Biodiversity & Social Equity | Kew for a Pound

At Climate Action Now (CAN) we believe in restoring the lost biodiversity in our yards, local communities, cities and suburban forests. We also believe this is critical to the long term health of our planet and that we can all play a part in this global project.

But at times, the daily pressures of life get in the way. Are we going to make it work on time? Is there food in the refrigerator to make the family dinner tonight? Do I have enough money for this month’s groceries? 

Sustainability and focusing on eco-issues has very real financial and demographic fault lines. It has often been accused of being a concern of the privileged. 

That is why we work so hard to make CAN accessible to all. Our $5 campaign and focus on regular families and HOAs are consistent with our mission to make biodiversity something that everyone can become involved with.

With that value in mind we were thrilled to see the Kew for One Pound initiative in the UK. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew were created in 1759 by Prince Frederick and Princess Augusta and made public in the 1898 by Queen Victoria. The gardens cover over 300 acres in South West London including 14,000 trees, art galleries, exhibitions, playgrounds and glasshouses full of rare plants. It was recognised as a UNESCO World heritage site in 2003.

Our purpose is to help stop biodiversity loss and develop nature-based solutions to some of humanity’s biggest global challenges.  Behind the scenes Kew employs over 350 scientists working to “understand and protect plants and fungi for the well-being of people and the future of all life on Earth.”

All that work is expensive and Kew relies on its visitor revenues to fund this critical research. A standard adult ticket bought on the day costs £19.50 ($26.50) and a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children costs £44.50 ($60). For those on lower incomes this is an impossible barrier to entry. 

The new Kew for A Pound brings together biodiversity and social equity. Simply because you don’t have disposable incomes it does not mean you are not interested in the natural world and the urban green spaces around you. 

We love that they want to get everyone excited about restoring biodiversity & beautifying our suburban & city landscapes, yards, corporate campuses, suburban forests, highways and byways. This is for everyone and we want you to join us!

Julia Fawsley Grant, Board of Directors Climate Action Now – Director of Development. Julia coaches small companies working to do good in the world along with freelance business development, content and policy research. Her work on organisational Environmental, Social and Governance strategy has appeared in Eco Living Magazine, The Business Magazine, Start Ups Magazine and The Lawyer. 

*Image Credit: AdobeStock

Boosting Biodiversity In our Yards to Create Conservation Corridors

“If all [humankind] were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” — E. O. Wilson, Naturalist

We’re at a life-altering crossroads in the history of human civilization as scientists warn yet again of the importance of acting quickly to stay below 1.5ºC and prevent sustained catastrophic weather events. Pretty terrifying, right? Thankfully, homeowners everywhere can play a vital role in one of the nature-based solutions: planting a maximum number of layered native species in 25% of the front yard, and as much of the backyard as possible, in order to boost biodiversity.

  • Small trees
  • Shrubs 
  • Perennials 
  • Groundcover 

Not only does a small patch of biodiversity significantly boost carbon drawdown in our soil, along with restoring soil health, it restores our ecosystem, helps purify the air and the ground water, and prevents the need for pesticides that kill all the insects.  

When neighbors work together on a street and in a neighborhood, with each homeowner planting as many different native species as possible, and their selections being different than their next door neighbor’s, the benefits are increased that much more.

And if every home on a given street and in a neighborhood maximizes biodiversity within the lines of HOA rules, a biodiversity corridor is established. If each neighborhood in a town participates, the corridor becomes that much bigger and the benefits are multiplied. Pollinator species are of vital importance, of course, with lots of milkweed everywhere being the ideal. 

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Currently, birds are dying en route to their warm winter hangout because there’s so few places to stop and eat. Many birds eat insects, in fact 550 million tons of insects a year according to USA Today. Insects are an excellent source of protein. There are specific native species that can be planted in yards that attract birds like wrens, purple martins and goldfinches which then eat the bugs and act as pest control.

“Each of these species are masterpieces of evolution. Each has persisted for thousands to millions of years. Each is exquisitely adapted to the environment in which it lives, interlocked with other species to form ecosystems upon which our own lives depend in ways we have not begun even to imagine.” —E. O. Wilson

Our temperatures are warming which alters the planting season a bit. Below is a link that advises on best time to plant bare roots in Virginia. The Plant NoVa Native website also has planting schedule details and a lengthy list and description of Northern Virginia native species. Fall is the ideal time if planting seeds.

“Nature and community in harmony.” 

LET’S BEGIN. NEXT STEPS:

  1. Are there existing trees in your yard? Are they native or invasive? If native, continue to Step 2. If Invasive, contact Audubon society and inquire about invasive removal. Invasives destroy our ecosystems and undermine the well-being of insects. If there are no trees in your yard, that’s the first decision you’ll make. What type of tree, large or small?
  2. Find an online list of native species for your area. Sift through using the following filters: sun/shade, moisture, soil type, color, blooming season, height, hardiness zone.
  3. What’s growing beneath your trees? For most homeowners, there’s only dry mulch or lawn. Boosting biodiversity is about adding diverse layers of shrubs, perennials and ground cover.  Begin with selecting three different native shrubs, each that blossoms in a different season. Ideally, one should be an edible berry shrub. If you choose blackberry, encourage your neighbor to choose blueberry, and the next neighbor red raspberry. Choosing a color scheme (two or three colors) begins here as well and you’ll continue on with the same colors, in various shades, when you selects the perennials. (It’s best not to choose boxed shrubs, but rather the free-growing wild shrubs that we see in forests.)
  4. Beneath the shrubs, there should be a wide variety of pollinator perennials that blossom in the three different seasons, approximately 7-15 different species, depending on how much land you’re working with.
  5. Surrounding the base of the perennials, a rich variety of native ground cover. Follow the same rules that you followed for selecting shrubs and perennials.  The numbers of different species of ground cover will be approximately double the number of perennials. The circumference is now much bigger and the plants are smaller, so there will be more.
  6. Annuals should be avoided. Best strategy for ecosystem restoration and carbon drawdown is stability and consistency. Roots will grow and connect beneath the soil surface.
  7. If town ordinances and HOA covenants allow for a larger area of biodiversity in your neighborhood, and less turf lawn, then the best next step is to connect two trees that have biodiversity build-outs with a biodiversity connector strip. You can add a small tree in the middle if that works, or a larger shrub, and keep layering the same way following the same rules. The goal is to keep the soil covered 100 percent with plants that will create a soil armor, locking in moisture and increasing water infiltration rate. 
  8. Milkweeds are always wonderful along a fenceline.
  9. This same plan can be executed on a micro scale if your front yard is small.
  10. Good luck. Let’s make biodiversity happen!

RESOURCES:

 “We must rewild the world.”—Sir David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet

We can do this!

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

✦ By Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO Gallant Gold Media, Founder & Executive Director Climate Action NOW,  author and climate journalist 

Compost Boosts Carbon Sink

Compost is a big deal in the calculus for increasing carbon sink in our soil. It provides one of the most effective methods for the US public to assist with cutting carbon as deeply and swiftly as possible.

Peat is a compost. It looks very much like soil, but is simply partially decaded vegetation rich in nutrients. These nutrients are what enable the increased absorption of carbon. Peatlands are only 3% of our global lands, yet they store approximately “30% of the earths soil organic carbon.” In light of our extreme climate crisis, peat should never be removed from its environment to be sold to consumers for profit.

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The ever increasing carbon levels as the global population continues to grow, demands that we each do our own part in every way possible to curb carbon, especially in light of the fact of how simple and easy this actually is.

As we hurry to build infrastructure to support solar energy and EV autos, it makes sense to simultaneously rush to improve our natural carbon storing assets, which will further the lowering of CO2 in our atmosphere.

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Creating compost bins wherever possible can provide the much needed extra compost for forests, home gardens, public gardens and parks. It was exciting to see a “Compost” bin at the restaurant where I ate today. It was lined up with the other options at the recycling and garbage hub. I always feel so hopeful when a business “gets it” and does it’s little part. The care and maintenance of a compost bin in a restaurant is minor, but the benefit to society is huge. It pretty much follows the same ratio mentioned at the top of the page: 3% / 30% .

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We can do this!

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

✦ By Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO Gallant Gold Media, Founder & Executive Director Climate Action NOW,  author and climate journalist 

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Top 7 Natural Deer Repellant Hacks

As we race to restore our habitat, as well as dramatically improve soil health on every acre of land in the US, let’s review the top tricks used to naturally divert deer from our yards. Habitat restoration is also wildlife restoration. Our gardens and no mow lawns will become magnets for deer, birds, pollinators and a few furry rascals.  

Remember though, our primary goal in this urgent effort to drawdown legacy load carbon from the atmosphere is to save what’s left of our two icecaps. “Without our white icecaps, less of the sun’s energy is reflected back out to space, and the speed of global warming increases,” warns Sir David Attenborough in his documentary A Life on Our Planet

Heart of the matter. Deer seem to be perpetually ravenous, and able to devour an entire backyard garden plot in one visit, which can be incredibly distressing after so much time is spent planting and nurturing our landscapes. Thankfully, many determined gardeners across the decades have masterminded clever techniques to help us out.

A combination of several diverse tips may net the most effective results. Diversity seems to be the best solution for everything. As Gabe Brown says, “Mimic nature.” Nature loves diversity.

Top Seven Deer Repellent Tips

  1. If your budget allows, fences are extremely effective in keeping deer out of the garden. In fact, since we’e trying to maximize habitat restoration, and need as many diverse species of shrubs, perennials and grasses in the ground as possible, the best option may be to plant a natural fence around your garden or yard using native species like wintergreen box shrubs, holly, etc.
  2. Deer are similar to humans in having preferences in what they do and don’t like to eat. Their strong sense of smell makes them finicky about certain species. These particular species tend to be our favorites like lavender, mint, basil. This works perfectly with no mow tapestry lawns made up of a variety of herbs in the mix. Perhaps lining the lawn entrance and outside border with the most fragrant species. Deer are also fussy about texture. They tend to stay away from prickly, fuzzy and thorny. Roses are a great natural barrier, fragrant and thorny.
  3. Deer have favorite plants, too. These should be placed as close to your house as possible. When buying seeds or seedlings, the packaging may highlight whether the species is a deer fave or repellant. A quick online search will also clarify. For example, deer love hostas and daylilies, so you might want to choose these to line the walls of your house, and / or placed below tees or shrubs that line your house.
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  1. Scare tactics work and can be a fun creative project to enjoy with your children. Effective scare tactics include: objects that move such as flags or unique garden ornaments, also wind chimes, or motion activated sprinklers, as well as motion activated garden lights. You can visit Amazon or Google to find a list of products for your particular setting. I hope you’ll consider several, or one of each of these options for maximum effectiveness.
  2. Deer may be extra nimble out in a meadow or flat lawn, but they’re actually quite clumsy when it comes to garden levels and sunken gardens. If you’re overhauling your lawn and have the budget to create tiers, this may be the ideal natural way to keep deer at bay.
  3. Creating DIY smell repellents to fend off deer is another solution. Some gardeners are jazzed by how effective hanging bars of soap or fabric softeners from a tree, fence or post works. There are also rotten egg or garlic mixtures, as well as hot pepper spray.
  4. And then there’s the ultra simple DIY deer repellant hack, stringing clear fishing line two or three feet above the ground, tied to stakes surrounding a particular garden bed that you may be worried about.

We’re all set. Oh, one more thing. I strongly encourage you to stay away from chemical solutions. These products may seem ideal in the short run, saving time and energy, but they kill the microbes in the soil that are working so hard to drawdown carbon. The goal in switching to no mow tapestry lawns and adding extra layers of shrubs and perennials, is to improve soil health, increase carbon drawdown, conserve water, and reduce carbon emissions.

Best of luck in greening up. Let’s maximize carbon drawdown and save our planet.


© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

✦ By Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO Gallant Gold Media, Founder & Executive Director Climate Action NOW,  author and climate journalist 

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Kunming UN 2021 Biodiversity Conference

Biodiversity is beautiful. And biodiversity is a happiness and mental health booster. Thus, how beneficial is it that one of the solutions to the climate crisis is increasing biodiversity everywhere, in yards and communities across the globe, even on the small tiny postage stamp-sized specks of land that are often found in front of townhomes.

Nations across the globe met virtually in Kunming, China for COP15’s Kunming UN Biodiversity Conference Part 1, October 11-15, 2021. At the conclusion, the Kunming Biodiversity Declaration was adopted and spells out the global aspirations for the next 9 years. Part 2 of the conference will take place in April of 2022, and is projected to be in person, at which time the participating countries will sign an agreement similar to the Paris Agreement, that will address biodiversity, nature, and the environmental side of the climate action coin.

The only country not participating in the biodiversity conversation at this time is the United States.

“Addressing the challenge of halting ongoing losses of species and genetic diversity and the damage to our ecosystems will determine the well-being of humanity for generations to come,” [CBD Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema] says. “Protecting nature’s invaluable contributions to people requires that we harmonize our policies and actions at every level. The global biodiversity framework, based on the best available science and evidence, is fundamental to meeting these needs.”

Decision-making in the planning & development offices in each and every town in the world will either be working in alignment with the global biodiversity goals, or will be working against it. The choices are binary. In or out. 

Micro pocket of biodiversity in townhome community in Fairfax,Virginia

The following are the 8 key takeaways of the Kunming Biodiversity Conference & Declaration:

  • 30% of land and sea must be protected
  • Reduction in rate of invasive alien species being introduced to new habitats
  • Nature-based carbon drawdown goal should be 10 gigaton of carbon per year, and all planting efforts should avoid harming nature 
  • Reduction in nutrients lost to the environment
  • Reduction in pesticides
  • Elimination of plastic waste 
  • No incentives that are harmful to biodiversity, and reducing them by at least $500 billion per year (ie fossil fuel subsidies)
  • Increased financial resources for projects that address these targets from all sources to at least $200 billion per year

The global push to immediately address our biodiversity crisis must be acted upon if we want to save the human species. The US may not end up being a signatory on to the Biodiversity Agreement in spring 2022 (believed to be because of our extensive use of glyphosate), but the American people can still be all in on transitioning our toxic monoculture lawns, to biodiverse no mow lawns. 

The United State has 40 million acres of pesticide-covered monoculture yards with no biodiversity. Mowing our grass for 1 hour creates as much carbon emissions as driving 650 miles. This is no longer acceptable. HOAs must adjust bylaws and covenants quickly.

No mow biodiversity yard in Carrboro, NC. 
The entire community was designed to maximize biodiversity with all yards being biodiverse no mow.

The following are two essential books that will help readers understand the science behind the importance of transitioning our yards to biodiverse no mow:

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy, 2007

Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy, 2020

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

✦ By Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO Gallant Gold Media, Founder & Executive Director Climate Action NOW,  author and climate journalist