Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Record Heat Waves Plague the Planet

There will be more severe heat waves. They will become hotter, more frequent, last longer and occur in more varied places.

By Dr. John J. Hidore
February 12, 2019——Heat wave is a general term. When it seems unusually warm someplace there is often a tendency to describe the weather as a heat wave. As it turns out it is very hard to define a heat wave. The reason is simple. Normal summer high temperatures vary greatly from place to place. What would be defined as a heat wave in one location would not be appropriate for another location, perhaps not even too far away. An adequate definition might be, “A heat wave is an unusually warm or hot period lasting for days or perhaps weeks.” We associate them with summer but by this definition they can actually occur at any season.

climate change

The exchange of energy is causing rapid arctic melting.

At least one country makes a clear definition of a heat wave and that is Pakistan. India also defines heat waves and uses different temperatures in different parts of the country to establish what constitutes a heat wave. In the plains regions of the Unites States, temperatures above 40degreesC (104 degreesF) constitute a heat wave. They also define a severe heat wave for this region as experiencing temperatures over 46 degreesC (114.8 degreesF).

Distribution of the 2018 Heat Waves

In 2018 the northern hemisphere experienced major heat waves. Heat waves occurred over most of the northern hemisphere as well as Australia. Europe experienced a major heat wave in the spring and summer. These extreme heat waves were largely a function of climate change, particularly of global warming.

Indian drought

Millions effected by the drought

Global warming also increases the probability of higher extreme temperatures during a heat wave. Such was the case in 2018. All-time highs were recorded in North America and Europe. At one location in Finland that is north of the Arctic circle, a temperature of 33.3°C (92°F) was recorded. Undoubtedly extreme highs were recorded in many other areas as well. Qurayyat, in Oman, experienced a 24 hour period when the temperature did not drop below 42.6°C. This was the highest minimum daily temperature ever recorded.

The Impact of the Heat Waves

The impacts of the heat waves were many and varied. They included:
A. Increased mortality: Japan, Algeria, and Canada recorded fatalities attributed to the heat.
B. Droughts and agricultural losses. In parts of Europe precipitation amounts fell to as little as 20% of normal.
C. The closing of nuclear power plants due to a shortage of water for cooling.
D. Frequent and severe wild fires. Severe wild fires occurred on every continent except Antarctica.
E. In 2016 and 2017 there was major bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. In all probability 2018 will turn out to be the same
F. In the summer at one point the combined concentration of greenhouse gasses reached 500 ppm, approximately 100 ppm above the average for this time.

The Deadly Heat Wave of Europe in 2003

Some heat waves have become deadly. Perhaps the most deadly heat wave of the 21st Century was that which occurred in Europe in August of 2003. Temperatures in France reached as much as 40°C (104 DegreesF) and remained exceptionally high for two weeks resulting in nearly 15,000 deaths in that country alone. The death toll over Europe reached approximately 35,000 and may have been as high as 50,000.

Climate Change

The earth’s overall temperatures are increasing every year.

A large contributing factor in the high death toll was warmer than normal nighttime temperatures. As a result people without air conditioning could not cool down during the night. The heat stress accumulated over time. Extreme heat waves also can devastate agriculture. In Europe, in the heat wave of 2003, temperatures averaged 5.5°C (10°F) above normal. In Italy corn yields dropped 36% below average. In France fruit yields fell 25% and wine production 10%. Heat also affects the rate of plant pollination.

Asian heat waves of 2015

That year a May heat wave in India claimed at least 2,500 lives. Heat waves are fairly frequent in India but this was the greatest loss of life from a heat wave in over 30 years. Extremely high temperatures were reached in cities scattered over the country. Power outages were wide spread as a result of high demand for air conditioning. The city of Khammam recorded the highest temperature ever recorded there at 48 degrees C (118.4 degreesF). Other high temperatures that were recorded were:

Allahabad 47.8 degrees C (118.0 degrees F)
Delhi 45.5 degrees C (113.9 degrees F)
Hyderabad 46 degrees C (115 degrees F)
Jharsuguda 45.4 degrees C (113.7 degrees F)

In June the deadliest heat wave known to have occurred in Pakistan took place in the southern part of the country near Karachi. The death toll is unknown for certain but may have reached more than 1000. The heat wave struck during the month of Ramadan which made the impact of the event more severe than it might have been. Unfortunately, city services were not in condition to cope with the heat.

As the planet warms it can be expected that: (1) there will be more severe heat waves. They will become hotter, more frequent, last longer and occur in more varied places. As cities grow larger in area and population they will experience increasing heat waves. (2) new record high temperatures will be set more frequently on the planet.

Heat Wave

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2019: What’s New for Solar

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

“Supplying 100% of America’s electricity with renewable energy is not only possible but urgently necessary.”

By Linn Smith

January 13, 2019—–Well, it’s 2019. Time for the What’s New in Solar search. Solar isn’t going away! It continues to thrive and grow….from solar gadgets to panels to super solar farms. Here are just a few things that may be of interest for 2019.

Solar Charger

One of the best solar chargers to charge your devices.

Portable Solar Chargers

http://www.Outdoorlabgear.com tested many portable solar chargers to keep your gadgets charged instead of using your standard wall outlet. For 2019 the BigBlue 28, at http://www.ibigblue.com, is their top solar charger, the Instapark Mercury 10w, at http://www.instapark.com, is their best buy, with Renogy E.Flex5, at http://www.renogy.com, the top pick if you want a really light weight portable solar charger to carry in your backpack.

Solar windows

SmartSkin Solar windows

SmartSkin Windows

This company, http://www.physee.eu, has created what they call a SmartSkin for windows. The SmartSkin integrates solar cells into your glass which will turn sunlight into green energy. The smartskin also has sensors which reads the weather conditions. The sensors are connected to an energy efficient system that communicates data and calculates ideal room settings. The company states these windows will reduce your building’s energy use by up to 20%.

Most Efficient Solar Panels

From the website http://www.energysage.com here are their picks for the top 5 solar panels based on efficiency. Based only on maximum module efficiency (how well they convert sunlight into electricity) the top five manufacturers that make the best solar panels are:

1. SunPower (22.2%)
2. Panasonic (21.6%)
3. LG (21.1%)
4. Hanwha Q CELLS (19.6%)
5. Solaria (19.4%)

The Solar Motion Light

A friend has a solar motion light on her garage. It stays off until it detects motion, then pops on and is as bright as any outdoor light. These are reasonably priced, between $20-$40. According to http://www.solartechnologyhub.com several of the best are made by Sunforce, Frostfire, Nekteck and Litom.

And finally, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) believes that, “Supplying 100% of America’s electricity with renewable energy is not only possible but urgently necessary. We need to decarbonize our economy by the middle of THIS century in order to have any chance of constraining the global temperature increase to less than 2 degrees C, which in itself, will be disruptive to mankind.”

Solar


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Climate Change: Investing in Education for Girls


“Early marriage of girls, because of drought and extreme weather, forces them to stay in existing conditions of poverty.”

Drawdown

Global warming and educating girls.

By Linn Smith

October 25, 2018—-What does educating girls have to do with climate change? According to a book called “Drawdown” by Paul Hawken, educating girls is a climate solution which could save 59.6 gigaton (millions of tons) of CO2 in our atmosphere by 2050.

Hawkins says that in many countries such as Africa, girls marry early, which extends the length of childbearing years. More than 700 million girls worldwide today have married as children. In countries where drought, flooding and extreme weather have affected resources, to ease the burden on families and collect the dowries, girls are married as children. So it’s a circle of devastation for our planet. Girls marry because of climate extremes which perpetuates climate change with population increases!

Drawdown

Education and family planning decreases the effects of climate change.

Ending Child Marriage

The following excerpt is from the article, “Ending Child Marriage in Africa” by Annerieke Smaak, “This man went to my uncles and paid a dowry of 80 cows. I resisted the marriage. They threatened me. They said, ‘If you want your siblings to be taken care of, you will marry this man.’ I said he is too old for me. They said, ‘You will marry this old man whether you like it or not because he has given us something to eat.'”

Girls give up school in drought conditions, staying home to carry water long distances or help find food for the family. Hawken states, “In Malawi, some people estimate 30-40% of child marriages are due to poverty caused by flooding and drought due to climate change.”

climate change

Education and family planning for girls

Reproductive Choices for Women

Educating women in reproductive choices will help tackle birth rates by improving lives when we make families secure with necessary resources. Supporting girls education is a positive investment benefiting the family, community, planet, and the girls themselves.

Educated women have smaller families. Data shows that girls with 12 years of education or more will have 4-5 fewer kids than girls with little or no education. This directly effects a country’s economy as failure to educate can cost the global economy 15-30 trillion dollars.

Hawkins states “The exact dynamic between family planning and girls’ education is impossible to determine, but our models allocate 50% of the total potential impact to each….by funding education and family planning it would close an annual financing gap of $39 billion to lower income counties for implementing these solutions.”

Hawkins Drawdown

Early marriage leads to more children.

Early Marriage and Climate Change

Finally, Christina Wauk and Amanda Braga state, “Early marriage of girls, because of drought and extreme weather, forces them to stay in existing conditions of poverty, vulnerability and marginalization that perpetuates low-skill development. Climate change increases peoples’ vulnerability to the shocks of weather related disaster and exuberant existing gender inequalities that obstruct opportunities for a girl’s social and economic empowerment.”

Educating and family planning for girls in lower socio-economic countries is one of the many solutions we need to look at in alleviating future climate destruction!

Educating girls and climate change


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Boyan Slat and the Ocean Clean Up Project

Boyan Slat

Slat looks over his System 001.

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

By Linn Smith

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

#Boyan Slat

Garbage Patch swirls with the currents.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

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

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

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

System 001

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

#theoceancleanup

Big Solutions for the ocean cleanup

Recycling the Ocean Plastic

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

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

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

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

The Ocean Clean Up


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E-Waste: What Happens to those Electronics?

Renewable Resources

Building Sustainably

“E-waste does not belong in the landfills!”

By Linn Smith

October 1, 2018—Do you have a computer? Smart phone? Laptop? Half of the world’s population now uses the internet. In developed countries, nearly 90% of the population own some form of technology and many people race to get the latest up-to-date gadget without any thought of end-of-life disposal of that cell phone, laptop, or computer! There is no budget attached to the item purchased that reminds us of the need to recycle it, but what if we had to pay an extra 20% fee on the purchased item for recycling? Would that make you stop and think about its disposal?

In 2016, all countries combined generated 44.7 million metric tons of electronic waste. And where did it go? 4% was thrown in the trash, 76% was undocumented and just 20% was properly recycled.

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Proper Recycling of E-Waste

What is proper recycling? Recycling electronics can be difficult because removing the wanted rare earth metals means removing glass, toxic metals, plastic and soldered connectors. Proper recycling is taking your unwanted e-waste to a certified company. A certified company has been audited to make sure the company is following strict regulations in compliance with state regulations.

Recycling electronics costs money, but often finding a certified company can cost less because the recycle center may receive subsidies from the local government. If the company isn’t certified you don’t know where your e-waste may end up. E-waste can create huge environmental hazards if not properly disposed of as it contains lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxins. Many uncertified companies are using unsafe methods to extract the wanted metals.

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

E-Waste: Thailand

China use to take e-waste, but now much of it goes to Thailand where environmental groups have submitted a letter to the government demanding that the government ban imports of toxic waste. Many factories in Thailand are using the unsafe method of burning the plastics of the electronics to get to the copper, gold, platinum and rare metals, creating toxic fumes in surrounding residential areas.

Rick Neitzel, Director of Exposure Research at University of Michigan, says, “As most users grow dependent on their cell phones, laptops, computers and tablets, the production of electronic waste continues to grow.” His team studied the toxins entering the bodies of workers in contact with metals from electronics, measuring the amount of lead and other toxins that find their way into the bloodstream. The blood tests show high levels of toxins!

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

Urban Mining: Used Metals

Some electronic manufacturers are using recycled metals from out-of-date electronics in manufacturing new phones. DELL will recycle 100 million pounds of e-waste by 2020 and Apple has developed a robot to take apart old Iphones, dissembling 200 Iphones in an hour and sorting the parts for recycling. The goal of Apple is to completely eliminate new rare metals from its manufactured Iphones, using only recycled metals (Urban Mining). An Apple representative states, “The challenge is to extract the metals at a cost that can compete with virgin metals in sufficient quantities.”

In Chili the attitude is to fix things because they figure they can make more money reselling a product than selling recycled parts.

Clayton Miller of http://www.Sustainablebrands.com states,”In the early days of my career I spent a good part of my time explaining to people what e-waste was, that it was hazardous and that it shouldn’t be in the landfills, but today I find that the majority of people want to ensure their discarded electronics are properly recycled.”

What can you do? Find a local, certified center near you to recycle your e-waste!

E-waste: Recycle!

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Irrigation and Water Depletion in the Southwest United States

Water depletion

Irrigation in the Southwest U.S.

“We need to work together to feed the world, but we also need to work together to save and monitor our water resources.”

By Linn Smith

August 26, 2018—- On the farmland of my youth in the Midwest, my brothers and I spent much time baling hay for our cattle, but water was plentiful and plants thrived with no irrigation. Cows were in green pastures in the summertime and in winter months we fed hay when grasses died.

Farming in the Southwest

When traveling to southern New Mexico and southern Arizona, I often see hay and cotton fields in the middle of the desert and semi arid terrain. It seems an unlikely place to grow crops that have high water needs! 

Today the Southwest is water-stressed with many lawsuits taking place, both privately and between states, over water rights. The projection is that reduced precipitation by mid-century will result in reduced runoff into the water basins that feed irrigated fields.

I recently heard a local resident from Arizona say that Saudi Arabia was buying land in Arizona and California’s arid landscape for growing hay and shipping it back to their country. The export of hay (grasses grown for feeding animals) is booming in the U. S., with the amount of hay leaving the west coast ports increasing yearly. In 2017, the total exports of alfalfa and other hay reached 4.2 million metric tons and is continuing to grow.

The fact that hay and cotton are being exported is healthy for our economy, as many U.S. farmers are growing and exporting this commodity, mostly from states that require little irrigation for agriculture. The issue is growing crops in the desert Southwest in what is fast becoming an area where water is not replenishing itself in the rivers and reservoirs.

The Colorado river

Farmers in the Southwest are left little water for irrigation.

Depletion of our Water Resources

What is healthy for our aquifers and rivers when they are not replenishing? Doug Kenny, Director of the Western Water Policy Program at University of Colorado, says about potential water shortage. “Right now, it’s the effort to maintain the levels of water stored in the big reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. They’re about half full, which is about as low as they can go before mandatory cuts in water deliveries. It’s a math problem—managing water coming in vs. water going out. So far this century, people have pulled more water out than consistently flows in. That has to change.”

Saudi Arabia and the Southwest

 Most crops will only thrive with irrigation in the arid Southwest.  Saudi Arabia is confronting a major depletion in its aquifers which has brought its wheat and hay production to a halt. They have bought 1,000’s of acres in arid parts of the U.S., Arizona and Southern California (and several other countries), allowing them to take advantage of the U.S. water laws. The Laws of the Colorado River are currently under scrutiny by the Upper and Lower Basin states because of continuing depletion of the river and Lake Mead, which supplies water to the lower Colorado river basin states. Most crops will only thrive with irrigation in the arid Southwest.

The drought of Southwest U.S.

Lake Mead depletion

Southern California: Irrigating Crops vs Urban Use

In Southern California the Metropolitan Water District pays landowners to fallow their land, letting it lay without planting crops so that water is freed up for urban areas. Since 2005, over $200 million has been paid to farmers not to grow crops on this program. This allows water to be directed to Los Angeles and other cities in Southern California.

Has this program enabled corruption and profit from drought conditions? A single recipient, Fisher Ranch, owned by a board member of the operation, has received over $27 million a year since 2005 for leaving his land fallow.

Colorado River

Depletion of water for crop irrigation

The Water Crisis

As I continue to study depleting water conditions in the Western U.S., I realize in 20 years, if not sooner, we are going to be facing a water crisis due to climate change and over allotment of water rights and usage. We need to ask ourselves what changes are necessary today to alleviate the impending crisis.

Water shortage is going to be a complex problem in the future requiring many people to make sacrifices. We need to work together to feed the world, but we also need to work together to save and monitor our water resources. Education and awareness is a place to start.

The Southwest Water Crisis

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Pollinator Prairies and Highways: Feeding the Bees!

Pollinators

Pollinator habitats are necessary for our food sources.

“Pollinators, especially bees, are responsible for producing 1/3 of the food we eat.”

By Linn Smith
August 6, 2018—-In May 2018, Interstate 76, which stretches through the high plains farmland east of Denver, Colorado for about 185 miles, was designated a Pollinator Highway. The Pollinator Highway Project will not only be planted with food for pollinator insects, but also maintain the health of pollinator plants already growing along the highway.

I have traveled this stretch of highway many times and have always wondered at the vastness of the landscape in this sparsely populated part of Colorado. With almost 9000 miles of highway corridors in the state, I-76 is the perfect test area for the Pollinator Program. The program was initiated by Denver’s Butterfly Pavilion because it is a highway that is not only frequented by migrating butterflies, but also has enough space to eventually create a positive change in our environment by providing food for all pollinating insects.

Pollinator insects

Maintaining the health of our pollinator insects.

Definition of a Pollinator

What is a pollinator? According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “A pollinator is any organism that helps with the cross-pollination of plants. They are vital to the survival of most of the world’s ecosystems, with an estimated 70-87% of flowering plants relying on pollinators. Many of these plants are food crops that humans rely upon and most of the others are key members of natural ecosystems. Bottomline: Pollinators are extremely important!”

Pollinators

Pollinator Prairies and highways

Colorado Pollinator Highway

For CDOT, Colorado Dept. of Transportation, this is a great opportunity to begin positive environmental changes using the space along its highways, replenishing and creating habitats for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies, bats, and hummingbirds. This will affect the future food supply of humans, as it’s said that 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat depends on pollinators. CDOT has stated that the pollinator plants along the highway will not affect travel, as the insects will stay in their habitat if it is well maintained.

Colorado will begin this project by planting an 8 mile stretch along I-76 near Julesburg, just over the state line from Nebraska. This test site will allow CDOT to gather data for plans on maintenance and longevity of future pollinator highways in the state. Besides creating habitats for pollinators, the pollinator highways will reduce maintenance in Colorado by reduced mowing. It is a win-win plan for the future.

If the dilemma of pollinator insect die-off is not addressed now, the future of the food we eat and the low prices we pay are in jeopardy. The decline of pollinators is due primarily to land use changes, pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change which can cause insect diseases and loss of habitat. According to CDOT, 30% of the honeybee population dies off yearly (with only a slight increase after die-off each year.) At this rate, the bee population is not sustainable in the long run.

Insect Pollination

Identify Plant Forage for pollinators

Protecting the Pollinator Habitat

The Colorado Department of Transportation will also be working to protect the pollinator habitat as a long-term solution for survival of pollinator insects. CDOT states, “Managing noxious weeds will also be more specialized along the corridor. In fact, we will have a roadside manager for the corridor, who will also oversee the statewide vegetation management program. The pollinator program will promote genetically appropriate plants that support self-sustaining dynamic ecosystems, which are resistant to invasion by non-native or invasive species.”

A variety of plants will be planted that will blossom at different times in the spring, summer and fall, creating food until the insects lie dormant (slow down) for the winter.

Pollinator Prairie

My friend’s well maintained prairie in the Midwest.

Pollinator Prairies

In the Midwest farmers are taking advantage of the CP-42 Pollinator Enhancement (PDF) program which helps and supports farmers that place part of their farmland in pollinator prairie. So far hundreds of thousands of acres have been planted in the CP-42 program.

A friend of mine has planted about 50 acres in pollinator prairie. He maintains it by going through on a regular basis and digging up invasive plants, such as small elm saplings. His land is near the river where the bottom part of the prairie floods several times a year, which hasn’t affected the pollinator plants so far, as they are not underwater for any length of time. He states, ““Once floodplain land is taken out of crop production and returned to natural prairie (pollinator Prairie), it acts as a very good filter in not only cleaning up dirty water ways, but preventing further flooding inland. Our rivers are dirty and prairie grass can act as a filter by allowing the water to run through the grasses.”

pollinator prairie

My friend’s well maintained pollinator prairie grass

Pollinators, especially bees, are responsible for producing 1/3 of the food we eat. What are the foods that need or benefit from pollination? Here are just a few: alfalfa (which can feed our meat and milk sources!), apples, berries, bananas, tomatoes, chocolate (Cocoa Bean trees) and coconut.

Learn how you can help to increase pollinator insects and food sources at: http://www.peopleandpollinators.org. You can also sign up to do volunteer work!”

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Pollinator insects and habitat


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Watering Your Garden with the Olla Clay Pot System

Olla watering

Garden with less water

“The ancient Olla method consists of unglazed, porous clay terracotta pots buried in the ground.”

By Linn Smith

July 24, 2018—–I was sitting in the shade outside a museum in Tucson last winter when a conversation started between my family and another family nearby. The topic? Olla (pronounced “oy-yahs”) pots…a watering system used by the Chinese 2000 years ago!

Why hadn’t I heard of this method? Growing up in the upper Midwest, where the soil is rich and rain plentiful, nothing ever needed watering! Crops thrived in the moist, rich, black soil of our farm and most farmers had never seen an irrigation system.

traditional watering method

Wheel crop irrigation

Irrigation Systems

On my first trip to Colorado, in my early 20’s, we traveled Highway 76 past crops being irrigated by a rolling irrigation system on wheels, which ran over the top of the crops, dispersing water from the above pipes. The Wheel Line system is mobilized through the field by a gasoline engine, spraying water on crops throughout the field. It seemed like an expensive way of farming, both environmentally and economically, depleting the nearby water sources, while battling with ongoing surface water rights.

Olla: Ancient watering system

Olla: use less water

The Olla Watering Method

As complex as the Wheel Line system is, at the other end of the spectrum is the simplest method…Olla pots. The ancient Olla method consists of unglazed, porous clay terracotta pots buried in the ground. The drier the soil the more water is pulled from the pots by roots sucking water through its pores, or by soil moisture tension which is the result of nearby drier soil drawing water out of the pots, allowing for moisture equilibrium between the soil outside and inside the pot.

Olla: make your own

Place putty on inside and outside of pot

Olla watering system

Bury Olla in soil

Making Your Own Olla Pots

You can either buy olla pots or make your own. Here’s one way to make your own:

Put white putty on the inside and outside of an unglazed terracotta pot (the clay pots you usually plant flowers in) to seal the hole in the bottom. Bury the pot all the way up to the rim next to your plants and fill it with water. Put the plant base (which usually comes with the pot) over the top of the pot to prevent evaporation. The roots of the plants nearby will find their way to the pot and attach to it, seeping out the moisture and also, as stated before, equilibrium will allow the drier soil to pull water out through the pot’s pores.

Olla pots

Pour water in the olla pot

The Olla watering system is a great water saver, plus a dependable method of watering the garden if you’re leaving on vacation for a few days!

The Olla Watering System

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The Impact of Fossil Fuels on our Planet

“The gases from fossil fuels trap heat in our atmosphere leading to the greenhouse effect.”

By Linn Smith
April 21, 2018—Most people by now know the impact of fossil fuels on our environment. Ten years ago this wasn’t true, but today it’s common knowledge. Even with this knowledge and scientific data to confirm it, there are still some naysayers out there. As I have said many times in my articles, some people won’t believe in global warming until it’s in their own backyard, or as Bill Wilson put it….”Even then he may be like the farmer that looked out from his cellar to find his home ruined, saying, ‘Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowin’?’”

Are Fossil Fuels the Cause of Global Warming?

How do we know fossil fuels are causing global warming? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the molecules of carbon dioxide (the main culprit in global warming) contain information about their source of origin. Carbon in atmospheric molecules have a distinctly different “signature,” so scientists can analyze these variations. Also, when using just the data that would show normal changes in our climate (such as from forces of the sun), our changing climate can’t be explained. When the carbon molecules are factored in, global warming can be explained accurately.

Coal and Its Negative Impact on Our Environment

Burning coal causes the chemical bonds that hold its carbon atoms together to break. This releases the energy from coal, which we use to heat our houses. But breaking down these chemical bonds that make up coal also releases pollutants and heavy metals into our atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide is the main byproduct of burning coal and coal powered plants are the main culprits of CO2 emissions, contributing 24% of all energy related emissions in 2016.

fossil fuels and the environment

One of Colorado’s many oil wells.

Petroleum and its Negative Impact on Our Environment

Petroleum is usually found as small pockets of liquid trapped in layers of rock below the surface of the earth. Burning petroleum products (fuel oil and gasoline) also releases CO2 into our atmosphere. According to http://www.eia.gov, almost 20 pounds of CO2 is produced from burning a gallon of gas that does not contain ethanol. As with coal, many other hazardous byproducts are also released, but the release of CO2 from burning petroleum products is a main contributor to global warming.

Natural Gas and its Impact on Our Environment

Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons, including methane, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. It is often found beneath the earth’s surface near pockets of coal or petroleum and is often extracted at the same time. Even though it burns cleaner than the other fossil fuels (it produces about ½ the CO2 emissions per unit of coal), it still contributes CO2 to our atmosphere. The demand for natural gas has increased greatly in the past decade, requiring drilling for natural gas separately from petroleum. This is called fracking.

Fracking contributes to other environmental hazards besides global warming. Earthquakes, created by disturbing ancient fault lines deep under our earth’s crust, can be a result of drilling for natural gas. As with coal byproducts, the gases from fracking can seep into our water ways, contaminating our drinking water and surrounding soil.

fossil fuels vs renewable energy

House explosion caused by fracking

Hazards of Fracking

In 2017, in Firestone, Colorado, fracking caused a house explosion which killed 2 and seriously injured another. The wells were drilled in the area years before the housing development appeared. The house that exploded was built in 2014. The COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) does not regulate the distance of houses from wells, allowing fracking companies in Colorado to have 129,000 underground oil and gas pipelines within 1000 feet of occupied buildings.

fossil fuels vs clean energy

Gas well showing lines extending out.

Anadarko Petroleum, owners of the nearby well which caused the explosion, allowed toxic gases from an uncapped line to seep into the soil around the house, and to eventually seep into the house. A gas well was 170 feet from the home that exploded, with a gas line 7 feet underground. The gas line, which ran within 10 feet of the house, appeared to be severed at some point, possibly from housing construction. In the past the gas line had run from the well to nearby storage tanks. The tanks had long been removed, but the line that caused the house explosion was still connected to a valve at the well that was left in the “on” position. This allowed a mixture of propane, methane and other gases to seep into the surrounding soil and into the home through drains and a sump pit in the basement. The explosion occurred when the family was trying to light a new hot water heater in the basement. 

Who takes responsibility to prevent these events from happening? In Colorado it’s a constant fight between communities and the owners of wells, such as Anadarko Petroleum.

Eliminating Fossil Fuels

The gases from fossil fuels trap heat in our atmosphere leading to the greenhouse effect—the heating of our earth which causes stronger, more frequent extreme weather patterns, rising and warming seas, and extinction of wildlife and their habitats.

Renewables produce little to no effect on weather patterns. Renewables lead to a healthier planet, healthier waterways, less erosion……the list goes on and on! If we support clean energy, we support a healthy planet!

Support Clean Energy

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 Biophilic Design: Creating a Healthy Environment

biophilic design

Biophilic design accelerates the healing process of patients.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks!”

By Linn Smith

February 18, 2018——-Growing up in rural America I was always connected to nature. I knew from an early age that I could find peace somewhere out of doors, sometimes laying back on my saddleless horse pondering the clouds or walking the farm fields with my dog. Peace in nature was always close at hand. John Muir said it best, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks!” Biophilic design recognizes this.

What is Biophilic Design

Biophilic is derived from the term, “biophilia,” meaning “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” 

Biophilic design in architecture creates environmentally friendly, energy-efficient buildings and developments by effectively managing natural resources. It recognizes the human need to be close to nature by replicating it in architectural design. It seeks a healthier, happier way of life through creating sustainable buildings and cities.

“Passive biophilic architecture produces buildings that use less energy to operate because they feature efficient designs, materials and systems. The majority of biophilic architectures have highly competent heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting systems, and appliances. In addition, these biophilic restructures are built of energy-efficient materials. Green building elements contribute to a better microclimate through evaporation, filtering of dust from the air and reducing the temperatures at the rooftop,” as stated in the article “Towards a New Potential of Healthy Architecture”

Examples of Biophilic Design

Biophilic Design

Live oak trees extend through the deck of an internal courtyard. Natural bark lines the back walls

WHR Architects, Inc

Christus St Michael Health Care Center in Texarkana, Texas where nearly every hospital room looks out on trees or other elements of nature.

The impact of these designs? Studies show that Biophilic designs have a positive effect on our health and well being. Also, using sustainable materials in the construction of biophilic designed buildings has a positive effect on our environment. Biiphilic design provides another example of creating a healthier planet for future generations. 

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