On stealing good ideas, open source, community, ecosystem service value and land use change
Welcome to the October 2022 edition of the Carbon A List newsletter. Do you know someone who would enjoy this newsletter? Send this to them and they can subscribe here.
On stealing good ideas
We’re changing up the format of this newsletter to mostly copy Banks Benitez’s style with Uncharted Insider. I highly recommend this newsletter to anyone seeking to more thoughtfully create impact in their work. Ideas are cheap, execution is everything, but when stealing them it is important to give credit where it is due.
On Open Source
Many of the “stolen” ideas aren’t actually stolen, but known as a public good and repackaged with a proprietary twist. We need to recognize the value of proprietary tools and also the pre-competitive space to create common understanding for public goods. My colleague and Carbon A List Analyst, Hope Sims, wrote a blog post My experience at GOAT: a call for more open-source collaboration. In it, she articulates the need for both proprietary and open source tools to work together. From the Carbon A List perspective, we hope to explore more collaborations in the open source ecosystem while also championing and vetting and workable proprietary tools.
I was struck by these words in an article entitled Relational Work of Systems Change: “To get to more radical outcomes, we need more radical ways of working together. It is both as simple and as hard as that.” Indeed, the communities working in the environmental impact space are often siloed and recreating unnecessary wheels while neglecting key opportunities to amplify existing partnerships or establish new ones. My hope for those in the weeds of this sector is to remind ourselves to look up, and realize the great number of connections and commonalities between the various parts of work in order to go further, faster.
On Ecosystem Service Value
Determining Ecosystem Service Value (ESV) is both amorphous and quantifiable. This includes the physical supply of food, water, and other resources from the ecosystem; air, soil and water quality regulation; maintenance of biodiversity; and the recreational, aesthetic, spiritual and tourist value of a place. However, by tying ESV to a real world asset it is possible to demonstrate a clear market connection to improving them. An article, valuing regulating services of urban ecosystems towards more comprehensive house pricing, demonstrates one pathway to embed ESV into house values. The study seeks to link housing prices in China to a true market value that is localized and linked to carbon sequestration, ground water supply, local temperature and humidity adjustment. In other words, increasing ESV increases financial value. Beyond that, the paper demonstrated a slow, long term linkage between mitigating human health effects and improving ecosystem services.
On land use change
While 2020 was the lowest year of a five year average, the 2022 World Wildlife Fund Plowprint report reminds us that over 2 million acres across North America were plowed under, losing valuable ecosystem services such as carbon retention and biodiversity. Pathways forward must take into account there are significant gaps in assessment of cropland acreage, native grassland and forest conversions. Seen as an indicator of agricultural and environmental system health, land use change is commonly assessed by many stakeholders across grower, academic, government, conservation, industry, and consumer organizations. However, while the precision laboratory, agricultural technology, satellite imagery and computer analysis suites have provided the needed tools to improve understanding of the factors influencing soil carbon and land use across wide geographies in the United States, we still do not have common ways to look at this landscape.
What we’re working on
Directly related to the above, we’re pleased to kick off a project with the United Soybean Board “Enhancing the infrastructure to improve soybean-based land use change analysis and assessment” that will support finding consensus in land use conversion assessment, state of the science and needs. This work will extend existing partnerships and introduce new and conflicting perspectives to find consensus in defining the conversion of native prairie or forests into agriculture. We will provide the scientific, social, and peer-reviewed publications to build common ground and improve accuracy in assessment, access to consensus-derived methodologies and needed dialogue that will enhance understanding of the best practices in land use change quantification methodology.
Our work to enhance the land conversion assessment infrastructure will include 1) a multi-stakeholder workshop focused on the state of the science and key gaps in assessment methodologies, 2) Establishment of methodology advancement working groups (leveraging collaborations with key scientific experts and societies), 3) peer-reviewed publications and special journal issues dedicated to the topic of land use conversion assessment, and 4) public reports and communications assets to help build awareness and understanding across key stakeholders.
We’re nearing the finish line on two other projects. Stay tuned for next month.
What I’m reading:
- Relational Work of Systems Change
- Valuing regulating services of urban ecosystems towards more comprehensive house pricing
- World Wildlife Fund PlowPrint Report
- Partnering: forge the deep connections that make great things happen. A useful guide for both business and romantic partnerships.
Can you help?
Do you have a need for strategy, planning and execution as it relates to scaling climate smart agriculture before diving into 2023? Let’s talk.
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Earlier this month I was on the side of a mountain above my house, clearing out shrub oak and other overgrowth that was crowding out the spring-fed domestic water system that supports us and 33 other neighbors. It was a good reminder of how precious this resource is and how crucial neighborhood relationships are to maintain something we are all dependent on: water. Living on the Western Slope in Colorado, I’m observing my relationship to water evolve. It’s one of the most common topics in my community whether about domestic or irrigation. Some of the common threads: what irrigation ditch are you on? How many shares do you have? When does it turn on and off? What are you growing next year? What’s your irrigation set-up for the land you’re on? What improvements are you making? While these questions once felt foreign to me as someone who has primarily lived in cities and taken water for granted, they are highly relevant to me now and the vibrant community I am a part of.