Planet Earth Weekly

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


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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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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.

solar

Solar to monitor irrigation ditch

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

irrigation ditch

Water flows through irrigation ditch to lake

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

Solar!


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Xeriscaping: A Step Towards a Healthier Planet

xeriscape

Xeriscaping can be combined with a traditional lawn

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

By Linn Smith

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

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

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

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping with native plants reduces water needs.

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

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

xeriscaping

Drought tolerant plants use less water and are hardier.

Planning and Design

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

Soil Preparation

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

xeriscaping

Use plants native to your area.

Appropriate Plant Selection

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

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

xeriscaping

Xeriscaping requires less lawn care.

Practical Turf Areas

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

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

Efficient Irrigation

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

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

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

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

Use of Mulches

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

Maintenance

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

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

Xeriscape for a healthy planet!


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Americans Still Support The Paris Climate Agreement

building green

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

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

By John J. Hidore

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

The Paris Climate Conference

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

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

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

climate change

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

America Withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement

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

Americans are Supporting the Paris Agreement

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

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

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

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

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Mass extinction could happen again-do we care?

Results of our Changing Climate

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

Preventing Climate Change


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

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

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

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

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

Melting of the Arctic

The Arctic sea ice is melting at a record rate.

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

Shredding America’s Leadership on Climate Change

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

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

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

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

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

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

Do your part in reducing CO2!


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

diseases and melting ice

Diseases may surface with global warming.

By Linn Smith

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

—Claverie

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

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

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

dormant diseases in arctic ice

Microbes in ice are resurfacing.

Survival of Microbes Within Ice

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

Disease and melting ice caps

Consequences of Global Warming

Pathogens Come Back to Life

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

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

melting arctic and diseases

Diseases resurface with melting of Arctic.

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

Microorganisms Disrupt Oceans

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

Release of Carbon with Thawing Biomass

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

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

We’re treading in unforeseen territory!

Melting of Arctic and Diseases Awakening


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Global Warming is Speeding Up

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

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

By Dr. John J. Hidore

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

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

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

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

Planet Earth is warming.

Record temperatures around our planet.

Evidence of Global Warming

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

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

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

Global warming

Records are being broken around the world.

Global Temperatures for the 21st Century

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

Record Temperatures Since 2000

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

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

Global Warming: 2015 to Date

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

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Record Breaking Temperatures

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

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

Indian Heat Wave of 2016

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

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

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

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Global Warming and Population

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

The Hazards of Extreme Temperatures

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

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


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The Origin of Lawns and Their Environmental Impact

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

By Linn Smith

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

Origination of the Lawn

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

The History of Grass Lawns

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

Gardeners maintained the lawn with a scythe

Only the wealthy could afford lawn care.

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

Mowers: Creating Easier Lawn Maintenace

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

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

The Downside of the Beautiful Lawn

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

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

Xeriscaping:  The Green Lawn

Xeriscaping can reduce cost and care of lawns.

Xeriscaping

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

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

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