Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Earth Hour and Earth Day are Now Global Events

Earth Day, April 22, 2019

This year Earth Day has a theme which is, “Protect Our Species”.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

In the past few years unusual environmental events have changed the public perception of global warming and climate change. Not only have the majority of people now endorsed the fact the warming of the planet is real, but also that something must be done to stop the rapid change to the global climate system.

Politicians around the world, regardless of their political or economic philosophy, are being forced to take action to curb the process. They are taking action because they must deal with the effects of global warming. Whether it is rising sea level, rising global temperatures, more frequent severe storms or changing weather patterns, the problems are real! Mayors of large cities and heads of state are now recognize and realize that something must be done.

Earth Day 2019

Earth Hour

Earth Hour

On Saturday March 30, 2019, a global event took place called Earth Hour. The purpose of the event was to call attention to the rising impact of human activity on the planet. The first Earth Hour was held in Sydney, Australia on March 31, 2007 and organized by the World Wildlife Fund. They asked the people to turn off their lights for one hour from 8:30 to 9:00 pm to call attention to the increasing effects of global warming. It is estimated that more than two million individuals participated.

Support for Earth Hour can be demonstrated by turning off lights at the designated time and/or for individuals, signing a pledge to do your part. Billboards in Times Square, New York and lights on some buildings were dimmed or shut down. Many other cities around the globe also participated. It has also been suggested that there has been more grass roots participation in this event than any other organized event. Next year’s event will be held on March 28 2020.

Earth day 2019

Earth day 2019

Earth Day

The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. This will be the 49th year of the event. Earth Day 2019 promises to be of major significance. This Earth Day, April 22, more national governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals are expected to take part in scheduled activities than ever before!

This year the event has a theme which is, “Protect Our Species”. The emphasis is going to be on protecting threatened and endangered species. Today humans are responsible for the most rapid rated of extinction of species that has occurred in more than fifty million years. Prior to the impact of humans, species were disappearing at the rate of one to five species each year. The current rate is perhaps a thousand times that. It is estimated that nearly half of all animal species are in decline. Some have labeled it the Sixth Mass Extinction. A mass extinction is defined as an event in which more than half of all species become extinct.

Earth Day 2019

Earth Day 2019

Next year will the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Plans are already underway to make it a special event!

Protect Our Species

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Climate Change: The Shift in Politics and Public Opinion

“If the Green New Deal isn’t a quick fix, it is creating a conversation.”

By Linn Smith

Renewable energy

Support sustainable energy

The term Green New Deal, has currently been brought to public attention by Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasii Cortez. But the term was originally used in the early 2000’s by Van Jones to outline his vision for a program that would birth a “just and green” economy, as written in his book, The Green Collar.

Climate change

Support renewable resources

The Changing Public Opinion on Climate Change

Public opinion is changing in support of climate legislation, politicians can no longer put it on the back burner. Seventy per cent of Americans have real concern for our changing climate and have some knowledge of what’s coming down the pipeline in our future. Most people have also experienced some form of extreme weather conditions in the past several years.

climate change

Support Renewables

The Green New Deal

If the Green New Deal isn’t a quick fix, it is creating a conversation and parts of the proposal are gaining support from both Democrats and Republicans.” An article on climate change in the recent issue of Time Magazine states, “The outcome of the debate will go a long way towards determining if humanity can avoid the most catastrophic consequences of a rapidly warming world….the science is damning and the clock is ticking!”

The Green New Deal


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Building Sustainable Communities

Sustainable communities

Live sustainably

“A sustainable community, though varying in structure, promotes sustainable, or green, living for its occupants.”

By Linn Smith
March 3, 2019—I recently read an article by a woman who was trying to live sustainably for several months… walking, riding her bike, growing her own food and dumpster diving when that ran out. I’m all for living sustainably, and I think I do a pretty good job of it, but dumpster diving is not on my list of sustainable living methods. Not that I’m against it, it’s just not for me! Plus, I can’t see spending my entire day walking, biking and looking for food. So, what is the answer? Maybe the hippies of the 70’s had it right when they developed communes. Today the word is…sustainable communities!

Sustainable communities

The Amish live a sustainable life.

The Amish: A Sustainable Community

When I was growing up in the rural Midwest, there was a nearby Amish community. The Amish would open their homes on weekends to the outside community, selling a variety of pies, cakes and many other delicious baked goods and hand made products. We would drive the country roads to get there, passing the men in black hats walking behind the draft horses as they plowed the field. Sometimes we would pass them on the paved roads near our house as they drove their buggies near the edge. The men would make extra money roofing barns in the area, with the stipulation that you must go to their community to pick them up. The Amish are living a sustainable life as they have since arriving since the U.S. in the early 1700s.

I grew up knowing how hard field work was, (but not Amish hard) driving the tractor to bale hay and dragging the fields, milking cows and watching my folks fill the jars with canned goods that went in the basement for the winter. It was sustainable living for that time period.

What is a Sustainable Community?

A sustainable community, though varying in structure, promotes sustainable, or green, living for its occupants by creating a healthy place to live while reducing the carbon footprint and negative environmental impact. It doesn’t have to mean dumpster diving or driving a horse and buggy down the highway, but it is important for individuals, families and communities to move in a sustaining direction.

sustainable communities

Dancing Rabbit is a sustainable community in Missouri.

Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage

Building a sustainable community may take several forms, such as buying land and building sustainable housing with a community greenhouse, gardens, solar and wind power. An example of this is Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage in Missouri which has built their community using the following guidelines:

Green communities

Sustainable living

1. No vehicles are to be used or stored in the village.
2. Fossil fuels for cars, refrigeration, heating and cooling homes, as well heating domestic water aren’t allowed.
3. All gardening must be organic.
4. All power must come from renewable resources.
5. No lumber from outside the local area is allowed unless it is recycled or salvaged.
6. Organic waste and recyclable materials are to be reincorporated into usable products through composting methods.

Extreme? Maybe….. but there may be more palatable solutions.

green communities

Work .towards making your community more sustainable

Making Your Community Sustainable

In the Mother Earth Living article by Carol Venolia, “Come Together: How to Build Sustainable Communities,” Ms. Venolia makes the following points for making an already established community more sustainable:

1. Have a neighborhood potluck to discuss the possibilities of moving towards a green community and exchange information.
2. Establish a community garden in free spaces in the neighborhood such as vacant lots.
3. Install low water drip irrigation systems where needed. This system is the most efficient in water saving techniques.
4. Share produce from already existing backyard gardens
5. Help each other replace high maintenance sod lawns with indigenous plants that will thrive in your climate.
6. Create a neighborhood resource website to encourage sharing of items from tools to cars. Also, list neighborhood members’ different skills that could be traded.
7. Ride share. Create a community e-mail to list who is going on errands that may be shared with another rider.
8. Share time and skills to make the neighborhood homes more energy efficient, lowering energy bills.
9. Make a neighborhood investment in a solar-power.
10. Support local farmers by buying food grown locally.
11. Become familiar with your larger community by knowing local flora and fauna and waterways. The more you learn the more you are apt to participate in making your environment a healthy place by creating sustainable living. “Community is a major component of sustainability. Strong neighborhood ties don’t just make life more pleasant, studies show they also improve safety and increase personal longevity.”

Now is the time to reach out and lend a helping hand to your neighbor and Planet Earth! Be a role model for your children and leave them a healthy place to live.

Sustainable Living


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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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International Action on Climate Change: Paris, France (COP21) to Katowice, Poland (COP24)

Climate change conference

Climate Change

“It recently became clear that not enough was being done to reduce global warming.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

January 18, 2016—-In 2015, a major conference on climate change was held in Paris. At the Paris climate conference most of the representatives of the nearly 200 countries attending agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At present, global temperatures are set to rise 3°C (5 1/2°F). An agreement was reached to make sure global temperatures did not rise more than 2°Celsius (3.6°F) above temperatures prior to the industrial revolution. It is believed by many scientists that any rise above this level would lead to a self generated further rise in temperature. In turn this would lead to devastating changes in natural events. Much more rapid melting of the global ice and a corresponding rise in sea level would occur and extreme weather events would be more common.

At the Paris conference each country was allowed to present a plan for reducing emissions. None of the plans were enforceable. This was the only way to get most of the countries to submit plans.

Poland and renewable energy

Poland and %100 renewables

The COP24 Conference

It recently became clear that not enough was being done to reduce global warming. Another conference was scheduled, representatives from most of the countries that participated in the Paris conference met earlier in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland. The purpose was to further the outcome of the Paris Conference. This conference is known as the COP24 conference. The goal of this meeting was to establish a set of rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more sharply by the countries that attended the conference. The rules take into account the possibilities and conditions in each individual country.

At the present many, if not most countries, have no way of tracking their emissions. What is needed, of course, is some method of documenting emission levels. However, there have been many objections expressed to documenting emissions. Some of these objections are simply based on available technology. Others are based on a fear of providing national technological data to the rest of the world. There are also many objections from the less developed countries which emit a combined 60% of the emissions, but do not have the technology nor economic resources to monitor them. There was considerable effort by the less developed countries to have the more wealthy countries help finance the data gathering and emission reductions in the poorer countries.

climate change

The exchange of energy is causing rapid arctic melting.

Polish Plans to Reduce Emissions

Poland is a country with extensive coal deposits which are used to produce electrical power. However, the Polish Government has begun a number of projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They launched a clean air program in the summer of 2018. They have been increasing the area of forested land. Forests cover about a third of the country and the area has been increasing. Selected tree species can increase the absorption of CO2.

The American Government Repudiates Climate Change

The United States was a leader in organizing the Paris conference of 2015. However, Mr. Trump has repudiated the Paris Agreement. He has also refused to pay two billion dollars in aid pledged during the Obama administration to support global efforts to reduce climate change. The government of the United States did not send representatives to the Katowice conference.

World cooperation on many items has decreased substantially in the last three years. A big part of the reason is the nationalism (America First) espoused by Mr. Trump. The United States can do better at being a leader in the fight against rising temperatures on our planet!


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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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Pollution and the Clothing Industry

Dirty Fashion

Fashion and Climate Change.

“Collectively the fashion industry has a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

By Linn Smith

December 15, 2018—The clothing industry contributes 10% of the greenhouse gases to our planet’s atmosphere and is the second largest polluter of our freshwater lakes and streams. The industry has been producing 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year, making it one of the top polluting industries on our planet.

Cotton and pollution

Most clothing worn in the U.S. contains some cotton. Sixty percent of women’s clothing and eighty per cent of men’s clothing contains cotton, and the streams surrounding clothing factories are polluted with dyes and chemical runoff from the clothing industrial sites.

Many cotton fields are located in the arid deserts of the Southwest United States, where farming the cotton requires water that is slowly depleting the rivers and streams. It takes approximately 2.5acre feet of water to grow cotton. (An acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover one acre of the surface area to a depth of one foot.) To make one pair of denim jeans, 10,000 liters of water is required to grow one kilo (about 2.2 pounds) of cotton needed for the pair of jeans. In comparison, one person would take 10 years to drink 10,000 liters of water!

Climate Change

Clothing: Polluting our earth

The Fashion Industry and Sustainability

According to the World Resources Institution, “Growth of the multi-trillion-dollar apparel industry has been fed by “fast fashion,” which makes clothing cheap and fast with a low price-tag.” This is why the fashion industry is turning to sustainability in an attempt to mitigate some of its damage it has caused our planet. With the help of the United Nations many big corporations within the fashion industry have recently resolved to shift practices, following the guidelines of the Paris Agreement on Climate change.

An initiative of United Nation Climate Change attempts to lower the greenhouse gases attributed to the fashion industry by setting targets for the fashion industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The initiative attempts to work with the fashion industry by helping it select climate friendly and sustainable materials, by using low-carbon transportation to move the manufactured articles, by producing less carbon during the production of clothing and by encouraging sustainable fashion connections that offset the carbon emissions with investments in carbon emission reductions.

“Forty-three companies, including brands such as Adidas and Burberry, retailers such as Target, and supplier organizations – on Monday (Dec 10, 2018) pledged to find ways to reduce emissions in their value chains as part of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action that was launched during the ongoing United Nations (UN) climate change talks in Katowice, Poland.”

Climate Change

Clothing Producing Pollution

Fashion Companies and Sustainability

The fast fashion retailer H&M shared their strategy to be 100% renewable energy by 2040 with a fully circular production model, where the by-product of one industry serves the objective of another! Other signers of the Initiative include Esprit, Guess, Gap Inc, and Hugo Boss.

“Additionally, the famous blue jean manufacturer Levi, Strauss & Co has announced a new climate change action plan. Using Science Based Targets, the company plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% across its global supply chain by 2025. The plan also includes a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in all owned-and-operated facilities, which will be achieved by investing in onsite renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades.” The initiative remains open for others in the clothing industry to follow suit.

Designer Stella McCartney recently stated, “Climate change is undoubtedly one of, if not, the biggest challenge of our lifetime. It is and will affect everyone on this planet and our future. I want to call on my peers in the business, from other brands to retailers and suppliers, to sign up to this charter now and take the necessary actions to address the reality of the issue of climate change in their business and value chains. Collectively we have a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

Fashion industry and pollution


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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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The Law of the River: Over Allotment of the Colorado

The Colorado River

The Colorado River is over allocated.

“The Colorado River has been over allocated from the beginning.”

By Linn Smith
September 11, 2018—-The Law of the River is a Colorado River Compact formed in 1922. It’s an agreement between 7 states in the Colorado River Basin. The upper division is Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming and the Lower Basin states are Arizona, Nevada and California. All management of the river is called the “Law of the River.”

High Precipitation in 1922

Tree rings have been studied from 1922 which show that the flow of the Colorado River during the original signing was at an all time high. The 3 years around the establishment of water rights were very wet years with high precipitation. Therein lies part of the problem of over allotment of the Colorado River. The river was at peak flow in 1922, allowing more than enough water for all.

The colorado river

Actions we can take to help preserve the Colorado River.

The Law of the River

The Law of the River declares the upper basin states should not deplete the flow of the river below 7,500,00 acre ft. (An acre foot would be equivalent to an acre of land being flooded with 1 foot depth of water) during any 10 consecutive years. But rainfall was at an all time high when the Law of the River pact was signed. With the rainfall patterns of 1922, this would have allowed for a roughly equal flow between the upper and lower basins and enabled widespread irrigation of the arid southwest to grow fruits, and vegetables, as it continually had done with very few problems in the 20th century.

Water depletion

Irrigation in the Southwest U.S.

The Colorado River and Population Growth

Today the population of states along the Colorado River has increased, requiring greater demand on the river, which has decreased, causing many legal water disputes. Over 40 million people, 18 million in lower basin states, depend on the Colorado river for water and the power it creates. Hoover Dam generates, on average, about 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power each year for use in Nevada, Arizona, and California – enough to serve 1.3 million people! Without the Colorado River and the power it generates, millions of people would have a greater dependency on fossil fuels.

Since the development of the river compact, California has been using the surplus water that other states haven’t used in the lower basin. But with population growth both Arizona and Nevada are claiming their water allotments, forcing California to resort to greater water conservation policies. Growth in the other lower basin states will not allow the surplus flow to California.
(see, https://planetearth5.com/2018/08/26/irrigation-and-water-depletion-in-the-southwest-united-states/)

The Colorado river

Farmers in the Southwest are left little water for irrigation.

!

The Drought in the Southwest

The Colorado River has been over allocated from the beginning and the flows were overestimated. The estimation was 17 million acre ft a year, but the flow has been much less for most of the years since the signing of the compact. Forecasts state that the Colorado river will only carry about 43% of the allotted water into Lake Powell in the future, as the drought in the Southwest has been taking place for the past 18 years, which some say is a permanent shift at least in part due to global warming.

Conserving the Colorado River

Kim Mitchell of Western Resource Advocates states, “People in the seven S.W. states must learn to live with less water. Unless we take decisive proactive steps now, farmers, cities, business and environment all will lose water….they must understand that more water is being pulled out of the river than is being replaced. The problem is compounded by a long-term drought and climate change.” U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Aug 15, 2018, anticipates declaration shortage in Sept 2019 that would trigger reduced water releases from federal reservoirs in the lower basin states.

Recently the Upper Basin states accused CAP, Central Arizona Project, of manipulating its share of water to keep Lake Mead low enough that the upper basin is required to send extra water, but high enough to avoid mandatory cutbacks in lower basin consumption. The water wars will continue!

Adoption of additional water conservation measures now is the best approach to protect the Colorado River as continued long-term solutions are developed.

Depletion of the Colorado River

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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