost certainly not mosquito-eating machines, hoovering up thousands of mosquitoes every night. For one, the Asian tiger mosquito is a day-flier, so its odds of encountering bats are low. Secondly, our bats probably focus their efforts on more rewarding insect prey; mosquitoes are like flying celery sticks, compared to the winged cheesesteaks that are moths and katydids. This is likely the case for many predators in our region; they will eat a mosquito but would probably rather eat something else.

Misconception #4: There’s no environmentally friendly way to control mosquitoes.

I get it – some of our past efforts to control mosquitoes, in the form of large-scale wetland drainage and DDT spraying, had environmental repercussions that are haunting us still. But there are quite a few things you and your neighbors can do to keep from getting bitten, and even to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your house, that have minimal impact on other species.

Defense tip 1: Protect your skin.

There’s an endless array of products that claim to repel mosquitoes, but only a very small number have repeatedly been shown to be effective. I’m only advocating for products that have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. The consistent winner is DEET, followed closely by picaridin (a synthetic version of a molecule found in pepper plants). Oil of lemon eucalyptus has been shown to be effective, but it must be re-applied more frequently than DEET (every 6 hrs v. every 10 for DEET). Also, throw out your citronella sprays and candles. That stuff’s useless.

Defense tip 2: Stagnant water is the enemy.

Start by removing ALL standing water around your house – what the pros refer to as “tip-‘n-toss.” Asian tiger mosquitoes can breed in amazingly small quantities of water, so no potential container should go overlooked. In my neighborhood, some common sources are:

  • Planter saucers.
  • Backed-up gutters.
  • Trash and recycling cans with broken or missing lids; submit a request through DC 311 to have yours fixed/replaced, and in the meantime, drill a small hole in the bottom.
  • Those accordion-style gutter extenders that direct water away from a house; pop a nylon knee-high over the end to keep the mosquitoes from going inside.
  • In-ground drain lines; secure a piece of window screening over the opening to keep mosquitoes out.

If your yard has a fountain or something similar that you can’t empty, pick up some mosquitofish (Amazon will ship you live ones!) or Bti dunks or Bti bits. These latter products contain a strain of bacteria that are toxic to mosquitoes and a few close fly relatives, but are harmless to everyone else – you, your dog, birds, bees, butterflies, etc.

Defense tip 3: Go on the offensive – but spray only if you must.

If removing standing water and using an effective repellent don’t keep the mosquitoes at bay, you still have a few options – from the passive to the nuclear.

  • Gravid Aedes Traps, or GATs. These nifty contraptions use water to lure in female mosquitoes who are looking for a spot to lay their eggs. There’s a big caveat: the traps are only effective if most contiguous neighbors deploy them. It won’t hurt if you’re the only one on your block who has GATs in your yard, but it won’t help much, either. On the plus side, areas with more than 80 percent of households using GATs have seen remarkable declines in mosquito numbers.
  • Some commercial spraying companies offer “natural,” “garlic-based” alternative to insecticides. This product doesn’t kill mosquitoes; it merely repels them. Online reviews are positive. But it is pricey and needs to be applied frequently.
  • Commercial spraying operations – the nuclear option. If you’re pregnant or expect to become pregnant, or have an infant or someone else in your household who’s immunocompromised – that is, if someone in your home is particularly at risk from mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus or Zika – then you might want to consider this option. It works, but it works because it’s a serious pesticide being applied to the vegetation and foundation around your house.

* In order to preserve insect biodiversity, consider making commercial insecticide treatment of your property a last-choice option. The treatment often involves pyrethroids – a group of compounds that are generally safe for mammals and birds (yay), and that don’t stick around long in the environment (yay), but that are highly toxic to a broad swath of insects (boo). For effective mosquito-killing power, pyrethroids are sort of the least-bad option, but using them will wipe out a lot of the wonderful, harmless insect biodiversity you might otherwise get to experience in your yard.

Go forth, armed with mosquito knowledge, to enjoy your porch beers, barbecues, and backyard play dates. Hopefully this information will help keep you sane and healthy all summer long.

Mayda Nathan is completing her PhD at the University of Maryland, where she studies insect ecology. She has lived in Washington, DC for ten years, and loves the city – mosquitoes and all.

 

 

 

 

Photo 1: Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito – frequent crasher of DC picnics, barbeques, and gardening sessions. Photo credit: James Gathany, CDC. Photo is in the public domain.
Photo 2: Species like the little brown bat will eat mosquitoes, but they don’t eat them exclusively, and they’re unlikely to encounter the day-flying mosquitoes that plague DC yards and parks. Photo credit: “Healthy little brown bat” by Ann Froschauer, USFWS, CC BY 2.0.
Photo 3: Citronella candles have been shown to be totally ineffective at repelling mosquitoes. Don’t waste your money; buy some DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, instead. Photo credit: “Citronella Kerzen” by Joho345 CC BY 4.0.
Photo 4: Clogged gutters: a common mosquito breeding site in cities like DC. Photo credit: “Gutter clog” by Eric Schmuttenmaer CC BY-SA 2.0

posted by | on , | Comments Off on Ecotourism: Good or Bad?

By Artisha Naidu, Research and Content Fellow at Environic Foundation International

With warmer the weather here, many people are yearning for a much-needed vacation. While expenses are usually top of mind when planning a trip, environmental costs should also be a factor. Mass tourism is responsible for about five percent of global carbon pollution (UNWTO) and strains the supply of natural resource in areas dealing with resource scarcity issues.

The International Ecotourism Society’s sustainable solution to the mass tourism problem is ecotourism. They define ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”

Some of the key principles include:

  • Minimize environmental, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
  • Bolster environmental and cultural respect.
  • Financially benefit conservation efforts.
  • Financially benefit the local economy.
  • Raise cultural and environmental awareness about communities.

Putting these principles in practice, however, can have some good and bad effects.

The Good

Ecotourism benefits the local ecology through education. Visitors learn about conservation efforts in fragile natural areas and encounter wildlife preservation efforts. They are also encouraged to use less and reuse their goods such as showering less to conserve water, turning off lights to reduce energy consumption, or eating plant-based meals.

Additionally, ecotourism benefits impoverished countries with historically low travel rates left relatively untouched by humans, sparing further destruction of more popular tourist destinations. Tourists are encouraged to immerse themselves in the local culture and tradition, attending cultural events and purchasing local goods, which creates jobs for the community.

The Bad

Without proper planning, ecotourism can have a negative impact. Ecotourism can lead to commercial developments, including the dark practices of turning naturally pristine areas into natural parks (additional info here) and displacing local communities to make room for more tourist attractions. Most importantly, additional travel and activity can further harm sensitive areas.

Meanwhile, as local economies become increasingly dependent on tourism, cultural expression can be strained, when people feel pressured to showcase the part of their culture that brings in profits.

And Better

Whether ecotourism does more good than bad depends on you. By taking some of these steps to travel more responsibly, you can be a better ecotourist:

  • Pick an ecotourist destination – listed here
  • Pack light – less laundry means less water and less weight on the plane
  • Leave your pet at home – carbon paw prints also stain our enviornment
  • Fly nonstop – a direct flight emits less carbon
  • Purchase carbon offsets – some airlines offer programs
  • Ride public transportation – better yet, walk or ride a bike
  • Buy local – reducing the carbon costs along the supply chain and avoid sweat shop labor
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle – take shorter showers, use less hotel goods, bottles, and bags
  • Use a “do not disturb” sign so that your room is not cleaned everyday
  • Turn off lights when leaving a room
  • Return paper programs such as maps and brochures

Artisha Naidu is a Master of Public Administration at the George Washington University. She is currently a Research and Content Fellow at Environic Foundation International and Summer Associate at Deloitte Consulting. Previously, Artisha worked for a number of urban planning agencies in California, including the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. She has a Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Development from the University of California, Davis. Her hobbies include yoga, working with children, traveling, and hiking.   

Photo Credits: Joyce Hong CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, F Delventhal CC BY 2.0, pmonaghan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Artisha Naidu

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Cyclist, Pedestrian Safety: D.C. Can Learn from Other Cities

By Delger Erdenesanaa, DC EcoWomen member

Once a week in April and May, rather than taking the Metro to work, I rode my bike from Takoma to Union Station. My office was promoting a “Zero-Carbon Commute Challenge,” and two women in my neighborhood showed me the route. I was grateful.

The seven-mile trek over roads with cars, unprotected bike lanes, sidewalks and one short segment of bike trail was a lot for me. Hence, only once a week.

But distance wasn’t the real issue. The problem was safety.

Shortly into this routine, during a single weekend, cars hit and killed two people in D.C. Dave Salovesh was hit while riding his bike on Florida Avenue NE. Abdul Seck was hit while walking on the sidewalk on 16th Street SE. And a couple of weeks later, another pedestrian, Josh Williams, was killed on Southern Avenue SE.

Like many others, I wondered what it would take to change. The D.C. government has a road safety strategy. So do other cities, many of them part of the international “Vision Zero” movement, started in Sweden in 1995. I wondered if these cities were tackling the same problems, and if D.C. could learn from its peers.

Is It Possible to Reach Zero Road Deaths?

Mayor Bowser has committed to reaching zero road fatalities by 2024. Her Vision Zero is broad, calling for measures like:

  • A comprehensive “complete streets” law, which led to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016
  • Starting this year, banning right turns on red lights at 100 priority intersections
  • Doubling the city’s mileage of protected bike lanes from 10 to 20
  • Filling gaps between sidewalks (the city filled more than 100 blocks of missing sidewalk since 2015)

D.C. is making progress, but it still has a way to go. In 2018, drivers killed 14 pedestrians, three cyclists and one person on an electric scooter. Advocates are pushing for urgent action.

Road Safety Lessons from Around the World

To find out more about other cities’ efforts, I reached out to my colleague Anna Bray Sharpin at World Resources Institute, which has a research program on urban mobility.

Sharpin mentioned that Auckland, New Zealand faced similar challenges to D.C. In Auckland, a city of 1.66 million with a fairly robust collection of local bike paths, getting from one path to another was tricky. That’s why, four years ago, the city began a massive effort to connect residential areas to downtown Auckland—all with “cycleways” that are protected from cars by physical barriers.

The recent Bicycle Architecture Biennale highlighted one section of the cycleway. Auckland converted a highway ramp into an eye-popping pink bike trail, which allows cyclists and pedestrians to cross busy roads safely. Sign me up for a brightly colored bicycle skyway across North Capitol Street!

While Auckland isn’t officially part of the Vision Zero network, New Zealand as a country is set to adopt a Vision Zero strategy in 2020.

Anna also pointed to London. In ten years, London reduced traffic deaths by 45 percent. How? Stricter speed limits played a huge role. Research shows that every 1 percent reduction in road speed reduces fatal crashes by 4 percent.

London is also one of a few cities that charge drivers to enter the city center. Taking cars off the streets might be the most effective strategy of all. In the first year of congestion charging, 30 percent fewer private cars entered the affected zone. At the same time, the city ran more public buses, and invested in bicycle infrastructure. This integrated approach has increased bicycle trips in London 135 percent since 2000.

What about the U.S.? Cambridge, MA recently passed a law to install bike lanes—protected ones at that—much more systematically. Cambridge already had a Bicycle Plan proposing a 20-mile network of protected bike lanes. The new law requires any reconstruction on roads identified in this plan to include installing those bike lanes, permanently.

A Path Forward for D.C.

Residents criticize the D.C. government for studying changes to dangerous roads for years without acting. Councilmember Mary Cheh’s recently introduced bike lane bill, mirroring the one in Cambridge, could help.

Charles Allen introduced a comprehensive bill that would give our Vision Zero more legal teeth, and make safer designs the default. For example, developers would face stricter requirements for crosswalks, bike lanes and stopping areas for rideshares and deliveries. Four-way stops would be the starting point for intersections of two-way streets in residential neighborhoods.

The Council is reviewing both bills. As members deliberate, they should look to cities like London and Auckland for the benefits of an inclusive transportation policy.

Delger Erdenesanaa is a DC EcoWomen member and communications specialist at World Resources Institute. She studied earth & ocean science in school, and can now be found thinking about how the global issues she works on 9-5 also impact DC and her personal life 24/7! 

Photo Credits: Geoff Alexander CC BY 2.0, Daniel Lobo CC BY 2.0, Schwede66 CC BY-SA 4.0, La Citta Vita CC BY-SA 2.0, Ted Eytan CC BY-SA 2.0

 

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on How to Keep Inspiring Change for the Environment – Both Locally and Worldwide

By Tara Lundy, DC EcoWomen member

We all know how important the health of our planet has become. Each year, startling statistics are coming out about the rise of ocean levels, the amount of pollution and number of animals suffering from climate change. With the Earth needing us to be on its side more than ever, it’s so important to keep inspiring others to get involved. It can be easy for us to get caught up in our own worlds but helping to make a difference in our Earth’s health should continue to be a top priority.

Use Social Media for Good

There’s no doubt that social media has its fair share of good and bad, but when using social media to inspire change, it can be an amazing tool. Simply retweeting a tweet or using the right hashtag can yield extraordinary results and help make a difference. If there’s an eco-friendly campaign going on that you feel passionate about, don’t be afraid to share the information with your own followers. Not only will this help reach people around your community, but it could reach your other followers who may live in different areas. If you want to learn more about how you can continue to help, simply searching a hashtag such as #Gogreen or #Zerowaste can give you ideas and inspiration for living a greener lifestyle.

Encourage Others to Invest in Healthier Options 

One of the biggest ways that you can help make change happen is by inspiring change with your peers. By no means does this mean you have to preach your viewpoints on others, but if you feel like a close friend or family member is interested in helping the environment, don’t be afraid to give them some helpful advice. The best pieces of advice to give are the ones that can be easily applied. Being sustainable is something that you can gradually apply within your lifestyle. Buying locally is also an easy suggestion, especially with farmers markets about to be in full force come peak crop season. Buy from companies that share an eco-friendly mission. Simply supporting a company who specializes in making eco-friendly hair color is enough to help make a meaningful difference. You’ll find through your search that these kinds of companies come in all forms, from clothing brands to food companies to cleaning products.

Keep the Education Going

Knowledge is key. With changes constantly occurring, we have to stay mindful of what’s continuing to go on in the world. While you may find yourself completely up to date, others may not. There are ways that we can continue to educate others that can be inclusive but also fun. One of the easiest ways is through a continuous cycle of sharing important information such as articles and videos on your social media channels. Since our younger years are our most formative ones, it’s important that our children grow up with knowledge of what’s currently happening with the environment. We can continue to help bring environmental awareness to our future leaders through environmental educational books and TV shows.

If you’re looking for more interactive environmental activities, a great idea is to take people to the zoo. This will give you a chance to take in some beautiful animals and absorb information on how these animals need a healthy amount of biodiversity to continue thriving.

Continue to Help Single-Handedly 

At the end of the day, the person who can be held most accountable is you. While encouraging others to get involved is always a wonderful idea, the person who can most easily help to make a difference is yourself. Continue to make eco-friendly lifestyle choices such as picking up a piece of trash on the side of the road or drinking out of a reusable water bottle. No matter how small these actions may seem initially, doing things like this in your daily life can be enough to help make a change and inspire the people around you to make eco-friendly decisions as well.

No matter what eco-friendly lifestyle choices you make, continuing to fight for the environment is the greatest way to keep inspiring change and make a meaningful difference. Let us know how you continue to inspire change for the environment in your comments below!

Tara is a DC EcoWomen member who is a Colorado native. She is passionate about fighting for for the environment along with animal rights. When she’s not writing, she’s taking her dogs for hikes and visiting the local aquarium.

Photo 1 by Ross Findon on Unsplash; Photo 2 by William Iven on Unsplash; Photo 3 by Brooke Lark on Unsplash; Photo 4 by Ben White on Unsplash; Photo 5 by Pawe? Czerwi?ski on Unsplash

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By Charlotte Runzel, DC EcoWomen member

We’ve come a long way in the ocean conservation movement. While there’s still an enormous amount of work to be done, women have paved the way forward and challenged the movement for the better. This list includes women who have studied the marine environment in depth and now lead outreach and communications efforts to promote science, advocacy, and activism in a strategic and inclusive way.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

“The ocean is indeed in deep, deep trouble due to overfishing, climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction, and good science is needed to turn that around. This science doesn’t need to be fancy, expensive, or complicated. Rather, it needs to be thoughtful, targeted, and inclusive.” – Dr. Johnson

Dr. Johnson challenges the way we think about ocean conservation. She’s intermingling equity, diversity, and inclusion with powerful new ideas that bring people together to save the planet. She is innovative, thoughtful, intelligent and the person we need to overcome obstacles in the ocean and our climate.

Her resume includes helping islands Barbuda, Montserrat, and Curaçao regulate and protect their coastal waters and save coral reefs in the Caribbean. She studied environmental science and public policy at Harvard and received her PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She worked at the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was the executive director of the Waitt Institute, and founded the Blue Halo Initiative.

She currently has her own consulting firm, OceanCollectiv, which creates and amplifies solutions for a healthy ocean. She is a New York University professor. In addition to her wide expertise in ocean conservation, Dr. Johnson advocates for social justice in the environmental movement.

Read more by Dr. Johnson: New York Times, The Hill, Scientific American

Dr. Nancy Knowlton

“We are literally playing Russian roulette with the planet, so in my field at least, it is not enough to just ‘do science.'” – Nancy Knowlton

Dr. Knowlton works to re-calibrate environmental media to spread #OceanOptimism. She aims to inspire people to take action by using positive rhetoric; instead of the “doom and gloom” that is plaguing media. She’s confronting the way the media covers environmental journalism because people are more likely to take action if they are motivated by positive messaging.

Dr. Knowlton has dedicated her life to studying marine diversity and coral reefs. She has a B.S. from Harvard and a PhD from UC Berkeley. Through her research, Dr. Knowlton uncovered the connection between ocean warming and coral bleaching. She was a professor at Yale University, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At Scripps, she founded the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation.

She is currently the Marine Sant Chair at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where she works to combine research and outreach.

Read more by Dr. Knowlton: Smithsonian Magazine, The Solutions Journal, Seven Seas Media  

Dr. Sylvia Earle

“It’s the ignorance that most people have about why the ocean matters to them. Who cares if the ocean dries up tomorrow? The ocean should and does matter to everyone. Even the people who have never seen the ocean are touched by the ocean with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink.” – Sylvia Earle

Dr. Earle broke down gender stereotypes in the science field. Though extremely overqualified, she was rejected from the Tektite project, a government-funded study that housed scientists on the ocean floor as part of a deep-sea research program. The organizers could not fathom the idea of women and men living together underwater. Instead of giving up, she led Tektite II Mission 6, an all-female led research expedition that added onto the work of the first Tektite project. She is also the first female Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

Her education and experience include a bachelor’s from Florida State University, and a master’s and doctorate degree from Duke university. Her dissertation was one of the first robust descriptions of underwater plant life. She was a research fellow at Harvard, directed the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in Florida, participated in various scientific missions to understand undiscovered areas of the ocean, and was the first person to walk untethered on the seafloor 1,250 feet below the surface.

Dr. Earle is currently a National Geographic explorer, leads Mission Blue, a nonprofit aimed to inspire action to explore and protect the ocean, and is working to establish a global network of marine protected areas, or “hope spots.”

Read more by Dr. Earle: National Geographic, Huffington Post, New York Times  

If you know a women working to save the ocean, comment below!

Charlotte Runzel is a policy associate at the National Audubon Society in Washington, where she analyzes and promotes marine policy. Prior to working at Audubon, she majored in Marine Science and minored in Conservation Resource Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. As an undergraduate, she interned at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and  the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, performed her own climate change research on marine sponges in French Polynesia, worked as a lab and field assistant in UC Berkeley’s marine biomechanics lab, and directed a non-profit organization.

Photo Credits: TED Conference/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0; Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife/Flickr CC BY 2.0

 

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By Julia Goss, DC EcoWomen board member

Sitting in a brightly lit conference room amid other professionals in the ocean conservation field, the speaker for our communications training presented the research. “The data shows 83 percent of people polled favor strengthening efforts to protect the ocean” he stated.

Finding something people can agree on is, sadly, almost impossible these days. I left the training feeling a little bit lighter and motivated to continue advocating on behalf of our ocean habitats and marine wildlife. That was, until I checked Twitter a couple of hours later and saw the hashtag #IPBES, which stands for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The United Nations convened 145 expert authors from 50 countries, who then conducted a review of about 15,000 sources to analyze the state of the planet’s biodiversity. The report found that one million species are at risk of extinction.

ONE MILLION!

 

Marine Biodiversity

Our planet is home to at least 8.7 million species – together this biodiversity provides the foundation for the oxygen we breathe, clean water we drink, and sources of nutrients that sustain us.

While the ecosystems on land do not fare any better, with World Oceans Day approaching on June 8, for now I’ll focus on these underwater ecosystems. The report found that two-thirds of these ecosystems have been “severely altered to date by human actions.”

Industrial fishing now covers 55 percent of the ocean – methods such as trawling, longlining, and gillnetting overfish vulnerable species and indiscriminately kill wildlife such as whales, dolphins, sea birds, and sharks. More than half of the world’s coral reefs have died since the 1870s. Runoff of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous have caused algal blooms, which starve the waters of oxygen, creating more than 400 dead zones, where almost no life can survive. The effects of climate change act as an umbrella over it all – melting ice, bleaching coral, and shifting species’ distribution.

Positive Change

While depressing, this exhaustive review of the world’s biodiversity, or lack thereof, ensures that we understand just exactly how much work needs to be done. The report concludes, “nature can be conserved, restored, and used sustainably…through urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change.”

It suggests actions and pathways for the major industries and issues affecting our planet such as agriculture, forestry, energy, finance, and marine and freshwater ecosystems. For example, the report highlights the importance of creating networks of marine protected areas, rebuilding overfished stocks through mechanisms such as targeted catch limits, eliminating harmful subsidies, reducing pollution, and incorporating climate impacts into fisheries management.

In October 2020, all signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity will meet for the 15th Conference of the Parties and are expected to adopt a new 10-year global biodiversity framework with goals and targets for ocean protection. Scientists, and now policy makers, are calling for 30 percent of the ocean to be protected by 2030 to restore fisheries, build resilience to climate change, and enhance biodiversity.

What You Can Do

If this transformation is to become a reality, these targets and the efforts of those working to affect change at the international level must also align with efforts at the national and local level.

It is easy to sit back and be overwhelmed by the negative predictions (one million species!), but rather than succumb to the barrage of depressing tweets about the IPBES report, help combat this crisis and double down on what you can  control.

If you’re like me, and value the vast diversity our planet sustains, try to incorporate some of these small acts into your life. I know transformative change sounds daunting but sitting back and doing nothing isn’t an option.

  • Strengthening our laws and policies to protect the planet will be key to achieving change. When you’re determining candidates to vote for, consider prioritizing those for whom the environment is an important part of their platform.
  • If there are certain issues you’re passionate about, help the organizations that are 100 percent committed to protecting coral reefs or stopping plastic from reaching the oceans. Donate money or volunteer. Funding for environmental issues is woefully lacking. By doing your research on which organizations are truly making a difference, you can play a small part in their success.
  • Use your dollars to also minimize your impact on the environment. To reduce your carbon footprint, consider purchasing carbon offsets each time you travel on a plane.
  • Buy a water filter, instead of purchasing bottled water and contributing to plastic pollution.
  • Use Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide to make more informed decisions about the seafood you eat.
  • Buy sunscreen from companies that use chemicals that won’t harm coral reefs or other ocean habitats.
  • Make a conscious effort to eat more plant-based dishes and forgo meat and fish when you otherwise wouldn’t.
  • Become an advocate – think about where you work, do you have an environmental sustainability program? Are there ways in which you think your employer could impact the environment less? Set up a meeting and see how you could create positive change in your workplace or another institution.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg, but if the majority of people cares about protecting our oceans, than let’s harness that desire to create the transformative change we desperately need.

Julia Goss is a DC EcoWomen board member on the Programs Committee. She earned a B.S. in biology from Rhodes College and a Masters in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University. Her interest in international conservation motivated her to obtain a Fulbright scholarship to work for the World Wildlife Fund in Cambodia, where she conducted research on the critically endangered Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin population. Julia currently works at an environmental non-profit in Washington D.C., where she first advocated for better regulation of trade in threatened species of sharks. She currently assists other nations in creating large-scale marine protected areas to safeguard critical ocean spaces and enhance the productivity of their fisheries.

Pics: Julia Goss – “Gray whale in the Gulf of California” and “Albatross and blue-footed boobies on Española Island in the Galapagos” – Viv Lynch CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 – Mike Mozart CC BY-2.0 – Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch