Geos Institute helps communities build resilience in the face of climate change

Author: Christina Mills

The Biden Administration has hit the ground running in addressing the climate crisis

From the January 2021 Cornerstone Network email

Yesterday, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis Here and Abroad. This order comes on the heels of others to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement, to pull the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and a presidential memorandum that protects government scientists from political interference. 

Earlier this week, the administration announced an effort to free up roughly $10 billion at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to protect against climate disasters.  

It is most definitely a firehose of federal climate action, but a welcome one. Given the events of the past several weeks at the Capitol and across our nation, these aggressive and early moves to address the climate crisis are sweet music to our ears. Especially those of us who have been staring down the climate crisis without the support of our federal government for the past four years.  
For the first time ever, the US is taking a “whole of government” approach. It is badly needed given the lateness of the hour and the transformational change required to meet the climate challenge.

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Opportunities for Geos Institute in the new year

From the December 2020 Cornerstone Network Email

What a difference a day makes. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until I started to breathe again after the November election.

The last four years have been hard – and the pandemic has put an exclamation point on these last 9 months.

We still have a ways to go before we can hug friends and family, go shopping without masks, and stop worrying about our loved ones at high risk. But the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. It is time to prepare for how we emerge from this global challenge.

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Today is a new day for climate action

From the November 2020 Cornerstone email

Coming into the election, my biggest questions were these – would the system of checks and balances our republic is built on hold firm under such intense pressure? Would the will of the people be heard and respected?

In the end, this election showed how the heart of America beats and that we understand the immense challenges before us, including and especially the climate crisis. Citizens voted in record numbers, many enduring long lines in cold weather to cast their votes.

Secretaries of State, poll workers, and ballot counters showed up – regardless of political persuasion – and did their patriotic duty to protect the sanctity of the vote. Despite the disruptions we are experiencing on so many levels, Americans chose hope over fear and love over hate.

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Why we should have hope

From the October 2020 Cornerstone Network Email

I can’t remember ever being this anxious for such a long period of time. Between the COVID-19 surge, the devastation caused by local wildfires and smoke events, and the fact that we are staring down the most important election in our lifetimes, there is much to be anxious about.

We know that we must drastically reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 – and we are already behind. The recent storm that ravaged Iowa, the wildfires in the West, and the sheer number of hurricanes experienced this year remind us that we need to hold our communities together if we are to have any chance of hitting those greenhouse gas targets.

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Change is upon us.

tionFrom the September 2020 Cornerstone Network Email

Change is upon us at a global scale – and at the Geos Institute.  

After 14 years of serving as Chief Scientist and Program Director for our Forest Legacies Initiative, we say goodbye to Dominick DellaSala. He will become the new Chief Scientist at Wild Heritage – a program of Earth Island Institute.

It is a bittersweet moment for us. Our roots are deep in forest conservation work. We began as Headwaters – a regional organization made up of grassroots forest advocacy organizations across the Pacific Northwest. It was in those early years that we engaged in timber sale tracking, policy advocacy, and litigation.

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British Columbia poised to lose ‘white rhino of old growth forests’

In the public imagination, British Columbia is swathed in green and famous for its towering old growth forests. But while the provincial government says 23% of BC’s forests are old growth, a new study finds that a mere 1% remains with tall trees.

Intense pressure is now being put on the remaining trees by a forestry industry eager to capitalize on nations desperate for new “carbon neutral” sources of energy, including the revamping of coal-fired power plants to burn wood pellets.

A lot is riding ecologically on whatever policy decisions are eventually enacted in BC.

Dominick DellaSala is president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute in Oregon. He specializes in studying rare ecosystems globally and says of BC’s temperate, old growth forests: “From my research, there are only two other regions on earth like it — southeast Russia and Siberia. These forests are important and rare. They have the highest richness of lichens of any place in the world, a main food source for the mountain caribou, which is circling the extinction drain. Some trees are estimated to be 1,600 years old. And they are being wasted by logging.”

DellaSala underlined the fact that old growth forests are a large, stable source of carbon: “If we are going to fight climate change, we need to get off fossil fuels and hang onto on our remaining primary forests.”

Read the complete article by Justin Catanoso published on 22 June 2020 at Mongabay

Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

By Marc Heller, (E&E News, May 19, 2020)

A future coronavirus aid package in Congress might become the next battleground in a fight over forest policy.

The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.

Leading the latest effort is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced a broad package he said would give forest communities an economic boost while providing wildfire crews protection from the spreading virus (E&E Daily, May 12).

Sensing that a big appropriations bill could give logging advocates an opportunity, a group of scientists skeptical of the industry wrote to key federal lawmakers last week, urging them to refrain from putting pro-logging measures into any upcoming legislation, including on climate change. Continue reading

Bringing the Earth into Balance in Times of Crisis – Locus Focus Interview

On Monday May 11, Dominick DellaSala, lead scientist with the Geo Institute in Ashland, Oregon, talks with Locus Focus. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a brutal reminder of how out of balance our planet has become. Decades of explosive human population growth and an increasingly mobile population have put us in close contact, squeezed natural habitats, and forced wild animals to occupy cities or perish. These factors play a significant role in causing and spreading pandemics, like the one that is now shutting down the world.

We’ll discuss how confined animal feed operations, poaching, overhunting, and consumption of wild animals as food or trade can also spark novel virues to jump from other wild species to humans—which is what has happened with COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic is a distress signal coming to us from imperiled ecosystems and wildlife; it is not a one-off event. The best gift we could give not just our planet but ourselves is to start viewing strong environmental policy as preventive medicine.

Listen online:

Related Articles

B.C. says firms can chop down whole trees for pellet fuel if they are ‘inferior’

By Carl Meyer
Canada’s National Observer
Published April 30th 2020

Companies can cut down whole trees to be ground into pellets for fuel if they are “inferior,” says British Columbia’s natural resources ministry, a position that has led to concerns the government is “rebranding” old growth forests as low-quality in order to justify logging them.

B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told National Observer on April 27 that “timber harvesting has evolved over time” and that the industry is now focusing on sending “high-quality” lumber to sawmills.

Other whole trees, the ministry said, can get sent to plants that manufacture wood pellets, a type of biomass fuel that is burned for heating or electricity and is made by compacting together wood material. Keep reading.

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