Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Unethical but not Illegal: Feeling Indifferent about Our Carbon Footprint

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

“The most environmentally friendly product is the one you didn’t buy.”

Joshua Becker

By Linn Smith

What is unethical? According to vocabulary.com it means, “Going against social or professional expectations of what’s right. It’s a word that’s often used to describe bad behavior or immoral conduct.”

What is the definition of Illegal? Laws and consequences that regulate human behavior.

Legally Destroying our Planet

Currently there are very few regulations on carbon dioxide and toxins we pour into our atmosphere, landfills and oceans. Most regulations are voluntary. What makes it unethical? The practice of adding more greenhouse gases and toxic materials to our earth and our atmosphere is a destructive force that negatively impacts our planet…but it’s not illegal!

We have produced generations of people that have lost all human memory of survival by using their own resources to live, such as growing gardens, canning, freezing, sewing their own clothes, harvesting their own honey….having the ability to live independent of industry. It’s the Industrial Revolution of destruction… consumers dependent on mass production which is destroying our planet!

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Unethical but not Illegal

It’s not against the law to:

•Manufacture, transport and toss millions of plastic materials which, not only leave a huge carbon footprint in manufacturing, but end up in our lakes, rivers, oceans, landfills and falling from the sky in raindrops. Unethical but not illegal!

•Purchase gas guzzling vehicles that have left huge carbon footprints even before being purchased.

•Spend thousands on the latest fashions. The fashion industry leaves a huge toxic trail before you see it on the racks of your favorite retail outlet. Unethical but not illegal.

•Buy the latest and greatest cell phone….huge carbon footprint!

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

The Most Environmentally Friendly Product

Here’s a suggestion. Why not buy used and donate the difference to The Ocean Cleanup (which is currently cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage patch), a nonprofit clean energy organization, homeless shelters, a children’s hospital or a horse rescue, just to name a few possibilities. There are many horse rescues around and they always need hay! Just google one and offer to buy a few bales once in awhile! (I volunteer at horse rescues so I know this firsthand.)

The most environmentally friendly product is the one you didn’t buy!” and I will insert “buy new!”

cop21

Extreme Weather

The Industrial Revolution cannot continue. Underdeveloped countries need to develop in an environmentally friendly direction and developed countries need to take a look at the meaning of economic growth if the meaning of economic growth is further destruction to our planet!

How much extreme weather can we endure and how many species will become extinct? Can we just turn our backs and say it’s too late or worse, nothing I can do will matter?

Tagore had it right! “The one who plants trees, knowing that they will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.”

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Coal: Still Visible but on the Decline!

Coal Plant

Coal waiting to be burned at the local utilities plant.

“Our time is up! We no longer have time to sit back and say it’s someone else’s concern!”

By Linn Smith

During my annual trek back to the Midwest where I call home, I had plenty of chances to observe that coal is still alive and well, although in my home state, wind turbines are popping up by the hundreds.

Coal sits at the local utilities plant in my hometown.

Yes, piles of coal are still scattered throughout the region and being hauled on trains, but the overall growth rate of coal use has diminished. According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the use of coal in the energy sector of the U.S. is declining.

coal train

A frequently seen site along the tracks in the midwest.

Coal is on the Decline

The reason for coal’s decline is mostly economical. Here are several reasons for the decline:

1. Good or bad, the nation has turned towards greater use of natural gas. Even though fracking is the method of extracting natural gas, it burns cleaner than coal. Hopefully it’s just the middleman as we move towards clean energy!

2. Declining costs of renewables.

3. Aging of our coal plants which are leading to greater cost to the consumer.

4. Climate change and extreme weather have caused greater concern in public opinion, leading to a willingness to move toward renewables.

5. Corporations and oil companies have adjusted their economies towards public concern. They may still lack the concern for our planet…but money speaks, and if public opinion and price of renewables are telling them to move away from fossil fuels, then they are forced to listen!

Coal Consumption

Coal is on the decline, but is it fast enough?

Someone once said that people wouldn’t listen to the concern about climate change until it was in their own backyard and that seems to be what has happened! Extreme weather, a predicted effect of climate change, is happening around the world in the form of floods, water shortages, depletion of rivers, storms, heat and extreme cold. Our time is up! We no longer have time to sit back and say it’s someone else’s concern!

Coal or Renewables


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Renewable Energy: Hatch, New Mexico

“The systems are best for high and dry climates, which makes Hatch an optimal location.”

As a resident of New Mexico for 6 years, I have long known the value of Hatch green chili…the Best in the West! But the past several years I have traveled Hwy 26, a lonely stretch of road through seemingly baron land just west of Hatch, passing massive wind and solar fields.

Solar Power

According to VillageofHatch.org here is the data on the impressive energy produced by these solar fields, plus pictures I was able to snap along my route recently:

“The Hatch Solar Energy Center consists of 84 Amonix 60-kW systems on 41 acres of land. The platform and panels are each 50 feet wide and 55 feet high tall. Each panel is made up of three different photovoltaic materials in a single cell so they extract more energy from the range of wavelengths in sunlight. Dual-axis tracking systems maximize energy production throughout the day by allowing the CPV systems to follow the sun. The systems are best for high and dry climates, which makes Hatch an optimal location. The systems require no water in power production, use land better, and produce more energy per acre than any other solar technology— equivalent of planting 3,500 trees every year it operates.”

Wind Power

The Macho Spring windfarm is nearby.

Wind Turbines

Along my route I also passed a train carrying at least 30 wind turbine blades…the trip was a visual feast for my “build it green” eyes!

And, while you’re on the drive, stop at Sparky’s in Hatch and get some green chili lemonade, it’s a treat your taste buds won’t soon forget!

Happy Trails!

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Cities: Combating Climate Change and Pollution

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

“Innovative thinking must solve our current and future climate and pollution problems as cities grow, and individuals must do their part in leaving a planet that future generations can comfortably occupy!”

By Linn Smith
January 26, 2019—I live part of the year in a city that is rapidly growing. Along with this growth comes air pollution, traffic congestion, increased construction and industrial businesses which spew toxins into the air as they burn fossil fuels. Gone are the days of vacant lots, laid back life styles and traveling anywhere in the city or suburbs in under 20 minutes. Now every hour of the day looks like rush hour!

Plans to combat this city’s growth include expanding the transit system, which has greatly fallen short, as many times it’s down or not functioning at full capacity. There is a great need for more innovative solutions!

Rapidly Expanding Cities

According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, they account for less than 2 per cent of the Earth’s surface. It’s predicted that 2/3 of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Urban Heat Islands

As temperatures increase due to climate change, urban heat islands will be created by concrete and buildings holding in the heat. (See, https://planetearth5.com/?s=urban+hot+spots). As I wrote in this article, “If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the Urban Heat Island Effect. An Urban Heat Island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “ ‘The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).’ ” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.”

building green

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

Cities, Health and Pollution

Pollution, a by-product of urban living, is also linked with climate change. Both climate change and air pollution are a direct result of burning fossil fuels, which increase CO2 emissions causing the greenhouse effect in our planet’s atmosphere. The Energy Policy Institute in Chicago found life expectancy is reduced by almost 2 years from air pollution, driving up health care costs. In rapidly growing cities respiratory disease is on the rise causing many to wear facemasks as smog grows severe.

All change is not growth

Moving Backwards

Cities and Smart Growth

The article, published by http://www.epa.gov titled, “Smart Growth and Climate Change,” outlines the following smart growth policies for managing city growth:

1. Reuse existing infrastructure and buildings to take advantage of previous investments and energy already used to build them.
2. Put homes, jobs, stores, parks, schools and public transportation near each other. This could reduce Co2 emissions by 7-10%.
3. Preserve green space and promote development in previously developed areas.
4. Discourage building in areas that are currently or projected to be vulnerable to climate change related disasters, such as fires, storms, flooding, ect.
5. Preserve areas that will mitigate the disasters of climate change, such as coastal areas which can absorb the water from floods and hurricanes.
6. Encourage water and energy efficient buildings and land use patterns which can better prepare communities for drought and disasters.
7. Use green infrastructure to reduce the amount of runoff from paved surfaces.
8. Encourage green roofs, parks and planting of trees and shrubbery.
9. Design buildings for passive survivability that will remain habitable even if they lose external power for extended periods, and save on energy bills as well during normal operations.

Researchers also have found that roadsides plantings of hedges and shrubs were effective at reducing pollution exposure, cutting black carbon by up to 63 percent.

China's Giant Air Purifer

China;s Air Purifier fights smog.

China’s Skyscraper Air Purifier

Another recent invention to fight air pollution is taking place in China. NBCnews.com published an article in 2018, “This Skyscraper-sized Air Purifier is the World’s Tallest”, stating, “It may look like just another giant smokestack, but a 200-foot tower in the central Chinese city of Xi’an was built to pull deadly pollutants from the air rather than add more. And preliminary research shows the tower — which some are calling the world’s largest air purifier — has cut air pollution significantly across a broad swath of the surrounding area. Built in 2016, the $2 million Xi’an tower, dubbed the solar-assisted large-scale cleaning system, stands atop an enormous glass-roofed greenhouse. Sunlight heats the air within the greenhouse, causing it to rise through the tower, where a series of air filters trap soot and other noxious particles. Xu, who wasn’t involved in the tower project, added that it’s important to take into account the energy costs involved with building and operating the towers. If the structure requires electricity from the grid that is fueled by coal, then operating the purifying system will itself generate harmful emissions. “That will be not so clever,” Xu said.

Dr. Robert Harley, Professor of environmental engineering at University of California says, “Real progress in solving outdoor air pollution problems will require reductions in emissions from the major air pollution sources, such as heavy industry, coal-burning power plants, motor vehicles, and residential cooking and heating, especially if people are still using solid fuels such as wood or coal for those purposes.”

Innovative thinking must solve our current and future climate and pollution problems as cities grow, replacing rural life, and individuals must do their part in leaving a planet that future generations can comfortably occupy!


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Cities Accept the Challenge of Climate Change

“It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.”

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 19, 2018—–Earth’s climate has been changing from the time the planet came into being. It has gone through times when it was much warmer than today and others when it was colder. The climate of today is one that is inseparable from the growth of the human population. The industrial revolution began about 1770 AD and is synonymous with the advent of the steam engine. Steam engines burned fossil fuels, primarily wood or coal.

Planet earth is a single system in which nothing or no process exists in isolation. The burning of fossil fuels began to change the composition of the atmosphere. The temperature of Earth began to warm above what might be expected from natural causes and the term global warming started to appear in literature. Professional conferences by groups of scientists and others began to occur.

In 2015 an international conference on climate change was convened in Paris, France to discuss the problems associated with a changing climate. What is known as the Paris Agreement was ultimately approved by representatives of nearly 200 countries. However, the Agreement does not dictate any actions to be taken by the signatories. Many have done little or nothing concrete to stem climate change

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Cities, Provinces and Other Regional Governments Take Charge

Many homogeneous political units such as cities, states or provinces began to respond to climate change because governments of these units began dealing with problems of flooding, unhealthy air to breath, increasing heat, etc.

Cities and towns are home to the majority of people now living on the planet. The number living in cities is growing by more than a million each week. By mid-century the percentage of people living in urban areas is estimated to reach 70%.

Groups of cities are now actively working together to reduce greenhouse emissions. As of June 6, 2018, approximately 250 mayors of American cities have officially adopted the Paris agreement. These cities contain about 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 where U.S. President Trump stated he did not represent Paris and might withdraw the United States from the agreement.

building green

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

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Perhaps the most concerted effort being made is to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary gas in the absorption of energy in the atmosphere. Cities account for about 70% of carbon dioxide emissions. A major part of the effort to reduce emissions is reducing carbon emissions from motor vehicles. Another is switching to renewable fuels for generating electricity. This means eliminating power plants using fossil fuels.

The Sierra Club recently estimated that encouraged by their Beyond Coal campaign, coal-fired power plants have been closing at times at the rate of one every 16 days. This month representatives from more than 70 countries are gathering in Edmonton, Canada, to explore how to develop cities that can create and maintain a climate that adds a minimal of carbon to the atmosphere.

While some national governments, such as that of the United States, refute the whole concept of climate change and do not want to take any action, the people are taking combined action through more localized governments. It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.

Planning Sustainably

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Newsworthy Renewables

Boyan Slat

Slat looks over his System 001.

“At this point, cleaning up our planet can’t be left to someone else!”

By Linn Smith

November 13, 2018—-While leafing through renewable resource articles recently, I found many positive activities happening in an effort to counteract climate change. Now that most people have acknowledged climate change is real, renewables will continue to grow in 2019.

Weather extremes are affecting people in many countries. Someone said, “People won’t change until it’s in their own backyard.” Well, in the form of floods and fires, it is in many people’s backyard. It’s a harsh wake-up call by mother nature!

New With Renewables

So here are a few positives that are happening in the renewable resource area:

1. According to Reuters.com, “The Paris region plans to launch a large fleet of electric bicycles in a state-funded scheme aimed at getting commuters to cycle to work and reducing congestion and pollution. They will provide 10,000 electric bikes for long-term rental, eventually expanding to 20,000.”

renewable resources

Paris will add thousands to the streets.

2. According to electrec.co, “Canada will have the first all-electric ferries serving the area in Ontario. A battery pack will be installed on board to power the propellers and a diesel generator will serve as a back-up.”

3. TheGuardian.com states that, “Uber drivers in London will be banned from using vehicles that are not hybrid or fully electric in 2020 as part of a plan to help tackle illegal levels of air pollution in the capital.”

4. Treehugger.com says that, “The European based Easyjet will incorporate electric passenger planes into services within 10 years.”

5. And Tesla is coming out with a new pickup truck in 2019. According to Elon Musk the Tesla pickup will be large, maybe even as large as the Ford F150, a full sized electric pickup truck!

renewable resources

The truck of the future!

6. My favorite in trying to make our planet a better place, 24-year-old Boyan Slat created the nonprofit, the Ocean Cleanup, which is currently in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trying to perfect Wilson, the system created to clean up the plastics in the ocean!

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

At this point cleaning up our planet can’t be left to someone else. It is everyone’s responsibility. Find a way to be some small part of the cleanup effort!

Renewable Resources


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Boyan Slat and the Ocean Clean Up Project

Boyan Slat

Slat looks over his System 001.

“The System 001 is an unmanned system moving with the currents.”

By Linn Smith

October 7, 2018—–If you’re not following Boyan Slat’s attempt to cleanup the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), you should be! This young man put his heart and soul into this project and is currently headed for the great patch of garbage floating in the ocean.

#Boyan Slat

Garbage Patch swirls with the currents.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Slat is the poster child of sustainable innovation for his generation, putting his energy towards cleaning up the environmental mess past generations have created! According to some critics he may not have the perfect solution—but, who else is in the middle of the ocean right now trying?? Hummm, no one! And the mess has been floating and growing for years! Scientists have estimated the Garbage Patch would take 79,000 years to break down and dissolve in the ocean! With the models created by Slat, his system could clean up 50% of the mess by 2025! The majority of the Garbage Patch is large debris. Removing these floating pieces of plastic will prevent the breaking down into microplastics that wildlife and fish can mistake for food and eventually entering the food we eat.

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat is 24 years old and the garbage patch is almost as old as he is. By the time it was discovered in 1997, it was already massive. At 16, this Nederland’s born youth went on a diving trip to Greece. “There were more plastic bags than fish,” he told MNN a few years back. “That was the moment I realized it was a huge issue and that environmental issues are really the biggest problems my generation will face.”

Instead of accepting the floating plastic as an adult problem that needs an adult solution, he went back to his high school and went to work solving the problem. Back in his high school classroom he invented a multilevel trawl with centrifugal forces that separated the plastic from the plankton and ocean life.

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

System 001

“The System 001 is an unmanned system moving with the currents, looking like a u-shaped pipeline floating on top of the current. Beneath the pipeline is a 10 ft skirt which traps the plastic caught in the current, protecting sea life because it is solid and not a net.” Slat states, “Our systems fully rely on natural ocean currents and do not require an external energy source to catch and concentrate the plastic. All electronics used, such as lights, will be solar powered.

#theoceancleanup

Big Solutions for the ocean cleanup

Recycling the Ocean Plastic

What will happen to the plastic when it’s back on shore? Slat says he wants to turn it into The Ocean Cleanup brand of merchandise, selling it to support the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He states, “By producing merchandise that is not a single use item that might end up back in the ocean, it will reduce the chance of it ending up back in the ocean by 99%.”

Slat also humbly states, “Big problems require big solutions, if anyone has any better ideas, we’d love to know!”

This young man has the concentrated and innovative talent our planet needs!

You can follow the project currently underway on Facebook ((https://www.facebook.com/boyanslat) or see an up-to-date timeline on his site, The Ocean Clean Up, https://www.theoceancleanup.com/system001/. Also, you can find his TED talk on YouTube or follow on Instagram.

The Ocean Clean Up

Great Barrier Reef


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Climate Change Threatening the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Coral bleaching

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

By Dr. John J. Hidore

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

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

climate change

Bleaching occurs when the reef is under stress.

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

Reefs: Coral Bleaching

Rising ocean temperatures affect coral bleaching of the reefs.

Bleaching of the Reefs

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

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

coral bleaching

The Great Barrier Reef and coral bleaching

The Great Barrier Reef

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

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

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

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

Fragments of Hope

Building a healthy coral reef.

The Future of the Reef

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

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

Coral bleaching and the Great Barrier Reef

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


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The Origin of Lawns and Their Environmental Impact

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

By Linn Smith

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

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

Lawns of the 16th century

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

The History of Grass Lawns

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

Origination of the Lawn

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

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

Mowers: Creating Easier Lawn Maintenace

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

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

Xeriscaping

Save water with Xeriscaping

The Downside of the Beautiful Lawn

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

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

Overpopulation and hunger

A depletion of resources.

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a water conserving method that orginated in Colorado. It originated from the Greek word “Xero”, which means dry and “Scape” meaning view. It does not mean zero landscaping. It does mean planting plants that will do well with little watering. The plants are not necessarily native to the area, but are selected for their water conserving abilities.

Xeriscaping makes more water available to the community and the environment and reduces maintenance, with just occasional weeding and mulching. Less cost and less maintenance leaves more time for other things! Xeriscaping also reduces water pollution, as herbicides and pesticides don’t end up in the groundwater.

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

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

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Belize: Creating Healthy Coral Reefs

coral reef

Flying into Belize

“Coral nurseries use several methods of growing and attaching the newly grown coral to the bleached reef.”

By Linn Smith
May 13, 2018—–My daughter recently returned from Belize where she snorkeled among the fish of the Belize Barrier Reef, which runs along the coast for 190 miles. It’s part of the Mesoamerican Barrier reef, which is continuous from Cancun to Honduras… 560 miles. Belize has passed an ordinance prohibiting snorkelers from wearing sunscreen, but this tiny country is doing so much more to ensure the health of their reef and reefs around the world.

Bleaching of a Coral Reef

Coral reefs help protect our shorelines. They also provide food for many species of fish, which, in turn, provides food for the human population. Fishing is a major part of the economy in Belize, providing jobs, recreation and tourism. 

Coral reefs cover less than 1% of our ocean floor but support more than 25% of marine life. Due to global warming, hurricanes, diseases, overfishing, and the warming and acidification of the seas, coral bleaching is happening 4 times the rate of bleaching 40 years ago. Bleaching of a reef looks just like what the word bleaching implies…the reef turns white!

climate change

Bleaching occurs when the reef is under stress.

According to Wikipedia corals are, “A colony of genetically identical polyps, each polyp being a sac-like animal only a few millimeters in diameter, with a set of tentacles surrounding a central mouth opening.”

Corals get their color from the tiny algae that live on them, providing food for marine life. When it gets too hot or the corals get diseased or stressed, they dispel the algae, which is known as bleaching. Bleached corals are more vulnerable to diseases, which spread to surrounding healthy corals and makes it difficult for the reef to recover.

Fragments of Hope

A nonprofit organization, Fragments of Hope, is restoring the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef through transplanting coral from coral nurseries. Lisa Carne, a Marine Biologist, visited Belize after a devastating hurricane in 2001. She noticed fragments of living coral from the reef floating in the sea and asked herself if these could somehow be transplanted back onto the reef. After moving to Belize, Lisa received a research grant to study coral transplanting, thus the creation of Fragments of Hope.

Fragments of Hope

Building a healthy coral reef.

Fragments of Hope has transplanted almost 100,000, more temperature tolerant, coral fragments along the Mesoamerican Reef. With constant documentation and observation, only 7 of the the original 19 Elkhorn fragments transplanted in 2006 were lost. Not only are 12 of the original still surviving, they have also created satellite colonies! Fragments of Hope has created 28 gene bank nurseries of threatened coral species as of 2018.

Fragments of Hope

Restoring our reefs through attaching healthy coral.

Coral Nurseries

Coral nurseries use several methods of growing and attaching the newly grown coral to the bleached reef. A rope method uses a long strand of rope strung between a steel frame which is buried on the bottom of the sea floor. The rope is twisted slightly apart to insert the corals between the rope strands. When the coral is mature the entire strand of rope is attached to the bleached-out reef.
Several other methods use a cement mixture to attach fragments of coral to the reef or transplant coral plugs into the reef. The average growing time to create a healthy transplant is about a year.

Fragments of Hope has successfully trained 30 women for the diver roles over the past several years, a role that has previously been dominated by males. Women who successfully train can earn 3 times the minimum wage of Belize.

Fragments of Hope

Creating healthy coral reefs

United Nations Lighthouse Awards

Fragments of Hope has also expanded to other countries, including Jamaica, Colombia and St. Barth. Fragments of Hope offers training for others through manuals, videos and a precise curriculum to guide them towards success in saving the world’s coral reefs.

Fragments of Hope is a 2017 winner of the Lighthouse Awards, an award given by the United Nations to people and organizations that, “Shine a light on the activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a resilient, innovative and transformative solutions that address climate change, the economy and social and environmental challenges. The winners also address some of the most practical and replicable examples of what people are doing to tackle climate change.” The United Nations has been recognizing winners since 2011. There were 19 winners in 2017.

Anyone leading a results-driven project that is successfully addressing climate change may apply for the Lighthouse Momentum for Change Award. The next applications will be taken between February-April 2019. More information is at http://www.momentum.unfccc.in 

Also the Coral Reef Replenishment Manual can be downloaded from Google

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