Wildfires & Controlled Burns

It has finally become widely acknowledged that reverting to the practice of “Indigenous traditional knowledge and policy” in using controlled burns regularly, will dramatically reduce wildfires.

This excellent article from The Progressive examines the issue.

An excerpt.

“There is no denying that the scale and intensity of California wildfires is increasing. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the top ten costliest wildland fires in the United States have all occurred in California within the last thirty years. More than a dozen fires are currently active in California, collectively dominating approximately 2.5 million acres of landscape.

“For many residents of the Golden State, wildfire incidents are almost exclusively received as events that put our homes and welfare at risk. This past fire season, in my native Southern California, the Bobcat Fire has threatened 6,000 structures and grown to a size of approximately 115,000 acres. After more than a month, it is still burning, but currently 92 percent contained.

“However, not all fires are inherently bad. Whether naturally occurring or human-made, fire is necessary in order to “create the conditions for biodiversity to exist and ecosystems to function,” says Matthew Hurteau, an associate professor in the department of biology at the University of New Mexico. Part of the process of creating those conditions includes burning dead vegetation, cycling nutrients, and exposing bare mineral soil for plant growth, Hurteau says.

“From the perspective of ecosystem function, fire becomes catastrophic when it threatens species in the area and creates homogeneous conditions, i.e. conditions that foster the expansion of only a limited set of plant and animal species rather than a diverse set. For example, in forests, fuel accumulation is largely a byproduct of large patches of tree mortality, resulting from previous wildfires. 

“Fairly dry things don’t decompose that fast,” Hurteau says. Even after the first ignition event, dead vegetation will continue to interact with future wildfires, causing them to burn more intensely and for longer periods of time. The result would be the forest’s eventual transition to a shrubland, which is inherently a homogeneous ecosystem.

“But even the absence of regular fires can cause homogeneity to proliferate. Drawing back on the forest example, trees will begin to grow in between the gaps normally created by habitual wildfires, ensuring ecosystem biodiversity. In this instance, fuel accumulation still occurs, making this area more vulnerable to future fire events.  

“In California, fire suppression systems have been aggressively utilized over the past 100 years to control ignitions. These systems were specifically designed to put out ignitions when they occur in hopes of suppressing and preventing wildfires. But in fact, fire suppression causes more fuel, such as branches, leaves, and other woodland materials, to accumulate, making future wildfires potentially more disastrous in nature. 

“Changing climate makes fire suppression systems even less effective, holds Hurteau. Climbing temperatures inevitably decrease fuel moisture in both living and dead vegetation, causing it to become flammable. Moreover, a rise in temperature also increases the number of days per year that dead vegetation is available to burn. Under these circumstances, a large fire will yield even more uniform homogeneity.  

“These systems have never been effective in Southern California. 

“Jon E. Keeley, a research scientist in the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center and Adjunct Professor at UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, holds that in this region, population expansion and human development are also contributing to increases in fire activity. 

“In the latter half of the twentieth century, California’s population has nearly tripled in size. To account for this growth, more people have been forced to move into more flammable areas of the landscape. According to the Verisk Wildfire Risk Analysis, over two million properties in California are at high to extreme risk of being affected by wildfires. Therefore, when an ignition event occurs, it is more likely to cause damage than if it had occurred in an area where there was no development. 

“Furthermore, based on a nineteen-year average of fires and acres reported to the National Interagency Coordination Center at NIFC, humans have caused an average of 4,181 fires per year in Southern California. For Keeley, findings such as these present strong inferential evidence to support the overall hypothesis related to population expansion and human development.

“Throughout the history of recent catastrophic fires in California, there is a clear throughline of human intervention causing undue harm to the state’s ecosystems. In large part, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Neither the fire suppression systems nor the path of population expansion was designed in congruence with the state’s ecosystems and fire seasons. 

“Don Hankins, a professor of geography and planning at California State University, Chico, has devoted a portion of his academic research to Indigenous traditional knowledge and policy, as well as its application in conservation. 

“When thinking about Indigenous fire burning practices in Southern California, it’s important to understand the historical context, notes Hankins.

“According to M. Kat Anderson and Keeley’s “Native Peoples’ Relationship to the California Chaparral,” paleontological, fire scare, and archaeological studies suggest that these fire practices were in use thousands of years ago. Tribes burned the shrubland at specific times of the year and at specific frequencies to support habitats for diverse animal and plant populations. These regular burnings enhanced the reproduction of chaparral species most useful to Indigenous tribes, reduced the competition from other plants, and maintained a state of high growth and productivity postfire. Tribes would then use their yieldings for food, medicine, basketry, and more. 

“These controlled fires were also designed to reduce villages’ vulnerability to these events by eliminating brush that might carry catastrophic fire. The result was “a mosaic of grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands,” Anderson and Keeley wrote.

“For example, according to Hankins, Indigenous people used prescribed fires to encourage the production of California’s oak woodlands in order to subsist on its acorns, as well as other cultural resources. These burns were timed with periodic precipitation, providing the moisture to enable this native species to recover. Overall, oak woodlands are extremely important in supporting the diversity of native species, Hankins attests.

“In 1793, the Spanish government of California outlawed the Indigenous use of fire, a policy that began in the Mission of Santa Barbara and spread across the region. Once this practice was removed, chaparral began to expand, and the landscape became subjected to Western techniques of fire management. 

“Despite the centuries of change, Hankins believes that it is possible to restore Southern California through the reintroduction of Indigenous fire stewardship. Right now, the current timing of the fire season is conducive to reinforcing the seedbanks non-native grasses, especially if fire suppression occurred in that area. 

“Hankins recommends burning these grasses in the spring when the fuel moisture, i.e. “the amount of water in a [vegetation] available to a fire,” is higher to slow their rate of spread. Then, when the fuel moisture drops, he recommends planting native plant species, such as perennials, to give them a competitive advantage in germinating since they have a better response to fires.

“In fact, there are a number of different plant species, such as purple needle grass and blue wildrye, that would increase production from timed burnings.”

Retrieved October 22, 2020 from https://progressive.org/dispatches/restoring-indigenous-burning-practices-clark-201021/

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Folsom’s Pipes Leaking

A cause may have been found according to this report.

An excerpt.

“Copper Pipe Pinhole Water Leak Investigation Update, October 20, 2020

“The City of Folsom received the final pinhole leak Water Quality Evaluation Technical Memorandum from consultant Black & Veatch. The city hired Black and Veatch, a consultant with expertise in water quality and corrosion, to work with specialists at Virginia Tech University to conduct detailed forensic analysis on sample copper pipes with pinhole leaks. The analysis indicates the city meets all State and Federal drinking water standards, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) Lead and Copper Rule. There is no evidence of microbial activity in the city’s water supply.

“As described in the technical memorandum, the city’s treated water is low in alkalinity, calcium, total organic carbon, turbidity, and total dissolved solids. These characteristics are ideal in drinking water. However, the water’s purity combined with a pH above 9.0 and the use of chlorine could contribute to pitting of copper pipe, especially at sites with impurities in the pipe material or where particulate has settled. Impurities in copper pipe can be natural or from manufacturing, storage, transportation, or installation.

“The team at Black & Veatch and Virginia Tech University recommended the city begin adding orthophosphate to the city’s treatment process. Orthophosphate is a commonly used corrosion inhibitor recommended by the US EPA for use in drinking water applications and is deemed safe for drinking water systems by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The addition of orthophosphate forms a protective layer on the interior of the copper pipe. This has shown to inhibit pit initiation and can help slow or even mitigate pit propagation. Based on an earlier verbal discussion with the consultant team, the city began adding orthophosphate to its treatment process on October 8, 2020, prior to the completion of the report.

“Contact the City of Folsom Water Quality Division at 916-461-6190 or waterquality@folsom.ca.us with questions or for more information.”

Retrieved October 21, 2020 from https://www.folsom.ca.us/ewr/pinhole_leaks_investigation.asp

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Forest Management

Excellent article from California Globe which discusses ways to bring back the timber industry in California and help our forests at the same time.

We know a lot more about good forest management now and we should be using it.

An excerpt.

“For about twenty million years, California’s forests endured countless droughts, some lasting over a century. Natural fires, started by lightning and very frequent in the Sierras, were essential to keep forest ecosystems healthy. In Yosemite, for example, meadows used to cover most of the valley floor, because while forests constantly encroached, fires would periodically wipe them out, allowing the meadows to return. Across millennia, fire driven successions of this sort played out in cycles throughout California’s ecosystems.

“Also for the last twenty million years or so, climate change has been the norm. To put this century’s warming into some sort of context, Giant Sequoias once grew on the shores of Mono Lake. For at least the past few centuries, forest ecosystems have been marching into higher latitudes because of gradual warming. In the Sierra Foothills, oaks have invaded pine habitat, and pine have in-turn invaded the higher elevation stands of fir. Today, it is mismanagement, not climate change, that is the primary threat to California’s forests. This can be corrected.

“In a speech before the U.S. Congress last September, Republican Tom McClintock summarized the series of policy mistakes that are destroying California’s forests. McClintock’s sprawling 4th Congressional District covers 12,800 square miles, and encompasses most of the Northern Sierra Nevada mountain range. His constituency bears the brunt of the misguided green tyranny emanating from Washington DC and Sacramento. Here’s an excerpt from that speech:

“Excess timber comes out of the forest in only two ways – it is either carried out or it burns out. For most of the 20th Century, we carried it out. It’s called ‘logging.’ Every year, US Forest Service foresters would mark off excess timber and then we auctioned it off to lumber companies who paid us to remove it, funding both local communities and the forest service. We auctioned grazing contracts on our grasslands. The result: healthy forests, fewer fires and a thriving economy. But beginning in the 1970’s, we began imposing environmental laws that have made the management of our lands all but impossible. Draconian restrictions on logging, grazing, prescribed burns and herbicide use on public lands have made modern land management endlessly time consuming and ultimately cost prohibitive. A single tree thinning plan typically takes four years and more than 800 pages of analysis. The costs of this process exceed the value of timber – turning land maintenance from a revenue-generating activity to a revenue-consuming one.”

“When it comes to carrying out timber, California used to do a pretty good job. In the 1950s the average timber harvest in California was around 6.0 billion board feet per year. The precipitous drop in harvest volume came in the 1990s. The industry started that decade taking out not quite 5.0 billion board feet, and by 2000 the annual harvest had dropped to just over 2.0 billion board feet. Today, only about 1.5 billion board feet per year come out of California’s forests as harvested timber.

“Expand the Timber Industry

“What Congressman McClintock describes as a working balance up until the 1990s needs to be restored. In order to achieve a sustainable balance between natural growth and timber removals, California’s timber industry needs to triple in size. If federal legislation were to guarantee a long-term right for timber companies to harvest trees on federal land, investment would follow.

“Today only 29 sawmills remain in California, along with eight sawmills that are still standing but inactive. In addition, there are 112 sites in California where sawmills once operated. In most cases, these vacant sites of former mills are located in ideal areas to rebuild a mill and resume operations.

“The economics of reviving California’s timber industry are compelling. A modern sawmill with a capacity of 100 million board feet per year requires an investment of $100 million. Operating at a profit, it would create 640 full time jobs. Constructing 30 of these sawmills would create roughly 20,000 jobs in direct employment of loggers, haulers and mill workers, along with thousands of additional jobs in the communities where they are located.

“The ecological impact of logging again in California’s state and federal forests will not become the catastrophe that environmentalists and regulators once used as the pretext to all but destroy the logging industry. Especially now, with decades of accumulated experience, logging does more good than harm to forest ecosystems. There is evidence to prove this.

“In forests managed by Sierra Pacific, for example, owl counts are higher than in California’s federally managed forests. Even clear cutting, because it is done on a 60 to 100 year cycle, does more good than harm to the forests. By converting one or two percent of the forest back into meadow each year, area is opened up where it is easier for owls to hunt prey. Also, during a clear cut, the needles and branches are stripped off the trees and left to rejuvenate the soil. The runoff is managed as well, via contour tilling which follows the topography of the hillsides. Rain percolates into the furrows, which is also where the replacement trees are planted.

“While clear cutting will not destroy most ecosystems, since it is only performed on one to two percent of the land in any given year, there are other types of logging that can be used in areas deemed more ecologically sensitive. Southern California Edison owns 20,000 acres of forest around Shaver Lake in Southern California where they practice what is referred to as total ecosystem management.

“Earlier this year, when the Creek Fire burned an almost unthinkable 550 square miles in Southern California, the 30 square mile island of SCE managed forest around Shaver Lake was unscathed. This is because for decades, SCE has been engaged in timber operations they define as “uneven age management, single tree selection,” whereby the trees to be harvested are individually designated in advance, in what remains a profitable logging enterprise. Controlled burns are also an essential part of SCE’s total ecosystem management, but these burns are only safe when the areas to be burned are caught up on logging and thinning.”

Retrieved October 20, 2020 from https://californiaglobe.com/section-2/how-to-save-californias-forests/

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Washington PUD Not Happy

Solar and wind farms seem to be an issue, as reported by New Geography.

An excerpt.

“The Northwest has spoken loudly as the Benton Public Utility District (BPUD) has documented their actual battleground experiences with intermittent electricity from wind farms that should be a wake-up call to our policy makers. Their message is “no more wind”.

“The Washington state utility 16-page report titled “Wind Power and Clean Energy Policy Perspectives” of July 14, 2020 provides a devastating counter attack to the wind lobbyists that they question the efficacy of wind farms for power generation and resulted in the utility’s commissioners saying they “do not support further wind power development in the Northwest.”

“Kudos to this Washington state public utility for speaking up after seeing the costs and dangers of California’s experience with an overreliance on intermittent electricity from wind and solar. In a statement and report, the utility said overly aggressive clean energy policies bring about an unacceptably high risk of power grid blackouts. They go on to say the development of wind farms may be “politically fashionable” and appeal to many in the general public, but science and economics show that attempting to power modern civilization with intermittent electricity from wind and solar will come at a high financial and environmental cost.

“The report is consistent with what has happened in Germany and Australia, as power prices in Germany are among the highest in Europe. Today, German households pay almost 50% more for electricity than they did in 2006. Shockingly, America, from California to New York, continues to take giant steps toward following Germany’s failed climate goals which should be a wake-up call for governments everywhere.

“The Benton PUD believes:

  • “Further wind power development will unnecessarily contribute to increases in northwest utility retail electricity rates which could erode the economic development advantage low rates has given the region for many years. Establishing preferences for wind and solar energy with no accompanying targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions in the electricity sector has been shown through comprehensive study to result in unnecessary increases in the cost of electricity while not reducing GHG emissions in the most cost-effective manner possible
  • “The best long-term, sustainable, more cost-effective, potentially less risky, and environmentally responsible strategy toward meeting the CETA goal of 100% clean electricity in Washington State by 2045 could be to transition coal power to natural gas and then natural gas to nuclear. Benton’s position is 100 percent opposite of California’s mission to eliminate most natural gas power plants that generate continuous uninterruptible electricity, and all nuclear that generate the only known source of continuous zero emission electricity.
  • “Customers and citizens throughout the region are desirous of the natural beauty and open spaces that are part of their way of life. This is the reason for the report and for their formal declaration that Benton PUD does not support further development of wind power in the PNW. The PUD’s position is consistent with a recent decision in California as the San Bernardino County’s Board of Supervisors slammed the brakes on big industrial solar projects and highlighted a challenge for the huge landscaping demands of renewable intermittent electricity
  • “Lifecycle economic and environmental impacts expected to result from further development of wind power needs to be scrutinized to a much higher degree with greater recognition of issues like the global impacts of raw materials mining and the disposal of wind turbine blades which are currently destined for landfills. i.e. environmental degradation and humanity atrocities occurring from the mining in the countries that dominate the supply of the exotic minerals and metals to support wind, solar, and EV batteries.

“The Benton PUD beliefs are consistent with the U.N. trade body, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD,) that issued a report breaking down some of the unintended negative consequences of the shift, which include ecological degradation as well as human rights abuses. The U.N. Warns of Devastating Environmental Side Effects of Electric Car Boom.”

Retrieved October 16, 2020 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006806-washington-state-blows-away-wind-fantasies

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Farm Bureau Supports Reservoir Expansion

Good news for California water, from AgAlert.

“Warning that California needs a concerted plan to adapt its aging water system to meet “significant and steadily mounting water insecurity issues” in the 21st century, the California Farm Bureau Federation has reiterated its support for two federal reservoir-expansion proposals.

“In separate comment letters, CFBF backed plans by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to increase the capacity of Lake Shasta Reservoir and San Luis Reservoir.

“The Shasta project involves raising the 602-foot-tall dam by 18.5 feet, or 3%, to increase water storage in Shasta Lake by 634,000 acre-feet. The Bureau of Reclamation says dedicated environmental storage from the expanded reservoir would improve water quality in the Sacramento River below the dam, by lowering water temperatures for survival of fish such as chinook salmon and others that migrate from the ocean to rivers to spawn. In addition, the agency said, the project would improve operational flexibility for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed downstream.

“Just as Shasta Dam and Lake are and have long been a cornerstone of California’s existing statewide water system, a modest expansion in this critical location is an indispensable part of any meaningful statewide water infrastructure adaptation strategy for the future,” CFBF wrote in its comments, filed last week.

“Justin Fredrickson, California Farm Bureau Federation environmental policy analyst, said the Shasta expansion project has been talked about and studied for years, noting that it was among a handful of surface storage projects identified in the late 1990s and early 2000s through the Cal-Fed Bay-Delta Program, a cooperative state-federal planning effort intended to protect the delta and provide water for urban and agricultural purposes….

“Scott Petersen, director of water policy for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, said the project would enhance the year-to-year reliability for water customers south of the delta.

“Without the project, Petersen said, “the challenges associated with water supply reliability for communities south of the delta and in the San Joaquin Valley will continue,” adding that as implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act moves forward, “not approving this project would be another lost opportunity.”

“Under current conditions, many years are very low or zero-allocation years for agricultural water contractors in the San Luis/Delta-Mendota system and south of the delta.

“Fredrickson said the proposed San Luis project “offers the ability to store more carryover water that can tide you over, and gives you greater flexibility and resilience in the drier years.”

“Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive officer of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said of the reservoir-expansion projects, “The Central Valley must have more long-term reliability with its water deliveries in order to sustain our agricultural communities. In the boom-or-bust cycles of California precipitation, we have to do more to capture the water available in wet years, knowing drought is just around the corner.”

Retrieved October 14, 2020 from https://www.agalert.com/story/?id=14381

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Good Water News for California Farmers

A new Executive Order, helps, a lot, see original order here https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-modernizing-americas-water-resource-management-water-infrastructure/ and an excerpt from the story about it from US News & World Report.

An excerpt

“President Donald Trump on Tuesday created what he called a “subcabinet” for federal water issues, with a mandate that includes water-use changes sought by corporate farm interests and oil and gas.

“An executive order from Trump put Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler in charge of the interagency water body.

“Establishment of a water subcabinet “will streamline decision-making processes” across federal agencies, the EPA said in a statement.

“The first priority set out by the executive order is increasing dam storage and other water storage, long a demand of farmers and farm interests in the West in particular. That includes California’s Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water district. Westlands was one of Bernhardt’s main lobbying and legal clients before his appointment to the Interior Department under Trump.

“Asked about whether the move would benefit his old client or represent a conflict for Bernhardt, Interior Department spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said, “The Secretary is resolute in upholding his legal and ethical responsibilities.”

Retrieved October 14, 2020 from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/california/articles/2020-10-13/trump-makes-water-demand-of-farms-priority-for-new-office

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Coffee

A great article about it from Psyche Magazine.

An excerpt.

“Coffee hasn’t always received the attention it deserves. In many Western countries especially, the beans were low quality. Drinkers didn’t know or care about how coffee was produced, bought or brewed. A lot of coffee was cheap and tasted bitter, and its purpose was practical: medicine or fuel.

“But over the past few decades, things have started to change around the world. A global band of intrepid producers, buyers, roasters, baristas and scientists have been elevating coffee to the craft level, like fine wine and beer. You might think that you know what coffee tastes like – roasted, toasty and bitter – but that’s only a sliver of the variety available to you now.

“Coffee – what’s called ‘drip’ or ‘filter’ coffee, not espresso – can taste smooth and sweet like chocolate, or provide a zip on your tongue like a bright Champagne, or taste fruity, just like a blueberry. And when I say ‘chocolate’ or ‘blueberry’, I mean the coffee itself literally tastes like those things, without any added syrups or flavourings. The first time you drink coffee that tastes like more than coffee, you’ll never forget it.

“This expansion of flavours is partly down to a global trend towards new roasting techniques. All coffee roasters create a roast profile – a manipulation of time and temperature – to achieve flavour in the beans. Historically, coffee has been roasted for relatively long periods of time at relatively high temperatures (think of traditional Italian coffee culture or the giant coffee chains in the United States). This profile tends to emphasise roast character, the flavours imparted by the roasting process – akin to how the process of ageing bourbon in oak barrels imparts a distinct flavour to the spirit. But more recently, distinct coffee cultures – including those of North America, Australia, Britain, Scandinavia and Japan – have been pushing other roasting techniques forward, ones that focus on the qualities of the bean. For example, roasting at relatively low temperatures for a shorter amount of time tends to accentuate what I call coffee character, the unique flavours inherent in the bean itself and where it was grown – or its terroir, to borrow a term from wine.

“At the same time, producers all across the ‘Bean Belt’ – the band of coffee-growing countries that fall between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn – are refining their growing and processing techniques, supplying the speciality coffee market with unique, delectable coffee beans. All this has opened the door to a world of possibility for consumers. Coffee has never had more variety or more potential to taste great than it does right now.

“Whether you’re a regular coffee drinker or just starting out, the best way to enjoy a cup is by honouring all the craftspeople – the producers, green-coffee buyers, roasters, baristas and more – who made your brew possible. Today’s speciality coffee offers as much range and variety as wine and craft beer, yet it’s mostly still not appreciated and savoured in the same way. Whether you see coffee as an occasional treat or as a daily essential, there is so much more you can learn and enjoy.”

Retrieved October 14, 2020 from https://psyche.co/guides/good-coffee-is-like-a-fine-wine-start-with-high-quality-beans

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Virus Lockdowns, Another Perspective

From City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Lockdowns are typically portrayed as prudent precautions against Covid-19, but they are surely the most risky experiment ever conducted on the public. From the start, researchers have warned that lockdowns could prove far deadlier than the coronavirus. People who lose their jobs or businesses are more prone to fatal drug overdoses and suicide, and evidence already exists that many more will die from cancerheart diseasepneumonia, and tuberculosis and other diseases because the lockdown prevented their ailments from being diagnosed early and treated properly.

“Yet politicians and public-health officials conducting this unprecedented experiment have paid little attention to these risks. In their initial rush to lock down society, they insisted that there was no time for such analysis—and besides, these were just temporary measures to “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm hospitals. But since that danger passed, the lockdown enforcers have found one reason after another to persevere with closures, bans, quarantines, curfews, and other mandates. Anthony Fauci, the White House advisor, recently said that even if a vaccine arrives soon, he does not expect a return to normality before late next year.

“He and politicians like New York governor Andrew Cuomo and British prime minister Boris Johnson profess to be following “the science,” but no ethical scientist would conduct such a risky experiment without carefully considering the dangers and monitoring the results. After doing so, a group of leading researchers this week called for an end to the experiment. In a joint statement, the Great Barrington Declaration, they predicted that continued lockdowns will lead to “excess mortality in years to come” and warned of “irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”

“While the economic and social costs have been enormous, it’s not clear that the lockdowns have brought significant health benefits beyond what was achieved by people’s voluntary social distancing and other actions. Some researchers have credited lockdowns with slowing the pandemic, but they’ve relied on mathematical models with assumptions about people’s behavior and the virus’s tendency to spread—the kinds of models and assumptions that previously produced wild overestimates of how many people would die during the pandemic. Other researchers have sought more direct evidence, looking at mortality patterns. They have detected little impact.

“In a comparison of 50 countries, a team led by Rabail Chaudhry of the University of Toronto found that Covid was deadlier in places with older populations and higher rates of obesity, but the mortality rate was no lower in countries that closed their borders or enforced full lockdowns. After analyzing 23 countries and 25 U.S. states with widely varying policies, Andrew Atkeson of UCLA and fellow economists found that the mortality trend was similar everywhere once the disease took hold: the number of daily deaths rose rapidly for 20 to 30 days, and then fell rapidly.

“Similar conclusions were reached in analyses of Covid deaths in Europe. By studying the time lag between infection and death, Simon Wood of the University of Edinburgh concluded that infections in Britain were already declining before the nation’s lockdown began in late March. In an analysis of Germany’s 412 counties, Thomas Wieland of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology found that infections were waning in most of the country before the national lockdown began and that the additional curfews imposed in Bavaria and other states had no effect.

“Wieland hasn’t published any work on New York City’s pandemic, but he says that the city’s trend looks similar to Germany’s. If, as some studies have shown, a Covid death typically occurs between 21 days and 26 days after infection, the peak of infections would have occurred at least three weeks prior to the peak in deaths on April 7. That would mean that infections in the city had already begun to decline by March 17—three days before Cuomo announced the lockdown and five days before it took effect.

“Of course, it’s possible that lockdowns accelerated the decline in some places and produced benefits that have gone undetected in those studies. Researchers working on different assumptions—such as how quickly the virus kills people—have concluded that lockdowns did save some lives (or at least postponed some deaths). Given all the uncertainties, you can’t rule out some benefits, but that’s hardly a justification for continuing such a risky experiment.

“What experimental drug would ever be approved if there were so much conflicting evidence of its efficacy and so much solid evidence of its harmful side effects? The cost-benefit analysis becomes even bleaker if you switch from the metric favored by journalists and politicians—the running total of lives lost—to the metric that’s typically used in evaluating medical efficacy. It’s called the QALY, for quality-adjusted life year, a wonky term for what we think of as a “good year” of life, free from disease and disability. No politician wants to admit publicly that young people’s lives are more valuable than older people’s because they have more healthy years remaining, but using this guide is the most sensible way to allocate health resources—and it’s long been favored by some of the same progressive health-care experts now clamoring for lockdowns.

“By the QALY measure, the lockdowns must be the most costly—and cost-ineffective—medical intervention in history because most of the beneficiaries are so near the end of life. Covid-19 disproportionately affects people over 65, who have accounted for nearly 80 percent of the deaths in the United States. The vast majority suffered from other ailments, and more than 40 percent of the victims were living in nursing homes, where the median life expectancy after admission is just five months. In Britain, a study led by the Imperial College economist David Miles concluded that even if you gave the lockdown full credit for averting the most unrealistic worst-case scenario (the projection of 500,000 British deaths, more than ten times the current toll), it would still flunk even the most lenient QALY cost-benefit test.

“No one wants to hasten the demise of the elderly, but they and other vulnerable people can be shielded without shutting down the rest of the society, as Sweden and other countries have demonstrated. Sweden was denounced early in the pandemic by lockdown proponents because of its relatively high death rate—and it did initially flounder in protecting nursing homes—but its overall mortality rate is now lower than that of the United States and some other European countries. The rate is higher than that of its Nordic neighbors, but mainly because of demographic differences and other factors not related to its failure to shut down.”

Retrieved October 8, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/lockdowns-must-end

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Beautiful Photos of California

From Atlantic Magazine at https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2020/10/california-photos/616572/

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Fish Hatchery Agreement

From Maven’s Notebook.

“Reclamation announces Nimbus Fish Hatchery agreement with California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Bureau of Reclamation has signed a five-year, $12.3 million multi-year agreement with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to continue the federally owned Nimbus Fish Hatchery facility’s operations and maintenance in Rancho Cordova.  The Nimbus Fish Hatchery was built by Reclamation to mitigate for steelhead-and-Chinook salmon habitat loss due to Nimbus Dam’s construction. Reclamation has entered into a series of agreements with CDFW since 1956 for the hatchery’s operations and maintenance. This partnership has allowed Reclamation to consistently meet its annual fish-production objectives for steelhead-and-Chinook salmon. …

Reclamation is pleased to continue our partnership with CDFW for operations of our Nimbus Fish Hatchery on the lower American River,” said Drew Lessard, Central California area office manager. “The important work of ensuring yearly fish mitigation objectives is crucial for Reclamation to continue operations of Folsom Dam and the greater Central Valley Project.”

“Under this new agreement, CDFW will continue operations and maintenance of the Nimbus Fish Hatchery with the objective of meeting Reclamation’s mitigation requirements for the construction of Nimbus Dam. The Chinook-salmon smolts and steelhead yearlings produced from this process are released back into the American river and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, helping conserve these vital fish populations.

“For additional information email Sarah Perrin at sperrin@usbr.gov or call at 916-537-7063 (TTY 800-877-8339).

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Be well everyone!

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