Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Solar Uses in the West: Monitoring the Irrigation Ditch

solar water monitor

Solar monitors the flow of water.

“It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West.”

By Linn Smith

June 23, 2017—In the eastern section of the U.S., water is easily obtainable. In the west, where dry land prevails, water rights are taken seriously.

How is water diverted to arid land? Irrigation ditches are man made channels that deliver water to homes, farms or industries. They have head gates on creeks and water sources to divert water to these arid regions.

solar monitor

Monitor water flow through solar

Water Rights

In the West and Southwest U.S., a person diverting water through a canal needs legal rights, because there are many demands on the water between individuals, industries and cities. In the 1800’s miners depended on water rights for mining of gold and other minerals, and pioneers depended on water rights to irrigate crops far away from the stream.

Colorado developed the Prior Appropriation Doctrine which is still in use today. It states that, “The first person to divert water and apply it to a beneficial use has a prior or senior right to the water over any other user who seeks to use water at a later time.” This secures the amount and date of senior users. Water rights in Colorado are property rights and can be bought, sold or rented apart from the land through which they run, if the water is put to beneficial use.

In New Mexico a person needs to obtain a permit through the State Engineer Office. The office will evaluate and determine if water is available and would not impair existing water rights.

Solar

Solar monitors the flow of water in irrigation ditch

Irrigating

In New Mexico I helped surface irrigate (flood irrigate) a friend’s ranch from an irrigation canal, which ran above ground. Irrigating consisted of opening the irrigation gate by hand, allowing water from the canal to run over the horse pasture. We were able to control the amount of water on the pasture by sliding the gate down when the water was sufficient for healthy pasture growth. This has been the most common type of irrigation in most parts of the world.

solar for irrigation

The irrigation ditch runs through this horse pasture to keep it green and usable.

Solar Powered Water Moniters

Recently a solar monitor was added to an irrigation ditch nearby, which runs through farmland and continues to a large lake. The gate of the irrigation ditch was previously open and closed by hand, but now a solar monitor opens and closes the gate to prevent flooding from unused water in the ditch.

solar

Solar to monitor irrigation ditch

In an article, Solar-Powered Automation on Irrigation Delivery Systems, it states, “The most popular do it yourself solar automation model consists of a 1/16 inch horsepower gear motor, a bicycle-type lift apparatus, (chain and sprocket) and a cover over the gate stem which contains a gate position sensor and limit switches. The gate system is usually powered by 1 or 2 deep-cycle batteries which are charged by a 20-40 watt solar panel. The gear is attached to the 12 volt DC gear motor with an industrial chain.”

irrigation ditch

Water flows through irrigation ditch to lake

It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West, from pumping up groundwater for cattle to monitoring the amount of water in irrigation ditches. Again, sunshine prevails!

Solar!


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Xeriscaping: A Step Towards a Healthier Planet

xeriscape

Xeriscaping can be combined with a traditional lawn

“What can we do to eliminate the stress our lawns create on the environment? Xeriscape!”

By Linn Smith

June 15, 2017—Spring is turning into summer soon and it’s time to think about our yards. It’s time to ask ourselves if we can continue our current practices of lawn upkeep and still protect the planet.

In May, I published an article, “The Origin of Lawns and their Environmental Impact.” In this article I stated the negative impact of keeping a lawn green. “Keeping turf from turning brown wastes water. People use too many pesticides and herbicides that contaminate the soil and water surrounding their lawns. Mowing burns fossil fuels. Also, we’re killing off our bee population, which you probably have heard by now, we need for pollinating the food we eat.”

It’s estimated by the EPA that lawn irrigation uses approximately 9 billion gallons of water daily, sending nitrogen from lawn fertilizers into our waterways. Also, millions of tons of pollutants are emitted into the air from lawnmowers.

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping with native plants reduces water needs.

What can we do to eliminate the stress our lawns create on the environment? Xeriscape! We can replace turf that requires an excessive amount of water with plants that can withstand drought conditions. Xeriscaping is a more creative and less toxic method of maintaining the land around our homes. It uses plants that require little water to maintain.

According to http://www.xeriscape.sustainablesources.com, there are 7 things to consider when xeriscaping:
1. Planning and Design
2. Soil Improvement
3. Appropriate Plant Selection
4. Practical Turf Areas
5. Efficient Irrigation
6. Use of Mulches
7. Appropriate Maintenance

xeriscaping

Drought tolerant plants use less water and are hardier.

Planning and Design

It’s not necessary to Xeriscape your entire lawn. You can decide how much you want to plant sustainably. Choose native plants and plants well adapted to your area. Native plants are already survivers of the climate you live in. Rama Nayeri of Creation Landscape Design says, “For almost every non-native plant there is an equally sustainable native option”—which also attract native wildlife.

Soil Preparation

Get rid of the existing grass or weeds. If you’re in a hot sunny area you can cover your turf with black plastic in the spring or early summer. Leave it in place for 4-6 weeks. You can then remove the plastic, leave the dead grass as compost and begin planting and turning over soil. There are excellent instructions in an article at https://conservationcenter.org/gardens/turf-removal-replacement-101/

xeriscaping

Use plants native to your area.

Appropriate Plant Selection

The plants you choose for xeriscaping depends on what climate you live in. In the Southwest cacti may be the answer, while in more moist climates, prairie plants may be the answer. In an article by Julie Martens Forney, “Xeriscaping Plants”, http://www.hgtv.com, she states, “Many homeowners mistakenly associate xeriscaping plants with a desert-style garden, featuring cacti, yucca and agave. The fact is that xeriscaping plants run the gamut, from classic drought-tolerant succulents, to prairie plants, to ornamental grasses.”

Most drought tolerant plants for your area would be plants native to your region. These are the original plants that graced your landscape before folks started digging them up! The website, Native Plant Finder, at http://www.nwf.org, will help you identify native plants to your area buy entering your zipcode.

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping requires less lawn care.

Practical Turf Areas

You can decide how much turf to leave for such purposes as play areas, pet areas and areas for sports. Designing these in a round shape can make for easier mowing and more efficient watering. Choose turf which requires the least amount of water.

You can talk to experts in greenhouses or your local university extension turf grass management program, which often offers free advice for home owners in lawn care.

Efficient Irrigation

To prevent over watering know how much water your plants/lawn need. The most effective way to water is to water deeply but not often.

Morning is the best time to water because evening waterings can invite fungus to grow overnight. Measure rain with a gauge. If you get 1 inch or more skip the watering. You can attach a rain sensor or moisture sensor to your sprinkler system to shut it off. Use a rain barrel to harvest water for plants that you water by hand.

A study found that homes with sprinkler systems used 35% more water than other homes. It found that most people with irrigation systems use “a set it and forget it” method. The study states that without proper scheduling and use of sensors, a sprinkler system is extremely wasteful. If you have 1/4  acre you could end up using 6,000 gallons of water to get a one inch deep watering.

A sensor by Toro has 2 prongs that measure the moisture of the soil and shuts down the sprinkler system if water isn’t needed. This method can use up to 40% less water. The Toro 53812 Xtra Smart Soil Moisture Sensor sells on Amazon for $126, or you can shop around because there are other moisture sensors available online.

Use of Mulches

Mulches are used around plants to hold the moisture in the ground. They can consist of bark chips, straw, compost, gravel, rocks or a plastic fabric sheet. Whatever kind you choose, it should allow water and air to pass through to the plants. Mulch can also be beneficial in creating paths through your landscape. Organic mulches, (bark, straw, pine needles, leaves, nut shells ect) are best because they add nutrients to the soil. Large landscape rocks can also help hold moisture in the soil.

Maintenance

A xeriscaped yard requires less maintenance than a traditional yard. Pruning, trimming dead branches, can stimulate plant growth. Use natural methods of pest control, as chemicals can kill beneficial insects. Bees and many insects are needed for pollination. To reduce unwanted insects you can use insecticidal soaps or install bird and bat houses around your yard. Natural pesticides also include Neem oil, salt spray, mineral oil, citrus oil, cayenne pepper, Eucalyptus oil, onion and garlic spray and many more. Native plants are adapted to your local soil so do not need fertilizer.

In conclusion, what is needed is a commitment by each homeowner to lessen the burden on our Mother Earth. You can start small with a portion of your lawn if a large project seems too intimidating. The important thing is to make a move in the right direction, either large or small!

Xeriscape for a healthy planet!


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Americans Still Support The Paris Climate Agreement

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

“People are publicly demanding that their local governments cut energy use and change to less carbon based sources of energy.”

By John J. Hidore

June 10, 2017—-Evidence indicates that the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. Data also indicates the 20th Century was the warmest century in the past 1000 years. Most of the warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the year 2000. Climate change is now taking place faster and faster and is responsible for historic catastrophes around the world. It is clear to the majority of human beings inhabiting this planet that there is a serious change taking place in our weather and climate.

The Paris Climate Conference

In the fall of 2015 the historic Paris Climate Conference-Cop21 was held. Out of that conference came what is generally known as the Paris agreement. The main goal of the group is to keep the mean temperature of Earth from increasing less than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above the pre-industrial average temperature. It has already risen about half that. This means keeping the global temperature from rising no more than another 1 degree C (1.8 degree F). Reducing it this much would bring the level of carbon dioxide back to where it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

An agreement was finalized on December 12. The group committed to keeping the global temperature rise to 1 degree C (1.8 degree F) by the year 2100. A key difference in this agreement from previous agreements is that each individual country could set its own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement imposes no penalties for countries which do not meet their own goals.

Prior conferences wanted to set the goals for each country. Some poor countries still wanted the richest countries to bear the biggest share of the cost or to make the biggest cuts in carbon emissions. The wealthier countries did commit $100 billion a year to help pay the costs for the poorest countries.

climate change

There is a lot of hard work to be done after withdrawing from the Cop21 agreement.

America Withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement

Donald Trump stated he would take America out of the agreement. During the presidential campaign, he declared that climate change was a hoax. He also stated that if elected he would take the United States out of the 2015 Paris Accord. On Thursday, June 1, 2017, the president of the United States announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement. The reason he gave was that the agreement was unfair to this country. That this decision on his part has trashed America’s image abroad is an understatement. The United States, up to this point, had been leading the effort to take action to reduce or halt the human induced portion of climate change.

Americans are Supporting the Paris Agreement

Millions of individuals have now become activists on reducing climate change. People are changing their life styles to use less energy. They are publicly demanding that their local governments cut carbon emissions and change to less carbon based sources of energy.

The ranking United States diplomat in China, David Rank, resigned after 27 years in the State Department. He indicated that his conscious would not let him continue in light of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The governments of a number of states have publicly declared they will support the agreement. They will move ahead on measures to reduce greenhouse emissions and climate change. California, which is the sixth largest economy on the planet, is pushing ahead to become a carbon free region. Other states are following suit even if they do not officially support the Paris agreement. The number of states actively participating in cutting carbon has now reached about a dozen at the time of this writing.

Also many non-governmental environmental organizations, with millions of members, are supporting the Paris agreement. They are devoted to reducing energy use and to switch to non-carbon sources of energy. Many cities are actively working to reduce greenhouse emissions. As of June 6, approximately 250 mayors of American cities officially adopted the Paris agreement. These cities contain approximately 60 million people. They are part of a group called Mayors National Climate Action Agenda.

Among the cities that have agreed to support the Paris Agreement is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is the very city which Trump stated he represented when withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. There is no doubt that the decision of the current president of the United States has shocked  the rest of the world, let alone the majority of the people in this country. However, the people of this country will not turn their backs on the rest of the world. They will stand with all nations that are committed to reducing the extent of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Mass extinction could happen again-do we care?

Results of our Changing Climate

Our changing climate is currently resulting in catastrophes. Island nations are being force to move or cease to exist. Inland rivers are undergoing record floods. Extreme high temperatures are doing tremendous damage to plants and animals. How great these catastrophes are in the future depends on what our nation, along with all others, do prevent climate change. Let Americans lead the way with or without our government!

Preventing Climate Change


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History of the United State’s Effort to Lead the War on Climate Change

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

The President’s Decision Will Have Major Effects on People, the Environment, and the International Status of our Country.

By Dr. John J. Hidore
June 2, 2017—-The United States has been a world leader for decades in the effort to take action to slow or stop the warming of planet Earth. In 1992 a United Nations conference know as the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At that conference the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adapted. The United States played a key role in that conference, where the to reduction of emissions from greenhouse gases was initiated.

Negotiations were held in Kyoto, Japan in the fall of 1997. Opposition to the Protocol by the corporate world was so great that the negotiations nearly collapsed. Representatives of the United States pleaded for adaption. Then vice President Al Gore led the fight for adoption. The supporter of the document won. The treaty finally came into full force in 2005 when enough countries satisfied the criteria necessary for adaptation.

Melting of the Arctic

The Arctic sea ice is melting at a record rate.

The United States became a leading proponent of the Paris Climate agreement of 2015. The agreement will greatly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in the years ahead. It was agreed to by almost every country in the world.

Shredding America’s Leadership on Climate Change

America’s leadership in taking action on climate change may be shredded. The GOP now controls the federal government and most state governments. Their position is that profits are more important than people. Greed is the primary ethic driving this policy.

The newly elected president has laid out extensive plans that will essentially prevent any action from being taken to reduce the risk of climate change if it will affect corporate profits. First and foremost the president has repeatedly stated that he would withdraw the United States participation in the Paris Climate agreement. As a major producer of these gases the decision to withdraw from the agreement spits in the face of every other country and every individual living on the planet. His stance on the agreement was a major topic at the Group of Seven (G7) meetings in Taormina, Italy this past month. The group of seven includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and japan in addition to the United States.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Since the United States is the second leading country in the production of greenhouse gases, it would severely reduce the importance of the agreement. It is second only to China which has signed onto the agreement. Many very important persons on the international scene have encouraged President Trump to keep this country in the agreement. The first on the current trip to admonish Trump on the environment was the Pope, who gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on the environment. Others that made a strong case for the US staying in the agreement were major players in the European Union.

Effects on People, the Environment, and the International Status of our Country

What the United States does on this issue is of global importance since we are such a large consumer of energy and source of greenhouse gas emissions. At the time of this writing it is unclear what decision the President will make. He can stay with his plan to withdraw us from the world agreement in favor of profits, he can keep us in the agreement and lower our goals for cutting greenhouse gases, or he can decide to keep this country in tune with the rest of the world and honor our pledge to do something about global warming and climate change. If he decides on the latter it will at least do two things. One, announce to the world that profits for American corporations are the number one goal of his administration, and two, decide to further tarnish our image and trust by the rest of the world!

Do your part in reducing CO2!


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Hidden Diseases in the Ice: What Could They Mean to Us?

diseases and melting ice

Diseases may surface with global warming.

By Linn Smith

“Microbial diseases are normally unable to survive for long periods outside of their hosts. But the soil under permafrost offers a unique habitat to preserve bacteria and viruses over thousands of centuries.”

—Claverie

May 30, 2017—John Piscu, a Biology professor at the Montana State University said, “You put something on the surface of ice and a million years later it may come back out.” And this is about to happen. Temperatures in the Arctic Circle are rapidly rising, three times faster than the rest of the world!

Scientist have discovered evidence of RNA which caused the Spanish flu virus in 1918. Smallpox and bubonic plague are also thought to be buried in Siberia. Is it possible these diseases could again raise their ugly heads? The answer is, unfortunately, yes! NASA scientists have successfully revived bacteria frozen in an Alaskan pond for 32,000 years.

A microbe, a term for tiny creatures that are too small to see with the naked eye, can invade our body and make us very ill. Microbes, including bacteria and fungi, can cause infectious diseases such as flu and measles. Microbes that cause diseases are called pathogens.

dormant diseases in arctic ice

Microbes in ice are resurfacing.

Survival of Microbes Within Ice

An article, “Microbes Can Survive Deep Freeze for 100,000 Years” at newscientist.com, states the theory that microbes can survive trapped inside ice crystals under 3 kilometeres (about 1.9 miles) of snow for more than 100,000 years. “A tiny film of liquid water forms around the microbe. Oxygen, hydrogen, methane and many other gases will then diffuse to this film forming air bubbles nearby and providing the microbe with sufficient food to survive, thus any microbe can remain alive in solid ice, resisting temperatures down to minus 55 degrees Celsius (-67 degrees F) and pressures of 300 atmospheres.” The microbes would not be able to grow or reproduce but would be able to repair molecular damage, keeping them intact for more than a thousand centuries. The study used ice in both the Antarctic and Greenland, detecting isolated microbes.

Disease and melting ice caps

Consequences of Global Warming

Pathogens Come Back to Life

According to an article on BBC.com by Jasmine Fox, “Not all bacteria can come back to life after being frozen in permafrost. Anthrax bacteria can do so because they form spores, which are extremely hardy and can survive frozen for longer than a century.
Other bacteria that can form spores, and so could survive in permafrost, include tetanus and Clostridium botulinum, the pathogen responsible for botulism, a rare illness that can cause paralysis and even prove fatal. Some fungi can also survive in permafrost for a long time.”

The threat of disease causing microbes resurfacing is not entirely due to melting of the ice and permafrost. An indirect result of melting ice allows for drilling of gold, minerals, oil and natural gas. The layers of permafrost containing microbes can be exposed by drilling, as opening up previously pristine areas of the arctic becomes profitable.

melting arctic and diseases

Diseases resurface with melting of Arctic.

Frozen permafrost soil, which was previously untouched by humans, is the perfect place for bacteria to remain alive for very long periods of time. Some microbes may have been embedded in the ice and frozen soil as long as a million years! That means melting ice and drilling for its natural resources could potentially open a Pandora’s box of diseases!

Microorganisms Disrupt Oceans

Even if these potential diseases would minimally affect humans, masses of microorganisms melted into the oceans will disturb the present marine systems and the balance of ocean life, flooding the oceans with long absent organisms. “Earth’s glaciers and sub-glacial sediments contain more microbial cells and carbon than all the lakes and rivers on the surface of the planet, a huge load of organic matter that, if thawed, would end up in the sea,” said Brent Christner, professor of Biological Sciences.

Release of Carbon with Thawing Biomass

The release of carbon from thawing biomass could cause an additional problem. As decaying biomass embedded in the ice is uncovered, it will convert into carbon dioxide which will add to our greenhouse gases, expediting global warming.

John Priscu, a professor studying Antarctic microbiology, states his concern for melting Arctic ice and permafrost, “If you hold that light switch right there before it flips, the lights begin to flicker. I think that’s what we’re seeing now. We’re pushing it and it’s becoming more variable, and pretty soon it’ll pass a threshold and reach a new state. Whether or not it can go back to a previous state, we don’t know. We may end up not ever being able to go back.”

We’re treading in unforeseen territory!

Melting of Arctic and Diseases Awakening


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Global Warming is Speeding Up

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

“May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

May 21, 2017—Nearly three-fourths of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean and it is ocean temperatures which control global atmospheric temperatures. Approximately 90% of the energy absorbed by Earth goes into the oceans. The other 10% is absorbed by the land masses.

In the early years of keeping weather records there was very little data available concerning the world oceans. Now there is much and the data is constantly increasing. The oceans are absorbing heat energy at a faster rate now than in the past. A recent study indicates that the amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans has doubled since 1997. The oceans are estimated to have absorbed as much energy since 1997 as in the previous years of record.

Most of the heat added to oceans is absorbed near the surface. The actual change in temperature in the ocean surface is extremely small due to the high heat capacity of water. It takes more heat energy to change the temperature of a given unit of water than to change the temperature of air or earth materials.

The amount of energy it takes to change the temperature of a given unit of water one degree Celsius will change the temperature of a unit of dry air by four degrees. The same amount of energy will change dry land by about five degrees. This helps explain why the atmosphere and bare land get so hot.

Planet Earth is warming.

Record temperatures around our planet.

Evidence of Global Warming

The majority of people, including both scientists and non-scientists around the world, understand that our planet earth is warming. There is overwhelming evidence that this is the case. Geological evidence indicates that the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. Data also indicates the 20th Century was the warmest century in the past 1000 years.

The year 1880 marks the beginning of the modern historical record. Analysis of the collected data indicates the temperature on the planet has been increasing rapidly in the years since the global record was established.

The number of weather stations collecting temperature data has increased rapidly with time. There are now more than 6000 sites where data is being collected. Satellites are now also contributing data.

Global warming

Records are being broken around the world.

Global Temperatures for the 21st Century

Since 2000 global monthly temperatures have broken records more than 30 times. The average global temperature has increased about 0.8ºC (1.4ºF) since 1880. About 2/3 of this increase has been since 1975. Most of the warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the year 2000. It is significant, that in comparison to all the record warmth, the coldest year on record was more than one hundred years ago in 1911.

Record Temperatures Since 2000

Regions where record high mean annual temperatures occurred since the beginning of the year 2000 are:

Africa, 7 countries
Antarctica Asia, 21 countries
Europe, 23 countries
North America, 4 countries
Oceania, 2 countries
South America, 5 countries

Global Warming: 2015 to Date

The year 2015 was the warmest year on record up to that date. The mean temperature was 14.7 ºC (58.62degrees F). This was 0.9 ºC (1.62degrees F) above the mean of the 20th Century and 0.2 ºC (0.29degrees F) over 2014. It was the largest annual temperature increase on record. All months in 2015 set new records with the exception of January and April. December of 2015 was unusually warm, even for 2015. It was more than one degree Celsius warmer than the 30 year normal. Climate normals are set by 30 year intervals. The current normal is the period from 1981 to 2010.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Record Breaking Temperatures

Many global temperature records were recorded in 2015 and the trend continued into 2016. February 2016 continued a string of nearly a dozen straight months of record monthly temperatures. The winter season, December through February, was also a record.

In February 2016 global temperatures were not only record temperatures, but they rose drastically. The increase over the previous year was also the most since records began in 1880. May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began. July of 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded since 1880.

Indian Heat Wave of 2016

India experienced extreme high temperatures in the spring of 2016. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 47.2°C (117°F) occur.

In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 51°C (124°F). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 40°C (104 ºF) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were:

New Delhi 47 °C (117 ºF)
Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)
Philodi 51.°C (124 ºF)

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Global Warming and Population

High temperatures in India had a huge effect on the human population. The impact on the country was immense. More than 300 million people were adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in during the growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. Approximately 17,000 villages had, or were facing water shortages. Several Indian states shut down schools to reduce risk to students. Heatstroke was a widespread problem and many deaths were reported across the region. It has been classified as one of the deadliest heat waves in modern history.

The Hazards of Extreme Temperatures

It needs to be understood that temperature numbers are just a measure of atmospheric heat. What is truly important is the impact of the greater heat. Record high temperatures affect almost all living things in the region where they occur. What future temperatures will be is unknown. Since record high temperatures are occurring more and more frequently it seems highly probable that new and more frequent high temperature extremes will occur and that the effects will become more hazardous to life on the planet. The only real solution to the problem is to reduce the emissions producing the warming and curb population growth.

Record high temperatures affect almost all living things in the region where they occur!


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The Origin of Lawns and Their Environmental Impact

“We should all know by now that lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment.”

By Linn Smith

May 10,2017—Lawns are not a natural part of our environment. Lawns originated around the 16th century as grassy fields around English and French castles. Trees were cut down around the castles, leaving only grassy fields that would reveal an enemy coming forth in the wide open spaces. When the trees were cut, the grasses and flowers sprouted naturally, creating a meadow. “Lawn” originated from the word Launde, which means an opening in the woods. The moist climate of Europe supported these grassy meadows which eventually became our lawns of today.

Origination of the Lawn

The castles created meadows, “lawns”, to watch for
approaching enemies.

The History of Grass Lawns

“Grass” is from the plant family Gramineae, which has over 9000 species of plants. In the late 16th century “grass” lawns became fashionable, rapidly catching on among the wealthy. In 16th and 17th centuries lawns were mostly wildflowers and herbs such as chamomile.

Gardeners maintained the lawn with a scythe

Only the wealthy could afford lawn care.

Until the 19th century, mowing consisted of a scythe, shears for edge trimming, a gardener to maintain the lawns, and/or cattle and sheep grazing around the estates. In the 18th century this was a sign of the wealth, the vast lawn showing the amount of wealth of the owner (reminds me of Jane Austin novels)–lawns implied a staff and servants with scythes, shears and edging irons.

Mowers: Creating Easier Lawn Maintenace

In 1870 the push mower was invented, and in 1919 the gasoline mower allowed for much less effort in maintaining a lawn. (A note of interest: during World War 1, Woodrow Wilson had a flock of sheep, about fifty, cutting the White House lawn, which saved manpower during the war. He sold their wool to the Red Cross.)

When the suburbs sprouted up in the U.S. after the war, the architects created lawns around homes, which increased the value of the house and was inviting to the post war families who enjoyed lawn games of croquet, badminton, ect. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, houses were sold with lawns already in place. With the gasoline mower and the sprinkler system, the lawns were easily maintained.

The Downside of the Beautiful Lawn

So, here’s the downside of our beautiful, European lawns today: In an article on Smithsonian.com, Sarah Zielinski says it nicely, “We should all know by now that lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment. Keeping turf from turning brown wastes water, people use too many pesticides and herbicides, toxic chemicals that contaminate the fish we eat and water we drink. And mowing burns fossil fuels, releasing greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Plus nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere with fertilization!”

And one more negative impact of our nice lawns–we are harming the bee population which we depend so heavily on for pollinating the wonderful foods we love! So, unless you are maintaining your lawn with only a scythe, push mower or sheep, maybe it’s time to rethink what we plant in our yards!

Xeriscaping:  The Green Lawn

Xeriscaping can reduce cost and care of lawns.

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a water conserving method that orginated in Colorado. It originated from the Greek word “Xero”, which means dry and “Scape” meaning view. It does not mean zero landscaping. It does mean planting plants that will do well with little watering. The plants are not necessarily native to the area, but are selected for their water conserving abilities. Xeriscaping makes more water available to the community and the environment and reduces maintenance, with just occasional weeding and mulching. Less cost and less maintenance leaves more time for other things! Xeriscaping also reduces water pollution, as herbicides and pesticides don’t end up in the groundwater.

New Mexico has been planting the most beautiful yards using water conserving plants for centuries! It’s time to rethink our beautiful lawns and think about creating beautiful Xeriscaped yards instead!

Lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment!


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The Symptoms of Over-population and Limits to Growth

Overpopulation and violence

Overpopulation can cause world disaster.

Even a cursory examination of the world today indicates there is a major problem of overpopulation by the human species.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

May 1, 2017—At the time of this writing the global population is estimated to be about 7.4 billion. It is growing at the rate of a billion every 12 years. Earth is a finite object traveling through space with a size which is essentially fixed. An important question is whether the earth can continue to provide the resources to support a continually growing population. Limits to growth implies that there is an upper limit to the size of population a region can support. There may not be an absolute limit to growth in any region but it can certainly be overpopulated. The resources humans need are those things which provide food, clothing and shelter. Overpopulation occurs when the available resources cannot sustain the number of people without damage to those very resources the people depend on. There are some common symptoms of overpopulation.

Hunger

Overpopulation can devastate the world’s food supply.

Human health problems

Among the health problems are undernutrition, dehydration, and declining resistance to disease. Globally undernutrition is probably the greatest health problem. At this time it is estimated that nearly a billion people suffer some form of it. This is the equivalent of the population of North America and South America combined. Undernutrition does not mean starvation, but that the people in question are in some way being physically affected by not getting either enough food or not getting the right kind of food. Starvation is the extreme case. There are a variety of types of malnutrition based on what is missing in the diet. Essentially malnutrition is the imbalance between the body’s need for nutrients and energy and what the body is actually getting. Another billion do not have fresh water for drinking.

An untold number are suffering from disease related to health problems. Scientific data shows that the most important factor in experiencing physical illness (as distinct from mental illness) is undernutrition. When people are undernourished the probability of getting an infectious disease increases significantly. Children suffer more from undernutrition than adults because of the high demand for energy and protein associated with physical growth. Some form of undernutrition affects as many as a fourth of all children. A large majority of these children live in the developing countries. The most common form of malnutrition in children is kwashiorkor. It results from lack of protein and manifests itself in distended stomachs.

world hunger

Overpopulation depletes resources

Resource Depletion

Resources used to sustain people include a variety of elements in the environment. Some sort of resource depletion occurs in almost all types of environments. Land degradation has become widespread. In grasslands, where most intensive agriculture takes place, soil erosion is widespread. Soil has been the basis for agriculture for thousands of years. Some of the most valuable land on the planet consists of land with the best soil for growing crops. Soil erosion is widespread. In some areas the erosion has been and is so bad the land is no longer usable for agriculture. In the dryer parts of the grasslands overgrazing is common. Desertification often results. This is the reduction of the land to essentially desert conditions.

Deforestation is another example of resource depletion. Vast areas of the tropical rainforest are disappearing rapidly. It is being cleared for agriculture purposes. The huge band of forest in the sub-Arctic is also disappearing. In this case the timber is being cut for lumber. With the lost of the forest cover soil erosion becomes pervasive. These forests are important to the climate of Earth as well as a means of livelihood for people. Once these resources are reduced or eliminated overpopulation inevitably results. With land degradation and deforestation animal species are also disappearing. Animals of all variety provide food, and clothing, and other items. There is currently a global demise of species taking place so great that it is being referred to as a mass extinction.

Overpopulation and hunger

A depletion of resources.

Migration

Human migration is the movement of people from one location to another. It can be from one part of a country to another or across national boundaries. It can involve individuals or numbers in the thousands or millions. The human species has engaged in migration nearly as long as the species has existed on Earth. Present consensus is that the earliest humans developed in an area of East Africa known as as Olduvai Gorge in what is now Kenya. The species spread out from there in all directions. It moved southeast through the open forests into what is now the country of South Africa. Later the species spread north and east across the middle east and all the way to Australia, Asia, and the Americas.

People migrate for a variety of reasons. In the past people may have migrated out of curiosity. A more likely reason is the search for more abundant resources. The massive wave of migration in Europe and the Middle East at the moment is the greatest since the period just before and during world War II. The world is now focused on this current migration due to the problems it is creating. Some of the migration is an attempt to move from areas suffering from overpopulation and a shortage of resources. Another portion is to escape violence in their homeland. Declining employment opportunities is another force driving migration. No continent is exempt from problems due to migration. An influx of large numbers of people into any region can generate major problems. The building of wall, fences, and moats came into existence by groups of people to keep migrants out of their territory.

Violence

It is predictable that when overpopulation occurs, in some cases at least, there will be violence among individuals and groups. Tribalism, indigenous uprisings and terrorism become predictable. Violence among groups may be along ethnic lines, economic status, or political power. Violence has become pervasive around the world as competition for resources increases. Personal violence is epidemic in many cities and countries.

Indigenous uprisings are violent acts by people native to an area. Indigenous uprisings by tribal people have occurred throughout history and on every continent when an external population becomes too oppressive. Many such uprisings have occurred around the world as Europeans moved to take over land used by the people originally occupying it. Such uprisings are now forcing governments to recognize the native people as a political force.

Terrorism is what appears to be a random act of violence, usually directed against groups of people. It almost always involves the killing of unsuspecting people. It is usually carried out to serve the purpose of those committing the act. It can be directed against a political group, a government, religion, or other group. It has been engaged in by individuals, groups, and even governments. These acts of violence are often done in a spectacular fashion so as to attract attention to the perpetrators. Revolutions are an example of violent reaction to government policies

Population Growth: Limited or Uncontrolled

Even a cursory examination of the world today indicates there is a major problem of overpopulation by the human species. There are examples everywhere. Is it possible that the entire planet has reached this stage? If this is the case there are options. We can foster a population in which there is less undernourishment, less massive migration and less violence. Limiting population growth is an alternative to the dominant economic and political policy of economic growth. It is a viable option that would be healthy for both the human population and the planet. The alternative is to allow uncontrolled growth of the population and increase the hazards to all.


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Global Warming Facts: 2016/2017

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

By Linn Smith

April 27, 2017–New data put out by the EPA shows the current trend toward global warming….it’s not improving! Our planet is continuing to heatup!

2016 Climate Facts

* 2016 marks three consecutive years of record breaking temperatures for our planet.

* Our planet experienced 8 consecutive months, January to August, of record heat. The highest since recording began in 1880.

* The average temperature of land and ocean surfaces was 1.69 degrees F above the 20th century average.

* The 2016 global ocean surface was highest on record–1.35 degrees F above average.

*The 2016 global land temperature was the highest on record–2.57 degrees F above average.

* North America had the warmest year on record.

* The area of Arctic sea ice was depleted to a new record low since recording began in 1979.

* The average mass of Antarctic sea ice was 2nd smallest since recording began in 1979.

* All 6 continents have recorded record breaking temperatures in 2016.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

The Trend Continues for 2017

* The global average temperatures over land and ocean surfaces for March 2017 were the 2nd highest for the month since recording began, 1.89 degrees F above 20th century average of 54.9 degrees F.

* The year-to-date global temperature was the second warmest on record.

Sustainable living on a sustainable planet!

Let’s hand our children a healthy planet!

Other Climate Facts

* To date, all 16 years of the 21st century were among the warmest ever recorded. The 5 warmest have been since 2010.

* The average annual temperature for ocean surfaces around the world was 1.35 degrees F (.75C) higher than 20th century average.

So those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

Stand up to coal and oil

Fight to against global warming!

Fight Against Global Warming


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Urban Heat Islands: Their Effects and Solutions

the heat island effect

Heat Island prevent heat from escaping cities.

“As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green.”

By Linn Smith

April 20, 2017—–If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the urban heat island effect.

What is a Heat Island?

An urban heat island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.

Urban heat profile

Urban areas hold heat.

What Causes the Build Up of Heat?

As you enter a city you may notice concrete and asphalt surrounding you—-buildings, parking lots, streets and side walks. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it, causing surface temperatures to rise. The rise in temperature also causes a depletion of vegetation resulting in less shade and moisture in the air. The resulting heat requires an increase in energy consumption—air conditioning which results in greater electrical use. This  cycle  keeps revolving—a catch 22 in which there is no escape from the merry-go-round of negative conditions from heat build-up.

Smog and Heat Islands

Cities can also cause “hotspots” of pollution. This smog can trap heat over a city, holding in the gases from coal burning facilities and vehicle emissions, not allowing them to escape into the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). In addition, the closely built structures resist air flow, keeping the air trapped in the city, unlike the countryside which cools off as the air flows more freely.

Health Effects of Heat Islands

Some of the more obvious effects of heat islands are discomfort, breathing problems, heat stroke and exhaustion. But they can also be related to cardiovascular disease, sleep deprivation, depression and many more!

urban heat island

Build Green

Minimizing the Heat Island Effect

New technologies for minimizing heat islands are rapidly being developed. Several techniques currently in use for developing green urban areas are:

*Cut down on heat absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement, by using more reflective surfaces for paved areas.The pavement can be enhanced by using reflective aggregate, a reflective or clear binder or a reflective surface coating.
*Plant trees that shade streets and paved areas.
*Use white roof membranes instead of black.
*Create a green roof–rooftop gardens.
*Create rooftop decks made from wood.
*Increase shade around buildings.
*Use energy efficient appliances and equipment which cut down on electrical use.

As National Geographic summarized, “Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbors. They often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green. The planning stage for this is now!

Urban Heat Islands

building green

build green