Building Local Sustainability

local sustainability
Bioswale July 2nd 2020

It all comes down to local sustainability. When we founded The Long Island Conservancy not too long ago, it was with the conviction that we would be driven by both science and community to create a livable future place by place. On the science side, we are passionate learners, and seek those across Long Island who care about local nature. Every park should have it’s stewards, each yard needs to be seen as an opportunity to restore native habitat. In embracing local nature, we embrace where we are from. We labor to understand it so that we may heal it, cure it, put back what belongs.

Connecting to The Local Plant Communities

Increasingly, as we have ramped up this year, we are becoming more and more connected with the various practitioners in native planting on Long Island. It is not large community, but it is clearly burgeoning. People want habitat in their yards. They want a pollinator garden. Some even want to re-wild, to go native.

We needn’t look any further than to our event on Oct 8th, Plantstock, which went from idea to execution in six weeks, bringing together disparate groups united in common purpose: To restore habitat in our communities, and foster local sustainability.

Local sustainability

That event will get it’s own post, along with a video of the event itself, but suffice to say that between Bellport’s 1000 Yards Campaign and the newly announced Thousand More Yards for Brookhaven, the rewilding movement is really taking hold! Kudos to our speakers, our musical host Mel Morin, and of course in deep gratitude to Hamlet Organic Garden, and their leading gatherer and organizer of communities, Julia Villacarra, who somehow manages the seemingly countless events they have for musicians and artists while also operating a farm stand for the 20 acre farm. But there it is! Don’t just grow your own food — make your own music and art, rewild your community. Local sustainability in action!

It’s Always About Local Sustainability

In my environmental work, and even before that when I was bringing free public Wi-Fi to New York City’s parks and business improvement districts 2004-2010, I have always emphasized the local. New York was a city of neighborhoods. Every block a new place. Long Island was 89 villages, 13 towns, and countless apartment complexes and subdivisions.

With Save The Great South Bay, we leaned on the fact that each of the 16 communities along The Great South Bay needed a Creek Defender. Each community self-organizes. It is a distributed model of leadership that can scale quickly. We are all tribal. We just need to learn how to lean into it. I addressed this in 2017 in an article for Forbes On Leadership: Teach a Village To Fish (Sustainably), which is about how has taught sustainable practices to fishing villages around the world by tapping into a local sense of pride. The answer then was unmistakable and universal. We all care about where we are from. That is community sentiment. It must begin there.

Back in 2014, I helped launch a film, A River Between Us, and it is now leading to the largest environmental restoration project in U.S. history. It came down to human drama, to empathy, to story telling, to a narrative of grand reconciliation. You can read the story here. My friend Jason, his son now fifth generation on the Klamath, fly fisher extraordinaire, and a fisher of men — you did it.

Scaling Local Sustainabilty in a Fragmented World

In establishing the groundwork for The Long Island Conservancy, I identified a challenge: scaling. Long Island is a really big place, or one could say between the thousands of parks and sumps, its many rivers, creeks and ponds, and what remains of its woods and marshes, there was a lot to get to know. We have been working to get our arms around all this, and you can help.

We seek local stewards, champions of a wood, or pond, a gardener who wants to plant native, local organizations that are facing some environmental challenge or opportunity. We can gather together people who know bioswales, pollinator gardens, plant choice, as well as permitting and regulation. We work closely with both Nassau and Suffolk County and in compliance with the NYS DEC.

We are keenly aware of all the efforts taken by small groups and private individuals in communities across Long Island, a “Friend of ….” a local green space. There is nothing we like better than to remove invasive plants and plant native, as we are currently doing with The Science Museum of Long Island, Sands Point Conservancy, with the endorsement of The Town of North Hempstead, removing invasive plants and restoring local habitat.

Again, making the case with video is helping to build a movement.

Here they are. Clearly there are many more, but in the meantime, we’ve started a conversation.

Sustainable Long Island
Let’s Get These Out Of Our Yards and Parks!

Scaling a Movement For Local Sustainability

In 2021 then I enrolled in a six week course on Digital Transformation offered by MIT Media Lab online. AI, Blockchain, Security, Software as a Service, XAAS. I did this because I was trying to work out how non-profits could potentially coordinate and scale by adopting the same growth strategy that propelled Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (aka FAANG) which all scaled rapidly because only added digital capacity — software, storage — in line with what they grew.

A world of a million non-profits could potentially aggregate around common platforms, and that is indeed what is happening, especially with Microsoft and Google pushing so hard on their non-profit offerings, and a number of niche players coming in around fundraising, donation management, HR, virtual assistants, accountancy, and so forth.

What I see in my non-profit and my environmental work was a lot of fragmentation. There were hundreds of like minded non-profits and civic groups, but there needs to be greater cohesion. How could these disparate groups, scattered across Long Island, be brought in under one umbrella, for that is what The Long Island Conservancy is striving for, to know all these places you care about. TWe are leaning heavily into Google For Nonprofits as a means to scale our organization while interacting with other nonprofit and other entities efficiently.

What Local Sustainability Looks Like

We are also developing and curating a media repository in the form of original programming via Little Green Shoots, as well as video clips by our team. We believe that visual storytelling, using local nature as our palette, is how you get people to see their immediate world differently.

stormwater management
Bioswale With Seaside Goldenrod, Joe Pye, Red Maple and Redbud

We very much welcome hearing from you. We have much to learn about your community and it’s environmental challenges. We are happy to offer whatever advice we can for your community.

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