Category: Nature

Composting | A Major Climate Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 24, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Perspective is everything. Composting can seem like a daunting task or a simple way to make our soil healthy. The benefits of composting for the climate and the environment may persuade you to get on board, to learn something new, and to contribute to a growing movement to give back.

What’s the heart of the matter? The wisdom of composting goes back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome, and soil cultivation has been in practice ever since. The Founding Fathers realized the importance of renewing the soil of their farms and gardens. Washington, Jefferson, and Adams (among others) treasured the land for its abundance and permanence; fields were not something to be used and abandoned. Because tobacco had depleted the soil of many estates by the late 1700s, Washington began planting crops that could anchor the American agricultural economy. To replenish the soil for wheat fields and orchards, he experimented with manure, Potomac mud, and fish remains. In the end, Washington operated five farms in Virginia and was one of the most successful farmers of his time. 

How does this impact you personally? Composting is a practical way to improve the health of the soil and reduce our carbon footprint. Over the centuries, the basic principles of composting have remained consistent and have yielded the same predictable outcomes for sustaining our planet. The knowledge and tools are at our fingertips. Using the wisdom garnered over the ages, we have the chance, without too much difficulty, to create a thriving environment and help planet Earth.

Composting:

  • adds microbes to dirt and soil, enabling it to store loads of carbon that thwarts climate change.
  • reduces methane-producing waste in landfills
  • creates vibrant soil that supports the ecosystem
  • retains water in the soil, reducing the need to irrigate
  • promotes disease-free plant growth

What can you do about this? Whether you live in a noisy urban neighborhood or on a quiet rural road, composting is possible. To keep it simple, deliver your food scraps to your community compost collection site. (See the list of Virginia composting facilities at the end of this article.) Or, find a compost company that picks up your food scraps. Check to see how the company uses the compost, and find out if they return compost to you. Make your own compost by following simple daily guidelines. (Click here to see a short how-to video.) You can make a difference for your family, your community, and the planet. Remember the Founding Fathers: The success of the new nation hinged on its fruitful harvests. Did they ever imagine how critical their organic practices would be for the health of the planet?

Next steps:

  • Begin saving food scraps in a compost bag in your refrigerator, a cool garage or in a clamped container.
  • Gather both green materials (fruits, vegetables, tea, egg shells, coffee grounds) and brown (newspapers, egg cartons, twigs, and dried grass). 
  • Avoid oils, dairy, meat, and bread.
  • Decide if you will create the compost yourself or donate your scraps to your community, or
  • Find the most eco-friendly company to pick up your scraps and use them to benefit soil health.

Virginia Composting Facilities by Area

References:

“Benefits of Compost.” U.S. Composting Council, http://www.compostingcouncil.org/. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

Simon, Julia. “How to Start Composting.” NPR, 2021, http://www.npr.org/2020/04/07/828918397/how-to-compost-at-home.


© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

Build Back Better | Our Personal Lives

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 22, 2021 by Noreen Wise

It’s a brand new day, filled with so much hope. We have a new administration, expressing a multitude of positive and inspirational words of wisdom and transformative goals, as well as outlining the steps forward that will lead us toward the achievement of these goals. It all begins with each of us participating. 

The importance of participation in our democratic form of government—of the people, by the people, for the people — cannot be overemphasized. It should be one of the main takeaways of the very dark, oppressive and traumatic last four years that we’ve just survived. Majority participation is what led to a successful outcome. Let’s absorb and wrap our minds around this reality. We must promise to never forget that participation is everything in a democracy as we enter these green fields of hope.

Build back better. We’ve heard this message repeatedly for the last nine months. But, how about if we do more than just build our economy back better. How about if we build our lives back better too. This means trying to regain our physical and mental footing, which will result in us being that much healthier, happier and stronger.

Gallant Gold Media’s Hill Report is very excited to announce the Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide, a weekly article featuring tips provided by sustainable living guru, Stephen Santangelo. Stephen will share the how to’s of lowering our carbon footprints and improving our own health and happiness. It’s highly probable that Stephen’s insightful knowledge will also provide us with that many more economic opportunities. Sustainable living saves participants a lot of money.

Stephen and his wife Lori, launched into the all-in sustainable lifestyle scene by making the bold decision to relocate from Southern California to Kentucky. Stephen explained that the price of land in Kentucky for farming was that much less expensive than Southern California. In fact, the California price for the same amount of land was prohibitive. 

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember all those we lost to Covid. Ponderosa Pines Ranch forest. All thanks to ranch owner Byron Richard!

What is sustainable living? Sustainable living is a circular economy lifestyle with a goal of zero waste that includes all the common buzzwords that flood Instagram, and other social media platforms daily. A series of small, seemingly insignificant daily choices and habits, that collectively, if we all participate, will lower carbon emissions dramatically. Additionally, these same small, daily choices will restore our environment, reduce global warming, and reverse climate change. This includes everyday decisions such as:

  • Reusable shopping bags 
  • Reusable drink containers, especially when stopping at Starbucks
  • Reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle
  • Composting kitchen scraps 
  • Applying the compost to our soil
  • Growing our own food as much as possible, ie herbs, fruits and vegetables
  • LED bulbs
  • Shorter showers
  • Run full loads of laundry
  • Air dry laundry
  • Renewable energy
  • Regifting
  • Bamboo paper towels that can be washed and dried quickly, one roll can last an entire year
  • And so much more

Stephen and Lori are overachievers on many of these levels, particularly food sustainability. Stephen explains that they’ve always been health conscience and raised their children that way. They’re now 97-98 percent food sustainable, and never eat out. This is mind boggling. The photos of their gardens are an amazing example of what appears to be relatively achievable for all of us. Such an inspiration. Stephen assured me that healthy soil is a big deal and he’ll provide tips in the upcoming weeks. His farming schedule is as follows, in his own words:

  • From April – October, 4-12 hours per day.
  • From November – March, virtually none…
  • …the soil has been prepared and fed in late October, and the microbes do the rest. 

How does this benefit you personally? Not only does sustainable living restore the environment, improve our quality of life, and lower our carbon footprints — which again, if we all participate, will dramatically reduce carbon emissions, and thus reverse climate change — Stephen enthusiastically explains that there are numerous additional personal benefits. These benefits have significantly improved Stephen and Lori’s well-being, most notably health and fitness. After suffering through a year of Covid, isn’t that what we all want? To be healthier. Thankfully, Stephen has agreed to share his wonderful health and fitness tips in the upcoming articles. 

Stephen and Lori have become so connected to the earth through farming, that Stephen digs extensively into the scientific research side of things. In fact, Stephen emphasized at the very beginning, that he’s all about science, and that all of his habits and routines have been acquired through intense investigating. His scientific research list is 32 sources long. Stephen’s knowledge is so deep and broad that writing this brief pilot article was daunting. 

The next steps:

  • Stephen advises that the very first thing we need to do is admit that we have to make lifestyle changes.
  • Additionally, Stephen points out that there’s science behind sustainable living lifestyle choices, especially as they pertain to farming, nature, health and exercise and it’s important that we take the time to read up and do the necessary research. Science based podcasts can be very informative as well.
  • Print the above sustainable living list and check off each item daily until each becomes habit.

Be sure to check back next Thursday for the next Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide with Stephen Santangelo.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A Nation That Destroys Its Soil Destroys Itself — FDR

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 17, 2021 by Noreen Wise

Soil and dirt are not the same thing, according to geologist and author David R. Montgomery. Dark brown soil is life, teaming with microbes that are the engineers of all the nature that flourishes above ground. Microbe rich soil contains major amounts of carbon and moisture. Soil is the very thing that sustains our existence on the planet. 

Much paler dirt on the other hand is lifeless, containing little or no microbes, carbon or moisture, making it very difficult for plants to grow on their own. There is nothing that holds the dirt together, which often results in the wind sweeping the dirt away, creating heaps along fence lines and structure walls. 

David Montgomery warns readers in his book, Growing a Revolution, Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, that soil degradation is what destroys civilizations. The Great Dustbowl of the 1930’s was a result of a decade of soil degradation brought on by plowing during the 1920’s which removed the nutrient rich topsoil, released all the stored carbon into the air, and left behind nothing but dirt in its wake.

What’s the heart of the matter? Soil, rich in microbes, can store major amounts of carbon. Nearly 70 percent of the carbon sequestered in a forest is stashed in the soil. Plants push the carbon they absorb down to the roots where it is released into the soil and safely trapped, reducing the atmospheric carbon level. The higher our atmospheric carbon level, the more the globe heats up. 

How does this impact you personally? Global warming impacts all of us negatively. The warmer weather often results in droughts which impacts agriculture, decreasing our food supply. This is occurring at the same time the global population is rising, creating a greater demand for food. Global warming causes the climate around the globe to change. It has melted glaciers, which in turn has increased the water levels of our oceans, lakes and rivers. Property values along shorelines have plummeted in many areas. Additionally, coastal homeowners are now finding it very difficult to get insurance for their homes and property. The wildfires out West have destroyed millions of acres of forests and billions of mature trees which has exasperated the climate crisis creating catastrophic climate blowback. According to David R. Montgomery, the United States has already lost 50% of its soil, leaving behind dirt in its place.

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember all those we lost to Covid. Ponderosa Pines Ranch forest. All thanks to ranch owner Byron Richard!

How can you fix this? Every household in the United States must compost. Composting kitchen scraps is an imperative for restoring our soil. Compost is filled with the vital microbes that are essential for soil health. Local grocery stores now have biodegradable compost bags. These kitchen scrap compost bags can be safely stored in your refrigerator if you don’t have an outdoor compost bin with a snap clip lid that will keep wildlife out of your compost. The majority of developed countries in the world have mandatory composting with curbside pickup once a week, but not the U.S. unfortunately. Private compost pick-up companies are popping up in the majority of US cities. Additionally, many U.S. towns now have compost drop-off sites. 

The next steps:

  • place kitchen scraps into a small kitchen bag instead of the sink or garbage
  • store in refrigerator if you don’t have an outside bin with snap lid
  • drop off at town compost site once a week or call to have a private company pickup your compost
  • Voila! So easy. You’ve just helped save our existence on earth.

We can do this!

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

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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.


© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

Must Act Quickly to Restore Our Habitat | The Powerful Impact of Time Capsules

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 27, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Restoring our habitat is of the utmost importance. We must act swiftly to replant everything we’ve destroyed if we want to succeed at lowering atmospheric carbon levels. Interestingly, our Founding Fathers, as well as early American farmers, were equally concerned about preserving and maintaining our habitat. Sharing plants and seeds across the miles added vibrant diversity to our landscape. Each packet of seeds acted as a time capsule carrying the promise of a healthy future. 

Time capsules capture the imagination of people everywhere. The International Time Capsule Society estimates there to be between 10,000 and 15,000 time capsules worldwide. Even fictional time capsules have a place in modern culture. You may be familiar with the episode of “The Simpson’s” in which Principal Skinner’s prized container is contaminated by Bart’s partially eaten sandwich. Two current time capsules planted in Flushing Meadows, New York contain common items such as a hat, a fountain pen, and a pack of cigarettes, all meant to convey a sense of what life was like in the 20th Century. Seeds also made the list, showing just how important plants are to our survival. Carefully preserved wheat, corn, oats, and tobacco seeds, are just a few of these precious materials we are sharing with the future. One wonders: Are these seeds intended to be agricultural specimens or life-giving sources of food and oxygen for a world that could be struggling in 5,000 years?

If all goes well, the seeds sent forward into time will yield a bountiful harvest. Seeds certainly hold promise for the future. Consider the seeds shared in the 1700s between an American farmer and an English businessman. According to Andrea Wulf’s wonderful book, The Brother Gardeners (2010), the farmer, John Bartram, supplied American plants and seeds to Peter Collinson, in London. Over the course of 40 years, the relationship flourished, and New World trees and shrubs migrated across the Atlantic, adding oxygen-giving greenery to European gardens. The seeds acted as a time capsule joining two worlds and offered hope for a future full of essential vegetation.

Seeds help ensure the future of our planet.

  • Seed banks hold promise for our future, as they preserve endangered species and genetic diversity threatened by climate change.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, stores more than 980,000 seed samples from all over the world.
  • Organizations such as the Native Seed Network and the Plant Conservation Alliance are working to restore decimated habitats and re-populate them with native seeds.

Be Part of the Solution

As days grow short and we wait patiently for the light of the new year, let’s consider what elements of the past are worth passing on to the future. Which seeds can we plant now that will strengthen our planet as it fights global warming? Plant a tree, add shrubs to your yard, cover a wall with Virginia Creeper. Share with others the value that a leafy green environment holds for our future. Create a time capsule that will make a difference!

Timely Tree Facts:

  • Most oak trees don’t grow acorns until they are at least 50 years old.
  • Conifers grow 3-5 feet per year in the first five years and can reach 90 feet by age 25.
  • One of the oldest trees in the world is a bristlecone pine named “Methusela” (4852 years old as of 2020).

Resources:

What to Plant in Winter: https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/what-to-plant-in-winter

Fast-growing trees in Virginia: https://timberworksva.com/fast-growing-trees-virginia/


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

A Gift Worth Waiting For | Exciting Eco Projects For Students While Distance Learning

Washington (GGM) Analysis |December 19, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Wandering through a wooded park or along a shady path, it’s easy to miss what’s right before our eyes. How often do we consider the gifts before us, planted long ago? The cool breeze and fresh fragrance are momentary experiences that began with the planting of seeds. No matter how the trees, shrubs, and understory got there, whether through nature or a particular person, you and I are the beneficiaries. 

Thomas Jefferson understood this. His legacy of Monticello lies not only in its Neoclassical architecture but in its lush landscape. As a matter of course, school children learn the importance of the Declaration of Independence. Yet how often are they given the opportunity to uncover Jefferson’s other significant gift, the carbon-fighting greenery flourishing at Monticello and Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia? His plans for Monticello included vegetable gardens, a vineyard, two orchards, and an 18-acre ornamental forest. Trees planted as early as the mid-19th Century still adorn the Academical Village at UVA. This life-giving vegetation continues to fight the greenhouse gasses humans add to the environment. Jefferson and other forward-thinking botanists gave us gifts centuries before we recognized them. We can pass on their legacy by teaching our children about the gift of trees – what we have received and how we can give.

This land was once James Monroe’s cornfield. But Thomas Jefferson bought it and said, “Let there be trees!”

Benefits of Trees

  • Trees clean the air by trapping particulates on their leaves and branches.
  • Trees help prevent water pollution by collecting rainwater on their bark and leaves and depositing it in the ground below.
  • Trees provide economic opportunities for small businesses that provide food to local markets.
  • Exposure to trees helps relieve mental fatigue.

     Jefferson’s story and his gardens offer valuable lessons for young people. Planting a tree, caring for a sapling, waiting for growth all require patience and hard work. What better way to learn these important life skills? Planting trees with children engages them physically and gives them purposeful time outdoors. Watching and waiting for the first green sign of life teaches youngsters that growth takes time, just like their own development. The tree will need nurturing and thoughtful care including some hands on, “Let’s get messy” work. To generate interest in tree planting, you can begin with age-appropriate literature about trees and their care. Adolescents may be energized to learn about the difference trees make in the fight against global warming, or they may want to plant their tree to support a friend going through a difficult time. So, take a moment to enjoy a refreshing breeze and appreciate the clean scent of a forest. Then make a plan for the gift you will give, a gift someone is waiting for.

“Let there be trees,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Ways to Give Back

  • Plant a tree or shrub in your yard (and post a photo on social media)
  • Add Virginia Creeper to cover a fence
  • Learn more about trees and spread the word

Resources for Parents

Books:

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben (ages 8-10)

Seeds and Trees: A children’s book about the power of words by Brandon Walden (ages 6-12)

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Gina Ingoglia (ages 8-12)

Websites:

Informative video for parents and kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abVvZLyZAIg

Tree Activities for Kids: https://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/tree-activities-for-kids.html

Benefits of trees: https://canopy.org/tree-info/benefits-of-trees/urban-trees-and-climate-change/,

https://www.treepeople.org/tree-benefits


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

Fairfax Ninth Grader Reveals NoVa Native Carbon Storage Champions

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 18, 2020 by Noreen Wise

The planet will keep revolving around the sun, no matter how destructive and irresponsible humans are. But we humans won’t. Humans are mammals. Mammals rely on our habitat to survive. And mammals eventually become extinct when our habitat disappears. Eighty mammals have gone extinct in the past five centuries.

Humans have escalated the destruction of our habitat for several centuries now. Leveling billions of trees. Replacing nature with concrete. We began waking up at the turn of the millennium. Al Gore traveled the globe with his megaphone, beating the drum, challenging us with his Inconvenient Truth. But did we rush into action, planting billions of trees and shrubs to restore our habitat?

No, sadly, we did not.

And now we have to face the fallout. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. A jarring reminder that haunts us as we finally begin racing to save our habitat by infusing as much nature into our local communities as possible, implementing an agenda to quickly catch up to a level we would already be at if we’d begun the campaign back at the turn of the millennium as Al Gore suggested.

The interesting phenomenon that nature graciously reminds us of, is that it can’t be rushed. We can’t force a tree to grow dramatically faster than it is predisposed to grow. With this reality staring us in the face, it’s imperative that we turn to shrubs to help with carbon storage, providing oxygen, filtering pollutants, stabilizing soil, increasing property values, and providing shade all while the young trees continue their upward climb.

At the end of October, Gallant Gold Media’s Hill Report ran a story about a W. T. Woodson High School ninth grader in Fairfax, Virginia, Julia Victor, and her science experiment for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair . Julia was determined to find out if shrubs can hold as much carbon as trees. Today we are very eager to share Julia’s findings.

Julia’s original hypothesis: I am hypothesizing that the holly tree will grow to be the largest and will absorb the most carbon. I also think that shrubs might not be far behind. I am hoping to be able to come to the conclusion that shrubs and smaller plants are just as important to reversing climate change as large trees. 

The steps that Julia initially planned to implement to test her hypothesis:

  1. Remove the soil and weigh each plant. Record each plant’s bare root weight (without soil).
  2. If plants are not the same weight, trim each plant until they are approximately equal.
  3. Plant each plant in its new container with 1 gallon of soil each. Label each container with the plant species.
  4. Water each plant with 1 cup of water each. 
  5. Set up each plant’s light to a 12-hour timer to simulate the sun.
  6. Water each plant regularly with its recommended amount of water.
  7. After 25 days, remove all the soil from the bare roots from each plant and weigh.

The NoVa native species that Julia used in her experiment:

  • American Holly 
  • Strawberry bush
  • Spicebush
  • Arrowwood Viburnum
  • Black Chokeberry

I sent Julia a list of follow up questions, but its best to let her explain her findings in her own words.

First question: Julia, were you able to follow her exact procedure? She replied:

I followed my original procedure except for step two. Some of the plants had very different starting weights so I would have to trim the plants quite a bit. If I had trimmed them all to be the same weight, some plants would have very little leaf coverage which would affect their ability to absorb carbon. That step was originally included to make conclusions easier for me, but I didn’t want to alter my results even though it would make it easier. 

What was the most challenging part of the experiment?

The most challenging part of the process was weighing the plants at the beginning and end of the experiment. I took three measurements for each plant, which led to 150 measurements. The process of unplanting, bare-rooting, weighing, and replanting took all day, but I was excited to start my experiment and to see my results. 

What were your findings?

The species all reacted differently to the same conditions. Some plants showed a surprising amount of change over only 24 days, but others lost leaves and lost weight. Even within species, each plant had variance. I started the experiment expecting that each plant would be different and be able to process carbon differently. Using a t-test, I determined that on average, plants that started out larger (30+ grams) grew substantially more than the smaller plants. This is consistent with research I did before starting my experiment. The larger plants were in a different stage of life and can sequester more carbon. 

Which species stored the most carbon?

On average the American Holly sequestered the most carbon, but the individual plant that gained the most weight was a Black Chokeberry. Not all plants gained weight due to leaves falling and certain plants entering their winter stage, but on average every species gained weight. Some species gained less weight because they had more intense winter stages or because the species processes carbon slower. By looking at the data, I can say that the shrubs are important to carbon sequestration. The trees (American Hollies) did absorb more carbon than the shrubs, but Black Chokeberry was very close behind. 

Will you be planting any nature this spring?

This spring, I will be planting all 25 shrubs that were in my experiment at my school. I originally planned to plant them in my yard, but many of them will grow to be fairly large and my yard does not have enough space. My science teacher was happy to plant them at Woodson.


Julia’s work and her findings are significant. I’m cheering this exciting outcome and personally look forward to planting black chokeberry this spring. I can’t wait to promote planting NoVa native trees and shrubs as well. Gallant Gold Media will be sending Julia’s work to Al Gore to see what he has to say about a young Fairfax, Virginia ninth grader taking action to address an Inconvenient Truth. Stay tuned for more information.

Thank you, Julia Victor! Northern Virginia, and I’m sure the entire state of Virginia, appreciates your hard work for our betterment.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Chopping Down Trees Creates Legal Liability

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 16, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Trees provide everything from oxygen to habitats for animals, yet they are chopped down with impunity. The damage to the environment is incalculable. To put it into perspective, however, half the number of trees exist now than those in existence when humans first evolved; fifteen billion trees are cut down annually; and ten percent of climate change is attributable to chopping down trees. Environmental carnage aside, legal liability and criminal liability exist for cutting down trees that do not belong to the harvester.

The legal terms most closely associated with cutting down and removing trees that do not belong to the harvester are “timber trespass” (mistakenly harvesting trees from another’s property) and “timber theft” (stealing trees from someone’s property). Timber trespass deals more with the civil end whereas timber theft can involve civil and criminal penalties. It varies from state to state. Nevertheless, lawsuits are filed for large sums of money over taking timber that does not belong to the harvester. 

In South Carolina, as of 2016 one-hundred cases per year are investigated and pursued with a value of between $500,000 and $600,000. A man in North Carolina illegally cut timber near Asheville, the value of the trees owned by a conservancy assessed at $1,000, but the mill rights to the timber of $25,000-$30,000. 

Illegal tree harvesting tends to be less of a problem in North Carolina, which has a larger population, than it is in Maine, which has a smaller population and vast swaths of uninhabited forests. Maine has over one-thousand complaints of timber theft each year.

The damage to the environment cannot be separated from the legal issues that arise from stealing trees, which are property, but they are far more than that to every living thing. In the most basic sense, illegal harvest of trees contributes to the problem of deforestation:

Over half the world’s land-based plants and animals live in forests, and three quarters of the world’s birds live in and around forests. It does not take a science PhD or intricate knowledge of environmental science or ecology to understand that the more trees that are cut, the more environmental problems that will follow.  

And it is a problem all over the world from the rainforests in South America to the United States to even Ireland:

All of it is interconnected, and every time a tree is cut down (regardless if it is replaced), the owner of the tree is impacted as is the rest of the planet. While planting new trees can certainly mitigate the problem, it cannot recapture what is lost every time a tree is cut down. Sadly, the only way to stop harvesting of trees may be filing lawsuits because people and corporations tend to respond the most when their money is on the line. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Trees for Love | 247 Seedlings Planted to Remember Those We’ve Lost to Covid

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 7, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is excited to share the wonderful news that 247 free redbud and button bush seedlings were distributed to Fairfax County and Northern Virginia residents to plant in remembrance of those lost to Covid in our communities. Fairfax ReLeaf supplied the free seedlings, which Gallant Gold Media distributed through George Mason University’s parking Lot P on Saturday, October 24, 2020. The Fairfax Tree Commission was the essential liaison that made this all possible, enabling the free seedling distribution to come to fruition by connecting these various organizations. 

It takes a village.

Apparently, the Trees for Love campaign is the largest community tree planting success in the state of Virginia during 2020. The Burke Centre Conservancy was the largest group of planters, distributing 146 Fairfax ReLeaf free seedlings to their Clusters and residences. The rest of the redbud and button bush seedlings were claimed by Northern Virginia residents, many of whom were moved by friends and family who’d been lost to covid and were searching to find a meaningful way to honor their memory.

Burke Centre Conservancy are big tree planters, here’s a photo from 2019

One such resident was Dawn Zimmerman. Dawn, a Virginia State licensed professional counselor, operating her solo practice Imago Dei Counseling in Fairfax City, attributes her love of nature and gardening and the outdoors to her grandfather, a midwest farmer, as well as spending her childhood in Thailand. Although born in metro Washington DC, Dawn’s father was a State Department Foreign Service Officer. From a young age Dawn seems to have become well-acquainted with the understanding of how important it is to connect with others in our community and let them know we care, especially during a crisis.

Whether it’s Dawn’s close connection to the State Department, her career as a counselor, or her passion for nature, Dawn felt compelled to enrich Northern Virginia with multiple Virginia Native redbuds and button bushes to honor the five family and friends she’s lost to Covid. Dawn wanted us to know more than just their names though, she was eager to share their stories.

Ron Ontko: Dawn’s honorary uncle, passed away from Covid related complications on April 2, 2020 in Hendersonville, NC. He was 89 years old. Ron and his wife Carol, met in Wisconsin, and after college, while in a young couples group at Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, DC,  became good friends with Dawn’s parents. The two couples went on to become lifelong friends. Ron was an avid photographer and devoted ‘Skins fan, but his career was spent in public service. After graduating high school, Ron served in the United States Air Force, before he returned to school. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Russian Studies from the University of Wisconsin and then his master’s degree in international law from George Washington University. From there, Ron worked for the NSA, the United States Senate, and the US State Department, which is quite a remarkable resume. Ron Ontko was a Freemason and a Shiner, participating in fundraising for numerous children’s charities. He is survived by his wife Carol of 62 years, as well as his son, Andrew, and daughter, Julie.

Jack “Zeke” Zimmerman: Zeke is Dawn’s uncle, who was lost to Covid related pneumonia on October 21, 2020 at aged 86 in Frederick, MD. Survived by wife Lynn, sons Steve (Andrea) and grandsons Eric and Mark of Memphis, TN; Paul of Wilmington, DE and was predeceased by son John, Silver Spring, MD.  Also survived by Mary Lee Zimmerman, the mother of their three sons; Daughter-in-Law Christie (widow of John) and grandchildren John Paul “JP” and Maria. 

The following is a loving tribute written by Zeke’s grandson, Mark Zimmerman:
Zeke Zimmerman was known to many as the “Godfather of DC Metropolitan Area Sandlot Basketball.”  GrandJack lived his life around basketball. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and fielded basketball teams. He formed teams from players that he would recruit from across the country. Around 1950, having teams with multiple races was unprecedented. My grandfather did not judge a player based on his skin color, but on his basketball ability. Jack was known as Zeke Zimmerman in the D.C. area. He formed a team called “Zeke’s All-Stars.” This was the first team that had both black and white players in the D.C. area. Because my grandfather did not judge a player based on his race, many black basketball players were able to go to college for basketball or even the NBA. A couple of years ago, he gave me a jersey from the 1950 Zeke’s All-Stars team. This jersey is a symbol of my family’s value of inclusion. It did not matter which race wore this specific jersey. The only thing that mattered was that my grandfather saw talent in that young man, and he wanted to help. My family still holds the values of inclusion and equality in our everyday lives, as we do not judge people based on their skin tone, but on their personality.

Redbud and button bush seedlings planted to remember Zeke Zimerman and Ron Ontko

The following is a State Department obituary with a few extra details provided by Dawn:
Patrick “David” Husar, 67, died May 9, in Arlington, VA. David was born in Lorain, Ohio located on Lake Erie and 30 miles West of Cleveland. At University of Kentucky, where David majored in history, one of his professors encouraged him to consider a career with the Foreign Service. Joining in 1976, Husar served as a consular officer at posts in Pakistan, India, and the Philippines before transitioning to Civil Service. He retired in 2016 and enjoyed long walks around the Washington area, was an avid reader, and was dedicated to his faith. He is survived by his wife, Jonahlyn; a brother Michael; and extended family in the Philippines.

Button bush seedling planted to remember David Husar

Daniel Lee: Spending a few minutes on Google images to view the architectural designs that Daniel Lee graced upon all of us here in the United States, is sure to inspire. And inspiration is certainly the impulse Mr. Lee appears to have been striving for when he graduated from the Mississippi School of Architecture in 1981 and began his career in classical architecture as an intern with Allen Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg is one of the premier classical architects of the twenty-first century. The son of Protestant missionaries, Mr. Lee’s love of classical architecture sprung from his childhood in Paris, France, surrounded by neoclassical landmarks erected during the reign of Louis XIV and that continued all the way through Louis XVI. Many of us here in Virginia are endowed with an inherent appreciation for classical architecture, which dates back to the founding of our most historic cities. So it’s with great sadness that we lost Mr. Lee to Covid on August 17, 2020, at age 64. Mr. Lee is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leonor Lee, his two sons, Stephen and Christopher, and two daughters, Susanne and Katherine.

Redbud seedling planted to remember Daniel Lee

There’s an additional friend of the family. In Dawn’s own words:
Pat Purcell died from Covid related complications on May 11th, 2020 in Fairfax, VA. Pat resided in the same Senior living community as my mom and was the elderly mother of Ann Lawrence, a friend of my parents from their local Lutheran Church. Mom and Pat became friends but lived on different floors and in different areas of the building. Interestingly, Pat was actually a member of a local Baptist Church but was adopted by the Lutheran pastor, Rev Sandy Kessinger who made regular visits to their Continuing Care Community. 

Redbud seedlings planted to remember Pat Purcell

Dawn spent 10 years working at the State Department before starting her counseling firm. After buying her townhouse, she became involved with her HOA replanting project, which she finds life affirming. During the first five years she hand-dug holes, which is quite a feat, and planted five trees, as well as a slew of shrubs and perennials. Dawn was sidelined from her gardening last year following two minor car accidents which required physical therapy. But thankfully, she returned with all her passion and began removing hundreds of “small, weedy Rose of Sharon saplings and bush honeysuckle” that were rapidly spreading in the HOA areas. She’d learned about the importance of growing Virginia Natives and was determined to correct the situation.

Dawn’s Virginia Native Trees for Love redbud and buttonbush seedlings are planted in three HOA areas in Dawn’s Northern Virginia townhouse community. Dawn received a note from one family member who expressed, “That’s perfect; thank you. Not just words but heartfelt, tears flowing, gratitude.”

When I asked Dawn for one final thought on the importance of planting trees, she responded with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.”

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Fracking May Decide Pennsylvania

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 4, 2020 by Michael Wells, Attorney @slnc01

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are locked in a tight battle for the presidency, which may come down to Pennsylvania. Big coal and facking employ many people in Pennsylvania, and, understandably, fracking is a huge issue. All the votes have been cast and are being counted, but the Pennsylvania race (and possibly the presidency) may come down to the issue of fracking. The two candidates’ positions are more similar than you may think.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique for extracting oil and natural gas by firing pressurized liquid into the Earth’s crust. Trump has long supported the practice and has even signed an Executive Order to protect fracking. Biden’s position has been to say he will not ban fracking, but that he will look towards alternative fuel sources, perhaps in an effort to win key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio (which he appears to have lost). One indication of how important this issue is in Pennsylvania can be gleaned from Vice Presidential Kamala Harris’s October 6, 2020 tweet:

While Biden and Harris must appeal to the Green New Deal part of the Democratic Party, they must also win key states such as Pennsylvania, which rely heavily on fracking. To what extent this is just politics, remains to be seen, but, given what appears to be a Repulican Senate, legislation to ban or limit fracking does not appear possible. This means this dangerous practice will continue. 

According to an article from Euronews, fracking poses a number of environmental hazards:

  • Methane leaks occur frequently to the tune of one million tons in Pennsylvania per year. The industry only reported 64,000 tons.
  • Methane and other gasses released through fracking are a problem because they trap twenty-five more times heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
  • Fracking pollutes the groundwater supply, which can cause cancer.

From a legal standpoint, the pollution issues pose millions in liability for companies that are not careful. Quite frankly, even if these companies are careful, the risk is quite high. Although not the result of fracking, Flynt, Michigan is a cautionary tale as to what happens when drinking water is contaminated. 

Fracking does supply jobs, upwards of ten million nationally, but, if Biden wins, his energy plan will likely aim to rejoin the Paris Agreement. It is unclear whether fracking as it stands in the United States would violate or otherwise cause problems with the agreement.

Biden has said he opposes fracking on public lands, but it is unclear what exactly this means. Even if Biden were to oppose fracking altogether, it is unlikely he could get a bill limiting or banning it  to pass the Senate due to the Republican majority. 

Fracking’s future remains uncertain in the United States, but it does appear it is not going anywhere anytime soon even after the votes are counted and a victor declared. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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