Tag Archives: sustainable agriculture

Resilient Virginia News: August 2019

What’s New

Virginia Clean Energy Summit

Virginia Clean Energy Summit

Tuesday, September 17th | Richmond Convention Center | Richmond, Virginia

You’re invited to attend the first Virginia Clean Energy Summit. The conference goal is to highlight opportunities and encourage collaboration that accelerate the use of more energy efficiency, solar, wind, storage, EVs, and other clean energy solutions in the state. Conference attendees will include representatives from businesses, state and local governments, academia, and NGOs.

Who You Will Hear

  • Morning Keynote: Governor Ralph Northam
  • Lunch Keynote: Claire Broido Johnson, SunEdison Co-Founder
  • Breakout Session Speakers from Solar, Wind, and Energy Efficiency Businesses, State and Local Governments, Universities, and Associations

Topics Will Include

  • Transforming the energy grid;
  • Local government, residential, and business market segment solutions;
  • Finance options, including C-PACE and private investment;
  • Local energy security with microgrids and innovative technology;
  • Utility energy efficiency programs;
  • Electricity rate design;
  • Transportation and mobility; and
  • Solar, wind, batteries, electric vehicles, and smart building technology.

Conference organizers have secured speakers from across the state and the nation to discuss Virginia’s clean energy development — see the lineup here and register to attend.

Register Now

Co-hosted by MDV-SEIA, Resilient Virginia, Virginia AEE, VAEEC, and VA-REA, with supporting roles from JMU’s Office for the Advancement of Sustainable Energy, the VA DMME, and Viridiant.

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Resilient Virginia Conference — Sessions Reflect Rural/Urban Theme

2019 Resilient Virginia Conference

The 2019 Resilient Virginia Conference, held at the UVA Darden School of Business, brought together over 300 motivated participants from state and local governments, from universities and community organizations, and from the business sector. Speakers and attendees shared their progress in planning and implementing resiliency activities around the state and at the regional and national levels.

Our theme this year — Connecting Rural and Urban Communities for a Resilient Future — was reflected throughout the conference.

Annette Osso, Managing Director of Resilient Virginia, provided introductory remarks on the rural-urban interdependency dynamic that was summarized in this graphic.

Urban-Rural Interdependence

The theme also set the stage for an innovative exchange of ideas in the early afternoon Plenary Session with Anthony Flaccavento, SCALE; Perkins + Will representatives, Amy Thompson and Jon Penndorf; and Hamilton Lombard from UVA’s Cooper Weldon Center, led by Jonah Fogel, from the UVA Environmental Resilience Institute.

2019 Resilient Virginia Conference Plenary

One of the points made by the Plenary speakers was the fact that while urban and rural areas may not be seen as “equal,” they both have vital, if sometimes not fully recognized interdependencies. These include contributions to the economy, access to local foods, improving health, and protection of natural resources.

Anthony Flaccavento commented on the “mutuality” factor, for example, that rural communities can benefit from the experience of cities and urban areas in adopting smart growth planning policies. The Perkins + Will speakers mentioned the importance of areas surrounding urban centers to help address increasing stormwater and flooding occurances.

Speakers also commented on the “food desert” problems in both rural and urban areas, with the need and opportunity for a win-win dynamic of supporting the livelihoods of local farmers while bringing fresher, more nutritious foods to neighborhoods.

View Anthony Flaccavento’s and the Perkins+Will presentations on the conference webpage.

In addition, the Conference Breakout Sessions carried forth the Rural/Urban theme by bringing together examples of resiliency initiatives from across the state and region. These ranged from the resiliency role of ecosystems and agriculture to the progress being made in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia on climate adaptation plans for infrastructure.

We have heard much positive feedback about the event, including these comments:

“Great turnout and a lot of fun with smart people ready to take action!”
—Hilari Varnadore, Director, LEED for Cities and Communities, USGBC

“Inspiring to see so many people focused on the same resiliency challenges.”

“Great turnout, great speakers, great conference!”
— Chris McDonald, Director of Government Relations, Virginia Association of Counties

Look for not only the session PowerPoint presentations, but also the Plenary Session videos to be posted on our website in the near future.


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Land and Natural Resource Use Loom Large for Climate Impact: Two Articles Present Global and Regional Perspectives

By Tracy Garland, Social Media Director, Resilient Virginia

Land Use and Climate Impact

Study Highlights Land Use as Climate Concern and Part of Solution

A new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of land as both a potential source of greenhouse gas emissions and as a climate change solution. IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) concluded that keeping global warming well below 2°C can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, including land use and agriculture.

The IPCC reported that about 23% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from changes to landscapes for agriculture, forestry, and other uses. On the other hand, land sequesters almost a third of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. However, in order to scale back rising temperatures, we need to change the way we produce food and manage land.

The report highlights several areas of concern:

  • Current land use management techniques are exacerbating climate change.
  • Land is a critical carbon sink, removing more emissions than they generate.
  • Land is being negatively impacted by climate change.
  • Several promising “land-centric” proposals exist to reduce emissions and/or remove carbon while providing other significant benefits.
  • All proposed solutions require careful study of risks and trade-offs.

Of particular concern when considering proposed land-based climate solutions are their potential impacts on other land needs, such as food and water security. In addition, if climate change solutions are not more actively pursued in the energy and transport sectors, land-based solutions will become even more necessary.

The primary conclusion of the report is that, when done correctly, land-based solutions can reduce emissions while providing other environmental and social benefits. However, when done poorly, land-based solutions can exacerbate food security and environmental problems. Careful risk and trade-off analysis are necessary to successfully perform this delicate balancing act.

Sources:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land, August 2019, IPCC.

7 Things to Know About the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land. August 8, 2019, Kelly Levin and Sarah Parsons, World Resources Institute.

Model Shows Effects of Climate Change in Appalachian Regions

Appalachian RegionsThe Appalachian Mountains are known for their high peaks and deep valleys, but what is often underappreciated is the role that they play in supplying water to the Appalachian region and beyond. A new study highlights how climate change could play a role in the ability of the mountains to continue to provide water security both within and beyond the region’s borders.

Important population centers in the eastern and midwestern United States rely on the Appalachian mountain region for water supply. The high Appalachian mountain ridges are able to hold moisture from the atmosphere, essentially acting as a reservoir, before sending that water down rivers and streams and through aquifers to supply water to millions of people. Therefore, changes to the climate of the Appalachian region can have far-reaching impacts on water supply in a large area of the southeastern U.S.

Researchers at West Virginia University’s Mountain Hydrology Laboratory recently released their findings on the potential impact of climate change on water security in the seven-state Appalachian region. They found that the Appalachian region will be getting hotter, drier, and yet wetter by 2050 if nothing is done to curb climate change.

Hotter: as the global temperature rises, Appalachia could become five to ten degrees hotter by 2050.
Drier: As the atmosphere warms, water that is held in vegetation, soils, and water bodies evaporates, causing dryer conditions. Crops and the animals and humans that rely upon those crops will be negatively impacted.
Wetter: The rapid evaporation from the vegetation, soils and waterbodies then saturates the atmosphere, causing pouring rains. With the heavy rain comes landslides and floods.

Thus, climate change disrupts the ancient process of water being stored and released, creating times when there will be too much, then too little water. Therefore, everyone including governments, businesses, hospitals, and education institutions will all need plan for, and adapt to, these feast or famine scenarios.

The researchers also found that if we were able to stabilize climate change now, then by 2050, the climate system could return to normal conditions. However, if we continue high emissions “business as usual,” then precipitation in the region will continue to increase throughout the 21st century. The study also points out the importance of establishing policies to combat climate change at all levels, from local to global.

Sources:
Appalachia to become Hotter Wetter AND Drier in Climate Model with Severe Economic Impacts. August 11, 2019, Robbie Harris, WVTF.

Full report: Seasonal Changes in Water and Energy Balances over the Appalachian Region and Beyond throughout the Twenty-First Century. Authors, Rodrigo Fernandez and Nicolas Zegre. West Virginia University. Published May 9, 2019, American Meteorological Society Journal Online.


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Local Education on Electric Vehicles

Electrify Your Ride VAA new statewide campaign with the goal of building interest and adoption of electric vehicles is starting this Fall. Electrify Your Ride VA will hold local events around the state (see the Resilient Calendar listings) that will feature local EV owners and their cars, encourage hands-on learning with fellow community members, and point people toward more information such as an easy-to-use website that includes dealers who have agreed to provide EVs at discounted rates.

The project is a collaboration between nonprofits, Generation 180, Virginia Clean Cities, and the Green Energy Consumer Alliance. Since over 45% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in Virginia come from the transportation sector, this campaign will work to benefit the health of individuals and the environment by encouraging EV purchases. Find out more at generation180.org/electrify-your-ride.

If you would like additional information about the role of transportation in mitigating carbon emissions, the role the Commonwealth of Virginia is taking in regional transportation initiatives, and the electrification of the automobile industry, explore the presentations by Alleyn Harned, Chris Bast, and Rebecca Duff from the 2019 Resilient Virginia Conference. See the link below.

Transportation’s Role in Mitigation — Breakout Session

2019 Resilient Virginia Conference, July 17, 2019

SPEAKERS

Alleyn Harned, Executive Director, Virginia Clean Cities
Decarbonizing Transportation, the Big Picture

Chris Bast, Chief Deputy, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
The VW Settlement and Regional Electrification

Rebecca Duff, Senior Research Associate, Battan Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, UVA
Path to 2060: Electrification of the Auto Industry


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Volunteer Thank You!

Thank you Barbara!Resilient Virginia would like to send out a well-earned “Thank You” to Barbara Swart — community activist and concerned environmentalist — who has been our “Calendar Event Volunteer” for the last four years!

AND… We would like to announce that a volunteer position is open. Please contact Annette Osso (osso@resilientvirginia.org) if you would like to become the next “Calendar Event Volunteer.”

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Resilience Events Calendar

Here are some highlights of events happening this Fall.

September 14, 2019: EV Round-Up. Hosted by Electrify Your Ride VA, 9AM–1PM, Dorey Park Farmers Market, Richmond, VA.

September 15, 2019: EV Round-Up. Hosted by Electrify Your Ride VA, 10AM–2PM, Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville, VA.

September 17, 2019: Virginia Clean Energy Summit. Hosted by VA-Renewable Energy Alliance with Resilient Virginia and others as partners. See our special discount offer to Members (below) and register today at vacleanenergysummit.org.

September 21, 2019: EV Round-Up. Hosted by Electrify Your Ride VA, Time and Location TBD. Roanoke, VA.

September 22, 2019: EV Round-Up. Hosted by Electrify Your Ride VA, Time and Location TBD, Fairfax, VA.

Check our Resilient Events Calendar on a regular basis to find out what is happening in Virginia, around the nation, and virtually through webinars.


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Membership

Special Offer — Limited Time! Now through September 10.
We are offering you a Member-Only discount to attend the

Virginia Clean Energy Summit

Join or renew today!

We’ll send you the Member Discount Code.
Register for the Clean Energy Summit using the Discount Code and save $50 on your registration.

Resilient Virginia is on a mission to

*Inform   *Educate   and   *Activate

Virginia communities to build resiliency in the face of challenges to community prosperity, national security, and changing climate.

You can help by:

Becoming a Member
Signing on as an Annual Sponsor

Continue your support throughout the year by using one or both of these online shopping sites that contribute to Resilient Virginia:

amazon-smileIf Amazon is your online shopping choice, go to Smile.Amazon.com and designate Resilient Virginia and we will receive a donation with every purchase.

goodshopFind lots of discounts and many participating stores for office supplies, general shopping, and special event gifts.

JOIN TODAY — IT’S OUR FUTURE!

Rural Resiliency — First Steps Taken with Resiliency Forum

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018

By Sean Tubbs, Guest Contributor

As both average temperatures and rainfall counts continue to climb, government agencies, businesses and other organizations are seeking ways to ensure that Virginia is prepared to withstand whatever changes are caused by changing weather patterns.

To convene a conversation about rural resiliency concerns, Resilient Virginia held a forum on October 23 at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton that covered how the fields of agriculture and emergency management are responding, as well as how efforts are being made to build robust “green infrastructure” to help address both water quality and stormwater management. The objective was to explore the co-benefits of using natural systems and sustainable agriculture practices to assist with mitigating effects from severe storms, flooding, and other climate-related risks.

The goal was to improve collaboration among state and local governments, as well as rural businesses and communities, to improve the “storm readiness” of farms, forests, and natural resource areas, and to increase the resiliency and prosperity of rural areas of the Commonwealth. In addition, the Forum looked to provide access to existing resources, state and federal programs and funding, as well as start a conversation about potential policy recommendations.

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018

“Our mission at Resilient Virginia is to accelerate resiliency planning throughout Virginia,” said Andrew Sorrell, Deputy Director of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and Chairman of the Resilient Virginia Board of Directors. The organization was formerly known as the Virginia Sustainable Building Network, but they rebranded in 2013 to take on the new challenge of helping communities adapt to climate, social and economic challenges.

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018Resiliency is defined as “the ability to mitigate risk, while building the capacity to regain functionality and vitality in the face of chronic stressors or severe disturbances.” That definition covers a lot of subject areas, but the October forum focused on resilient agriculture and forestry, blue and green infrastructure, and hazard mitigation and emergency preparedness.

Erik Curren, a member of Staunton’s City Council, welcomed participants and commented that many people in the Shenandoah Valley had thought that only coastal communities would be affected by climate change. Farmers now report that they are being affected and that crops are changing. Tourism officials are also saying that they are beginning to be affected, especially with the wet weather. “Resiliency is our problem, too,” Curren said. “Help us help rural Virginia communities weather what’s coming,” Curren said.

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018

Speakers presented on related state and federal programs, as well as on current resiliency projects and activities happening throughout the Commonwealth. During lunch, university representatives provided information on how university programs can help with community resiliency needs.

In the afternoon, interactive breakout sessions encouraged audience, speakers, and Resilient Virginia staff to delve further into particular issues and challenges around rural resiliency and how farms and natural resource areas can help with hazard mitigation and disaster preparedness.

Forestry management

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018The timber industry has a $17 billion impact on the state’s economy, according to Robbie Talbert, Regional Forester-Central Region with the Virginia Department of Forestry. One in four manufacturing facilities in the state produce a forestry-related product. In all, there are over 104,000 jobs. The continued success of the industry depends on having forests, and this relies on landowners who want to continue to maintain forests as their primary land use.

“More landowners want to keep their land in their family,” Talbert said, adding that the average age of a forested property owner is 67. They are also overwhelming male and overwhelmingly white. Nearly three-quarters of forest owners live on their own property. To try to add balance to the demographics, the Department of Forestry runs a program called Generation NEXT which seeks to build the next cohort of dedicated landowners. Another program called Century Forests covers landowners who have wooded lands in their possession for over a hundred years. There are 39 forests in Virginia that qualify with 14,446 acres.

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018Maintaining tree cover, which plays a significant role in both storm and flood mitigation, as well as reducing nutrient loads for waterways, is also addressed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Kristin Owen, Floodplain Program Manager with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), informed the audience about their Soil and Water Program, which works with farmers to help prevent pollution runoff by encouraging tree buffers along waterways, and the Floodplain Management and Dam Safety program. They also work with communities to encourage their participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance programs.

Agricultural adaptation

USDA logoOne of the biggest topics at the forum was how agricultural practices may change as weather patterns continue to shift. One speaker on hand was Kathy Holm, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations with the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service. “I’ve noticed the [increasing] intensity of hurricane and rainfall events, which is expected to continue into the future,” Holm said.

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018To start, Holm led with some definitions. Weather is the hourly and daily variation of meteorological conditions in the atmosphere. Climate, on the other hand, is the average weather over time. Changes in climate can be tracked by tracking impacts on crops and livestock, as well as the insects, diseases and weeds that can affect them.

According to the USDA, annual average temperatures will continue to increase by 3 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of the century. Heat waves will continue to become more intense. Rainfall is expected to continue to increase in Virginia, but in powerful bursts that could come with long dry spells. In addition, the growing season will be longer.

To offer help, the USDA has created regional Climate Hubs that provide information for farm and forest adaptation responses. They also offer adaptation workbooks for agriculture, urban forests, and forest owners to help them engage in a process of identifying risks and working on solutions.

Virginia Tech logoCloser to home, Julie Shortridge, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, with Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering, reviewed the types of climate risks facing the region. Julie Shortridge told the audience that rising temperatures are projected to reduce yields for corn and soybeans. To try to improve the economic hit to farmers, Shortridge advocates for “climate-smart” farming which includes using drought and heat-resistant varieties, improved soil health and using better weather forecasting to make long-term decisions about what to plant each season. “This is how to build resilience,” Shortridge said.

Shortridge urged farmers to contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension for more resources. She also emphasized that throughout history, those in agriculture have always had to contend with a shifting climate. “Climate change and other pressures have made some of these risks more challenging,” she said.

VSU College of Agriculture logoLeonard Githinji, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist at Virginia State University, offered a few lessons about sustainable agriculture. “Sustainable agriculture includes practices that do not harm the environment, practices that provide fair treatment of workers, and practices that support and sustain local communities,” Githinji said.

This includes the practice of multicropping, where many species are planted on the piece of land. One benefit of this is higher genetic diversity, which leads to more resilient soil. A more intense form known as intercropping involves deliberately selecting plants which benefit from each other’s presence. Sustainable agriculture also makes sure that there is habitat for pollinators.

Green infrastructure

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018Karen Firehock, the Executive Director of the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC), had the opportunity to explain how her organization creates plans to protect and enhance the ecological carrying capacity of Virginia and other states. “The Green Infrastructure Center helps communities evaluate their green assets to maximize ecological, economic and cultural returns,” said Karen Firehock.

In addition to Firehock’s home county of Albemarle, the Green Infrastructure Center has also worked in Accomack County, Virginia; Darlington County, South Carolina; and Ulster County, New York. GIC publications on green infrastructure have been developed for local and state governments both in Virginia and nationally.

The term “green infrastructure” was coined in 1994 by the state of Florida in a report on land conservation strategies. The idea was to demonstrate that planners should take into account natural systems as providing services to developed areas. This can take the form of raingardens, bioswales or green rooftops. In addition, planning for green infrastructure encourages preserving contiguous rural landscapes and conserving forests and wetlands. “The more connected the landscape, the more resilient it is,” Firehock said.

Green infrastructure plans encourage building in the least impactful manner to preserve the natural landscape’s ability to reduce stormwater and maintain water quality, and then mitigating man-made structures to the highest level possible. At a locality-wide level, that can mean thinking about wildlife bridges and other ways to provide safe passage for migrating creatures, as well as recreational areas for communities.

Firehock also referred the audience to an online tool — DCR’s Virginia Natural Landscape Assessment — that can be used to find out more about the natural resource areas in their regions.

Emergency preparedness and preparing for sea-level rise

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018Stacie Neal, Critical Infrastructure Protection Program Manager, Governor’s Office of Public and Homeland Security, offered information on the state’s role in disaster protection, prevention, and mitigation, as well as programs to increase resiliency. She informed us that there are a variety of “critical infrastructure” areas, that include not only government facilities and emergency services, dams, and critical manufacturing, but also agriculture, water and wastewater facilities, and public health.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), the state agency that handles disaster planning and response, has the goal of working with the whole community, including families, businesses, local government, and community organizations, to develop both mitigation and emergency response plans. Mitigation strategies that help to lessen the impact of storms and other emergencies are increasingly important with the more frequent severe weather events, including tornadoes, flooding, and high wind, that communities have been experiencing.

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018The local challenges of rural mitigation and emergency planning were further elaborated on by Rebecca Joyce, Community Program Manager of the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, and Jonathan Simmons, All-Hazards Planner, VDEM Region 6. Rebecca Joyce, working with VDEM, manages emergency response, flood management, and mitigation plan development for rural localities in the PDC region. She commented on the difficulties encountered by local communities in preparing for disasters with very limited staff and funding resources.

Matching University Resources with Community Needs

Lunchtime presenters from state universities gave the audience an overview of several programs that combine student academic work with community assistance in the resiliency, agriculture, and energy areas.

Rural Resiliency Forum October 23, 2018Kim Niewolny, Ph.D., Associate Professor with the Department of Agricultural, Leadership & Community Education at VA Tech, provided information on two programs — the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition and the AgrAbility Program. The Coalition’s goal is support new farming and ranching endeavors to be successful through farm planning assistance, training, mentoring, and online resources. AgrAbility Virginia assists individuals and their families who farm, and have illnesses, injuries or disabilities that are impeding their ability to work safely, effectively, and productively.

The Raft logoAngela King, Assistant Director, Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William and Mary, let the audience know about the RAFT program. The Resilience Adaptation Feasibility Tool (RAFT) is a project of several Virginia universities that helps communities rate how well their planning documents take into account the impacts of coastal resilience, and assists them with developing mitigation measures. “Coastal resilience can be addressed in comprehensive plans by incorporating elements such as green infrastructure, open space preservation, infill development, the National Flood Insurance Program, the Community Ratings System and stormwater management,” reads a section of the RAFT scorecard.

The project is a collaboration of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia, the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at the William and Mary Law School, and the Virginia Sea Grant Resiliency Program at Old Dominion University.

Rural Resiliency Forum: October 23, 2018Jonathan Miles, Ph.D., Professor, Integrated Science and Technology, James Madison University, and Director of the Center for Wind Energy, informed the audience about their program that assists farm owners in acquiring wind turbines to enhance their on-site energy production. The Center also sponsors a wind system contest for public schools and has helped with the installation of wind turbines at schools for educational purposes. He also noted that their Center will soon become the Office for the Advancement of Sustainable Energy.

Reflections on the First Resilient Virginia Conference, March 22-23, 2016

Jerry Walker Headshot 2016By Jerry Walker, CEM, LEED AP, Chairman of the Board, Resilient Virginia and Henrico County Energy Manager

Resilient Virginia burst onto the radar screens of leaders from federal, state and local governments, and concerned citizens with their 2016 Resilient Virginia Conference in Richmond, on March 22nd March 23rd.  The two-day conference at the Greater Richmond Convention center attracted over 220 attendees, speakers and exhibitors. With a theme of activating communities and businesses for a more resilient future, three major geographic regions were addressed; coastal, rural, and urban.  Issues such as weather, coastal flooding, urban-underdevelopment, agricultural demands on dwindling farm space, and man-made threats to our well-being were all addressed.

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