John Fielder: I’m donating my life’s work to inspire conservation in Colorado: Thousands of photographs will be available through History #Colorado — The #Denver Post

Click the link to read the guest column on The Denver Post website (John Fielder). Here’s an excerpt:

For 40 years, I have worked as a nature photographer and publisher to promote the protection of ranches, open spaces, and wildlands in Colorado and beyond. Humanity will not survive without the preservation of biodiversity on Earth, and I have been honored to use my photography to influence people and legislation to protect our natural and rural environments. I am humbled that these photos have spurred the passage of the 1992 Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund Initiative (GOCO) and Congress’s Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993 among other land protection projects across this state that I love.

I have decided to donate my life’s work of photography to you, the people of Colorado. As our state’s historical preservation arm, History Colorado will be the repository of this collection of more than 5,000 photos distilled from 200,000 made since 1973. Their digitization and exhibition development is made possible by a grant from the Telluray Foundation.

R.I.P. David Crosby: “Eight Miles High”

David Crosby performing. By Christopher Michel – Crosby, Stills & Nash!, CC BY 2.0,

Click the link to read the obituary on the Rolling Stone website (Jon Dolan). Here’s an excerpt:

Croz was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of both the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash

Crosby was a founding member of the Byrds, playing guitar and contributing harmony vocals to many of their most enduring songs, including “Eight Miles High,” “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Shortly after being forced out of the group due to personality conflicts with frontman Roger McGuinn, he formed the supergroup Crosby, Stills, and Nash with Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of the Hollies. The trio – which became a quartet in 1969 when Neil Young joined their ranks – played a major role in the development of folk-rock, country-rock and the emergent “California sound” that dominated rock radio throughout the mid-Seventies. Croz wrote many of their most beloved tunes, including “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Long Time Gone” and “Deja Vu.”


“David was fearless in life and in music” — Graham Nash


In 1964, he joined a band called the Jet Set, consisting of Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark. They changed their name to the Beefeaters, and then the Byrds. Crosby’s gorgeous harmonizing, heard on hits like the Bob Dylan cover “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” was an essential component in the Byrds’ folk-rock sound…Crosby and Stephen Stills, who had recently disbanded Buffalo Springfield, began writing songs together in 1968. They were soon joined by Nash, who had just quit the Hollies, and the trio performed together for the first time at the L.A. home of Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas. Their self-titled 1969 debut was a hit, producing the classic single “Suite: Judy Blues Eyes,” about Judy Collins…Adding Neil Young later that year, the quartet played their second gig at Woodstock, in front of nearly 500,000 people, announcing the arrival of one of rock’s first — and greatest — supergroups.

Dismantling the walls to wildlife posed by highways — @BigPivots

Highway 160 wildlife crossing 15 miles west of Pagosa Springs. Photo credit: Allen Best

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

$5 million in projects an important step in reimagining Colorado’s highways to accommodate wildlife

Although never a big-game hunter, I have killed three deer in Colorado and likely gave a bull elk a terrific headache. That’s not to mention my carnage among rabbits and other smaller critters.

Cars were my weapon, not guns.

Driving at dusk or into the darkened night will inevitably produce close brushes with wildlife, large and small, on many roads and highways. Even daylight has its dangers.

Colorado is now redefining that risky, ragged edge between wildlife habitat and the high-speed travel that we take for granted. State legislators delivered a message last year when appropriating $5 million for wildlife connectivity involving highways in high-priority areas.

In late December, state agencies identified seven locations where that money will be spent. They range from Interstate 25 south of Colorado Springs to Highway 13 north of Craig near where it enters Wyoming. New fencing and radar technology will be installed. Highway 550 north of Ridgway will get an underpass.

The pot wasn’t deep enough to produce overpasses such as two that cross Highway 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling or one between Pagosa Springs and Durango. But $750,000 as allocated to design work for crossings of I-25 near Raton Pass with a like amount for design of an I-70 crossing near Vail Pass.

In this and other ways, Colorado can better vie for a slice of the $350 million allocated by Congress in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for improved wildlife connectivity.

This is on top of the overpass of I-25 planned for the segment between Castle Rock and Monument to complement the four underpasses installed in the widening project of recent years.

We are pivoting in how we regard roads and wildlife habitat. We have long been driven to protect human lives and our property by reducing collisions. Our perspectives have broadened. Human safety still matters, but so do the lives of critters.

Before, says Tony Cady, a planning and environmental manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, highway safety for people was the highest priority —and conservation for wildlife a distant second. “Now we’re seeing much more of a wedding or marriage of those tow values, safety and conservation.”

A 2016 study of western Colorado identified highest-priority road segments in red. A 2022 study showed even more road segments in eastern Colorado owing at least partly to higher traffic volumes. See study here.

Biologists in the 1990s began emphasizing highways as home wreckers. Expanding road networks, they said, was creating islands of wildlife habitat. Fragmented habitat leads to reduced gene pools and, at the extreme, to the threat of extinction of species in some areas, called extirpation.

I-70 became the marquee for this. Wildlife biologists began calling it the “Berlin Wall to Wildlife.” The aptness of that phrase was vividly illustrated in 1999 when a transplanted lynx released just months before tried to cross I-70 near Vail Pass. It was smacked dead.

With that graphic image in mind, wildlife biologists held an international competition in 2011 involving I-70. The goal, at least partially realized, was to discover less costly materials and designs.

Colorado’s pace has quickened since a 2014 study documenting the decline of Western Slope mule deer populations. Also helpful was creation of the Colorado Wildlife and Transportation Alliance, a consortium of the state’s transportation and wildlife agencies along with federal land agencies and non-profit wildlife groups.

In 2019 an incoming Gov. Polis issued an executive order to state agencies directing them to work together to solve road ecology problems.

Two wildlife overpasses along with underpasses and fencing north of Silverthorne completed in 2017 have been valuable examples. Studies showed a 90% reduction in collisions.

“An 80% to 90% reduction right off the bat is pretty typical for these structures,” says Cady

Beginning in 2016 for the western half of the state, data have been crunched to delineate the state’s 5% highest priority road segments. These data may give Colorado a leg up on access to federal funds.

The two studies found 48 high-priority segments in western Colorado and 90 in eastern Colorado, reports Michelle Cowardin, a wildlife biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The Craig and Meeker areas have lots of high priority roads, but so is much of I-76 between Fort Morgan to Julesburg.

Eastern Colorado had even more high-priority road segments than the Western Colorado. See more here.

Some jurisdictions are diving deeper. Eagle County has completed a study of wildlife connectivity, and Pitkin County has secured funding for a first-step study that will identify highest-priority locations in the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys.

These new studies attest to a shift in public attitudes and a shift within the state agencies. Cady says that highway engineers still think about human safety first, but there has also been a shift.

“I think the mindset has shifted in the last four or five years. We are not having to justify the inclusion of wildlife components in projects. It’s more understood that these are necessary components.”

To be clear, remediation in Colorado is mostly done as part of road projects. The work on Highway 160 between Pagosa and Durango, for example, came in at $11 million, of which only $3.5 million went to the overpass and also an underpass as well as other measures with wildlife in mind.

Projects also tend to have multiple funding sources. For example, the Southern Ute Tribe provided $1.5 million for that project near Pagosa. The project on Highway 9 in Middle Park included $4 million from a local rancher.

Rob Ament of Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute says wildlife connectivity is becoming institutionalized in how we think about transportation corridors. Instead of motivated solely to minimize risk to humans, there’s growing appreciation of the needs of wildlife, too.

There’s solely motivation an extravagance, he says, crossings are becoming a cost of doing business.

This is happening internationally, too. “My world is just exploding,” he said while reciting crossings for elephants in Bangladesh, tigers in Thailand and work for other species in Argentina, Nepal, and Mongolia.

Coyote Gulch’s Leaf August 2017 about to be towed to Denver after collision with a deer.

R.I.P. Jeff Beck “Shapes of things before my eyes”

Click the link to read the obituary on The New York Times website (Jim Farber). Here’s an excerpt:

Jeff Beck, one of the most skilled, admired and influential guitarists in rock history, died on Tuesday in a hospital near his home at Riverhall, a rural estate in southern England. He was 78…

In 1965, when he joined the Yardbirds to replace another guitar hero, Eric Clapton, the group was already one of the defining acts in Britain’s growing electric blues movement. But his stinging licks and darting leads on songs like “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down” added an expansive element to the music that helped signal the emerging psychedelic rock revolution…Three years later, when Mr. Beck formed his own band, later known as the Jeff Beck Group — along with Rod Stewart, a little-known singer at the time, and the equally obscure Ron Wood on bass — the weight of the music created an early template for heavy metal…he earned eight gold albums over more than six decades. He also amassed seven Grammys, six in the category of best rock instrumental performance and one for best pop collaboration with vocals. He was inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice, as part of the Yardbirds in 1992 and as a solo star in 2009…

He became attracted to electric guitar after hearing Les Paul’s work and was later drawn to the work of Cliff Gallup, lead guitarist for Gene Vincent’s band, and the British player Lonnie Mack. He became entranced not only by the sound of the guitar but also by its mechanics.

“At the age of 13, I built two or three of my own guitars,” Mr. Beck wrote in an essay for a book about his career published in 2016 titled “Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll.” “It was fun just to look at it and hold it. I knew where I was headed.”

#Colorado’s Changing Politics — The Buzz

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

Not only has Colorado shifted to the sapphire “Blue” side of the spectrum, but its counties are being rearranged politically.

The chart below which compares the 15 percent margin in the November election between Michael Bennet and Joe O’Dea in Colorado’s largest counties, shows El Paso and Douglas are becoming more like swing Republican counties providing only modest Republican margins. They are now similar to the formerly strong Democratic Pueblo County, which regularly offers only small Democratic margins.

Denver delivers the biggest statewide vote, even in a lower turnout (67% in 2022 vs 76% in 2018) off-year election ahead of liberal Boulder and the new Democratic strongholds of Arapahoe and Jefferson counties. Among larger counties Republicans still win Mesa on the Western Slope and Weld in the North Front Range.

Among the biggest factors shifting Colorado’s voting patterns were the rapid growth of voters during the last decade (about 1 million voters). They largely settled in the Denver metro area with some overflow in Larimer and Weld in the North Front Range and El Paso in the south. They also primarily registered as unaffiliated. In 2012, unaffiliated voters were 37% or 900,000 voters. In 2022, they were 46%, and 1,734,000 voters. Since 2016, they have been primarily voting for Democratic Party candidates.

See the land that tribes in the U.S. are protecting — ShareAmerica

Bison on the Fort Peck Reservation. Photo credit: Native:

Click the link to read the article on the Department of Interior website (Noelani Kirschner):

The United States has more than 9.8 million square kilometers of land and water, both publicly and privately owned. Now, through a Department of the Interior (DOI) program, local governments and tribes in the United States will be working to conserve, protect and restore sections of both throughout the country.

With so much land at risk because of climate change and nature loss, the Biden administration aims to conserve at least 30% of American land and waters by 2030.

The America the Beautiful Challenge brings together many U.S. government agencies, led by the Department of the Interior, to advance an inclusive and collaborative land conservation mission.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation working with DOI will award $91 million in new grants — with $50.7 million matched by grantees, for a total amount of $141.7 million — to 55 nongovernmental organizations, tribes, U.S. territories and state governments across the United States. Applicants were encouraged to apply if their grant proposals included utilizing Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge — a body of observations, oral and written knowledge, innovations, practices and beliefs developed by tribes and Indigenous peoples through interaction and experience with the environment, according to the White House.

“Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community in America,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “This work will create jobs, strengthen our economy, address equitable access to the outdoors, and help tackle the climate crisis.”

The Fort Belknap Indian Community received nearly $5 million in funding to increase bison populations in collaboration with the Blackfeet, Chippewa-Cree of Rocky Boy and Fort Peck tribal communities across Montana (above). The project will restore 23,000 hectares of bison habitat. The tribes will continue to work together to share information about bison and land management.

Spirit Falls is generally shaded by the surrounding woods. However, in late spring and summer, sunlight reaches the base of the falls in the early afternoon hours and makes for a lovely photograph. Photo credit: Umpqua National Forest

NFWF awarded one of the largest grants — just over $6 million — to the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in Washington state. The Yakama Nation will use the funds for seven habitat restoration projects on 623 hectares to reconnect passageways between land and water on more than 2,400 hectares, and to strengthen the climate resilience of people, wildlife and habitats across the land.

In North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will use $309,000 to work with multiple government agencies to conserve or protect rare, culturally significant species within the greater Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ ancestral landscape. This includes improved data management and modeling tools to maximize conservation efforts on the ground.

With a $723,200 grant, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community plans to help bring Lenape tribal youth back to ancestral lands (Lënapehòkink) along the Delaware River watershed and in portions of New York state to cultivate tribal identity and provide career pathways for the youth. The collaboration between three Lenape tribes will help cultivate tribal identity and cultural resilience through a youth immersion program and 18 youth fellowship positions.

Native land loss 1776 to 1930. Credit: Alvin Chang/Ranjani Chakraborty

Rivers in the Sky: 6 Facts you Should Know About #AtmosphericRivers — USGS

Click the link to read the article on the USGS website (Alexandra (Allie) Weill):

Atmospheric rivers have been in the news a lot over the past couple of months, from a late October atmospheric river that brought record-breaking rainfall across Northern California to a mid-November storm that led to catastrophic flooding in Washington. A new atmospheric river storm is hitting the Western U.S. now and more are likely on their way. But what exactly is an atmospheric river?

Atmospheric rivers aren’t a new phenomenon on the West Coast, but this type of storm has drawn greater attention in recent years as scientists have learned more about how they work.

Here are 6 things to know about atmospheric rivers as the West’s wet season continues:

1. Atmospheric rivers transport water vapor from the tropics towards the poles.

Sources/Usage: Public Domain. Visit Media to see details. Animation showing AR plumes over the Pacific during January 2012.

The formation of an atmospheric river starts near the equator. The sun heats the earth most directly at the equator, and these warm temperatures cause water to evaporate and rise into the atmosphere.

Some of that water vapor is pulled away from the equator by atmospheric circulation, forming a narrow band that transports the water vapor to other regions like a conveyer belt. Atmospheric rivers flow in the lowest part of the atmosphere, only about half a mile to a mile above the ground. When they reach the coasts and flow inland over mountains, the atmospheric river is pushed upwards, causing much of that water vapor to condense and fall to the ground as rain or snow, creating an atmospheric river-driven storm.

2. Atmospheric rivers are the largest “rivers” of fresh water on Earth.

While atmospheric rivers are pretty different from rivers of liquid water down on the ground, they transport enough water to deserve their moniker as rivers. Studies of atmospheric rivers over the Pacific have found that they transport water vapor at a rate equal to 7–15 times the average daily discharge of the Mississippi River. They can be hundreds to thousands of miles long, and though they are narrow in the context of weather systems, “narrow” can mean up to 300 miles across! 

Atmospheric rivers are always flowing somewhere on Earth, even though they don’t consistently stay in one place like rivers on the ground. At any given time, 90% of the water vapor moving toward the poles is concentrated in about 4-5 atmospheric rivers across the globe. Together, these narrow bands of flowing water vapor cover less than 10% of the circumference of the planet. 

Atmospheric river storms can affect people around the country and the world. Scientists estimate that atmospheric rivers provide over half of the mean annual runoff on the east and west coasts of North America, France, northern Spain and Portugal, the United Kingdom, southeastern South America, southern Chile, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand.

Sources/Usage: Public Domain. Visit Media to see details. Atmospheric rivers occur all over the world in this global view from February, 2017.

3. There’s a rating system for atmospheric rivers like there is for hurricanes.

Like the scales for hurricanes and other hazards, the rating scale for atmospheric rivers is based both its physical characteristics (wind speed for hurricanes, quantity of water vapor for atmospheric rivers) and on the level of destruction it causes.  

While other rating systems are focused solely on the hazards of the event, the atmospheric river system incorporates the idea that these events can be beneficial, hazardous, or both. On the low end of the scale, AR Cat 1 events rated as primarily beneficial and at the high end, AR Cat 5 events primarily hazardous.

Atmospheric River rating system. Sources/Usage: Public Domain. Visit Media to see details.

A scale that categorizes atmospheric river events based on the maximum instantaneous integrated water vapor transport (IVT) associated with a period of atmospheric river conditions (i.e., IVT ≥ 250 kg m–1 s–1) and the duration of those conditions at a point. 

Atmospheric river storms can be beneficial in places like drought-stricken California—up to 50% of California’s annual precipitation can come from atmospheric rivers, and atmospheric rivers can bring enough water to end a drought. USGS research has found that 33%–74% of droughts on the West Coast between 1950 and 2010 were broken by the arrival atmospheric river storms (the October atmospheric river eased but did not end California’s current drought, however). On the other hand, high-intensity atmospheric rivers can be as destructive as hurricanes and lead to widespread flooding, landslides, and debris flows.  

The atmospheric rivers that hit Northern California on October 24, 2021 and the Northwest on November 15, 2021 have both been rated 5, AR Cat 5 (Exceptional): Primarily hazardous.

Sources/Usage: Public Domain. Before a fire, forests act like a sponge and a water filter, meaning that rainwater can recharge drinking water supplies and only needs minimal treatment before use. After a fire, forests respond to rainfall as if the ground is covered in a layer of plastic wrap. Water cannot penetrate into the soil and huge amounts of surface runoff from rainstorms carry ash, sediment and other pollutants downstream into streams and reservoirs.

USGS scientists regularly conduct post-fire debris-flow hazard assessments for select fires in the Western U.S. not long after the fire burns. The hazard maps produced during these assessments help officials identify potentially dangerous conditions so they can take action to protect lives and property before and during extreme weather events. For example, USGS hazard maps of the 2020 Bond Fire informed response during subsequent atmospheric river storms in early 2021. 

Atmospheric rivers can influence the impacts of future fires, too. In 2017, USGS scientists studying this topic found that atmospheric rivers could actually increase the area burned by fires in the year following an event, especially in the most arid parts of the interior Southwest. Though wet winters can lead to higher soil moisture in the short term and increase snowpack in the mountains, wet winters also mean a lot of vegetation growth at lower elevations. Much of that growth is invasive grasses that dry out quickly come summertime and become highly flammable fuels for fast-moving wildfires.

Sources/Usage: Public Domain. Post-wildfire flooding and debris flow in a small canyon above the Las Lomas debris basin in Duarte, the winter after the the June 2016 Fish Fire in Los Angeles County, California.

5. An atmospheric river mega-storm could be California’s other “Big One.”

Visualization of the ARkStorm Scenario. Credit: USGS

If you live on the West coast, you’ve likely heard about “the big one” or even “the really big one,” phrases that refer to potential major earthquake events along the faults of California and the Pacific Northwest. But there’s another “big one” you may not have heard of: according to USGS natural hazards scientists, an atmospheric river-driven mega-storm that could cause catastrophic damage is plausible, if not inevitable, for California. Such a storm could cause extensive flooding across the state, raising environmental health concerns, causing thousands of landslides, disrupting critical infrastructure for days or weeks and causing 350 billion dollars in damages and 290 billion dollars in business interruption losses.

USGS scientists have developed ARkStorm, a hypothetical, scientifically realistic future winter storm scenario, to figure out all the details of what such an event would look like. ARkStorm (for Atmospheric River 1,000) was designed to be similar in intensity to the California winter storms of 1861 and 1862, the largest and longest California storms in the historic record and the cause of the Great Flood of 1862. This type of storm would produce precipitation at levels only experienced on average once every 500 to 1,000 years.

Artist’s drawing of flooded streets in Sacramento, California (view up K Street from the levee) during the flood of 1862.

6. Atmospheric rivers are expected to increase in intensity in California due to climate change.

Human-caused climate change is increasing the intensity of many extreme weather events, and atmospheric rivers are no exception, at least in California. Research by USGS scientists and partners has found that over the past 70 years, there is a pattern of increasing water vapor transport onto the West Coast associated with ocean surface warming. Atmospheric rivers aren’t predicted to become more frequent, but California’s precipitation will become more volatile, with more water concentrated into a smaller number of higher-intensity atmospheric river events. 

High-intensity atmospheric river storms can cause a lot of damage, and there are likely to be more such storms in our future. But with the help of USGS science, we have the information and tools to prepare for even a “big one.” Unlike earthquakes or fires, scientists can predict the timing and strength of atmospheric rivers several days in advance, allowing people to stock up on emergency food and water, make preparations for shelter, and avoid high-risk areas.  

Over the long term, the studies like the ARkStorm Scenario can help raise awareness of a future big storm and inform major logistical planning and infrastructure development, helping people prepare for major atmospheric river storms and limit their destruction. 

Sources/Usage: Public Domain. An atmospheric river hit the central California coast and stalled there between January 26 and 28, 2021 — with catastrophic consequences. Rainwater washed dead trees, ash, mud, and rock downslope from the nearby watershed, scorched by the Dolan Fire in Los Padres National Forest in the fall of 2020. Drain pipes that run below Highway 1 were rapidly clogged with the debris and were eventually overwhelmed. The roadway was no match for the overflowing culverts, resulting in a massive collapse of the rocky cliff.

What is a Tree? How Does it Work? — #Colorado State Forest Service

Limber pine. Photo credit: Colorado State Forest Service

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado State Forest Service website:

Every year, trees grow two annual rings. In the spring, the usually wider and thinner-walled layer, called springwood, grows. In the summer, a thicker-walled layer, called summerwood, develops. Annual rings are typical in temperate forest trees.

Tree Physiology

  • A tree is a tall plant with woody tissue. Trees gather light for photosynthesis through their leaves; this process creates “food” for the tree.
  • Most of a tree trunk is dead tissue and serves only to support the weight of the tree crown. The outside layers of the tree trunk are the only living portion. The cambium produces new wood and new bark.
  • The band of tissue outside of the cambium is the phloem. Phloem transports new materials (the sugars created from photosynthesis) from the crown to the roots. Dead phloem tissue becomes the bark of a tree.
  • The band of tissue just inside of the cambium is the xylem, which transports water from the roots to the crown. Dead xylem tissue forms the heartwood, or the wood we use for many different purposes.
  • Every year, trees grow two annual rings. In the spring, usually a wider and thinner-walled layer called springwood forms. In the summer, a thicker-walled layer, called summerwood, develops. Annual rings are typical in temperate forest trees.

Parts of a Tree

  • Leaves – broadleaf or needles; primary location for photosynthesis and production of hormones and other chemicals.
  • Twigs and Branches – support structures for leaves, flowers and fruits.
  • Crown – the upper part of the tree composed of leaves, twigs, branches, flowers and fruit.
  • Flowers – the site of reproduction. Trees can be male, female or both. Conifers, however, do not have petals and typical flower structures.
  • Fruits and Seeds – all trees have seeds, most are inside of the fruit.
  • Trunk – generally a single “stem,” but can be multiple-stemmed. Main functions are materials transport and support.
  • Bark – main function is to protect the living tissue called cambium from damage.
  • Roots – two main functions: (1) collect nutrients and water and (2) anchor the tree.

Trees Grow:

  • At the twig tips (apical meristem)
  • At the root tips (root apical meristem)
  • At the cambium (old xylem cells become heartwood, old phloem cells become bark)

Why do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?

Chlorophyll production goes down as night length increases (fall and winter). The green colors are no longer reflected and other chemicals in the leaf become dominant, revealing red and yellow pigments. Weather during the period of declining chlorophyll production influences intensity of colors.

  • Warm fall weather generally reduces color quality.
  • Moist soils following a good growing season contribute to greater color intensity.
  • A few warm, sunny days and cool nights increase brilliance.
  • Drought usually results in poorer displays.

Leaves fall in autumn as part of a tree’s preparation for winter dormancy. Because it is too cold for water to remain in the plant tissues (freezing water would rupture cells in the tree), and because the water in the soil is frozen and cannot be absorbed, trees shut down major processes in the cold months. Deciduous trees drop their leaves; conifers have strategies to maintain their needles during the winter.

Concentric rings of various widths mark the annual growth of trees. Photo by Peter Brown, Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research. Photo credit: NOAA

Should we worry about 8 billion people? Breaking down population’s role in the environmental impact equation — @HighCountryNews

Click the link to read the article on the High Country News website (Jonathan Thompson):

This is an installment of the Landline, a fortnightly newsletter from High Country News about land, water, wildlife, climate and conservation in the Western United States. Sign up to get it in your inbox.

Is overpopulation the environmental elephant in the room?

Last month, the United Nations announced that the Earth’s population had reached 8 billion. The organization’s leaders don’t see all those humans as something to fear, but rather as, in the words of Secretary General António Guterres, “an occasion to celebrate diversity and advancements while considering humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet.”

But judging from the letters I get after almost every environment-related piece I write, I suspect that some readers would disagree. 

“I am an avid ‘environmentalist,’” a reader recently wrote. “Simple, plain truth fact: Whether it is climate change, wildlife habitat, immigration, and yes, even gun violence. We will NEVER make much progress … until we make significant gains in stabilizing and ultimately reducing the cancer of human population growth.”

This note echoes hundreds of other responses I’ve received over the last couple decades. The basic idea is that all aspects of environmental degradation — along with traffic congestion and the housing crisis — are rooted in overpopulation. And, the argument goes, not mentioning this in environmental stories is irresponsible, verging on dishonest. “Population growth is the environmentalists’ ‘elephant in the room,’” another reader wrote. “We ignore the issue at our peril.”

We at Landline would like to use the 8-billion benchmark as an opportunity to stop ignoring population. But, fair warning: You might not like what we have to say.

No, I’m not going to tell you to stop worrying about population growth. Even as the U.N. celebrates the advances in medicine and nutrition that make it possible for billions of people to exist on Earth, it acknowledges the challenges presented by rapidly growing numbers in places like Nigeria. And no, I’m not going to deride every overpopulationist as a racist or eco-fascist or eugenicist. While it’s true that fear of overpopulation is often used to justify racism or eco-fascist views or xenophobia, there are plenty of folks who are genuinely concerned about the planet’s ability to sustain 8 billion people, no matter where or who or what color those people may be.

But I will suggest that you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Most folks would agree that the real worry here is not the sheer numbers, but their collective impact on the environment. We — the planet’s human inhabitants — are clearing land, leveling forests and mountains, mining and drilling minerals and burning fossil fuels in order to sustain ourselves and our lifestyles. That, in turn, is diminishing biodiversity, driving species to extinction and stretching the planet’s carrying capacity to a snapping point, thereby imperiling our own species’ survival. The problems are exacerbated as planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions soar, further diminishing freshwater stores and hurting food production. 

And the environmental impacts, put simply, are the product of population multiplied by per capita consumption. It would stand to reason that with every added unit of humanity comes a corresponding and proportional increase in environmental impact. The thing is, per capita consumption varies widely across the globe and the demographic spectrum, vastly outweighing simple population numbers in our impact equation. 

Percent by which total global energy consumption has increased over the last decade. 

Percent by which total global population increased during that same period. 

Percent by which total global carbon emissions from energy use increased over the decade.

That is to say, the affluent consume far more than everyone else and therefore have a much greater environmental impact, throwing the aforementioned equation into disarray. The richest 10% of the globe’s population are responsible for nearly half of all “lifestyle consumption emissions,” according to Oxfam, while the poorest half is responsible for just 10% of those emissions. Another way to look at this is that each person at the top of the global wealth ladder emits about 31.25 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent each year, while each of the globe’s poorest 50% emits about 1.25 tons of CO2. That’s because folks in the so-called “developed” world burn through a heck of a lot more fossil fuels, food, water, minerals, Big Macs — you name it — than those in less-affluent, rapidly growing regions.

Increases in population still result in increases in overall environmental impact. But per capita consumption plays a far bigger role. It’s runaway consumption, not unhindered population growth, that is most responsible for the habitat loss, land-use changes and resource exploitation that most threaten biodiversity and cause the runaway greenhouse gas emissions that are altering the climate. 

4.7 billion
Metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted from energy use in the United States in 2021.

3.8 billion
Metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by Europe energy use in 2021.

1.3 billion
Metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by Africa from energy use in 2021.

This equation — combined with the disproportional influence of consumption over sheer population numbers — holds true even at a regional level. 

Perhaps the most prominent example of a system in the West that has exceeded the carrying capacity is the Colorado River. The population has dramatically increased in the seven Colorado River Basin states over the last few decades. And, during that same time, demand for the river’s water has come to vastly exceed the supply.

At first glance, it would appear that a larger population has resulted in greater consumption, thereby draining the reservoirs. But the data doesn’t back this up. While Colorado River consumption climbed along with population for decades after the Colorado River Compact was signed a century ago, that demand leveled over the last couple of decades, even as the population exploded. Yes, consumptive use of the Colorado River’s waters held steady or even dropped as the population climbed, as counterintuitive as that may seem.

The Bellagio fountains in Vegas. The fountain is fed by a private well from a now-defunct golf course, not by the Colorado River. Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Amount by which the Las Vegas metro area population increased between 2002 and 2021. 

26 billion gallons
Amount by which the Las Vegas metro area overall water use decreased during that same period. 

500,000 acre-feet
Estimated amount of Colorado River water used to irrigate alfalfa fields in a single California irrigation district per year, or nearly twice the Las Vegas area’s total annual consumption.

Meanwhile, the West’s wealthiest guzzle more and more water and energy and resources with every new pile of cash (or cryptocurrency or stocks or yachts) they amass, from the Kardashians using hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per month to keep their Los Angeles-area estate verdant during the most severe drought in 1,200 years, to Drake burning through jet fuel to take a 14-minute trip in his custom 767, to an LA mansion with a $50,000 monthly electricity bill. Yes, $50k for electricity to keep the monstrosity’s 105,000 square feet, or 217 average-sized Hong Kong homes, cool during the increasingly hot California summers.

It’s not just the billionaires. Americans in general tend to favor relatively giant automobiles and lawns and houses — the average home size in Colorado Springs is almost 2,800 square feet. These, in turn, require more energy, wider roads, more water and lead to residential sprawl, which gobbles up farmland and open space and wildlife habitat. Bigger physical footprints almost always have bigger environmental footprints.

This isn’t the result of 8 billion people on the planet or cross-border immigration. It’s the natural outcome of the dominant culture, which values affluence, economic growth and corporate profit above all else. It’s societal greed and an emptiness that always yearns for more, in part because corporate marketing schemes have convinced us that the more we accumulate, the happier we are. But Americans don’t have the highest quality of life, they just lead the most profligate lives, throwing away enough food each year, for example, to feed an entire nation.

161 to 335 billion tons
Estimated amount of food wasted in the U.S. supply chain each year, which amounts to as much as 1,032 pounds per person.

140 million
Acres of land required to grow food that is wasted each year in the U.S.

5.9 trillion
Gallons of water used to grow food that is wasted each year in the U.S.

Trying to control the population — whatever that might look like — isn’t going to solve those problems. Only a rejiggering of the system, a suppression of the collective capitalist appetite, a debunking of the belief that all growth is good and that more is more, will right the sinking ship we’re on. [ed. emphasis mine]

As for the 8 billion, most experts say the best way to stabilize the global population is to empower and educate women, increase access to birth control, ensure that women have reproductive freedom and tackle wealth inequality.

Meanwhile, policymakers and thinkers and environmentalists should focus more on reducing consumption and changing what is consumed, especially by the affluent. Because when it comes to the environment, that’s the real elephant weighing down the planet.

What winter solstice rituals tell us about indigenous people

The Blackfeet always faced their tipis towards the rising sun, including on winter solstice. Beinecke Library via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Rosalyn R. LaPier, The University of Montana

On the day of winter solstice, many Native American communities will hold religious ceremonies or community events.

The winter solstice is the day of the year when the Northern Hemisphere has the fewest hours of sunlight and the Southern Hemisphere has the most. For indigenous peoples, it has been a time to honor their ancient sun deity. They passed their knowledge down to successive generations through complex stories and ritual practices.

As a scholar of the environmental and Native American religion, I believe, there is much to learn from ancient religious practices.

Ancient architecture

For decades, scholars have studied the astronomical observations that ancient indigenous people made and sought to understand their meaning.

One such place was at Cahokia, near the Mississippi River in what is now Illinois across from St. Louis.

The Cahokia mounds. Doug Kerr, CC BY-SA

In Cahokia, indigenous people built numerous temple pyramids or mounds, similar to the structures built by the Aztecs in Mexico, over a thousand years ago. Among their constructions, what most stands out is an intriguing structure made up of wooden posts arranged in a circle, known today as “Woodhenge.”

To understand the purpose of Woodhenge, scientists watched the sun rise from this structure on winter solstice. What they found was telling: The sun aligned with both Woodhenge and the top of a temple mound – a temple built on top of a pyramid with a flat top – in the distance. They also found that the sun aligns with a different temple mound on summer solstice.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the people of Cahokia venerated the sun as a deity. Scholars believe that ancient indigenous societies observed the solar system carefully and wove that knowledge into their architecture. Clip from ‘Cahokia’s Celestial Calendar (Woodhenge)’ episode of PBS’ ‘Native America.’

Scientists have speculated that the Cahokia held rituals to honor the sun as a giver of life and for the new agricultural year.

Complex understandings

Zuni Pueblo is a contemporary example of indigenous people with an agricultural society in western New Mexico. They grow corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and more. Each year they hold annual harvest festivals and numerous religious ceremonies, including at the winter solstice.

At the time of the winter solstice they hold a multiday celebration, known as the Shalako festival. The days for the celebration are selected by the religious leaders. The Zuni are intensely private, and most events are not for public viewing.

But what is shared with the public is near the end of the ceremony, when six Zuni men dress up and embody the spirit of giant bird deities. These men carry the Zuni prayers for rain “to all the corners of the earth.” The Zuni deities are believed to provide “blessings” and “balance” for the coming seasons and agricultural year.

As religion scholar Tisa Wenger writes, “The Zuni believe their ceremonies are necessary not just for the well-being of the tribe but for “the entire world.”

Winter games

Not all indigenous peoples ritualized the winter solstice with a ceremony. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t find other ways to celebrate.

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana, where I am a member, historically kept a calendar of astronomical events. They marked the time of the winter solstice and the “return” of the sun or “Naatosi” on its annual journey. They also faced their tipis – or portable conical tents – east toward the rising sun.

They rarely held large religious gatherings in the winter. Instead the Blackfeet viewed the time of the winter solstice as a time for games and community dances. As a child, my grandmother enjoyed attending community dances at the time of the winter solstice. She remembered that each community held their own gatherings, with unique drumming, singing and dance styles.

Later, in my own research, I learned that the Blackfeet moved their dances and ceremonies during the early reservation years from times on their religious calendar to times acceptable to the U.S. government. The dances held at the time of the solstice were moved to Christmas Day or to New Year’s Eve.

The solstice. Divad, from Wikimedia Commons

Today, my family still spends the darkest days of winter playing card games and attending the local community dances, much like my grandmother did.

Although some winter solstice traditions have changed over time, they are still a reminder of indigenous peoples understanding of the intricate workings of the solar system. Or as the Zuni Pueblo’s rituals for all peoples of the earth demonstrate – of an ancient understanding of the interconnectedness of the world.

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, The University of Montana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

About one-third of the food Americans buy is wasted, hurting the #climate and consumers’ wallets — The Conversation

Wasted food – and land, labor, chemicals, water and energy. ATU Images via Getty Images

Brian E. Roe, The Ohio State University

You saw it at Thanksgiving, and you’ll likely see it at your next holiday feast: piles of unwanted food – unfinished second helpings, underwhelming kitchen experiments and the like – all dressed up with no place to go, except the back of the refrigerator. With luck, hungry relatives will discover some of it before the inevitable green mold renders it inedible.

U.S. consumers waste a lot of food year-round – about one-third of all purchased food. That’s equivalent to 1,250 calories per person per day, or US$1,500 worth of groceries for a four-person household each year, an estimate that doesn’t include recent food price inflation. And when food goes bad, the land, labor, water, chemicals and energy that went into producing, processing, transporting, storing and preparing it are wasted too.

Where does all that unwanted food go? Mainly underground. Food waste occupies almost 25% of landfill space nationwide. Once buried, it breaks down, generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Recognizing those impacts, the U.S. government has set a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

Reducing wasted food could protect natural resources, save consumers money, reduce hunger and slow climate change. But as an agricultural economist and director of the Ohio State Food Waste Collaborative, I know all too well that there’s no ready elegant solution. Developing meaningful interventions requires burrowing into the systems that make reducing food waste such a challenge for consumers, and understanding how both physical and human factors drive this problem.

Consumers and the squander sequence

To avoid being wasted, food must avert a gauntlet of possible missteps as it moves from soil to stomach. Baruch College marketing expert Lauren Block and her colleagues call this pathway the squander sequence.

It’s an example of what economists call an O-ring technology, harking back to the rubber seals whose catastrophic failure caused the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. As in that event, failure of even a small component in the multistage sequence of transforming raw materials into human nutrition leads to failure of the entire task.

MIT economist Michael Kremer has shown that when corporations of many types are confronted with such sequential tasks, they put their highest-skilled staff at the final stages of production. Otherwise the companies risk losing all the value they have added to their raw materials through the production sequence.

Who performs the final stages of production in today’s modern food system? That would be us: frenzied, multitasking, money- and time-constrained consumers. At the end of a typical day, we’re often juggling myriad demands as we try to produce a nutritious, delicious meal for our households.

Unfortunately, sprawling modern food systems are not managed like a single integrated firm that’s focused on maximizing profits. And consumers are not the highly skilled heavy hitters that Kremer envisioned to manage the final stage of the complex food system. It’s not surprising that failure – here, wasting food – often is the result.

Indeed, out of everyone employed across the fragmented U.S. food system, consumers may have the least professional training in handling and preparing food. Adding to the mayhem, firms may not always want to help consumers get the most out of food purchases. That could reduce their sales – and if food that’s been stored longer degrades and becomes less appetizing or safe, producers’ reputations could suffer. Reducing household food waste is a step that everyone can take to help slow climate change – but consumers may not know where to start.

Three paths to squash the squandering

What options exist for reducing food waste in the kitchen? Here are several approaches.

  • Build consumer skills.

This could start with students, perhaps through reinvesting in family and consumer science courses – the modern, expanded realm of old-school home economics classes. Or schools could insert food-related modules into existing classes. Biology students could learn why mold forms, and math students could calculate how to expand or reduce recipes.

Outside of school, there are expanding self-education opportunities available online or via clever gamified experiences like Hellman’s Fridge Night Mission, an app that challenges and coaches users to get one more meal a week out of their fridges, freezers and pantries. Yes, it may involve adding some mayo.

Recent studies have found that when people had the opportunity to brush up on their kitchen management skills early in the COVID-19 pandemic, food waste declined. However, as consumers returned to busy pre-COVID schedules and routines such as eating out, wastage rebounded.

  • Make home meal preparation easier.

Enter the meal kit, which provides the exact quantity of ingredients needed. One recent study showed that compared to traditional home-cooked meals, wasted food declined by 38% for meals prepared from kits.

Meal kits generate increased packaging waste, but this additional impact may be offset by reduced food waste. Net environmental benefits may be case specific, and warrant more study.

  • Heighten the consequences for wasting food.

South Korea has begun implementing taxes on food wasted in homes by requiring people to dispose of it in special costly bags or, for apartment dwellers, through pay-as-you-go kiosks.

Two bins marked with cartoons and colorful graphics showing what they collect
Kiosks for collecting food waste in Seoul, South Korea. Revi/Wikipedia, CC BY

A recent analysis suggests that a small tax of 6 cents per kilogram – which, translated for a typical U.S. household, would total about $12 yearly – yielded a nearly 20% reduction in waste among the affected households. The tax also spurred households to spend 5% more time, or about an hour more per week, preparing meals, but the changes that people made reduced their yearly grocery bills by about $170.

No silver bullets

Each of these paths is promising, but there is no single solution to this problem. Not all consumers will seek out or encounter opportunities to improve their food-handling skills. Meal kits introduce logistical issues of their own and could be too expensive for some households. And few U.S. cities may be willing or able to develop systems for tracking and taxing wasted food.

As the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded in a 2020 report, there’s a need for many solutions to address food waste’s large contribution to global climate change and worldwide nutritional shortfalls. Both the United Nations and the U.S. National Science Foundation are funding efforts to track and measure food waste. I expect that this work will help us understand waste patterns more clearly and find effective ways to squelch the squander sequence.

Brian E. Roe, Professor of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Earth can regulate its own temperature over millennia, new study finds: Scientists have confirmed that a “stabilizing feedback” on 100,000-year timescales keeps global temperatures in check — MIT News

A study by MIT researchers confirms that the planet harbors a “stabilizing feedback” mechanism that acts over hundreds of thousands of years to pull the climate back from the brink, keeping global temperatures within a steady, habitable range. Credits: Image: Christine Daniloff, MIT; NASA

Click the link to read the release on the MIT News website (Jennifer Chu):

The Earth’s climate has undergone some big changes, from global volcanism to planet-cooling ice ages and dramatic shifts in solar radiation. And yet life, for the last 3.7 billion years, has kept on beating.

Now, a study by MIT researchers in Science Advances confirms that the planet harbors a “stabilizing feedback” mechanism that acts over hundreds of thousands of years to pull the climate back from the brink, keeping global temperatures within a steady, habitable range.

Just how does it accomplish this? A likely mechanism is “silicate weathering” — a geological process by which the slow and steady weathering of silicate rocks involves chemical reactions that ultimately draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into ocean sediments, trapping the gas in rocks.

Scientists have long suspected that silicate weathering plays a major role in regulating the Earth’s carbon cycle. The mechanism of silicate weathering could provide a geologically constant force in keeping carbon dioxide — and global temperatures — in check. But there’s never been direct evidence for the continual operation of such a feedback, until now.

The new findings are based on a study of paleoclimate data that record changes in average global temperatures over the last 66 million years. The MIT team applied a mathematical analysis to see whether the data revealed any patterns characteristic of stabilizing phenomena that reined in global temperatures on a  geologic timescale.

They found that indeed there appears to be a consistent pattern in which the Earth’s temperature swings are dampened over timescales of hundreds of thousands of years. The duration of this effect is similar to the timescales over which silicate weathering is predicted to act.

The results are the first to use actual data to confirm the existence of a stabilizing feedback, the mechanism of which is likely silicate weathering. This stabilizing feedback would explain how the Earth has remained habitable through dramatic climate events in the geologic past.

“On the one hand, it’s good because we know that today’s global warming will eventually be canceled out through this stabilizing feedback,” says Constantin Arnscheidt, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). “But on the other hand, it will take hundreds of thousands of years to happen, so not fast enough to solve our present-day issues.”

The study is co-authored by Arnscheidt and Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics at MIT.

Stability in data

Scientists have previously seen hints of a climate-stabilizing effect in the Earth’s carbon cycle: Chemical analyses of ancient rocks have shown that the flux of carbon in and out of Earth’s surface environment has remained relatively balanced, even through dramatic swings in global temperature. Furthermore, models of silicate weathering predict that the process should have some stabilizing effect on the global climate. And finally, the fact of the Earth’s enduring habitability points to some inherent, geologic check on extreme temperature swings.

“You have a planet whose climate was subjected to so many dramatic external changes. Why did life survive all this time? One argument is that we need some sort of stabilizing mechanism to keep temperatures suitable for life,” Arnscheidt says. “But it’s never been demonstrated from data that such a mechanism has consistently controlled Earth’s climate.”

Arnscheidt and Rothman sought to confirm whether a stabilizing feedback has indeed been at work, by looking at data of global temperature fluctuations through geologic history. They worked with a range of global temperature records compiled by other scientists, from the chemical composition of ancient marine fossils and shells, as well as preserved Antarctic ice cores.

“This whole study is only possible because there have been great advances in improving the resolution of these deep-sea temperature records,” Arnscheidt notes. “Now we have data going back 66 million years, with data points at most thousands of years apart.”

Speeding to a stop

To the data, the team applied the mathematical theory of stochastic differential equations, which is commonly used to reveal patterns in widely fluctuating datasets.

“We realized this theory makes predictions for what you would expect Earth’s temperature history to look like if there had been feedbacks acting on certain timescales,” Arnscheidt explains.

Using this approach, the team analyzed the history of average global temperatures over the last 66 million years, considering the entire period over different timescales, such as tens of thousands of years versus hundreds of thousands, to see whether any patterns of stabilizing feedback emerged within each timescale.

“To some extent, it’s like your car is speeding down the street, and when you put on the brakes, you slide for a long time before you stop,” Rothman says. “There’s a timescale over which frictional resistance, or a stabilizing feedback, kicks in, when the system returns to a steady state.”

Without stabilizing feedbacks, fluctuations of global temperature should grow with timescale. But the team’s analysis revealed a regime in which fluctuations did not grow, implying that a stabilizing mechanism reigned in the climate before fluctuations grew too extreme. The timescale for this stabilizing effect — hundreds of thousands of years — coincides with what scientists predict for silicate weathering.

Interestingly, Arnscheidt and Rothman found that on longer timescales, the data did not reveal any stabilizing feedbacks. That is, there doesn’t appear to be any recurring pull-back of global temperatures on timescales longer than a million years. Over these longer timescales, then, what has kept global temperatures in check?

“There’s an idea that chance may have played a major role in determining why, after more than 3 billion years, life still exists,” Rothman offers.

In other words, as the Earth’s temperatures fluctuate over longer stretches, these fluctuations may just happen to be small enough in the geologic sense, to be within a range that a stabilizing feedback, such as silicate weathering, could periodically keep the climate in check, and more to the point, within a habitable zone.

“There are two camps: Some say random chance is a good enough explanation, and others say there must be a stabilizing feedback,” Arnscheidt says. “We’re able to show, directly from data, that the answer is probably somewhere in between. In other words, there was some stabilization, but pure luck likely also played a role in keeping Earth continuously habitable.”

This research was supported, in part, by a MathWorks fellowship and the National Science Foundation.

Pearl Harbor Day

“This is not a drill”, dispatch from the U.S.S. Ranger December 7, 1941.

Thanks dad for saving the whole damn thing.

Kelvin–Helmholtz instability over the Big Horn Mountains

Did you know New York recently had a major “lake effect” snowstorm? — @NASAClimate

R.I.P. Christine McVie “And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score”

Christine McVie performing in 2019. By Raph_PH – FlMacWerchter080619_59, CC BY 2.0,

Click the link to read the obit on The New York Times website (Jim Farber). Here’s an excerpt:

As a singer, songwriter and keyboardist, she was a prolific force behind one of the most popular rock bands of the last 50 years...

Ms. McVie’s commercial potency, which hit a high point in the 1970s and ’80s, was on full display on Fleetwood Mac’s “Greatest Hits” anthology, released in 1988, which sold more than eight million copies: She either wrote or co-wrote half of its 16 tracks. Her tally doubled that of the next most prolific member of the band’s trio of singer-songwriters, Stevie Nicks. (The third, Lindsey Buckingham, scored three major Billboard chart-makers on that collection.) The most popular songs Ms. McVie wrote favored bouncing beats and lively melodies, numbers like “Say You Love Me” (which grazed Billboard’s Top 10), “You Make Loving Fun” (which just broke it), “Hold Me” (No. 4) and “Don’t Stop” (her top smash, which crested at No. 3). But she could also connect with elegant ballads, like “Over My Head” (No. 20) and “Little Lies” (which cracked the publication’s Top Five in 1987)…

All those songs had cleanly defined, easily sung melodies, with hints of soul and blues at the core. Her compositions had a simplicity that mirrored their construction. “I don’t struggle over my songs,” Ms. McVie (pronounced mc-VEE) told Rolling Stone in 1977. “I write them quickly.”

In just half an hour, she wrote one of the band’s most beloved songs, “Songbird,” a sensitive ballad that for years served as the band’s closing encore in concert. In 2019, the band’s leader, Mick Fleetwood, told New Musical Express that “Songbird” is the piece he wanted played at his funeral, “to send me off fluttering.” Ms. McVie’s lyrics often captured the more intoxicating aspects of romance. “I’m definitely not a pessimist,” she told Bob Brunning, the author of the 2004 book “The Fleetwood Mac Story: Rumours and Lies.” “I’m basically a love song writer.” At the same time, her words accounted for the yearning and disappointments that can lurk below an exciting surface. “I’m good at pathos,” she told Mojo magazine in 2017. “I write about romantic despair a lot, but with a positive spin.”

Article: Growing polarization around #ClimateChange on social media — Nature Climate Change #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article on the Nature Communications website (Max FalkenbergAlessandro GaleazziMaddalena TorricelliNiccolò Di MarcoFrancesca LarosaMadalina SasAmin MekacherWarren PearceFabiana ZolloWalter Quattrociocchi & Andrea Baronchelli)

Climate change and political polarization are two of the twenty-first century’s critical socio-political issues. Here we investigate their intersection by studying the discussion around the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP) using Twitter data from 2014 to 2021. First, we reveal a large increase in ideological polarization during COP26, following low polarization between COP20 and COP25. Second, we show that this increase is driven by growing right-wing activity, a fourfold increase since COP21 relative to pro-climate groups. Finally, we identify a broad range of ‘climate contrarian’ views during COP26, emphasizing the theme of political hypocrisy as a topic of cross-ideological appeal; contrarian views and accusations of hypocrisy have become key themes in the Twitter climate discussion since 2019. With future climate action reliant on negotiations at COP27 and beyond, our results highlight the importance of monitoring polarization and its impacts in the public climate discourse.

a, Total number of Twitter posts using the term ‘COP2x’ created each day. Inset: Google Trends (GT) popularity scores for ‘COP2x’, with country-specific scores showing the local enhancement of public engagement. b, The retweet distributions for COP21 and COP26. The total numbers of retweets are shown in the top right. Extended time periods and other COPs are shown in Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2. (Click for a larger view.)

The Water in You: #Water and the Human Body — USGS

​​​​​​​Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going. Sources/Usage: Public Domain.

Click the link to read the article on the USGS website:

Think of what you need to survive, really just survive. Food? Water? Air? Facebook? Naturally, I’m going to concentrate on water here. Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water.

According to Mitchell and others (1945), the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.

Each day humans must consume a certain amount of water to survive. Of course, this varies according to age and gender, and also by where someone lives. Generally, an adult male needs about 3 liters (3.2 quarts) per day while an adult female needs about 2.2 liters (2.3 quarts) per day. All of the water a person needs does not have to come from drinking liquids, as some of this water is contained in the food we eat.

Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going

  • A vital nutrient to the life of every cell, acts first as a building material.
  • It regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
  • The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream;
  • It assists in flushing waste mainly through urination
  • acts as a shock absorber for brain, spinal cord, and fetus
  • forms saliva
  • lubricates joints

According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz, Neuroscience, pediatrics, Allegheny University, different people have different percentages of their bodies made up of water. Babies have the most, being born at about 78%. By one year of age, that amount drops to about 65%. In adult men, about 60% of their bodies are water. However, fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue. In adult women, fat makes up more of the body than men, so they have about 55% of their bodies made of water. Thus:

  • Babies and kids have more water (as a percentage) than adults.
  • Women have less water than men (as a percentage).
  • People with more fatty tissue have less water than people with less fatty tissue (as a percentage).

There just wouldn’t be any you, me, or Fido the dog without the existence of an ample liquid water supply on Earth. The unique qualities and properties of water are what make it so important and basic to life. The cells in our bodies are full of water. The excellent ability of water to dissolve so many substances allows our cells to use valuable nutrients, minerals, and chemicals in biological processes.

Water’s “stickiness” (from surface tension) plays a part in our body’s ability to transport these materials all through ourselves. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. No less important is the ability of water to transport waste material out of our bodies.

Sources and more information:

Federal funds fuel #Wyoming forest infrastructure projects: Money could help to address maintenance backlog as user numbers grow — WyoFile

Wyoming landscape. Photo credit: Courtesy of via NOAA

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Katie Klingsporn):

Federal officials have allocated millions of dollars to improve roads and trails across Wyoming’s national forests — which have been under increasing strain as user numbers grow. 

The U.S Forest Service early this fall announced $65 million in investments nationwide to help the agency improve “water quality, roads, trails and fish habitat.” That included nearly $2.2 million in Legacy Road and Trails Remediation Program dollars for projects in the Bighorn, Bridger-Teton, Medicine Bow-Routt and Shoshone national forests for fiscal year 2022. The LRTR Program is expected to be funded annually at similar amounts through FY 2026.

In addition, the Great American Outdoors Act, which authorized nearly $3 billion annually through fiscal year 2025 for an array of public lands projects across the U.S., has funded a flurry of infrastructure projects on forests in Wyoming. 

The GAOA funding could help land managers address a backlog of maintenance projects to protect the natural resources and better handle growing crowds. 

“The Forest Service has a deferred maintenance backlog of approximately $6 billion,” Donna Nemeth, regional press officer for the USFS Rocky Mountain Region, wrote in an email. “These [GAOA] projects will help address this backlog, bring our infrastructure up to standards, and improve the public experience.” 


Without entrance gates or crowd counters, it’s difficult to pin down exact visitation numbers on Wyoming’s 9 million acres of national forest, but managers agree the volume of visitors has been trending upward, putting strain on roads, trailheads, campgrounds and dispersed camping areas. 

District rangers and other groups are responding with measures meant to meet demand while protecting the resource — such as educational campaigns and proposals to update camping rules. But threadbare budgets and limited staff overseeing vast landscapes have made the task challenging. 

Infusions such as LRTR Program dollars “will address much needed critical road, trail, and stream improvements benefitting (sic) local communities and forest visitors in the Rocky Mountain Region,” Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Frank Beum said in a release. “This critical work also creates jobs in communities around the region, providing an opportunity to improve conditions in National Forests.”

Projects on tap 

Wyoming projects funded by the LRTR Program run the gamut from trail bridge improvements to road decommissioning. Most LRTR projects aren’t intended to increase user capacity, Nemeth wrote, but will “generally reduce impacts and increase resiliency related to increased use.” Examples include:

  • Cedar Creek and Driveway Trail bridge construction, $450,000, Bighorn National Forest. Reconstruction of two trail bridges above the high-water mark to improve stream functioning and protect the bridges and adjacent trails from erosion.
  • Afton Star Trail in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, $62,000. Rerouting the trail to reduce erosion, improve trail resilience and maintain future access
  • Whiskey Creek-Little Snake Watershed restoration in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, $375,000. Constructing aquatic passes, decommissioning roads, obliterating unauthorized roads and performing road reroutes and road-trail conversions.

The USFS awarded projects based on factors such as restoration work in priority watersheds, value of the road or trail for public access and increasing aquatic habitat connectivity, Nemeth wrote. 

The GAOA, meanwhile, enabled the USFS to invest in recreation infrastructure, public lands access and land conservation. 

Wyoming projects include: 

  • Vault toilet replacements, Bighorn National Forest, $200,000. A multi-year project to entail removing and replacing toilets at various picnic grounds, campgrounds and trailheads forest-wide.
  • Lower Middle Fork Trail reroute, Shoshone National Forest, $66,000. Improving a severely eroded section of the popular trail with numerous drainage structures plus rerouting roughly 4 miles of trail. 
  • Buckboard waterline replacement, Ashley National Forest, $55,000. Replacing distribution lines and valves of the water system serving the Buckboard boat ramp, campground and marina at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. 
  • Campground rehabilitation, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, $252,000. Survey, design and construction work to update several outdated campgrounds and parking lots to meet current needs.

The agency, Nemeth wrote, “is looking forward to addressing numerous deferred maintenance projects and delayed repairs through the Great American Outdoors Act.”

The inconvenient truth of Herman Daly: There is no economy without environment

The economy depends on the environment. Economics can seem to forget that point. Ines Lee Photos/Moment via Getty Images

Jon D. Erickson, University of Vermont

Herman Daly had a flair for stating the obvious. When an economy creates more costs than benefits, he called it “uneconomic growth.” But you won’t find that conclusion in economics textbooks. Even suggesting that economic growth could cost more than it’s worth can be seen as economic heresy.

The renegade economist, known as the father of ecological economics and a leading architect of sustainable development, died on Oct. 28, 2022, at the age of 84. He spent his career questioning an economics disconnected from an environmental footing and moral compass.

In an age of climate chaos and economic crisis, his ideas that inspired a movement to live within our means are increasingly essential.

The seeds of an ecological economist

Herman Daly grew up in Beaumont, Texas, ground zero of the early 20th century oil boom. He witnessed the unprecedented growth and prosperity of the “gusher age” set against the poverty and deprivation that lingered after the Great Depression.

To Daly, as many young men then and since believed, economic growth was the solution to the world’s problems, especially in developing countries. To study economics in college and export the northern model to the global south was seen as a righteous path.

Headshot photo of Daly as an older man, with glasses and thinning hair,
Economist Herman Daly (1938-2022) Courtesy of Island Press

But Daly was a voracious reader, a side effect of having polio as a boy and missing out on the Texas football craze. Outside the confines of assigned textbooks, he found a history of economic thought steeped in rich philosophical debates on the function and purpose of the economy.

Unlike the precision of a market equilibrium sketched on the classroom blackboard, the real-world economy was messy and political, designed by those in power to choose winners and losers. He believed that economists should at least ask: Growth for whom, for what purpose and for how long?

Daly’s biggest realization came through reading marine biologist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring,” and seeing her call to “come to terms with nature … to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature but of ourselves.” By then, he was working on a Ph.D. in Latin American development at Vanderbilt University and was already quite skeptical of the hyperindividualism baked into economic models. In Carson’s writing, the conflict between a growing economy and a fragile environment was blindingly clear.

After a fateful class with Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Daly’s conversion was complete. Georgescu-Roegen, a Romanian-born economist, dismissed the free market fairy tale of a pendulum swinging back and forth, effortlessly seeking a natural state of equilibrium. He argued that the economy was more like an hourglass, a one-way process converting valuable resources into useless waste. Herman Daly explains ‘uneconomic growth.’

Daly became convinced that economics should no longer prioritize the efficiency of this one-way process but instead focus on the “optimal” scale of an economy that the Earth can sustain. Just shy of his 30th birthday in 1968, while working as a visiting professor in the poverty-stricken Ceará region of northeastern Brazil, Daly published “On Economics as a Life Science.”

His sketches and tables of the economy as a metabolic process, entirely dependent on the biosphere as source for sustenance and sink for waste, were the road map for a revolution in economics.

Economics of a full world

Daly spent the rest of his career drawing boxes in circles. In what he called the “pre-analytical vision,” the economy – the box – was viewed as the “wholly owned subsidiary” of the environment, the circle.

When the economy is small relative to the containing environment, a focus on the efficiency of a growing system has merit. But Daly argued that in a “full world,” with an economy that outgrows its sustaining environment, the system is in danger of collapse.

Illustrations of a square (economy) inside a circle (ecosystem). Energy and matter go into and out of the economy square, and some is recycled. Meanwhile solar energy enters the ecosystem circle and some heat escapes. In one, the square is too large.
Herman Daly’s conception of the economy as a subsystem of the environment. In a ‘full world,’ more growth can become uneconomic. Adapted from ‘Beyond Growth.’ Used with permission from Beacon Press.

While a professor at Louisiana State University in the 1970s, at the height of the U.S. environmental movement, Daly brought the box-in-circle framing to its logical conclusion in “Steady-State Economics.” Daly reasoned that growth and exploitation are prioritized in the competitive, pioneer stage of a young ecosystem. But with age comes a new focus on durability and cooperation. His steady-state model shifted the goal away from blind expansion of the economy and toward purposeful improvement of the human condition.

The international development community took notice. Following the United Nations’ 1987 publication of “Our Common Future,” which framed the goals of a “sustainable” development, Daly saw a window for development policy reform. He left the safety of tenure at LSU to join a rogue group of environmental scientists at the World Bank.

For the better part of six years, they worked to upend the reigning economic logic that treated “the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation.” He often butted heads with senior leadership, most famously with Larry Summers, the bank’s chief economist at the time, who publicly waved off Daly’s question of whether the size of a growing economy relative to a fixed ecosystem was of any importance. The future U.S. treasury secretary’s reply was short and dismissive: “That’s not the right way to look at it.”

But by the end of his tenure there, Daly and colleagues had successfully incorporated new environmental impact standards into all development loans and projects. And the international sustainability agenda they helped shape is now baked into the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals of 193 countries, “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.” Herman Daly and Kate Raworth, creator of Doughnut Economics, discuss pandemic-resistant economies.

In 1994, Daly returned to academia at the University of Maryland, and his life’s work was recognized the world over in the years to follow, including by Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award, the Netherlands’ Heineken Prize for Environmental Science, Norway’s Sophie Prize, Italy’s Medal of the Presidency, Japan’s Blue Planet Prize and even Adbuster’s person of the year.

Today, the imprint of his career can be found far and wide, including measures of the Genuine Progress Indicator of an economy, new Doughnut Economics framing of social floors within environmental ceilings, worldwide degree programs in ecological economics and a vibrant degrowth movement focused on a just transition to a right-sized economy.

I knew Herman Daly for two decades as a co-author, mentor and teacher. He always made time for me and my students, most recently writing the foreword to my upcoming book, “The Progress Illusion: Reclaiming Our Future from the Fairytale of Economics.” I will be forever grateful for his inspiration and courage to, as he put it, “ask the naive, honest questions” and then not be “satisfied until I get the answers.”

Jon D. Erickson, Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy, University of Vermont

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

“… that moment the sun kisses the sea” — @BBerwyn

Ice loss from Northeastern Greenland significantly underestimated — Denmark Technical University #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Lake and river on the Zachariae Glacier, northeast Greenland. Photo: Shfaqat Abbas Khan, DTU Space.

Click the link to read the release on the Denmark Technical University website (Tore Vind Jensen):

Ice is continuously streaming off Greenland’s melting glaciers at an accelerating rate, dramatically increasing global sea levels. New results published 9 November in Nature indicate that existing models have underestimated how much ice will be lost during the 21st century. Hence, its contribution to sea-level rise will be significantly higher.

By 2100, the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream will contribute six times as much to the rising sea level as previous models suggested, adding between 13,5 to 15,5 mm, according to the new study. This is equivalent to the entire Greenland ice sheet’s contribution in the past 50 years. The research was carried out by researchers from Denmark, the United States, France, and Germany.

“Our previous projections of ice loss in Greenland until 2100 are vastly underestimated,” said first author Shfaqat Abbas Khan, Professor at DTU Space.

“Models are mainly tuned to observations at the front of the ice sheet, which is easily accessible, and where, visibly, a lot is happening.”

Lake and river on the Zachariae Glacier, northeast Greenland. Photo: Shfaqat Abbas Khan, DTU Space. 4

Ice loss occurs more than 200 km inland

The study is partly based on data collected from a network of precise GPS stations reaching as far as 200 km inland on the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream—located behind the Nioghalvfjerdsfjord Gletscher and Zachariae Isstrøm glaciers, one of Earth’s most hostile and remote terrains. The GPS data were combined with surface-elevation data from the CryoSat-2 satellite mission and high-resolution numerical modelling.

“Our data show us that what we see happening at the front reaches far back into the heart of the ice sheet,” said Shfaqat Abbas Khan. 

“We can see that the entire basin is thinning, and the surface speed is accelerating. Every year the glaciers we’ve studied have retreated further inland, and we predict that this will continue over the coming decades and centuries. Under present day climate forcing, it is difficult to conceive how this retreat could stop.” [ed. emphasis mine]

Significant contribution to rising sea levels

In 2012, after decade of melting, the floating extensions of Zachariae Isstrøm collapsed, and the glacier has since retreated inland at an accelerating pace. And though winter 2021 and summer 2022 have been particularly cold, the glaciers keep retreating. Since northeastern Greenland is a so-called Arctic desert – precipitation is as low as 25 mm per year in places – the ice sheet is not regenerating enough to mitigate the melt. However, estimating how much ice is lost and how far into the ice sheet the process occurs is not easy. The ice sheet’s interior, which moves at less than one meter per year, is difficult to monitor, which limits the ability to make accurate projections.

“It is truly amazing that we are able to detect a subtle speed change from high-precision GPS data, which ultimately, when combined with a model of ice flow, inform us on how the glacier slides on its bed,” said coauthor Mathieu Morlighem, a professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth College.

“It is possible that what we find in northeast Greenland may be happening in other sectors of the ice sheet. Many glaciers have been accelerating and thinning near the margin in recent decades. GPS data helps us detect how far this acceleration propagates inland, potentially 200-300 km from the coast. If this is correct, the contribution from ice dynamics to the overall mass loss of Greenland will be larger than what current models suggest.”

The Zachariae Isstrøm was stable until 2004, followed by steadily retreat of the ice front until 2012, when a large portion of the floating sections became disconnected. As more precise observations of change in ice velocity are included in models, it is likely that IPCC’s estimates of 22-98 cm global sea level rise will need to be corrected upwards.

“We foresee profound changes in global sea levels, more than currently projected by existing models,” said coauthor Eric Rignot, professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine.

“Data collected in the vast interior of ice sheets, such as those described herein, help us better represent the physical processes included in numerical models and in turn provide more realistic projections of global sea-level rise.”

Iceberg at the front of Zachariae Glacier, northeast Greenland. Photo: Nicolaj K Larsen, Globe Institute, Denmark.

About the study

The study is supported by the Carlsberg Foundation and the Ministry of Climate, Energy and Supply (Climate support for the Arctic).

See the scientific article ‘Extensive inland thinning and speed-up of North-East Greenland Ice Stream‘.

Poem and photo gallery: “In #PagosaSprings teaching at #Water 101 and 102, Southwestern Water Information Program” — Greg Hobbs

I think about Greg often. He was a friend of Coyote Gulch and I miss his friendship.

Autumn Anglers
I’m the freshet beneath your bridge
Source and mouth and passage
Fisher above, beyond, beside you
Your guide, your path, your canopy.
I’m the handholds on your cliff faces
The spring in your diversions
The catch, the feast, the planting
Transfusion for your sorrows.
I’m the wing-loft to your feathers
The talons of your grip
Reflection of your ripples
Quiver of your gifts.
I am the soar, the roar, the seep
The fiddle, the song, the strings
The lift of traveling companions
The land, the waters, the peoples.
—  Greg Hobbs

A biggest ever in #Colorado for battery storage — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Tiny now, like a pebble, lithium-ion battery storage in Colorado will soon be like a boulder. What else is needed to complete this emissions-free jigsaw puzzle? Photo credit: Allen Best

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

The 13,500 solar modules sandwiched by hillsides of sagebrush, piñon and juniper near Glenwood Springs capture the eyes. It’s the four shipping containers of lithium-ion batteries, capable of five megawatts of storage, that will briefly set a new high mark for Colorado.

Battery storage is coming on in Colorado. This project narrowly eclipses the previous record in Colorado set four years ago. Late next spring, the 275 megawatts of battery capacity planned by Xcel Energy at Pueblo and in Adams County will dwarf this record of 5 megawatts. More yet will be coming after that.

We need storage to complement the intermittency of the renewables but also because this makes economic sense. This transition to an energy system with fewer emissions has so far slowed or stopped increased costs in prices of electricity. If only we could be so lucky with organic food.

Storage capacity within Colorado will rise significantly in the next five years. Imagine driving on Interstate 70 across the Great Plains into Denver. In the city’s western suburbs, the highway rises slightly. In this analogy with battery storage, we’re still in the suburbs. Lying immediately ahead is the sharp rise to Floyd Hill with plenty of uphill beyond.

Mike Kruger, the chief executive of Colorado Solar and Storage Association, a trade organization, rejects this analogy. Instead of uphill struggle, he describes downhill glide. Lithium-ion storage will expand, he explained, because of rapidly declining costs that parallel those of solar panels a decade before.

In his view, we’re about to descend from Loveland Pass.

“Imagine the tiniest thing you can think of,” Kruger said at a Colorado Renewable Energy Society webinar. “That’s storage in Colorado today. Now think of the biggest thing you can think of. That will be energy storage in the future.”

All of Colorado’s larger utilities plan significant storage but in somewhat different ways. Platte River Power Authority recently received 31 bids for various non-carbon generation and storage proposals in and near the four communities it serves in northern Colorado. For example, Estes Park, whose frightened residents had to flee in 2020 as two megafires approached, might need both storage and solar panels if power deliveries get interrupted.

Wildfire threat also figures into the solar and storage at the college campus near Glenwood Springs. Should outside power be cut off, students could shelter in place.

Colorado Springs Utilities, the state’s fourth largest utility, is soliciting bids for batteries with 400 megawatt-hours of storage to become operational in 2024. Utilities spokesman Steve Berry predicts growing importance of battery storage as long as the technology becomes increasingly cost-effective, efficient and reliable.

“Battery storage will help us better manage the intermittent characteristics of renewable energy, but it will also provide greater grid resiliency, help insulate customers from market volatility, and help us modernize our grid for emerging technologies,” he says.

We are also beginning – just beginning – to see batteries in homes and businesses. In a program called Power+, Holy Cross has assisted in placing batteries at 68 homes and businesses. Supply chain issues have 122 still on the waiting list. It is doing this partly to learn how to draw on these batteries to meet peak demands, such as when the snowmaking guns at Aspen and Vail power up as temperatures dive during November evenings.

Now come state and federal programs that Kruger describes as a “really amazing confluence of incentives” via tax rebates. A new Colorado law will award an income tax credit equal to 10% of the purchase price for storage systems purchased in 2023 and 2024. The systems are also exempt from sales tax. The federal Inflation Reduction Act provides an even bigger tax incentive of 30%.

Xcel customers will be eligible for additional incentives next year: $500 per kilowatt of storage up to 50% of the cost of the battery and $800 per kilowatt for Income-qualified (up to 75% of the cost of the battery)

Supplies of batteries remain tight, but manufacturing capacity has been ramping up and prices should fall. Globally, capacity grew by a third last year to reach 600 gigawatt-hour in manufacturing capacity. Wood Mackenzie, a consultant, reports 3,000 gigawatt-hours being planned or under construction.

In “The Big Fix,” Aspen-reared Hal Harvey and co-author Justin Gillis describe how scaling up of industrial process has caused prices of everything from Model T’s to computer chips to tumble. They call it “the learning curve.” The most recent examples were wind and then solar.

Cheaper lithium-ion batteries alone will not alone allow Holy Cross and other utilities to realize their goals of 100% emissions-free electricity by 2030. We also need longer-term storage. Options include molten salt, hydrogen and pumped storage-hydro, the latter a technology use in Colorado since the 1950s that remains the state’s largest “battery.” Nuclear and geothermal are other options. All will take time to deploy. Likely a decade.

For now, it’s time to charge the batteries.

Nearly a third of southern Sierra forests killed by drought and wildfire in last decade — The Los Angeles Times #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Map of groves showing fire severity for KNP Complex Fire. Credit: NPS

Click the link to read the article on The Los Angeles Times website (Haley Smith). Here’s an excerpt:

As climate change continues to transform California’s landscape in staggering and often irreversible ways, researchers have zeroed in on yet another casualty of the shift: the forests of the southern Sierra Nevada. Between 2011 and 2020, wildfires, drought and bark beetle infestations contributed to the loss of nearly a third of all conifer forests in the lower half of the mountain range, according to a recent study published in the journal Ecological Applications. Eighty-five percent of the southern Sierra’s high-density mature forests either lost density or became non-forest vegetation. The losses could have grave consequences for California wildlife, including protected species such as spotted owls and Pacific fishers that rely on mature tree canopies for their habitats. Researchers said the findings not only are another indication of the state’s shifting climate regime, but also offer new insights that could help guide forest management and conservation strategies.

“Thirty percent of conifer forests in the southern Sierra Nevada are no longer considered forests,” said Zachary Steel, a research scientist with the United States Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station and the lead author of the study. “They’re either sparsely treed landscapes or, more often, are transitioning either in the short term or long term to more of a shrubland-type system.”

The Sierra covers about a quarter of California’s land area, with the southern portion of the range running from Lake Tahoe to Tehachapi. Hundreds of plants and animals call the region home, and the forest helps sequester carbon and store water for the state’s residents.

Steel, who conducted the study as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, said the numbers were alarming.

“What’s most concerning is the pace at which this is happening,” he said. “Fire always occurred in these landscapes, drought always occurred in these landscapes … but the declines are going so rapidly that the succession, or the regrowth, of these forests is not going to be able to keep up.”

Coyote Gulch attempting to hug a Sequoia near the General Sherman tree August 1, 2022. Photo credit: Mrs. Gulch

For Native Americans, the Supreme Court Lost Legitimacy Long Ago —

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier at awards ceremony in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. By Apnewcombwei – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Click the link to read the gust column on the website (Harold Frazier). Here’s an excerpt:

Today, we do not doubt that the Supreme Court will lose further legitimacy by striking down college admissions that take account of the racial animus that so many students and families have suffered in the Harvard and North Carolina cases. No person shall be denied by any state the equal protection of the laws under the 14th Amendment and Congress has the authority to implement this directive by legislation. Clearly, where the Federal, state, local and societal institutions have infringed on minority rights for generations, Congress can act to allow redress and to promote diversity in education to provide a more meaningful environment for education for all. In Dobbs in June 2022, the Supreme Court lost legitimacy with women by undermining reproductive rights and women’s right to life. Apparently, the Supreme Court does not know that child birth can be fraught with life and death challenges. We know because, confined to Indian health care, our Native women have had high maternal health challenges for decades. Before Dobbs, the Supreme Court lost legitimacy in Bush v. Gore when it ruled that America has more legitimacy when states do not count votes. Later, the Supreme Court struck down voting rights because, in its view, racism in America is over. The Supreme Court has lost its connection to America’s truth.For Native Americans, the Supreme Court lost legitimacy long ago…

In 1903, the Supreme Court overruled the 1867 Kiowa Treaty provision that required three-quarter consent of the Kiowa People for any cession of Indian treaty lands. The Supreme Court said that under the Federal trust responsibility — read White Man’s Burden — America had the power to change Native lands into cash without Native Nation consent.Treaties are made by mutual consent between nations. The Supreme Court’s rulings concerning Native Sovereign Nations are genocidal, contrary to the Constitution, and in violation of our natural law rights for centuries…The Constitution, framed by “We the People … excludes “Indians not Taxed” from U.S. citizenship, because Lakota had our own Native Sovereign Nation, our own democracy, laws and traditions. When America asked for safe passage across our lands for settlers on the Oregon Trail, we agreed and America recognized our homeland in the 1851 Treaty. In the 1854 Kansas—Nebraska Territory Act, the United States pledged to honor native rights of person and property and to rigidly follow our treaties. The 1861 Dakota Territory Act repeated these legal assurances.When America found gold in Montana, miners sought to overrun our homelands and the Government sent the Army. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, One Horn, and Sitting Bull fought for our lands. In the 1868 Treaty, America pledged “war shall forever cease,” recognized our self-government, and pledged to respect our permanent home, including the Black Hills…For one hundred years, the Supreme Court sat idle raising procedural barriers to justice. In 1980, in United States v. Sioux Nation, the Supreme Court held that America’s taking of our Black Hills treaty lands was unconstitutional, yet for the past 40 years there has been no justice.In June, in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, the Supreme Court held that the 10th Amendment gives states governing power on Indian reservations. Not true. Native Sovereign Nations are prior sovereigns and states agreed not to encroach on Indian lands as part of the bargain of their statehood. Our treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land, nothing in the state constitutions withstanding…

Natural justice, the Constitution and our treaties establish an enduring nation-to-nation relationship between America and Native Sovereign Nations based upon mutual consent. It’s time for America to honor its word.

Native land loss 1776 to 1930. Credit: Alvin Chang/Ranjani Chakraborty

The Free Agent Beaver: Environmentalists and journalists tend to describe beavers in the ways they benefit humans. It’s time to change that perception of nature — The Revelator

Beaver. Photo credit: Oregon State University

Click the link to read the article on The Revelator website (Adam Burnett and Debra Merskin):

Beavers are having a moment. After being hunted to near extinction, they’ve steadily made a comeback, and today both the scientific community and the public have become increasingly aware and appreciative of their profound influence on habitat.

But as environmentalists, journalists and others praise beavers and expound upon their many planet-saving virtues, a problem has emerged: Beavers are too often seen as a tool for humans, rather than animals with their own agency and agenda.

Even those of us who are closely involved with beavers through conservation organizations or habitat restoration have long defaulted to an innate personification of beavers, unfailingly objectifying them and the “ecosystem services they provide.” How many times have you read or said that beaver activities restore watershed health, provide wildfire breaks and refuges, regulate stream flows, and stabilize the water table?

That’s all true, of course. But at the same time, the inference that they’re doing it for anyone but themselves creates an imbalance, an unrealistic expectation of a species that has no interest in the issues of humans.

Beavers are not beholden to the human-caused issues of our planet, and it’s time to adjust our language to reflect that simple but profound fact.

A simple substitution of vernacular, conceptualization and attitudes toward beavers and their natural behavior is vital to creating a well-rounded understanding of the natural processes of wildlife. Endless messages — perpetuated by well-meaning journalists and others — of giving beavers a “role” or “putting beavers to work” can be explained more accurately by “attracting them to locations where they might be naturally successful.” Rather than creating a “collaboration” or “partnership” with beavers, we are simply attempting to “support beaver success” and “restore conditions needed for ecological success.”

The personification of beavers is understandable — and to a certain extent, it’s been useful. Beavers possess natural skills that the Army Corp of Engineers would envy, so the language of “utilizing,” “partnering” and “collaborating” with beavers has served as a vital bridge, as well as connecting us back to a pathway of Indigenous knowledge.

But this also perpetuates a destructive one-to-one relationship with the natural world. “What can it do for me?” has been the guiding question, instead of “How can I be a valuable part of interspecies connectedness?”

A gentle, intentional and more precise reshaping of language around beavers, and nature as whole, could help reconnect us with the origin of our knowledge of interspecies living — recognizing we are not at the “top,” and that human supremacy is a myth.

For those of us who are “beaver believers,” this is incredibly important — to signal through language a path forward in our work, where we work in relationship with natural systems.

Words matter. By placing ourselves side by side with beavers and other species, we can help cultivate and activate a gentle tidal wave that will influence our research, and our relationship to one another and the natural world — and ultimately help restore the natural balance. When we stop seeing and talking about beavers as tools and partners, and instead treat them as free agents with their own agenda completely unrelated to humans, we can collectively transition to the next phase in our conservation effort. We can reach a point where nature is not hierarchically divided in a Linnaean system but recognized as a dynamic organism in concert with itself.

he opinions expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The Revelator, the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.

A beaver dam on the Gunnison River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

When no home is affordable, where do you live? — Writers on the Range

Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the Range website (David Marston):

It’s a common story: Candace McNatt of Durango, in southern Colorado, kept losing bidding wars to buy a house. She finally settled on a tiny home of just 350 square feet.

McNatt works as an operating room nurse and is a single mother of two teenagers, one about to go to college. Though she landed on the homeownership ladder at one of its lower rungs, she’s relieved. “But this is not how I saw myself approaching the age of 40,” she muses.

The rent on her home lot is $650; her mortgage just $604. Combined, that’s about half of what she had been paying to rent an apartment in Durango.

These days, real estate prices in Durango, as in so many Western towns, have outrun most workers’ ability to buy or even rent modest digs. McNatt, for example, makes $85,000 annually, which places her at over 90% of the area median income in Durango.

A two-year-old study by Root Policy, a Denver consulting firm, showed that single- and two-parent households have begun leaving Durango and southwestern Colorado in droves. Replacing them are retirees and wealthy non-working people. That means businesses struggle to find workers as 80% of people moving into La Plata County don’t work in the region.

Adding to the housing crisis is the boom in short-term rentals, compounded by second-home owners snatching up houses once rented to students at the local Fort Lewis College. Fort Lewis has been scrambling for housing. Starting in 2019, demand for on-campus living skyrocketed, and this August, the college of 3,856 students placed 93 kids in hotel rooms. Thirty more were quadruple-bunked in off-off-campus apartments.

The town thrums with stories of scores of students living in cars and scouting for “safe parking,” meaning places where police won’t roust them out. Others camp out on public lands.

The city of Durango, population 19,400, has tried to help by limiting short-term rentals within city limits, and hiring housing expert Eva Henson to figure out how to create workforce housing.

At a Durango council meeting last month, Henson said that only 169 housing units are under construction, while a thousand more are planned. Finished units for the first nine months of 2022 totaled 59. Meanwhile, a ballyhooed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulation, which would allow homeowners to add “granny flats,” fizzled. Just two were completed this year, and potential builders complain that restrictions remain tight.

According to the Root Policy study, Southwestern Colorado’s overall housing deficit is 2,500 housing units. “Every town is short on housing,” agrees Nicole Killian, a community development director for the Durango bedroom community of Bayfield. Killian says developers plan to build 800 homes over the next decade, a 75% increase in housing units.

What everyone can agree on is that the area’s housing shortage began in Durango, the biggest and most attractive town, then radiated out to every other town within 50 miles.

“Durango has had a sales tax that funded parks and recreation,” says Mayor Barbara Noseworthy. “Now we need to redirect some of that money toward housing.” But the council is divided, with some members favoring a free market approach.

So far, the free market wants only million-dollar homes. McNatt tells the story of two clinical experts at the hospital, each making $160,000, who “have looked for a house forever. And he’s like, I refuse to pay $1 million for a house.” In the end, “they paid over $1 million and are now house-poor.”

One result of the housing crunch, says Mayor Noseworthy, is finding people for essential jobs: “We have difficulty getting math teachers. If you can’t get a high school math teacher, who’s going to live here?”

Meanwhile, one housing solution in Durango has been Chris Hall’s Hermosa Orchards Village of 22 tiny owner-occupied homes, a gem of collegiality. Many of its residents commute to Purgatory Ski Area or Silverton seasonally, and given their small inside spaces, tend to congregate outside on their stoops.

On Nov. 8, there is hope for affordable housing, thanks to Proposition 123 on the ballot. The measure would give grants and loans to local nonprofits to build workforce housing, and provide mortgage assistance to people like McNatt.

At the end of my interview with McNatt, she took me to meet a friend who lives in a storage unit. The box-like space was narrow, his sleeping bag on a foam pad just fitting between a snow blower and a leaf blower. He said he was glad he’d found it.

Dave Marston is the publisher of Writers on the Range,, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. He lives in Durango, CO.

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

#Colorado State University professors bring #sustainability awareness to #FortCollins — The Rocky Mountain Collegian #ActOnClimate

Graphic credit: City of Cornwall Council

Click the link to read the article on the Rocky Mountain Collegian website (Taylor Paumen):

On Sept. 21, a group of Colorado State University professors came together to inform the Fort Collins community about “the overconsumption of natural resources,” as stated on the CSU School of Global Environmental Sustainability website

Avogadro’s Number, a bar and restaurant near campus, hosted the “Managing the Planet: Over Consumption What Can We Do?” event. The panel was composed of experienced professors, including Susan Golicic, management department chair and professor; Joe Scalia, civil and environmental engineering associate professor; Meagan Schipanski, soil and crop sciences associate professor; Terry Yan, design and merchandising professor; and Gene Kelly, moderator and SoGES faculty research liaison and deputy director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean of CSU Extension. 

Questions came from a few of the audience members, starting with a professor of environmental economics at Front Range Community College, who asked how changing manufacturing processes could lessen impact on the environment.

“Anywhere from 30-35% of all our waste is packaging,” Golicic said, but there are a few companies that are working hard to convert to being more efficient and sustainable. 

This first question essentially sparked a core idea that it “comes down to the orientation and the belief system of the upper management of the individual companies,”Golicic said. Companies that recognize their impact on the environment tend to fall under merchandising and the food industry, like Patagonia, which was mentioned several times throughout the panel on their success in sustainability.

Patagonia allows customers to send back some of their products to get them repaired if needed to reduce the act of overconsumption. However, industries like oil and mining that can have a harsh effect on surrounding ecosystems tend to turn their heads. 

The Bingham Canyon open-pit copper mine in Utah has operated since 1903. David Guthrie/Flickr, CC via Colorado State University

“A good grade of copper today is 3%, which means we’re generating 97% waste,”Scalia said pertaining to the mining of copper being an unfortunate culprit in adding to waste.

“To get to a circular economy, we need to be really critically thinking about what we’re consuming,” Scalia said in his support of increased mining. “I would hope that we see a flurry of … effectively mining, … and then we stop needing more inputs.”

An additional action that has been practiced to help the movement of sustainability has been in textile science, which “is very innovative … by really focusing on how they can utilize more natural fiber or how they can recycle more polyester or to really bring the next level of the materials to use that could be more sustainable,” Yan said.

The downside of these practices is companies might also have to use unsustainable chemicals within their products to keep up with demand of the consumers. Corporations like Ball work diligently to replace plastic cups with aluminum but “can’t produce their products fast enough,” Golicic said.

A common issue in remaining sustainable is the consumer’s demand. To close out the event, Kelly asked the question, “If there was one thing in your discipline that you think is sort of the biggest lever that could be changed, … what would it be?”

“In managing the supply chain, the biggest issue is transportation,” Golicic said. “Transportation is really expensive, and it’s gotten more expensive because of the delays in the supply chain.”

“What we really need is more mining in the U.S. that’s local — that’s not requiring us to transport commodities all over the world,” Scalia said, adding to the transportation issue discussion.

There are many factors to consider with overproduction and waste, like global food insecurity from an agricultural perspective. 

“I think we need to be more humble and realize it’s many levers,” Schipanski said. “If we can get away from the overproduction mindset, I think we’ll be better on conservation.”

But there are local practices individuals can slowly try to apply to their daily lives as consumers in any industry.

“Buy better, buy less and also buy secondhand if you can,” Yan said, taking the approach of advice around the overconsumption of clothing.

Overall, the battle for global sustainability will become more of an apparent issue than ever before if consumers don’t change their demand habits, in addition to companies’ upper management considering putting more sustainable practices in place.

Reach Taylor Paumen at or on Twitter @TayTayPau.

Bear 747 is the 2022 #FatBearWeek Champion

Queen – We Are The Champions (Live Aid 1985)

The saline lakes of the Great Basin and why they are in trouble: The West’s Great Basin reveals its challenges with dying lakes — The Deseret News

Sunset from the western shore of Antelope Island State Park, Great Salt Lake, Utah, United States.. Sunset viewed from White Rock Bay, on the western shore of Antelope Island. Carrington Island is visible in the distance. By Ccmdav – Own work, Public Domain,

Click the link to read the article on The Deseret News website (Amy Joi O’Donoghue). Here’s an excerpt:

Like its “sister” lakes in the sprawling Great Basin that cover 200,000 square miles, Utah’s Great Salt Lake appears to be on a collision course withnature plagued by diversions, drought and climate change. It has lost close to half its volume, and more than 800 square miles of lakebed are now exposed, vulnerable to wind-whipped storms that spread toxic dust along the Wasatch Front.

Ski resorts are an important part of Utah’s economy bringing in $10 billion in revenue to the state in 2019. Photo credit: Joe Guetzloff.

These saline lakes in the Great Basin are terminal, meaning they are fed by rivers and are a hydrologic endpoint. When the rivers start to dry up or are diverted, the lakes’ levels of salinity increase. The saline lakes of the Great Basin are remnants of the ice age and are echoes of Lake Bonneville and Lake Lahontan, another large endorheic Pleistocene lake that covered modern northwestern Nevada and extended into northeastern California and southern Oregon. That concern [the long-term viability of the lakes], O’Leary added, is what is leading to a multitude of studies to better understand the hydrological challenges faced by these systems. There is modeling that is focused on groundwater and surface water.

“There are limited resources and money that go into these decisions, but those decisions will involve these lakes that affect people’s livelihoods and communities,” he said. “The hope is that, with the science, we can make informed, intelligent decisions moving forward.”

Blowing Alkali Dust at Owens Lake, California. Photo credit: Eeekster (Richard Ellis) via Wikimedia

“We know a lot already. We’ve seen what happened with Owens Lake. We know that dust is a huge problem. We know that there’s a high level of arsenic that could be put into our air along the Wasatch Front, and we don’t want that,” [Blake] Moore said. “It’s a matter of really pinpointing the severity of it. We want to use the study to help do that and then take best practices and come up with new innovative ideas on how to address the issue.”

High temperatures exacerbated by #climatechange made 2022 Northern Hemisphere droughts more likely: “The models analysed also show that soil moisture #drought will continue to increase with additional #globalwarming” — World Weather Attribution #ActOnClimate

Yampa River at Phippsburg June 14, 2022. Photo credit: Scott Hummer

Click the link to read the release on the World Weather Attribution website:

Western Central Europe, North America, China, and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere faced water shortages, extreme heat, and soil moisture drought conditions throughout the summer of 2022

Water shortages, extensive fires, high food prices and severe crop losses were among the most important impacts of one of the hottest European summers on record, with heat waves and exceptionally low rainfall across the Northern Hemisphere. These conditions led to very dry soils particularly in France, Germany and other central European countries (called West-Central Europe in the following); mainland China also experienced exceptionally high temperatures and dryness. These deficits in soil moisture led to poor harvests in the affected regions, increased fire risk, and, in combination with already very high food prices, is expected to threaten food security across the world.

Scientists from Switzerland, India, the Netherlands, France, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, collaborated to assess to what extent human-induced climate change altered the likelihood and intensity of the low soil moisture, both at the surface and the root zones for most crops.

Figure 1: a) Anomaly in the June to August average root zone soil moisture w.r.t 1950-2022 climate over the northern hemisphere so-called ‘extratropics’ (NHET) region (full domain shown) based on the ERA5-Land dataset. The smaller region West-Central Europe (WCE) is highlighted by the red box. (b) same as (a) for surface soil moisture.

Main findings

– Heat and low rainfall in West-Central Europe had far reaching impacts on a variety of sectors including human health, energy, agriculture, and municipal water supply. It was exacerbated by e.g. poor water infrastructure and leakages, and it came at a time when food and energy prices were already high resulting in compounding social and economic impacts.

– In this study, we particularly focus on the dry soils which caused severe economic and ecological impacts across the Northern Hemisphere (excluding the tropical regions) and were particularly severe in West-Central Europe. We therefore focus on these two regions, North-Hemisphere extratropics and West-Central Europe, to analyse the agricultural and ecological drought from June to August 2022.

– Observation-driven land surface models show that very low summer surface and root-zone soil moisture, such as observed in 2022, happens about once in 20 years in today’s climate in both regions.

– While the magnitude of historical trends vary between different observation-based soil moisture products, all agree that the dry conditions observed in 2022 over both regions would have been less likely to occur at the beginning of the 20th century.

– To determine the role of climate change in these observed changes, we combine the observation-based datasets with climate models and conclude that human-induced climate change increased the likelihood of the observed soil moisture drought events. The change in likelihood is larger in the observation-based data compared to the models.

– We also assessed the role of climate change in temperature and rainfall in these regions and found that the strong increase in high temperatures is the main reason for the increased drought.

– Combining all lines of evidence we find for West-Central Europe that human-induced climate change made the 2022 root zone soil moisture drought about 3-4 times more likely,  and the surface soil moisture drought about 5-6 times more likely.

– For the Northern Hemisphere extratropics, human-induced climate change made the observed soil moisture drought much more likely, by a factor of at least 20 for the root zone soil moisture and at least 5 for the surface soil moisture, but as is usually the case with hard to observe quantities, the exact numbers are uncertain.

– The models analysed also show that soil moisture drought will continue to increase with additional global warming, which is consistent with projected long-term trends in climate models as reported e.g., in the IPCC AR6.

Supreme Court hears lively debate on protecting wetlands, led in part by Justice Jackson — The Los Angeles Times #wotus

Ephemeral streams are streams that do not always flow. They are above the groundwater reservoir and appear after precipitation in the area. Via

Click the link to read the article on The Los Angeles Times website (David G. Savage). Here’s an excerpt:

The Supreme Court opened its new term on Monday by hearing a property rights appeal that calls for limiting the government’s power to protect millions of acres of wetlands from development. At issue is whether the Clean Water Act forbids polluting wetlands and marshes that are near — but not strictly part of — waterways.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson in her first day on the bench led the way in questioning why the court should move to limit the protection for wetlands. She said Congress in 1977 determined that wetlands “adjacent” to rivers and bays should be protected. Why should the law be narrowed, she asked, “when the objective of the statute is to ensure the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters? Are you saying that neighboring wetlands can’t impact the quality of navigable waters?” Justices Elena Kagan and Brett M. Kavanaugh said they agreed with that view. Kavanaugh said that seven administrations — Republican and Democratic — had taken the view that wetlands were protected if they were near a waterway.

Damien Schiff, an attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation, agreed that some wetlands can be protected, but he argued property owners should not be blocked from developing their land simply because it has a marshy area. His argument won favor with several of the court’s conservatives who questioned how property owners of land near a waterway or a wetland would know if they were subject to federal regulation. Jackson noted that the prior owners of the Idaho land were told it included protected wetlands.

“You keep talking about fair notice and property owners, about not being able to tell or know about this issue,” she told Schiff. But with respect to the Idaho couple, “there seems to have been a prior determination that the land was a wetland before they bought it, and whether or not they know, they could have known, I presume.”

Idaho Rivers via

‘We will all die if we continue like this’: Indigenous people push UN for climate justice — Grist #ActOnClimate

Indigenous leader and activist Txai Suruí (Photo: Gabriel Uchida )

Click the link to read the article on the Grist website (Joseph Lee):

As the United Nations General Assembly opens this week in New York, Indigenous people are taking to the streets, and waters, of New York to protest for climate justice and call on world leaders to recognize Indigenous rights. Starting Saturday, activists have protested in front of consulatesprojected images of deforestation on buildings in midtownsailed down the Hudson and East Rivers, and held a die-in in front of the New York Stock Exchange. 

“Every day we see violence increasing, Indigenous Peoples being murdered and the destruction of our territories happening at an accelerated rate,” said Dinaman Tuxá, Executive Coordinator at Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), a national organization that unites Indigenous communities in support of their rights. “We demand the immediate demarcation of our lands and full protection of our rights and lives, as this is the only way in which we can continue to contribute to the fight against the climate crisis.”

APIB members focused their attention on President Jair Bolsonaro, who is in New York to make an address before the General Assembly and has pushed for development of the Amazon at the expense of Indigenous people. From 2019, when Bolsonaro took office, to 2021, Brazil lost over 13,000 square miles of Amazon forest. In just the first six months of this year, 1,500 square miles of forest were destroyed, the highest ever for that time period. Bolsonaro’s policies have also led to increasing violence against Indigenous land defenders–last year at least 27 people were killed protecting their territories. “Further allowing deforestation puts biodiversity, the lives of Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities, and the global climate at risk,” said Carol Pasquali, Executive Director at Greenpeace Brazil, which helped organize the protest. “World leaders must be accountable and put people and the planet first always.”

Filipino groups, including the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate to protest President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. ahead of his speech at the U.N. Indigenous leaders are concerned that Marcos Jr.’s government will continue the nation’s history of directing violence toward Indigenous people. The protest also marked the 50th anniversary of Marcos Sr. declaring martial law and starting a years-long campaign during which over 3,000 people were killed, 70,000 imprisoned, and 34,000 tortured

Indigenous activists are also using this week to push world leaders on concrete climate actions. Led by the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), boats filled with activists sailed down the Hudson and East Rivers in New York to call on world leaders to support their calls for climate justice. 

Map of the Earth with a long-term 6-metre (20 ft) sea level rise represented in red (uniform distribution, actual sea level rise will vary regionally and local adaptation measures will also have an effect on local sea levels). By NASA – additional source (Live Science), Public Domain,

Indigenous people from Pacific Islands are often the most affected by rising sea levels and other climate impacts despite minimal contributions to the crisis, but have limited influence on the international level. “Our traditional knowledge is interrelated with our lands and this climate change is threatening to take this away, but we in Vanuatu will not be passive victims,” said Arnold Kiel Loughman, Attorney General of the Republic of Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. “We will do everything we can to defend the human rights of our people.”

Vanuatu and PISFCC are calling for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on climate change – non-binding legal advice provided to the United Nations which carries significant weight internationally. As of 2017, only 28 advisory opinions have been requested, on subjects ranging from use of nuclear weapons to United Nations expenses. To date, the International Court has never heard a case on climate change. 

Advocates say the issuing of an opinion would put pressure on member states to review their policies and commitments, including strengthening the Paris Agreement by clarifying state’s obligations toward climate goals, and affirming Indigenous rights in the fight against climate change. For that to happen, the General Assembly must vote to send the case to the ICJ, which organizers believe is likely. Vanuatu and PSIFCC are calling for that vote and rallying support among countries through both diplomatic channels and public campaigning. 

“The [International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion] campaign was born out of this sense of urgency,”said Vishal Prasad, a campaigner with PSIFCC. “We are campaigning for an advisory opinion that seeks to bring together human rights and impacts of climate change on future generations.”

International financing for projects like oil pipelines and deforestation that harm the environment and violate Indigenous rights are also the target of activists this week. Indigenous groups, including the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, staged a die-in in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. “We start the week in Wall Street to ask decision makers what kind of projects they are supporting. We don’t want continued investment into the destruction of the Earth,” said Gustavo Sanchez, from Alianza Bosques. “We will all die if we continue like this.”

A coalition of Indigenous groups from Peru, including the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation, are calling on banks to divest from companies that destroy the Amazon, including Petroperú, a company they say is trying to build an oil pipeline on Indigenous land. The coalition presented a risk assessment to bank representatives that shows the environmental, financial, and moral cost to continuing with these investments. 

“We all know global action has been significantly lacking,” Vishal Prasad said. “We are not just fighting for the rights of people now, but those that come after us.” 

Half of world’s bird species in decline as destruction of avian life intensifies — The Guardian

A Vermilion Flycatcher along the Laguna Grande Restauration Site in Baja California, Mexico. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob

Click the link to read the article on The Guardian website (Phoebe Weston). Here’s an excerpt:

State of the World’s Birds report warns human actions and climate crisis putting 49% in decline, with one in eight bird species under threat of extinction

The State of the World’s Birds report, which is released every four years by BirdLife International, shows that the expansion and intensification of agriculture is putting pressure on 73% of species. Logging, invasive species, exploitation of natural resources and climate breakdown are the other main threats.

Globally, 49% of bird species are declining, one in eight are threatened with extinction and at least 187 species are confirmed or suspected to have gone extinct since 1500. Most of these have been endemic species living on islands, although there is an increase in birds now going extinct on larger land masses, particularly in tropical regions. In Ethiopia, for example, the conversion of grassland to farmland has caused an 80% decrease in endemic Liben larks since 2007. Just 6% of bird species globally are increasing.

Since 1970, 2.9 billion individual birds (29% of the total) have been destroyed in North America. The picture is just as bleak in other parts of the world – since 1980, 600 million birds (19%) have been destroyed in Europe, with previously abundant species such as the common swift, common snipe and rook among those slipping towards extinction. Europe’s farmland birds have shown the most significant declines: 57% have disappeared as a result of increased mechanisation, use of chemicals and converting land into crops. In Australia, 43% of abundant seabird species have declined between 2000 and 2016.

Dr Stuart Butchart, chief scientist at BirdLife International, said: “We have to stop these declines and start getting on track for recovery. Our future, as well as the world’s birds, depends on it. If we continue to unravel the fabric of life, we’re going to continue to place our own future at threat.”

New Poll Reality Check for Republicans — The Buzz

Click the link to read the post on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

A new poll from Colorado’s Fox news outlet shows Democrats still dominating the top races for senate and governor.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is 10 points ahead of GOP challenger Joe O’Dea, 46 percent to 36 percent with 14 percent undecided. Less surprising, Governor Jared Polis is 17 points ahead of Republican nominee Heidi Ganahl.

This poll is especially damaging for O’Dea, who was hoping for polls showing a close post-Labor Day race to attract the money and attention he needs to pull off an upset. Bennet is not yet over 50 percent but he’s winning the unaffiliated vote by 15 points.

The challenge is that both Republican candidates are still not well known by the voters and Democrats have a significant financial advantage in the races. The advertising, much of it negative, is just beginning.

Legal agreement results in EPA taking action on deadly smog pollution in #Denver, other cities — Wild Earth Guardians

Denver smog. Photo credit: NOAA

Click the link to read the release on the Wild Earth Guardians website (Jeremy Nichols):

Affected areas in Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey, and New York are home to nearly 40 million people

As a result of a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups, today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency downgraded four areas across the country from a “serious” to a “severe” rating for their smog pollution. This downgrade in the ratings triggers more protective measures to reduce smog pollution.

The four areas, including the Denver Metro area, have some of the nation’s worst air quality. EPA downgraded the areas because their ground-level ozone pollution—commonly called smog—continues to exceed the levels that are safe for human health, wildlife, and plants.

“Recognizing that these areas have a severe smog problem marks an important step forward in reducing this pollution,” said Ryan Maher, an environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now it’s time for concrete plans to fix it.”

Smog pollution is linked to human health problems like asthma attacks, cardiovascular problems, and even premature death. Those most at risk include older adults, children and people who work outdoors. The harm smog does to plants can damage entire ecosystems and reduce biodiversity.

“For the more than 3.5 million people living in the Denver Metro and North Front Range region of Colorado, today’s finding gives new hope for clean air,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians.  “Now it’s up to Governor Polis and his administration to do the right thing and finally clean up this smoggy mess and restore healthy skies along Colorado’s Front Range.”

The four environmental groups sued the EPA in March 2022 after the agency missed its deadline to reclassify these areas from a serious to a severe rating for smog. The agreement resulting from this lawsuit required EPA to finalize the ratings for these four areas by today: the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas in Texas; the New York City metro areas of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey; and the Denver-Boulder-Greeley-Fort Collins-Loveland area in Colorado.

“The 37 million people who live in these areas with unsafe levels of toxic pollution deserve clean air and immediate federal action,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of the Center for Environmental Health’s illegal toxic threats program. “Today’s victory will help protect these communities from the dangers of this pollution.”

Under this agreement, EPA must also determine whether the smog ratings for Ventura County and western Nevada County in California need to be downgraded by December 16, 2022.

The downgraded ratings finalized today are part of the environmental groups’ ongoing effort to compel the EPA to protect human health and the environment from smog pollution in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

Smoggy day in Denver, August 11, 2022.

Other Contact

Ryan Maher, Center for Biological Diversity, (781) 325-6303, , Kaya Allan Sugerman, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 740-9384, , Ilan Levin, Environmental Integrity Project, (512) 637-9479,

New Poll Shows Americans Strongly Support Clean Water Act on 50th Anniversary — Walton Family Foundation

Kayakers on the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Erik Drost (CC BY 2.0)

Click the link to read the release on the Walton Family Foundation website (Mark Shields):

The Walton Family Foundation, in collaboration with Morning Consult, released new polling today showing that at least seven-in-ten adults nationally have a favorable opinion of the Clean Water Act (CWA). This comes with the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in October about whether certain waters can be protected under the Clean Water Act in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The poll, released as UN Climate Week gets underway, shows Americans strongly prefer that the federal government maintains water standards. The EPA is the top choice of Americans to set standards to protect the rivers, lakes and streams that provide drinking water from pollution — and 68% think it is very important the EPA has the authority to protect clean water through the Clean Water Act.

“Clean water and the Clean Water Act continue to unite Americans,” said Moira Mcdonald, Environment Program Director of the Walton Family Foundation. “We all believe that water is vital to every aspect of our lives — from our health to the economy to our ecosystems–and that we must continue to have strong laws that protect this vital resource. Americans do not want to roll back clean water standards, because they want to trust that drinking water is safe.”

Key findings from the poll include:

95% of Americans say that protecting the water in our nation’s lakes, streams and rivers is important. Further, 79% want to strengthen or maintain current standards, while just 8% want to relax them.

88% agree that it is important that the EPA has the authority laid out in the Clean Water Act – such as restricting pollution entering our waters and limiting the destruction or physical damage to lakes, rivers, wetlands, streams and other waterways.

– After a brief description of Sackett v. the Environmental Protection Agency, 75% of adults are supportive of protecting more waters and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

89% of adults would be concerned if polluters no longer had to meet water requirements before adding waste into streams or wetlands and 88% would be concerned if the permit requirement to make a permanent physical change to a water body was removed in some cases. 

Adults want more safety standards for water releases from factories and industrial processes (69%), municipal drinking water (68%) and drinking water in their community (67%).

Polling Methodology:

This poll was conducted between August 26th – 27th, 2022 among a sample of 2,210 Adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of Adults based on gender, age, race, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

#Colorado Senate Race Barometer — The Buzz

Click the link to read the article on The Buzz website (Floyd Ciruli):

The Colorado senate race is being closely followed by the national media for indications of a Republican tide that could sweep even an incumbent out of a state that has been supporting Democrats since 2016.

In July, Mark Barabak wrote a column for the L.A. Times, “How bad could November be for Democrats? Watch this Senate race and see.” (7-26-22). I said it about incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett.

“He’s not in danger yet,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster who has spent decades surveying Colorado voters. “But [President] Biden is in terrible shape and if that becomes a major factor, a lot of candidates we assume would be safe could be in trouble.”

The Denver Post updated the senate race in a weekend story by Nick Coltrain (9-10-22). He reported that mixed signals from polls still don’t show a Republican win and that the national party has not put much money behind their candidate, Joe O’ Dea. (Since the story appeared, McConnell gave $500,000)

How bad could November be for Democrats? Watch this Senate race and see
How close is Colorado’s U.S. Senate race? Campaigns ready for a ‘dogfight’

Weekly #cropprogress from @usda_nass and Brad Rippey at #USDAoce — @dennistodey

Drawing to end of growing season and start of #harvest22. #drought22 showing its issue in condition reports. Worst in #plains. Not as bad central #cornbelt.

US changes names of places with racist term for Native women, including in #Colorado — The #Aurora Sentinel

As you begin to descend towards Echo Lake on the Mestaa’ėhehe Pass road, Mt Evans and its barely visible road come into focus. Photo credit: Colorado Bike Maps

Click the link to read the article on the Aurora Sentinel website (Mead Gruver). Here’s an excerpt:

The U.S. government has joined a ski resort and others that have quit using a racist term for a Native American woman by renaming hundreds of peaks, lakes, streams and other geographical features on federal lands in the West and elsewhere…

The changes announced Thursday capped an almost yearlong process that began after Haaland, the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency, took office in 2021. [Deb] Haaland is from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

The Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit legal organization, welcomed the changes.

“Federal lands should be welcoming spaces for all citizens,” deputy director Matthew Campbell said in a statement. “It is well past time for derogatory names to be removed and tribes to be included in the conversation.”

Other places renamed include Colorado’s Mestaa’ėhehe (pronounced “mess-taw-HAY”) Pass near Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Denver. The new name honors an influential translator, Owl Woman, who mediated between Native Americans and white traders and soldiers in what is now southern Colorado.

Interior Department Completes Removal of “Sq___” from Federal Use: Decisions of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names are Effective Immediately

Secretary Haaland meets with tribal, local leaders regarding conservation efforts in southern Nevada

Click the link to read the release on the Deparmtment of Interior website :

The Department of the Interior today [September 8, 2022] announced the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) has voted on the final replacement names for nearly 650 geographic features featuring the word sq___. The final vote completes the last step in the historic efforts to remove a term from federal use that has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I am grateful to the members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and the Board on Geographic Names for their efforts to prioritize this important work. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America.”

The list of new names can be found on the U.S. Geological Survey website with a map of locations.

The final vote reflects a months-long effort by the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force established by Secretary’s Order 3404, which included representatives from the Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, National Park Service, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.

During the public comment period, the Task Force received more than 1,000 recommendations for name changes. Nearly 70 Tribal governments participated in nation-to-nation consultation, which yielded another several hundred recommendations. While the new names are immediately effective for federal use, the public may continue to propose name changes for any features — including those announced today — through the regular BGN process.

The renaming effort included several complexities: evaluation of multiple public or Tribal recommendations for the same feature; features that cross Tribal, federal and state jurisdictions; inconsistent spelling of certain Native language names; and reconciling diverse opinions from various proponents. In all cases, the Task Force carefully evaluated every comment and proposal.

In July, the Department announced an additional review by the BGN for seven locations that are considered unincorporated populated places. Noting that there are unique concerns with renaming these sites, the BGN will seek out additional review from the local communities and stakeholders before making a final determination.

Secretary’s Order 3404 and the Task Force considered only the sq___ derogatory term in its scope. Secretary’s Order 3405 created a Federal Advisory Committee for the Department to formally receive advice from the public regarding additional derogatory terms, derogatory terms on federal land units, and the process for derogatory name reconciliation. Next steps on the status of that Committee will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Way to Slow #ClimateChange Is as Close as Your City Hall or School Board — The New York Times #ActOnClimate

May to July 2022 County Average Temperature Ranks

Click the link to read the guest column on The New York Times website (Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey). Here’s an excerpt:

The big climate law that Congress just enacted will go a long way toward meeting Mr. Biden’s goal [of cutting GHG emissions]. Coupled with other policies and with trends in the marketplace, it is expected to cut emissions by something like 40 percent. But the law — even assuming it survives Republican attacks and defunding attempts over the coming years — does not fully redeem Mr. Biden’s pledge. How can America get the rest of the way toward meeting his 50 percent goal?

The answer is in all of our hands. Many of us are already trying to help as best we can, perhaps by nudging the thermostat a degree or two, by driving or flying less or by eating differently. These actions are useful, but they are not enough. The public must make the transition from green consumers to green citizens and devote greater political energy to pushing America forward in its transition to a clean economy. How? The answers may be as close as your city hall or county commission. Your local school board — yes, the school board — has some critical decisions to make in the next few years. Opportunities to make a difference abound in your state Capitol.

The reason the public needs to speak up is simple. What Congress just did was, in a nutshell, to change the economics of clean energy and clean cars, using the tax code to make them more affordable. But it did not remove many of the other barriers to the adoption of these technologies, and a lot of those hurdles are under the control of state and local governments.

Consider this: Every school day, millions of Americans put their children on dirty diesel buses. Not only are the emissions from those buses helping to wreck the planet on which the children will have to live, but the fumes are blowing into their faces, too, contributing to America’s growing problem with childhood asthma. It is now possible to replace those diesel buses with clean, electric buses. Has your school board made a plan to do so? Why isn’t every parent in America marching down to school district headquarters to demand it? Electric buses are more expensive right now, but the operating costs are so much lower that the gap can be bridged with creative financing. A school board that is not thinking hard about this and making plans for the transition is simply not doing its job.

Here is another example. The power grid in your state is under the control of a political body known as a public utilities commission or public service commission. It has the legal authority to tell electric companies what power plants they are allowed to build and what rates they can charge. By law, these boards are supposed to listen to citizens and make decisions in the public interest, but the public rarely weighs in. We once needed special state laws to push utilities toward renewable energy, but Congress just changed the ground rules. With wind and solar farms becoming far more affordable, every utility in America now needs to re-examine its spreadsheet on how it will acquire power in the future. The public utility commissions supervise this process, and they are supposed to ensure that the utilities build the most affordable systems they reasonably can. But too many utilities, heavily invested in dirty energy, still see clean energy as a threat. They are going to drag their feet, and they will ply their influence with state government to try to get away with it. Citizens need to get in the faces of these commission members with a simple demand: Do your jobs. Make the utilities study all options and go for clean power wherever possible.

One more example: The conversion to electric cars has begun, but as everyone knows, we still don’t have enough places to charge them, especially for people on long trips. State governments can play a major role in alleviating this bottleneck. Under Gov. Jared Polis in Colorado, the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build charging stations, with poor neighborhoods included. Other states can do the same, and citizens need to speak up to demand it.

If you live in a sizable city or county, your local government is probably slowing down the automotive transition, too. These governments buy fleets of vehicles for their workers, and this year most of them will once again order gasoline-powered cars. Why? Because that’s what they’re used to doing. Citizens need to confront the people making these decisions and jolt them from their lethargy.

A native bug is flattening #Colorado’s wheat fields. Farmers are trying to keep ahead of it — #Wyoming Public Media

Photo credit: CC0 Public Domain

Click the link to read the article on the Wyoming Public Media website (Rae Solomon):

Dryland farming has never been easy. But in recent years, [Nate] Northrup has been battling a new challenge that would have baffled earlier generations: the wheat stem sawfly. It’s a pest that infests wheat stems at the base, flattening fields — usually just before the harvest. Northrup described a slow progression of sawflies infiltrating his wheat fields, starting in 2010.

“It used to be just a few swaths around the edges,“ he said. “And then, the next year following, it would just be entire fields, just laying on the ground.”

Adult wheat stem sawfly. Photo credit: Colorado State University

Last fall, Colorado farmers planted more than 2 million acres of winter wheat for the 2022 harvest. But persistent drought is hurting Colorado’s crop, and the sawfly infestation only worsens things.

Lodging cause by wheat stem sawfly. Photo credit: Colorado State University

The mature bugs emerge in the spring and lay their eggs in young wheat stems. As the wheat grows, so do the sawfly larvae, eating their way down to the bottom of the plant. Just as the wheat ripens and becomes ready for harvest, the larvae ripen and get ready to hibernate. It makes itself an overwintering chamber just above the root and, in the process, takes a final big bite at the base of the wheat stem, weakening it beyond repair. The first wind or sprinkling of rain topples the weakened stalks flat on the ground.

Dr. Erika Peirce is a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University who specializes in integrated pest management of the wheat stem sawfly, which, she is quick to point out, is not actually a fly.

“Contrary to the name. It’s actually a wasp,” she explained. She says sawfly may be a new pest, but the bug is not new to Colorado. “It was initially discovered in non-cultivated grasses – the grasses on the side of the road — in 1874 in Colorado. It only became a pest of winter wheat in Colorado in 2010.”

Peirce says the sawfly’s transformation from benign native insect to threatening pest happened because of a change in its lifecycle. Initially, adult sawfly timed their emergence to align with the growth of the non-cultivated grasses that were its native host. She explained that winter wheat develops earlier in the season than those native grasses.

“The sawfly, in order to use winter wheat, has to mature and emerge about 3 to 4 weeks earlier than they normally would for their native hosts,” she said.

And eventually, they started doing just that.