Category Archives: environmental news

Wow! That’s all one can say about that storm

This picture came from the Washington Post’s website, which leads me to believe it’s the real thing. It’s no Photoshop product, or the result of some other photographic trickery.

It is a picture of what occurred over Dallas, Texas, yesterday. The storm produced high wind, heavy rain and it knocked over a construction crane in the city’s downtown district.

They call this phenomenon a “microburst.” It was deadly, indeed. One person died when the crane crashed into a building, cutting the structure virtually in two.

I got an inquiry from a friend downstate who asked if had experienced any of that mayhem. I told her “no,” and noted that we got a bit of rain and a little bit of wind in Princeton, which is about 40 or so miles north of Dallas.

I have heard it said about Texas weather — whether it’s on the Gulf Coast or in the Panhandle, where we have lived during our 35 years in Texas — that “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes …” I also have heard it said of the Panhandle that “You can experience all the seasons of the year in just a matter of minutes.”

Let it also be said of North Texas, where we now call home, that meteorological violence can erupt just on the other side of our neighborhood.

Storms such as the one that roared Sunday over downtown Dallas can produce magnificent images … but they aren’t to be trifled with.

Wow!

Wanting climate change to get a full hearing in 2020

Climate change is not the “hoax” that Donald Trump says it is.

Therefore, I want the issue to take center stage during the 2020 presidential election campaign. I keep seeing data that tell us about warming global temperatures, shrinking ice caps, rising sea levels, coastal communities facing an existential danger.

Yet the president does nothing about any of it. He says he wants to boost fossil fuel production, which means an increase in carbon emissions that scientists blame for the warming atmosphere.

Most of the Democrats running for president tell us they subscribe to the notion that climate change poses a legitimate national emergency and is a threat to our national security. I happen to believe them.

I also want there to be commitments — ironclad, cast in stone, signed in blood if need be — that the United States is going to resume its investment in alternative energy sources.

Indeed, one of the Democratic candidates — South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — noted the other day that such investment could produce literally thousands if not millions of jobs for Americans. Thus, such an emphasis not only would save the planet from its self-destruction, but it also would Americans to work.

Hmm. How’s that for “putting America first”?

It works for me.

If you want to declare a national emergency, then let’s turn away from this nonsense about migrants seeking entry into this country. The national emergency exists in the changing climate that threatens the entire planet.

Lake Meredith makes a huge recovery

It’s nice to have your worst fears proven to be unfounded.

Lake Meredith sits north of Amarillo, providing water to several communities throughout the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains. There was a time not many years ago when the water level at the lake dropped to frighteningly low levels.

By 2013, the lake stood at 26 feet of depth. They closed marinas at the National Recreation Area. The water level dipped below the intake sources used to transport the water out of the lake basin.

Amarillo stopped taking water from the lake.

Man, I was worried about whether the lake could ever recover. Well, it has. It has come back in a major way. Park officials began eradicating the ultra-thirsty salt cedars they planted years ago to help stem erosion along the lakefront. The eradication effort seems to have helped.

The lake level now stands at 76 feet. The Panhandle has been getting drenched in recent days, or so I understand. The Canadian River watershed that feeds the lake has been getting plenty of rainfall.

The U.S. parks system that runs the lake has been increasing the recreational opportunities throughout the NRA to lure tourists to the area. They were doing so years ago when the water levels were so low.

Now it appears that the lake’s health is looking better all the time. Boating activity has returned.

OK, the lake levels aren’t yet at the historic high of 103 feet, which Meredith reached in 1973. At this rate, though, I am not going to bet against the lake getting pretty damn close to that level.

I am so happy to see Lake Meredith regain its health.

This amendment issue is worth all Texans’ support

It’s not often that a Texas constitutional amendment election gets my juices flowing, but this year is going to present one for my wife and me.

Hey, we’re retired these days and we spend time cruising around Texas hauling our fifth wheel recreational vehicle behind our pickup. When we travel in Texas, we make it a point to spend as many nights as we can at one of the state parks.

So, the Legislature has decided to send a measure to voters this fall that dedicates a lot of money to maintain and improve our state park network.

I am all in on this one!

According to the Texas Tribune: In a big win for outdoor enthusiasts and day trippers alike, legislation that would ensure that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission always get the maximum amount of money they are allowed to receive through a state sporting goods sales tax has passed both the House and Senate and heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

The 1993 Legislature approved a law that dedicated 94 percent of sales tax revenue to the state parks, with 6 percent going to the Texas Historical Commission. In the years since then, the state has been forced to use that revenue to balance the budget, depriving the parks system of money it needs for maintenance, upkeep and improvement of the system.

The constitutional amendment would ensure the state spends as much money as possible on parks, according to state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, author of the bill.

My wife and I recently moved to Collin County. We live with easy driving distance of several first-class state parks. We have enjoyed Lake Tawakoni, Lake Bob Sandlin, Eisenhower and Lake Arrowhead state parks.

We are — and this is not an overstatement — gigantic fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the state park system. We have enjoyed many of our state parks over the years. We purchase the annual pass that waives our entrance fees; we see it as an investment in what we believe is a first-class network of parks.

We obviously aren’t alone in making ample use of our state parks. TP&W Commission Chairman Ralph Duggins noted in an email that pressure on the parks is coming from a booming population and said that “this bill will give voters the chance to assure their future with a predictable, dedicated and sustainable funding stream.”

I am often highly critical of state government. Not on this matter, though. The Texas state park network is worth all Texans’ support.

Give POTUS the dickens on climate change, Your Highness

Climate change is happening. It isn’t a hoax. It isn’t a made-up figment of billions of Earthlings’ imagination. Honest. It’s happening right now in real time.

One of the world’s pre-eminent climate-change activists happens to be the United Kingdom’s monarch-in-waiting, Prince Charles.

Prince Charles is going to play host soon to Donald Trump, president of the United States and one of the world’s pre-eminent climate-change deniers.

Thus, the visit is filled with controversy, and Trump hasn’t even arrived yet.

Trump has said climate-change is a hoax drummed up by China, which he alleges is trying to undermine the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Of course, as he does with virtually every allegation he makes, the president doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to buttress whatever he says.

Prince Charles agreed to meet with the president when he makes his initial state visit to the U.K. These visits usually involve a meeting with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Any meeting with her son, the heir to the throne, isn’t required of visiting heads of state.

But it’s good that Trump will meet with the prince.

It also is my fondest hope that Prince Charles raises the issue of climate change with Donald Trump. Oh, I wish I could be the proverbial fly in whatever room where such a meeting would occur . . . although I doubt there will be a fly anywhere near the two men, if you get what I mean.

There’s also the situation involving the possible meeting between Trump and Sadiq Khan, the Muslim mayor of London. Trump has spoken ill of Muslims, saying how they “hate America”; he has tried to enact travel bans of Muslims to the United States. Along the way, he has managed to offend Muslim worshipers, such as Mayor Khan.

The issue at hand, though, is whether the planet’s climate is changing and what the world’s leading industrialized nations are doing to minimize the damage being done to our ecosystem. The Brits are being proactive, responding to the rhetoric espoused by the Duke of Windsor and other environmental activists. Americans, though, are hamstrung by the president’s rescinding of environmental regulations aimed at curbing carbon emissions, a serious cause of Earth’s annual warming.

Give the president the dickens on climate change, Your Highness.

I am one American who is on your side. I am quite sure I’m not alone.

Happy Earth Day!

This is the third Earth Day we have noted since Donald Trump became president.

Yes, the two elements are related.

There used to be a time when presidents of both parties would salute efforts to save our planet from ourselves. Donald Trump took office in January 2017 and immediately began dismantling environmental regulations and removing this country from a key worldwide environmental initiative.

He pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. Then he knocked aside rules and regulations limiting carbon emissions; he has sought to open up public land to fossil fuel exploration; he has downplayed the exploration of alternative energy sources; Trump dismisses openly the effects of climate change.

Despite all of that, the sun rose this morning. It will set tonight. The cycle will continue.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the president continues to ignore the cause of climate change/global warming. He calls it a “hoax.” It is no such thing. It’s real. It needs to be dealt with seriously. We need presidential leadership to take command.

It was on the watch of President Nixon, a Republican, that the nation formed the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Republicans and Democrats for most of the time since then have embraced the EPA’s mission.

Is this the end of life as we know it? No. However, we need to pay attention to what’s happening out there. Earth’s temperatures are rising; the polar ice caps at both ends of the planet are shrinking; polar habitat is endangered; storms are becoming more frequent and more ferocious; human beings who live along our coasts are imperiled.

We have to care for this planet. It’s only one we have.

Happy Earth Day . . . even to you, Mr. President.

Mauro’s beach cleanup legacy lives on

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — Dang it, anyhow! I missed the chance today to visit with volunteers who flocked to this part of the Texas Gulf Coast to take part in an annual beach cleanup event.

My wife and I had a brunch date with friends. When we returned to our RV camp site, the Gulf of Mexico was at high tide, splashing all the way to the beach grass bordering the sand. The volunteers were gone.

But I want to offer a good word to the Texas General Land Office for continuing the program that began in 1986.

“The Adopt-a-Beach annual spring cleanup is always an amazing turnout for Texans to join together and volunteer their time to keep our Texas beaches beautiful. What better way to serve our great state than by spending the day at the beach? It is because of our wonderful volunteers that our annual spring cleanup provides the Texas coast with the care it deserves. The dedication of our fellow Texans to help keep our coast in pristine condition never ceases to amazes me,” said Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

I recall when the cleanup program began under the watch of one of Bush’s predecessors at the General Land Office. Garry Mauro had a vision and a drive to protect our state’s fragile coastline. He made coastal protection against erosion a top priority during his time as land commissioner. The cleanup was part of his overall strategy to emphasize coastal issues. I was a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Mauro’s effort during my time as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise.

This policy matters to coastal states such as Texas. I am delighted to see Mauro’s initiative continue through successive land commissioners.

Mauro’s public life as a politician ended in 1998 when he got thumped by George P. Bush’s uncle, George W. Bush, who cruised to re-election as Texas governor over Mauro.

The effort to care for the state’s coastline remains one of Garry Mauro’s enduring legacies.

Gator alert: Stay away from this site

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — We have just been advised that we are living for a couple of days among one of God’s more fearsome creatures.

A Texas Parks & Wildlife ranger informs us that this state park, right on the Gulf of Mexico, is home to at least one alligator.

She described him as a 5-footer — with three legs. “Do you suppose he lost his leg in a fight with another gator?” I asked. She didn’t know.

It doesn’t matter. I am going to presume the gator still gets around just fine. He inhabits a certain RV campsite, No. 10. “He’s there sometimes,” said the TP&W ranger.

Good to know.

So, with that I’ll inform you — and we’ve already told Toby the Puppy — that we ain’t going anywhere near the site. We’ll stay close to our fifth wheel for the time we’re here.

The gimpy gator — and those who park their RV there — can have it all to themselves.

There’s fate . . . and then you have this!

I believe I have just read what could be the most dramatic demonstration karma imaginable.

The Hill newspaper reports the following:

South African wildlife authorities say they have recovered the remains of a man suspected of poaching rhinoceroses, one of Africa’s most endangered great beasts.

But get a load of this . . . they believe the guy was killed by an elephant and his corpse was devoured by a pride of lions.

Check out the story here.

To be brutally candid, I don’t know how I’m supposed to react to this kind of story. I have heard about how some African governments have issued shoot-on-sight orders to park personnel who witness individuals killing wildlife illegally. Given that I am a devoted wild animal lover, I have cheered those reports.

Should I feel badly for this guy’s family? I suppose so. Park officials have offered their condolences, which is appropriate.

This development, if it turns out to be true, would buttress the old commercial jingle that over the years has turned into something of a cliché: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

Wind turbines cause cancer? Gosh! Who knew?

I have heard the complaints and criticism of wind energy.

It’s too expensive to produce wind-powered KWH. The turbines are a “blight” on our landscape. They get in the way of migrating birds.

Those criticisms are understandable. Donald Trump has actually referred to the fowl casualties that the turbines inflict.

However, the president said in a campaign rally speech that the turbine noise causes cancer. Yes. He said it with a straight face. I am left to presume that he believes what he said.

He is wrong. Of course! No surprise there. I won’t accuse him of uttering another bald-faced lie. He well might not actually know of what he speaks. Ignorance of a topic is one way to excuse someone of actually lying. So I’ll give him (sort of) a pass on the lying part.

However, when the president purports to know about something that flies out of his mouth, he actually ought to know it.

Thus, the Ignoramus in Chief doesn’t know anything about wind energy. Such as what he said about its unreliability. Why? Because the wind doesn’t always blow.

What he failed to acknowledge is that wind producers store excess energy generated by wind turbines to use on those days when the wind doesn’t blow sufficiently to produce more electricity.

Then again, that’s just his ignorance showing itself.

The cancer-causing element is pretty damn serious. Donald Trump should know better than to say something about which he knows nothing. He excuses himself, I am going to presume, because he’s the president of the United States. I guess that entitles him to say whatever he feels like saying.

If so, I feel the need to remind the commander in chief that his position as the world’s most powerful politician requires him to at least give more than a smidgen of thought before popping off.