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Post archive for ‘Commentary’

What’s Wrong with the Chesapeake Bay Program and How to Fix It Part II

In an earlier commentary I described how society is confused about the optimum roles of the public and private sector in restoring the health of our environmental commons – the natural capital owned entirely by no one providing us vital services we need for basic survival. I concluded by saying that the Bay Program needed […]

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Natural Capital Founding Chairman (2006-2016) Ed Bain Jr. Retires

In 2006 a group of us had an idea to test out business approaches to achieve conservation goals. We enrolled then Nature Conservancy Piedmont Program Manager Ridge Schuyler in the crazy idea and fortunately for us he had a very unusual bad bout of judgment and agreed to help us get started. We decided we […]

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What’s Wrong with the Chesapeake Bay Program and How to Fix It

Because the Center runs a commercial landscape service called SoilKeepers focused on the creation of healthy soils and native plants for residential and agricultural customers, we are most aware of the power of soil organisms and organic matter to hold onto nutrients and sequester greenhouse gases. We have estimated the cost effectiveness of soil health […]

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Reverence for Energy – An Op Ed for Local Wood and Grass Energy

In the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan writes that we eat by the grace of nature. What kind of attitude might lead a person to consider food as a blessing at every meal? One way might be reverence – a moment of awe for the incalculable processes enabling our nourishment. What if we developed the same […]

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Center for Natural Capital 2013 Year End Review

 Dear Friend of the Center: There’s a lot of talk today about the need for big projects for big change. At the Center, we’ve begun to think our best hope is the passionate heart of one youth at time. That’s why in 2013 we launched our youth Job Corps programming, piloting StreamSweepers in the headwaters […]

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A Bay Restoration Smartpass?

While the debate in the Virginia General Assembly intensifies about transportation funding – how billions of dollars can possibly be funded for new construction and maintenance – there remains another debate – how billions can also be funded for Chesapeake Bay restoration. The use of the toll mechanism may be a fair means to help pay […]

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Deepwater Horizon and the Hope of the Ecosystem Restoration Marketplace

As if we don’t already have enough problems with war and our economy. On the environmental front, the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster has some already calling it the worst ecological catastrophe in U.S. history. We are all now familiar with the situation – according to NOAA, a riser pipe which used to lead from the […]

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Rappahannock Exchange 2.0 Proposal Nearing Completion

Since the day after the December 9, 2009 Rappahannock River Basin Symposium, Incentivizing Restoration through a Chesapeake Bay Economy, during which 130 citizens concerned about the health of the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay examined a proposal to create a “Chesapeake Bay Economy” via a “Rappahannock Exchange”, Conserv has been busy working with parties on […]

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A Mythical Restored Chesapeake Bay?

Months ago, after leaving a government job to work nearly full time for Conserv, my wife and I scrutinized our financial spreadsheet and reduced expenses. One of things that had to go was T.V., a difficult choice, sports fan that I am. In its place, I’ve rediscovered radio, albeit 21st century style, through the magic […]

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Special Thanksgiving Audio Podcast with Dr. Ellen Davis, Author of Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of The Bible

In this special Thanksgiving broadcast, Dr. Ellen Davis, the Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School, discusses the principles of an agrarian, or ecological economy, as seen by biblical writers of the Old Testament. The approximately hour-long interview also discusses biological diversity, the economics of eating, the importance […]

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Sustainability Zeitgeist: Convergence on Systems Approaches to a Post-Industrial World

I’m amazed at the sustainability zeitgeist of our times. Thanks to Joe Starinchak for passing along some great journal articles…. From David J. Brunckhorst at the UNESCO Centre for Bioregional Resource Management in Australia….Institutions to Sustain Ecological and Social Systems, an older article (2002) that gets at the need for bioregional thinking. The article however […]

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The Seventh Pillar of a Bioregional Economy: Currency Diversity to Restore the Chesapeake Bay

The fifth in a series on the Pillars of A New Bioregional Economy to restore ecosystem health of the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay… In August of this year, we ran a commentary titled A New Currency for An Ecological Age and noted that valuation of the ecosystem services we believe are needed to […]

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A Bay “Biomimonomy” – Business, Mangroves, and the Evolution of Sustainability

The third in a series on the Pillars of A New Bioregional Marketplace to restore ecosystem health of the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay… I was talking to my friend and old colleague, David Bearinger, on one hot summer morning this past August about sustainability, its pitfalls and promises, and he noted the aging […]

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The Entrepreneur, Craigslist, and the Sustainable Economy

A plane ride to the great northwest state of Washington can be a good thing…. The O’Hare bookstore was filled with goodies, and one in particular caught my eye—The World is Curved, by David M. Smick. Picking it up, then putting it down, thinking it was a flip retort to Hot, Flat, and Crowded, by […]

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Toward the 21st Century Bioregional Marketplace: Pillar 6 – Bioregionalism

In the August 31 opening post of this series, we propose 10 pillars for the design and creation of new bioregional marketplaces for industrialized nations: Creation-care ministries of faith and ethics communities Biomimicry Ecosystem health goal setting Ecological footprinting Holistic health care Bioregionalism Currency diversity Ecosystem services Sustainable macroeconomic theory Whole system design and facilitation […]

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The Emerging Pillars of a New Bioregional Marketplace

In the weeks ahead, as we plan for the launch of the Rappahannock Exchange, we will offer up occasional briefings on the pillars of future bioregional markets to enhance ecosystem health of keystone environmental assets. These include: Creation-care ministries of faith and ethics communities Biomimicry Ecosystem health goal setting Ecological footprinting Holistic health care Bioregionalism […]

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Sipping the bounty of the lower Robinson

With the pending launch of the Rappahannock River Exchange this coming December, I tell myself that it is essential to pull myself away from the office to viscerally experience the waters of the basin through the drudgery of fishing the lower Robinson. Hey, it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. I’m crazy […]

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Prescience: The Civil Environmental Society meets 21st Century Compression

Joe Starinchak, Outreach Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently sent to me a copy of a decade old paper authored by George Meyer, the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Titled A Green Tier for Greater Environmental Protection, the work was focused on a new conceptual paradigm for government environmental […]

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A New Currency for an Ecological Age

As energies for the consideration of ecosystem markets gather here in the mid-atlantic, the search for demand drivers for some types of these services intensifies. While there has been significant resources devoted to the creation of supply side models and metrics (which are essential), without robust demand, market-based conservation is a daydream. Although the following […]

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The Spaceman and The Cowboy

Last week, the Rappahannock River Basin Commission, working with Conserv, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the George Washington Regional Commission, submitted a Greenhouse Gas Reduction proposal for federal funding. One of the novel ideas contained in the proposal is to tie Virginia Greenhouse Gas reduction goal to products and services listed on The Rappahannock […]

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Bridge over the River Robinson

As Conserv‘s relationship with the Rappahannock River Basin deepens, I thought it would be a good idea to explore one of my favorite tributaries of the river a little more deeply. With the high waters of early summer, I took the opportunity to kayak the upper Robinson, from Criglersville to Rt. 29. It was a […]

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Rappahannock River Basin Commission enables creation of Rappahannock Ecosystem Services Exchange

Yesterday, environmental history was made at the Old Beale Memorial Church in Tappahannock, the oldest documented courthouse in Virginia. Surrounded by Flemish bond brickwork with salt-glazed headers and compass-headed windows, the Rappahannock River Basin Commission took the first step toward moving Virginia into the ranks of the leaders of the worldwide ecosystem services movement. In […]

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Ecosystem services and the new metropolitan age

My colleague Buck Kline, at the Virginia Department of Forestry, attended the Wildlife Habitat Council 1st Ecosystem Services conference last week in Maryland. He just forwarded me his speaker’s notes for Sally Collins’s presentation. Sally Collins, as folks may know, is the new Director of the USDA Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets. Ms. Collins’s […]

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Is Conserv Green Market Populism?

I was in my garden and was reflecting how the depleted soil from past years has been renewed with some half-baked cow manure from my buddy Tim Neale’s Beaver Creek Farm out on Mountain Track Road. My mind wandered to the briefing I gave yesterday to a local group on the idea of creating a […]

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Cities and the love of environmental assets

Yesterday I was doing some consulting work on trail development in Richmond, Virginia. I had the pleasure of working for Richmond for a few months and during that time became a huge fan of the City—its architecture, topography, and river. I think that the future may be bright for Richmonders if they broaden their concerns […]

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The next evolution of Deep Green

In the last post of this five-part series on Deep Green Classifieds, I will offer a Vision for a new type of conservation to begin. This vision is based on the following cultural changes now taking place here in the U.S. perhaps and to varying degrees in some other industrialized countries worldwide: the rise of […]

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How to use Deep Green Classifieds

We are still working out bugs in the classifieds so, please, bear with us. For now, here are the steps to post an ad: 1. Click on “Deep Green Classifieds” at the top of the homepage. 2. Click on one of the categories on the right hand side of the page. 3. Click on “Add […]

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Origins of Deep Green Classifieds

This week we will feature daily posts on Deep Green Classifieds, Conserv’s newest marketplace. Deep Green was launched last week along with an overall upgrade to Version IV of the site. The following are the themes for each article: Today – Origins and theory of Deep Green Tuesday – How to use Deep Green Wednesday […]

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A Chesapeake Bay Economy

As I struggle to get a market-based grant application out the door by COB on Friday, it seems necessary to review the latest information on the Chesapeake—the television programs, columns, and reports. It’s well, just incredible work. There is though a worldview that I belive is at the least, understated, and at most, missing, from […]

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The limits of market-based conservation

My brother and I were talking last night about the state of Wicomico County, Md. He has lived on a farm near the Nanticoke River for about a decade and is concerned about the loss of agriculture around him. Since he bought his place, many houses, both on large lot and small, have sprung up […]

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Market-based conservation in the Rappahannock River Basin

When I was still Director of Community Development for the Town of Orange, it was appropriate for me to attend meetings of the Rappahannock River Basin Commission (about 1/2 of the Town is in the Rappahannock River Basin, the other half being in the York River Basin). The last meeting I attended, a year or […]

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Bob Jordan

Bob Jordan died early Monday morning, January 5. Bob was my last living brother-in-law. His photography work graces the homepage of this website. He was a loving father, uncle, grandfather, and husband to my sister-in-law Mary. Bob was an eagle scout. At his funeral yesterday, I realized that this training formed the structural foundation for […]

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My year-old Kenmore dishwasher, Cape Breton lobsters, and the fall of the “New Economy”

Growing up, we always got Sears appliances. My dad, an electrical and aerospace engineer, always thought they were the best. Although I fully realize that manufacturing is not what it used to be, about a year and a half ago, we renovated our kitchen, and purchased Kenmore appliances. A few days ago, Anna told me […]

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Planning our way to Sustainability?

In my day vocation, I am employed, in part, to plan for a more sustainable future. As I continue to work with a host of colleagues in every walk of life charged to do the same, it sometimes feels it is an understatement to say this is a staggering task. This is not just because […]

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Does Nature have Rights?

A couple of years ago, my son Logan and I completed the Daniel Pennock Democracy School. The 2-day program is offered by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) in Chambersburg, PA. The notion that nature somehow has rights has captured my imagination since my involvement with the Interfaith Roundtable on Sustainability in 1998, discussed […]

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LandScope, Freedom to Roam, Humans in Nature, and The City

The December/January issue of Adventure magazine has a great article, Don’t Fence Him In: From prisoner of Panama to power broker: Why Rick Ridgeway traded a life on the edge for a chance to reinvent the wilderness by Mark Sundeen (with photography by Robyn Twomey) about Rick Ridgeway, a guy Rolling Stone called the real […]

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A deeper dimension of sustainability

Sustainability is now a mainstream word. People feel the need to put an adjective in front of it, i.e., economic sustainability, or environmental sustainability, I suppose in an attempt to focus its meaning. It is to me a word that connotes far deeper dimensions than many seem to consider—an ethic about how we are to […]

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Ecological Roots of the Financial Crisis

Some say it’s greed. Some say it’s stupidity. Others blame it on weak regulators. My view is the root of this dilemma has nothing to do with these. Its cause is a faulty worldview. A premise rooted in 19th and 20th century thinking that our macroeconomy exists without limits. This crisis exposes the rotten core […]

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How much oil it’d take to buy the U.S. – A brief reflection

Today, MSN ran a piece by Scott Burns, in which he runs back of the envelope calculations to determine that there is enough oil in the middle east to buy the U.S. This is a perfectly reasonable exercise and very relevant today. As a guide to the future, however, I don’t think it helps much. He […]

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The Great Contraction – Some Early Thoughts

In my daytime practice as a professional planner, I see signs that profound shifts in land use are now taking place. Not knowing of any other name for what has begun, I’ll call it “The Great Contraction” as opposed to the syndrome of the last 50 years—”The Great Expansion”.  The role of conservation in U.S. culture […]

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More friends to thank

As I realize all the folks I have forgotten to acknowledge that had something to do with the launch of this site… At the top of the list of those I failed to mention is Ridge Schuyler, Piedmont Programs Manager with The Nature Conservancy in Charlottesville. Ridge is the Piedmont Program Director and during 2003-2005, […]

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How are you going to get these people to do conservation?

My younger brother Joe Collins, a great guy, husband, father, mechanic, commercial pilot, and hobby farmer on Maryland’s Eastern Shore called me tonight to talk about the Conserv website… Joe: Mike, do you want to hear me tell you how great you are or the unadulterated truth? Mike: Yes Joe, I need the truth, please. Joe: Mike, I’m waiting for […]

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Version III launch dedicated to the memories of Ralph Hilton, Joe Stanley, and Lance VanDeCastle

For Ralph, the spirit Joe, the love And Lance, the goodwill. My brother-in-law, my buddy’s son, and my friend, cared deeply about this world. May this project honor their energy. – Michael Collins

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Types of conservation properties

Conserv’s mission is to create a more ecologically-friendly real estate marketplace. The word “more” is used intentionally to convey the idea that to a very limited degree, the marketplace already functions in an ecological manner. This is because humanity, in all its forms, is a part of nature, just as much as any other part […]

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The need for market-based conservation

Conserv hopes to provide a market-based platform for landowners to build green infrastructure throughout the world, working in partnership with government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The platform is a bottom-up process based on the notion that a new generation of conservation programs must find a way to function seamlessly in western-style economies. Conserv does not […]

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Suburban landowner fights for “Conservation Yard”

In the 1990s, John Hermsmeier build a home in the Mill Creek subdivision in Albemarle County, Virginia. He fought with his neighbors and the homeowners assn. for the right to create natural habitat. What happened when he sold his house and what is the status of the habitat now?

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