Today’s blog is a special feature on the Embassy of Canada in the United States, located in Washington, D.C. – specifically, their beautiful rooftop garden. All photos are courtesy of the Embassy.
An Embassy staff member says: “Now in its third year, the Embassy of Canada’s rooftop herb and vegetable garden is planned and tended by staff volunteers. The produce, which includes tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, green onions, eggplant, basil, rosemary, chives and parsley, is sold to staff members or used for official events. All proceeds from the garden are donated to the Embassy’s annual Workplace Charitable Campaign for the United Way.”
Chives thrive under the conditions of the rooftop garden
What is better than fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes that were only picked an hour ago? - Faith Hood
“Home-grown veggies and herbs just a few steps from the Capitol - what else could you wish for?” - Etienne Bastin
Hot peppers ripen on the vine
July is National Park and Recreation Month in the United States. To celebrate, we have a guest post written by Richard J. Dolesh, Vice President of Conservation and Parks for the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Richard discusses the interaction between Americans and parks and the importance of that relationship. The article originally appeared in Parks and Recreation Magazine and has been reprinted with the author’s permission.
Beetle Rock in Sequoia National Park, California
It is a self-evident truth that Americans love their parks. We build them in all shapes and sizes — for conservation, for recreation and for contemplation. We prize them highly and defend them fiercely, and our parks are the envy of the world.
I have often wondered what it is about parks that give them such a special place in our consciousness. Why do we love them so, and why do we identify some of the most important times of our lives with them? Clearly, this feeling is found not just in America, where we have an abundance of public parks for many purposes, but increasingly around the world where people of many cultures are finding, to their surprise, that their parks and public squares are bedrock elements of human freedoms.
Within our parks, there is one natural resource that we may take for granted perhaps more than any other. This critical component enables and enriches almost all types of recreation, and it is the fundamental resource, more than any other, that gives life and sustenance to living lands — to wildlife, to plants and to all of nature. Simply stated, it is clean water.
Clean water is the life’s blood of parks. It makes them attractive, appealing to wildlife, vibrant and emotionally satisfying to people. And parks protect water quality, perhaps more than any other type of land use. The benefits of a clean, healthful environment that comes from clean water protect and enhance our individual health and that of our communities. Clean water consistently ranks as the top conservation priority of voters in survey after survey, and it is no wonder why.
In recent years, we have seen a generation of kids lose touch with nature and the outdoors. There are many reasons why, but we now know it is very difficult to encourage kids to find the joy in playing outdoors when they are spending an average of eight hours per day behind some type of electronic screen — television, smartphone, tablet, you name it. However, there is one surefire way to show kids how much fun it is to connect to nature and the outdoors, and that is to just lead ‘em to water. Water can enable that sense of discovery and learning through play that nature provides to kids. It is inherently interesting and fun. If you don’t think so, think back on your earliest, fondest memories — the lifetime moments you cherish. You will be surprised to note how many of them were on or around or in the water — fishing, swimming, playing at the beach, mucking about in a swamp — most of them involved water. We connect with nature and we build generational bonds through our connection to water.
We have a shared responsibility to protect our clean water and clean air for future generations. More to the point, it is a legacy we want to leave to our children — the ability to play freely and safely in clean water, to visit parks that have an abundance of clean water, and for them to be able to recreate in them and enjoy them throughout their lives so that they can share them with their own children. Moreover, we have a responsibility to foster the next generation of stewards for our parks and natural places. If we don’t, who will care for these places and water resources in the future?
Wallace Stegner was correct when he said that parks are one of our best ideas America ever had for fulfilling this purpose. The importance of parks in protecting clean water, enhancing it and making it available for all types of recreation is a sacred public trust that gives us high purpose and a profound sense of mission. Best of all, we love to do it and we are constantly refreshed by the thought that because of our stewardship, we give life to water, as water gives life to parks.
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.
As countries around the world celebrated Earth Day on April 22, 2013, hundreds of people in Washington, D.C., joined together to highlight and recognize one of Earth’s most precious and essential resources: water.
As one walker noted:
“I grew up in Africa and understand firsthand and have experience what it is like to not have tap water. I have walked many times to the river to fetch water and firewood in my early life. It is my hope that someday in the future everyone will have easy access to clean water!”
Organized by the U.S. Department of State, the 3rd Annual 6K Walk for Water was also held to acknowledge the millions of people in the developing world, most often women and girls, who walk an average of six kilometers per day to collect water for their families.
Participants included students, volunteers, workers from local embassies and non-governmental organizations, as well as employees of the State Department.
Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy kicked off the event by delivering remarks outside the Department’s 21st Street entrance near the corner of Virginia Avenue NW in D.C.
Why else did people participate in the walk? Here’s what some of them said:
|The human body is mostly water and without water there is know life. We need to preserve life hence water. That is one reason that I’m walking.
|I want to show solidarity to the women and children that make huge efforts to survive and to help keep my own daily struggles in perspective.
|I was born in Jamaica and I remember as child, My brothers, sister and I had to walk several miles early in the morning to retreive water for our family.
Why do you think it’s important to walk for water?
This is the first blog in our series of guest posts by the Earth Day Network. Check back each day through Earth Day, April 22nd, for a new and exciting post!
The first Earth Day – on April 22, 1970 – was the birth of the modern environmental movement. Twenty million Americans took to the streets in cities all over the country to demand that something be done about the destruction of the environment. The events of that day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Since then, Earth Day and the global environmental movement have grown exponentially. Today, more than a billion people in 192 countries participate in Earth Day-related activities. It is the largest civic observance in the world.
The theme of Earth Day 2013 is The Face of Climate Change. For many, climate change can seem like a remote problem. The reality, however, is that climate change has very real effects on people, animals, and beloved places. These Faces of Climate Change are multiplying every day.
Fortunately, other Faces of Climate Change are multiplying, too: those stepping up to do something about it. These are the entrepreneurs
who see opportunity in creating the new green economy, the activists who organize community action and awareness campaigns, the engineers who design the clean technology of the future, the public servants who fight for climate change laws and for mitigation efforts, the ordinary people who commit to living sustainably…
Over the course of the next several months, we’ll collect and display images of people, animals, and places directly affected or threatened by climate change – as well as images of people doing their part to stop it. We’ll tell the world their stories. On and around Earth Day (April 22), an interactive digital display of all the images will be shown at thousands of events around the world — from schools to parks to government buildings.
The Face of Climate Change seeks to personalize the massive challenge that climate change presents, while uniting people around the globe into a powerful call to action. To participate, visit www.earthday.org/2013.
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.
New York City's High Line
All month long we will take a look at public spaces around the world where individuals, communities, organizations and governments are working to make things more environmentally-friendly. “Greening public spaces” refers to an exciting variety of projects going on with a goal of helping people connect to nature, and give back to and conserve the environment.
That might mean building structures using recycled materials with a focus on sustainability and renewable energy (LED lights, composting toilets, solar panels, etc.). It could also refer to transportation initiatives such as a bike share system that encourages inhabitants to choose their bikes over cars and tries to make access to bikes easier, cheaper, and safer.
Increasingly, urban areas are trying to incorporate more green spaces, sometimes in the form of city farms or initiatives that transform overgrown, abandoned spaces into public parks and free communal areas to connect with nature.
If you or your
community participates in greening activities of public spaces, or if you have heard of cool operations happening elsewhere, let us know! We are looking for great projects to highlight throughout the month.
“1000″ height=”1000″ />Sustainability has many definitions and provokes a wide range of concepts and approaches. In many aspects sustainability has been overused and lacks the clarity needed to fully understand what it means for a particular place. In my experience stemming from years of hands-on planning in communities of all sizes and locations, one lesson is that one size does not fit all in terms of sustainability solutions. Anyone concerned about a brighter future for the next generation across the globe will promote a tailored, custom solution to the unique needs and situations faced by the range of communities and cultures. In order for the concept to have meaning, it needs to be tied to measures that reflect where we are and whether what we do is making us more or less sustainable.
Patterns of human development – physical, social, and economic – affect sustainability at the local and the global level. City and regional planning helps define how, where, and when human settlement occurs. The location of urban development and the choices for reusing and adapting cities make a huge difference in resource consumption. Planners can play a crucial role in improving the sustainability of communities and the resources that support them.
Sustainability, seen broadly, should address three main goals, commonly referred to as the “three Es”: Environment, Equity, and Economy. The most sustainable policies and implementation practices will be the ones that simultaneously advance all three goals. For me sustainability is a value-based effort to achieve what is right for society, or in any given community. My organization, The American Planning Association (APA) just held its 104th annual conference in Los Angeles and to kick it off, we cosponsored a Youth Forum on Sustainable Cities in cooperation with our Chinese partners. It is critical that we reach out to young people from all disciplines and all countries to engage them in the process of shaping the future. Too many times, their voices are not at the table when decisions are made yet their generation will be most affected.
ECPA Fellow Jeff Soule getting local perspectives in Rio De Janeiro with meetings in the neighborhoods. (Courtesy Photo)
Widespread urbanization in both the U.S. and around the world is one of the most significant demographic trends seen today. Fortunately, it is also one of the most sustainable trends. Populations in urbanizing areas experience lower birth rates, higher educational attainments, and smaller carbon footprints. In other words, urbanization is at the core of sustainability. Yet for the benefits of urbanization to be realized, there are things we need to do better.
1 Improve citizen involvement. We must engage each other in the discussion of the choices we have based on knowledge and information sharing. Planners are especially trained to help citizens become more informed and engaged in shaping a more sustainable future. In many places, citizens do not have a direct voice in development decisions and resource allocation and participatory governance a new concept that needs our support.
2 Plan according to Nature. Look at the regional picture and protect sensitive areas from urbanization. Much of today’s urbanization is occurring in areas of high risk for natural disasters: coastal and delta regions, earthquake and tsunami prone areas and places susceptible to sea level rise. Planning for hazard mitigation and avoidance is a critical effort that is often overlooked. We must not continue to place people in harm’s way through lack of planning.
3 Respect and learn from traditional patterns and techniques. Today the world is more interconnected than ever and we can recognize and value cultural differences and approaches to creating places. In many cases, historical building styles and materials embody the essence of low energy and sustainability. Equating high technology with modernity is a concept that needs to be questioned as we examine and respect the traditional settlements, designs and cultures that can inform our options.
This guest blog was written by Jeff Soule of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA).