Tag Archives: Sonoran Institute

EcoFlight, sustainable environment, Photo: Valley Forward

Sonoran Institute, Arizona Wilderness Coalition Encourage A Sustainable Environment

Two non-profit organizations are working together to foster a sustainable environment and vibrant economy in the West Valley, recognizing the natural and cultural assets of these communities.

I was honored the Sonoran Institute and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition recently invited me to take an airplane tour to see and hear first hand about their efforts. Our six-person EcoFlight plane took off from Deer Valley Airport for an arial exploration of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management that may be suitable for solar/renewable energy development. These lands are included in the Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation proposal and are the target of a desert protection campaign to protect BLM lands for current residents and future generations.

A vast expanse of public lands are included in the conservation proposal, forming a crescent from the Lake Pleasant area, expanding west to the county border region, then curving east to the Sonoran Desert National monument. This comprehensive solution for ecosystem protection ensures the best possible integration of a variety of uses and users. The Sonoran Institute has been reaching out to a wide cross section of stakeholders, including land managers, developers, the military, local governments, user groups and other like-minded organizations, such as Valley Forward, that have an interest in both conservation land and renewable energy.

EcoFlight supports the initiative and helps foster public outreach by providing aviation services to those interested in land use issues associated with solar facilities and wind generating turbines. This unique group educates its passengers on how these renewable energy facilities will affect wildlife and conversation efforts. Seeing is believing; it’s an amazing perspective to view from above the corridors that exist or must be created to transmit and harness natural energy.

Conservation of these public lands provides many benefits, including protecting cultural resources, key wildlife habitat, water and air quality and recreational opportunities. As Western Maricopa County continues to grow over the coming decades, these valuable landscapes will be protected into perpetuity.

The bottom line is a robust renewable energy industry, and the economic prosperity that comes with it can be realized in a thoughtful manner that is respectful of our natural resources, including our wildlife, water and public lands.

Climate Change In The Intermountain West

According to the majority of climate modeling studies, the Intermountain West is anticipated to feel the impacts of climate change more acutely than the rest of the nation. These effects range from an increase in the frequency and severity of drought episodes, a rise in catastrophic wildfires, more severe weather events, and the potential loss of iconic species of the West, like Saguaro cactus and Joshua trees.

So, how are western city and town planners planning to cope with these impacts and challenges? Western Lands and Communities talked with nearly 50 government staff and city officials recently from seven states, including Arizona. They told us they are encouraging efforts to deal with climate change impacts – things like managing water supplies, reducing energy consumption, building more efficient transportation systems and protecting open space. But instead of referring to climate change, a politically controversial topic, they are acting in the name of “sustainability” or “economic efficiency.”

You can download the study by clicking here Local Land Use Planning and Climate Change Policy. The focus groups and phone interviews asked planners in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming how they are addressing climate change in local land use decisions.

The research revealed a wide range of local responses to addressing climate change in the Intermountain West, with few communities tackling climate change head on. Even so, nearly every person we spoke with agreed that local governments should have a role in addressing climate change.

Western planners and officials said a significant number of their local residents remain unconvinced that climate change is real or human-caused. They said that residents perceive the issue as global and remote, characterized by melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. In addition, Westerners may think their own cities and towns cannot make a difference in reducing climate change given the enormity of the problem.

The research also noted the following:

  • Only a few communities are actively pursuing climate change policies, and they generally have liberal populations or are influenced by local universities.
  • Those communities where natural resource extraction, such as coal or natural gas, drives the local economy are less likely to confront global warming.
  • The vast majority of policies cited by participants as addressing climate change focused on mitigating, or reducing, its impacts through energy efficiency, expanded transit, urban forestry and water conservation.
  • Particularly in smaller cities and towns, there isn’t enough staff to research and implement climate change-related policies.

Based on these findings, Western Lands and Communities recommends that local officials highlight the “co-benefits” of taking policy actions independent of climate change. Increasing the livability, energy efficiency, and economic diversity of a community greatly benefits overall prosperity, promotes cost savings, and leads to a higher quality of life. Planners should emphasize the economic benefits of a particular policy to offset local concerns about costs. The most valuable tool for local planners and elected officials in learning how to successfully implement these policies would be case studies from communities of similar size and location that have effective policies addressing climate change already in place.

This is the first report issued by Western Lands and Communities, the new name for a longstanding joint venture of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Sonoran Institute.


Green Cosmetics

Green News Roundup – Climate Change, Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Packaging & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about planning for climate change, eco-friendly cosmetic packaging, and homemade nontoxic spring cleaning materials.

Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

When ‘Green’ Consumers Decide, ‘I’ve Done Enough’
Although it seems odd, a new study seems to indicate that those who purchase ‘green’ products may have a tendency to be less generous and possibly even be more inclined to thievery. The article speculates that perhaps those consumers are compensating for the fact that, in their minds, they have already done their part to help the world.

Planning for Climate Change in the West (Policy Focus Report)
The product of the joint venture partnership of the Lincoln Institute and the Sonoran Institute, this report focuses on the political and cultural aspects of preparing for climate change. It includes a survey of government officials indicating skepticism, and explains why these officials are focusing on sustainability and economic efficiency instead of climate change.

Now, the Cosmetic Jar Matters, Too
You’d think the most important part of make-up would be, well, the make-up. But last year, one in five women reported that eco-friendly cosmetic packaging matters just as much to them as how well the product inside works. This article explores why, and delves into how the cosmetics industry is responding to this new sudden demand.

Coral Reef Extinction Could Cripple Nations’ Economies
Coral Reefs are dying quickly, and most people assume that doesn’t affect them. But as the foundation of the ocean food chain, coral reefs are necessary to keep the planet functioning. Without them, poverty and hunger will prevail, and it could influence politics and economies in a very negative way.

How to Spring Clean With Nontoxic Homemade Products
Spring is finally here, which means it’s time to get cleaning. This year, try these homemade, environment-friendly products. They’re easy to make and easier to use!

Minnesota flag

Adding Leverage To Going Green At Arizona Businesses

Minnesota is kicking our butt. No, I’m not talking ice hockey or the fact that they have 10,000 lakes — yes, it’s not just their state motto. Rather, I’m talking about their killer support for their environment — hey, they have 10,000 lakes to keep pristine remember? But seriously, Minnesota is leaving us in the dust when it comes to supporting the environment through workplace giving. What’s that you ask? Workplace giving is just that – where employees in companies, cities, counties, universities, or really any organization can give to charities through their workplace, usually via payroll deduction.

For decades, the United Way has been the biggest player on the block. But more recently, other groups, called federations, have joined in looking for an equal piece of the workplace giving pie, representing other nonprofit sectors including the environment. EarthShare is the granddaddy of environmental federations and has 19 state affiliates across the country. There are however a few of us ‘rogue’ independent greenies, like our own Environmental Fund for Arizona, but the Minnesota Environmental Fund is one that we Arizonans would be wise to emulate.

In a little over 15 years, MEF has established itself in 140 campaigns across the state, including private companies as well as cities and counties, and now brings in on average $900,000 in donations annually for its 25 environmental group members. No matter how you slice it, that’s a nice chunk of change for MEF members to help continue their missions.

Now contrast this to how Arizona is matching up…or not. Just 17 workplaces across the entire state currently include a ‘green’ choice in their workplace campaigns. For those of us who connect the environment, smart growth, and sustainability to the health and vitality of Arizona’s future, not to mention who believe in the ‘spirit of philanthropy,’ you’d think offering an environmental choice to workplaces would be easier. It’s not. Unfortunately, sometimes long-standing tradition trumps common sense and cool ideas.

Why is ‘giving green’ at work so darn great and why should Arizona take notice? I’ll tell you. Not only does it introduce hundreds, if not thousands of folks to smaller environmental nonprofits who might not have access to companies themselves, but do amazingly cool work for our environment, but it allows Arizona employees to learn about the significant variety of environmental issues being tackled across the state, and helps them to get involved. Think Sonoran Institute and their work with Superstition Vistas. Think Audubon Arizona and their recent opening of the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, the gateway to a lush Sonoran riparian habitat used by over 200 species of birds and other wildlife. And don’t forget Grand Canyon Trust. They’re our champions of Arizona’s – and the nation’s – spectacular treasure, the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau. These are just three of 29 organizations that make up EFAZ. Here’s another reason — one that is ridiculously obvious. Arizona is pushing ‘green’ in a big way, no not just to save the planet but for more practical reasons, like recharging our state’s economy with green jobs. Solar energy, water issues — we’re all over it. Why wouldn’t companies, cities, counties, and universities welcome a green choice into their campaigns?

So, what’s the moral of the story? Let’s not let Minnesota keep kicking our environmental butt. Aren’t the Grand Canyon and the Sonoran Desert worth saving? I say ‘wake up Arizona and smell the organically-grown, fair trade coffee.’