20190517_103528

The Galapagos Islands and Climate Change (Small Actions Matter)

Have you ever heard the phrase, “every little bit helps?” It is a shame there are things we want to accomplish but we get discouraged because some of these goals may seem insurmountable. We may not realize that some of the things we already do may help reach that goal.  For instance, I got back from a trip to Galapagos Islands a few months ago. And as I was thinking about the trip, it occurred to me that the Galapagos Islands are like a naturalist paradise. As we make commitments to address climate change (big or small), we are moving closer to the goal of reaching a naturalist paradise of our own.

It’s always a good idea to break a goal down to various phases or parts and work toward intermediate steps of success. Even if establishing a naturalist paradise, or solving climate change if you will, seems to be unrealistic, the various steps one can take to help reach that goal are not.

One good example of this in the transportation world is  the “Vision Zero” campaign. I remember when it was called “Toward Zero Death” way back when. The idea is to set a goal of achieving no traffic fatalities or serious injuries from car crashes over a certain number of years. One’s first reaction is that it is an unattainable goal. OK, but then can you tell me if there is a group of people whose lives we can accept losing on the highway or local streets, since this goal is so “unattainable?” Could that be your wife/husband or significant other, child, parent, sibling, good friend, or a casual acquaintance? The answer is no. So we set about working with key partners and stakeholders to redesign dangerous intersections, install traffic calming devices such as roundabouts, install pedestrian road crossings, implement retroreflective signage, etc. We may not reach the ultimate goal but we will may see success along the way, in reducing the number of traffic fatalities.

My trip to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador in South America, was in the early part of May, 2019. We visited the islands of North Seymour, Bartolome, Rabida, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, and Santa Crua. I was excited to see many species of plants and animals and had various opportunities to see them both on land and in the water. Some of the islands had very little transportation infrastructure, if any at all. In other words, I didn’t experience any rush hour unless you count the group of Orcas we saw one morning as we crossed the equator on the fourth day.  

20190512_175543I went on this trip with my sisters Virginia and Karen and my brother-in-law Stephen. I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with the sights and the activities of this trip, and will always remember it. We were able to witness nature, whether from a shoreline tour on a zodiac boat, snorkeling along some of the inlets, doing a short hike along some of the natural trails and beaches or kayaking along the shores. One thing I like about traveling is being able to share my experiences with friends and colleagues. And boy did I take many pictures!

I won’t kid you, Galapagos has had its own issues in the past in which humans have introduced invasive species that have threatened the islands. But many foresighted naturalists and scientists have been able to mitigate some of those impacts, preserve the Islands and closely manage human interaction through limited tours. The wildlife is so used to visitors they don’t view humans as a threat and rarely scatter when you approach them. Nothing like being up-close and personal with a Blue Footed Boobie or a Frigatebird.

20190512_183340In fact, when we arrived at the hotel in Guayaquill, Ecuador and as we were about to take the trip from Ecuador to the islands, we were issued a transit control card. This card was given to all of us and was issued by the Government Council for Galapagos as a measure towards “sustainable human development and conservation of the Galapagos Islands.” The card was a way to limit the number of people on the tour so we could enjoy this natural paradise while at the same time maintaining its integrity and natural beauty.


What can this trip teach us about the importance of climate change? Whether you believe in the impacts of human behavior on climate or not, any action you take or day-to-day practice you follow that helps reduce the carbon footprint, is a good thing. It surely doesn’t hurt.

I am not pushing major policies, such as Cap and Trade, that are being hotly debated right now. It20190512_184609 is clear to me we will have to make critical decisions in the future in regards to climate and we need to understand the ramifications of action and inaction in addressing climate change.For the sake of this blog, I just want to point out that you yourself may already be doing your part in addressing climate change. Whether you choose carpooling to work over driving alone, or compost food scraps instead of throwing it out into a landfill, recycle cans and bottles or walk to the store instead of driving; we are all doing our share to maintain natural integrity of our own environment as best we can. Can we reach the ultimate goal of a Galapagos Islands in your neighborhood? Of course not, but in these actions, we are doing our small part in making the world a little more sustainable and a little more pleasant place in which to live. We are helping to preserve our environment for future generations.

Again, the Galapagos Islands are a place where humans and animals live mostly in perfect harmony in the natural environment. If that is the ultimate goal of completely addressing the impacts of climate change, any steps toward doing that are well worth it.

20190517_084847By the way, my favorite part of the trip was the last day when we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station, located near Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, to see the giant tortoises.

We went to the center not only for the big turtles, but to see how the station raises young giant tortoises and then releases them into the wild. We saw some of the small turtles in their pens. This program is run in conjunction with the Galapagos Park Service. Since 1970, more than 2,000 tortoises have been hatched, raised and released. Later we went to a national park in the highlands of Santa Cruz and were able to see the large turtles in their natural habitat. Again, we were able to be with the turtles, up-close and personal.

20190517_100812

James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.

IMG_7404

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.

Which-is-the-best-Hawaiian-island-map

https://fishingbooker.com/blog/which-hawaiian-island-is-the-best-for-you/

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”.

Haleakala-Crater-Visitor-Center-Parking-Lot-EX

https://www.haleakalamaui.com/

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:

North-Shore-Beach-Bus-1

https://bestof-hawaii.com/tours/north-shore-and-hanauma-bay-in-a-day/

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.

dscn5552_1600_750_85_s_c1_c_c_0_0.jpg.pagespeed.ce.q8gDHotjpZ

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.

IMG_7527

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!

IMG_7404

IMG_7519

 

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.

sunset-cinema-outdoor-summer-movie-in-georgetown_credit-sam-kittner-georgetown-bid

Ways to Enjoy Public Places in D.C. this Summer

It’s that time of year, Summertime! The warm weather, the endless activities, the delicious barbecues, the longer days, and the chances to spend more time outdoors than indoors. One of my favorite parts of the summer is activating public spaces. All summer long you will have opportunities to access public spaces in cities near you. Whether having a picnic, attending an outdoor movie, or going to a neighborhood festival, there are many activities for you, your family, and your friends to enjoy. Check out a few ideas below of ways to enjoy public spaces in Washington, D.C this summer.

  • Attend an outdoor movie screening. There are many options to choose from all summer long: Georgetown Sunset Cinema, NoMa Summer Screen, Union Market Drive-In, Downtown DC Summer Flicks, and more. Grab a blanket, a chair, and your favorite snacks and head over to a screening.  Outdoor movies in Washington, DC, Outdoor Movie Guide 2019
  • Have a picnic. Pack a picnic basket for a nice lunch for yourself or with your favorite people and head over to one of these places for a beautiful afternoon: Georgetown Waterfront Park, Hains Point, United States National Arboretum, National Mall, Tidal Basin, West Potomac Park, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, or Meridian Hill Park
  • Visit a public plaza or a pocket park. Look to see what events are happening at different plazas this summer: Columbia Heights Civic Plaza, the Park at CityCenterDC, and Canal Park. Also check out these plazas in Maryland: Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring and Rockville Town Square in Rockville.
  • Visit a farmer’s market. There are farmers markets all over D.C. throughout the week. Check out Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market, Eastern Market, Capital Harvest on the Plaza, Capitol Riverfront, and more. Washington, DC Farmers Markets, DC Area Farmers Markets.
  • Attend festivals and free concert series. You can find a variety of free festivals and concerts: DC Jazz Festival, Capitol Riverfront Friday Night Concert Series, Journey Festival, H Street Festival, Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, and Summer Concerts at Woodrow Wilson Plaza.

I hope you can enjoy some of the options I listed above on what’s happening in D.C. this summer or find out what’s happening in a neighborhood near you!

 

Columbia Height Public SpaceColumbia Heights Civic Plaza

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner and Urban Designer  from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Architectural Design, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.





BEGIN NOW

TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECT!



We would love to help you with your sustainability goals.
GET STARTED