Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
"... this fragile earth, our island home .."
[from Eucharistic Prayer C, Episcopal Book of Common Prayer]
40 years later, Americans can say much has been done, but there is still more to do. Major improvements in air and water pollution levels, and increased energy efficiency have been achieved on a national level, brought about by sustained national efforts to improve our environment. But significant challenges remain.
Due to enforcement of the Clean Air Act, from 1980 to 2008, the concentration of common air quality pollutants, have dropped significantly. As reported by the US EPA for overall national average data, the good news: Carbon Monoxide down 79%, Ozone down 14%, Lead down 92%, Nitrogen Dioxide down 46% Sulfur Dioxide down 71%, and Particulates down 20%. The bad news, over 126 million people nationwide lived in counties with pollution levels above the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standards in 2008. Major cities are still struggling with air quality issues due to the concentration of population and related sources of emissions. So the quality of the air you breath, while improving overall, still depends greatly on where you live.
The Clean Water Act has enabled considerable improvement in acute point source pollution, in particular, toxic industrial wastewater and raw sewage contamination from municipalities. But problems continue with non-point source pollution (urban/residential rain water run-off, acid rain, agricultural nutrient and animal waste run-off). From the US EPA report to Congress in 2004, "states reported that about 44% of assessed stream miles, 64% of assessed lake acres, and 30% of assessed bay and estuarine square miles were not clean enough to support uses such as fishing and swimming. Less than 30% of U.S. waters were assessed by the states for this report. Leading causes of impairment included pathogens, mercury, nutrients, and organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen. Top sources of impairment included atmospheric deposition, agriculture, hydrological modifications, and unknown or unspecified sources."
On the energy front, over the last 40 years, cars have become more fuel efficient due to federal CAFE standards, new homes and appliances are designed to minimize energy consumption, and businesses continue to focus on improving their green footprint. But growth in the world’s population, and the rapid economic expansion in developing countries, continue to increase the consumption rate of our diminishing finite fossil fuel reserves. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), "Our projections show that existing policies that stress energy efficiency and alternative fuels, together with higher energy prices, will curb energy consumption growth and shift the energy mix toward renewable fuels. However, assuming no new policies, fossil fuels would still provide about 78 percent of all the energy used in 2035 [United States]." You don't have to look too far ahead to see that we will have to cope with significant increases in our energy costs, and face the difficult choices surrounding the environmental impact of each of the alternative sources of energy. Oil. Natural Gas. Coal. Nuclear. Wind. Solar. Hydro.
So where do you come in? The big picture is good to know, but we all ask ourselves, “What can I do, as just one person, to make a difference?” Simple. Follow the adage, "Think Global, Act Local". It is still sound guidance on how any of us can change the world.
While world events outside of Augusta County, move relentlessly on, many of our friends and neighbors are taking action to change the world right here in the Shenandoah Valley. Some local environmental activist organizations are long established and some are new. You will have to look no further than our local newspaper or the Internet to find some of our very own world changing activists.
“I never worry about action, but only about inaction.” Winston Churchill
Just do something.
Environmental Protection Action
Chesapeake Bay Foundation http://www.cbf.org/
Friends of the Shenandoah River http://www.fosr.org/
Friends of the Middle River http://friendsofmiddleriver.blogspot.com/
Headwaters SWCD http://headwaters.vaswcd.org/
Lewis Creek Advisory Committee
Pure Water Forum http://www.purewaterforum.org/
Shenandoah Valley Network http://www.shenandoahvalleynetwork.org/
Shenandoah RC&D Council http://shenandoahrcd.org/
Shenandoah River Keepers http://www.potomacriverkeeper.org/shenandoah/
Sierra Club - Shenandoah http://virginia.sierraclub.org/shenandoah/
Valley Conservation Council http://www.valleyconservation.org/
Energy Conservation Action
Staunton Green 20/20 http://www.stauntongreen2020.org
Transition Staunton Augusta http://transitionstaunton.org
Eat Fresh, Buy Local - Supporting Sustainable Local Agriculture
Staunton Augusta Farmers Market http://www.safarmersmarket.com/
Buy Fresh, Buy Local Virginia http://www.buylocalvirginia.org/
"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
Monday, April 19, 2010
We see this as a positive sign, we may see progress in the manufacturing and technology sector in Waynesboro. At least we're talking about it.
We don't hold out as much hope for Augusta County. Since the release of the County Economic Strategic Plan in January 2009, little has been heard from County Administrator - Patrick Coffield, the County Economic Development team, or the County Board of Supervisors (BOS). Much strum und drang has been voiced over the county real estate assessment process and land use zoning. Discussion of aggressive plans for industrial development ... not so much.
The Augusta BOS knows farming ... count the farmers on the Board. All salt-of-the-earth, good folks. Well most of them are anyways. We love farming here at BRD, but it doesn't pay all our family's bills, nor will it be the primary economic engine to drive Augusta County forward.
It's time to re-focus the good 'ol boys and girl, beyond cow pastures and poultry barns. Hopefully the public will ask for more than real estate tax debates from our Supervisors, in the near future. Maybe not, but at least we'll try to continue to engage folks in a discussion of this subject.
If Waynesboro can do it, so can you Augusta County.
Waynesboro: Coping with a smaller manufacturing base (News Virginian 4/15/10)
In 1953, at its peak, manufacturing made up more than a fourth of the country’s gross domestic product. By 2006, with the country on the brink of recession, that share had plunged to 12.4 percent. This trend was paired with an even steeper decline in manufacturing’s share of nonfarm employment, which has been cut by more than half since 1980.
But the news is not all bleak. The United States remains the world leader in manufacturing, with output larger than the entire gross domestic products of all but two countries. Further, Kiplinger, the leading financial forecaster, predicts manufacturing will gain some ground late this year and next on its way to a strong, steady recovery that will blossom in 2012. The sector’s share of gross domestic product “will hold steady, at about 13 percent,” according to Jerome Idaszak, associate editor of the The Kiplinger Letter.
“It’s wrong to write off manufacturing,” Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute think tank, told Kiplinger’s Idaszak. “But it’s going to be smaller.”
Waynesboro's technology opportunity (News Virginian 4/16/10)
As Waynesboro faces what will surely be a continuing drain of the manufacturing jobs that once had been the city’s lifeblood, no sector offers greater hope than technology for replacing the high-paying jobs that industry once provided.
But those opportunities won’t be realized without the city taking steps to gain advantage.
To develop a thriving technology sector, Waynesboro cannot simply wait for it to unfold. The city will have to take the lead in making it happen, as Harrisonburg has in forming its Downtown Technology Zone, a move made by towns throughout Northern Virginia and across America.
Key Points for Waynesboro, Staunton AND Augusta County:
1. Partner Up with Current Technology & Manufacturing Business Leaders - encourage technology and manufacturing collaboration
2. Fire Up our Econ Dev Reps, get them out "on point", prospecting leads, fired up and ready-to-go as this business cycle builds strength
3. Create a Man-Tech Zone - foster development of technology and light manufacturing business friendly locations
4. Think Regional - we are not alone in the Central Valley. Leverage all our resources from Augusta and Rockingham County. Look south to Rockbridge, too.
5. Support Tech Ed - We have outstanding Technology education institutions. We need to increase the leverage from the great programs at BRCC, SVGS, Valley VoTech and JMU STEM.
We are still looking for innovative business and civic leaders for the 21st century ... we've got work to do.