The blue and the green: DWP's plan should fund stormwater capture

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) just released its long term strategic plan for how the City of L.A. will meet its future water and energy needs. At a time when the City's historic water supplies are very much at risk it's clear that the distant sources we've relied on for many years are both diminishing and becoming much more expensive.

The new plan heads in the right direction. It states that it's a priority to develop new, local supplies, and that includes capturing the rain that falls on our region for free. But unfortunately the proposed long term budget doesn't give evidence of the agency's commitment to changing the course.

 The role of a strategic plan is to set a strategy and to provide a basis for leadership and direction. Because of the imported water supply threat, it's time to make a turn and invest the agency's resources in developing local supplies and the economy. That's what this plan should do. But unfortunately because the budget doesn't follow through, it sends a confusing message to DWP's staff, L.A. residents, and innovators who want to help.

Restoring nature, re-imagining our choices

Family bike transportation in the NetherlandsI spent the first part of last week in a town near Amsterdam presenting at Bioneers Global, the first Bioneers conference to take place outside the U.S. The theme was biomimicry, or "innovation inspired by nature."

TreePeople helps nature heal our cities. We bring the forest, and forest-inspired technologies into the city landscape. Our work is biomimicry at a systems level.

Los Angeles has broken many of nature's systems in the way we've developed and managed the region. TreePeople's goal of creating functioning community forests in every neighborhood of L.A. is a way of restoring the gifts of nature and community to our local landscapes. Our work equips and inspires people to restore and care for trees, soil, and plants, so they can do all the jobs they've been designed to do in our ecosystem. In the process they make our urban environments healthy and thriving.

But for this to happen on a wide scale we must re-imagine our roles as city dwellers.

Our future, as seen from the Today Show

Last week TreePeople received national attention. NBC's Today Show featured a segment on our work, including on one of our proudest accomplishments, the 1990 community planting of hundreds of trees by thousands of people along LA's Martin Luther King Boulevard, the results of which are now visible from space. TreePeople was chosen as one of Pepsi's Refresh campaign awardees, and on Friday I appeared live on the show to receive a gift of $50,000 for our work.

TreePeople on a mission to save the planet

Length: 2:14 minutes      Released: May 25, 2010 

Why this recognition by two corporate giants? I think businesses are becoming increasingly aware that more of us - not just stockholders - are holding them accountable. Everyone is a shareholder in the world today, and where we choose to spend our dollars makes a difference. We can choose a company that gives back, and we should.

Re-engaging the sidewalk parkway

Soon the Los Angeles City Council will consider a measure that will make sidewalk repairs the financial responsibility of homeowners, and not the city, which has been taking care of such repairs since l974.

People ask: What does it matter? Well, it matters a lot.

Past history tells us that, even with a permit process in place, in order to avoid having to repair the sidewalk homeowners will too often butcher trees or even take them out entirely, replacing them with something that might be called a tree, but is actually a glorified shrub. Shrubs cannot provide anywhere near the same benefits as trees.

Sidewalk parkways, where street trees are planted, are public rights of way. They are a space for the public good, traditionally controlled by city agencies. City leaders had the prescience to understand they needed to maintain authority over these strips of land to manage them for maximum public benefit. Trees were traditionally put in these parkways not just for beauty, but for shade and other dividends. These purposes have been forgotten by many, and now trees are too often seen just as decorations and nuisances.

Public parkway trees need protecting now more than ever.

At a time when Los Angeles'economic, environmental, and physical health is increasingly compromised, the public parkway is the interface where city actions can make a big impact. We need our trees , and we need to enable them to do what they are designed to do. That little crack in the concrete is a result of trees trying to spread their root systems to get access to water, as they do in nature. Trees are designed to take the rain and water run-off, clean it in the spongy, porous soil in their root zone, and store it for further use. Healthy trees also filter the air, and by shading, cooling, and lowering urban temperatures, they reduce air pollution and save energy.

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