Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sparing vs Sharing: The Great Debate Over How to Protect Nature

What is the best way to save nature – to cordon off areas for parks and open space or to integrate conservation measures on working lands? Recent research makes a case for each of these approaches and has reignited a long-standing debate among scientists and conservationists.

Sparing vs Sharing: The Great Debate Over How to Protect Nature

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nord Family Greenway Takes Shape in Cleveland

JBC is pleased to have been a part of the Sasaki team for this project. (from Cleveland Magazine)
The University Circle Inc. president tells us how the space connects the Hough neighborhood and University Circle.
Colorful colonials, white picket fences and wraparound porches line the Hough neighborhood’s Newton Avenue. The quaint road between East 101st Street and East 97th Street is one of Chris Ronayne’s favorites, but something about streets like Newton, Logan Court, Woodward Avenue and Lamont Avenue bothers him.
“It’s a very curious thing that our street infrastructure in an urban grid is chock-full of cul-de-sacs in the Hough neighborhood,” says the president of University Circle Inc. “Something was designed by intent, which seemed to create an insular mobility pattern. It doesn’t square with me.”
To Hough residents, those dead-end streets — along with a steep, unruly landscape and a wall of back-of-the-house architecture along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on Case Western Reserve University’s southern campus — was a message: “Keep out.” But a few dozen steps away, Ronayne sees the Nord Family Greenway as “a physical statement about our intentionality to connect.”
Completed in June, the 15-acre green space links CWRU’s Tinkham Veale University Center and the reformed 1920s-era temple that now houses the Maltz Performing Arts Center. Running through the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Fine Arts Garden, the 2,200-foot-long stretch of grass, trees, tiered walkways and picnic areas expands a traditionally north-south campus to the east and west. Designed by Sasaki, the $15 million landscape project is the result of collaboration between the university, the art museum, the Cleveland Foundation and principal donors Eric and Jane Nord. 
But beyond a campus pathway and event space, the Greenway, which replaces that inward-facing design, is an overdue welcoming of the Hough neighborhood into University Circle’s cultural mecca. 
“Right now places feel a world away that are only five blocks away,” says Ronayne. “It’s on all of us if a kid within a mile of the Circle has never experienced a Circle institution.”
Yet, truly embracing Hough means matching brick-and-mortar efforts with social infrastructure. As examples, Ronayne mentions UCI’s Circle Scholars, an after-school program where seventh- and eighth-graders visit the museums and learn about local history from curators, or Future Connections, an eight-week course that teaches career skills to local high school seniors.
“We’ve got open jobs in the field of nursing and too few applicants,” he says. “We’d be remiss if we’re not locally teaching kids about the job opportunities of tomorrow.”
Strolling past the Chinese Cultural Garden, which may soon welcome more ethnic monuments as neighbors, the former Cleveland planning director points back to the space between East 105th Street and those dead-end Hough streets. 
Ronayne hopes the Greenway eventually reaches past Maltz to those streets. He also hopes to see the health care industry create hubs of economic innovation — things like the forthcoming Cleveland Clinic and CWRU dental clinic — in spaces like Mount Sinai.
“Now the next step is, ‘OK, I can get there, but now give me a reason to go,’ ” Ronayne says. “Obviously culture is a reason, but how about a job?”

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Estimating the Environmental Effects of Green Roofs

Green Roofs are making a difference in Kansas City. JBC is pleased to have contributed to this new report. 

The EPA is excited to introduce a new case study demonstrating the environmental and health benefits of green roofs in Kansas City, Missouri, Estimating the Environmental Effects of Green Roofs. The case study lays out a replicable analytical framework that state and local decision makers can use to assess the multiple benefits of green roofs, including stormwater runoff reductions and public health improvements. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A biologist believes that trees speak a language we can learn

Photo by Jeffrey L. Bruce

Written by
Ephrat Livni

 I’m in a redwood forest in Santa Cruz, California, taking dictation for the trees outside my cabin. They speak constantly, even if quietly, communicating above- and underground using sound, scents, signals, and vibes. They’re naturally networking, connected with everything that exists, including you.

Biologists, ecologists, foresters, and naturalists increasingly argue that trees speak, and that humans can learn to hear this language.
Many people struggle with this concept because they can’t perceive that trees are interconnected, argues biologist George David Haskell in his 2017 book The Songs of Trees. Connection in a network, Haskell says, necessitates communication and breeds languages; understanding that nature is a network is the first step in hearing trees talk.

For the average global citizen, living far from the forest, that probably seems abstract to the point of absurdity. Haskell points readers to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador for practical guidance. To the Waorani people living there, nature’s networked character and the idea of communication among all living things seems obvious. In fact, the relationships between trees and other lifeforms are reflected in Waorani language.
In Waorani, things are described not only by their general type, but also by the other beings surrounding them. So, for example, any one ceibo tree isn’t a “ceibo tree” but is “the ivy-wrapped ceibo,” and another is “the mossy ceibo with black mushrooms.” In fact, anthropologists trying to classify and translate Waorani words into English struggle because, Haskell writes, “when pressed by interviewers, Waorani ‘could not bring themselves’ to give individual names for what Westerners call ‘tree species’ without describing ecological context such as the composition of the surrounding vegetation.”

Because they relate to the trees as live beings with intimate ties to surrounding people and other creatures, the Waorani aren’t alarmed by the notion that a tree might scream when cut, or surprised that harming a tree should cause trouble for humans. The lesson city-dwellers should take from the Waorani, Haskell says, is that “dogmas of separation fragment the community of life; they wall humans in a lonely room. We must ask the question: ‘can we find an ethic of full earthly belonging?’”

Haskell points out that throughout literary and musical history there are references to the songs of trees, and the way they speak: whispering pines, falling branches, crackling leaves, the steady hum buzzing through the forest. Human artists have always known on a fundamental level that trees talk, even if they don’t quite say they have a “language.”

Photo by Jeffrey L. Bruce

Redefining communication
Tree language is a totally obvious concept to ecologist Suzanne Simard, who has spent 30 years studying forests. In June 2016, she gave a Ted Talk (which now has nearly 2.5 million views), called “How Trees Talk to Each Other.”

Simard grew up in the forests of British Columbia in Canada, studied forestry, and worked in the logging industry. She felt conflicted about cutting down trees, and decided to return to school to study the science of tree communication. Now, Simard teaches ecology at the University of British Columbia-Vancouver and researches “below-ground fungal networks that connect trees and facilitate underground inter-tree communication and interaction,” she says. As she explained to her Ted Talk audience:
I want to change the way you think about forests. You see, underground there is this other world, a world of infinite biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate and allow the forest to behave as though it’s a single organism. It might remind you of a sort of intelligence.

Trees exchange chemicals with fungus, and send seeds—essentially information packets—with wind, birds, bats, and other visitors for delivery around the world. Simard specializes in the underground relationships of trees. Her research shows that below the earth are vast networks of roots working with fungi to move water, carbon, and nutrients among trees of all species. These complex, symbiotic networks mimic human neural and social networks. They even have mother trees at various centers, managing information flow, and the interconnectedness helps a slew of live things fight disease and survive together.

Simard argues that this exchange is communication, albeit in a language alien to us. And there’s a lesson to be learned from how forests relate, she says. There’s a lot of cooperation, rather than just competition among and between species as was previously believed.
Peter Wohlleben came to a similar realization while working his job managing an ancient birch forest in Germany. He told the Guardian he started noticing trees had complex social lives after stumbling upon an old stump still living after about 500 years, with no leaves. “Every living being needs nutrition,” Wohlleben said. “The only explanation was that it was supported by the neighbor trees via the roots with a sugar solution. As a forester, I learned that trees are competitors that struggle against each other, for light, for space, and there I saw that it’s just [the opposite]. Trees are very interested in keeping every member of this community alive.” He believes that they, like humans, have family lives in addition to relationships with other species. The discovery led him to write a book, The Hidden Life of Trees.

By being aware of all living things’ inter-reliance, Simard argues, humans can be wiser about maintaining mother trees who pass on wisdom from one tree generation to the next. She believes it could lead to a more sustainable commercial-wood industry: in a forest, a mother tree is connected to hundreds of other trees, sending excess carbon through delicate networks to seeds below ground, ensuring much greater seedling survival rates.

Foreign language studies
Seedling survival is important to human beings because we need trees. “The contributions of forests to the well-being of humankind are extraordinarily vast and far-reaching,” according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 2016 report on world forests (pdf).

Forests are key to combating rural poverty, ensuring food security, providing livelihoods, supplying clean air and water, maintaining biodiversity, and mitigating climate change, the FAO says. The agency reports that progress is being made toward better worldwide forest conservation but more must be done, given the importance of forests to human survival.
Most scientists—and trees—would no doubt agree that conservation is key. Haskell believes that ecologically friendly policies would naturally become a priority for people if we’d recognize that trees are masters of connection and communication, managing complex networks that include us. He calls trees “biology’s philosophers,” dialoguing over the ages, and offering up a quiet wisdom. We should listen, the biologist says, because they know what they’re talking about. Haskell writes, “Because they are not mobile, to thrive they must know their particular locus on the Earth far better than any wandering animal.”