Switch to Renewable Energy

Storm Coming (NASA)

GR–Ode to concerned scientists: They see the danger, they blow the horns and clang the bells, and they wait. But the ramparts remain empty. They turn to their family and friends, but dreamlike their voices are too soft and none respond.

“Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.

“For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

“This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.”

“This second warning contains a series of charts showing how utterly the world’s leaders ignored what they were told twenty-five years earlier. Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species, or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: in 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it’s been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.” –Jeremy Lent (What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?).

How Many of You Switched to Renewable Energy?

In recent posts, I described the warnings of impending disaster. I didn’t expect to have an impact, and I wasn’t wrong. As Jeremy Lint points out in the article above, the media avoidance of unappetizing topics is too complete. And of course, our leaders in power avoid the subject in their subservience to wealth. My first hint that good advice for avoiding collapse would be futile was the minimal response to my discovery of the simple and inexpensive means for everyone to switch their homes from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy. Like Pangloss, I’ve remained hopeful. But I read that book, and now I’ve turned to a more practical concern; the post-anthropocene survivors, the weeds, have absorbed my attention. Today’s weed is Shepherdspurse, a foreign but familiar little mustard that feeds butterflies and yields medicines for us humans.

Tell Congress: Vote No on Clovis for USDA Chief Scientist

Sam Clovis, Trump’s choice for USDA chief scientist.

GR: The USDA Chief Scientist must be a scientist. The USDA evaluates the safety of outdoor activities including farming, logging, ecosystem protection, herbicide use for weed control, and many more. The person in charge of the evaluations must understand the methods used for measurement and analysis and must understand the certainty or lack of certainty of the results. Sam Clovis has no experience in scientific methods. Trump selected his other appointees based on political connections and not qualifications. Clovis may be the worst of the worst. The Union of Concerned Scientists has given us some information to use in protest of Clovis’ appointment.

“President Trump has nominated Sam Clovis—a vocal climate change denier with no training in science—for the role of chief scientist at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clovis’ nomination represents an abandonment of America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers who depend on the USDA to provide sound scientific guidance on the pressing challenges facing our nation’s food system. Moreover, Clovis’ history of denying climate change and peddling racist and homophobic conspiracy theories calls into question his capacity to make informed, objective, and sound investments for the future of American agriculture.

“Scientists and experts around the country are signing this letter to demand that the USDA chief scientist have a strong scientific background in order to fulfill the demands of this crucial position.

“Add your name to this letter urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to stand by its commitment to scientifically informed governance by voting no on Sam Clovis for USDA chief scientist.

“Learn more about the case against Clovis, and read the nine questions the Senate should ask of Clovis. Check out our Sidelining Science Since Day One report.” Union of Concerned Scientists.


GR:  Contact your Senators and ask them to reject the Clovis appointment. You could also contact Senator Pat Roberts, chairman and Senator Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Tell your Senators that Sam Clovis falls far short of the standards of chief scientist. While he holds a Doctorate of Public Administration, his professional background is completely devoid of relevant scientific experience. The USDA chief scientist must have a strong scientific background to administer scientific programs and make crucial decisions on food safety, agricultural productivity, and emerging threats to public health. Dr. Clovis lacks grounding in the scientific process and is not equipped to make informed, objective, and strategic investments for the future of American agriculture.

There are some excellent smart phone apps that simplify contacting congress. I’m trying out “Congress” by Eric Mill my phone. Seems pretty good so far.

Wild Amazon Faces Destruction as Brazil’s Farmers and Loggers Target National Park

Cattle graze beside the tree stumps that are all that is left of cleared Amazon forest inside the Sierra Ricardo Franco state park. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

GR:  A few years ago, Brazil finally realized that cutting down the Amazon rainforest was causing drought, an effect that Alexander Von Humboldt explained two centuries earlier. The country made an effort to preserve its forest. Then we saw oil prices fall, rampant corruption exposed, and the wealthy had to shift their hungry eyes. The oligarchs replaced conservation sentiments with the old standby, harvest and sell natural resources. In Brazil’s case, this has often been irreversible logging or simply clearing for pasture of the ancient rainforest. The loss of indigenous and migratory wildlife is a sad example of how human greed is destroying the natural world.

I used Google Earth’s history function to show the forest’s destruction in around the Serra Ricardo Franco state park. You can see that destruction accelerated after 1993. It slowed between 2003 and 2013, but that’s because not much was left. Nevertheless, efforts are underway today to harvest the remnants.

Google Earth 12-30-1984.

Google Earth 12-30-1993.

Google Earth 12-30-2003.

Google Earth 12-30-2013

The excellent article below describes what’s happening now to the Amazon Rainforest.

“Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the park’s boundaries, which exist on maps only.

“Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now – despite its dubious legal status – one of the world’s great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

“Locals say a member of President Michel Temer’s cabinet – chief of staff Eliseu Padilha – owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold – in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers – to JBS, the world’s biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

“These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

“The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Pará and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondônia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation – associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership – reveal themselves most clearly.” –Jonathan Watts (Continue: Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park | World news | The Guardian.)

The endangered Tatu-bola Armadillo, the mascot of the 2014 World Cup is disappearing along with many other inhabitants of the forest (belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto).

Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news

GR: Of today’s 12 lead stories in my climate newsletter, The Atmosphere News, 3 stories were either optimistic or neutral and 9 were pessimistic or bad. The ‘bad’ story below is worth noting because of the years of back-and-forth over Amazon rainforest protection. I think it illustrates what happens to nature when human problems arise. Nature may “bat last,” but it gets that last-word only after a long string of strikeouts.

Environmental budget cuts come as pressure to convert the rainforest into pasture is intensifying (Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT)

In a bid to contain a growing budget deficit, the government has slashed the funding to enforce forest protection laws

“The Brazilian government is cutting its environment ministry budget by 51% as part of a bid to limit the country’s spiralling deficit.

“The cuts come as deforestation rates are rising, driven by demand for timber, soy and beef. The Amazon region saw a 29% increase in forest clearance last year, according to preliminary data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute.

“It is an even steeper drop in spending than the 31% Donald Trump’s administration is proposing for the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“The environment ministry oversees the agency responsible for enforcing laws to protect the forest. Sharp spending cuts risk weakening its capacity to carry out inspections, warned NGO Observatorio do Clima.

“Other ministries hit by the austerity drive include transport, tourism and planning, budget and management. Certain programmes have been protected under the government’s “growth acceleration programme”.

“The move comes among reports that Brazilian government environment and land policy is being swayed by a dominant pro-beef caucus.” –Megan Darby (Continue: Brazil halves environment budget amid rising Amazon deforestation | Climate Home – climate change news.)

Farm Policy in Age of Climate Change Creating Another Dust Bowl, Critics Say | InsideClimate News

GR: Most farmers and ranchers don’t preserve the land. They sacrifice soil and long-term productivity for profit or food. We have to give up the common belief that those closest to the land give high priority to the land’s health. Farmers and ranchers may understand the harm they cause, but opportunities and pressures keep them from sustainable use of the land. Examples from huge corporate farms and the small fields of indigenous people indicate irresponsible behavior dominates across a spectrum of objectives and imperatives. In general, the ‘grow or die’ mentality of contemporary businesses dictates corporate behavior, and social competition and the pressure of the growing population’s need for food dictate indigenous behavior.

The story below shows how desire for profit is destroying the land in America.

Farm policy critics say the latest Farm Bill is helping turn widespread drought into another Dust Bowl. Credit: Getty Images

“The last Farm Bill contained incentives for farmers to keep planting on degraded land, setting up potential environmental catastrophe.

“Over the past decade, farmers in the Great Southern Plains have suffered the worst drought conditions since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. They’ve battled heat, dust storms and in recent weeks, fires that devoured more than 900,000 acres and killed thousands of cattle.

“These extreme conditions are being fueled by climate change. But a new report from an environmental advocacy group says they’re also being driven by federal crop insurance policy that encourages farmers to continue planting crops on compromised land, year after year.

“Dust bowl conditions are coming back. Drought is back. Dust storms are back. All the climate models show the weather getting worse,” said Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which released the report Wednesday. “You’d think the imperative would be on adaptation, so we don’t make the same mistakes we did back in the 1930s.” –Inside Climate News (Continue reading: Farm Policy in Age of Climate Change Creating Another Dust Bowl, Critics Say | InsideClimate News.)

Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy

laikipia-by

Eastern Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, Northern Kenya (Photo by the Luxury Safari Company)

GR: Combine global warming-forced drought with politics and you get indigenous people destroying nature so that they can live a richer life than their neighbors.

Drought in Samburu, to the north of Laikipia, has led to herders ranging further afield than normal. Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA

“Thousands of heavily-armed herders are invading conservancies, private properties and smallholdings in Laikipia, one of Kenya’s most important wildlife areas, as they search for pasture for their cattle.

“Over the past couple of weeks, about 10,000 nomadic herders, armed with automatic rifles and driving 135,000 cattle, have left a trail of destruction and chaos in the county, just three hours drive from Nairobi. The herders have indiscriminately killed wildlife – from elephants, giraffes, zebras and lions to family dogs. Residents have been injured, some seriously. At least one person has been killed, according to reports.

“This is just the latest but most serious clash between the herders and the residents of Laikipia, after a series of incursions dating back at least a few years. This time private game lodges, ranches and smallholdings owned by farmers are being targeted systematically. David Mwaweu, who owns a small farm, said that armed herdsmen passed his way as they marched towards private land where they have since been “stealing grass for their cows”.

“The wildlife deaths appear to be a tragic byproduct of the violence. At least six elephants have been killed in the last two weeks, and graphic photos of a decapitated zebra and a skinned buffalo, among many others, have been posted on Twitter and Facebook.“

An elephant carcase found at a Laikipia waterhole. The elephant had been shot. Photograph: Laikipia Farmers’ Association

“The elephants are being shot for several reasons,” said Max Graham, CEO of Space For Giants, a conservation organisation headquartered in Laikipia. “First, the herders are coming into conflict with elephants at water points, and shooting at them to scare them away. Second, some of these herders now in Laikipia, but not indigenous to the area, are traditionally hunters: to kill an elephant is a rite of passage in their culture.” –Adam Cruise, Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy | Environment | The Guardian

Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia

Poor Management of Livestock Grazing

Wild Horses and Weeds

Wild Horses on a Former Great Basin Shrubland Destroyed by Livestock Grazing, Invasive Plants, and Fire. Abusive practices allowed by U. S. land management agencies continue at this site even now that little is left.

GR:  The researchers that performed this study end their report with an urgent call for range science to make Ethiopian grazing sustainable. It is probably a futile call. Range scientists studied and developed sustainable grazing systems in the U. S. almost a century ago. U. S. government land-management agencies applied various “rest-rotation” systems to millions of acres of public lands beginning in the 1930’s. Nevertheless, U. S. ranges have steadily lost productivity. Vast areas have deteriorated beyond any hope of recovery. This happened because desires of an industry consisting of ranchers and corporate conglomerates opposed scientific management from the beginning. U. S. Government agencies under the control of politicians representing the grazing industry never properly applied the restrictions required for sustainable management. Along with lost cattle-raising possibilities, there has been a massive loss of wildlife and native plants. It is now clear that range science cannot prevent short-term human desires from trumping wise management and long-term sustainability.

Grazing Research Highlights

  • “Afar pastoralists mainly depend on natural rangeland resources for their livestock.
  • “Supplemental feeds (e.g., crop residues) were not frequently used.• Average herbaceous cover of rangelands was <25%.
  • “In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was most common.
  • “Afar pastoralists applied little rangeland conservation and mitigation efforts.

Grazing Research Abstract

Many Eastern African rangelands comprise marginal land, where climatic conditions are poor, access rights are increasingly limited, and land degradation is progressing. We conducted participatory land use mapping and vegetation assessment to identify the most important rangeland locations and their condition in Afar, Ethiopia. Further, we conducted 79 interviews across six villages to assess pastoralist adaptation strategies during drought times. In the dry season, livestock feed resources represented rangelands far away from the village (in 76% of the cases) while 50% and 40% of pastoralists also used cake concentrates and crop residues, respectively. During the wet season, rangeland resources close to villages, albeit with rather low herbaceous cover (<25%), contributed 80% to livestock forage. In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was the most common (70%) adaptation, in combination with purchasing feed (50%) while <40% of the pastoralists sold or slaughtered animals. Afar pastoralists applied little conservation and mitigation methods, most commonly they removed livestock pressure to allow the pasture to recover. Overall, pastoralists in Afar still strongly depended on natural rangelands and their resources. Hence, to manage these sustainably a monitoring scheme must urgently be established for investigating rangeland quality and resilience to drought and grazing pressure.” –Anna C. Treydte et al. (Continue reading:  Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia).

The noisy political attack on new national monuments. We have heard the same now for 130 years | The Wildlife News

GR:  This insightful blog post provides historical perspective for public lands protection.

Cattle in the Sonoran Desert.  Heavily trampled soil without soil microorganisms that can absorb and store moisture, convert solar energy to nutrients, increase plant root efficiency, and protect the soil surface from erosion and invasive plants. Photo by George Wuerthner.

Cattle in the Sonoran Desert. Heavily trampled soil without soil microorganisms that can absorb and store moisture, convert solar energy to nutrients, increase plant root efficiency, and protect the soil surface from erosion and invasive plants. Photo by George Wuerthner.

“The recent designation of Bears Ear National Monument in southern Utah by President Obama engendered a predictable storm of rhetorical protest from Utah’s politicians. Yet a review of their comments and those made historically by western politicians when earlier Presidents had unilaterally created public reserves shows surprisingly consistent responses.

“In 1887, two weeks before leaving office, Democratic President Grover Cleveland after losing his bid for re-election to Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, set aside 20 million acres of western lands as “forest reserves.” Republicans were offended that a “discredited leader” of a party that had suffered defeat in national elections two months before could unilaterally create new reserves on public lands.

“Reaction to President Grover Cleveland’s 1887 decision to create forest reserves (precursors to our national forests) in western states resulted in similar local outrage and calls to repeal the new reserves. In one historic account of events, the author claims that “in every case…these political spokesmen claimed they spoke for the people of the West. Their solicitude for the settler was in party hypocritical, insofar as they sought to use individual entry and claim to public lands for the enlargement of their own special interests.”

“For instance, Senator Wilson of Washington characterized the proclamation as a “ghastly mistake” and “dasterdly blunder”. He called it a “violation of all rights without notice to anyone.”

“Senator Petticrew of South Dakota denounced the order as contrary to law and called for the entire revocation of it.” –George Wuerthner (Continue learning:  The noisy political attack on new national monuments. We have heard the same now for 130 years.)

The extinction crisis is far worse than you think

GR:  This CNN Photo/Video/Data essay has high-quality images and interviews.  Recommended.

“Frogs, coral, elephants — all are on the brink. Three quarters of species could disappear. Why is this happening? CNN explores an unprecedented global crisis.” –CNN (Continue:  The extinction crisis is far worse than you think)

Managing the BLM: Please Help

GR:  The policy of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), “multiple use and sustained yield,” sounds great until you look at the results. Mining and mineral prospecting, cattle grazing, recreation, and energy transmission have led to invasions by alien plants and animals, soil erosion, increasing wildfires, and declining biodiversity. The BLM avoids conflicts with the profit goals of the companies that control our politicians. Thus, the agency responsible for more public land in the U. S. than any other does not hesitate to sacrifice the health and beauty of the land to avoid criticism from the resource harvesters that wish to use, and often abuse, the land. In fact, the BLM has a long history of anticipating the needs of private companies and adjusting polices to help them harvest the land.

As you will see in the item below taken from the Arizona section of the BLM website, BLM encourages public participation in formulating land-use plans. However, the agency often ignores public concerns when company profits are at stake. This might change if public participation grew as large as it has in North Dakota. So, follow the continue reading link at the end of the article and look for BLM public meetings in your area. And go.  Remember, “sustainable use” is meaningless if the use adds roads and depletes the habitat, soil, and wildlife. And remember, we don’t need no more stinking fossil fuels.

“The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Land Use Plans, called Resource Management Plans (RMPs), evaluate and guide the management of resources and uses on public lands over a fifteen to twenty year period. Using the principles of multiple use and sustained yield, BLM Arizona seeks to maximize resource values on public land for current and future generations, ensuring the health, diversity, and productivity of the public land.

“BLM Arizona manages approximately 12.2 million surface acres of public land, and realizes that public involvement is critical in the development and implementation of its RMPs. Throughout the planning process, the BLM uses a collaborative approach involving tribal, State and local governments, other federal agencies, and interested publics in addressing management goals for public land. When RMPs are ready for review and public comment, BLM Arizona makes copies available to field offices and on the Internet. New and revised RMPs are now being developed in the ePlanning database. We encourage you to get involved in the planning process to help determine how the public lands will be managed. Involvement by everyone, who is interested in the public lands, will help ensure that the best overall plan is developed.” –BLM (Continue reading:  Programs: Planning and NEPA: Plans in Development: Arizona | BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT)