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Archive for July, 2012

Cheatgrass near Gardiner, MT in 1964
Image Credit: National Park Service

There’s an interesting article in the NY Times on biological controls being tested on cheatgrass – one of which is a fungus with the striking moniker, Black Fingers of Death. Labeled the “country’s most invasive plant species,” cheatgrass covers perhaps as much as 60 million acres, with a concentration in the Intermountain West region.

“Cheatgrass is a very insidious kind of biotic virus,” said Stephen Pyne, a Western fire historian at Arizona State University. “It takes over and rewrites the operating system. Because it grows earlier, it can burn earlier,” then in its regrowth “drive off all the other competitors. That makes for a complete overthrow of the system.”

It is the association with fire that is significant, resulting in millions of dollars being invested in research to eradicate it. The article raises an interesting point. Research may result in new, effective treatments, but then industry would need to take up the mission. Markets would determine if the new treatments make it into production. If demand stems solely from the federal government, Westerners may be shaking their fists at cheatgrass for another 100 years.

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Urban forestry meets the Olympics?

VA.PHC

http://www.rtcc.org/nature/london-olympics-art-display-breathes-new-life-into-importance-of-urban-forestry/

London Olympics art display breathes new life into importance of urban forestry

26 July 2012

By Tierney Smith

Urban forests play a vital role in regulating a city’s environment as well as improving the social well-being of residents.

The benefits from trees removing pollution and carbon from urban atmospheres could be worth millions of pounds, while ‘green walls’ in cities could cut pollution by 30%, according to research conducted by the University of Birmingham.

A new art installation in London ahead of the Olympic Games attempts to highlight these benefits.

The ‘Breathing Trees’ display is based in Russell Square – one of they city’s best known public areas – and is intended to change a typical city park into a living, breathing organism using light and sound installations.

The ‘Breathing Trees’ installation aims to turn Russell Square’s canopy into the lungs of the city (Source: Camden Council)

The…

View original post 639 more words

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In difficult economic times, landscape architects – and other designers, artists – may begin to doubt the value of what they do. I think Frank Bruni’s column on parks in New York City serves as a testimonial. Take heart, ye servants of the people!

Whenever you doubt that the future can improve upon the past or that government can play a pivotal role in that, consider and revel in the extraordinary greening of New York.

This city looks nothing — nothing — like it did just a decade and a half ago. It’s a place of newly gorgeous waterfront promenades, of trees, tall grasses and blooming flowers on patches of land and peninsulas of concrete and even stretches of rail tracks that were blighted or blank before. It’s a lush retort to the pessimism of this era, verdant proof that growth remains possible, at least with the requisite will and the right strategies.

The transformation of New York has happened incrementally enough — one year the High Line, another year Brooklyn Bridge Park — that it often escapes full, proper appreciation. But it’s a remarkable, hopeful stride.

It’s also emblematic of a coast-to-coast pattern of intensified dedication to urban parkland. While so much of American life right now is attended by the specter of decline, many cities are blossoming, with New York providing crucial inspiration.

This is my favorite line: “It’s a lush retort to the pessimism of this era, verdant proof that growth remains possible, at least with the requisite will and the right strategies.” Soul-satisfying for all involved.

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Wondering how bad the current drought in the U.S. is? This Weather Channel post provides the comparisons in a succinct way. Even more succinctly – be thankful for better agricultural practices!

Things are tough all over!

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Edel Rodriguez’s illustration from Rolling Stone

An article in the Sunday NY Times titled “We’re All Climate-Change Idiots” explores the well-worn territory of climate change denial, but it also adds a few details from psychological research into the phenomenon.  The article hints at four strategies:

1. appeal to interest in technological solutions – even climate change deniers perk up at the mention of techno fixes;

2. public health appeals seem to get traction (asthma, etc.);

3. instant feedback, like the letters I get from National Grid telling me how much energy I consume compared to my neighbors, that brings out a sense of competition for behavioral changes; and

4. making changes that people are hardly aware of – like Rutgers changing the default printing on university printers to double-sided.

Are there any landscape and/or land use parallels to these suggestions? I think we can come up with a few – but, frankly, it feels like tinkering around at the edges. I have a hard time investing mental energy into it, especially after just reading Bill McKibben’s article in Rolling Stone. If you haven’t read it yet, you must. In “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” McKibben very simply communicates the enormity of the problem using just 3 numbers. Powerful writing, but the result is a feeling of powerlessness. Hum, what’s a person to do with that? Oh, yes, back to the denial stance! The liberal denial, that is. (See the four points listed above.)

 

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From Al Gore’s blogging gig, an image of the future – and the present. Interesting to compare it to this map – especially the blue swath through Tennessee and Mississippi. The Northeast and these two southern states look like future “best bets.”

1,000 counties in 26 states declared as disaster areas

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From ASLA’s The Dirt blog: In D.C., New Eco-District Plans Unveiled.

110 acre, 15 sq blocks south of the Mall

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