Clive Pohl: Accentuate the Positive

Lexington architect Clive Pohl was our keynote speaker at our 2014 Go Green, Save Green Workshop. We have had many requests for a text version of his presentation, and so with his permission, we are posting it below. Thanks again, Clive!

Accentuate the Positive

by Clive Pohl, AIA
Pohl Rosa Pohl

Prior to the storm of human ingenuity known as the Industrial Revolution our planet was
not immune to catastrophe. Earth’s long history may best be described as a continuous
ebb and flow of conditions alternately hospitable and hostile to life. The continuum of
increasing biological abundance followed by varying degrees of extinction has been
packaged for our comprehension into what is now widely recognized as the “Big Five”.1

I will cite just two examples: The End Permian (Permian-Triassic) extinction of 251
million years ago – the “Great Dying” was caused by massive volcanism in the
convulsions of an evolving planet. The End Cretaceous extinction (66 million years ago)
is now widely believed to have been caused by Earthʼs collision with a 6 mile wide
asteroid. In one fell swoop it put an end to the dinosaurs and made possible our rise to

Most of these “events” and the extinctions that followed were the result of complex
seismic and atmospheric conditions and the exact course of events is the subject of
some debate. However, we can say with absolute confidence that none of them were
caused by any one species. Until now.

Welcome to the The Sixth Extinction. In her recent book Elizabeth Kolbert concludes
through careful examination that we are the cause of the next big event. This epoch, the
anthropocene, OUR time, is the only one in which one species has managed to change
the course of Earth’s natural history.

Kolbert illuminates a list of examples of our devastating impact with an even hand.
Whether inflicted by over-hunting, pollution, the destruction of habitat, or transportation
of invasive species, every casualty can be traced back to humanity’s myopic appetite for
forward motion, progress, and material wealth. Because the casualty list is long and
most of us feel powerless when we hear the tragic stories.I will resist the temptation to recap her examples. I will, however, briefly reference one casualty – coral reefs – as hopefully we can all accept some degree of complicity when the devastation is caused by our collective carbon footprint.

Even climate change deniers3 are beginning to feel the impact of global warming. But it
is the loss of our planet’s biodiversity, not our thermal comfort, that is most
disconcerting. Ocean acidification (caused by the dissolution and reaction of CO2 in
water) is threatening coral species with extinction at rates that exceed those of
terrestrial animal groups. The reefs (resulting from corals’ secretion of calcium
carbonate) which serve as the home to biodiversity beyond our capacity for imagining
will cease to grow in the next 50 years.4 There is no need to wait for bad news,
however, as Earth’s biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial, is already as low as it was
during the End Cretaceous extinction.

But bad news is not the focus of this essay despite early evidence. We are enthusiastic,
industrious, profit driven souls capable of revolutionary innovation and there are many
examples of our capacity to modify our behavior to serve a desperate cause5
particularly when it threatens to impact our wallets.

Can we course-correct in the face of mounting evidence? As profit driven souls can we
find a new business model that incorporates the value of nature? The answers are yes
and yes.

Natural Capital Accounting

Every company, large or small, has “externalities” and typically none have a place on
the company ledger. Air pollution, for example, is a visible externality of manufacturing,
the cost of which is generally paid by others. If the cost of these externalities were
understood 6 and charged, as they should be, to the business of origin, managers would
quickly take steps to curtail destructive corporate behaviors.

Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) places economic value on nature by identifying,
measuring, and managing externalities. Many of the guiding principles have been
developed by TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) under the
guidance of it’s team leader Pavan Sukhdev. Since 2007 they have produced a series of
studies and guidance manuals that aim to standardize methods for natural capital
accounting.7 This is an emerging field with increasing acceptance and credibility in
governmental policy circles and the establishment of protocols and standards is well
underway. In fact, organizations like the UN and the World Bank are beginning to invest
heavily in this new paradigm as evidenced by these initiatives:

SEEA (System for Environmental-Economic Accounts): The UN Statistical
Commission recently adopted this protocol to provide an internationally agreed upon
method to account for material natural resources like minerals, timber, and fisheries.

WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Evaluation of Eco-Systems): A World Bank
global partnership launched at the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity WAVES
will promote sustainable development by ensuring that natural resources are
mainstreamed in development planning and national economic accounts. Work
plans include compiling accounts for natural resources like forests, water, and
minerals, as well as experimental accounts for ecosystems like watersheds and

NCA is also making it’s way into the private sector as for-profit companies blaze their
own trail. In 2010, a consultancy named Trucost, was commissioned by PUMA to assist
in developing their Environmental Profit and Loss Account (EP&L). Admirably, all of this
information, their process and their reports, are available to the public due in large part
to the courage and confidence of Puma’s CEO, Jochen Zeitz, and can be found readily

As with any transformational idea forged by caring thought leaders, widespread
acceptance may be years away – the amount of time inversely proportionate to the
gravity of our perceived threat. Regardless, these visionaries are defining a new era of
sustainability metrics in which degradation of our ecosystems and biodiversity will
quantified and revealed as an untenable expense. The relentless quest for an economic
upper-hand is the root cause of environmental degradation in the Anthropocene and a
wholesale reconsideration of our economic models is essential. The valuation of nature,
acknowledged through natural capital accounting is cause for great hope. Given the
foibles of human nature it may be our only hope. After all, Mother Nature has limited
natural capital and it is up to us to recognize the economic imperative for conservation.


1 In a 1982 paper by Jack Sepkoski and David Raup.

2 Ex 1: 10’s of thousands of giant sea turtles are killed every year as “bycatch” (the unintended target of commercial fishing). Ex. 2: In the tropics 14 species per day are being lost according to a calculation based upon loss of habitat by biologist E.O. Wilson

3 Timothy Egan put it succinctly in a recent NYT article: “It is human nature, if not the American way, to look potential disaster in the face and prefer to see a bright and shining lie.”

4 Studies conducted at volcanic vents near Castello Argonese, Ischia Island, Italy

5 The conversion of American automobile production to fighter planes during WW2, for example.

6 The world’s top 3000 businesses are estimated to have annual externalities of almost 2.1 trillion dollars (or 3.5% of the global GDP) – A Trucost analysis

7 Pavan Sukhdev’s excellent TED Talk (“Ending the Economic Invisibility of Nature”) can be found online


Staying active outdoors this winter is challenging but worth the effort

Winter has always posed a challenge to staying active outdoors, and this winter is particularly so with all the snow, ice and frigid temperatures we’ve had. But meeting that challenge head on is well worth the effort.

Research has shown that the more often we find ourselves outdoors and enjoying nature, the happier we tend to be. A 2013 article from the New York Times Health and Wellness blog discussed how exposure to plants is not only a stress reliever, but also seems to raise levels of white blood cells.


(Photo from

(Photo from

Other research, including sources such as the Harvard Health Letter, has shown that being outdoors raises vitamin D levels, which lift one’s mood and fights cancer, depression and heart disease. Over the years peer reviewed research has also examined how increasing the time spent playing in nature for children with ADHD has improved their ability to concentrate and focus.

When the mercury keeps dipping into the negatives it raises questions for us. How can we benefit from the outdoors if we choose to? What do we do with ourselves and family members if we’re going to be stuck indoors more than we’d like? What can we do to help members of our community who might find themselves homeless or overexposed to the elements?

Tips on benefiting from the outdoors when you’d rather be inside:

Many of us have vowed that 2014 will be the year when we get back in shape for good. If walking or running outdoors was part of your new workout plan but you’re finding it unbearable to brave the cold, don’t give up yet. The key to keeping up an outdoor workout plan is all in the clothing. When I first started running I was shocked to find out that running in 40 degrees is actually a pretty perfect temperature with the right apparel. Running tights, thick socks, long sleeved sweat-wicking shirts and jackets, and thick gloves and hats made the runs surprisingly refreshing.

When the temperatures fall somewhere in between 30 and 40 degrees F, hats with built-in face masks are perfect (I have a neon yellow Carhartt one that was affordable and works well). Hats like these also keep your breath warm by filtering it which is good if you have exercise-induced asthma and the cold makes you wheezy. You’ll get used to the strange looks from passersby and like a recent commercial, it might be best to remove the mask when you enter a gas station, but all in all, running or walking in the cold can be done.

If the temps dip below the teens, however, it might be better to take your workout indoors and enjoy nature through a window from the confines of your cozy recliner because few pieces of clothing can make minus-9 degrees bearable.

Happy-making projects for yourself and your family:

When it is simply too cold to get out, workout videos can keep your cardio on track and you on your way to fulfilling those healthy resolutions. A yoga video in the living room can be just as fun as a group workout at your gym, and making time during work can bring a welcome change.

During our break, my co-workers and I have recently been doing a group exercise called “7-Minute Workout.” You can find it as a smart phone app or a video on Youtube. Many a cold gray day has been improved by our micro-workout and it is a fun activity since we usually end up laughing at ourselves as we do “high knees/running in place” and “side-plank.” We leave our conference room a little bit warmer, a little more refreshed and ready to dive back into work.

During the weekends and evenings it is far too easy to veg out and binge-watch shows such as Game of Thrones (admittedly fun, but leaves one feeling sloth-like), so making a list of projects to do can kickstart those creative juices. I promised myself I will complete at least 5 items from my Pinterest crafts page in 2014. Other things such as creating healthy meals and decadent desserts from recipes I have saved are also on the to-do list.

Purging/organizing is also a great indoor activity that helps refresh both one’s living space and one’s head space. I have been streamlining our apartment and getting rid of clothing and items that have accumulated in our closets. Coats, warm clothing, gloves, and scarves have been donated to local organizations such as the Hope Center and The Nest.

Organizing a clothing or home goods swap with friends is also a great, free way to get rid of stuff you’re tired of, while getting new-to-you things you might need. My newly de-cluttered space feels larger and leaves me feeling more free and inspired.

The following are great links to bookmark for the next time you and your family have a lot of indoor time on your hands:

50 Fun Winter Activities from Real Simple Magazine

31 Things for Kids to Do During Winter Break from No Time for Flashcards

29 Things to do Indoors this Winter from Minnesota’s Examiner

Winter learning activities from Scholastic

Themed winter crafts by Activity Village


Helping others endure the cold:

While complaining about the temperature, I have thought of the members of my community who have little choice but to endure the cold. For those without homes or who lack adequate housing, there are actions we can take to help.

Donating warm clothing, in good condition, to local shelters and nonperishables to local food banks will fill a need that increases exponentially with the cold. If you cannot donate monetarily, the following locations accept donations and are in need of the following items:

The Hope Center – Donations can be dropped at: 360 W Loudon Ave, Lexington. Currently in need of coats, cold weather clothing, thermal underwear, socks, gloves, hats and unopened hygiene products.

The Catholic Action Center – Donations can be dropped at: 614 E. 7th St., Lexington (10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Saturday). Currently in need of laundry detergent, coffee, creamer/sugar, large garbage bags, bleach, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

The Salvation Army – Donations can be dropped at: 736 W. Main St., Lexington. Currently in need of canned meats (tuna, chicken), beef stew and soups, pasta and spaghetti sauce, breakfast cereals, peanut butter, canned green vegetables, canned fruits and juices, clothing in good condition, diapers (all sizes), personal care items (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant), and household items for shelter residents who move into a home, such as toasters, microwaves, linens.

God’s Pantry – Main warehouse is at 1685 Jaggie Fox Way, Lexington (9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m.-12 noon on Fridays). Any nonperishable food item is appreciated. Residents of Fayette County can also make their donations at any Kroger location by placing the food in the donation barrel near the customer service desk or exit.


Lisa-Conley-300x203Lisa Conley is an outreach specialist for Bluegrass Greensource.

This article appeared in KY Forward on February 6, 2014.



Creating Educational Opportunities for the Dupree Nature Preserve

Dupree Sign photo

It is not every day one gets to be part of a project with the potential to impact generations. In collaboration with The Nature Conservancy of Lexington, Bluegrass Greensource was invited to create educational programming for the region’s newest nature preserve. The Dupree Nature Preserve in Garrard County opened to the public on October 5, 2013 and was a project years in the making. Named after the family of Thomas P. Dupree, Sr., the preserve will honor Mr. Dupree’s desire to conserve the land for future generations of children. Creating a space for children to learn about nature in a hands-on, experiential way is important to Mr. Dupree who credits his own love of nature with time he spent hiking and camping as a child in Harlan County, KY.

Three groups of school children from Garrard County had the chance to explore the preserve and work with Bluegrass Greensource educators during an Outdoor Day, sponsored by Toyota. The fourth-graders learned about watersheds and water quality, karst geology, topographical mapping, orienteering, and forestry. Many of the children were delighted to see Daniel Boone, who had once laid claim to the area, make an “appearance” complete in period costume to discuss the region’s history and guide them in raft-building. The next Outdoor Day of education is planned for October 18.

Dupree Daniel Boone photo

Bluegrass Greensource’s outreach specialist researched and provided written materials about the history of the land, Mr. Dupree Sr., and the preserve scavenger hunt; as well as contributed QR codes for the trail signs. Preserve Monitor Kenneth Brooks assisted in the writing of the land parcel’s history and shared key facts. For instance, in addition to Daniel Boone’s early claims to the land in 1767, the proximity to the river in what is now called Polly’s Bend made it a great site for a ferry. By 1790, a ferry was operational and vital in transporting produce, tobacco, bourbon, corn, pork, and hemp along the Kentucky River.

Dupree Kids learning photo

To visit the preserve, use the address: 2991 Polly’s Bend Road, Lancaster, KY, 40444 in order to map directions.

For additional coverage of the Dupree Nature Preserve, see the following:

The Nature Conservancy’s site:

Herald Leader article by Tom Eblen:

Tom Eblen’s other article from his blog:


Opportunities to learn about environment, how to take care of it, abound

A few weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend the 37th annual Kentucky Association of Environmental Educators conference at the Lake Barkley Lodge down in the western part of the state. It was a fantastic time filled with educational workshops and set in a beautiful part of the state. (If you have never gotten the chance to visit Lake Barkley or Land Between the Lakes, I would highly recommend the long drive. Definitely worth it.)

It was equally exciting to spend time with so many people who understand the value of environmental education and the impact it can have on the lives of others. From professionals like myself, who get to focus on environmental education all the time, to volunteers and school teachers who might not get to spend as much time as they would like, it was great to come together and benefit from the experience of others.

It struck me as I was going from my different workshops and interacting with all of the different people who attended that there really is something for everyone in the environmental education field. As long as you have the desire to learn and teach about the environment as your base, you can take environmental education and plug it in anywhere.

It can be found in obvious places such as schools and with nonprofits, or in less obvious places such as works of art, sports and in businesses. For example, one of the workshops I had the opportunity to take was on eco-graffiti and how artists across the world have used a mixture of moss blended with water a few other materials and have created paintings on the side of brick and concrete surfaces that are alive and grow.

During my time there I enjoyed a trail run and got a chance to canoe, both experiences that offered an opportunity to learn about the environment through both signs and guides. And while networking, it was fascinating to hear about the different ways businesses are learning and interacting with the environment, which not only results in a healthier environment, but also is becoming a standard way to save money and increase profits.

No matter how you look at it, environmental education can be found anywhere and as more people embrace all that it has to offer, hopefully we will all get on the same page about its importance.

1 Ryan-Farley

Ryan Farley serves Bluegrass Greensource in a hybrid role, working as an environmental educator with several outreach specialist responsibilities. Ryan received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown College and a master’s in recreation and park administration from Eastern Kentucky University. He has worked at wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Texas and with Kentucky 4-H in various roles. Farley provides educational programs to several Fayette County schools and works with downtown businesses and the greater Lexington community to educate and empower residents to become better environmental stewards.

This article appeared in KY Forward on October 3, 2013.


Weather has a way of wreaking havoc with even the best-laid summer plans

I don’t know about you, but it seems like my summer is passing too quickly and not gone as planned.

My wife and two sons planned on spending about a week at Cave Run Lake – our favorite place to camp, fish and do what you do on vacation. We were hoping for a peaceful time from work, email and normal daily stresses.

Our aging German shepherd was also going to get some time wading and hanging out by campfires. Our sons Sully, 3, and Harmon, almost 2, were thrilled at the aspect of fishing, searching for bugs, swimming and all of us trying to paddle our giant canoe in the lake water. My wife Kate and I knew that camping with children and an aging dog is altogether a different kind of stress, but the prospect of the lake camping lifestyle outweighed any future challenges.

But weather has a way of changing things. We knew the weather was going to be sketchy, but we planned accordingly with rain jackets and plenty of tarps for our campsite.

On arrival at our favorite campsite, the weather was calm with just a enough breaks in the rain to put up our tent and rain tarps over the picnic table and to get the necessary things settled. That night the firewood was too wet for a fire, so we retired early.

It rained and stormed heavily that night with just a few small leaks in our tent. No too bad. I thought “If we can survive through that rain last night, we’ll be fine.”

That morning and afternoon saw more rain and on again, off again downpours. I looked at Kate and said – “I think we are going to need more tarps.” She was pleased with the idea of venturing back to civilization for a while because our boys were starting to go stir crazy in the tent and needed to get some space. So we drove to the closest big box store and loaded up with rain protective gear, a.k.a. tarps.

By the time we had drove back to the campsite it was deceptively sunny and our camping friends had just arrived. We continued to rainproof our campsite with lots of rope and tarps. We marveled at our engineering feat of three large tarps covering our tent, table and fire site as we made dinner.

Then a distant “boom”! We all looked at each other – each convinced that our protective measures would sustain any amount of rain. We should have built an ark.

Just after dinner the rain started again – this time there was hurricane-force rain and lightning flashed in ways that I have never experienced before. That says a lot because I have experienced multiple tropical storms and a hurricane growing up in North Carolina.

Our tarps filled with hundreds of pounds of water and failed miserably. They failed with such a force that the plastic grommets pulled out from the corners of the tarps. Our gravel campsite began to flood.

Luckily our boys were exhausted and were sleeping in the tent. I looked at our dog, who was lying in about 2 inches of water. The rain was not stopping anytime soon. We all agreed to tuck tail and retreat. Heavy deluge of rain, copious nonstop lighting and floating water tents with metal poles is not a nice condition for toddlers. So retreat we did to a motel. That next morning we decided to pack up between rain events. And it continued to rain all the way back home.

I write this story of survival all to remind myself that nature will have its way every time. No matter how we plan, organize, build and construct, nature will do what it wants – when it wants. We have to adjust to it.

I try to remember that as I educate kids about the surprising and unpredictable world in which they live. I talked with Sully (attempted with Harmon) about how sometimes nature surprises us and plans change but added that rain, lightning, thunder are all beautiful things. All except for the wet/unused diapers, soaked aging dog, waterbed tent, floating firewood and tarps filled with enough water you could host an Olympic diving event.

Chris Muesing has been with Greensource as an environmental educator for three years.  Chris received a bachelor’s degree with a focus in environmental stewardship from Houghton College in New York. Before joining Greensource he taught environmental education to various summer camps and school groups. He has two sons that are growing up to be avid outdoors men that enjoy hiking, creeking and fishing. Chris can be reached by calling 859-266-1572 or via e-mail at

This article appeared in KY Forward on August 8, 2013.


Pet rocks aside, there is plenty in the natural world to bring out our creativity

I always thought my grandma invented pet rocks. First of all, my Grandma Barry (both my grandmothers were named Mary, so I differentiated them by using their last names) was one of the most crafty, talented, creative people I have ever known. She made all of her own clothes, painted all of the pictures in her house (and many of those in countless relatives’ homes), created all of her own Christmas decorations and crocheted enough blankets to warm all of California. She also made incredible, intricately painted, rock animals.


(Photo from Pinterest)

These rock animals were my first exposure to nature crafts, and I loved them. I loved how she could take found rocks of all different shapes and make them into everything from bunnies to dogs and turtles. Each one was completely unique, and I was always amazed at how she would use the individual rock characteristics, like bumps and divots, to accentuate an eye or be part of the foot. She could see much more potential in rocks than I ever thought possible.

Somehow my grandmother’s creativity did not get passed along to me, but her love of using the natural world did. So I take every opportunity possible to take my daughters outside and use what is around us, both as a teaching tool, and to express their creativity.

Now that the newness of summer vacation is waning, I am sure that many parents, like me, are being constantly bombarded with statements that contain the phrase, “I’m bored.” To combat the “I’m boreds” I have created a list of easy to do activities that involve taking kids (gasp!) outside.

1. Rainbow Walk – as soon as my oldest daughter learned the “Rainbow” song from a Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That episode, we were off outside to look for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple colors in nature. Here is a hint: if you have a hard time with blue (we seemed to) use the sky.

2. Pine cone bird feeders – I am super impressed that my daughter can actually pick out a chickadee, tufted titmouse and mourning dove just by their songs, as well as many other birds by sight at our feeders. Her favorite feeder is the one she made at Reforest the Bluegrass a few years ago where she took a pinecone, spread it with peanut butter and rolled in black oil sunflower seeds. We have actually used the same pinecone multiple times.

3. Magnifying glass – Everything is much cooler with a magnifying glass. This is true inside and outside, but a good close-up view can make your whole perspective on the natural world change.

4. One small square – There is book series called One Small Square, and the concept presented in the books is great. Take a cardboard box and cut out the middle from one side to make a frame. Place the frame on the ground and see what you can find. This is just as amazing if you do it on a manicured lawn, a driveway or in a forest. Comparing and contrasting different “habitats” can also be a fun way to get ready for school.

5. Texture rubbings – Place leaves, flowers, sand, etc, under a piece of blank paper and rub with a crayon. If you feel extra crafty, cut the textured shapes out and make people, collages and other art for a gallery show for friends/relatives.

6. Under things – This is actually one of my favorites, which has somehow been lost on my oldest daughter, but I will mention it anyway. Lots of critters – everything from roly poly bugs to salamanders like to live under rocks, logs and even the toy car your children forgot to put away last weekend. I like to try to guess what we can find.

7. Listen – Since school is quickly approaching, I have been trying to get my daughter interested in writing and reading again. We sat outside last weekend with a book and a commitment to three minutes of silence. During that time we recorded everything we heard which was an amazing array of sounds!

There are multiple books written recently explaining the benefits of getting kids outside (most notably Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louve), and as an environmental educator, I agree. I want to make sure that my fellow parents understand that nature is all around us, not just in a park or a faraway forest. If you live in a urban center, the suburbs or in a rural area, taking your children out of the house and away from couches can do amazing things.

All of the things I have listed can be done in a park or a parking lot and are very low-cost. They will allow you and your child to learn what you have in your backyard and possibly grow to appreciate it more. If you want to get even more creative and crafty, there are seemingly millions of ideas on Pinterest or the Internet, and don’t forget making pets out of the rocks you find on your nature adventures!


Amy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on July 25, 2013.