The spotlight is a weekly, categorized compilation of links and excerpts from environmentally related posts at Daily Kos. Any posts included in the collection do not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of them. Because of the interconnectedness of the subject matter, some of these posts can be placed in more than one category.
CLIMATE EMERGENCY & EXTREME WEATHER
How does one of the deadliest wildfires of the 21st century garner minimal coverage outside Chile? by Pakalolo. For decades, climate scientists have warned that a hotter climate will cause drought and devastating wildfires. And here they are. Where is the outrage at the fossil fuel industry, the billionaires, and the government? The Chilean wildfires are still burning after 112 people were killed ( and counting), with hundreds if not thousands missing and the deaths of countless wildlife and our fur babies. The damage is in the country's central region, which heats and dries up during El Nino. Climate change amplifies the disaster worse. Global heating is a threat multiplier when conditions are ripe. The world’s climate system is breaking down, and we witness it in such events. The fires in Chile have surpassed the deaths and devastation of the Lahaina wildfire. They are now the deadliest in South American history.
Dry Valleys permafrost release CO2, EAIS approaches runaway melting, WAIS collapsed in recent past by Pakalolo. As if we need more snarky news on how much apocalyptic trouble we are in, The Guardian chimes in and shares this feel-good story: How do you stop a glacier from melting? Simple – put up an underwater curtain. John Gibbons asked nobody in particular, “Which stage of #collapse is passed when you reach the “let’s build a gigantic 100km (62 miles) underwater curtain attached to the sea bed to stop glaciers disintegrating” Phase?”. Global heating stresses ecosystems, geological, atmospheric, ocean systems, and soil systems because more and more solar heat is absorbed by Earth instead of reflected into space. The world’s ice and the air conditioners for planet Earth are rapidly failing.
Puerto Rican sponge study finds that the earth has rapidly warmed, passing 1.7 Celsius temperature by Pakalolo. The big picture is that global warming, and the urgent need for emission reductions to minimize the risk of dangerous climate change, has been brought forward for at least a decade; so this is a major change to thinking about global warming. Malcolm McCulloch, Lead-author of the study and marine geochemist. A new study published in the journal Nature has found that sclerosponges found off the coast of Puerto Rico behave like a time capsule. They hold data on ocean surface temperatures going back 300 years. Like tree rings the sponge layers tell the story of recent ocean warming. The research found that the Earth has passed one climate threshold (1.5 C) and is galloping at full speed to break the 2.0 C threshold by the end of this decade. The study finds we have warmed by 1.7C and not 1.2 or 1.3 celsius.
Saying goodbye to 1.5°C by Meteor Blades. The week began with publication of a study in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change saying that so far the average world temperature rise over the preindustrial era is not the 1.2°C (2.16°F) that scientists say has already occurred but rather 1.7°C (3.02°F). If that proves to be true, it means global warming is running 20 years faster than the IPCC’s latest projection, and 2°C (3.6°F) can’t be far behind. [...] Meanwhile, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts announced Thursday that the world just had the hottest January ever recorded. It was also the eighth consecutive month exceeding historic temperatures. And it was 12th consecutive month that the overall average temperature was above 1.5°C. In a statement, C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess said: "2024 starts with another record-breaking month—not only is it the warmest January on record, but we have also just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5°C above the preindustrial reference period. Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing." You may have heard that prescription a few times previously.
Cryptocurrency may have no value, but it definitely has a price by Mark Sumner. Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, have no intrinsic value. They exist only as numbers in a blockchain, and they’re worth whatever the wildly swinging market says they are worth at a given moment. But even if crypto has no real-world value, it absolutely has a real-world cost. Because finding the magic numbers for each currency requires solving mathematical equations that are purposely difficult to execute. Completing those calculations requires more and more dedicated computing hardware over time—and more and more energy. As a new report from the Energy Information Administration warns, “mining” for cryptocurrency now consumes up to 2.3% of electricity produced in the U.S. What’s more, that power includes some of the dirtiest electricity in the nation. It’s also directly affecting the cost of electricity for consumers while putting money in the pockets of the companies mining for “digital gold.”
Kitchen Table Kibitzing: Atmospheric Rivers & Climate Anxiety by boatsie. The slow moving atmospheric river which swallowed parts of California was strengthened by El Niño and global heating and fueled by thousands of miles of moisture extending through the subtropics. While the winds bore down on Northern California, in the South the problem was mostly mudslides and floods. On Monday, when I checked out the county’s emergency notifications, I read that friends in my old town of Bolinas were been told to shelter in place and that parts of Highway 1 heading out there were closed due to mudslides and felled trees. My stepdaughter texted me that winds of 100 mph had been clocked in nearby San Geronimo. Power was still out in much of the county Monday morning. The sun was struggling to slice through the dark grey over cover. The paths my dog and I walked on were littered with leaves and large discarded limbs. Yoga was late as the teacher had to navigate a mudslide on Panoramic Highway and take the long way down from her house on Mt. Tamalpais. The class was nearly empty. It certainly felt like the morning after a disaster.
Writing Climate Change into the K-12 Curriculum by Alan Singer. In response to the threat of a climate catastrophe, there is a renewed push to include climate awareness in the K-12 school curriculum. New Jersey was the first state to mandate climate change lessons in its public schools. New York State Senate Bill S278A would amend the state education law “establishing a course of instruction and learning expectations on climate education in all public pre-kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools.” There is also a companion bill in the State Assembly, A1559A. Over 200 educational professionals and organizations representing tens of thousands of members have signed a letter in support of the New York State legislation (See below for text of the letter and a link to sign). The National Wildlife Federation is already asking teachers to pledge to teach at least ten hours a year to promote climate change awareness. Its website includes a guide for teaching about climate and climate change. The Climate and Resilience Education Task Force offers a Toolkit for supporting climate action and education.
WATER & INFRASTRUCTURE
Forgotten River: The Glaring Omission in the State Water Board’s Bay-Delta Plan Update by Dan Bacher. A not-so-funny thing happened when the State Water Resources Control Board decided to update its Bay-Delta Plan, the document that authorizes protective temperature ranges and flow requirements for the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their shared Delta. Dubbed Phase 2, the proposed plan inexplicably omits protection for a major source of water for the Bay-Delta system: the Trinity River. The Trinity is the largest tributary to the Klamath River and is critical habitat for some of the state’s last wild salmon – fish that are essential to the food supply and culture of some of California’s largest Native tribes and a lynchpin of the commercial fishing and sport angling industries. While it is not in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed, the Trinity contributes on average over 600,000 acre-feet of water annually to the Sacramento River via three reservoirs and two tunnels.
CRITTERS & THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Daily Bucket - Noon, Groundhog Day 2024 by CaptBLI. I thought it would be a good idea to see if I could find some furry creature and get a prediction about an early or late Spring. WELL, it turns out that the only furry thing I saw was a domestic cat (from a neighboring farm) that wandered into the refuge. It had nothing to say. I passed portions of the refuge scorched by controlled burning (scheduled by the Park Ranger). Small birds flitted over the darkened area while a Red-tail Hawk hunted from a pine on the fringes.
The Daily Bucket - late winter swans and dunlin on Fir Island by OceanDiver. Fir Island. Skagit county, Washington.Bird activity on the Skagit flats winds down in February as winter migrants head back north for the breeding season. Nevertheless it’s always worth making a stop there if we have the chance, since we’re not over on the mainland much (in fact I schedule all my routine medical appointments for winter if I can, to have an especially good reason to take the onerous ferry trips over there). Fir Island is our go-to destination, so I consider it my “backyard”, a regular place to observe nature and wildlife. As to it being an island — that’s only in the sense it’s bordered by the channeled north and south forks of the Skagit river (bridges over both) and Skagit bay, a triangle of flatland river delta. But one which is a magnet for wildlife of many kinds, the most visible and dramatic being the wintering birds. Lots of swans! About 20 in Browns slough, 10 in the mud bay, and 50 or so in the field to the west. All except two were Trumpeter swans. I did a double take as I observed four swans fly by, tootling….two of them did not have the dulcet tones of Trumpeter voices: those were Tundra swans. It was really good to see several swan families. Most of the many hundreds of swans on the flats this year, in flocks of 50 to 300 in various fields across the lowlands, were white, meaning adults. Previous years have had a higher percent of grey juveniles.
Dawn Chorus: Winter Flocking in Coastal Pacific NW by OceanDiver. Winter is the big flocking season in the Pacific Northwest. In summer, breeding birds spread out to nest, usually forming defended territories, but in winter, what takes priority is surviving challenging conditions. Terrestrial birds like robins, juncos, bushtits, siskins, blackbirds, turkeys also form winter flocks but I’m focusing on aquatic coastal birds since that’s who I see most of the time. The principles apply across birds in general though. A flock is a group of birds but not all gatherings of birds are flocks. In a flock, the birds behave collectively as a whole, although there’s no central coordination per se. So the gathering of twenty eagles I saw perched on a headland isn’t a flock; every eagle just happened to find it a good spot to stop for a time before each went off on its own way. Flock cohesiveness is on a spectrum though so sometimes it’s not always clear how flocky a group is.
Daily Bucket - Other offerings (than Winter's Woes) by CaptBLI. I was editing hay seed’s videos and still photos and stumbled upon some new treasures. He stays pretty busy and can’t get to (fully complete some tasks) everything he dabbles in. Plus, I like doing this small thing for him. I’m sure he’d want you to see the other offerings he may not have had time to present before.
AGRICULTURE, GARDENING & FOOD
Zero cherries from some Canadian orchards this summer by Pakalolo. Cherry and other stone fruits, such as plums, peaches, and nectarines, are grown in British Columbia's interior region, where growers say that disruptive weather patterns from flooding, lack of protective snow cover, warmer temperatures, and sudden bursts of cold weather have likely ended this year's fruit crops, particularly cherries. British Columbia cherries are exported to the United States, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union. After leaving Brexit, the United Kingdom faces shortages of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the produce bowls in Spain are reeling from global warming. Farmers are left holding empty bags, and many seek compensation from their respective governments. The Vancouver Sun: Farmers in B.C.’s Interior say rapid fluctuations in winter weather have wiped out many of their peach, grape and cherry crops, meaning consumers will likely see fewer local soft fruits on grocery store shelves this summer. [...] Peter Simonsen, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, said the weather-related damage is the worst the industry has seen since floods caused by extreme weather devastated parts of southwestern B.C. in November 2021. [...] “What happened was an unseasonal period of warm weather that suddenly got very cold in January. As tree sap was rising it was sort of like having the pipes in your house freeze — it kills the flower buds and can also hurt the tree in the long-term.”
ENERGY, EMISSIONS & TRANSPORTATION
Texas EV Tax by Jarowell3801. This is NOT a Taylor Swift rant, lol. For the record, not my cup of tea, but I got nothing but respect. Nor is this gonna turn into a Tesla ad, again, lol. No, here it is. I just paid my $200 Ev Tax when I renewed my car's registration. I drive a little 2017 Kia Soul I bought in 2022 from Car Max. For the record, I do NOT mind paying A tax, I just object to the size of this one. Let me explain. This tax is SUPPOSED to substitute for all the gas taxes I would've paid if I drove a regular internal cumbustion engine car. That is a GOOD thing. That's how our roads are maintained. I should not get a free ride. EV's are HEAVY, and do plenty of damage to the roads. But, this is WHY people hate Republicans. Even when they do something good, they can't do anything right. My little car doesn't weigh anything CLOSE to an F150 Lightning, for instance, nor do I put very many miles on it. I never even leave Kerrville. The tax needs to be make and model specific, and based on milage. My brother is an accountant, so he did the math, but it would take me over 12,000 miles to incur enough gas tax to equal $200. Last year? I drove 2500 miles. Even that shocked me. Rant over.For those who are curious, a Kia Soul Ev weighs 3, 289 lbs, while a F150 Lightning Ev weighs 6,015 lbs.
CA Resources Corporation Ploy To Buy Aera Energy Is Way To Avoid Plugging Idle Wells, Capture Carbon by Dan Bacher. Oil companies and other big corporations base their operations on a model of privatizing the profits — and socializing the losses. That was definitely the case yesterday when the California Resources Corporation (CRC) announced the signing of a merger agreement to combine with Aera Energy, LLC in an all-stock transaction that would enable CRC to avoid plugging low producing wells and Aera to capture and store carbon: www.businesswire.com/...“The transaction values Aera at approximately $2.1 billion, inclusive of Aera’s net debt and certain other obligations and is expected to be immediately accretive. At closing, Aera's owners will receive 21.2 million shares of CRC’s common stock, equal to approximately 22.9% of CRC’s fully diluted shares,” CRC announced.
Chevron Self-Inflicts Wound In CA As It Failed to Plug Low Producing Oil Wells by Dan Bacher. Chevron has only itself to blame for its $1.8 billion in "higher US upstream impairment charges mainly in California" discussed in its earnings release today, saying its own low producing wells were the cause, according to a press statement from Consumer Watchdog. ”Chevron’s wells only produce an average 3 barrels of oil per day, according to a new analysis by FracTracker. The company had hoped to dump the wells on another buyer, until a new law last year (AB 1167) required any buyer of such wells to prove that they had the financial capacity to plug them,” the group said. Consumer Watchdog said Chevron should have long ago plugged its low producing wells and was only keeping them active in order to avoid the cost of plugging them. Chevron’s wells have been in decline for many years. According to FracTracker, Chevron wells produced 4.34 barrels of oil per day in 2019, 3.86 in 2020, 3.74 in 2021, and 3.08 in 2022.
Big Oil and Big Gas spent a record $27 million lobbying in California in 2023! by Dan Bacher. Big Oil and Big Gas spent an all-time record of $27,003,931on lobbying in 2023 in the “green” and “progressive” state of California. The lobbying expenditures for the last quarter alone were $4,983,305. Chevron topped all other oil corporations in lobbying spending in 2023 with a total of $11,196,342 for the year. That includes $4,924,088 spent in the first quarter, $1,204,139 in the second quarter, $3,866,296 in the third quarter and $1,201,819 in the fourth quarter. The Western States Petroleum Association, the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in the state, finished second in oil industry lobbying expenditures with $6,935,428 spent on lobbying in 2023. WSPA spent $2,380,275 in the first quarter, $1,561,555 in the second quarter, $1,381,995 in the third quarter and $1,611,603 in the third quarter: cal-access.sos.ca.gov/… Another big fossil fuel lobbying spender in the state, Aera Energy, spent a total of $1,660,836 for the year, including $627,892 in the first quarter, $111,403 in the second quarter, $788,192 in the third quarter, and $133,349 in the fourth quarter.
Dark Brandon made heat pumps and solar panels a national security issue: Boosting Biden Day 26 by GoodNewsRoundup. Dark Brandon Always Finds a Way. From Vox: It looks like President Joe Biden is done waiting for Congress to do something about the country’s dependence on foreign energy. Through a series of executive actions announced on Monday, the president plans to use the Defense Production Act to boost clean energy in the United States by putting a two-year freeze on tariffs for solar panels coming to the country from Southeast Asia and simultaneously scaling up the domestic production of clean energy technologies. This is the latest in a series of moves that show the White House is beginning to treat climate change and clean energy as national security issues. It’s also the kind of thing climate activists have been asking the Biden administration to do for months. The executive actions could bring thousands of manufacturing jobs to the country while also making the US less dependent on foreign oil and gas. I love that Biden did that for two reasons. First, independent energy sources and a green planet ARE national security issues. Second, calling them national security issues makes it easier for Biden to take action.
We ARE Having the Wrong Debate on LNG Exports by Justin Mikulka. Have you seen the latest messaging from the oil and gas industry public relations machine on LNG exports? At Heatmap we are told that if we want to know if LNG is bad or good that, “The answer depends on where it’s going and what it’s replacing.” Which is the same message at the MIT Technology Review where “Rather, when the fuel is exported, the net climate impact depends on what it replaces in the importing country, and whether realistic alternatives produce more or less greenhouse gas. At E&E news the headline states that “It’s complicated.” But is it? Let’s do a thought experiment. Say someone was arguing that exporting U.S. LNG was good for the climate – or at least less bad than other options. And part of their argument was that U.S. LNG was cleaner than Russian LNG. And say they made this argument in a prestigious publication published by a top American university. And say they linked to a study to make this case. And that study reported that the five worst methane emitting countries were Turkmenistan, Russia, the U.S., Iran and Kazakhstan. Would this be an argument you’d want to make when claiming that U.S. LNG should be exported to the world as a clean fuel?
Where’s Our War on Climate Change? by Kat Ignatz. “A nationwide analysis by USA TODAY shows local governments are banning green energy faster than they’re building it. At least 15% of counties in the U.S. have effectively halted new utility-scale wind, solar, or both, USA TODAY found. These limits come through outright bans, moratoriums, construction impediments and other conditions that make green energy difficult to build.” Holy moly, it’s not epic at all. It’s colossally bad! And with two articles, the reality of the U.S fight against climate change is laid bare. There’s a lot of random and disorganized stuff going on. No one is leading. No one’s in charge, and there’s no plan. If this is the best the U.S. can do, climate change has already won, and all that’s left is waiting around for natural disaster after disaster to pick us all off. But there may be hope if someone somewhere gets real about creating a plan. Noble Owl in Rhode Island is trying: “Your fate and mine will be decided in the next six years. Supposedly, if the world cuts its CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and hits zero by 2050, human civilization will be able to hobble on."
Cryptocurrency Mining’s Energy Use Is Finally Coming Under Governmental Scrutiny - Good! by alblion. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) will now “survey identified commercial cryptocurrency miners, which are required to respond with details related to their energy use”. The provisional survey is part of an effort to understand the energy implications of cryptocurrency mining, with a specific focus on how the industry’s energy demand is evolving, the geographic areas with the highest demand for growth, and quantify the sources of electricity that are being used to meet this demand. The survey was approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget as an “emergency collection of data request.” It highlights the growing worry over cryptocurrency’s energy consumption, with Democratic Party lawmakers expressing concerns over the high energy use, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others urging the government to track the industry’s energy use and sources. Bitcoin alone now uses more energy than some countries, and its energy consumption is growing due to people now using cryptocurrency for everything, at a time when the world is fighting climate change. This measure is the U.S. government’s attempt to get hard numbers before definite measures can be taken to solve this problem.
PLASTICS & POLLUTION
East Palestine Rail Disaster Example of Much Broader Regulatory Failure in US by Justin Mikulka. In the 1901 annual report of the Commissioner of Railroads for the state of Michigan, the author mentioned that “Railroad rules have been written in blood.” The idea was that safety rules were only implemented when enough blood had been spilled. As we reach the one year anniversary of the East Palestine rail disaster, no new safety regulations are in place to prevent the next such disaster. While no blood was spilled in this disaster, a lot of polyvinyl chloride was and it resulted in the town being poisoned. This despite the National Transportation Safety Board stating that the East Palestine rail disaster was “100% preventable.” The lack of new safety regulations isn’t because none were proposed. A bipartisan Rail Safety Bill was introduced by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and JD Vance (R-OH) and while it was immediately watered down and does not address the real ways to vastly improve rail safety, it was a start. Even that was not acceptable to the corporations that profit from unsafe rail transport of hazardous materials in the U.S. The lack of new rail regulations is more confirmation of the broader issue of the current failed regulatory system in America.
East Palestine, OH - One Year Later by Xaxnar. A followup by Scripps News about the disastrous spill barely touched on the railroad management model that set up the disaster, Precision Scheduled Railroading and its focus on the operating ratio to the exclusion of all else. (Details here.) The closest the report got to talking about it was a brief indirect mention that never talked about PSR by name, just some of the things it brought about like longer, more dangerous trains. The previous executives of the railroad had gotten bonus payments for boosting Norfolk Southern’s profits via PSR (details here), but current CEO Alan Shaw has since shifted focus after the disaster (details here) to things like how good is on-time delivery, reportable accident rates, and reportable injury rates instead of how the operating ratio is measuring up. (This is at about 14 minutes into the report.) Recent news is that Shaw, is the target of a group of “activist investors” who are unhappy the railroad isn’t meeting revenue targets. It’s possible to get an idea of how intent they are about this because they are willing to put up a billion dollars to get their objections taken seriously.
Sorry to harsh the nonstop Maga vibe. We may have just lost Trinidad and Tobago by Pakalolo. On February 7, 2024, a ship was spotted near the Caribbean islands of Tobago and Trinidad. The ship is visually identified as Gulfstream but can’t be located in international records. According to local reports on Twitter, the ship is believed to have been carrying sand and wood (though no wood has been located). The ship ran aground and capsized. No one was found on board, suggesting it was abandoned. A massive oil leak resulted. Oil has contaminated nearby reefs, beaches, and even major island roads. Tobago’s coral reefs are in extreme danger from global heating. The oil spill could be the dagger in the heart of their corals and the marine life that depends on them.
Note: The climate strike action began at San Francisco City Hall in 2019. The following entries are excerpts from “letters” that were issued each week of the action. Although the strike was focused on San Francisco, many of the same issues affect countless U.S. cities.
A Biosphere Check for Earth Day -- Strike for the Planet week 207 by birches. What are the problems with the biosphere?
- Atmospheric release of carbon is destroying the climate, while nano-particle pollution and pm 2.5 - 10 are deadly and pervasive, and spread atmosphere-wide throughout the troposphere and into the stratosphere.
- The melting cryosphere is expanding both storm size and impact, causing extreme drought and extreme flooding, while producing accelerating sea level rise.
- The hydrosphere is polluted and acidifying, and the ocean’s heat exchange engines are shutting down due to higher and higher average water temperatures.
- The pedosphere (the soil layer of the lithosphere) is drying, being ripped away by catastrophic floods and agricultural misuse, polluted, poisoned, and dying.
In the biosphere, all of these issues are causing mass death events, a reduction of diversity of life, and a destruction of systems that support species and habitats, producing an ongoing and acceleratin
Housing -- Strike for the Planet week 206 by birches. SF’s housing stock is: wildly unaffordable;segregated (see red-lining); often dangerous (radiation, Pb, not earthquake-ready); incapable of dealing with heat (no need for air-conditioning when SF had a stable climate); and completely inadequate in number of units at any income range except Tech Millionaire or above. The average cost of a house in the Sunset — a Sunset Starter, at 1000 sq ft — is 1.43 million, for example. Additionally, SF has one of the worst urban heat islands in the US2, is hostile to families, is unaffordable for most workers (even to rent), and is utterly incapable of dealing with the influx of climate migrants and refugees that are coming or are already here (ex. Paradise and Central America). Bottom Line: SF has nowhere near the number and type of housing stock needed. Much of the existing housing stock has issues that severely impact residential health and safety.
Pollution -- Strike for the Planet week 205 by birches. What are SF’s pollution issues?Radioactive waste: multiple types, in multiple places; plastic: artificial turf, packaging, waste (from equipment, devices, industry, and medicine). Chemical: hydrocarbons, endocrine disruptors, medical and industrial waste, leachate, PFASs, POPs, biocides, agricultural runoff, DDT (still), chlorinated hyrdocarbons, MTBE, benzene, arsenic, dioxins, etc. Atmospheric: CO2, soot, PM 10 - 2.5, wood fire smoke, methane, NOx, plastic, ozone; Heavy metals: Pb, Cu, Hg, Fe, Zn, Mn, Ti, Cr, Co, Ni, Cd; Ocean acidification; Light and sound. There are more, but these are the local pollution issues with the greatest health and ecosystem impacts.
Transportation -- Strike for the Planet week 204 by birches. What are SF’s transportation issues?
- SF is a small city with far too many cars on the roads, including cars endlessly circling with no passengers and no driver.
- SF does not have a flexible, dependable transportation system that covers the entire city, is equitable, or that is accessible to all.
- Cars in SF are, at every step of the way, actively contributing to climate chaos.
- Cars kill in multiple ways: directly, by destroying health, by destroying ecosystems, and by pouring CO2 into the atmosphere (and copper and hydrocarbons into the hydrosphere, among other biome-killing pollutants
The Simple Solutions -- Strike for the Planet week 203 by birches. What are SF’s simple solutions?Indirect taxes, land use decisions, purchasing, investment, and public works are all things you can do now, with the laws, regulations, ordinances, codes, and money available or with slight variations on these, that will make living through increasingly dire climate change potentially possible for the people of San Francisco. Indirect taxes: SF has multiple barriers to increasing taxes (because the U.S. loves poverty and inequality), but SF also has multiple ways to achieve sustainability goals through indirect taxation. Examples include: requiring planting and ongoing care for living, native trees per sq ft of property, for residential, commercial, and undeveloped land; requiring carbon neutrality for all property in the city and county; continually decreasing the amount of plastic that can be disposed of in SF in any fashion; requiring halving of food waste by supermarkets within 2 years; substantially increasing water use fees for excessive usages (and define “excessive” so that we can survive a megadrought); And more. Your only limits here are your imagination. Lose in one area, hit back in another. Push the little things over and over until they add up to bigger things.
Climate change: Small Community Action by Gardening Toad. A few years ago I started a garden project in my friend Ann’s large yard in San Antonio. The yard was previously mostly dead Bermuda grass lawn and a few struggling shrubs. My friend wanted something different, colorful, good for birds and pollinators, and producing food. On one side of the front yard I’ve planted a garden of adapted roses, bulbs, and native pollinator-friendly flowers. On the other side is a food forest of fruit trees and other edible plants, as well as more flowers for pollinators. My goal is for this garden to be a model for other folks to transform their own yards. The most recent addition to the project is a regenerative food garden in the old laundry yard behind the garage. I’m creating this garden with my friend Vicky, who used to do landscape maintenance at the adjacent property but had to quit because the owner insisted on spraying pesticides. Our main focus is vegetables, but there are a few fruit trees as well. Sadly, a prized young Papaya probably died in the recent hard freeze. The goal is to provide all the vegetables the three of us need. (I’ll be eating some when I’m staying at “Garage Camp,” my tiny home in a corner of the garage, on weekends.) This is an example of a community project on a small scale. Ann provides the land and financial support for the garden, I provide the design and labor, and Vicky is now working here on weekends also. We’re all over 60 with various serious health challenges, but by working together we’re creating an oasis of life in this neighborhood. If we can do it, so can others!
Earth Matters: 5 new monuments would boost Biden's '30 by 30' plan; FEMA gives green grants by Meteor Blades. One of President Joe Biden’s endeavors that can be fairly described as awesome is his “30 by 30” initiative to conserve and protect 30% of America’s land and water by 2030. Currently, just 12% falls into the protected category. The key question: Where do we find the rest and how do we protect it? Designating additional national monuments provides one way, with choices available from coast to coast.As Mike Painter from Californians for Western Wilderness points out in an email, there are campaigns right now in California to designate three new national monuments in the state and expand two existing ones. He says, “One of the exciting aspects of these proposals is that all are being led by California tribes or have significant tribal involvement.” The Los Angeles Times published a supportive editorial in December, titled “Biden should protect more of California’s mountains and deserts as national monuments.”
Earth Matters: Studies say climate messaging is an election winner, but with what specific message? by Meteor Blades. In 2020, however, there was a shift—such as here and here—to viewing climate as a winning issue for Democrats, especially among young voters. This was backed up by a Pew Research Center poll that showed 45% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans in 2010 thought climate should be a top priority for the president and Congress, while 78% of Democrats and 21% of Republicans thought so in 2020. In 2015, when Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a Democratic primary debate that climate change was the No. 1 national security threat, he was widely ridiculed, and, of course, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination was intensely focused on climate, didn’t last long. But come 2020, and Joe Biden didn’t shy away from addressing climate change in his campaign, calling it the “number one issue facing humanity.” And it paid off, according to a report last month from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Environmental Future. If it hadn’t been for the climate change issue, the authors asserted, Republicans might have gained a 3% swing in that election. Matthew Burgess, CIRES fellow and C-SEF director, told Newsweek, "We found three things: 1) Climate-conscious voters make up roughly two-thirds of voters; 2) Climate-conscious voters strongly prefer the Democrats, all else equal; 3) these two facts combined imply that climate change opinion provides the Democrats an electoral advantage, and we estimate that, in the 2020 presidential election, this advantage was probably large enough to change the outcome in Joe Biden's favor, all else equal."
Requiem for Nature by Desert Scientist. Change is inevitable, even without humans, but humans are accelerating changes at a very rapid rate, exceeded in nature only by catastrophic events like volcanic eruptions and asteroid strikes. Otherwise changes are slower, often taking millions of years. What are we to do? We are now baked into a series of future events that we have no ability to control. The best that we can do is to mitigate the effects in the more distant future and maybe protect some of what we have now. This is not some fanatic on a street corner carrying a sign saying “The End is Near!” This is very real, and yet we argue over whether it is really happening and waste our precious moments on earth in bickering on moot political advantage points. I often think that many in our species are ranting, like Kipling’s Banderlog, that we are great, just before Ka, the great python, takes them down! This is our current burden and it is not going away, no matter how many people wish it would. It is immensely frustrating, as a scientist, to listen to totally uninformed opinions countermanding those of us who have studied various aspects of the natural world and have years of experience in the field. It is one thing to be accused of being elitist (I don’t doubt that some of us are), and then offering proof of their ignorance of the whole huge collection of data that has piled up, not only vindicating our position, but showing that we have consistently underestimated the rapidity of the changes.
Saturday Morning Garden Blogging - Vol. 20.06 - Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Snow by Rexxmama. I’m thinking of the fish; many species of fish require the snowfalls of a usual winter to provide enough melt for their spring breeding ponds and streams. There is a catch, however. Too much snow, combined with heavy or early spring rains, can wash away breeding areas altogether, meaning fewer fish during summer and fall. (Fishermen, blame the skiers instead of your bait next time.) Winter snow also seeps down into the soil as it melts, which helps farmers. And where there is an accessible aquifer, melting snow helps to replenish the groundwater. Snow is useful when it melts, you might say, but what about when it’s just laying around — or blowing around — and getting in everyone’s way? Well, ask a child what good snow is. If there’s enough of it (courtesy of the skiers), you get a vacation from school. You can make snowballs that have a satisfying SPLAT! upon contact with the side of a school building, a bus, or with stuck-up Mary Lou Vandleman’s fake fur coat. YEAH!