Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Puerto Rico: Rebuilding Sustainably

Renewable Resources

 

“Building sustainably in Puerto Rico can take many different forms.” 

By Linn Smith

October 19, 2017—Even though Puerto Rico is going through a devastating time after the hurricane, it is essential that we not only meet the current needs of the people, but also think about its future….rebuilding sustainably. Areas devastated by wind and flooding must not only think about immediate needs, but consider the future way climate change may threaten vulnerable coastal areas. 

There is an agreement among scientists that our warming climate is producing larger, more aggressive hurricanes, and rising oceans are leading to stronger storm surges, destroying and flooding inland areas.

Puerto Rico: Sources of Energy

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Puerto Rico has some renewable solar, wind, hydropower and biomass resources, but relies primarily on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, importing mostly from the U.S.

In 2016, Puerto Ricans paid more for their power than people in any other state except Hawaii, with 47% of electricity coming from petroleum, 34% from natural gas, 17% from coal and only 2% from renewable energy.

The Future of Energy in Puerto Rico

Now is the time to make decisions about Puerto Rico’s future energy needs. How will Puerto Rico get its power in the future? PREPA, the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Company, Puerto Rico’s only utility company, is mismanaged and highly in need of upgrading according to some sources. According to http://www.commondreams.org, it would be a waste to pour more money into this system. Instead, we need to invest funds into local renewables and energy efficient transportation, such as streetcars and light rail trains. 

Richard Heinberg in the article “Disaster in Puerto Rico” stated, “This is a chance to build back sustainably. People tend to maintain their status quo as long as it’s viable, but when in dire straits, they’re more likely to listen and when denial is no longer possible, people are more likely to face reality.”

Eigg renewables

Eigg uses 99% Renewable Energy

Eigg, Scottland: 99% Renewable

According to an article by David Nield, March 2017, http://www.sciencealert.com, researchers from around our planet are visiting the tiny, Scottish island of Eigg, which is using wind, solar and hydo to obtain the island’s power. This system, owned and operated by the island’s residents, has been using sustainable energy since 2009. Eigg Electric uses a combination of sustainable resources to ensure there is always energy. When back-up energy is needed, it’s supplied by several diesel generators with cables linking all the sources of energy together. Renewable energy is used 95% of the time and excess energy is stored in a bank of 100 batteries. When these batteries are full, electric heaters automatically switch on in the church and community hall so nothing is wasted. Eigg’s population has doubled since this system has been in place, but the system is still meeting the needs of the residents. The drawback is that citizens are limited to the amount of power they can use daily from the public utilities
.
Ta’u, a small island in Samoa, is also changing from diesel to renewables. Today it’s powered by 5,000 Solar City solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpack battery storage units. The Powerpack is a massive battery, 16 Powerwall battery pods encased in a weatherproof box, that can store electricity during the day when supply is abundant and discharge it when demand goes up after the sun goes down. This system provides the island with about 99% of its needs.

Tesla solar project in Hawaii.

Tesla and the Powerpack Battery

Tesla has also built a huge solar energy plant on the island of Kauai, one of Hawaii’s main islands. This project will reduce fossil fuel by 1.6 million gallons per year. The island signed a 20 year contract with Tesla to buy solar generated electricity from solar panels installed on the island for 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The average price of electricity in Hawaii is 37.34 cents per kwh, the highest rate in the nation. Kauai is the first major solar/storage project for Tesla. Tesla states, “We will work with energy providers around the world seeking to overcome barriers in the way of building a sustainable, renewable energy grid of their own.”

Tesla is also in the process of shipping battery packs to Puerto Rico, but details of the project have not yet been made available. Building sustainably in Puerto Rico can take many different forms and accepting help from Tesla could be a starter.

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Puerto Rico: Build Sustainably

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Conventional, Hybrid and Electrical Vehicles: What’s the Difference?

hybrid cars

Hybrid cars are better for our environmentl

“Things are slowly changing and, as our power grid across the U.S. changes, so will the energy available to the cars.”

By Linn Smith

September 6, 2017—-I drive a hybrid car and have been asked many times if I have to put gas in it. The answer is yes. The term, hybrid, has gotten more complicated in the past several years, as now there are hybrid gas-electric no plug-ins, gas-electric plug-ins and all electric vehicles. Conventional cars, which burn gas and diesel, release toxic fumes into our atmosphere, exacerbating illnesses such as asthma.
Though hybrids may still leave a carbon footprint in the manufacturing process, and with the source of electricity used to energize the electric engine, they still have a future of burning clean. As solar replaces the conventional sources of power in the production of these vehicles and clean energy is produced for our power plants, the carbon footprint decreases.

Hybrid cars

Hybrid vs Electric

Types of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Here is the breakdown in types of hybrids and electrical cars:

1. Conventional Vehicles: Use gas or diesel fuel.

2. Hybrid no plug-in vehicles: A hybrid is a car that draws energy from 2 or more sources. These cars have a regular combustion engine and battery just like a conventional car, but they also have an electric motor and battery. They are never plugged in to outlets. According to itstillruns.com, “The Prius uses an advanced charging system that allows the battery to tap into power from the Prius’ gasoline engine while using kinetic force from braking to generate additional electricity.” The electrical engine is powered by the gas engine, plus the braking system, and kicks in when driving slowly or idling, which makes it fuel efficient and reduces emissions. These cars aren’t considered electric cars, as they rely on gas for their energy. I average about 48 mpg with mine.

3. Plug-in hybrids: These cars are considered electric hybrid cars, as they rely on a conventional outlet for power plus gas. They combine a gas engine with an electric motor and a plugin rechargeable battery. They can be plugged in to a regular 12 volt outlet, allowing then to drive miles on the energy from that outlet. When the electric battery is depleted then the conventional engine kicks in, operating on gas.

Tesla Model X

Tesla All Electric cars

4. All Electric vehicles: The batteries of these cars are charged using grid electricity. They can use a 12 volt outlet or a charging unit, like the units Tesla has installed across the U.S. They are powered entirely by electricity. The gasoline engine is replaced by an electric motor which gets its power from a controller which is powered by the rechargeable battery. The controller takes in 300 volts DC and converts it into a maximum of 240 volts AC to send to the motor.

The Environmental Impact of Cars

Many people will argue that electric cars are beneficial to the environment only if the electrical source is from renewable energy. This is true, but things are slowly changing and, as our power grid across the U.S. changes, so will the energy available to the cars. Keep fossil fuels in the ground!

Hybrids and Electric Cars

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The Carbon Footprint of Air Conditioners

“The world’s supply of A/C units could increase from about 900 million in 2015 to roughly 1.6 billion by 2030.”

By Linn Smith

August 20, 2017—-If solar airplanes can fly, then maybe it’s time we look at solar for our air conditioning. According to a 2016 study at Berkeley National Laboratory, nations with emerging economies and spiking populations, including heavily populated India, are seeing air conditioner sales grow 10 to 15 percent a year.

What does the increase in air conditioning mean for our warming planet? The world’s supply of A/C units could increase from about 900 million in 2015 to roughly 1.6 billion by 2030. The Berkeley study says new technologies must take the place of hydroflourocarbons, (HFCs), found in most air conditioners. HFCs are growing rapidly in our atmosphere with a potential to increase the greenhouse effect faster than carbon dioxide, because they trap heat in our atmosphere at levels 1000 times greater than CO2.

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Rwanda Climate Conference

In 2016, 200 nations gathered for the United Nations summit meeting on climate change. Negotiators created a deal to ban the use of HFCs in air conditioners and refrigerators, with finalization at the Kigali, Rwanda climate conference a few months later. 170 countries successfully negotiated an amendment to the Montreal protocol treaty to get rid of 90% of the HFCs. Developed counties will begin phasing out HFCs in 2019, China in 2024, and India and other counties in 2028.

Nearly all HFCs are made by a few giant western chemical companies, including Flame Guard USA in Illinois, GMC Aircon in South Africa, and OB-1 Air Analyses, Inc. in California.

building green

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

Reducing HFCs

The search is on for clean technologies to take the place of HFCs. In Australia, the Solar Hybrid Air Conditioner is offered by the company, EcoWorld. EcoWorld claims you can stay cool without the huge energy bill. This unit costs about $2700AU or $2000 U.S. dollars. You can see it at http://www.ecoworld.com.

They state:

1. Hands down this is the cheapest-to-run 3.5kW Split System Air Conditioner you can buy.
2. Stay Cool or Warm without the huge energy bills. Use it more often without regrets.
3. Pays for itself, in energy savings alone, within 7 months of running time.
4. Runs automatically between both Solar DC Power and 240V AC Mains.
5. 12000 BTU Performance without costing the earth.
6. As the sun goes down it transitions over to the mains power supply.
7. Comes with a 6 Year Australian Warranty when installed by a certified air conditioner installer.
8. Rated to cool or heat around 30-40 square meters.
9. Filters pollen particles from the air and can also dehumidify your space.
10. Helps to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions back at the power station.
11. Highly efficient and feature packed 3.5kW split system inverter air conditioner.
12. Uses 1kW of solar panels (typically 4 x 250W panels in series).
13. When running together with the solar panels it uses as little as 30W of 240V AC mains power which is virtually nothing compared to standard air conditioners.

Can we wait until 2019, 2024 or 2028 to cut HFCs? Will it be too late? Now is the time to take a step towards saving our planet! New technologies must replace fossil fuels and chemicals, such as HFCs, that contaminate our atmosphere!

Reduce HFCs in our atmosphere.

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A Positive Environmental Impact: Recycling Steel

recycle steel

Recycling steel will make a positive impact on our environment.

“If our government doesn’t support clean technology, then we need to clean up our own back yards to counteract this lack of environmental support.”

By Linn Smith

July 27, 2017—-In June, Acosta mining company opened the first new mine in Pennsylvania in many years, stating that 2/3 of the coal mined would be used in steel production. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “It remains to be seen to what extent the coal industry can rebound……the industry will continue to contend with cheap natural gas and clean energy.” Not a mile from the Acosta Mine, clean energy is found! Dozens of wind turbines line the ridges!

Can we produce steel without coal? According to http://www.letstalkaaboutcoal.co.nz, “Making Steel Without Coal”, the answer is no, not at the scale we need at the present time. We produce about 1.6 billion tons of steel worldwide each year. Half of this is produced in China.

To produce 1 ton of steel, .8 tons of coal is used, emitting 2.1 tons of CO2 into our atmosphere. Producing steel and iron accounts for approximately 6.7% of CO2 emissions worldwide. This is a major contributor to climate change!

Coal and steel

Steel making contributes to climate change.

Making Steel

In New Zealand ironsand, a type of sand which has a heavy concentration of various metals, is used instead of coal to produce steel, and New Zealanders have improved on their steel plants by using by-product heat, a method of using the waste heat from steel production. This use of waste heat lessens the contaminates that are put into our atmosphere. Some ironsand is exported to other countries for steel production, but the amount available is not significant.

The most common method of steel production uses coke, a bi-product of coal. The average blast furnace used to make steel needs 800kg of coal to produce a ton of steel! Recycling steel for new products uses 50 times less coal! The average electric arc furnace (used in recycling steel) uses about 16kg of coal. We can reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere by recycling steel products that are no longer used. If our government doesn’t support clean technology, then we need to clean up our own back yards to counteract this lack of environmental support. We, as individuals, can make a conscious effort to recycle, not only packaging materials, but steel.

steel and coal

Making steel causes pollution, contributing to global warming.

Any Grade of Steel can be Recycled

Steel is the most recycled material on the planet. According to Wikipedia, “Any grade of steel can be recycled to top quality new metal, with no ‘downgrading’ from prime to lower quality materials as steel is recycled repeatedly. 42% of crude steel produced is recycled material.”
You can recycle many things that may have seen better days, such as bikes, broken toasters, and cars or car parts.

By recycling steel, you are doing your part to reduce the need for new mined minerals. In fact, two of every three tons of new steel comes from steel scrap.

Recycle Steel: How You Can Help!

The American Iron and Steel Institute has put together some interesting facts about steel recycling. Here are a few of them:
1. Millions of tons of iron and steel are diverted from the waste stream to the recycling stream due to steel’s magnetic properties that make it the easiest material to separate from the solid waste stream.
2. Almost 69 percent of all steel is recycled in North America each year – more than paper, aluminum, plastic & glass combined. North America’s average recycling rate has been in excess of 60 percent since 1970.
3. More than 80 million tons of steel are recycled each year in North America.
4. For every ton of steel recycled, 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved.
5. Steel products can be recycled repeatedly without loss of strength.
6. Recycling steel saves the equivalent energy to power about 18 million households for a year.
7. When you buy steel, you’re always buying recycled.
8. More than 14 million cars in North America were recycled in 2006.
9. In 2006, the steel industry recycled enough steel from old cars to produce nearly 13.5 million new ones.
10. One scrapped car produces more than four steel utility poles.
11. 95 percent of the steel taken from commercial construction demolition sites was recycled and made into new steel products in 2002.
12. It takes more than 40 trees to build a wood-framed home. A steel-framed home—eight recycled cars.
13. All 99 pounds of steel in the average major appliance can be recycled to make new steel products.
14. Appliance motors are made from steel.
15. Steel comprises approximately 75 percent of all major appliances.

Do your part! Prevent old appliances and steel based products from taking up space in our landfills, where they will still be sitting thousands of years from now!

Recycle Steel


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Global Health Problems Indicate the Need to Limit Population

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

“There are some common symptoms of overpopulation. Widespread human health problems are one of them.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

July 16, 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 still 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.

Overpopulation and violence

Overpopulation can cause world disaster.

Symptoms of Overpopulation

There are some common symptoms of overpopulation. Widespread human health problems are one of them. Among the health problems are undernutrition, dehydration, and declining resistance to disease. At present, in the early 21st Century, global food production is the highest it has ever been. However, the availability of food varies greatly from place to place. Estimates of the number of people on Earth facing food shortages today vary between 800,000 and two billion. Even if the number is that of the lowest estimate it is a significant portion of the total population.

Food shortages can result from a variety of factors. Civil wars can interrupt agriculture and interfere with the distribution of food. There are many places on Earth where this is now taking place. Syria is perhaps the best know case, but the same situation exits in many other places around the globe.

world hunger

Overpopulation depletes resources

Undernutrition is a Worldwide Health Problem

Scientific data shows that the most important factor associated with physical illness (as distinct from mental illness) is undernutrition. Globally, undernutrition is probably the greatest health problem in the world today. At this time it is estimated that more than one billion people suffer some form of undernutrition great enough to be a health problem. This is more than the population of North America and South America combined. It is clear that food production and distribution is not keeping up with demand regionally, if not globally.

Undernutrition does not mean starvation. It means those suffering undernutrition are in some way being physically affected by not getting either enough food or enough healthy food. There are a variety of types of undernutrition based on what is missing in the diet. Dietary deficiencies responsible for undernourishment include iron, iodine, vitamin A, and zinc. The extreme health problem is of course starvation.

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

Geographic Distribution of Undernutrition

The main regions where undernutrition occurs are those regions where subsistence agriculture is the predominate livelihood. This encompasses large areas of Africa and Asia. In Africa a third or more of children under the age of five years undergo growth stunting due to malnutrition. Death by starvation is most prevalent among children. Some specific areas of extensive undernutrition are in Yemen, which is in the midst of a civil war. Estimates indicate at least seven million people are undernourished. In Somalia nearly three million are in danger of severe undernourishment. In Nigeria, as a result of terrorist activity, millions of people are on the verge of starvation. South Sudan has been suffering from a long battle to obtain its freedom from the rest of Sudan and currently from tribal warfare. An estimated million children are severely malnourished with a significant portion facing starvation.

While undernourishment is largely associated with the developing countries it is found to some extent even in the most highly developed countries. The World Bank reported that in 2011 in the United States about five percent of the population was undernourished. The report also concluded that the rate in the United States had remained about the same since 1992.

Undernutrition in Children

Data for the period 2010-2016 indicates a global rate of undernutrition in children of about 23%. In parts of Africa and South Asia the rate is over 30%. 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 perhaps as many as a fourth of all children. Undernourishment of a fetus and children up to the age of two can lead to a lifetime of physical and/or mental development. A large majority of these children live in developing countries.

The physical symptoms of severe undernourishment, or malnutrition, include reduce body weight or height, swollen stomach or legs, and limited energy. The most common form of malnutrition in children is kwashiorkor. It results from lack of protein and manifests itself in distended stomachs. Malnutrition is the primary cause of nearly a third of early childhood deaths.

Options to Overpopulation

There is no simple answer to the tragic developments now taking place on Planet Earth. One part of the answer is to slow, stop, or reverse population growth. Limiting population growth is an alternative to the dominant economic and political policy based on economic growth that dominates the world today. It is a viable option that would be healthy for both the human population and the planet. This part of the solution requires providing family planning to those that want it and do not now have access to it. It could be implemented almost immediately and make a difference in population growth fairly quickly. Certainly this would make an impact much faster than some other options. This would also be beneficial to women’s health. The problem is that Wall Street and many organized religions thrive on population growth and oppose any change in this direction!

Overpopulations and Solutions


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Momentum for Change: Mapping for Rights

MappingForRights

Protecting our Rainforest!

“MappingForRights can improve how forests are protected and governed, making it easier to enforce illegal activities when needed.”

By Linn Smith
July 6, 2017—Momentum for Change is headed by the Climate Change branch of the United Nations. Its goal is to shine a light on the global activities which are moving the world toward a low-carbon future. It recognizes innovative solutions that address climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges. The solutions are called Lighthouse Activities. If you are leading a project with this objective you can apply to enter the yearly Momentum for Change Awards.

ForestLink

MappingForRights employs many women.

MappingForRights

MappingForRights is one of the winners for 2016. Specific attention is given to indigenous women, allowing them to be involved in this project. The system is based on enabling communities to map and monitor their lands through low-cost technologies, providing an online interactive map. It’s a project of the Rainforest Foundation UK and its partners in the Congo Basin.

MappingForRights puts indigenous communities on the map digitally, showing traditional lands and resources that are used to claim land rights. It also challenges harmful projects such as logging, by making all data available online, and by advocating for legal reforms. It provides communities with accurate printed maps of their lands, and allows indigenous community leaders to easily access this accurate geographical information about community lands, showing the allocation of the forests around their villages.

ForestLink

Forest Link helps monitor and protect our rainforest.

ForestLink

In 2015, the project launched ForestLink to monitor remote communities and to capture and transmit alerts on illegal logging anywhere in the world using a satellite. ForestLink shows an accurate report of illegal logging by timber or palm oil companies. The illegal activity can be collected using a tablet computer or smartphone and then transmitted to an online map via a satellite modem transmitter in as little as 20 seconds, costing about the same as a text message. This real-time monitoring of the forest transforms the way forest illegalities are documented and laws enforced, transmitting the location which leads to more targeted and effective forest protection.

Mapping for Rights

Protecting our rainforest in the Congo.

Rights of Indigenous People

MappingForRights secures the rights of the indigenous people, shifting responsibility to the local indigenous communities. The information gathered is stored in a central geographical database where it can be assessed and analyzed by experts or automatically re-broadcast for in-field verification. The reports can be searched for data related to the reports, such as name of companies involved in logging or type of infraction.

By 2017 it is expected that more than 700 communities in the Congo Basin will have mapped their lands through the MappingForRights program, mapping up to 6 million hectares (over 23,000 sq. miles) of forest land.

Protecting Our Rainforest

There is evidence that securing community rights to land and resources is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty, halt deforestation and reduce the harmful effects of climate change. This system can improve how forests are protected and governed, making it easier to enforce illegal activities when needed.

MappingForRights


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The Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund: Making a Difference

Sierra Club

Supporting our environment.

“A key part of the Sierra Club’s mission is to protect the quality of the human and natural environment.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

June 28, 2017—–Since President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement it has become more urgent for people of this country to become climate activists. There are many ways of supporting action to reduce global warming and the related problems. One of these is becoming a member of an active non-government organization (NGO). This adds your voice to those of many others and contributes to the power of the NGO. Following are two such organizations. I selected these two out of many for the reason that they both are celebrating anniversaries covering many decades. Both have responded strongly to President Trump’s actions to eliminate pollution controls in this country.

Sierra Club

May 28th of this year marked the 125th anniversary of the group. The Sierra club was founded by John Muir in 1892. The first Sierra Club Bulletin was published in 1893. Initially the organization was focused on protecting the mountains of California from wanton destruction by logging and mining. Soon the group became active in the establishment of our national parks. During the 1960’s the federal government was proposing the building of a series of dams on the Colorado River system. The Sierra Club was a leader in the fight to leave the river system in as natural state as possible.
I remember attending a water resources conference in one of the western states and watching the heated debate over the proposed plan. The federal plan was defeated and the government came down hard on the Sierra Club for its part in blocking the plan.

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

In 2015, the Sierra Club was rated one of the top 15 most influential brands in Washington, DC. This was based on characteristics of integrity, influence, and respect by policy makers. The Sierra Club was the only environmental organization to make this list. It is now the largest and perhaps best known environmental organization with nearly three million members.

A key part of the Sierra Club’s mission is to protect the quality of the human and natural environment. It is also engaged in educating people on the nature of and problems in the natural environment. It has been actively involved in a number of campaigns related to its mission. Among them are the Beyond Oil and Beyond Natural Gas campaigns. On June 5th of this year, the Sierra Club and other groups filed a law suit against the Trump version of the EPA for weakening protections from oil and gas pollution.
Contact information for the Sierra Club:
http://www.SierraClub.org
Address: 2101 Webster Street, Suite 1300, Oakland CA 94612
Phone: 415-977-5500

Environmental Defense Fund

A fund for a clean environment.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the fund. In 1967 a small group of men gathered at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island to incorporate the fund. It was formed to challenge the use of the pesticide, DDT. Evidence was increasing that the widespread use of DDT was killing many species of birds. This included large birds of prey such as eagles, osprey and pelicans.

Brown Pelicans had all but disappeared on the coast of North Carolina along with much of America’s coastline. After six years of providing evidence of the hazard of DDT, William Ruckleshaus, then head of the Environmental Protection Agency, banned the use of DDT in the United States. Some other countries have now also eliminated the use of it, but it is still widely used worldwide and is still manufactured in the United States.

Environmental Defense fund

EDF: for a clean environment.

When I lived in Khartoum, Sudan, DDT was routinely sprayed in the gutters along the streets to keep down mosquitoes, but on the plus side, I am happy to report that now when I go to Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina I often see large flocks of brown Pelicans soaring overhead or skimming the waves.
Today the EDF is working on a variety of projects around the world in climate, ocean fisheries, ecosystems, and human health.
Contact information for the Environmental Defense Fund
http://www.edf.org
Address: 257 Park Avenue South, New York, New York, 10010
Phone: 1-800-684-3322


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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!