The Impact of Climate Change on Peace and Security

Schirch2.500On September 15, 2015, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley will present a public talk by Dr. Lisa Schirch on the Impact of Climate Change on Peace and Security. Schirch is Director of Human Security at the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and Research Professor at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.

Dr. Schirch will talk about how climate change is not only going to affect our world in terms of environmental impacts, but also in economic, social, political, peace, and security areas. She says, “What I’ll do here is to link the different impacts together, because climate change itself does not cause conflict. It operates within a complex dynamic system.”

The talk won’t go into the settled science but will instead go over the impacts of climate change, seeing how the different impacts are related, and looking at the world as a community so that we can collectively address and conquer this major threat.

In addition, John Eckman, Executive Director of Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, will discuss the issue as it may more narrowly impact the Valley.

Please join us for this presentation on Tuesday, September 15, 6:00PM, at the downtown Harrisonburg library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg.

“On the Chopping Block” with Brian Bellew


Please join the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley for a public presentation by Friends of Blackwater Climate Outreach Coordinator Brian Bellew: “On the Chopping Block: Climate Change and the Allegheny Highlands – What’s at Stake, What’s at Risk, and What Are Our Choices?”

Tuesday, May 19, 6:00 PM, Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg

The Allegheny Highlands includes on its eastern edge Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park – and the magnificent Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, and much more. For generations, an intricate web of life based on the Highlands’ high-mountain climate has been central to the region’s vibrant forestry, agricultural, recreation, and hospitality economy.

But we can no longer take the Allegheny Highlands’ historic climate for granted.
Climate change impacts are already affecting temperatures, precipitation, weather, growing seasons, streams, forests, plants, animals and humans – and future impacts will be severe, unless global warming is reined in.

Today, the distinctive Highlands ecology and economy — that have enriched so many generations of residents and visitors — are “on the chopping block.”

Brian Bellew, staffer with Friends of Blackwater, an environmental and conservation organization headquartered in Davis, W.V., will present a program that highlights the scientific research that was presented at a June 2014 conference at Blackwater Falls State Park featuring a dozen experts.

Les Grady, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley member, will also talk about the effects of climate change on our bird population.

Contact Joni Grady at 540-209-9198 for more information.

Friends of Blackwater is a non-profit conservation organization working effectively in the Mid-Atlantic Appalachian Highlands with a mission to protect key landscapes and watersheds, natural and human communities, and to support economic development that maximizes biodiversity and outdoor recreational opportunities for future generations. 

The Highlands region straddles the Appalachians’ highest peaks — including parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Hundreds of thousands of people live and work in the Highlands, and each year thousands of visitors come to enjoy the distinctive highmountain climate. But unless the pace of global warming and climate change is slowed, the future of the ecology and economy that have enriched so many generations of residents and visitors is on the chopping block.

Friends of Blackwater is leading an Allegheny Highlands Climate Change Impacts Initiative highlighting the growing, dangerous impacts and risks from global warming and climate change to the Highlands’ economy and ecology.

Friends of Blackwater Climate Outreach Coordinator Brian Bellew is doing community presentations about their new Report, “On the Chopping Block – the Impacts of Climate Change on the Mid-Atlantic Allegheny Highlands.” You can read and download a copy of the Report here.

Advocacy Workshop for a Resilient Valley


Thanks to all the participants, presenters, and organizers for a successful Advocacy Workshop for a Resilient Valley held on January 17 at the Massanetta Springs Conference Center!

When: Saturday, January 17, 2015 8:30 AM- 5:30 PM Where: Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center, 712 Massanetta Springs Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 You are invited by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) and the Virginia Sierra Club to attend a workshop to share and sharpen the skills we all need to help mobilize our friends and neighbors to influence environmental policies at every level of government. The rising pressures on Virginia and the Valley are two-fold: (1) from the fossil fuel industry dumping CO2 into the atmosphere for free and old-fashioned electrical utilities building pipelines and discouraging wind and solar power, and (2) from the impacts of the climate disruption they cause.  We may not feel our climate change as much as other areas but we will certainly feel higher food prices for livestock and for ourselves, a growing influx of people moving from more vulnerable areas, and natural ecosystems increasingly stressed not only by rising temperatures but habitat loss if development isn’t carefully managed. We must be aware of these pressures and be prepared to meet them before they overwhelm all that we value here: the beauty of mountains and streams filled with healthy wildlife and a resilient regional economy, both agricultural and non-farm, based on clean, renewable energy. Agenda items include:

  • The Big Picture – Our common goals
  • Messaging and Audience: Having good conversations about the challenges facing us
  • Introduction to Advocacy: Engaging local public officials
  • The EPA’s Clean Power Plan–Carbon Reduction Goals for Virginia
  • Earning Media Attention: How to get local press coverage of your actions and results
  • Building an Effective Team
  • Developing Action Plans: Exercises to put into practice what you have learned

Presenters will include Dr. Les Grady of CAAV’s Speakers Bureau and Kate Addleson, Conservation Director for Virginia Sierra Club and state lead for the Climate Action Campaign in Virginia. Lunch (and dinner, if you choose to stay for it) will be provided by Virginia Sierra Club.  Dinner will also be held on site starting at 6 pm. Space is limited to 35 participants:  pay your $10.00 registration fee now at our EventBrite page to save your place. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet other people working for what you believe in and to become a powerful advocate for a resilient and sustainable future for the Valley. For more information contact Joni Grady, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, or 540-209-9198

Solarize Harrisonburg!

Anya Schoolman laying out the plan.

A final Solarize Harrisonburg Information Session will be held on Tuesday, October 21, 6 PM at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg. Get your questions answered. Everyone welcome!


Solarize Harrisonburg Information Session Monday, July 28, 6 PM at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg. Everyone welcome!


Many thanks to Anya Schoolman, Ivy Main, Tom Benevento, and Richard Baugh for their inspiring presentations, and to everyone who came out to the June 2 forum to start learning about how we can boost solar power in Harrisonburg!

Email contactcaav [at] to get on an email list to stay informed about how we may continue organizing to make this happen.

Community Power Network has set up a webpage for our Solarize Harrisonburg efforts through the VASUN citizens network site. Sign up to go solar! Bookmark the site to stay informed about our progress!

Check out some of the conservative cost figures based on Solarize Blacksburg provided by Anya here.

Read Ivy’s Where are the Renewables? Wind and solar policy in Virginia, some of which she covered in her presentation on June 2.

“Like” Solarize Harrisonburg on facebook!

See CAAV steering committee member Joy Loving’s Open Forum opinion piece in the Daily News-Record as published on June 19, 2014: It’s Time to Solarize Homes. Joy has agreed to take the lead for CAAV on next steps for our area solarize effort. She is communicating with Anya Schoolman of Community Power Network and reaching out to interested parties. Contact her to get involved with leadership on this project at jal_1998 [at]


solarizehburg.585If you’ve been thinking about getting your own rooftop solar panels but have held off because of the high initial cost, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley may have a solution for you. We will be exploring the pros and cons of neighborhood solar cooperatives and other solar bulk purchase programs at a meeting on Monday, June 2 at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, from 6-7:30 PM. Speakers will include *Dan Conant of the Community Power Network, Ivy Main from Sierra Virginia and Harrisonburg City Council Member Richard Baugh.

By getting together with others in their community to buy large quantities of the panels cooperatively, residents of Blacksburg and Richmond have been able to cut their purchase and installation costs significantly. Groups like the Community Power Network help educate interested buyers about photovoltaic solar panels and do a survey of each home to determine whether the roof is even suitable for solar. Then they help the group navigate both the bidding for lowest price but high quality panels and installation as well as the necessary arrangements with the local electric utility. All contracts are still between the individual and the installer.

To learn more about this powerful (!) opportunity, please join us to see if we can all help Harrisonburg go solar!

Our forum guests:

*Dan Conant is Virginia and West Virginia Program Director for the Community Power Network, a D.C. based non-profit alliance dedicated to making solar energy accessible and affordable for all communities.

Ivy Main is Chair of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and an educated voice for renewable energy in VA.

Richard Baugh is a practicing attorney who has served the City of Harrisonburg as Council Member since 2008.

Tom Benevento of the New Community Project in Harrisonburg will provide a brief appeal for the consideration of energy efficiency updates to a home when installing solar energy.

*May 31 update: Anya Schoolman, the Executive Director of Community Power Network and founder of the DC SUN solar co-ops, will be our speaker and representative of CPN instead of Dan Conant. From Dan: “Anya’s a real pioneer when it comes to community solar programs (she was just named one of President Obama’s ‘Solar Champions of Change’). …Anya was going to be passing through Harrisonburg on the way to SW VA on Monday … so we thought it would be good for her to give the solar co-op presentation in my stead.  Don’t worry–she’s an upgrade over me in any case!  She’ll be able to talk about her personal experience forming co-ops all around DC.”

Protecting the South’s Environment through the POWER OF THE LAW

April8GAforumcropped300“Protecting the South’s Environment through the Power of the Law” is the motto of the Southern Environmental Law Center. SELC is the largest environmental organization in the Southeast, with 60 attorneys working out of nine offices throughout our six states (Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina) and on Capitol Hill.  The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is excited to be bringing Angela Navarro, one of 12 SELC attorneys at the Virginia office in Charlottesville, to our April 29 forum, 5:30—7:00 PM in Ruby’s at Clementine, 153 S. Main St., downtown Harrisonburg.

SELC chooses its work for maximum impact—to set important precedents or to strengthen and enforce far-reaching policy—but it also pursues dozens of site-specific cases and projects to protect places too special to lose, like George Washington National Forest.  Angela has particular expertise in two areas of great interest to Harrisonburg/Rockingham County: Energy Efficiency: the cleanest, cheapest energy resource, and Solar Power.  CAAV has been working with others in the HR/Green Network to support the city in increasing the energy efficiency of municipal buildings and has often partnered with other groups to get Dominion Power to increase its renewable energy resources and encourage, not discourage consumer solar panel installations.  SELC pursues the same goals but in ways that we don’t often get to hear about.

We invite you to join us in Ruby’s to find out how SELC is working to lower Virginia’s carbon emissions and to protect our environment.  Come early and enjoy food and drink from the bar, then learn about clean energy and ask questions of an expert.

The General Assembly and Us

Many thanks to Chelsea Harnish and Emily Heffling for traveling here from Richmond to deliver their hopeful and positive messages of work in the General Assembly and the power of grassroots organizing on Tuesday evening, April 8.

Emily, left, and Chelsea field questions from the audience as Les looks on.

Among the almost three dozen people in the audience was Jonathon Shacat, journalist for the Daily News-Record. His article covering Chelsea’s presentation at Ruby’s Lounge was printed in the April 10, 2014, edition of the Daily News-Record and is in pdf format here: A Really Good Session.

Next up: Angela Navarro of the Southern Environmental Law Center: April 29, 2014, 5:30-7:00 PM @ Ruby’s at Clementine | Join us!


April forumsWhat Did the General Assembly Do for Virginia’s Future?

So. The 2014 General Assembly regular session has ended. What did our legislators do to protect Virginians from the effects of current and future climate change? What did they do to help prevent it? Will Virginia support an energy efficient 21st century powered by non-fossil fuels or are we going to continue down the “business as usual” path we were following in the last century?

The Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) and Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) constantly lobby the General Assembly to do what

As of halfway through the legislative session, we've seen some positive outcomes.

needs to be done to save the energy we have, produce energy that doesn’t pollute, and recognize the risks of climate change. Join Chelsea Harnish of VCN and Emily Heffling of CCAN in a discussion of what worked and what didn’t, who our allies are in Richmond, and how we can help change the hearts and minds of those who don’t yet understand the urgency of this critical problem.

This event is free and welcomes our entire community. Please come! Share it through facebook here.

April 8, 2014, 5:30-7:00 PM @ Ruby’s at Clementine, 153 S. Main St., Harrisonburg

Then plan to join us again on April 29 for Angela Navarro of the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). She will be visiting here from Charlottesville for a presentation and discussion about the wide scope of SELC’s advocacy for and protection of our natural world through law and policy.

April 29, 2014, 5:30-7:00 PM @ Ruby’s at Clementine, 153 S. Main St., Harrisonburg

Letter Writing Workshop on March 18, 2014

lettersClick on the image at right for Pete Bsumek’s slide presentation on letter writing.

Dr. Bsumek recommends this resource for letter writers: Writing and Submitting an Opinion Piece: A Guide. It is also available on The Earth Institute, Columbia University webpage here along with more resources.

Also recommended is James Hoggan’s book Climate Cover-Up.


The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is holding an exciting workshop: “What to do when the newspaper makes you mad—or glad”  on March 18th from 6—7:30 PM at the Massanutten Regional Library.

Do you still read the newspaper despite the misinformation on many subjects?  Bring an example!

Do many editorials and opinion pieces upset you?  Bring an example!

Do some of the letters to the editor mystify you with their illogic or ignorance? Bring an example!

Do some of these also entertain, educate, or inspire you and would you like to know more about how to write Letters to the Editor and OpEd pieces with the same impact?

Come and find out how to do it from  Dr. Pete Bsumek,  an associate professor in the School of Communication Studies at James Madison University.  He is director of the MA program in Communication and Advocacy and coordinator of the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies minor.

Dr. Bsumek earned a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Utah, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Communication from the University of Pittsburgh.  His research and teaching focus on rhetoric and the processes of advocacy and decision-making in social change, with a specific emphasis in environmental communication.   He is currently working on a collaborative project investigating public controversies surrounding coal.  Prior research focused on the rhetoric of the wilderness movement, processes of debate and deliberation, and greening the public relations curriculum. He is also currently serving on a grant funded research team investigating means for reducing greenhouse gases through low cost energy management and community based social marketing in university residence halls.

Valley readers deserve a steady stream of accurate, informed, compassionate, and literate information and opinion on fighting and dealing with climate change.  Each one of us can help.


Dr. Bsumek recommends this resource for letter writers: Writing and Submitting an Opinion Piece: A Guide. It is also available on The Earth Institute, Columbia University webpage here along with more resources.

Energy, Innovation, and Stewardship on Valley Farms

Joni's Oct. forum flyer2.400While some urban dwellers can avoid going outside for days if necessary, the Valley farmer is outdoors facing the elements every day of the year, rain or shine, drought or flood, snow or heat wave.  And when he/she comes inside, it’s to plan how to reduce the risks and uncertainties of not only the weather but the markets, government regulations, the cost of energy, and the changing climate, with better ways to improve resiliency and productivity.

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is hosting a forum to address these issues on Tuesday, October 15th at 6:00 pm at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St, Harrisonburg.  Well acquainted with the problems Valley farmers face, our speakers will include Eric Bendfeldt, Extension Specialist in Community Viability with the Virginia Cooperative Extension; Dr. Maria Papadakis, ISAT professor at JMU; and Mike Phillips, a farmer and a soil conservation technician with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Council.  Bendfeldt will talk about the innovative ways farmers are working as good stewards of the land to keep agriculture a viable part of Valley life, everything from growing forage radishes and drought resistant feed crops to co-ops and the Produce Auction.  Papadakis will speak about Valley farms, energy, and climate change: how energy conservation can help with greenhouse gas mitigation, and the increased demands on energy consumption that Valley farmers will face adapting to a changing climate. Phillips will offer us his point of view as a farmer and government worker implementing best management practices.


See the Daily News Record‘s October 17, 2013 coverage of the forum here by Alex Rohr. (Note that Firefox’s built-in PDF renderer might not display this correctly; right click here and choose “Save Link As…” to download it instead.)

Les introducing Mike Phillips _Converted
Les Grady introduces Mike Phillips with a screen photo including Mike’s father as a young plowman in the background.
Joni with Mike and Eric
Joni Grady with presenters Mike Phillips and Eric Bendfeldt
Maria Papadakis
Maria Papadakis fields a question from the audience
lush forage crops.500
Lush forage crops planted by Mike on August 10, 2013, harvested October 15.
post forum discussion
Post forum conversations

Courageous Leadership: Civil Disobedience and Climate Disruption

tar sands action 2013
photo by Chesapeake Climate Action Network

A community forum preceding the screening of Bidder 70 at CST on Earth Day

Who: Sponsored by the Virginia Sierra Club’s Shenandoah group, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, and iMatter: Kids vs Global Warming.  Special guest speaker will be Allison Chin, President of the Board of the National Sierra Club.

What: A panel discussion held in conjunction with the showing of Bidder 70.  The film follows Tim DeChristopher, a University of Utah student, who on December 19, 2008, in a dazzling act of civil disobedience, derailed the outgoing Bush administration’s illegal Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction.  The panel will address the history of civil disobedience in the United States in general, and the reasons for its recent adoption by protestors against the forces behind global warming, particularly the Keystone XL pipeline carrying tar sands crude oil and mountain top removal coal mining.

When: Before the 9:00 PM showing of Bidder 70:  7:30 – 8:40 PM
Introductions by moderator, Les Grady
7:35-7:55 PM Allison Chin, President of the Board of Directors of Sierra Club
7:55-8:00 PM  iMatter youth climate activist Grant Serrels
8:00-8:10 climate and mountain top removal activist Lara Mack
8:10-8:40 Q&A, moderated by Les Grady, Chairman of Climate Action Alliance of the Valley
8:40-9:00 Break and networking.

Where: Court Square Theater, 61 Graham St., Harrisonburg

Cost: Included with $6.00 admission to film showing

Why:  After endless and unsuccessful lobbying, demonstrations, and marches, many climate activists have begun to wonder if civil disobedience is the only way to get the attention of legislators and a public too distracted by other matters both large and small and reluctant to make necessary changes. In the long list of historic reasons for civil disobedience in the US, which range from an unjust tax on tea to slavery and Jim Crow laws, civilization-killing climate change looms larger than all the rest.  The stakes are too high and the time for action too short.

Questions?  Contacts:    Ralph Grove, Sierra Club, 540-433-1323
Joni Grady, CAAV, 540-209-9198
Cathy Strickler, CAAV, 540-434-8690
Valerie Serrels, iMatter,  540-405-9201

Find this event on facebook here.

The Daily News Record’s Candace Sipos reported on this forum in an April 26, 2013 article: Environmental Panel Discusses Civil Disobedience, JMU Alumna One of 12 Arrested in Protest  A DNR subscription is necessary to view this article.


Extreme weather: Who Plans, Who Pays?

April forum flyer.5
Everyone is invited to CAAV’s next FREE public forum!

On Thursday, April 11, at 6:00PM at the Massanutten Regional Library, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) invites the public to consider the necessity of regional planning for the increased likelihood of extreme weather brought on by climate disruption and the costs that result from both adaptation and inaction.

Over the past several years we’ve seen an increase in weather-related disasters, from named storms like Katrina and Sandy to widespread droughts, floods, and wildfires. While the direct connection to climate change can’t be proved in each instance, the trend toward more of the extreme weather events that climate scientists have predicted is being realized, along with a dramatic increase in claims on both private and federal insurance. In fact, the Government Accountability Office has for the first time included climate change in their annual High Risk Report, calling on Congress to limit the federal government’s fiscal exposure by better managing climate change risks.

The program will begin with a review of the GAO report by CAAV Chairman Les Grady and a short video illustrating the risks facing the Virginia coast from sea level rise and extreme storms. Following this, two experts representing local insurance and planning groups will address our increasing vulnerability to all the costs of severe weather and how we can all work together to create climate change resilience in the Valley.

Neal Menefee is President and CEO of the Rockingham Group of insurance companies whose predecessors have been insuring valley properties for over 150 years.
Rebecca Joyce is program administrator for Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission where cooperative solutions to problems are addressed through regional efforts and partnerships with local jurisdictions and other stakeholders.

There will be time for discussion and questions at the end.