Wildfires, Balanced Approach Vital

It is urgently needed to balance the extreme rhetoric if we are to ever reduce this annual burning, as this article from City Journal notes.

An excerpt.

“The West Coast fire season still has months to run, but it’s already one for the record books. Some 3.3 million acres have burned in California, and another 1 million in Oregon. In some cases, separate fires have combined into fire “complexes,” or “megafires.” At least 35 people have died, with others still unaccounted for. Media reports have almost all focused on a single explanation. “California’s climate apocalypse,” read the banner headline on the Los Angeles Times’s September 13 edition. The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and other outlets used similar doomsday language in linking the fires to climate change. Politicians echoed them. “We’re in a CLIMATE CRISIS,” California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted on September 11.

“The emphasis on climate is not incorrect. Higher average temperatures are linked to longer fire seasons, and hotter, dryer conditions do appear to lead to larger fires. It is reasonable to assume that rising temperatures increase the risks of fire in Western landscapes. Nonetheless, focusing on climate as the all-purpose explanation for wildfires is a dangerous oversimplification. In truth, the factors that cause large Western fires are complex. Climate is one. The impact of humans on the ground is another. People play a large role not only in igniting wildfires, but also in altering the conditions through which fires move and grow.

“The 14,000-acre El Dorado fire still burning in Southern California’s San Bernardino County was triggered by a pyrotechnic device at an outdoor “gender reveal party.” In recent days, suspects have been arrested for allegedly setting wildfires in four incidents in California and Oregon. Sparks from power lines are an alarmingly common source of wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 86 people, mostly in the town of Paradise, California. In addition, decades of aggressive fire suppression have left enormous “fuel loads” in West Coast forests. Most forestry experts believe that this accumulation of flammable woody debris is a key factor driving bigger, more intense fires. Finally, despite the risks, people keep moving into wildfire country. The rapid growth of population and infrastructure in semi-wild regions means that even routine fires now threaten more lives and cause more economic damage.

“For many climate activists—and a preponderance of mainstream journalists—disasters like wildfires and hurricanes are often seen as teachable moments. Activists hope that if the public can be convinced to see climate change as a here-and-now disaster—rather than as some distant threat—perhaps voters will be more willing to support pro-climate policies. That’s an understandable motive but a questionable strategy. Scientists who put advocacy ahead of objectivity risk undermining both the quality of their research and their own credibility. Journalists who take this route tend to oversimplify complex causes, and lapse into an “End Times” narrative that leaves readers feeling powerless.

“It’s impossible to say whether a particular hurricane or single fire season was caused by climate change. Establishing the connection between climate and such widely variable events requires a solid baseline of data accumulated over many decades. The current West Coast fire season really is unprecedented—at least in terms of the recent past—but California’s 2019 season was relatively light, with only about 280,000 acres burned. Should that below-average fire season be cited as evidence that fears of climate change are exaggerated? Of course not. Outliers in either direction should be added to the data set, not seized on as “the new normal.” But overheated rhetoric—or, for that matter, blanket rejections of climate data—make judicious assessments of climate risks impossible. As writer Gregg Easterbrook recently noted on Twitter, today’s partisan environment “demands all issues be reduced to doomsday or denial.”

“This is a nuanced point that demands clarity. I believe that climate change is a significant risk. And I think it’s worth hedging against that risk, even if some aspects of the science aren’t certain, and some worst-case scenarios might be overblown. I support using the best available technologies to reduce carbon emissions in ways that don’t hamstring the economy. That’s why, for example, I oppose California’s current plan to shutter the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, the state’s largest single source of carbon-free electricity. But the biggest question facing West Coast policymakers right now is not figuring out exactly how carbon emissions influence wildfires. The real question is, what tools are available today to bring down wildfire risks? Even if we assume climate models are accurate—and we also assume global carbon emissions can be cut fast enough to reach the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s current target—it would still take decades for today’s gradual temperature increases to halt. In the meantime, a range of factors—aside from climate—are making wildfires more deadly and more expensive.

“When scientists, the press, and policymakers respond to every wildfire by talking almost exclusively about climate, those other aspects of fire policy get neglected. For example, in 2016, California’s then-governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill requiring better oversight of power lines in high-fire-risk areas. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator John Moorlach, a Republican who represents Laguna Beach, later complained in a blog post that Governor Brown “relied on a weak excuse, saying the real issue is climate change.” (The Brown administration maintained that the oversight improvements the bill sought were already underway.) Two years later, sparks from a deteriorating PG&E power line set off the devastating Camp Fire blaze, the deadliest and most expensive wildfire in California history. Facing lawsuits charging that the company mismanaging its power lines, PG&E partially blamed the fire on climate change.

“If you think the only way to stop these fires is by reducing climate change then you are basically saying you are not going to be able to stop the fires,” the environmental contrarian Michael Shellenberger said in a recent online video. “That’s disempowering and wrong.” Shellenberger argues that the West would be facing megafires even if climate change was not happening. Moreover, he claims, properly managed forests would be better able to cope with the stresses of rising temperatures. More than half a century of forest-management experience supports that conclusion.

“Forestry experts began warning about the dangers of over-aggressive fire suppression in the mid twentieth century. In a forest that burns regularly, fires tend to lick through the underbrush, mostly consuming fallen deadwood and litter. Healthy trees survive such routine burns, and forest ecosystems emerge from them healthier. But if every fire is snuffed out at birth, combustible materials build up. When fires move through these fuel-rich environments they become hotter and more destructive, reaching up into the living crowns of the trees and scorching the life out of forest soils.

“The solution to this dilemma is carefully controlled “prescribed burns.” I can remember seeing such controlled burns in Yosemite National Park in the early 1980s. They would smolder for days consuming pine needles and deadwood. But, while prescribed burns are widely used today in the southeastern U.S., they were never deployed on a sufficient scale in the West. One obstacle was Clinton administration policies that aimed to restore Western forests to “pre-settlement” conditions. The goal was to limit logging and to restrict road use on federal lands in order to keep forests as pristine as possible. “To accept this idea you have to believe pre-settlement forests were ‘naturally functioning ecosystems’ untouched by human hands,” noted forest researcher Bob Zybach in 1994. “The fact is, people have been altering the character of this region’s forests for at least 11,000 years.”

“Native peoples used fire actively to manage grasslands and forests. (Some still do.) As a result, Zybach’s research showed, Western woodlands were “virtually free of the underbrush and coarse woody debris that has been commonplace in forests for most of this century.” And, of course, prior to the twentieth century, there was no way to put out large conflagrations naturally sparked by lightning. Researchers estimate that, prior to the arrival of Europeans, California forests burned at a rate of between 4.4 and nearly 12 million acres a year. In a fascinating Pro Publica investigation, veteran forest scientists expressed dismay that prescribed burns are so rarely used today as a tool of forest management. “[It’s] horrible to see this happening when the science is so clear and has been for years,” said Tim Ingalsbee, founder of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. “Every year I warn people: Disaster’s coming.”

Retrieved September 16, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/west-coast-fire-crisis

Be well everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism, History

Atmospheric River Forecast

From the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes.

“CW3E AR Update: 14 September 2020 Outlook

“September 14, 2020

“Click here for a pdf of this information.

“Update on the Atmospheric River forecast to make landfall over the Pacific Northwest

  • An AR that is forecast to make landfall early this week could bring much needed precipitation to parts of Washington, Oregon, and potentially Northern California.
  • As time has progressed closer to verification, ensemble agreement associated with AR landfall timing and initial IVT magnitude has increased.
  • The parent low pressure system is forecast to cut off from the upper-level flow and become quasi-stationary off the PNW coast.
  • Forecast duration of the event is currently exhibiting larger uncertainties as the cut-off low remains off the coast and moves higher IVT magnitudes onshore.
  • Forecast precipitation accumulations from the Weather Prediction Center have primarily decreased since our last outlook, though the ECMWF has trended towards a larger event (max. precip. accumulations of 1.5–2.4 in. over Coastal OR and WA).
  • Forecasts continue to suggest that a majority of CA will remain dry with lighter precipitation rates over far Northern CA.”

Retrieved September 15, 2020 from https://cw3e.ucsd.edu/cw3e-ar-update-14-september-2020-outlook/

Be well everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism, Water

Shaming the Suburbs

Yesterday’s news, and incorrect at that, according to this story from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“I have been a New Yorker for over a decade now, but I have spent the past few months in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, since it’s a little easier on our family during the pandemic. Locals joke that it’s a “suburb of nowhere,” and it’s true that the region may lack some of the density and sizable cultural institutions that define the New York experience—24/7 amenities, robust public transit, and the sidewalk ballets. But the tidewater region is anything but an isolated wasteland, and spending time here has been absolutely lovely.

“There are still art galleries, great restaurants, options for family activities, nightlife (such as it is during a pandemic), and recreation. There is also considerable racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, too. In these suburbs, I already know my neighbors and community members and I have had numerous encounters along the street during long pandemic inspired walks. More than 200 parks and outdoor areas are within an hour’s drive and most are free. There is ample space and life is far more affordable, and even easy compared to New York. As such, it is impossible to declare that either dense urban center or sprawling Virginian region is a better urban form in which to live; rather, they are simply different with various attributes and tradeoffs.

“So, when publications like The New Republic run stories with headlines “The Suburbs Are Still Hell,” I find this unnecessarily polarizing. Living here in Virginia—and I have lived in other urban and suburban areas for over two decades now—is anything but hell. Perhaps to someone born, raised, and having never left a neighborhood like Park Slope in Brooklyn or the Upper West Side of Manhattan, suburban life may appear hellish. But this simply does not square with views of many Americans. Not only does my experience say otherwise, but statistics about suburbia are quite clear: Americans like the suburbs and want to be here.

“More specifically, the New Republic piece summarizes new work about the problems of American suburbia but relies on old tropes about the lack of “organic social interaction” including “existential despair” and alienation. The problem is that while some writers may feel social lives do not exist outside of cities, that simply is not true.

“Data from AEI’s Survey on Community and Society—conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic—shows that socialization patterns were as high in the suburbs as city centers and that Americans rated suburbs as very desirable places to live. For instance, when respondents are asked about their satisfaction with the number of friends they have in their neighborhood, 72 percent of city dwellers and 72 percent of suburbanites say they are satisfied. This number ticks up for small-town residents (74 percent) and those in rural areas (75 percent).

“Relatedly, when asked about how well one knows one’s neighbors, 56 percent of urbanites say the know them well, but so do 48 percent of those in suburbs. When asked about feeling isolated from others, 37 percent of city dwellers say sometimes or often, which is not very different from suburbanites who feel lonely 39 percent of the time. Rural Americans felt the most isolated at 42 percent—which is again only a handful more than in suburbs. These are minor differences and if urban life is the benchmark, suburban life is anything but isolated and anti-social.”

Retrieved September 14, 2020 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006772-lets-stop-shaming-suburbs

Be well everyone!

Posted in demographics

Disposables

An excellent history of disposable articles, and how valuable they really are, from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“For half a century, it’s been a term of disdain: the “throwaway society,” uttered with disgust by the environmentally enlightened. But now that their reusable tote bags are taboo at grocery stores and Starbucks is refusing to refill their ceramic mugs, they’ve had to face some unpleasant realities. Disposable products aren’t merely more convenient than the alternative; they’re also safer, particularly during a pandemic but also at any other time. And they have other virtues: the throwaway society is healthier, cleaner, more economical, less wasteful, less environmentally damaging—and yes, more “sustainable” than the green vision of utopia.

“These are not new truths, even if it took the Covid-19 pandemic to reveal them again. The throwaway age began because of public-health campaigns a century ago to control the spread of pathogens. Disposable products were celebrated for decades for promoting hygiene and saving everyone time and money. It wasn’t until the 1970s that they became symbols of decadent excess, and then only because of economic and ecological fallacies repeated so often that they became conventional wisdom.

“In a strange turn of events, the most affluent society in history suddenly turned into a mass of neurotic hoarders. Sifting through garbage for valuables, an activity formerly associated with the most destitute inhabitants of Third World shantytowns, became a moral duty in American suburbs. Greens campaigned for “zero waste” and a “circular economy” in which disposable products would be outlawed. They confidently predicted that the throwaway society was doomed, but if they’d known anything about its history, they would have realized that it was created for very good reasons—and that it will endure long after their lamentations are forgotten.

“At the start of the twentieth century, American consumers were still living in what today’s greens would consider a state of grace. They carried their own baskets and cotton bags to the grocery store and brought home food wrapped in biodegradable paper. They didn’t use disposable towels in public bathrooms, which provided cloth towels attached to rollers. There were no Styrofoam cups for coffee and no plastic bottles of water. When people wanted water in a public place, they’d get it from the spigot of a drinking fountain by filling a tin cup chained to the fountain.

“This “common cup” was the ultimate reusable product—much to the horror of public-health experts, who blamed it for spreading tuberculosis, pneumonia, diphtheria, meningitis, and other diseases. Alvin Davison, a biologist at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, analyzed cups from public schools and reported in 1908 that a single sip from a student left a residue of 100 dead skin cells and 75,000 bacteria. He used the scrapings from one school cup to induce fatal cases of pneumonia and tuberculosis in guinea pigs.

“His article “Death in School Drinking Cups” provided support to “Ban the Cup” campaigns around the country. The first successful one was led in Kansas by Samuel Crumbine, a colorful doctor who had started his career in Dodge City (he was the model for Doc Adams in the long-running Gunsmoke television series) and went on to lead various public-hygiene crusades. The term “flyswatter” comes from a slogan he popularized, “Swat the fly” (which came to him while listening to the crowd at a baseball game urging a hitter to swat a sacrifice fly ball). After watching train passengers with tuberculosis and other diseases drinking water from a common cup, Crumbine got so upset that he threw the cup out the train’s window, and proceeded to persuade his colleagues on the state board of health to ban the common cup in trains, schools, and other public places in Kansas in 1909.

“The ban left Kansans with a new problem: What were they supposed to use at a public fountain? Fortunately, as Crumbine later recalled, “Necessity proved to be the mother of invention.” Shortly after banning the cup, Crumbine was visited by a former Kansan named Hugh Moore, who brought with him samples of a product that his brother-in-law had invented: round paper cups that could be stacked in a dispenser next to a fountain. Crumbine’s endorsement provided crucial help to Moore in selling his product, originally called Health Kups and later renamed Dixie Cups.

“It was the birth of the throwaway society, and Moore became its first great evangelist. He was an indefatigable promoter, and he wasn’t just selling cups. He had a genius for marketing fear. Later in life, he would launch another movement by publishing a pamphlet in 1954, “The Population Bomb” (a title later borrowed by Paul Ehrlich for a best-selling book) and founding the Population Crisis Committee. In 1910, Moore started a newspaper, The Cup Campaigner, filled with warnings from public-health experts and horror stories of respectable women and innocent children sickened by drinking from common cups. It was illustrated with cartoons showing unsavory-looking men sipping from metal cups and images of the Grim Reaper lurking at fountains.”

Retrieved September 14, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/disposable-products-environmentally-sound

Be well everyone!

Posted in Economy, Environmentalism, History

Managing the Forests

According to this article from American Greatness, there are reasons that hasn’t gone too well lately.

An excerpt.

“Millions of acres of California forest have been blackened by wildfires this summer, leading to the usual angry denunciations from the usual quarters about climate change. But in 1999, the Associated Press reported that forestry experts had long agreed that “clearing undergrowth would save trees,” and that “years of aggressive firefighting have allowed brush to flourish that would have been cleared away by wildfires.” But very little was done. And now fires of unprecedented size are raging across the Western United States.

“Sen. Feinstein blames Sierra Club for blocking wildfire bill,” reads the provocative headline on a 2002 story in California’s Napa Valley Register. Feinstein had brokered a congressional consensus on legislation to thin “overstocked” forests close to homes and communities, but could not overcome the environmental lobby’s disagreement over expediting the permit process to thin forests everywhere else.

“Year after year, environmentalists litigated and lobbied to stop efforts to clear the forests through timber harvesting, underbrush removal, and controlled burns. Meanwhile, natural fires were suppressed and the forests became more and more overgrown. The excessive biomass competed for the same water, soil, and light a healthier forest would have used, rendering all of the trees and underbrush unhealthy. It wasn’t just excess biomass that accumulated, but dried out and dead biomass.

“What happened among California’s tall stands of Redwood and Ponderosa Pine also happened in its extensive chaparral. Fire suppression along with too many environmentalist-inspired bureaucratic barriers to controlled burns and undergrowth removal turned the hillsides and canyons of Southern California into tinderboxes.

“In 2009, after huge blazes wiped out homes and forced thousands to evacuate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich observed: “The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today.”

“In 2014, Republican members of Congress tried again to reduce the bureaucracy associated with “hazardous fuel projects” that thin out overgrown forests. True to form, the bill got nowhere thanks to environmental lobbyists who worried it would undermine the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that requires thorough impact assessments ahead of government decisions on public lands.

In a blistering report published in the California Globe on how environmentalists have destroyed California’s forests, investigative journalist Katy Grimes interviewed Representative Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents communities in and around the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. McClintock has worked for years to reform NEPA and other barriers to responsible forest management.

“The U.S. Forest Service used to be a profitable federal agency,” McClintock told Grimes.

“Up until the mid-1970s, we managed our national forests according to well-established and time-tested forest management practices. But 40 years ago, we replaced these sound management practices with what can only be described as a doctrine of benign neglect. Ponderous, Byzantine laws and regulations administered by a growing cadre of ideological zealots in our land management agencies promised to save the environment. The advocates of this doctrine have dominated our law, our policies, our courts and our federal agencies ever since.

“But these zealots have not protected the forests. They have destroyed them. The consequences are far-reaching.

“Decimating the Timber Industry, Disrupting the Ecosystem

“Few people, including the experts, bother to point out how overgrown forests reduce the water supply. But when watersheds are choked with dense underbrush competing for moisture, precipitation and runoff cannot replenish groundwater aquifers or fill up reservoirs. Instead, it’s immediately soaked up by the trees and brush. Without clearing and controlled burns, the overgrown foliage dies anyway.

“A new activist organization in California, the “California Water for Food and People Movement,” created a Facebook group for people living in the hellscape created by misguided environmentalist zealotry. Comments and posts from long-time residents of the Sierra foothills, where fires have exploded in recent years, yield eyewitness testimony to how environmentalist restrictions on forest management have gone horribly wrong. Examples:

“I’m 70, and I remember controlled burns, logging, and open grazing.”

“With the rainy season just ahead, the aftermath of the Creek Fire will challenge our water systems for years to come. Erosion will send toxic debris and sediment cascading into streams, rivers, and reservoirs, reducing their capacity to carry and hold water. Dirty air, dirty water, and the opposite of environmentalism are on full display right now, brought to us by the environmental posers who will no doubt use this crisis to unleash a barrage of ‘climate change did it’ articles.”

“Many thanks to Sierra Club and other environmental groups. You shut down logging/brush removal and had a ‘don’t touch’ approach to our forests. You shut down access roads and let them get overgrown, so now they can’t be used for fire suppression and emergency equipment. You fought ranchers for grazing, which helped keep the forest floors clean. You made fun of Trump when he said we need to rake the forest. Trust me these forest rakes and logging would have prevented the devastating fires we see now.”

Retrieved September 10, 2020 from https://amgreatness.com/2020/09/09/environmentalists-destroyed-californias-forests/

Be well everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism, History

Creek Fire, Big, Fast, Dangerous!

Excellent article from NASA.

An excerpt.

“On Friday September 4, 2020 at about 6:44 PM PDT the Creek Fire began in the Big Creek drainage area between Shaver Lake, Big Creek and Huntington Lake, Calif. NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured these images of the fire on Sep. 05 through Sep. 07, 2020. From the series of images the spread of the fire can be seen in the outward movement of the red hot spots, although the huge cloud on the 6th obscures all readings due to its size.

“The huge, dense cloud created on Sep. 05 and seen in the Suomi NPP image was a pyrocumulonimbus cloud (pyroCb) and the resulting smoke plume that grew upward was spotted and confirmed on Sep. 06, 2020. A pyrocumulonimbus cloud is also called a cumulonimbus flammagenitus. The origins of the latter word are from the Latin meaning “flame” and “created from.” This perfectly describes a cloud that is caused by a natural source of heat such as a wildfire or volcano. Rising warm air from the fire can carry water vapor up into the atmosphere causing clouds. Any type of convective cloud can be created. In this case, the cumulonimbus, or thunderhead cloud, was created. Precipitation and lightning can also occur with these types of clouds creating a risk that the fire will expand due to increased wind from precipitation downdraft or by creating new fires due to lightning strikes. These are all things that fire managers must keep in mind while continuing to try to fight the fire.

“The pyrocumulonimbus cloud created aerosol index values indicate that this is one of the largest (if not the largest) pyroCb events seen in the United States,” according to Dr. Colin Seftor, Atmospheric Scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

“This fast-moving fire is burning in both the Madera and Fresno districts of the Sierra National Forest. The fire began near the communities of Big Creek and Huntington Lake and moved swiftly prompting evacuations. Timber in the area has approximately 80-90 percent tree mortality from the bark beetle providing ample fuel for the fire’s spread.

Inciweb reports that the fire has grown to 135,523 acres as of Sep. 08, 2020. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Weather concerns continue to plague firefighters as hot and very dry conditions remained over the region through Labor Day with relative humidity very low. Forecasts expect terrain driven winds with overnight temperatures between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temperatures between 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

“NASA’s satellite instruments are often the first to detect wildfires burning in remote regions, and the locations of new fires are sent directly to land managers worldwide within hours of the satellite overpass. Together, NASA instruments detect actively burning fires, track the transport of smoke from fires, provide information for fire management, and map the extent of changes to ecosystems, based on the extent and severity of burn scars. NASA has a fleet of Earth-observing instruments, many of which contribute to our understanding of fire in the Earth system. Satellites in orbit around the poles provide observations of the entire planet several times per day, whereas satellites in a geostationary orbit provide coarse-resolution imagery of fires, smoke and clouds every five to 15 minutes. For more information visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/fires/main/missions/index.html

Retrieved September 9, 2020 from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/californias-creek-fire-creates-its-own-pyrocumulonimbus-cloud

Be well everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism

Walking, It’s Wonderful!

Reminding us is this story from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Walking has been having a moment for a while now. Books and research have been proliferating about the joys and benefits of walking, which include cultural exchange, spiritual enlightenment, and cognitive and creative benefits. Research regularly concludes that even small walks stimulate one’s imagination and enhance focus, and findings note that those who walk regularly are healthier and live longer than those who do not.

“With so many Americans quarantining with limited options for mobility and large numbers managing mental health issues because of the virus, National Geographic has called walking the “ideal pandemic activity.” But National Geographic was also quick to note that while walking is fundamentally a democratic act, “access to safe walking isn’t always guaranteed, as many in the Black and brown communities know.” So having a sense of how and if Americans are walking during the pandemic could be very useful.

“Thanks to new survey data from AEI’s COVID-19 and American Life Survey, we know who is walking in the midst of the pandemic, and the good news is that Americans are getting fresh air consistently across the nation. In fact, the survey data shows that over the course of a week, on average, only 16 percent of Americans took no walks. Another 21 percent claim that they walked less than 30 minutes daily, while the remaining 63 percent walked more than 30 minutes regularly. 40 percent assert that they regularly walk more than an hour daily.

“Even in urban areas where COVID-19 impacts are the most visible, 63 percent of urbanites are still managing to walk 30 minutes or more daily. The number is virtually identical at 60 percent for the socially distanced suburbs and a bit higher at 65 percent for small towns.

“Regional differences are also fairly minor. Those who live in the East South Central region — AlabamaKentuckyMississippi, and Tennessee — are the most sedentary at 23 percent of the population not regularly walking, but 16 percent of those in the Pacific states and 15 percent of New England are not regularly walking either. Some states are a bit higher, with 67 percent of those in Michigan and 66 percent in Texas reporting to regularly be walking 30 minutes or more, but most are within a handful of points of the national average. Even 60 percent of New Yorkers, who bore the brunt of the outbreak, are regularly walking 30 minutes or more.”

Retrieved September 8, 2020 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006769-covid-19-and-walking-the-great-equalizer

Be well everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism

Water Strategy

A good article from AgAlert calling for a new and improved water strategy for California.

An excerpt.

“Recent years have brought a taste of extreme weather and the destructive power in nature that’s always just around the corner here in California.

“At the same time, numerous crises have highlighted our many vulnerabilities: drought, new groundwater restrictions, endless stumbling blocks in the way of system repairs and upgrades, regulatory restrictions to protect declining fish, and elusive voluntary agreements in lieu of “unimpaired flow” standards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from the state water board that would be ineffective and would cripple regional economies.

“And yet, in recent times, we’ve seen progress on at least a few major water infrastructure projects.

“Work is proceeding apace on storage projects partially funded through the Proposition 1 water bond, including Sites Reservoir, expansion of Los Vaqueros and Pacheco reservoirs, a south Sacramento County recycled water and conjunctive use project, and others. Local groundwater sustainability agencies are planning for groundwater recharge projects; fixes are proposed to restore sinking San Joaquin Valley canals; additional south-of-delta wet-period storage is proposed in the form of a San Luis Reservoir expansion and potential Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir—and, last but not least, is a proposed 18.5-foot raise of Shasta Dam to create an average of some 634,000 acre-feet a year.

“But all of this is likely not nearly enough.

“Recent research looking at projected global temperature increases and large-scale oceanic and atmospheric processes contains alarming news for California water and flood planners. According to this emerging science, intense precipitation and flooding from “pineapple express”-style winter storms could both shift eastwardly landward and intensify by up to 40% by the latter half of the century.

“Never mind the big flood years still in recent memory: 2017, 1997, 1995 and 1986. According to the experts, between now and 2060, the chances of a repetition of the legendary Great Flood of 1862—an event formerly classified as a once in 500- to 1,000-year “mega-flood”—are as high as 50%.

“Pretty clearly, it would take far less than an 1862-sized flood to overwhelm our existing flood and reservoir system. With the full force of an 1862 or even larger event, think of the 2017 Oroville spillway failure on steroids—just everywhere at once. Add it all up and the proverbial writing on the wall is clear: Our existing infrastructure is woefully unequal to the task.

“This is not a matter of floods and failing infrastructure alone. It’s a story of alternating drought and flood, of fire, of disappearing snowpack (our state’s largest reservoir by far), of strained aquifers, of bursting dams and levees in wet years and empty rivers and reservoirs in dry ones.

“This is also not just about water supply, public safety, cities, agriculture or the economy. In fact, fish and rivers in our densely populated, heavily modified state depend as much on reservoir storage and water releases as any other use.

“The 20th-century engineers who crisscrossed the state and built the now aging, once world-class system we have inherited had extraordinary vision and foresight. But they didn’t foresee the ever-growing environmental and ecosystem demands of recent decades, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a population of 40 million and counting, or the kind of extreme weather patterns already notably afflicting our state.

“The challenge for our generation? We must re-envision, modify and adjust the system, knowing what we know today.

“To adapt successfully, our vision and foresight must be every bit as big and bold as that of our forebears. We face challenges just too big for tweaks and half-measures.

“We’re also going to have to get out of our corners and understand this is a threat to us all. As much as we might like to, we can’t just vote each other off the island. Really and truly, to borrow a phrase from Gov. Gavin Newsom, we do need to move beyond the “old binaries” of agricultural vs. urban, the environment vs. the economy and so on.”

Retrieved September 2, 2020 from https://www.agalert.com/story/?id=14266

Be well everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism, Water

American Land Rush

Happening before our eyes, in warp speed, as this article from New Geography reports,

An excerpt.

“The Great American Land Rush of 2020 is underway in many metro areas across the country. Large numbers of American workers are untethered from a central office. As a result many are moving to less dense areas with less expensive land (and homes) and more of both. The greater New York City and Los Angeles metros are the hardest hit. Take NYC where single-family residential land per acre is 24 times as expensive in the densest quintile of zip codes as compared to the least dense quintile ($3.06 million vs. $129,000).  But most large metros are experiencing intra-metro movement to less dense and less expensive areas.

“For the first time, we are able to empirically measure this land rush within metro areas by using high frequency loan transaction data combined with land prices at fine levels of geography.

“COVID-19 has been the catalyst for this Land Rush. First is the unprecedented shift to working from home. At-home workers are highly educated, with above average incomes and a tendency to live in large, coastal urban areas, especially New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Boston.  An estimated 42 percent of the 155 million U.S. labor force is working from home full-time during the pandemic, up from 5.2 percent in 2017.  Business leaders and employees think increased levels of remote work is here to stay. Post-pandemic, the share of days spent working at home is expected to increase fourfold, from 5 percent to 20 percent. And will likely be even higher in large coastal metros. In a recent survey that asked home buyers what they want, these 6 answers accounted for 90 percent of the responses: more space to work, more space, a bigger yard, more recreational space, more home learning space, and a less expensive home. If working from home is an option: a more spacious, less expensive home on more land and further away from traditional job centers addresses all six.

“Second, these same coastal urban areas have benefited from agglomeration benefits due to economies of scale and network effects. Think of it as a gravitational pull that has allowed them to grow bigger and bigger economically. But they are also known for sky high state and local taxes, housing and land costs. These act to counter the favorable gravitational forces and are largely self-inflicted wounds. They are the result of choices made, including excessive land use regulations that make land both expensive and scarce, high public pensions, burdensome business regulations, and in some cases, rent control. As long as employers required knowledge workers to work centrally, these workers (and employers) were willing to put up with being poorly treated.

“Decades ago Walter Wriston (Citibank CEO from 1967 to 1984) had this insight: “Capital goes where it’s welcome and stays where it’s well treated.” Areas will find that their financial and human capital will flee if not treated better.”

Retrieved September 2, 2020 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006765-the-great-american-land-rush-2020

Be well everyone!

Posted in demographics

Wildfires do Some Good

According to this excellent article from The Revelator.

An excerpt.

“Earlier this month a series of lightning strikes touched off dozens of fires across California, burning 1.5 million acres, choking cities with smoke and claiming at least six lives. Outside California, large wildfires are burning in Colorado and Oregon, too.

“For people who live near the path of flames or the drifting smoke, wildfire season can be dangerous. And this year’s sudden eruption of multiple blazes is stretching resources thin, as firefighters — already facing restrictions due to the pandemic — work hard to protect lives and property.

“Amidst the barrage of media images of charred homes and sweeping flames, it can be easy to forget that for some native species that live in western forests, wildfires are actually beneficial and necessary, creating valuable habitat and some of the most biodiverse forest ecosystems.

“Burned forests may seem “gone” or “dead” following a severe fire, but if you look closely “there’s an absolute treasure trove of life thriving in there,” says wildlife biologist Monica Bond, principal scientist at the Wild Nature Institute.

“Longhorn beetles and other wood borers are usually the first to arrive after a fire, when they follow the smell of smoke to feast on recently burned trees, still rich in sapwood but lacking the ability to secrete the sticky, toxic resins that would normally fend off the insects. Black-backed woodpeckers often arrive next, feeding on beetle larvae and carving out nest cavities in the trees that will provide habitat for other birds after the woodpeckers move on.

“As flowers and shrubs begin to grow back, that draws more insects and birds. Certain wildflowers, like fire poppies, emerge only from the ashes, and wildfires can create bumper crops of morels, a group of beautiful, delicious mushrooms.

“Mammals, meanwhile, arrive in waves, looking for different types of food. “You have seeds that have been exposed by the fire that small mammals are eating,” says Bond. That entices larger predators. Studies have also shown that burned forests are beneficial for numerous bat species.

“Then, as long as you don’t cut down the standing dead trees, you can have species like spotted owls returning, too,” she says. The snags, as the dead trees are called, also provide shelter for a range of forest life, including bluebirds, flying squirrels and Pacific fishers.

“Even the fallen dead trees become an important component, cycling their nutrients back into the soil.

“It’s a process that’s been repeated across western forests for millennia, including the Pacific Northwest, Canada’s boreal forests, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. All have historically burned with a mix of fire types, including severe wildfires, says Bond.”

Retrieved August 31, 2020 from https://therevelator.org/wildfire-snag-biodiversity/

Be well everyone!

Posted in Environmentalism