Green walls, or “vertical gardens,” are walls partly composed of or filled in with live plant matter. They filter air and water, soak up carbon dioxide and help lessen the “heat island” effect of urban areas while reducing air conditioning costs in their host buildings. Pictured: a vertical garden at the Anataeum Hotel in London. Credit: Niall Napier, FlickrDear EarthTalk: I’ve heard of green roofs, but what are “green walls?”— P. Spencer, Alcoa, TNGreen walls (also known as biowalls, vertical gardens or vertical vegetated complex walls) are wall structures partly composed of or filled in with growing plant matter. More than just easy on the eyes, green walls work like green roofs by filtering air and water, soaking up carbon dioxide and helping lessen the “heat island” effect of urban areas while reducing air conditioning costs in their host buildings.The self-proclaimed creator of the vertical garden concept, French botanist Patrick Blanc, pioneered the use of hydroponic cultivation techniques—plants grow in an irrigated mineral nutrient solution without the need for a soil substrate—to create large green wall installations in both residential settings and within larger public structures and even office buildings from Singapore to San Francisco and points in between.Blanc’s installations start by placing a metal frame on a load-bearing wall or structure. The frame supports a 10-millimeter-thick PVC plate, upon which are stapled two 3-millimeter-thick layers of polyamide felt. “These layers mimic cliff-growing mosses and support the roots of many plants,” he says, adding that a network of pipes and valves provides a nutrient solution of dissolved minerals needed for plant growth. “The felt is soaked by capillary action with this nutrient solution, which flows down the wall by gravity.”“The roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need, and excess water is collected at the bottom of the wall by a gutter before being re-injected into the network of pipes: The system works in a closed circuit.” Plants are chosen for their ability to grow in this type of environment and depending on available light.“Each vertical garden is a unique wall composition of various types of plants that has to take into account the specific surroundings of the place in which it is created,” says landscape architect Michael Hellgren, who founded the firm Vertical Garden Design in 2004. “It is not only the colorful interplay between the plants on a ‘green wall’ that is fascinating, but also the appearance of the wall itself, which changes daily.”Hellgren, who has designed and implemented large green walls in his home country of Sweden as well as in Spain, Portugal and Italy, among other locales, sources plants for his projects from various climate zones around the world. His favorites are so-called “lithophytes”: plants that can grow on rocks, branches and tree trunks without necessarily being rooted in soil. “Among other things these climbing plants have the enormous advantage of their roots acting as excellent natural drainage on the wall,” he adds.While large “vertical gardens” are surely impressive, critics question the sustainability of such endeavors, given the energy inputs needed to run the pumps and other equipment used to maintain proper nutrient and air flows, and the emissions caused by the manufacture and transport of specialized materials. Also, larger green walls need more water than rain alone can provide, and thus don’t necessarily save water. But as the field matures, practitioners are finding wider arrays of plants to choose from that are better at taking care of themselves—and scaling back on inputs and supporting machinery with the hope that one day many of the walls will be self-sustaining gardens that cleanse our dirty air and compromised storm water.CONTACTS: Patrick Blanc, www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com; Vertical Garden Design, www.verticalgardendesign.com.EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: [email protected] Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.
The confluence of the Hazel and Thornton Rivers has historically been a gathering place for swimmers, canoeists, anglers—and even occasional baptisms by one local church. Then, in September 2005, Gary Close, Culpeper County’s former attorney, decided to close off the river to public use, igniting a firestorm of protest.Close based his decision on the riparian landowners’ claims of a pre-Revolutionary grant to the river. King’s (or Crown) grants were issued by monarchs to reward loyal subjects with colonial property. At one time, nearly all of Culpeper County was part of such a grant. In 1802, however, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law stipulating that all land under water that was not previously conveyed would henceforth be held by the Commonwealth of Virginia in trust for the public.The landowners along the Hazel had argued to Close that because their land was conveyed before 1802, the law didn’t apply to their property. Now, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office contends that a Crown grant is not recognized until it has been adjudicated by a Virginia court. No such case has ever been litigated on the Hazel River.Close determined that it was illegal to tread on the river bottom—and to float and swim in the area, despite state and federal law to the contrary. On the basis of Close’s actions, landowners routinely summoned law enforcement hundreds of times to expel citizens from the river.After a great deal of public pressure, Close agreed to review his original position and found that he had been wrong to recognize the Crown grant in the absence of judicial review. The public can now use the river near the low-water bridge, although walking on the privately owned riverbanks is still forbidden by law.Locals have harshly criticized the riparian landowners’ actions in the imbroglio, but the truth is that they have some legitimate concerns. Culpeper County court records document dozens of criminal trespassing convictions—and convictions for everything from littering to illicit drug use—along the riverbanks. There is evidence of illegally harvested deer carcasses, their remains unceremoniously dumped on Butler Store Road not far from the river. One riparian landowner claims that a stranger walked right into his home to ask where he could fish. Swimming and fishing in the river is legal; trespassing and littering are not.Old news, you say? Think again. In a new wrinkle to the never-ending Hazel River drama, landowner Ben Grace is objecting to the removal of the defunct Monumental Mills Dam, which originally supported a gristmill but hasn’t operated for decades. Jean Scott, the dam owner and a riparian landowner from the other side of the river, contacted Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) officials to see if she could have the dam removed. Scott argues that the dam serves no useful purpose today, is an eyesore and a health hazard, and blocks multiple species of migrating fish, including river herring and shad.Paddlers in particular are adversely affected by the dam: They cannot portage on Mrs. Scott’s side of the river because of a sheer drop-off of about 20 feet. Meanwhile, the other side of the dam, which still houses part of the old gristmill, is clearly labeled “no trespassing” and references a King’s grant. The state has secured funds to have the dam removed at no cost to either landowner, but Mr. Grace has strenuously objected to state workers coming on his side of the river to remove the dam. Indeed, he has served numerous state employees with “stay-away notices” informing them that he may press charges against them for trespassing should they return.Freedom of Information Act requests reveal that the state has engaged a title company to research the King’s grant claims at $75 per hour. At this writing, the agency has spent $11,653 looking into the matter. The project, however, appears to be at a standstill. Other FOIA requests indicate that state employees feel unsafe and intimidated while working in the area and have even requested that armed Conservation Police Officers accompany them for further work. The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support the removal of the dam, and at least one riparian landowner downstream of the dam has offered to donate property to establish a canoe launch area when the dam is finally removed.The Hazel River may be a hotly contested river bottom—but it isn’t the only one. Anglers across the Old Dominion are incensed by state officials who advertise local waters as public property and merrily sell fishing licenses—and then refuse to defend anglers in court when they are sued by riparian landowners who claim to hold an exclusive grant to the river bottom. The Crown grant issue cries out for clarity, but thus far only State Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) and State Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) have made any attempt to address it. In the last legislative session, Del. Lingamfelter proposed a bill that would have required landowners to notify state agencies of pending river bottom claims and to post publically where such claims originated; that bill died in committee. This step would have at least provided some clarity for river users.Will Mark Herring, the Old Dominion’s new Attorney General, defend the rights of canoeists, anglers, and swimmers to traverse Virginia’s public waterways? Only time will tell.
Batesville, In. — A new report released by WalletHub has calculated the economic impact of tobacco use. The CDC says more than 37.8 million Americans use tobacco and almost 500,000 die, as a result, each year.Indiana was the highest in the tri-state number 15.A link to the full report is here.
A team from the International Police (INTERPOL) was in Guyana last week to commence a project that aims at tackling Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and migrant smuggling.The team, which was welcomed by the local Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons, was in Guyana from April 9-13. The visiting team comprised two officials representing INTERPOL and one officer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).This Needs Assessment is the first of a three-phase INTERPOL Project to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling in the Caribbean. The INTERPOL Team kicked off their mission with visits to Itaballi, Puruni and Bartica in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) during which they were accompanied by a team from the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons in Guyana.The visit to Region Seven enabled the visiting team to experience the difficulties associated with travelling to interior regions in Guyana and policing these areas, to witness working conditions in the mines and the general conditions in which persons in the area lived. This experience facilitated the team from INTERPOL in making a general assessment of the risks and other difficulties associated with curbing occurrences of trafficking in persons in interior regions in Guyana.In addition, before returning to Georgetown, the INTERPOL team joined representatives of the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons in conducting sensitisation on the issue in the Bartica Market, Arcade and Beach areas. This activity followed a similar Task Force ‘Roving Sensitisation’ activity conducted along the seawalls from the Seawall Bandstand to Vlissengen Road on Easter weekend.The awareness activity in Bartica saw vendors and customers alike engaged in discussion on the topic of trafficking in persons and were encouraged to report suspected cases; posters affixed to the walls of various market stalls, shops and other establishments; and brochures, flyers and other material bearing messages of awareness and the trafficking in persons hotline number distributed to individuals along the way.The activity seemed to yield instant results as a report was received soon after through the TIP hotline of suspected trafficking in persons in the area. A raid was subsequently conducted by ranks of the Bartica Police Station and resulted in eight females from The Dominican Republic being recovered from a house in Bartica. One suspect has since been arrested. The case is currently under investigation by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Guyana Police Force.However, subsequent to the visit to Region Seven, the INTERPOL team met with the ministerial arm of the Trafficking in Persons Task Force, other Government officials, frontline officers and other stakeholders in the fight against trafficking in persons in Guyana. Discussions at these meetings afforded the INTERPOL team the opportunity to articulate the goals of their project and to gather more information on the operational and technical needs of the agencies involved in the fight against trafficking in persons.The Needs Assessment phase of INTERPOL’s project would be followed by a training phase and an operational phase. The training phase will see officers from different agencies in Guyana being invited to benefit from a number of regional training courses which will span a total of seven weeks. Training will focus primarily on law enforcement, but there would also be sessions which would benefit trafficking in persons stakeholders from other agencies.A ‘Training of Trainers’ would be one of the courses included. As such, those trained would be encouraged to return to Guyana to train others – both law enforcement and otherwise – in the topics learned. INTERPOL would also share a curriculum, to be contributed to by authorities in Guyana, which is intended to be added to the training programme at the Guyana Police Force Officers’ Training Centre.Meanwhile, the operational phase would see INTERPOL lending support to the countries being considered in the project in their local anti-trafficking in persons operations.The Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons eagerly anticipates the development of this project and looks forward to continued collaboration with INTERPOL, as well as other international partners, as it seeks to effectively combat this scourge of trafficking in persons in Guyana.