By Ruben Valdille
[ Hundreds of National Monument Supporters Pack Historic Community Meeting in the California Desert ]
The Wilderness Society commends Senator Dianne Feinstein, representatives from the Obama administration and Congress, local elected officials and tribal representatives who braved the heat, along with hundreds of members of the public, at a meeting to discuss the future of the California Desert.
6 Facts About Net-Zero Buildings
In the US, buildings account for a whopping 70% of our electricity consumption and roughly 40% of carbon emissions – that’s more than either the transportation or industry sectors! Of course, buildings don’t have tailpipes like cars do, so this fact might not be obvious, but the electricity it takes to heat, cool and light buildings usually comes from a coal or gas-fired power plant.
Clearly, we need a revolution in the way we build and renovate our homes and offices. EarthShare members like Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the Alliance to Save Energy are leading this revolution by demonstrating the success of ambitious models like net-zero (or “zero energy”), which demand that buildings use less energy than they produce. To put it another way, the building should have an electricity utility bill of $0 over the course of a year.
Here are six facts about net-zero buildings:
Net-zero buildings save owners and tenants money. Virginia’s first net-zero building, an elementary school that opened in September 2015, is expected to save Arlington County money on utility bills because it generates its electricity onsite through solar and geothermal systems and wastes very little energy.
There are currently only about 400 net-zero buildings globally. And 25% of those are located in North America. But net-zero may take off if the popular LEED ranking system adopts net-zero for its platinum certification, as US Green Building Council insiders have predicted it will.
Ambitious standards like net-zero are needed to fight climate change. According to RMI “The incremental approach to making homes and buildings "less bad' or 30% better than code is not going to work. We need aggressive, actionable solutions now.” Net-zero is one such aggressive approach.
Older buildings can go net-zero too. The Netherlands is planning to convert over 100,000 low-income homes to net-zero by 2020 at no cost to tenants. These homes, built in the 1950s through the 1970s, will benefit from new solar roofs, upgraded electric systems, and better insulation.
Net-zero doesn’t have to end at the building. Buildings don’t exist in isolation. Why not apply the principals of net-zero energy to neighborhoods and cities too? The nation’s largest community designed to reach net-zero energy is West Village, a mixed-use campus neighborhood at the University of California, Davis. It’s designed to ultimately house 3,000 students along with 500 staff and faculty. After a year, the residences have already achieved 87% electrical self-sufficiency.
Net-zero is just one way to measure green buildings. Energy Star, LEED, the Living Building Challenge, and Passivhaus, among others, offer different ways to address energy use in buildings. Most of the ranking systems are complementary (albeit varying in ambition) and offer other vital measures like water use and indoor air quality.
2025 Buildings Goal, Rocky Mountain Institute
Buildings Overview, Alliance to Save Energy
Trick or treat, bats bring us lots to eat!
By Micaela Jemison of EarthShare member Bat Conservation International
When October rolls around many people start to think of bats as keeping company with witches and ghosts. But in reality, bats have a lot more to do with the foods of Halloween, like candy corn, than the spooky spirit of the holiday.
Bats provide important pest control services for many of our agricultural crops including, walnuts, almonds, rice, chocolate, and coffee. One of the world’s most important crops, corn, has also been found to benefit from bats. A recent study funded by Bat Conservation International (BCI) confirmed that bats play a significant role in combating corn crop pests, preventing more than $1 billion in crop damages worldwide every year.
Most of this billion-dollar figure is attributed to the enormous appetite of our insect-eating bats. Insectivorous bats in North America are capable of eating up to two-thirds their bodyweight in insects per night. In the cornfields of Southern Illinois, where this two-year experiment was conducted, this is a great benefit to farmers as the bats consume large quantities of adult corn earworm moths. The larvae of the corn earworm moth cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage not only to corn but also cotton, tomatoes and many other crops. By eating the corn earworm moth, bats significantly reduce the direct damage to the corn and the necessity for costly insecticides.
The implication of these findings serves as great news for agriculture and bat conservation alike, stresses BCI Executive Director Andrew Walker: “Corn is an essential crop for farmers on over 150 million hectares globally. This research shows that by protecting bat species and their habitats we are not only furthering conservation, but also helping to secure a vital food source for communities worldwide.”
Demonstrating the unique connections between the world of these fascinating flying mammals and our own is an important part of bat conservation. Sustainable bat conservation ultimately relies on people, inspired by the intrinsic value of bats not only for the environment but us humans as well. Conservation also relies on collaboration and local leadership. And there is no better example of this than the efforts to save the largest colony of bats in world at Bracken Cave in Texas.
Bracken Cave is home to more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats, making it the largest gathering of mammals in the world. The cave and 1458 acres of the surrounding Texas Hill Country is owned and protected by BCI. However this important maternity roost for the species became threatened in 2013 when 1,500 acres adjacent to Bracken Cave were slated for development into a high-density suburban neighborhood. Located in close proximity to the cave and directly under the bats’ nightly flight path, the proposed neighborhood threatened the bat colony’s existence.
This Halloween marks the first anniversary of the historic grassroots effort to save the cave. The campaign launched by BCI to purchase the property saw staff and BCI members taking action at local council meetings and forming partnerships with other organizations to raise the 20.5 million dollars needed to buy the 1,521 acres adjacent to the cave. Other organizations such as Taking Care of Texas, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, the City of San Antonio and the Texas chapter of the Nature Conservancy banded together with BCI to secure the deal, making it one of the greatest conservation achievements for bat conservation.
So this Halloween we here at BCI will not only raise a glass to bats for all the pest control services they provide our farmers, but to you, our supporters, that enable us to make a difference for this amazing group of animals.
The Wilderness Society has issued the following statement from Dan Smuts, Senior Regional Director for California:
Ever since President Theodore Roosevelt created Florida’s Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in memorable fashion, national wildlife refuges have been an important tool in the fight against habit