The Piedmont View

Fall 2010 Piedmont View

Dear friends,

This summer, when the Senate turned away from a bill that would have established a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, it became unavoidably clear that the current political climate in Washington and in many states, including Virginia, does not support a dramatic shift in energy and environmental policy to address global warming.  But scientific evidence continues to confirm that global climate change is occurring.  If Plan A is not going to be adopted, then what is Plan B?

This June, PEC led our first Wildlife Friendly Farms and Fields Tour, bringing participants out to see spots where people are actively cultivating their land for the good of native plants and wildlife.

This summer, an unwanted clear-cut tore through the edge of the woods at Rick and Virginia Dorkey’s cattle farm near Bealeton, in Fauquier County.  Construction crews put up a line of gigantic metal towers on the farm, jutting far above the trees.  It’s impossible not to see them.  The massive structures dominate the views across hayfields and pastures.

This summer, in the fourth year of the PEC Fellowship Program, twelve bright, energetic college and graduate students spent seven weeks with us learning about a wide range of environmental issues.  The PEC Fellowship Program offers a unique and increasingly sought after, hands-on experience for students interested in environmental careers. 

This year’s fellows wrapped up the program with a collection of top-notch practicum projects that help PEC—from a series of interviews with farmers on their experience with cost-share programs to analysis of state policy on solar energy to exploring on the potential impact of commuter rail through southern Fauquier, among other topics.  Here's what they say about their experience.

What was the major takeaway for you from the Fellowship Program?

Paul: “I never really thought about doing anything with the government—state governments, local governments, federal government.  But after doing the mock Board of Supervisors presentation and the mock Virginia Assembly meeting, I found out that I actually want to influence the government.  I want to let my voice be heard.” 

Anna: “It’s been refreshing to be at PEC and see a nonprofit that’s effective and gets things done and I’ve been really impressed by that, and it’s reinvigorated my interest in working in the nonprofit sector.”

Ronnie: “I discovered urban planning [in college] and the whole time I was doing it I thought, am I ever going to get a job? Is this even practical or is this information just to know stuff? But through this program I’ve really seen how practical it can be and it’s made me more confident that I want to go to grad school in urban planning.”

Ariel: “In classes, you get a lot of idealism or one-sidedness about things, but in truth, everything is really complex and there’s a lot of sides to everything.   PEC has helped me look at those different sides and analyze the problem from all angles.  It’s helped me to think  outside the box.”

This summer you’ve been immersed in PEC themes of taking action effectively, getting things done.  But, if you look at environmental issues from a zoomed out perspective, you might see this as the summer of immobility.  The entire time you were here, an oil well was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.  Also this summer, Congress decided not to take action on energy and climate change.  How do you reconcile this sense of potential with what seems like paralysis on a larger scale? 

Stephanie:  “I remember when we did the policy stuff, and they said it’s more important to do things at the state and local level than the national level, and at first I was like, well, maybe.  National politics is so cool and exciting.  But after going to Richmond and doing our mock Board of Supervisors meeting, I realized  that fighting the local fights and implementing state policy that actually affects your community is way more tangible and effective.  You actually get things done as opposed to the gutted energy bill that isn’t going to happen in the Senate right now. “

Drew:  “Something like the Gulf oil spill is the result of the system or the society in which we live and that that actually doesn’t change at a national level, so much as change at a local level.  So, if change is being made by organizations like PEC at a local level, those have a ripple effect into a national arena.  We could work toward the equivalent of preventative medicine on the national scale if we craft knowledgeable, happy, sustainable local societies.”

To see more photos from the 2010 PEC Fellowship, check out our PEC Fellows Flickr Collection. If you're a former PEC Fellow, be sure to join our PEC Fellows Flickr group.

 

The village of Unison in western Loudoun, as if charmed in some way to keep from changing, is a quiet hamlet of well-kept old buildings, with many farmhouses, barns and churches that measure their age in centuries.  They are settled into a landscape of farm fields and stone walls, where the curving hills and stands of trees give way, in their own rhythm, to views of the calm blue line of mountains on the western horizon. 

It’s the roads in Unison that historians get most excited about, says Mitch Diamond of the Unison Preservation Society, which is leading efforts to list this area as a historic district on the state and national registers of historic places.

Once again, VDOT is planning for road building projects that we don’t need and can’t afford!

Less than a year ago, PEC had to mobilize a citizen outcry against proposals for multiple new roads through the Piedmont.  As a result, VDOT dropped plans for three new roads from its blueprint for the Rt. 29 corridor.

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