Continuing on a path focused on actionable solutions

Many are still reeling from the sweeping changes the Trump administration has proposed or introduced since January 20, 2017. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, the tremendous forces at work (in terms of their rapidity and depth) are breathtaking—alarming for some and exciting for others. Perhaps no other area of public policy has felt the impact of the administration as much as environmental and energy policy.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s funding priorities focus on sustainability issues in the state of Texas, issues that require actionable solutions driven by knowledge, creativity, and rationality—elements that formed the pragmatic yet innovative approach of our benefactors, Cynthia and George Mitchell.  

A solid foundation of science, analysis, and contrary thinking will continue to inform and guide our funding decisions during both the short- and long-term. We pledge to stay the course with our collaborators, partners, and grantees regardless of who occupies the statehouse or White House.

In 2018, CGMF will curate four distinctive blog initiatives, a shift from our annual one topic approach. While this isn’t news, the change represents the myriad, diverse issues and challenges that we face in Texas, the U.S., and worldwide. One broad theme seems limiting when there are so many conversations to be had, and we are hopeful that this decision will help maximize our impact.

Here is a summary of our four topics:

Advancing the state of Water, Texas with a One Water approach

Texas’s current water management model is broken. How do we fix it?

The future of Texas’s beloved watering holes, rivers, and creeks are in jeopardy as population growth, overuse, and climate change stretch precious water resources thin and complicate water management during our state’s famous weather extremes. The current water policies and practices in Texas do not adequately promote sustainable water management or place a priority on sustaining the needs of our environment.  

These challenges are not unique to Texas. Across the U.S. and throughout the world, community leaders, water planners, and policymakers are wrestling with how best to manage water in order to maximize resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

This series will call upon experts and influencers to rethink our traditional urban water management practices, working to advance a more resilient strategy called integrated water management or “One Water.” 

Untapping the new West Texas

The Nature Conservancy states that the largest loss of open space is now caused by energy sprawl—the unmitigated use of land resources for the production of energy from both fossil and renewable resources. Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than the Trans-Pecos region of Texas.

The Permian Basin in West Texas leads the nation in oil and gas production. Midland and Odessa have long been the heart of this industrialized desert. With advances in drilling technologies, huge new oil and gas development is taking place in the Trans Pecos region of Texas—from the world’s largest spring-fed pool at Balmorhea to the foothills of the Davis Mountains and the Big Bend region.

The landscape and night skylines are already changing since Houston-based Apache made a major oil discovery just two years ago. In addition, over $1 billion worth of large-scale solar farms are planned for the region. Along the Devil’s River, Chinese and French firms are buying up Texas’s heritage ranches and placing massive installations of wind turbines along the riverbanks. This energy development will industrialize the entire Trans-Pecos region over the next two decades.

This series will explore the impact of energy sprawl on the economy and the environment, including safety for wildlife, ground and surface water resources, air quality, and light pollution, and it will sketch out solutions that can inform West Texas’s path forward. 

Can conservationism become a conservative issue, again?

Woven into the chronic stereotyping and polarization that plague our political landscape, so-called “conservatives” are assumed not to value the environment. Headlines would suggest this voting bloc would be fine with the trade of Yellowstone National Park for a new mixed-use condo development or the disregard of children’s asthma deaths in exchange for dismantling EPA air quality policies.

Polls conducted by conservative pollsters of registered Republican voters, however, show the contrary: an overwhelming support for environmental protection and natural resources. In many cases, it’s actually the path to environmental protection that is the divisive issue, not the protection itself.

We think people are increasingly interested in discussions about how to move the environment and conservation into mainstream conservative platforms.

This series will explore this important and oftentimes divisive issue: what drives us apart in our quest to achieve a common end—identifying where we agree and finding workable solutions where we do not.

Looking back, and looking forward, at the life of George P. Mitchell

As the son of immigrants, George P. Mitchell’s story was quintessentially American.

He is fondly remembered for flying in the face of convention—focusing on ‘what could be,’ with boundless determination—many times fighting through waves of skepticism and opposition to achieve his vision. Whether the issue was economic, societal, or environmental, he held a big worldview and believed that every person could make a difference in the world.

At the end of 2018, and in advance of the 100th anniversary of George’s birth on May 21, 2019, we will introduce a series that revolves around the release of his biography by author Loren Steffy and the myriad ingredients that made for an interesting life that focused largely on bettering the world.  

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