Planet Earth Weekly

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


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The Galapagos UNESCO Heritage Site in Danger

Galapagos islands at risk from climate change

Home to many rare species of plants and animals

“In 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

August 11, 2017—-The Galapagos Islands are located about 600 miles west of the coast of Ecuador. There are 13 major islands in the group, in addition to dozens of smaller rock outcrops. They were discovered in 1535 by sailors engaged in exploration. These islands are a unique treasure on our Planet.

The Galapagos Islands have been designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. When explorers first described the islands to people on returning to their home ports, most people did not believe the stories that were told.

The Galapagos Islands are significant for a variety of reasons. First, there is no other island ecosystem like it. They are home to many species of plants and animals not found anyplace else on the planet. The animals include blue footed boobies and marine iguanas. Second, it is the setting for the work of Charles Darwin in formulating the theory of evolution that was published as The Origin of Species. Charles Darwin visited the islands in the year 1835. At the time, the islands were known as Las Encantatas or the enchanted ones.

Galapagos Islands and climate change

Galapagos animals and plants are at risk due to global warming.

Climate Change is Altering Life on the Islands

Global warming has already raised the temperatures over the islands. The islands generally receive little rainfall. Parts of the islands depend on cool season fog to provide condensation for plants. Additional warming may eliminate this weather pattern which is the only source of moisture for vegetation is some areas. Increased rainfall that may come with a changing climate may also lead to the decline in many species of plants.

The warmer conditions are causing vegetation zones to move to higher elevations. The rising temperature is also affecting the ratio of males to females in some turtles. Warmer temperatures tend to produce more female offspring, a phenomenon that has been observed at different locations around the world.

The mean temperature of the surrounding ocean of the islands is rising. Like other regions that lie astride the equator, coral bleaching has now been observed to occur in the reefs around the islands. The bleaching is an indication of not only global warming of the atmosphere, but of the warming of the tropical oceans. While corals live in warm water they will not live in water that is even a few degrees above their optimum temperature range. As the ocean warms they are also expected to become more acidic. This will increase the rate at which minerals are dissolved from the reefs.

Sea level has been rising and is expected to rise even more. The only question is how much more it will rise. Estimates of sea level rise by 2100 vary  with the highest estimates rising 30 inches. Rising sea level may destroy many of the mangrove forests which are home to some unique species of birds including some species of finch.

Galapagos Islands and climate

Galapagos Islands are at risk due to climate change

Invasive Species

There is a second problem which may be a greater threat than climate change to the uniqueness of the islands. This is the introduction of plants and animals not native to the islands. It is believed there are now more than 1400 introduced species on the islands of which more than half are plants.

Many of the introduce species have been accidentally introduced. Probably among the first were rats, which jumped ship over the years. The rats thrived and the population grew rapidly. Many other species of insects and plants were probably introduced at the same time. The accidental introduction continues as other species of plants and animals come to the islands along with the importing of merchandise.

Other species of plants and animals have been deliberately introduced. Among the first were domestic goats. They were often kept aboard ship for the purpose of supplying meat and milk for a ship’s crew. On the Galapagos some of the goats escaped to become wild. Their numbers increased and they began devastating the natural vegetation. In recent years major programs to eliminate the goats have been initiated, especially on the smaller islands. In 2006, for example, a massive effort was mounted to eliminate some introduced species from several islands.

Largely due to problems related to the invasion of species, in 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline. This includes sea lions which depend on a declining food supply off shore. The changing of the plant communities is a threat to many native birds. Some of the very species of finches which were the foundation of Darwin’s theory of evolution are in danger of becoming extinct.

On the plus side, most native species are expected to survive if invasive species can be controlled. But again, additional climate warming may eliminate the weather pattern necessary for plant and animal survival!

The Galapagos Islands

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Gothenburg Sweden: Providing Sustainability through Green Bonds

Gothenburg, Sweden

Build sustainably with green bonds.

“Local governments wield significant influence and authority that can drive environmental sustainability within their jurisdictions.”

By Linn Smith

August 6, 2017—–In the late 19th century Gothenburg developed into an industrial city. In 1987 the Minister of the Environment called parts of the city, “hell’s waiting room” which described the environment for the industrial part of the city, dirty and polluted. Chemicals were escaping into the environment and appearing in animals, fish and mother’s milk, increasing cancer risks and lowering the immune system of infants. This was the Gothenburg of yesterday!

From Industrial City to Climate Leader

Today, Gothenburg has transitioned from industrial city to a world climate leader. In 2013, it became one of the first cities in the world to issue Green Bonds. 

Bonds allow the public to invest sums of money. When a person purchases a bond they lend money to the issuer of the bond, in this case, the city of Gothenburg. In return investors are paid a specific interest rate. 

Green bonds are linked to solving our climate change disaster by providing the money necessary for a community to build sustainably. They are earmarked for environmental projects.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Go Green with Green Bonds

Building Sustainably with Green Bonds

Gothenburg offers Green Bonds to the public, which allows the city to borrow money from investors. With this money the city creates climate change projects that allow a transition from a polluted city to one of low carbon emissions and climate-resilient growth. Without the Green Bonds Gothenburg would have struggled with decisions on funding schools and daycare or moving the city toward sustainability.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg goes green with Green Bonds

Projects Funded by Green Bonds

Some of the projects funded by Green Bonds are:

• Large scale production of biogas, providing high efficiency in production and recycling of waste heat for district heating and electricity.
• Electric cars for city and companies, with 100% electric cars in the city fleet.
• Energy efficient traffic lights
• Sustainable housing. These buildings use green electricity. Estimation shows that the sustainable housing built so far will avoid 50-60 tons of Co2
emissions in the atmosphere annually.
• Tree planting. 1710 trees have been planted since the projects funded by Green Bonds started, with a focus on a green cityscape, which effects the
urban air quality and temperatures of nearby buildings.(See https://planetearth5.com/tag/heat-islands/)
• Sustainable transportation. Improvements to the city’s bicycle infrastructure. The city offers 1,000 bikes with 69 stations in the city to leave
your bike. You can pick up a bike, ride it to your destination and drop it off at the nearest station.
• A sustainable airport. All energy at the Gothenburg airport comes from renewable sources. Heat is generated by biomass boilers. There are also
charging stations for electric cars. Take off fees for airplanes are reduced for those with lower emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. 75%
of the airport shuttle buses run on RME, a biofuel made from rapeseed (related to canola oil.)
• The city’s SJ trains run entirely on renewable electricity from wind and hydro power.
• A sustainable port. Gothenburg is a coastal city. Ferries and ships which are docked in Gothenburg are encouraged to connect to an onshore power
supply, which is a source of clean energy. “Providing an onshore power supply for vessels at berth can result in significant environmental gains.
Carbon dioxide emission decrease substantially and emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitric oxide are reduced to a minimum. Onshore connections also
provide a quieter environment and cleaner working conditions.”
• The largest ultrafilter built in Scandinavia. City water is treated by ultrafilter to assure the highest quality of drinking water for its citizens.

Linking Investments to Green Projects

Green Bond investing has led to greater interest by citizens in the environment, plus it creates a link between investments and speeding up green projects. 

Other cities are following suit. Toronto issued Green Bonds to finance a heat, power and cooling solar plant. Johannesburg just issued green bonds to finance green projects that will reduce greenhouse emissions and contribute to a sustainable city.

The California Sustainability Alliance said it well. “Local governments wield significant influence and authority that can drive environmental sustainability within their jurisdictions” and further influence the global greening of our planet!

Gothenburg-Green Bonds

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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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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