Archive for July, 2019


Protect the Ecosystem During Traveling – Some Thoughts after Visiting Hawaii

The ecosystem on a small island can be unstable and easily disturbed, especially if the island that is a long distance away from the mainland. I wrote about Iceland’s ecosystem approximately two years ago (click here to read), Iceland must sustain on its own by using Geothermal energy to produce heat. The country’s geothermal resources come from the dynamic volcano, and several major geothermal power plants produce 30% of the country’s electricity. However, the Hawaiian Islands are a different story. On a trip to Hawaii, I learned about their environmental protection laws and the ecosystem.

The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it is far away from the mainland of the United States. Unlike Iceland, Hawaii’s climate is warm and wet, not as brutally cold as Iceland. Because of the mild weather and rich soil, plants such as bananas, pineapples, mangos, and some vegetables are prosperous in some part of those islands. Food resources are not a problem for people on these islands. Compared to Iceland, Hawaii attracts about nine million visitors last year while Iceland had about two million.


So, what did Hawaii do to protect their environment and ecosystem?

The National Park Rangers at Big Island created a legend about the fiery volcano goddess would punish people that took the volcano rocks away to prevent visitors from keeping them as “souvenirs”.


One of the most important ecosystems in Hawaii is the marine life around the islands. They have such beautiful and abundant marine life in the middle of Pacific, take the Hanauma Bay as an example:


The Bay was formed million years ago by the erupt of an active volcano, water slowly corrosion the outside boundary and flow inside, coral reef growing on those rich volcano rock sediments and make Hanauma Bay a perfect snorkeling area. In addition, the natural shaped topography protected coral reef in this bay and current so it’s safe to swim in it. Due to the number of visitors that come to the bay every day, the park is closed on Tuesday to give the natural elements time to recover.


Hawaii’s coral reef is facing increasing challenges these years because of runoff soil, chemicals, and human’s contact. People who visit Hanauma Bay must use reef-safe sunscreen and no bug spray is allowed. Visitors have to watch an educational video about the ecosystem at Hanauma Bay, including warnings and tips for snorkeling.


The rainforests also play an important role in Hawaii’s fragile environment, especially for the native animals. When you get off the plane in Hawaii, you have to submit a customs card that states all your belongs that might disturb the environment, such as other vegetation and live animals. Snakes are banned on the islands!




I was surprised that I did not get a single mosquito bite on this trip. After talking to the hotel receptionist, we learned that this island is really doing a good job with mosquito control by using enclosed trash cans and keeping the coast clean. The fine is expensive for people who are caught throwing trash in the wrong place.

On this trip, I could tell how hard Hawaiians are working to protect their fragile ecosystem and the beautiful environment. As a visitor, I do want to help in this process, because we are trying to protect the beautiful ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.

Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety of culture inside of the city.


Life Happens


At some point in our careers, we face disruptions in our personal lives that can rock our world. Some life changes can be happy, while others can take our breath away. Be it divorce, personal health, the loss of a loved one or in my personal case, the death of a child, these challenges can make time stand still. It was the recent loss of my beautiful son, Adam Lamar Russell, that paused everything around me.

Many of us are taught to put up an invisible shield that separates our work and home life, but it seems impossible because many of our waking hours are spent at work. Those lines often blur. As a pregnant woman it really gets hard because people have seen us for months as our belly gets bigger, our walk gets a little different, and we prepare to take some extended time from our work family.  I’ve found that when we experience something so tragic, it can be particularly hard returning to the office for a few reasons. People want to avoid us because they don’t know what to say or we have to brace ourselves for the congratulatory remarks from people who have no clue about what we went through. It’s a tough position.

No matter the life situation, how do we show up fully present when our heart and mind are consumed? I am no psychologist, but I don’t think we can. I think that many times when life hits us hard, we find ourselves just pushing through. Everything is a process and we have to honor and work through the process. It’s not something that goes by a prescribed man-made clock – bereavement leave, maternity leave, or some other form of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). And this only speaks to those who have the luxury of extended time away.

What I am learning bit by bit is to be gracious with others as they maneuver around me, accept that giving my best can change each day and that there really isn’t a shield. Life is life and our work is a part of the life we are building. Although we sometimes set boundaries by not talking about home at work or vice versa, it’s difficult to not let the emotion seep from one to the other. We aren’t robots but we can persevere through some of life’s most challenging times by honoring the experience and doing what we need to return to some sense of normalcy in our lives.

P.S. I have found journaling to be helpful. What do you do when life hits you hard?

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

Dedicated lane for the streetcar.

Navigating Cities – The Best of my Travels

Over the last few years, my travels for conferences, workshops, projects, and personal have taken me cities in the US and aboard.  Because I’m such a transportation nerd, it’s always fun to see how easy it is to navigate from my point of arrival (train station or airport) to my destination and around the city with only the knowledge of the address of where I’m staying. Below are some of my reflections navigating different cities.

Most Efficient Airport – Munich, Germany: In October 2018, I had an opportunity to travel to Salzburg, Austria for a seminar on building healthy and equitable communities. I flew in through Munich, then took a train to Salzburg. Munich airport is the most efficient airport I’ve ever travel to or through. Even going through customs was faster than using Global Entry when I returned to the US. I had no problems navigating from my gate, through customs, and to the train. Most importantly, there were no lines despite the high volume of people. Even the security lines moved so quick, I barely had time to get my shoes off.

IMG_4393Easiest Train Station to Navigate – Amsterdam Centraal, Netherlands: Amsterdam is known by people in the transportation industry for its biking culture and infrastructure as well as its public transportation. Biking is the one thing I didn’t do during my vacation, but I did ride the streetcars. All that aside I give Amsterdam credit for the easiest train station to navigate. Even without knowing the language, moving through the train station was intuitive for me. The using of icons, such as “i” for information removed the language barrier.

Easiest place to navigate from the airport to downtown – Minneapolis, Minnesota: Last year, I did a day trip Minneapolis for the Institute of Transportation Engineers conference.  I flew into Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and took the train to downtown to get to the conference hotel. Not only was it easy to navigate from my arrival gate to the train, but it was also close. There are a few other airports where it is easy to get to the train, but the train is a long distance from the airport, such as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Getting a ticket was intuitive and it was a smooth ride into downtown Minneapolis.

Favorite City for Getting Lost – Tie between Antigua, Guatemala and Cali, Colombia: Antigua and Cali are my favorite for two completely different reasons. Antigua was great for getting lost, because it was easy to reset to get back on track. It’s a walkable City with a large volcano to the south, a volcano that erupts every twenty minutes or so to the west, and a large hillside with a cross on top to the north. Cali was great because of all the street art. We call it murals in the US, they call everything graffiti.  I spent several hours getting lost while exploring the graffiti.

I haven’t taken count of the number of cities I’ve been to around the world. These are the ones that stand out in my mind for a transportation-related reason. What are some of the best cities you’ve been to that are easy to navigate?

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.




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