Month: January 2021

Winter Activities for Kids | Climate Change

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 31, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

It’s cold out there! You might be wondering about how to keep the kids busy, active, and productive. While remaining tucked away in the warm, cozy house, you can occupy them as they get ready to be Climate Superheroes! The hope of spring can inspire everyone to dig in and prepare for the near future, a future made better because you are helping fight climate change.

What’s the heart of the matter?

Climate change demands our attention now, and the new administration is on board. Discussing his executive actions on climate change, President Biden confirmed his commitment. “It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that is now facing us, climate change, with a greater sense of urgency.” Every person is needed in the fight, adults as well as children. Utilizing fun, creative activities, we can guide the younger generation to a great appreciation of trees, plants, and soil. 

How does this impact you personally?

Engaging children in climate activities early on will help them internalize the message that they can make a difference in the world. Composting is one activity that allows children to get their hands dirty, literally. From placing food scraps in a jar to turning over compost in a barrel, each step draws youngsters into the process. If you are short on outdoor space, consider gathering food scraps for the community. Your town may have a drop off spot nearby. Composting is more than just a way to keep the kids busy during frosty winter days; it also educates them about the importance of cultivating soil so that it can store more carbon.

Some quick facts:

  • Adding compost to the lifeless dirt transforms it into microbe-filled soil, which stores a giant amount of carbon.
  • Not only does compost increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil, it boosts the nourishment of plants that feed off the soil, enabling the plants to store that much more carbon.
  • Now more than ever, the soil needs more microbes, especially if the US is to be the climate role model for the world, as Mr. Biden hopes. 
  • One of the main goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is soil health. Increasing carbon storage in the soil is the way to achieve this. As countries around the world strive to reach the target carbon neutrality goals set forth in the agreement, composting becomes even more important. The only way to hit our targets is if every household composts.
  • Remember: compost nourishes plants and prevents pests.
  • Compost can be donated to your community for fertilizing common areas.

What can you do about this? 

Start by talking about composting as you make a salad or chop vegetables for soup. Specific elements of compost are right at hand! Reading age-appropriate books about the life of plants, from seed to fruit, will grab the attention of some children. Helpful videos are also available, if your children aren’t maxed-out on screen time. 

Hands-on activities make time fly. Building a climate change project using long-forgotten resources in the attic or garage can lead to a meaningful learning experience for your child. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Primary age children could write and illustrate a book explaining composting. (Your compost jar provides a helpful visual aid.) 
  • Challenge your eight to twelve-year olds to create a game board about composting and its benefits for the climate. Game pieces can be made of card-board or even repurposed barrettes, action-figures, thimbles and who knows what? 
  • Young writers can compose a poem or song about composting. 
  • Budding scientists can keep a record of what goes into the compost bin, carefully observing the color, texture, and smell over time. 
  • Young teens might make a documentary explaining the importance of composting in the fight against climate change. 

These types of projects challenge young people to use 21st Century skills of critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration and they might have fun along the way!

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

Next steps

  • Start gathering your veggie, fruit and other food waste for composting
  • Investigate compost collection methods in your area
  • Find high-interest resources to engage your child (See below)
  • Plan an activity your child will find fun and engaging

Resources

Climate Change for Kids website:

Start Learning

NASA website for kids:

The Greenhouse Effect: Keeping the Balance

Video: Why all life depends on plants (3:06):

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/videos/spectacular-science/#/1019900995730

Video about composting for young children (5:00):

Composting for Kids With Peppa Pig

SciShow Kids video for kids 8+ (5:00)

Make the Most of Compost!


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Superfund ‘Timebombs’ Threaten to Explode

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 29, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

All organic life requires air, water, a place to exist, and a food source. But all of these things must be clean or there cannot be life, at least not long term. Throughout the United States, thousands of ticking environmental “timebombs” called Superfund sites are ready to explode. The poisons and other pollutants contained in these sites threaten all organic life in the United States and throughout the Earth. 

Heart of the Matter. Superfund sites number about 4,000 and were created by federal legislation in 1980. Congress set up a trust fund to finance the cleanup of these hazardous sites; the fund used to be financed by a tax on petroleum, but Congress let the tax expire twenty-five years ago. The sites are deemed so contaminated that they require long term responses to clean up these messes. And they are not self-contained. Hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels, increased precipitation, and wildfires spread their pollution, and they pose serious problems to 945 sites according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study from 2019. 

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember those we lost to covid, thanks to the generosity of ranch owner Byron Richard. Get involved and leave your mark on the world by becoming a junior sponsor. CLICK to learn more.

How does this impact you personally? The Trump administration ignored many of these sites and cut funding for the continued cleanup, which caused the sites to further deteriorate. Incoming Biden Administration Climate Change Czar Gina McCarthy certainly has her work cut out for her.

Everyone should care about Superfund sites. On July 19, 2018, in Libby, California, a wildfire broke out and burned an asbestos site, which could have released millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the groundwater and air if the fire had not been contained. It served as a cautionary tale, and it emphasizes the risk posed by Superfund sites that run along the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast. All of these sites are vulnerable to floods, wildfires, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other climate change associated risks. And the risks will only increase with climate change. 

What can you do about this? The sites differ in their severity as well as the types of pollution, but people can do one key thing to improve the environment: plant trees. Although trees are vulnerable to pollution and are often destroyed by the toxins in the Superfund sites, trees are also part of the solution because they can help expel many of the harmful pollutants by producing healthier byproducts. In 2017, one study showed using bioaugmentation (certain kinds of bacteria) protected poplar trees and allowed them to suck up polluted groundwater and expel it in the form of healthier byproducts.

 In other words, the trees cleaned up the site more cheaply and in a more beneficial way for the environment.

Next Steps

These are complex problems, but there are things we can all do to make it better:

  • Recognize that this is a problem that affects everyone
  • Plant trees
  • Learn more about solutions such as bioaugmentation
  • Learn about how people pose risks to the environment, and what you can do to minimize both your “carbon footprint” and other risks you pose individually
  • Most importantly, call your Congressperson or Senator and tell them you are terrified about the climate’s impact on the Superfund sites. If enough people call, they will listen

Yes, there are absolutely timebombs out there (just ask the residents of Flynt, Michigan), but this does not mean we must fail to act and do things to improve the situation. If we do not, then the world will be uninhabitable, perhaps in our lifetime, but more than likely in our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lifetimes. 

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Make 2021 Better!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 16, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

You have set your intention for the new year: Make the world a better place. One way to do that is to plant a tree. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams made similar plans as they wandered the gardens of England in 1786. Jefferson and Adams, sometimes adversaries with opposing political views, joined together to investigate the worthiest of English gardens as they waited for trade negotiations to move forward in Europe. Appreciatively scouring the estates, these two Founding Fathers admired the winding paths and natural features of the most modern gardens. 

The Stowe garden appealed to Jefferson’s practical side. Known for both his head and his heart, Jefferson noted utilitarian features such as pastures and irrigation methods. While he appreciated the color and design of the garden, he seemed irritated by useless items like a solitary Corinthian arch. Adams was most likely in full agreement with Jefferson’s opinions about Stowe. Urban environments strained him; he was happy to escape London for the English countryside. Occupied for decades with government business, he longed to return to Peacefield, his farm in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. Adams enjoyed digging side by side with the hired workers and instructing them on the latest innovations in soil improvement. His correspondence during his retirement years is riddled with the virtues of manure. The English garden tour provided Jefferson and Adams plenty to dream about as they finished their trade negotiations and headed home, inspired to make their gardens and the new nation just a little better.

Maybe you’re inspired to follow through on that intention to make the world better. Your activism represents a decision to make a difference: The tree you plant contributes valuable oxygen to the atmosphere. Added bonus: When your neighbors see the results, they might plant a tree, too. Choosing the best tree to plant can be daunting, but resources abound. Reflecting on the purpose of the tree will help you decide: Do you want more shade in your yard? Are you looking for privacy? Do you have limited space? To see quick results, you may want to plant a fast-growing tree. 

Fast-Growing Trees in Virginia*

  • Hybrid Poplar
  • Weeping Willow
  • Quaking Aspen
  • October Red Glory Maple
  • Arborvitae Green Giant
  • River Birch
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Leyland Cypress
  • Paper Birch
  • Pin Oak

*As you plan, be sure to check to make sure the tree you choose is a Virginia native.

By planting a tree (or two), you are demonstrating the ideals that made our country strong: freedom, hard work, and perseverance. For men like Jefferson and Adams, gardens represented more than just beauty or status; the nurturing of crops, shrubs, and trees symbolized the cultivation of American ideals. Independence is evident in the natural style of early American gardens. The labor devoted to bringing life to their farms and gardens fostered the self-reliance for which America became famous. Experimenting with new methods of soil conservation and irrigation affirmed the idea of perseverance. The Founding Fathers were not afraid to get their hands dirty to achieve a higher goal. Planting your tree also serves a larger purpose – improving the health of the planet.

Helpful Resources:

Fairfax County Tree Basics Booklet | Public Works and Environmental Services

Gallant Gold Media

Tree Planting Information

Planting Trees from Seeds

References

“Notes of a Tour of English Gardens, [2–14 April] 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-09-02-0328.

Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation. Knopf, 2011.


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