Is there any hope for us?

Posted on: May 7th, 2008 by Patrice Frey


In recent weeks I've done quite a bit of traveling to speak on the subject of preservation and sustainability -- and I’m always interested in hearing what people ask at the end of the session.

Inevitably, there are questions about windows and solar panels, tax incentives and the costs of going green. But there was one question I received recently -- this time in Knoxville, TN -- that really threw me for a loop: “Is there any hope for us?”

Now why would you ask that?

Maybe it was the first few slides of my presentation, which focus on this whole global warming mess. Perhaps it was the slide that says that if everyone in the world consumed as much as we do in the United States, we would need six planets to sustain that level of resource consumption.

Or maybe it was the slide with the map of per capita carbon emissions in the United States that helps us visualize the massive demographic shift that has taken place in recent decades, as folks flee the northeast and midwest for points west and southwest.

Notice all that red and orange on the map above? That’s the mark of particularly atrocious carbon emissions in areas of the country where sprawl has run particularly rampant. And keep in mind that this demographic shift leaves disinvestment and destruction in its wake, as urban centers in the rust belt empty out. Think of all those old cities -- many of which were built in a traditional, compact form -- and the infrastructure and buildings that are utterly wasted, now replaced with mind-numbing sprawl that ravages another part of the country.

So back to our question. Is there any hope for us? With cautious optimism, I vote yes and refer you to a piece written by Michael Pollan (of Omnivore’s Dilemma fame) in the New York Times. The global warming crisis, he points out, is “nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents 70 percent of our economy), and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences.”

Ah-hah. We have identified the cause of our problem, and that cause is us. I think that means we’ve also identified the solution. The solution has a name, has a face, has a wallet, and (in this country anyway) a vote. It’s you, and it’s me. The decisions we make every day matter – whether it’s bringing your commuter mug to Starbucks rather than taking a to-go cup, or deciding that perhaps you don’t need to demolish your 1200 square foot house to replace it with a McMansion. All those decisions can and will make a difference.

And that’s cause enough for hope. Pass it on.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Notes from the Field: Protecting Historic Belle Grove Plantation

Posted on: May 7th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 283-acre property and 1797 manor house at Belle Grove Plantation is a National Historic Landmark and the heart of the 3,500-acre Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.

Belle Grove manor house with quarry waste pile. (credit: National Park Service)Unfortunately, Carmeuse Lime & Stone, a Belgian mining conglomerate, is trying to rezone 639 rural acres immediately adjacent to Belle Grove and the National Historical Park in order to radically expand Carmeuse’s industrial quarry operation. The Frederick County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on April 28, 2008, and may vote on the rezoning application at the Board’s May 28 meeting.

The National Trust and Belle Grove, Inc., the nonprofit partner which operates Belle Grove Plantation, are gravely concerned that the rezoning and quarry expansion would severely harm Belle Grove and the National Historical Park. (Please see the National Trust’s April 22, 2008 letter to Frederick County.) Preservationists anticipate visual intrusions harming our world-famous scenic vistas, vibration damage to historic structures from quarry blasting, and threats to public safety from the parade of heavy quarry trucks that will travel along the Valley Turnpike (Route 11) through the National Historical Park and historic Middletown. The quarry expansion, as planned, also would destroy 500 acres of well-preserved Civil War battlefield just outside of the boundaries of the National Historical Park.

The National Trust and Belle Grove, Inc. have requested that Carmeuse systematically analyze and commit to avoid, reduce, or mitigate potential harm to scenic vistas, impacts from heavy truck traffic, and vibration damage from blasting. Carmeuse has not followed through or attempted to meet with the National Trust or Belle Grove. Nevertheless, we remain open to discussing with Carmeuse mutually satisfactory ways to expand the quarry without irrevocably harming Belle Grove, the National Historical Park, and the Civil War battlefield.

Carmeuse’s ill-considered quarry expansion, as currently proposed, is opposed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Belle Grove, Inc., Virginia Department of Historic Resources, National Park Service, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Civil War Preservation Trust, APVA – Preservation Virginia, National Parks Conservation Association, and Preserve Frederick.

-- Rob Nieweg

Rob Nieweg is the Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Notes from New Orleans: Volunteers Rebuilding in Broadmoor

Posted on: May 6th, 2008 by Walter Gallas


Volunteers at the project site in Broadmoor.

Seventeen National Trust for Historic Preservation volunteers were in town this past week to participate in rebuilding efforts in the Broadmoor neighborhood. This was part of the nationwide HGTV/Rebuilding Together events that had kicked off on New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl. Kevin Mercadel of the field office gave them an overview of our work here in New Orleans and later led a tour of the city for them. On Friday, I met the group in Broadmoor as they were finishing up on N. Tonti Street. Without exception, the volunteers—a mix of all ages and from all parts of the country—were enthusiastic about their experience. I encouraged them to take the message home about what they saw and heard in New Orleans and to come back again as a visitor or volunteer. The next New Orleans volunteer team sponsored by the National Trust is being organized for the week of June 23.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

The Green Life at Lyndhurst, A National Historic Landmark

Posted on: May 4th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna


Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site, in Tarrytown, NYI never anticipated when I started working at the National Trust, that I would be able to integrate my love for fashion, preservation and sustainability into the requirements of my job. But Saturday night, May 3rd, I found myself at Lyndhurst, one of our historic sites in Tarrytown, where their “Green Life” eco-friendly fashion show benefit allowed me to do just that by welcoming 200 people to the newest kind of fundraiser!

We have 29 historic sites across the country. And we are working to make all of our sites greener, by using greener housekeeping products, buying renewable energy, and trying not to throw materials out if we can reuse them elsewhere on the site. Lyndhurst is one of our sites that is ahead of many places with its hard work changing maintenance practices to help make a difference. For over a year they’ve been dedicated to raising awareness about sustainable practices and The Green Life is a fabulous and unusual example of that. With a very exciting program that included eco-friendly fashions (lots of hemp, organic cotton and even an evening gown with recycled plastic bottles), a presentation by the National Wildlife Federation, food and beverages that were organic and/or local, a silent auction of mostly sustainability-related items and vendors of sustainable products, The Green Life opened a lot of eyes to the fact that every change you make in your lifestyle can help stop global warming. So when you buy an eco-friendly dress, a hybrid car, or stay in your old house instead of building a new one, you’re making a choice to stop climate change. Many attendees stopped me to say that hearing about the National Trust’s Sustainability Initiative had opened their eyes considerably. And a lot of people were talking about repairing their windows and installing insulation in their attics and basements. One man apologized to me for building a new house…A hemp and plastic bottle evening gown at The Green Life

Through our Sustainability Initiative, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is focusing the nation’s attention on the importance of reusing existing buildings and reinvesting in older and historic communities as critical elements in combating climate change. Americans already embrace as common sense the need to recycle aluminum cans, glass and newspapers. We advocate applying that same common sense to our built environment.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at

Happy RSS Awareness Day!

Posted on: May 1st, 2008 by Sarah Heffern


RSS Awareness DayWhat is RSS? No, not some scary anti-preservation legislation -- it's Really Simple Syndication, and it will change the way you use the Internet. The folks putting on RSS Awareness Day have created a handy page where you can watch a video about what RSS is and how it works. In a nutshell, you choose a newsreader site (like netvibes or iGoogle), sign up for syndication feeds from the sites you like, and whenever there is new information posted it comes to your personal page. It's the easiest way possible to know when something is new in PreservationNation.

We offer several options for feeds here on the blog, including a feed for the entire site, as well as specialized feeds our most popular topics, sustainability/green preservation and Gulf Coast recovery. On the main PreservationNation website, you can subscribe to Today's News from Preservation magazine; Preservation in the News, a daily roundup of media stories about preservation; or a listing of current job opportunities with the National Trust for Historic Preservation -- or all three!

There are several other blogs within the PreservationNation family that also offer RSS feeds:

Oh, and though you can't use RSS to do it, you can also become a subscriber to PreservationNation's brand-new YouTube Channel and learn about our new videos as soon as they are posted.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.