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


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Patagonia: An Environmentally Friendly Company

By Linn Smith

“We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation.”

As I was listening to the radio this morning, I heard an interview with the founder of Patagonia sports gear and clothing. I realized that Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, is a phenomenal man! His methods of sustainability and helping Planet Earth have been consistent throughout Patagonia’s almost 50 year existence, with the company’s environmental practices ranging from discouraging people against buying new products when they can fix the old, to sending trucks around the U.S. to fix Patagonia products, thus saving them from being discarded.

As an owner of a Patagonia jacket for many years, I not only realize the hardiness of this product but I now know if the zipper breaks, Patagonia will fix it!

Yvon Chouinard developed an environmentally friendly company because, not only does he make a quality, long lasting product, he witnessed the environmental injustices when Patagonia was new and attempted to create a low carbon footprint as his company developed.

Fighting for our Environment

In an excerpt from Yvon Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing,” he states, “We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation, the slow, then not so slow, disappearance of fish and wildlife. And we saw what was happening closer to home: thousand year-old Sequoias succumbing to L.A. smog, the thinning of life in tide pools and kelp beds, the rampant development of the land along the coast. What we began to read – about global warming, the cutting and burning of tropical forests, the rapid loss of groundwater and topsoil, acid rain, the ruin of rivers and creeks from silting-over dams – reinforced what we saw with our eyes and smelled with our noses during our travels. At the same time, we slowly became aware that uphill battles fought by small, dedicated groups of people to save patches of habitat could yield significant results.”

Environmental Practices of Patagonia

Following are some environmentally friendly practices of Patagonia (from http://www.patagonia.com):

* In 1986, they committed to donate 10% of profits each year to these groups. They later upped the ante to 1% of sales, or 10% of profits, whichever was greater. They have kept to that commitment every year since
* They participate in grassroots efforts to save our planet.
* They make donations to small groups that restore/save the environment.
* In 1988, they initiated their first national environmental campaign on behalf of an alternative master plan to deurbanize the Yosemite Valley. Each year since, they have undertaken a major education campaign on an environmental issue.
* They took an early position against globalization of trade when it meant compromising environmental and labor standards.
* They have argued for dam removal where silting and marginally useful dams compromise fish life.
* They have supported wildlands projects that seek to preserve ecosystems whole and create corridors for wildlife to roam.
* Every eighteen months they hold a “Tools for Activists” conference to teach marketing and publicity skills to some of the groups they work with.
* They have been using recycled-content paper for their catalogs since the mid-eighties.
* They worked with Malden Mills to develop recycled polyester for use in their fleece.
* Their distribution center in Reno, opened in 1996, has achieved a 60% reduction in energy use through solar-tracking skylights and radiant heating; they use recycled content for everything from rebar to carpet to the partitions between urinals. They retrofitted lighting systems in existing stores, and build-outs for new stores became increasingly environmentally friendly.
* They assessed the dyes they used and eliminated colors from the line that required the use of toxic metals and sulfides. Most importantly, since the early nineties, they have made environmental responsibility a key element of everyone’s job.
* They changed to organic cotton because, the “natural” fiber used in most of their sportswear proved to be by far the greatest environmental evildoer of the fibers studied. They learned that 25% of all toxic pesticides used in agriculture was (and is) used in the cultivation of cotton, that the resulting pollution of soil and water was (and is) horrific, and that evidence of damage to the health of fieldworkers is strong, though difficult to prove. Cotton was the biggest villain – and it didn’t have to be. Farmers had grown cotton organically, without pesticides, for thousands of years. Only after World War II did the chemicals originally developed as nerve gases become available for commercial use, to eliminate the need for weeding fields by hand.”
* They continue the search for more environmentally friendly fabrics. They are using more hemp, in some products in combination with recycled polyester.
* They will repair their products.
* Worn Wear is an online program that will sell your old Patagonia gear. They say, “Why extend the life of your gear? Because the best thing we can do for our planet is get more use out of stuff we already own, cutting down on consumption, repairing, sharing and recycling your gear.” During the 2017 fiscal year, they made 50,295 clothing repairs. They also have a trade-in program to swap old gear and Patagonia’s Worn Wear trailer makes stops across the U.S. to repair their products.

Patagonia products may be a bit more expensive but they hold their value in resale. So, for all of the environmentally friendly practices of this company, I want to give a “hats off” to Patagonia for caring about our environment!

Patagonia

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The Salton Sea: The Accidental Lake

Dead fish line the shores because of high salinity and lack of oxygen

“The Salton Sea was man-made…by accident.”

By Linn Smith

The Salton Sea controversy was generated most recently by the signing of the Colorado Drought Contingency Agreement, which was mandated to be signed by all states bordering the Colorado River by the end of March 2019. These states were mandated to water cuts by the agreement in an attempt to prevent further dropping of water levels.

The Hoover Dam

Why the water cuts? If Lake Mead continues dropping and reaches below 1,050 ft, the Hoover Dam will stop generating power to millions of people. If it continues dropping below 895 ft. it will become a “dead pool”, where water can no longer be piped out to states along the river border. It is today only 40% full at approximately 1,082 ft, thus the federal intervention demand on cutbacks of water usage from all Colorado River border states.

The Imperial Irrigation District, the largest holder of water rights in California, was in line to sign the agreement, but only if the Colorado Contingency Agreement granted water to revive the troubled Salton Sea before signing. California signed anyway and the Salton Sea wasn’t included in the agreement.

The Salton Sea

Old structures fall apart on what was once the shoreline.

History of the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea has a lengthy history and has not been sustainable since its beginning. Sustainability is an avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain ecological balance. The Salton Sea doesn’t meet this definition.

The Salton Sea was man-made…by accident. From 1905 to 1907, water poured out of a poorly built system of irrigation ditches meant to divert water from the Colorado River to the dry, arid farm land in Southern California. The water flooded the Salton basin, developing a 400 sq mile lake named the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. Nicknamed the Salton Riviera in the 1950’s, the lake developed into a tourist destination, with resorts popping up around its edge. The Dept.of Fish and Game stocked it with many types of fish and boaters, yacht clubs and celebrities flocked to its shores.

The Salton Sea

The shoreline has been lost to evaporation and lack of water feeding into it.

The Decline of the Salton Sea

The decline of the Salton Sea began around 1976 with tropical storms, rising salinity due to no fresh water supply to counter evaporation, toxic agricultural runoff and a receding shoreline. Housing prices plummeted! Today, the main attraction is a wildlife refuge on the lake’s shore.

With the recent Colorado Drought Contingency agreement, the Imperial Valley District tried to demand its water rights for the declining sea, stating it has become a health hazard with toxic blowing sand due to agricultural run off, dying fish and abandoned buildings on a shoreline that no longer exists. California signed the Contingency Agreement without the support of the Imperial Valley District, its largest holder of water rights. According to the Washington Post, “The Metropolitan Water District, which serves Los Angeles, essentially wrote Imperial out of the drought plan to prevent delays in implementing it by taking on Imperial’s pledged water contributions to Lake Mead.”

In Support of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Was the Salton Sea ever sustainable? We can either support our communities who depend on the Colorado River for electricity and agriculture, or revitalize a dying sea that can’t survive and has little purpose today. With climate change everyone has to give for the greater good and for the survival future generations.

The Salton Sea


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Building Sustainable Communities

Sustainable communities

Live sustainably

“A sustainable community, though varying in structure, promotes sustainable, or green, living for its occupants.”

By Linn Smith
March 3, 2019—I recently read an article by a woman who was trying to live sustainably for several months… walking, riding her bike, growing her own food and dumpster diving when that ran out. I’m all for living sustainably, and I think I do a pretty good job of it, but dumpster diving is not on my list of sustainable living methods. Not that I’m against it, it’s just not for me! Plus, I can’t see spending my entire day walking, biking and looking for food. So, what is the answer? Maybe the hippies of the 70’s had it right when they developed communes. Today the word is…sustainable communities!

Sustainable communities

The Amish live a sustainable life.

The Amish: A Sustainable Community

When I was growing up in the rural Midwest, there was a nearby Amish community. The Amish would open their homes on weekends to the outside community, selling a variety of pies, cakes and many other delicious baked goods and hand made products. We would drive the country roads to get there, passing the men in black hats walking behind the draft horses as they plowed the field. Sometimes we would pass them on the paved roads near our house as they drove their buggies near the edge. The men would make extra money roofing barns in the area, with the stipulation that you must go to their community to pick them up. The Amish are living a sustainable life as they have since arriving since the U.S. in the early 1700s.

I grew up knowing how hard field work was, (but not Amish hard) driving the tractor to bale hay and dragging the fields, milking cows and watching my folks fill the jars with canned goods that went in the basement for the winter. It was sustainable living for that time period.

What is a Sustainable Community?

A sustainable community, though varying in structure, promotes sustainable, or green, living for its occupants by creating a healthy place to live while reducing the carbon footprint and negative environmental impact. It doesn’t have to mean dumpster diving or driving a horse and buggy down the highway, but it is important for individuals, families and communities to move in a sustaining direction.

sustainable communities

Dancing Rabbit is a sustainable community in Missouri.

Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage

Building a sustainable community may take several forms, such as buying land and building sustainable housing with a community greenhouse, gardens, solar and wind power. An example of this is Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage in Missouri which has built their community using the following guidelines:

Green communities

Sustainable living

1. No vehicles are to be used or stored in the village.
2. Fossil fuels for cars, refrigeration, heating and cooling homes, as well heating domestic water aren’t allowed.
3. All gardening must be organic.
4. All power must come from renewable resources.
5. No lumber from outside the local area is allowed unless it is recycled or salvaged.
6. Organic waste and recyclable materials are to be reincorporated into usable products through composting methods.

Extreme? Maybe….. but there may be more palatable solutions.

green communities

Work .towards making your community more sustainable

Making Your Community Sustainable

In the Mother Earth Living article by Carol Venolia, “Come Together: How to Build Sustainable Communities,” Ms. Venolia makes the following points for making an already established community more sustainable:

1. Have a neighborhood potluck to discuss the possibilities of moving towards a green community and exchange information.
2. Establish a community garden in free spaces in the neighborhood such as vacant lots.
3. Install low water drip irrigation systems where needed. This system is the most efficient in water saving techniques.
4. Share produce from already existing backyard gardens
5. Help each other replace high maintenance sod lawns with indigenous plants that will thrive in your climate.
6. Create a neighborhood resource website to encourage sharing of items from tools to cars. Also, list neighborhood members’ different skills that could be traded.
7. Ride share. Create a community e-mail to list who is going on errands that may be shared with another rider.
8. Share time and skills to make the neighborhood homes more energy efficient, lowering energy bills.
9. Make a neighborhood investment in a solar-power.
10. Support local farmers by buying food grown locally.
11. Become familiar with your larger community by knowing local flora and fauna and waterways. The more you learn the more you are apt to participate in making your environment a healthy place by creating sustainable living. “Community is a major component of sustainability. Strong neighborhood ties don’t just make life more pleasant, studies show they also improve safety and increase personal longevity.”

Now is the time to reach out and lend a helping hand to your neighbor and Planet Earth! Be a role model for your children and leave them a healthy place to live.

Sustainable Living


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International Action on Climate Change: Paris, France (COP21) to Katowice, Poland (COP24)

Climate change conference

Climate Change

“It recently became clear that not enough was being done to reduce global warming.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

January 18, 2016—-In 2015, a major conference on climate change was held in Paris. At the Paris climate conference most of the representatives of the nearly 200 countries attending agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At present, global temperatures are set to rise 3°C (5 1/2°F). An agreement was reached to make sure global temperatures did not rise more than 2°Celsius (3.6°F) above temperatures prior to the industrial revolution. It is believed by many scientists that any rise above this level would lead to a self generated further rise in temperature. In turn this would lead to devastating changes in natural events. Much more rapid melting of the global ice and a corresponding rise in sea level would occur and extreme weather events would be more common.

At the Paris conference each country was allowed to present a plan for reducing emissions. None of the plans were enforceable. This was the only way to get most of the countries to submit plans.

Poland and renewable energy

Poland and %100 renewables

The COP24 Conference

It recently became clear that not enough was being done to reduce global warming. Another conference was scheduled, representatives from most of the countries that participated in the Paris conference met earlier in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland. The purpose was to further the outcome of the Paris Conference. This conference is known as the COP24 conference. The goal of this meeting was to establish a set of rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more sharply by the countries that attended the conference. The rules take into account the possibilities and conditions in each individual country.

At the present many, if not most countries, have no way of tracking their emissions. What is needed, of course, is some method of documenting emission levels. However, there have been many objections expressed to documenting emissions. Some of these objections are simply based on available technology. Others are based on a fear of providing national technological data to the rest of the world. There are also many objections from the less developed countries which emit a combined 60% of the emissions, but do not have the technology nor economic resources to monitor them. There was considerable effort by the less developed countries to have the more wealthy countries help finance the data gathering and emission reductions in the poorer countries.

climate change

The exchange of energy is causing rapid arctic melting.

Polish Plans to Reduce Emissions

Poland is a country with extensive coal deposits which are used to produce electrical power. However, the Polish Government has begun a number of projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They launched a clean air program in the summer of 2018. They have been increasing the area of forested land. Forests cover about a third of the country and the area has been increasing. Selected tree species can increase the absorption of CO2.

The American Government Repudiates Climate Change

The United States was a leader in organizing the Paris conference of 2015. However, Mr. Trump has repudiated the Paris Agreement. He has also refused to pay two billion dollars in aid pledged during the Obama administration to support global efforts to reduce climate change. The government of the United States did not send representatives to the Katowice conference.

World cooperation on many items has decreased substantially in the last three years. A big part of the reason is the nationalism (America First) espoused by Mr. Trump. The United States can do better at being a leader in the fight against rising temperatures on our planet!


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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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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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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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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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Great Barrier Reef


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Climate Change Threatening the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Coral bleaching

“The dying of the reefs is attributed to a process known as bleaching.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

July 19, 2018—–Coral reefs are one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. They differ from land ecosystems in that the major populations making up the system are animals rather than plants. Land ecosystems include forests, grasslands and deserts, for example. Coral reefs essentially consist of animal species. The huge variety of animals includes those with backbones and those without. The most prevalent animals are those without backbones such as sponges, snails, clams, scallops and squid. Better known animals are starfish and sea urchins.

Coral reefs are also home to nearly a fourth of all species of fish. The primary food for the animal species is algae. The algae supply the animals with sugars and oxygen in return for shelter and carbon dioxide. These microscopic algae are responsible for the basic color of reefs.

climate change

Bleaching occurs when the reef is under stress.

Rising sea temperatures are resulting in massive destruction of the reefs. They are dying at an unprecedented rate. Massive bleaching events have been largely an event of the last 40 years. Prior to that, bleaching events occurred an average of every 27 years. The first massive bleaching was recorded in 1982-83. There is no record of large scale bleaching prior to that time. Now severe events are averaging about every six years.

Reefs: Coral Bleaching

Rising ocean temperatures affect coral bleaching of the reefs.

Bleaching of the Reefs

The dying of the reefs is attributed to a process known as bleaching. The bleaching is actually the result of the death of the microscopic algae that both color and feed the coral. When sea water gets too warm for prolonged periods of time, corals become stressed, causing them to expel the algae. This expelling of the micro-organisms leaves the coral appearing bleached or whitened.

Coral can survive for a period of weeks without the algae, but with longer periods of time the algae begins to die. A number of factors can cause the algae to die, but only warmer than average water temperature can cause widespread loss. It can occur with sea temperatures being as little as 1°C (2°F) above normal monthly temperatures.

coral bleaching

The Great Barrier Reef and coral bleaching

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef lies off the coast of Australia. In 1981, it was listed as a World Heritage Site. It is the earth’s largest system of coral reefs. It is one of the largest heritage sites covering an area of more than 336,000 square kilometers (130,000 square miles). It consists of nearly 3000 individual reefs of varying size and almost 1000 islands, also of varying size.

At the time of this writing a greatly expanded area of coral bleaching has been detected off the east coast of Australia. Almost all of the reefs from the city of Cairns northward show evidence of bleaching. Since Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, water temperatures are the warmest around the north end of the reef nearest the equator and decrease southward. In all, nearly half of the reef is suffering bleaching.

In the northern reaches, where the water is the warmest, bleaching is affecting some 75 percent of the reefs. Going southward to the region offshore from Cairns the bleaching is affecting an average of 25 to 50 percent of the reef. In recent months water temperatures have been warmer than usual and the area of bleaching is expanding southward.

In 2017, the Great Barrier Reef off Australia experienced its second year in a row of extensive bleaching. At least a third of the reef was affected reducing the variety of species. The risk to the reef is due to both global warming and more frequent episodes of abnormal warming.

Fragments of Hope

Building a healthy coral reef.

The Future of the Reef

In the summer of 2018, the future looks bleak for the reef. Reefs can make a substantial start to recovery from bleaching events in 10 years or longer. The problem is that now the interval between events is getting shorter and there is insufficient time for the corals to recover.

At the current rate of warming, by the middle of the 2030’s, severe bleaching may occur as often as every two years. Within 35 years ocean temperatures may rise enough to essentially prevent reefs from surviving in large areas!

Coral bleaching and the Great Barrier Reef

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Also see similar article on Planet Earth Weekly: https://planetearth5.com/2018/05/13/transplanting-creating-healthier-coral-reefs/


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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

This is an article I published several years ago, but felt it needed reiterating, as it is summer, the time most people drag their mowers out if the garage. Our changing climate requires rethinking our former habits.

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

Lawns of the 16th century

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.

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.

Origination of the Lawn

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

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.

Xeriscaping

Save water with Xeriscaping

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!

Overpopulation and hunger

A depletion of resources.

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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