Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Newsworthy Renewables

Boyan Slat

Slat looks over his System 001.

“At this point, cleaning up our planet can’t be left to someone else!”

By Linn Smith

November 13, 2018—-While leafing through renewable resource articles recently, I found many positive activities happening in an effort to counteract climate change. Now that most people have acknowledged climate change is real, renewables will continue to grow in 2019.

Weather extremes are affecting people in many countries. Someone said, “People won’t change until it’s in their own backyard.” Well, in the form of floods and fires, it is in many people’s backyard. It’s a harsh wake-up call by mother nature!

New With Renewables

So here are a few positives that are happening in the renewable resource area:

1. According to Reuters.com, “The Paris region plans to launch a large fleet of electric bicycles in a state-funded scheme aimed at getting commuters to cycle to work and reducing congestion and pollution. They will provide 10,000 electric bikes for long-term rental, eventually expanding to 20,000.”

renewable resources

Paris will add thousands to the streets.

2. According to electrec.co, “Canada will have the first all-electric ferries serving the area in Ontario. A battery pack will be installed on board to power the propellers and a diesel generator will serve as a back-up.”

3. TheGuardian.com states that, “Uber drivers in London will be banned from using vehicles that are not hybrid or fully electric in 2020 as part of a plan to help tackle illegal levels of air pollution in the capital.”

4. Treehugger.com says that, “The European based Easyjet will incorporate electric passenger planes into services within 10 years.”

5. And Tesla is coming out with a new pickup truck in 2019. According to Elon Musk the Tesla pickup will be large, maybe even as large as the Ford F150, a full sized electric pickup truck!

renewable resources

The truck of the future!

6. My favorite in trying to make our planet a better place, 24-year-old Boyan Slat created the nonprofit, the Ocean Cleanup, which is currently in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trying to perfect Wilson, the system created to clean up the plastics in the ocean!

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

At this point cleaning up our planet can’t be left to someone else. It is everyone’s responsibility. Find a way to be some small part of the cleanup effort!

Renewable Resources

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Climate Change has been at the Root of Major Famines

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

“The demand and supply of food has been in a delicate balance for the human species throughout history.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 30, 2018—–The term famine produces an image of starvation and suffering in the minds of most people. In general a famine is a lack of food sufficient to produce malnutrition in large numbers of people over a wide area. The United Nations considers several conditions for a regional food shortage to be considered a famine. They are:

1. At least 20% of families in the area face extreme food shortages that they cannot cope with.
2. Acute malnutrition in children exceeds 20%.
3. The death rate exceeds two persons for each 10,000 people per day.

The Role of Climate Change in Historic Famines

There are many causes of famine, including climate changes, war, and political policies. One of the major ones is drought. Most of the catastrophic famines in historic times have been precipitated by drought. Drought can affect the quality and quantity of crop yields and the food supply for domestic animals. In the case of severe drought there may be a substantial loss of domestic animals due to lack of food. The loss of milk products or meat itself can precipitate the effects of the drought.

The demand and supply of food has been in a delicate balance for the human species throughout history. When the food supply has increased there has been a gain in population, and when food has been in short supply there has been some sort of trauma inflicted on the populace. Starvation results from insufficient food intake. During the long period of the hunting and gathering societies, starvation was probably often near at hand for individuals, family groups and tribes.

Indian drought

Millions effected by the drought

Agriculture and Famine

The development of agriculture allowed the world population to expand rapidly and greatly. At the same time, the basis for the supply of food, namely agriculture, became more directly dependent upon the weather. Famine as a phenomenon did not become a part of human experience until after agriculture began. However, as agriculture expanded so did the frequency of famines. The number of times that famine has spread on the continents is enormous. Nearly all histories of peoples and nations record famines.

Great famines have occurred throughout the Asian continent. India, China, Russia and the countries of the Middle East have all suffered from famine, many times which were drought related. An example is the famine described as occurring during the time of Abraham (about 2247 B.C). Another massive famine occurred in Egypt prior to the exodus of the Israelites. Drought and famine are endemic in India and China. The oldest record of famine in India goes back to 400 B.C. and in China to 108 B.C. Since the time of the earliest known famine there have been nearly continuous episodes of drought and famine in many parts of Asia or Africa.

Indian drought

Global warming raises temperatures around the world.

The Impact of Drought in Developing Countries

Drought has a much greater impact on people in developing countries than it does in industrial societies. The primary reason for this is that in the developing countries there is more dependence on agriculture as a way of life. When crops fail, or there isn’t enough forage for livestock, there is an immediate effect on the populace.

A very positive aspect of famine is that they are becoming fewer and less extensive due to the ability of the global economy to move large quantities of food from place to place.

Climate change and famine


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Climate Change: Investing in Education for Girls


“Early marriage of girls, because of drought and extreme weather, forces them to stay in existing conditions of poverty.”

Drawdown

Global warming and educating girls.

By Linn Smith

October 25, 2018—-What does educating girls have to do with climate change? According to a book called “Drawdown” by Paul Hawken, educating girls is a climate solution which could save 59.6 gigaton (millions of tons) of CO2 in our atmosphere by 2050.

Hawkins says that in many countries such as Africa, girls marry early, which extends the length of childbearing years. More than 700 million girls worldwide today have married as children. In countries where drought, flooding and extreme weather have affected resources, to ease the burden on families and collect the dowries, girls are married as children. So it’s a circle of devastation for our planet. Girls marry because of climate extremes which perpetuates climate change with population increases!

Drawdown

Education and family planning decreases the effects of climate change.

Ending Child Marriage

The following excerpt is from the article, “Ending Child Marriage in Africa” by Annerieke Smaak, “This man went to my uncles and paid a dowry of 80 cows. I resisted the marriage. They threatened me. They said, ‘If you want your siblings to be taken care of, you will marry this man.’ I said he is too old for me. They said, ‘You will marry this old man whether you like it or not because he has given us something to eat.'”

Girls give up school in drought conditions, staying home to carry water long distances or help find food for the family. Hawken states, “In Malawi, some people estimate 30-40% of child marriages are due to poverty caused by flooding and drought due to climate change.”

climate change

Education and family planning for girls

Reproductive Choices for Women

Educating women in reproductive choices will help tackle birth rates by improving lives when we make families secure with necessary resources. Supporting girls education is a positive investment benefiting the family, community, planet, and the girls themselves.

Educated women have smaller families. Data shows that girls with 12 years of education or more will have 4-5 fewer kids than girls with little or no education. This directly effects a country’s economy as failure to educate can cost the global economy 15-30 trillion dollars.

Hawkins states “The exact dynamic between family planning and girls’ education is impossible to determine, but our models allocate 50% of the total potential impact to each….by funding education and family planning it would close an annual financing gap of $39 billion to lower income counties for implementing these solutions.”

Hawkins Drawdown

Early marriage leads to more children.

Early Marriage and Climate Change

Finally, Christina Wauk and Amanda Braga state, “Early marriage of girls, because of drought and extreme weather, forces them to stay in existing conditions of poverty, vulnerability and marginalization that perpetuates low-skill development. Climate change increases peoples’ vulnerability to the shocks of weather related disaster and exuberant existing gender inequalities that obstruct opportunities for a girl’s social and economic empowerment.”

Educating and family planning for girls in lower socio-economic countries is one of the many solutions we need to look at in alleviating future climate destruction!

Educating girls and climate change


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Climate Change in The last Millennium: The little Ice Age

Beginning around 1750 the natural temperature record has been altered by the industrial revolution.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 12, 2018—-The Little Ice Age was the coldest period in historic times. It occurred from the 14th to the 19th centuries and was a global event. The coldest temperatures generally occurred during what is known as the Maunder Minimum around 1680. Beginning around 1750 the natural temperature record has been altered by the industrial revolution. However, the evidence is clear that the cold lasted until the late 1800s.

Little ice age

Little Ice Age

The effects of the cooler weather were substantially different from place to place. In the drier regions of the planet the cooling mainly resulted in drought of differing intensity. Large areas of Asia and Africa dried substantially. Changes in the Asian monsoons affected large populations. Some areas suffered drought and other areas unusually heavy rains. Extensive snow in the Himalayas resulted in massive flooding of some of the major rivers

Areas bordering the North Atlantic Ocean experienced drastic cooling. Mountain glaciers expanded, and in some cases, reached their maximum extent since the end of the Pleistocene glaciation. Three major periods of expansion of glaciers took place in the years 1600-1650, 1810-1820, and 1850-1860.

It was cold in Europe also. Alpine glaciers grew in size and advanced to lower elevations. The Thames River in England froze over many times. The inhabitants of the European region suffered tremendously. The Fourteenth Century was the worst. In Britain many villages ceased to exist. On the continent during the three-year period of 1315 to 1317, what is often referred to as The Great European Famine, took place. In some areas in eastern Europe up to half of the population perished from famine. The famine is believed to be due to the cooler weather and frequent and heavy precipitation. These two weather conditions greatly reduced the yield of food crops.

Greenland Settlements and the Little Ice Age

The little ice age marked the end of the Norse settlements in Greenland that had begun in the tenth century. In fact, in 1492 the Pope complained that none of his bishops had visited the Greenland outpost for 80 years. He was not aware that the settlements were already gone. Ice in the northern seas prevented traffic from reaching Greenland. In 1540 a voyager reported seeing signs of the settlements but no signs of life. The settlers had perished. After flourishing for more 400 years the colonies disappeared about 1410 A.D. Excavations show that at first the soil permitted burying bodies at considerable depth. Later graves became progressively shallower. The last survivor is believed to have perished in the middle of the fifteenth century. A Danish archaeological expedition to the sites in 1921 found evidence that deteriorating climate must have played a role in the population’s demise. Some graves were in permafrost that had formed since the burial. Tree roots entangled in the coffins showed the graves were not originally in frozen ground. It also showed the permafrost had moved progressively higher. Examination of skeletons indicate there was not enough food. Most remains were deformed or dwarfed. There was clear evidence of rickets. All the evidence points to a climate that grew progressively cooler, leading eventually to the settler’s isolation and extinction. By 1516 the settlements had practically been forgotten.

North American Colonies in the Little Ice Age

The colonies in eastern United States suffered from the cold of the Little Ice Age. The soldiers of the American Revolution suffered in the cold weather. Sometimes the unusual ice served as a useful tool. British troops, for example, slid their canon across the frozen river from Manhattan to Staten Island.

The year 1816 is known as “the year without a summer.” The year began with excessively low temperatures across much of the eastern seaboard. When spring came, the weather was cool, but not excessively so. In May, however, the temperatures plunged. In New England, frost occurred in every month of the year. In Indiana there was snow or sleet for 17 days in May. This killed off seedlings before they had a chance to grow. The cold weather continued in June, when snow again fell, devastating any remaining budding crops. No crops grew north of a line between the Ohio and Potomac rivers, and returns were scanty south of this line. In the pioneer areas of Indiana and Illinois settlers had to rely on fishing and hunting for food. Reports suggest that raccoons, groundhogs, and the easily trapped passenger pigeons were a major source of food. The settlers also collected many edible wild plants that proved hardier than cultivated crops.


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Boyan Slat and the Ocean Clean Up Project

Boyan Slat

Slat looks over his System 001.

“The System 001 is an unmanned system moving with the currents.”

By Linn Smith

October 7, 2018—–If you’re not following Boyan Slat’s attempt to cleanup the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), you should be! This young man put his heart and soul into this project and is currently headed for the great patch of garbage floating in the ocean.

#Boyan Slat

Garbage Patch swirls with the currents.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Slat is the poster child of sustainable innovation for his generation, putting his energy towards cleaning up the environmental mess past generations have created! According to some critics he may not have the perfect solution—but, who else is in the middle of the ocean right now trying?? Hummm, no one! And the mess has been floating and growing for years! Scientists have estimated the Garbage Patch would take 79,000 years to break down and dissolve in the ocean! With the models created by Slat, his system could clean up 50% of the mess by 2025! The majority of the Garbage Patch is large debris. Removing these floating pieces of plastic will prevent the breaking down into microplastics that wildlife and fish can mistake for food and eventually entering the food we eat.

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat is 24 years old and the garbage patch is almost as old as he is. By the time it was discovered in 1997, it was already massive. At 16, this Nederland’s born youth went on a diving trip to Greece. “There were more plastic bags than fish,” he told MNN a few years back. “That was the moment I realized it was a huge issue and that environmental issues are really the biggest problems my generation will face.”

Instead of accepting the floating plastic as an adult problem that needs an adult solution, he went back to his high school and went to work solving the problem. Back in his high school classroom he invented a multilevel trawl with centrifugal forces that separated the plastic from the plankton and ocean life.

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

System 001

“The System 001 is an unmanned system moving with the currents, looking like a u-shaped pipeline floating on top of the current. Beneath the pipeline is a 10 ft skirt which traps the plastic caught in the current, protecting sea life because it is solid and not a net.” Slat states, “Our systems fully rely on natural ocean currents and do not require an external energy source to catch and concentrate the plastic. All electronics used, such as lights, will be solar powered.

#theoceancleanup

Big Solutions for the ocean cleanup

Recycling the Ocean Plastic

What will happen to the plastic when it’s back on shore? Slat says he wants to turn it into The Ocean Cleanup brand of merchandise, selling it to support the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He states, “By producing merchandise that is not a single use item that might end up back in the ocean, it will reduce the chance of it ending up back in the ocean by 99%.”

Slat also humbly states, “Big problems require big solutions, if anyone has any better ideas, we’d love to know!”

This young man has the concentrated and innovative talent our planet needs!

You can follow the project currently underway on Facebook ((https://www.facebook.com/boyanslat) or see an up-to-date timeline on his site, The Ocean Clean Up, https://www.theoceancleanup.com/system001/. Also, you can find his TED talk on YouTube or follow on Instagram.

The Ocean Clean Up


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The Law of the River: Over Allotment of the Colorado

The Colorado River

The Colorado River is over allocated.

“The Colorado River has been over allocated from the beginning.”

By Linn Smith
September 11, 2018—-The Law of the River is a Colorado River Compact formed in 1922. It’s an agreement between 7 states in the Colorado River Basin. The upper division is Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming and the Lower Basin states are Arizona, Nevada and California. All management of the river is called the “Law of the River.”

High Precipitation in 1922

Tree rings have been studied from 1922 which show that the flow of the Colorado River during the original signing was at an all time high. The 3 years around the establishment of water rights were very wet years with high precipitation. Therein lies part of the problem of over allotment of the Colorado River. The river was at peak flow in 1922, allowing more than enough water for all.

The colorado river

Actions we can take to help preserve the Colorado River.

The Law of the River

The Law of the River declares the upper basin states should not deplete the flow of the river below 7,500,00 acre ft. (An acre foot would be equivalent to an acre of land being flooded with 1 foot depth of water) during any 10 consecutive years. But rainfall was at an all time high when the Law of the River pact was signed. With the rainfall patterns of 1922, this would have allowed for a roughly equal flow between the upper and lower basins and enabled widespread irrigation of the arid southwest to grow fruits, and vegetables, as it continually had done with very few problems in the 20th century.

Water depletion

Irrigation in the Southwest U.S.

The Colorado River and Population Growth

Today the population of states along the Colorado River has increased, requiring greater demand on the river, which has decreased, causing many legal water disputes. Over 40 million people, 18 million in lower basin states, depend on the Colorado river for water and the power it creates. Hoover Dam generates, on average, about 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power each year for use in Nevada, Arizona, and California – enough to serve 1.3 million people! Without the Colorado River and the power it generates, millions of people would have a greater dependency on fossil fuels.

Since the development of the river compact, California has been using the surplus water that other states haven’t used in the lower basin. But with population growth both Arizona and Nevada are claiming their water allotments, forcing California to resort to greater water conservation policies. Growth in the other lower basin states will not allow the surplus flow to California.
(see, https://planetearth5.com/2018/08/26/irrigation-and-water-depletion-in-the-southwest-united-states/)

The Colorado river

Farmers in the Southwest are left little water for irrigation.

!

The Drought in the Southwest

The Colorado River has been over allocated from the beginning and the flows were overestimated. The estimation was 17 million acre ft a year, but the flow has been much less for most of the years since the signing of the compact. Forecasts state that the Colorado river will only carry about 43% of the allotted water into Lake Powell in the future, as the drought in the Southwest has been taking place for the past 18 years, which some say is a permanent shift at least in part due to global warming.

Conserving the Colorado River

Kim Mitchell of Western Resource Advocates states, “People in the seven S.W. states must learn to live with less water. Unless we take decisive proactive steps now, farmers, cities, business and environment all will lose water….they must understand that more water is being pulled out of the river than is being replaced. The problem is compounded by a long-term drought and climate change.” U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Aug 15, 2018, anticipates declaration shortage in Sept 2019 that would trigger reduced water releases from federal reservoirs in the lower basin states.

Recently the Upper Basin states accused CAP, Central Arizona Project, of manipulating its share of water to keep Lake Mead low enough that the upper basin is required to send extra water, but high enough to avoid mandatory cutbacks in lower basin consumption. The water wars will continue!

Adoption of additional water conservation measures now is the best approach to protect the Colorado River as continued long-term solutions are developed.

Depletion of the Colorado River

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Climate Change over the last Millennium: The Medieval Warm Period

Global warming

Climate Change in the last 1000 years.

“A great variety of information and data indicate there were major fluctuations in the global climate during the last 1000 years.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

September 3, 2018—-A great variety of information and data indicate there were major fluctuations in the global climate during the last 1000 years. There were periods when it was warmer than now and others when it was colder. Fluctuating temperatures brought significant changes in the global environment.

The Medieval Warm Period or Little Climatic Optimum

One distinctive climatic period during this time is what is known as the Medieval Warm period or Little Climatic Optimum. The period extended from about 950 to 1250 AD. This time was unusually warm for the millennium and was warmer even by present global temperatures. With the increase in temperature came increased precipitation in many areas. This increased lake levels. The Caspian Sea rose by some 18 meters (59 feet).

The medieval warm period was a global phenomenon. Perhaps the best evidence of this was that sea level rose. This had a widespread impact on the human population at the time. The rise in sea level forced the migration of large numbers of people away from the coast and into areas already occupied. This resulted in clashes between different groups and cultures. There was an expansion of Eskimo cultures around the arctic. Central Asian cultures also expanded into areas they had not previously occupied.

Climate Change

Global Warming over time.

Climate of the Western Arctic Basin

Contemporary literature from Iceland has aided in reconstructing of one of the most complete sequences of the Arctic Basin climate over the last thousand years. There is much data for Iceland from the following sources:

900-1590: information from Icelandic sagas about times of severe weather and related famine.
1591-1780: historical records combined with incomplete drift ice data.
1781-1845: a reconstruction of weather conditions as derived from the relative severity and frequency of drift ice near Iceland.
1846 to present: actual meteorological instruments.

Climate Change

The earth’s overall temperatures are increasing every year.

Iceland and Greenland’s Changing Climate

The Vikings settled Iceland in the ninth century. Evidence of agriculture and other activities indicate the climate that existed at the time. When the Vikings settled Greenland, it was quite warm, as Eric the Red discovered in Greenland in 982 A.D. In 984 A.D. the Norse founded the colony of Osterbygd on Greenland. While an icy land, it supported enough vegetation (dwarf willow, birch, bush berries, pasture land) for settlement.

The settlers brought cattle and sheep that not only survived but thrived for a considerable period. They established two colonies and began to farm. The outposts thrived and regular communications existed with Iceland. Between 1250 and 1450 AD climate deteriorated over wide areas. Iceland’s population declined. Grains that grew there in the tenth century would no longer grow. Greenland became isolated from outside contact. Extensive drift ice prevented ships from reaching the settlements.

Global Greenhouse Gases

Climate Change

Europe’s Changing Climate

In Europe storminess resulted in the formation of the Zuider Zee and the excessively wet, damp conditions led to a high incidence of the disease St. Anthony’s Fire (ergotism.). Chronicles contain many references to weather conditions of the time, including the Arctic Basin. William of Malmsbury, writing in 1125 about the Gloucester region of England stated “the area exhibits a greater number of vineyards than any other county in England, yielding abundant crops of superior quality….they may also bear comparison with the growths of France.” What is significant about this statement is that by the fifteenth century there was no wine industry in England. The most probable reason is a cooling of the climate since the twelfth century.

Climate Changed in the Interior of North America

There is ample evidence that the warmer conditions affected continental areas as well. Research shows that Indians in the Great Plains of the United States migrated as a result of changes in precipitation. A study by archaeologists and climatologists show for example, that Indians of the Mill Creek culture of Iowa deserted a thriving community about 1200 A.D. Precipitation declined rapidly at the time.

The abandonment of settlements in the southwest United States probably was due to drought. The historic settlements of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde indicate that they supported large and prosperous communities. By 1300 A.D., these settlements were deserted.

Reasons other than drought certainly may account for the abandonment. However, tree-ring analysis shows that between 1276 A.D. and 1299 A.D, practically no rain fell in these areas.

Climate Change


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Irrigation and Water Depletion in the Southwest United States

Water depletion

Irrigation in the Southwest U.S.

“We need to work together to feed the world, but we also need to work together to save and monitor our water resources.”

By Linn Smith

August 26, 2018—- On the farmland of my youth in the Midwest, my brothers and I spent much time baling hay for our cattle, but water was plentiful and plants thrived with no irrigation. Cows were in green pastures in the summertime and in winter months we fed hay when grasses died.

Farming in the Southwest

When traveling to southern New Mexico and southern Arizona, I often see hay and cotton fields in the middle of the desert and semi arid terrain. It seems an unlikely place to grow crops that have high water needs! 

Today the Southwest is water-stressed with many lawsuits taking place, both privately and between states, over water rights. The projection is that reduced precipitation by mid-century will result in reduced runoff into the water basins that feed irrigated fields.

I recently heard a local resident from Arizona say that Saudi Arabia was buying land in Arizona and California’s arid landscape for growing hay and shipping it back to their country. The export of hay (grasses grown for feeding animals) is booming in the U. S., with the amount of hay leaving the west coast ports increasing yearly. In 2017, the total exports of alfalfa and other hay reached 4.2 million metric tons and is continuing to grow.

The fact that hay and cotton are being exported is healthy for our economy, as many U.S. farmers are growing and exporting this commodity, mostly from states that require little irrigation for agriculture. The issue is growing crops in the desert Southwest in what is fast becoming an area where water is not replenishing itself in the rivers and reservoirs.

The Colorado river

Farmers in the Southwest are left little water for irrigation.

Depletion of our Water Resources

What is healthy for our aquifers and rivers when they are not replenishing? Doug Kenny, Director of the Western Water Policy Program at University of Colorado, says about potential water shortage. “Right now, it’s the effort to maintain the levels of water stored in the big reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. They’re about half full, which is about as low as they can go before mandatory cuts in water deliveries. It’s a math problem—managing water coming in vs. water going out. So far this century, people have pulled more water out than consistently flows in. That has to change.”

Saudi Arabia and the Southwest

 Most crops will only thrive with irrigation in the arid Southwest.  Saudi Arabia is confronting a major depletion in its aquifers which has brought its wheat and hay production to a halt. They have bought 1,000’s of acres in arid parts of the U.S., Arizona and Southern California (and several other countries), allowing them to take advantage of the U.S. water laws. The Laws of the Colorado River are currently under scrutiny by the Upper and Lower Basin states because of continuing depletion of the river and Lake Mead, which supplies water to the lower Colorado river basin states. Most crops will only thrive with irrigation in the arid Southwest.

The drought of Southwest U.S.

Lake Mead depletion

Southern California: Irrigating Crops vs Urban Use

In Southern California the Metropolitan Water District pays landowners to fallow their land, letting it lay without planting crops so that water is freed up for urban areas. Since 2005, over $200 million has been paid to farmers not to grow crops on this program. This allows water to be directed to Los Angeles and other cities in Southern California.

Has this program enabled corruption and profit from drought conditions? A single recipient, Fisher Ranch, owned by a board member of the operation, has received over $27 million a year since 2005 for leaving his land fallow.

Colorado River

Depletion of water for crop irrigation

The Water Crisis

As I continue to study depleting water conditions in the Western U.S., I realize in 20 years, if not sooner, we are going to be facing a water crisis due to climate change and over allotment of water rights and usage. We need to ask ourselves what changes are necessary today to alleviate the impending crisis.

Water shortage is going to be a complex problem in the future requiring many people to make sacrifices. We need to work together to feed the world, but we also need to work together to save and monitor our water resources. Education and awareness is a place to start.

The Southwest Water Crisis

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Pollinator Prairies and Highways: Feeding the Bees!

Pollinators

Pollinator habitats are necessary for our food sources.

“Pollinators, especially bees, are responsible for producing 1/3 of the food we eat.”

By Linn Smith
August 6, 2018—-In May 2018, Interstate 76, which stretches through the high plains farmland east of Denver, Colorado for about 185 miles, was designated a Pollinator Highway. The Pollinator Highway Project will not only be planted with food for pollinator insects, but also maintain the health of pollinator plants already growing along the highway.

I have traveled this stretch of highway many times and have always wondered at the vastness of the landscape in this sparsely populated part of Colorado. With almost 9000 miles of highway corridors in the state, I-76 is the perfect test area for the Pollinator Program. The program was initiated by Denver’s Butterfly Pavilion because it is a highway that is not only frequented by migrating butterflies, but also has enough space to eventually create a positive change in our environment by providing food for all pollinating insects.

Pollinator insects

Maintaining the health of our pollinator insects.

Definition of a Pollinator

What is a pollinator? According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “A pollinator is any organism that helps with the cross-pollination of plants. They are vital to the survival of most of the world’s ecosystems, with an estimated 70-87% of flowering plants relying on pollinators. Many of these plants are food crops that humans rely upon and most of the others are key members of natural ecosystems. Bottomline: Pollinators are extremely important!”

Pollinators

Pollinator Prairies and highways

Colorado Pollinator Highway

For CDOT, Colorado Dept. of Transportation, this is a great opportunity to begin positive environmental changes using the space along its highways, replenishing and creating habitats for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies, bats, and hummingbirds. This will affect the future food supply of humans, as it’s said that 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat depends on pollinators. CDOT has stated that the pollinator plants along the highway will not affect travel, as the insects will stay in their habitat if it is well maintained.

Colorado will begin this project by planting an 8 mile stretch along I-76 near Julesburg, just over the state line from Nebraska. This test site will allow CDOT to gather data for plans on maintenance and longevity of future pollinator highways in the state. Besides creating habitats for pollinators, the pollinator highways will reduce maintenance in Colorado by reduced mowing. It is a win-win plan for the future.

If the dilemma of pollinator insect die-off is not addressed now, the future of the food we eat and the low prices we pay are in jeopardy. The decline of pollinators is due primarily to land use changes, pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change which can cause insect diseases and loss of habitat. According to CDOT, 30% of the honeybee population dies off yearly (with only a slight increase after die-off each year.) At this rate, the bee population is not sustainable in the long run.

Insect Pollination

Identify Plant Forage for pollinators

Protecting the Pollinator Habitat

The Colorado Department of Transportation will also be working to protect the pollinator habitat as a long-term solution for survival of pollinator insects. CDOT states, “Managing noxious weeds will also be more specialized along the corridor. In fact, we will have a roadside manager for the corridor, who will also oversee the statewide vegetation management program. The pollinator program will promote genetically appropriate plants that support self-sustaining dynamic ecosystems, which are resistant to invasion by non-native or invasive species.”

A variety of plants will be planted that will blossom at different times in the spring, summer and fall, creating food until the insects lie dormant (slow down) for the winter.

Pollinator Prairie

My friend’s well maintained prairie in the Midwest.

Pollinator Prairies

In the Midwest farmers are taking advantage of the CP-42 Pollinator Enhancement (PDF) program which helps and supports farmers that place part of their farmland in pollinator prairie. So far hundreds of thousands of acres have been planted in the CP-42 program.

A friend of mine has planted about 50 acres in pollinator prairie. He maintains it by going through on a regular basis and digging up invasive plants, such as small elm saplings. His land is near the river where the bottom part of the prairie floods several times a year, which hasn’t affected the pollinator plants so far, as they are not underwater for any length of time. He states, ““Once floodplain land is taken out of crop production and returned to natural prairie (pollinator Prairie), it acts as a very good filter in not only cleaning up dirty water ways, but preventing further flooding inland. Our rivers are dirty and prairie grass can act as a filter by allowing the water to run through the grasses.”

pollinator prairie

My friend’s well maintained pollinator prairie grass

Pollinators, especially bees, are responsible for producing 1/3 of the food we eat. What are the foods that need or benefit from pollination? Here are just a few: alfalfa (which can feed our meat and milk sources!), apples, berries, bananas, tomatoes, chocolate (Cocoa Bean trees) and coconut.

Learn how you can help to increase pollinator insects and food sources at: http://www.peopleandpollinators.org. You can also sign up to do volunteer work!”

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Pollinator insects and habitat


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Watering Your Garden with the Olla Clay Pot System

Olla watering

Garden with less water

“The ancient Olla method consists of unglazed, porous clay terracotta pots buried in the ground.”

By Linn Smith

July 24, 2018—–I was sitting in the shade outside a museum in Tucson last winter when a conversation started between my family and another family nearby. The topic? Olla (pronounced “oy-yahs”) pots…a watering system used by the Chinese 2000 years ago!

Why hadn’t I heard of this method? Growing up in the upper Midwest, where the soil is rich and rain plentiful, nothing ever needed watering! Crops thrived in the moist, rich, black soil of our farm and most farmers had never seen an irrigation system.

traditional watering method

Wheel crop irrigation

Irrigation Systems

On my first trip to Colorado, in my early 20’s, we traveled Highway 76 past crops being irrigated by a rolling irrigation system on wheels, which ran over the top of the crops, dispersing water from the above pipes. The Wheel Line system is mobilized through the field by a gasoline engine, spraying water on crops throughout the field. It seemed like an expensive way of farming, both environmentally and economically, depleting the nearby water sources, while battling with ongoing surface water rights.

Olla: Ancient watering system

Olla: use less water

The Olla Watering Method

As complex as the Wheel Line system is, at the other end of the spectrum is the simplest method…Olla pots. The ancient Olla method consists of unglazed, porous clay terracotta pots buried in the ground. The drier the soil the more water is pulled from the pots by roots sucking water through its pores, or by soil moisture tension which is the result of nearby drier soil drawing water out of the pots, allowing for moisture equilibrium between the soil outside and inside the pot.

Olla: make your own

Place putty on inside and outside of pot

Olla watering system

Bury Olla in soil

Making Your Own Olla Pots

You can either buy olla pots or make your own. Here’s one way to make your own:

Put white putty on the inside and outside of an unglazed terracotta pot (the clay pots you usually plant flowers in) to seal the hole in the bottom. Bury the pot all the way up to the rim next to your plants and fill it with water. Put the plant base (which usually comes with the pot) over the top of the pot to prevent evaporation. The roots of the plants nearby will find their way to the pot and attach to it, seeping out the moisture and also, as stated before, equilibrium will allow the drier soil to pull water out through the pot’s pores.

Olla pots

Pour water in the olla pot

The Olla watering system is a great water saver, plus a dependable method of watering the garden if you’re leaving on vacation for a few days!

The Olla Watering System

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