Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Tesla: What’s New?

Model Y Tesla

Model Y, Tesla’s car of the future.

“Elon Musk is still at the forefront as a founding father of the rapidly changing electric car industry.”

By Linn Smith
November 26, 2017—-When I happen upon a Tesla owner charging their car at a charging station, as I did recently in Trinidad, Colorado, I usually linger long enough to ask the owner his opinion of the Tesla. The responses are always similar, “Best car I ever owned,” or “Most fun car I ever had.” The people who own the Teslas are the best advertisement for these all electric vehicles. Some of the reviews I have read on line are mixed, but testaments “straight from the owner’s mouth,” have been strongly positive!

Tesla: A Review

The Tesla Model S was introduced in 2012. Several revisions in 2017 have improved the driving range per charge to between 270-335 miles. The 40-amp charger of earlier models was replaced in 2017 with a 48-amp charger, which enables a quicker charge and about 30 miles drivable time per hour of charge.

Tesla electric cars

Charging up at a station

What’s New for Tesla in 2018?

*The Model S 100D has a range of 335 miles with the ability to hit 60mph in 2.5 seconds (if you’re into speed).

The Model 3, with a base price of about $35,000, reportedly is, “Adopting a controversial plan to forgo prototype tooling (a test model design) in an effort to accelerate the launch of the Model 3.” Test drivers, journalists and financial analysts were given hands on demonstrations of the car and loved it! 

AllianceBernstein says, “We found the Model 3 to be a compelling offering, and believe it is likely to further galvanize the overall Electric Vehicle category.”

Though Tesla has struggled getting the Model 3 available to the public, it promises to be available soon. Tesla’s target of producing 5,000 Model S’s by the end of December has been pushed to March of 2018.

Tesla

All electric semi will change the way cargo is hauled across country.

The Tesla Semi

In the meantime, Musk has unveiled his electric semi-truck and Roadster sports car this week, and may unveil an SUV, Model Y soon.

Tesla will be the first user of their semi-trucks, hauling cargo between its California factory to one in Nevada. “Tesla will be the first customer for the semi. We will use our own truck to carry cargo in the U.S. between our different facilities. We have an assembly facility in California, the Gigafactory in Nevada, so we will use our trucks to carry things in-between.” This electric semi has a range of 500 miles on one charge, which is approximately the round-trip mileage of 80% of the trucking market. The price of the electric semi would compete with the sale of regular gas semis.

The Model Y (Unofficial name) will be a small SUV, which was going to be built on the Model 3 platform but is now back to the original plan in building it separate in order to bring it to market sooner. It will be a more automated production line, bringing it to market faster, as SUV’s are one of the fastest growing vehicles.

So, Elon Musk is still at the forefront as a founding father of the rapidly changing electric auto industry, with the other car manufacturers scurrying to keep pace with his Tesla company! Tesla has confronted many obstacles, but still moves ahead to combat our warming climate.

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Migration and Human Overpopulation

Overpopulation and violence

Overpopulation can cause world disaster.

There are a number of attributes of the human population occurring globally that indicate overpopulation and the need to limit growth”.

By Dr. John J Hidore

October 26, 2017—When the term migration comes up in conversation most people think of migration of wildlife with the seasons. For people living in the northern hemisphere, it is the migration of birds with the seasons that most often comes to mind. 

Flocks of ducks and geese moving south for the winter are common sights in some areas. The longest bird migration is that of the Arctic tern. This bird breeds in the Arctic in the summer and then flies to the Antarctic to spend the summer. The birds make a round trip of 44,000 miles.

All change is not growth

Moving Backwards

Animal Migrations

Others think of the annual migration of herds of African animals that migrate to follow the seasonal rains. The wildebeest is an example of the latter. Huge herds of these animals travel from the Serengeti in Tanzania across the Mara River into Kenya and back.

Human Migration

Humans have been migrating almost from the origin of the species. Although people in many parts of the world move in a rhythmic fashion with the seasons, human migration is not basically movement with the seasons, although some follow herds of livestock that move with the seasonal rains.

Human migration is generally applied to those people that move from one region to another on a long term or permanent basis. Often these migrants cross national borders, but many move from one part of a country to another.

Reasons For Human Migration

There are a variety of reasons that humans migrate:

1. In the past some people migrated out of curiosity. They wanted to explore. This was a viable reason why
early mankind moved about.
2. The decline of basic resources such as food or water in the homeland. There was not enough to support the
existing population, so they were searching for a more fruitful environment.
3. Some migrated to avoid the effects of natural hazards. In the 1930’s a large part of the population of New England. in the United States, fled westward to avoid the destruction caused by hurricanes. Today there is a lot of movement out of areas where recurring drought has made agriculture too great a hazard.
4. To the list must be added migration due to climate change. Migration due to climate change is not new. It has been
around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Island people are moving to escape rising sea level.
5. Today, as in the past, people migrate to avoid violence. There was massive migration out of parts of Europe to avoid the second world war. Millions sought refuge elsewhere.

In some cases, as in Myanmar today, large numbers of people are forced to move from their homes.

overpopulation

Overpopulation and climate change creates environmental stress.

Global Migration Today

Today there is massive migration on several continents. Some of the regions and causes are:

1. Sub-Saharan Africa: Due to resource depletion, civil war, and climate change.
2. Central American: Due to civil war and poverty.
3. North America: Due to poverty and lack of opportunity in rural areas.
4. South America: Due to resource depletion and civil war.
5. In Asia: Due to resource depletion and civil war.
6. Oceania: Due to rising sea level and the increasing severity of tropical storms.
7. The Middle East: Due to war.

There are a number of attributes of the human population occurring globally that indicate overpopulation and the need to limit growth. In addition to health problems and resource depletion, current human migration must be added as a major symptom.

Planet Earth Weekly: Working for a healthy planet!


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Living Green: Using Our Resources 

building green

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

Remember: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!

By Linn Smith

October 12, 2017—-People in developed countries are losing the ability to be resourceful! We “run to the store” impulsively on a daily basis. How did folks survive without today’s conveniences? Today nearby stores provide us with our every need, and we too often toss excess and unused products in the garbage, leaving our landfills and oceans overloaded with toxic materials that may never decompose!

Growing up on a farm, we grew most of our own food. Our basement was lined with many shelves containing hundreds of jars filled with colorful, canned foods from our garden. Cows, pigs and chickens provided us with fresh meat, and our dairy cows provided the milk we drank, and it wasn’t pasteurized! My mother strained the milk through a cheesecloth to get the big chunks (of whatever) out…..and my brothers, sisters and I all grew up healthy! Farm life was what we call green living today….but back then it was just life!

Families use to be resourceful. To obtain something they needed, they reused, fixed, mended or created something new from what they already had.  My grandmother created children’s mittens from old sweaters, it saved money and no new items were purchased.

Earth Day: Let's Clean and Green!

Earth Day today and every day!

Eco-friendly Steps to Going Green

What are some eco-friendly steps we can take to conserve today? Here are just a few:

1. Turn some of your yard (or all of it) into a garden and can or freeze the vegetables. Yards were originally for very wealthy families in England, who used sheep to keep the grass trimmed. Lawns weren’t meant to look like  golf courses. They had dandelions and clover. Today our lawns are toxic with chemicals and leave  huge carbon footprints!

2. Buy unpackaged products from local farmers at farmer’s markets.

3. Cook from scratch instead of buying processed food. It tastes better!

4. Make restaurants an occasional option, not a daily trip. (This includes Starbucks!).

5. Buy second-hand from used stores, garage sales, or auctions. Fix, mend or make-do.

6. Don’t buy more than you need. Several years ago we stored most of what we thought was our valuable “stuff” and went RVing. It cost well over $1000 to store. When we returned and assessed our “stuff,” we realized we could live without most of it. We had a garage sale, making several hundred dollars from the sale of our valuables that had cost over a $1000 to store!

7. Recycle and compost.

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

Why Not Go Green?

Here are some excuses people make to avoid helping our planet:

1. It’s too expensive…BUT, if you shop around most things are comparable.

2. One person can’t make a difference….YES, you can! Good thing everybody doesn’t feel this way!

3. No one else around me is living eco-friendly…..WELL, THEN….how ’bout you be the first!

4. It’s too late. The planet is already doomed….OK, pull your head out of the sand and look around at what positive people are doing!

5. Global warming is a myth. NO IT’S NOT! (But I won’t waste my time arguing with you on this point!)

6. It takes too much time and effort. It’s like anything else, it becomes routine when done on a regular basis.

Before you buy something, ask yourself if you really need it, or is there something you already have that could be used…or ask, Can I make do with less?

Remember: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!

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Resource Depletion in Today’s World

Land degradation

Overpopulation drives land degradations

“Resource depletion is evidence of overpopulation and the need to limit growth.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

September 9, 2017—-Resources used to sustain people includes a variety of elements in the environment. Some sort of resource depletion occurs in almost all types of environments.

Land Degradation

Land degradation has become widespread. Degradation can take many forms. Among these are erosion by water, erosion by wind, and chemical degradation. On a global basis erosion by water accounts for over 50% of total land degradation. Wind erosion accounts for another 30%, and chemical degradation the rest.

Soil Erosion

Soil Erosion is devastating to food growth.

Soil Erosion

Soil has been the basis in agriculture for thousands of years. Some of the most valuable land on the planet consists of land with the best soil for growing crops.

Soil erosion consists of the removal of soil material, the transportation and deposition of the material. Soil erosion is widespread. In some areas the erosion has been, and is so bad the land is no longer usable for agriculture.

In grasslands, where most intensive agriculture takes place, soil erosion is widespread. In the drier parts of the grasslands overgrazing is common. Desertification often results. This is the reduction of the land to essentially desert conditions.

Erosion

Land degradation effects food production.

Deforestation

Deforestation is another example of resource depletion. Vast areas of the tropical rainforest are disappearing rapidly. It is being cleared for agriculture primarily. The huge band of forest in the sub-Arctic is also disappearing. In this case the timber is being cut for lumber.

With the loss of the forest cover, soil erosion becomes pervasive. These forests are important to the climate of Earth as well as a means of livelihood for people. Once these resources are reduced or eliminated, overpopulation inevitably results.

Soil Erosion

Human Activity and Land Degradation

Declining Water Resources

Of the water on the planet, almost all of it is salt water (97.5%) found in the global ocean. Only about 0.5% exists as fresh water in the rivers and lakes on the land masses. The remaining 2% exists as ice in the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers.

The rivers on the planet are extensively degraded due to agricultural and industrial chemicals, urban runoff and human waste. The addition of chemicals and organic matter entering the oceans is changing the chemistry of the water especially in estuaries.

Overpopulation and Resource Depletion

Resource depletion is a substantial factor in growing overpopulation and the need to limit growth. Even without a growing population, resource depletion is, and will continue, to lower the carrying capacity of the planet.

Resource depletion joins population growth, and declining human health as crucial global trends that are now catastrophic in some regions. Don’t let profit prohibit the drive for action that will prevent further destruction of our planet!

Resource Depletion and Overpopulation

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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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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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Solar Uses in the West: Monitoring the Irrigation Ditch

solar water monitor

Solar monitors the flow of water.

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

By Linn Smith

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

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

solar monitor

Monitor water flow through solar

Water Rights

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

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

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

Solar

Solar monitors the flow of water in irrigation ditch

Irrigating

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

solar for irrigation

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

Solar Powered Water Moniters

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

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Solar to monitor irrigation ditch

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

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Water flows through irrigation ditch to lake

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

Solar!


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Xeriscaping: A Step Towards a Healthier Planet

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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.

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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

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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/

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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.

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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!