Wake Up Call
We, in Iowa, usually get about half our total rainfall in March and April.
Our rivers run over.
Not this year.
I just mowed my yard for the first time, and it is April 29. Half of it still did not need mowed. It looked too miserable to mow.
We're just not geting any rain to speak of -- all spring.
Our rivers look like it is August.
Someone needs to tell the truth.
That drought in California? Well, it isn't just California. Hardly! From Canada all the way down. . .. through the entire state of Washington, same in Oregon, and the full length of California, and straight through Arizona, New Mexico, and all the way across the great state of Texas -- to The Gulf of Mexico. It is solid drought.
The great Rio Grande is now just a trickle.
I assert, plain and simply: We are getting no rain to speak of in Iowa, because our weather comes from the West.
We have seen often enough in recent years, that overly wet weather feeds on itself, as evaporation from all that water makes it easy to rain again. And drought also feeds on itself. If there is little or no moisture to evaporate, low barometric pressures bring only wind. There is no moisture up there.
That, I believe, is exactly what is happening to Iowa now. But on a larger scale.
Because of "the prevailing westerlies," which are due to complex results of longitude and latitude sun effects, our weather comes from the West.
Well, the West now has nil water to evaporate.
And I should note that Iowa is hardly the major victim here. The West is indeed the most threatened. I failed to mention Nevada. Where Lake Mead, created by the Hoover damn, is at it's lowest levels since records have been kept. And it is the largest water reservoir in the United Sates, when it is at maximum capaicity. Sadly, that's where my friends in Arizona have gotten much of there water over the years.
Yes We Can
At over 11,000 acres in Fulton County, Illinois, Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge is a magnificent example of bringing back our natural heritage. Created as a floodplain restoration, it can now be called many things, including a miracle. But The Nature Conservancy, an international nonprofit, will tell you it is not their miracle. It is what mother nature can do if we will just let her alone. Among the miracles, 1000s of species of ancient plant life are now abundant, despite lying in soil that was devoted to row crops (commercial agriculture) for decades. Turns out those plant seeds can survive for centuries!
I can't help asking: Can we? If we don't give our mother a chance to replenish our home?
The diversity of mammal, fish, reptile, amphibian and bird wildlife at Emiquon dazzles. Give them a space, and they will come.
People often tell me they think it is too late. We can't (or probably can't) turn back our destruction of the planet now. Tell that to all the creatures thriving and frolicking in Emiquon.
And all the fish and game who were dying of acid rain in the lakes, rivers, ponds and creeks cross the North Central US in the 1970s. Until we mandated strict controls on the industrial smokestacks there and across the nation. Soon, acid rain was history.
Only a decade later, we were threatened with an ominous depletion of the earth's ozone layer. Which protects us from ultraviolet rays. There were huge holes in that layer, especially at the poles. Instead of throwing up our hands, we banished freon (the key ingredient in refrigeration and air conditioning). Industry soon came up with an alternative to freon, and just this month scientists report that the ozone layer not only continues to improve, it is almost fully restored.
For more on the literally hundreds of projects sponsored byThe Nature Conservancy, as well as links to many captivating nature photos, an opportunity to adopt an acre at any of dozens of locations around the world, and many other excellent resources, see: www.nature.org
Kudos to Chris O’dell and his Colorado State research team, as well as Ralph Basilio and his team at NASA. They invested over 10 years designing and building a satellite to monitor carbon dioxide levels around the globe. Kudos especially because their first effort crashed in 2009 upon launch - landing in the ocean just off Antarctica, when the nose cone failed to open properly. Their spirits were momentarily crushed . . . watching their time and dreams - not to mention millions of dollars - dashed in minutes.
But almost immediately, they drew up plans to build it again, and next time launch with a different rocket. Thanks to a direct signal from President Obama, the funding was renewed. At a cost of $49 million (million, not billion), their new satellite successfully launched two days ago. July 2, 2014. It will monitor all sources of CO2 over 80% of the planet, as well as the movement (and sometimes absorption) of all those sources. This will be invaluable information for precisely targeted regulations, cap and trade incentives, etc.
We often hear that methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. But methane can readily escape the earth’s atmosphere, wheres carbon dioxide, unless absorbed by forests and other vegetation (or oceans), hangs around for centuries. (Scientific American, BBC, The Associated Press)
It never gets said anymore. Not even an occasional feature story. Not on TV, which is the least surprising. But not on radio either, not even on public radio.
Not in even in the Eastern “liberal” press . . . The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Chicago Sun-Times, etc.
Even more peculiar, it was a BIG story a while back. About 1968 a while back. When Paul Ehrlich wrote “The Population Bomb” and the facts were dramatically less alarming than they are now.
In 500 BC, as Socrates took stock of us, the human world population was no more than 1 million. Likely less. After a thousand years (500 AD) it was up to about 1.9 million. By shakespeare’s time (1600) it was up sharply to 5.4 million. By the American Civil war (1861-1865) we had jumped nearly 200 times to at or near a billion. It reached over 1.5 billion by 1900. Since then? In just over a century, it has gone up nearly 5 times to 7.1 billion.
Why does that exponential growth currently get no attention from ANY media? (Even though it is one of the largest and most conspicuous problems we face)
The long, the short, and the full answer is: It runs up against the one economic system that remains on our little planet.
At one time, there were many different economic systems. Even back just 300 years ago (which is a speck in time up against the 2.5 million years of humans), there were hundreds upon hundreds of different economic systems among us. Ask your local anthropologist.
But under the only one that remains (call it The Market Economy, Capitalism, what ever you like) population growth is a huge positive (for the economy). Population control (or decline) is anathema for the economy. What every governor and mayor now wants is MORE people.
And they are right. Under the one system that remains, you either increase production (using up the planet faster), or you fall into rapid decline. Recession or depression. And, in a system that either grows or crashes, population growth is a key to economic growth. (Ask Japan...now in the decline, because they were birth frugal.)
Hey, young economic thinker! (Especially any macroeconomic student), design a better system! Give up on those absurd two-sided graphs. With the near A.I. computing available today, you only need to ask the right questions. Get us there before the ‘bots tire of us. Yes, that IS a lot to ask. Less would be boring. Save the world. (And tell 'em I said it wasn't going to be easy.) - Adam Smith & progeny.
See also: Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth? by Alan Weisman (2013). And Economics Unmasked by Philip B. Smith and Manfred Max-Neef (2011). Available at Amazon and elsewhere.
In Iowa this year, after a 2 plus year drought -- and searing heat -- cutting crops to far less than normal, we suddenly had a very wet spring. Rains so heavy everyone was fighting to keep their basements from flooding. And, even stranger, too cool. The soil was not warm enough to plant -- until several weeks late. Yes, climate change has brought changes from one extreme to the other.
But that is not the point.
The point is: Most of that oversupply of rain just ran off!
And guess what, as of August 24, we are back in drought. We've had no rain to speak of for over two months. And the crops are once again looking poorly from drought.
My grandparents kept water barrels at the corner of their house, to catch the rain water. They did not waste anything. Especially anything as valuable as water.
It's time to start catching that rain again.
We need to catch and store it in huge reservoirs. Yes, huge.
Some large-scale farmer friends of mine currently doubt that we could ever catch and store enough to save crops in drought. But farmers were likely just as doubtful of saving crops in Ancient Egypt. Before someone figured out how to pump massive quantities from the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile rivers. (Which they managed to do with only the power of oxen)
Hence the birth of civilization.
Best Way to Save Rain Forests?
As you may know, rain forests are being wiped out at pace that should chill even the fondest horror movie fan. For several years in the early 2000s, the most prominent feature on any satellite photo of the earth was a huge plume of smoke . . . coming from South America. It was rain forests burning. That plume is largely gone, but only because the rain forests they were burning are largely gone as well.
I know many, many of you sense the tragedy of this. Especially with climate change impending.
So I have this to offer: The best way to save what is left of the rain forests is to buy them.
Strangely, they are not yet too expensive to buy.
I refer you to this site:
The folks at that site have only about 250 acres total. And they are selling it in parcels of 1000 square meters. For $250 US.
That sounds very fair to me.
Warning: I have no connection with the site above. And I cannot guarantee that they are legit.
But I would bet on it.
Meanwhile, my friends and I are working hard on securing far more acres.
We want to save nearly ALL of what is left.
And we believe that to be 1000s of acres.
Yes, it will be for sale.
Protect Your Trees
What is the single best action you can take to fend off global warming and all of its consequences? Protect your trees.
Trees gobble carbon dioxide (the most plentiful greenhouse gas) and yield oxygen. (Oxygen is what we and all other animals need every moment to live.) Our beautiful leafy friends also reduce global warming by their shading effect.
Many sites now advocate planting trees as one of the best ways to fight global warming. And they are right.
But trees take a long time to grow, and we are running short of time.
Just as in medicine, prevention trumps cure by a mile.
I live in rural Iowa, where I am sad to say that many "farmers" seem to hate trees.*
For as long as I can remember, they have been bulldozing trees away, even in places it had long seemed were their last refuge -- creeks, river rims, fence rows, old abandoned farm house plots (there are many of these plots, as it takes fewer and farmers to farm the land -- so fewer and fewer farm houses are needed -- and the farmers who remain just get bigger.)
In a word, most of Iowa's farmland is now owned by huge operators. And all those old farm house trees just get bulldozed away, along with the old farm house, and along with the fence rows. Hey, when the average farm goes from 80 acres to 355 acres, a lot of fence rows go, too. So do all those trees that used to line them.
Iowans have always been exceptionally nice people. (In dealing with other people, that is.)
But they are often unsophisticated (or skeptical) about climate change. If you want to stop them from bulldozing the next tree, most of them will look puzzled. You will have to talk to them for a while. I know. (They don't really hate trees; it just seems that way.)
The same may be true where you live.
Saving a full-grown tree anywhere is dramatically more powerful than planting a sprig.
*I put "farmers" in quotes because the 2012 Iowa Farmland Ownership Survey, conducted by Iowa State University, reports that 62% of Iowa farmland was actually owned by non-farmers (lawyers, politicians, etc who don't live on the land). This survey, mandated by the Iowa legislature, is conducted every 5 years, and finds the non-farmer ownership percentage up from 60% in 2007 and 55% in 2002.
Late Breaking Bulletin:
Einstein just called. Well, what would he say?
Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the pure size of the problem.
But, in science, the simplest answer is preferred.*
If Einstein were still here, it would be simple for him.
To deal with global warming, we just need to reflect a little of the sun's heat.
Yes, just a little.
If you google it, there are many, many very reflective substances.
We are more than capable of sending small particles of the all-around-best one into the stratosphere.
A bit at a time. Easy does it. And waiting and testing as we go.
Till we get it right.
There is no hurry, when you are really addressing the problem.
On the one hand: At several times in Earth's history, volcanic eruptions have cooled the earth, by spewing up ash that reflected a portion of the sun's heat. The most recent major example was the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, a stratovolcano in the Philippines, which cooled global temperatures for 2 and 1/2 to 3 years.
On the other hand: Life is possible on this rare planet only by a relatively small margin of error in heat or cold, so all due caution and patient testing of ever-so-tiny increments is fully in order.)
To this point, we see no logical holes in this solution. We invite arguments.
But, more so, we proffer it to the bright young engineer(s) who can make it happen!
*That's called Occam's razor. (Easily googled)
Getting Koched: (The Koch brothers now control . . .with their billions)
Pollution promises: Wondering why President Obama had to bypass Congress and go the executive order route in curbing carbon pollution from power plants? Here's a clue: A study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University reveals that Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group run by Charles and David Koch, has coaxed more than 400 lawmakers to sign a pledge promising “to vote against legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts.’’ The signers include a quarter of the Senate and one-third of the House (including all of the Republican leadership) -- as well as 48 state legislators in Missouri, Michigan, and Kansas, where Koch Industries is headquartered, and where in 2011, the brothers’ oil refineries emitted more than 24 million tons of carbon dioxide. The New Yorker, Grist
Traditional societies, including Native Americans, saw their goal as not altering mother earth, as taking pains to leave all the wonders and bounties they surveyed just as they found them.
"My Mother the earth
My Father the sky
Leave their meadows as they lie."
Lines from "Pilgrim Born." See link at top of page for full text.
They would even say a prayer of apology for taking one fish, one beaver or one deer.
We can -- and probably should -- admire that reverence; that way of really appreciating our amazing earth, our wonderfully bountiful mother.
Good planets are hard to find.
But we can't live in the past. The earth has changed. It has warmed, and it's time to stop arguing about who or what caused it.
It's here. We need to deal with it.
It is up to us Pilgrims now. And we pilgrims have always been good at technology -- creating and implementing solutions to problems in the physical world.
What's the problem this time? Multiple.
All because of climate change.
Let's see what you've got, Pilgrim.
I know you guys (engineers and techies) are usually quiet, not given to speaking out.
But it's your planet.
One solution -- to two of the global warming problems -- is offered here. Yes, it's a two-for.
(See the "Desalination" link at top of page.)
What can you add? What warming problem(s) can you address?
It took me months and months to come up with one answer.
And that is the desalination page. (Maybe you should visit that page before you go any farther. To see that there ARE answers. It's not hopeless.)
Now it's your turn.
We need another solution page link. And another.
I only addressed 2 problems; there are so many others.
(It beats the H out of just sitting on your hands and thinking you can do nothing about it. You can.)
So what do you have?
Please mull it over.** Even in your sleep. (It's about your
Other sites we recommend
Website of the week: The Guardian
**A brief note on the psychology of mulling or pondering: Those who study the history of science have long written of the Eureka or Aha effect. Thought to have been noticed perhaps as early as the Ancient Greeks (by Archimedes), the history of science is replete with examples of breakthroughs that came quite suddenly, with the one who had the Eureka moment (of suddenly seeing a clear answer to a very difficult problem) experiencing not only an apparent full-blown breakthrough but a thrill of pleasure at it. See The Eureka Effect by David Perkins (a Harvard professor), available at Amazon. As critics have noted, however, Perkins may give the impression that one can enhance the chances of this experience by learning or practicing certain mental tricks at solving puzzles he provides. That is open to dispute. What we know is that this experience comes only after immersing oneself in the problem, and being at an impasse for quite a while. Time (thinking time) is key.
Joan Baez, Rejoice in the Sun