Rebuilding Infrastructure

Ricardo Bayon wrote an article for the Ecosystem Marketplace this week making the completely sane point that we should rebuild ‘green’ infrastructure while we rebuild ‘grey’ infrastructure (the built environment).

Totally sensible, completely defensible.

I would also ask the next question. How do we develop a plan? Americans certainly have a huge list of built infrastructure needs – roads, bridges, utility systems – all reaching the end of their lifespan.

Less obvious, but just an important, is the need to rebuild/conserve/restore or natural infrastructure. One of the problems, however, with politically defending restoration of natural infrastructure, is the lack of a ‘database’ of what needs to be done. With bridges and roads, we have detailed data on existing conditions, rebuilding needs, and cost estimates. For natural infrastructure, there is no such list.

I was pleased to see in a report John Holdren (the White House Science Advisor) just sent to President Obama a call for such a system -they named it ECOINFORMA. Unfortunately, the description failed to take advantage of the jobs potential of such a project if it made use of regional/local information gatherers (biologist, engineers, etc.) It also needs to be less ‘coarse’ than they propose. But, all in all, a wonderful idea.

My compliments to Ricardo Bayon for starting the discussion. Perhaps we can bring others to the task.

Sustainable Livelihood

Many times over the past few years I’ve referred to our land use and environmental work in terms of their improvements to health and livelihood of communities. We have never methodically developed indicators or measures of “healthy, sustainable livelihood”…but think it is critically important.

Attached is a white paper that begins to take the issues apart and structure some approaches.

This is enormously important to the future of carbon markets and conservation finance. Without measures of social well-being we are lost.

A User-friendly EPA

The US Environmental Protection Agency has restructured their website. It’s oriented toward user groups…has redeveloped data sources toward practical uses…and thought innovatively about how to recast databases so that they might give meaningful environmental, political and economic insight (check out the zip code organized information on electricity generation, watershed conditions, etc.)


In 2003 the USDA began the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) to quantify the environmental benefits from conservation practices on private lands. Andy Manale, a Senior Analyst at USEPA, has been working on the team and has spoken well of CEAPs work.

They have been working on a number of pilots that carefully quantify environmental effects from specific conservation practices. For more:

Getting the Water Right

Getting the Water Right

Andy Manale (EPA) and I met after the Katoomba Meetings. During our discussion, we spoke about a number of the critical water supply and water quality issues confronting us….in the very near term. Attached is the announcement of a meeting taking place in Tucson late in July organized by the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Part of the problem in understanding many of these water issues is the lack of hydrologic models and knowledge, particularly when it comes to incorporating climate change. The meeting will work on many of those issues.

Bring your 100+ weather gear…Arizona in July!

2008 Global Katoomba Meeting

I just returned this morning from the 2008 Global Katoomba Meeting themed “Developing an Infrastructure Fund for the Planet”….felt a bit like Pat Coady who said to me after the meeting  “I have enough trouble trying to save 10 acres in our local land trust and now they want us to save the planet”.

It was a vast and daunting amount of information and opinion. John Holdren of the Woods Hole Research Center opened the meeting with an overview of the current science and economics. He’s a wonderful data presenter…and the news was bleak (I’ll put up his presentation when it becomes available). There were numerous insights both from his science and from other comments though the two days. For example, there are respected scientific analyst who see Lake Meade drying up before two decades….ironically I glance at the Soutwest Airline magazine on the flight to Providence and notice three enormous casino/resort development projects going up in Las Vegas…where have they been getting their environmental and economic advice?

Many of the significant early developers of carbon finance were present, and their thoughts were interesting…although the scale of the financing is troublingly large given the newness of the methodologies for credit creation, verification, and monitoring.

I spent a good bit of time collecting information on new efforts, pilots, and tool development….and tried to push folks along to provide more finance for those efforts.

As the presentations from the conference become available I’ll have more to say.