Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

November 1, 2019 by  
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The village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin hasn’t changed much since Harold Friestad was a kid, he told me as we walked through Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (KNC). Now almost 80 and the conservancy’s chairman, Friestad is proud of being a factor in stunting the small town’s growth. He was president when the village board bought 231 acres of lakefront property in 1989 to create KNC. “What I want on my tombstone,” he said as our sneakers sank into the wetlands , “is, ‘Because of Harold, there will never be a stoplight in Williams Bay.’” Nature conservancy history The nature conservancy sits against Geneva Lake , long a summer playground for rich Chicagoans . Before that, it was home of the Potawatomi people. The name Kishwauketoe comes from a Potawatomi word meaning “lake of the sparkling water.” The current conservancy land was once a rail yard. But when the train was decommissioned, developers swooped in, wanting to build hotels, golf courses and shopping centers. Area residents wished to stop the developers and keep Williams Bay small and quiet. The Williams Bay Village Board, led by Friestad, negotiated a price of $1.575 million for the 231-acre parcel. “People knew I was a businessman,” said Friestad, who worked for Lake Geneva Cruise Line for 50 years, retiring as general manager in 2015. “They didn’t know I love nature so much.” Even though he got an excellent price — a 10-acre estate could now cost $15 million — Friestad said, “A lot of people didn’t like the idea of me spending all that money to buy it.” But now people value the conservancy, and some of Williams Bay’s 2,500 residents even bought their homes in the village so they could walk the wetland trails every day. “It’s almost sacred now,” Friestad said. “I don’t know how you put a value on it. But it’s priceless to me, and it’s priceless to many, many people.” Donations, volunteer hours, summer interns and a few part-time workers power the conservancy, which has never received tax dollars. During my weekday visit, one woman was chainsawing dead branches, a couple of folks were repairing a boardwalk and a controlled burn was going on in the distance. In the conservancy’s nearly 30-year run, the crew has restored more than 65 acres of prairie, planted a 15-acre arboretum, created a spawning area for lake trout, installed boardwalks over the wettest wetlands, cleared invasive species and constructed a four-story viewing tower. They’ve also built and continue to maintain more than 4 miles of trails. Visiting the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy On the October day I visited, the conservancy was quiet. I saw only a half-dozen other walkers during the hour or two I was there. Things are busier in summer, Friestad said, when up to 500 people may visit in a day. Non-human residents include deer, coyotes, foxes and raccoons. Some years, beavers move in. The conservancy has a public education campaign about the benefits of beavers, not the most-loved local animal. Reptile-wise, the conservancy is home to garter snakes and the rare Blanding’s turtle, which has a striking yellow throat. People can walk through the area on their own 365 days a year. The conservancy also offers many guided walks, some focusing on particular aspects, such as history, geology, botany or trees . Those who want to get dirt under their nails can join volunteer workdays and autumn seed harvesting. Every summer, the conservancy hosts a 5K run/walk. I’d recommend the Friday morning walk, which Friestad usually leads. Trail cams Kishwauketoe participates in the statewide Snapshot Wisconsin program, a network of trail cameras. The project provides information for wildlife managers and lets citizen scientists get involved in monitoring Wisconsin’s natural resources. Jim Killian, KNC board member, Wisconsin master naturalist program instructor and coauthor of an upcoming book on the conservancy , learned about Snapshot Wisconsin while attending a master naturalist conference in March 2018. “I immediately sought permission from the Wisconsin DNR [Department of Natural Resources] to host a wildlife trail camera for the Wisconsin Snapshot Wisconsin in KNC,” Killian said. “Because of the location and size of KNC, I learned that I qualified to host two trail cameras in our conservancy. While the program participation requirements are quite stringent, I thoroughly enjoy this volunteer work.” The cameras work with a motion sensor. “At night and in low light, the cameras utilize an infrared flash to capture images,” Killian said. “That is why they appear as black and white. One camera is located on the edge of a small open field/prairie area, while the other is located on the edge of a very dense, wooded area and on the bank of a small stream, which is a popular watering spot for wildlife of many varieties. This stream remains as a source of open water all year, including in the midst of a very cold winter.” Killian services each trail camera at least once every three months to replace the memory card and batteries and to upload the captured images to the Wisconsin DNR. The DNR places the images on a website and invites the public to help classify them. Of the thousands of images captured at KNC so far, Killian said deer are No. 1, followed by squirrels, turkeys , coyotes, raccoons, opossums, cottontail rabbits, redtail foxes, woodchucks, blue jays, cardinals, sandhill crane, northern flickers and mink. Do the trail cams reveal any surprises? “The humor of wildlife,” he said. “I would have never suspected that animals do the funniest things, including selfies, when they know or sense that their image is being captured by a camera. This is particularly true for deer.” KNC is open year-round. If you’re looking for immense peace and quiet, visit in winter … and bring your cross-country skis . + Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy Images via Harold Friestad / Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin DNR Snapshot Wisconsin (trail cam imagery) and Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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Touring restored wetlands at a Wisconsin nature conservancy

Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

November 1, 2019 by  
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We’ve seen quite a few amazing barn conversions over the years, but this new design by La Firme is simply breathtaking. Located in a rural area in Quebec, the old barn was in near ruins until the Montreal-based firm was hired to convert it into a secondary family home. Thankfully, instead of bulldozing the beautiful old building to the ground, the studio managed to salvage nearly every single material to reuse in the new design. Referred to simply as The Barn, the building has sat at the foot of the Owl’s Head Mountain for decades. Sitting majestically over the idyllic setting, the barn is elevated up on a small hill with expansive rolling hills on one side and forest on the other. Related: 6 barns converted into beautiful new homes Despite its pristine landscape, the old barn had fallen into dire disrepair. However, the owner had a strong attachment to the building and wished to see it’s life extended. Accordingly, when he approached the La Firme team about converting the barn into a cozy modern home for his children, his primary request was that they do what they could to retain its original character. The architects took his request seriously, approaching the conversion with a strategy of adaptive reuse . According to the team, the project began by numbering and recording each and every single piece of the hemlock structure. As they were rebuilding the new family home, they managed to reuse every every part of the old barn. With the original materials given a second chance, some new elements were added to create a contemporary home. For example, a new standing seam metal roof creates a nice contrast with the barn’s weathered facade. And although the exterior retained its rustic, agrarian roots, the interior of the home is a beautifully contemporary design . With massive 30-foot ceilings with exposed beams and all-white walls, the living space is fresh and modern. Large steel-framed windows and an entire glazed front wall provide breathtaking views of the landscape. + La Firme Via Uncrate Photography via Ulysse Lemerise

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Decrepit barn in Quebec was converted into stunning modern design by salvaging all of its old materials

Earth911 Innovator Interview: World Centric’s Mark Marrinozi on the Battle to End Polystyrene

September 13, 2019 by  
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World Centric, a 15-year-old Rohnert Park, Calif.-based sustainability advocacy and … The post Earth911 Innovator Interview: World Centric’s Mark Marrinozi on the Battle to End Polystyrene appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Interview: Link Privacy And Sustainability To Reset The Economy

May 28, 2019 by  
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Mitch Ratcliffe of Earth911 has another conversation with Swedish private … The post Interview: Link Privacy And Sustainability To Reset The Economy appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Episode 160: Dialogue on drawdown, why a Microsoft exec took a job at National Geographic

February 22, 2019 by  
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Plus, an excerpt from our interview with former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.

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Episode 160: Dialogue on drawdown, why a Microsoft exec took a job at National Geographic

Belkin Cuts Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Electricity Use Ahead of Schedule

August 30, 2018 by  
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Ernie Roberts, sustainability manager for computer accessories maker Belkin, spoke … The post Belkin Cuts Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Electricity Use Ahead of Schedule appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Interview: Healthy Climate Alliance Plan to Remove Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

June 13, 2018 by  
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The Healthy Climate Alliance has a bold and achievable plan … The post Earth911 Interview: Healthy Climate Alliance Plan to Remove Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Interview: Healthy Climate Alliance Plan to Remove Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are "setting records"

January 29, 2018 by  
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The president of the United States raised eyebrows once again over his thoughts on climate change . In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan on United Kingdom television channel ITV, Donald Trump said ice caps are setting records – without offering data to back up his statement. Morgan asked Trump, “Do you believe in climate change? Do you think it exists?” Trump said, “There is a cooling and there is a heating and look, it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming . Right? That wasn’t working too well. Because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, okay, they’re at a record level.” Related: This map shows how uninformed Trump’s global warming tweet is There are several errors in Trump’s statement, for which he failed to offer scientific evidence. Reuters spoke with a few scientists about Trump’s claims, and World Glacier Monitoring Service director Michael Zemp told them, “ Glaciers and ice caps are globally continuing to melt at an extreme rate…maybe [Trump] is referring to a different planet.” Trump also talked about the Paris Agreement in the interview, saying, “Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel,” referring to the president of France Emmanuel Macron . “I would love to, but it’s got to be a good deal for the United States.” Bloomberg pointed out Trump made similar remarks following a meeting with Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway. So what are some of Trump’s beliefs on the environment ? The president told Morgan, “I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clean air, I believe in crystal clear, beautiful water, I believe in just having good cleanliness.” Via The Independent , Bloomberg , and Reuters Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Pixabay

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

January 29, 2018 by  
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Last year was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans , according to two scientists at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP/CAS). The increase in ocean heat led to a 1.7-millimeter global sea level rise – and other consequences like “declining ocean oxygen, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting sea ice and ice shelves.” The ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the planet’s “residual heat related to global warming ,” according to the researchers, Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, whose work recently came out as an early online release in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences . While they said the increase in ocean heat content for last year happened in most of the world’s regions, the Atlantic and Southern Oceans displayed more warming than the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to National Geographic , the two scrutinized ocean temperature data from multiple institutions, including the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists started gathering the data during the 1950’s – and in the late 1990’s, ocean temperatures started to take off, per the publication. The IAP ocean analysis reveals “the last five years have been the five warmest years in the ocean.” National Geographic pointed out people visiting the beach probably wouldn’t notice the temperature rise, but a warming ocean could still have damaging impacts. Sea ice coverage and thickness have both taken a hit. And the window to save Earth’s coral reefs is closing quickly . The researchers said in their paper, “The global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming…The human greenhouse gas footprint continues to impact the Earth system.” + Advances in Atmospheric Sciences Via Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences , The Guardian and National Geographic Images via Deposit Photos ,  Ant Rozetzky on Unsplash and Tim Lautensack on Unsplash

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

INTERVIEW: Inhabitat’s own Greg Beach on telling global stories through the lens of a small town

November 17, 2017 by  
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How much do you know about your hometown? Author and Inhabitat writer Greg Beach , who moved to Watertown, Massachusetts at age nine, was inspired to dig more into his town’s history after the Boston Marathon Bombing. You may only be familiar with the name Watertown because of the attack, but Beach shows there’s a lot more to this place in his new book The World and Watertown: Tales of an American Hometown . Not only was Watertown once the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s largest town, today it’s home to a garden cemetery, permaculture farmers, a project to preserve the stories of Armenians far from home, and the artist of an Afghan-American wheelchair superhero comic . But this isn’t just the story of one city. Beach’s book explores issues relevant to the entire world through stories set in this small New England town. Read on for our interview after the jump. INHABITAT: What was your initial inspiration for The World and Watertown? BEACH: The original spark was what happened after the Boston Marathon Bombing. The whole greater Boston area shut down, but 20 blocks in Watertown had a particular experience other parts of the city didn’t. There were a lot of questions I was curious about after it was all over. Stories started coming out of things people were concerned about and wanted to talk about, and there wasn’t really a space to do that immediately after because people were relieved it was over and feeling patriotic about the whole thing. So they didn’t really want to ask some of those tough questions. Once I got into that I realized it was a lot bigger than what I was capable of doing as a part-time writer. It was both too big and too small because the town is a lot more than this event that happened. I’d been thinking about writing a book for a long time, and it was a way for me to dig into issues I’ve always really cared about and tell those big stories, whether it’s the war on terror, or ecology , or native people, through that localized lens. That’s why the ‘world’ comes before ‘Watertown,’ because it is the story of a town, but it was mainly to be a story of how the world finds it its way through this little town. INHABITAT: Watertown is very much a focus in the book, but you also wanted to tell stories that have a global relevance. How did you balance the local with the global? BEACH: It depended on the particular topic. For example, one thing that really energized me about talking about the Armenian community in Watertown – a community of friends and family I grew up with – was that it was only as an adult, with the onset of the Syrian civil war, that I started to understand the Armenian presence in Syria and around the world. It’s important to do what we can to support Syrian refugees because they’re our neighbors in the global fence, but also they’re our literal neighbors. Some of our neighbors were born in Syria, and their family members are still over there, and I wanted to think about how we can tie that together. There were other issues that guided my thinking; for example, I talk about this rise of luxury apartments in these big cities, trying to figure out what exactly is going on because to me, it just doesn’t seem right. Something about it doesn’t make sense in terms of the supply and demand. I started reading Inhabitat when I was in college, years before I started writing for the publication, and I remember reading stories about ghost cities in China. I didn’t put that in the book, but things like that were in the back of my mind, thinking something’s not right here, and there’s a lot of clues, but I don’t know how to put them together. And I was trying to tell universal stories of people trying to do good in their community , and finding ways to build connections and support each other. These big issues are really complex. For example, in the United States right now, there’s this big public debate over police brutality and racism, so I had to talk about that because it’s important, but at the same time I had to acknowledge the police officers who are really doing their best to do well, and not just individual officers, but police departments who recognize flaws, and they’re trying to do better – without excusing anything, but just saying, we want to bring the good up, even as we’re trying to push back on the bad. INHABITAT: When did you personally start becoming interested in ecology and sustainability? How did growing up in Watertown play a role in shaping that passion for you? BEACH: One of my favorite chapters in the book is the first chapter, digging into local ecology. Before I was born, the Charles River was very polluted, and I heard stories of how awful it was when my parents were children, and now, the ecosystem is really revitalized, and it’s a beautiful community resource. Boston didn’t clean up the Charles River and the Boston Harbor until there was a court order to clean up these waterways . Boston has this reputation now as this progressive global city, but for a long time, it had the same challenges that a lot of other parts of the United States are facing. It was forced to do it, but eventually, it did something about it. There are many ways society and the public can make positive changes to protect our ecosystems. And I just love being outside, and the green spaces in Watertown, and being by the ocean – there’s just a lot packed into a really small place, and of course, that small place is connected to the larger eastern Massachusetts region. As I got older, I got into growing food and permaculture and incorporated that into my work as an educator. INHABITAT: In the book, you brought out the stories of people that went outside their comfort zones to help make Watertown a better place. One of the people I’m thinking of is Harry Friedman, who you affectionately dubbed the Weird Guy Pulling Carts From The River. What did you take away from those stories? BEACH: I walked the river path often, and I would see this guy standing there every season, and eventually I got over my New England awkwardness where people don’t say hello and thought, this guy seems like someone worth knowing, so just started talking to him. Harry showed me it’s okay to be yourself and be yourself in a very friendly, open way. Also, I remember talking to Ruth Tomasian, who started this organization called Project SAVE , which has archived 45,000 photographs of Armenian history. She was also very inspiring. I’d said about the book, ‘Oh, this is kind of an amateur effort I’m doing,’ and she said, ‘You’re working this into something, you’re getting out there,’ and shared with me some of the mistakes she made in starting this big project and being open to putting yourself out there. You might fail, but you also might open up some doors and encourage other people to open up. I saw the book working in three different layers. One layer was the big issues like the war on terror, the war on drugs, or ecology. The next layer was how all these topics fit in the local history. And then for me, the most important layer – the book wouldn’t have a heart if it didn’t have these people who bring these stories to life. It makes people care. I wanted it to write the book to serve my town and Massachusetts, but I did want people, no matter where they’re from, to get something out of it. Those universal stories of people in the community, participating in their own way to make it a better place, that happens everywhere around the world. INHABITAT: You mention wins for Watertown, like a garden cemetery providing a habitat for wildlife, and also losses, like the empty luxury apartments most locals couldn’t afford. With the knowledge that no city is perfect, how, in your opinion, could cities approach ecology more holistically? BEACH: There are a lot of hidden costs of exploiting the world’s resources. The cost of cleaning up pollution is socialized, everyone has to pay for it in one way or another, but the profits are privatized. Whether it’s a municipal government or a national government, they should find a way to put those costs in at the beginning of the calculation instead of waiting; 20 years down the line you’re going to be paying more, you’re going to have more damage. I think of Flint , and I know there are big structural issues at play like racism and poverty. But I think about small things, like investing in public spaces, investing in bike trails , and taking land that was previously vacant and turning it into something open to the public. That’s what’s happened in Watertown for the past several decades. The river path I talked about wasn’t there when my dad grew up in Watertown; it was an overgrown place. They could have taken that and developed it into waterfront property, and maybe today they would, but they didn’t and now that’s preserved for future generations. It’s the same thing with building bike trails along old rail lines; finding the low hanging fruit that really does provide so much of a benefit for the community, in terms of fitness, bringing people together, mental health; it’s something to be proud of in the community, it’s a place to put up art. Those big structural issues will be there, and we have to deal with those too, but there are some small ways to bring the community together and serve them. INHABITAT: You don’t shy away from Watertown’s historical failures even as you celebrate its successes. How did your view of your hometown change and evolve the more research you did about its past and the more people you talked to while writing the book? BEACH: A lot of people I spoke to I met from doing the book, so that was really encouraging because it made me feel closer to the town. It made me feel like I really understood its character today and in the past. I’ve been a student of history for a long time, so I know the broad strokes and the mistakes that have been made in New England and the United States and how they continue today, but something that’s really important that I try and get across in the book – and in my work with middle school students as a teacher – is this idea that there can be multiple truths that exist at the same time: that you can hold different, seemingly conflicting things to be true at the same time. You can say yes, the United States has this history of colonialism and racism, but at the same time, this is a place that so many people have come to call home, and however it was formed and however it’s continued, in that place there’s a lot of good, and a lot of people trying to do good and make it a better place for everyone. Those two things have been true about the United States since the beginning. You want to make your home a better place, you want to make sure your town or your country is a good place to live. It’s not easy; you have to keep working at it. It’s clear that the United States is very divided right now, but I think generally people around the world all want the same things. We all want to feel like we belong, we want to feel like we have meaning in our lives. So I try and bring those things up as much as I can. INHABITAT: How would you encourage people to get more involved in their own hometowns? BEACH: It depends on who you are and what you enjoy, because not everyone is going to feel comfortable getting involved in a civic organization or a town committee. Every person can find a way of contributing. It could be spending more time on green spaces and meeting people that way. It could be trying to start a community garden, or it could just be sharing vegetables you grew with someone in your community. It also goes back to that idea of being willing to be yourself and say hello and engage with people. Just learning is also a way to get involved. I knew a lot about my town and the country, but I learned so much about so many different things in writing this book. That has to affect how I think about issues, or how I try and engage with people. I’ve met so many people through this and learned from them and been inspired by them. And I’m an introvert too. I need to get away from people to recharge, but I love getting to know people and connecting with them. INHABITAT: What do you hope readers will take away from the book? What do you hope they walk away thinking about? BEACH: I hope they walk away with more information, maybe a better understanding of some of these big issues, but at the same time feel encouraged to ask questions and then pursue them. That was driving me the whole time: I just had these questions that I needed answered, and I want readers to feel similarly excited to trace questions and see where they lead, and they might not have an answer. I think also it goes back to the theme of holding multiple ideas to be true at the same time, recognizing that the world is a huge place, and there are these huge systems it’s so hard to really get ahold of them, but then, it’s also a very small world, because there are individuals and groups out there trying to build a better world in small places. I realized the other day that I applied for a job at Inhabitat right around the same time I was starting to really write the book. It actually happened on Christmas Eve. I was sick so I didn’t go out with my family and I was at home, and I saw this opening for Inhabitat, which I had been reading for years. I’d given articles from Inhabitat to students. I got a response and started writing. Those two things running parallel to each other really supported and reinforced each other. Being concise and clear on Inhabitat is really important because there’s a lot of content out there, and you want your readers to get to the meat of it, but you also make sure there’s an appealing style to the writing. Some of the topics I cover in the book actually started off as Inhabitat articles, like one I wrote about Japanese knotweed . I just wanted to add some context to the connections. You can buy The World and Watertown here . + Greg Beach + Greg Beach Facebook Images courtesy of Greg Beach and Harry Friedman, lead image via Wikimedia

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INTERVIEW: Inhabitat’s own Greg Beach on telling global stories through the lens of a small town

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