What We Must Protect
One of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, the population of the George Washington Region has grown by 100.8 percent since 1990. This growth has brought great economic opportunity and in many ways has improved quality of life by bringing goods and services that had not been available before, as well as more money for schools and other services. However, it has also generated problems, clogged transportation networks
- loss of open space, trees and wildlife
- weakened storm water management systems
- threats to our waterways.
- Combined with the effects of global climate change, these threats make it imperative that we act now to protect the following critical assets
Forests— both urban and wild—rivers and their watersheds, open spaces and the habitats that support plant and animal species are at risk. A 2008 report by former Gov. Tim Kaine’s Commission on Climate Change stated that, “habitat for some species will decline, other species will become extirpated, and other species will become extinct. Climate change also will exacerbate threats already faced by Virginia ecosystems, such as invasive species, pathogens and pollution.”
The elderly and the very young, those of low socioeconomic status, members of racial and ethnic minorities, people living in coastal areas and flood plains, and the disabled and infirm are at greater risk from the impacts of climate change.
Cultural and historic sites
Places with special ties to our heritage are key to the economic health and quality of life of the George Washington Region. In many cases, the interests of historic preservation align with environmental concerns. Retrofitting or renovating can prevent excess building materials from ending up in the landfill. Preserving important lands, such as Civil War battlefields, will ensure our region maintains sufficient open space and animal habitats.
Agricultural and working lands
Farms and other working lands are critical to this Region’s ability to sustain itself. Protecting our local food supply from threats posed by flooding, drought, overdevelopment and increasingly severe storms is crucial. Agriculture, forestry and commercial and sport fishing industries are susceptible to the effects of climate change.
We must identify potential risks to existing employers from the effects of climate change to help them avoid disruptions to their operations. By “greening” the economy of the George Washington Region, we can protect existing jobs and create new ones in growing green industries.
All of our Region’s infrastructure faces threats from climate change: storm water systems must accommodate increasing storm intensity.
- Utilities infrastructure must withstand greater chaos in nature
- Landfill is shrinking
- Drinking water supplies are at risk
- Communications networks must be buttressed against threats when disaster happens
Roads in the George Washington Region are clogged. We must fine-tune our systems of mobility so that we drive fewer miles, both to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions and to improve our quality of life. Public transit systems should be strengthened to become dependable daily transportation options and deal with emergency events.