Michelle's Earth Foundation Newsletter
Summer 2015
MEF Logo 742
Michelle's Earth Foundation,  P.O. Box 5140 Preston King Station, Arlington, Virginia 22205
michellesearth.blogspot.com    info@michellesearth.org
Donations are possible on Paypal or by mail.
Dear Friend of MEF, 

What a joy to travel to UVM this spring to meet 4 of the 5 student recipients of scholarships from Michelle's UVM fund. Maddy Rabin, Joe O'Brien and Alyssa Solomon have their senior abstracts in this newsletter. Clair Wiggins, a junior will graduate this December and Kristin Puris was away studying in Ochaha, Mexico. With so much attention now focused on climate change, it is exciting to see such talented young graduates heading out to make our Earth a better place. Good luck!

Maddy Rabin, Diane, Claire Wiggins, and Joe O'Brien

Another joy during that trip was meeting faculty at the Environmental Program's house, Bittersweet. It was Earth Day and Dr. Alan Betts was speaking on climate change to Prof.Ceclia Danks' Env. 151 class. Michelle had written her, This I Believe, essay for Ceclia. The wild lilacs in front of Bittersweet were in full bloom. It was great seeing everyone again!

Dr. Betts, Prof. Cecilia Danks, and Rick Paradis

Joe O'Brien, Director Stephanie Kaza & Ibit Wright at Bittersweet

Spring lilacs in front of the Bittersweet environmental program house

The Summer of Good News

Pope Francis: "Climate change represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day." 6/18/15

Michelle Gardner-Quinn: "The reality of climate change is here and now; it is the environmental battle of our generation and generations to come." 10/05/06

What an amazing summer this has been! In June Pope Francis issued an environmental encyclical to 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Hopefully the rest of us were listening too. The encyclical urges us to forge a new partnership between science and religion, rich and poor, and northern and southern hemispheres to confront climate change on Earth, our common home. The Pope urges us to see ourselves not as dominators of the Earth, but as Earth's partners by investing in energy efficiency through the use of renewable resources, by the wealthy helping the poor, and last, but not least, by everyone getting involved. WP 6/19/15 Faiola, Boorstein & Mooney

Other good news was announced July 1st. Brazil, the U.S. and China all are setting new goals to curb climate change in advance of the U.N. backed talks opening in Paris Nov. 30th. In a statement made June 20th each country pledged to get 20% of its electricity from renewable sources, not including hydropower, by 2030. Brazil pledged to restore 46,332 square miles of its denuded forestland. WP 7/1/15 Mooney and Mufson.

March 19 President Obama signed an executive order directing the federal government to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 40% from 2008 levels over the next decade, and to increase its share of renewable energy in the government's electricity supply to 30% over the same period. The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the U.S. with the military accounting for roughly half of its total energy use. WP 3/20/15 Eilperin.

August 3rd EPA's Clean Power Plan was issued setting a goal of cutting carbon pollution from power plants by 32% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. WP 9/3/15 Warrick.

H-B Award 2015: Natalie Slater

Natalie Slater, MEF's H-B environmental award winner

Michelle's Earth Foundation 2015 award for outstanding environmental engagement goes to H-B Woodlawn's Natalie Slater. Natalie has designed award-winning science fair projects on issues related to game theory and choice.In her mind, knowing a lot about economics and human behavior might be our greatest asset in convincing humanity to conserve and be mindful of our resources.Natalie also has an obsessive love of coral reefs. Congratulations Natalie!
Maddy Rabin and Joe O'Brien's Positive Resistance abstract

We recognize a series of interconnected crises that dominate and define our era: global debt, climate change, economic rulership by the few, systemic identity-based hierarchy, biodiversity loss, among many others that emerge through collective and individual experiences. Psychological responses to these issues range from overwhelming despair to denial to pragmatism and everything in between. In our experiences, much of the work of modern environmental movement(s) use these problems as the driving force- we can no longer live that way. We believe that a positive vision of the future is necessary to nourish the difficult work of changing our communities both locally and globally- we want to live this way. Here, we attempt to set out on that path and find others that are working toward more sustainable and just realities.

The University of Vermont's Environmental Program has an academic tradition of hosting student-facilitated courses. We plan to use this opportunity to design and facilitate a course exploring positive resistance to the dominant inequitable and energy-intensive culture of Western consumerism. We have designed a structure of skill-sharing workshops based in permaculture ethics and a systems thinking theoretical framework, to get students thinking and looking through alternative lenses. In the class, we will attempt to learn through action, honest discussion, and community engagement. Through the process, we will build a cooperative and close-knit learning community that challenges the traditional notions of individualistic, competitive learning. The students will all have a chance to be teachers, sharing their expertise through facilitation of skill workshops and discussions.

MEF President Gail Fendley receiving a community award on the 10th anniversary of Katrina

An Internship with the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program 
by Alyssa Solomon

During the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015, I was an intern for the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program (VT UCF). Throughout this internship, I collaborated with VT UCF staff and partners to provide a steering committee with information and recommendations to assist the development of a backyard forestry stewardship program for Vermont landowners, develop marketing materials for the 2015 Official Vermont Arbor Day celebration, and create a collection of online profiles called Voices of Vermont Town Forests, in addition to a few other small tasks.

Throughout the fall, I took inventory of existing backyard forestry stewardship programs in the country and interviewed the coordinators of eight specific programs. With that information, I wrote a report outlining various recommendations for Vermont's future program, which will be developed by a steering committee led by Kate Forrer. This specific backyard forestry stewardship program will be the first of its kind in Vermont. It will cater to landowners with relatively small parcels of woodland that are often overlooked in other forestry programs and initiatives offered in the state.

During the spring, I supported VT UCF in implementing a new framework for the state's Arbor Day celebration. In the past, the Vermont Arbor Day celebration was held on the first Friday of each May at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier and consisted of a short ceremony to celebrate the 1-8 grade "Growing Works of Art" contest award winners and the Tree City USA inductees. In recent years, VT UCF was feeling like the event had lost its luster, so in 2014, they launched a new celebration model as part of a pilot program for an additional Arbor Day celebration in Vermont. The pilot was successful and this year's celebration will be hosted in a Vermont town forest again, supported with resources from VT UCF. In order to determine which town would host the event, I developed a written pitch calling for applications that was sent to conservation commissions in the state. Once the host community was chosen and the day's activities were planned, I drafted an announcement for VT UCF to use to publicize the event in their newsletter.

In addition to developing marketing materials for the 2015 Official Arbor Day celebration, I have also worked to highlight Vermont Town Forests and the ways in which community members, both at UVM and throughout Vermont, may become more involved in them. I did this by developing six profiles of advocates for various Vermont town forests and compiled Q&A sessions with them into an online collection called Voices of Vermont Town Forests. The six written works are available to read on the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program's website, which is a significant resource for information on Vermont's town forests.

I have also helped contribute to the increased visibility, and hopefully popularity, of town forests on social media by generating twenty facts about Vermont's town forests, which will be released throughout the year on the VT UCF Facebook and Twitter accounts. To increase awareness of town forests within the UVM community, I have also assisted senior NR 206 student Lydia Gim in determining effective marketing strategies to promote two guided walks in Centennial Woods during Earth Week.

When I decided to do this internship with VT UCF, I hoped to accomplish the following objectives:
  1. Gain experience working within an organization similar to one in which I hope to work with after graduation.
  2. Become familiar and connect with other Vermont-based organizations and leaders working to help people connect with natural resources.
  3. Gain experience in environmental event planning by helping to coordinate Vermont's Official Arbor Day Celebration.
  4. Become immersed in Vermont town forest history and current issues.
  5. Increase awareness of town forests and the potential engagement activities within them among Vermont residents and UVM community members.
  6. Fulfill my ENVS 202 requirements in order to use this internship as my Environmental Studies Capstone.
  7. Apply the knowledge I have gained regarding environmental education and the principles of ecopsychology to help my community members reconnect with their natural environment and increase their personal and communal wellbeing.
  8. Contribute to the success of an organization that is helping to engage community members with the land to educate about, care for, and enjoy Vermont's natural resources.
I have valued my time as an intern with the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program because I believe that the roles I held within the organization have been a wonderful culmination of my education at the University of Vermont.

Throughout my three and a half years as an Environmental Studies student, I have made engaging with the local environment, and the people who also enjoy it, the cornerstone of my academic and experiential education. My academic background within the Environmental Studies Program prepared me for this internship. Three courses from which I gained knowledge that have been especially helpful during this experience are Introduction to Ecopsychology, Sustainability Education, and Landscape Natural History.

The principles I learned in Andy Fisher's Ecopsychology course provided me with the knowledge that connecting with more-than-human life is critical in maintaining the wellbeing of humans and our society. With this, I felt confident encouraging community members to get outside of the confines of their cars, homes, schools and workplaces to reconnect with the land, trees, water and wildlife in Vermont town forests. Having public celebration events like Arbor Day increases the sentiment of natural majesty in our state and helps boost support for the engagement with, and stewardship of, ever-important trees.

Sustainability Education helped me understand effective ways in which to facilitate this reconnection that is so prominent in ecopsychology. During this internship, I adapted the pedagogy and methods that I learned through Tom Hudspeth's course to strategically educate and inspire community members in becoming stewards of land in Vermont. I used his lessons especially when I was making recommendations for the new educational backyard forestry stewardship program and deciding on the wording I used in the outreach materials for the Arbor Day celebration.

Through the course Landscape Natural History, I became comfortable identifying local tree species and increased my understanding of forest management practices. This scientific background knowledge was a necessary foundation to have while working within an organization specifically focused on forestry. Heather Fitzgerald's Landscape Natural History helped educate me in the significant ways in which local Vermont woods have been both positively and negatively impacted from different forms of forest management in the past. This especially put into perspective the need for organizations such as VT UCF to provide programming that educates communities to care for their woods responsibly for years to come. I felt confident advocating for a backyard forestry stewardship program, as well as sustainable exploration and maintenance of Vermont town forests, with the knowledge I gained from these three courses and other activities of which I was a part during my four years at the University of Vermont.

(Editor's Note: Alyssa is biking across the U.S. this summer. Her group will be stopping along the way to work on Habitat for Humanity low income housing.

Question: A recent study in Toronto found that what urban element contributed to residents' improved health and sense of well being?

Answer: Trees on the streets, preferably 10 per block.

Source: Chris Mooney, Greenery good for city dwellers, Washington Post 7/11/15

Question: Do plants signal how thirsty they are?

Answer: Yes. A sophisticated drip irrigation system is being developed in Israel that waters plants only when they're thirsty by measuring the suction of the plants' roots.

Source: Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor Wkly, June 22, 2015


The third joy on our visit to UVM was a visit to Michelle's beloved Intervale, where we were graciously hosted by Director Travis Marcotte, Joyce Cellars and Mandy Fischer. When the Intervale's Food Hub project was in its early stages Michelle worked with Travis and Mandy. Today the Hub is a thriving enterprise! The Red Osier dogwood near the pond that was planted in Michelle's memory has grown into a big, beautiful bush during these past 9 years. Its red stalks glistened in the sunlight. Several of its branches were brought back to Princeton and Arlington to grow anew.
Mandy, Alyssa, Diane and Joyce at the Intervale pond.

Alyssa, Gail, Diane and Mandy in front of Intervale Red Osier dogwood planted in memory of Michelle

Red Osier dogwood in Arlington, VA