Category Archives: environmental news

Nature’s awesome power on display … even after it passes

TOPEKA, Kan. — We got here — finally!

As we proceed southward toward The House in Collin County, we have seen evidence of the awesome power that Mother Nature can deliver to we mere human beings.

The Missouri River runs adjacent to Interstate 29 through Iowa and into Nebraska. We saw a flashing electronic sign that told us that I-29 would be closed; a detour awaited.

So, we exited the freeway and proceeded east along Interstate 680. We had to drive about 16 miles out of our way toward our next stop here in Topeka. We turned south and then west along Interstate 80.

This leg of the journey was extended about 40 minutes.

What caused it? The Missouri River flooded. We didn’t see what it had done to the right-of-way. All we know river caused the state highway department to shut down the major thoroughfare.

But we damn sure did see the river. It is quite high at this moment. In places it is just a foot or two from spilling over its bank and onto the highway. We saw street signs below the Interstate that poked only a foot or two above the water. We noticed buildings half-submerged under the Missouri’s tides.

Yep, it’s an awesome sight.

Grand Forks, N.D., had just gone through what apparently occurred downstream. We watched crews seek to siphon water from ditches into retention ponds.

There’s water. Then there’s too much water. We saw evidence of what happens when you have too much of it.

Yes, our friends along the Gulf Coast are experiencing this very thing at this moment. Our hearts go out them. They are in our prayers.

Now that we’ve seen how far widespread nature’s wrath has become, we send our prayers to those we saw from a distance as we zipped along to our next destination.

Weather vs. climate … short term and long term

When we gripe about the weather, we are speaking of an event in the moment.

If it’s hot out there, it’s hot at the time you notice it. Same if it it’s cold. We’re talking about the weather, not the climate.

Our climate, though, cannot be discussed in real time. It requires a longer look, a broader view.

Thus, when politicians or citizens conflate the two — weather and climate — they’re talking about non-parallel phenomena.

I have spoken already on this blog about my desire to see climate change assume the important role it deserves in the upcoming presidential campaign. Donald Trump calls climate change a hoax; scientific analysis calls it real. Who do you believe? I’ll go with the scientists who study these matters intently even though Donald Trump — in his own mind — is the smartest human being ever to inhabit Earth.

NASA, the agency that launches satellites and people into space, calls it correctly: The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.

Earth’s climate is changing. We’re posting record high temperatures virtually every year. Those ice caps on either pole — North and South — are shrinking. Icebergs the size of cities are breaking off at alarming rates. Sea levels are rising as a result, threatening coastal cities on every continent.

Weather patterns are changing, too. Storms are getting more severe, more frequent. We see evidence of this each year. When have we ever seen, for instance, a storm drop 50 inches of rain in 24 hours as Hurricane Harvey did when it pummeled the Upper Texas Gulf Coast in 2017?

I want the candidates for president — even the one who occupies the office — to tell us how they intend to do battle with climate that threatens the nation and the world. No more platitudes. No more clichés.

No more phony denials about it all being a hoax. Climate change presents an existential threat to the very planet on which we all live.

‘Climate change’ needs to take center stage

There can be no doubt in my own mind — none at all — that climate change must become the pre-eminent issue of the 2020 presidential campaign.

The incumbent president calls the issue a “hoax.” Donald Trump says it’s a figment of some plot concocted by China to undermine the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

The president is as wrong about this as he is about damn near everything. Except his error bodes grim for the country and the planet.

Most of the Democrats running for their party’s nomination have spoken with varying degrees of eloquence and detail about how they intend to tackle climate change if they are elected in 2020.

I am waiting to hear some more detail about what they intend to do and how they propose to pay for it.

I simply know this: Earth’s climate is changing and it is imperative that the world’s most powerful industrial power and the nation that is chiefly responsible for humankind’s role in changing the climate to do something about it … now!

Climate change deniers endanger the nation. Do you remember that idiotic stunt U.S. Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican, pulled on the Senate floor some years back? It was cold in Washington one winter, so Sen. Inhofe brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to prove, by golly, that Earth’s climate isn’t getting warmer. Of course, Inhofe conflated weather with climate, ignoring the science that separates the two phenomena.

The scientific community is speaking with increasing sameness on this the gravity of this issue. Climatologists tell us that it well might be too late for humanity to change the trend that already is developing. My response? OK, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing!

The Trump administration is backing away from air-quality emission standards. It has been silent on the issue of deforestation. The president nominated and the Senate confirmed an Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, who himself is a climate change denier; Pruitt forgot during his time at EPA that the agency’s mission is to “protect the environment,” not destroy it.

Climate change is real. It is endangering the planet we call home. It’s the only planet we have. Or, as someone noted just recently, there is “no planet B.”

The president takes an oath to protect Americans. The current president is far falling short of fulfilling that oath. The next one needs to step up.

Some issues linger far longer than they should?

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — There’s chronic flooding, and then there’s Grand Forks, a nice city on the North Dakota-Minnesota border that turns into a gigantic pool of water when the rain comes in torrents.

We rolled into this city along Interstate 29 just south of the Canadian border to see  “Road Closed Ahead” staring at us. We exited the freeway, made a huge loop east of the freeway, then re-entered I-29 a good bit south of where we left it.

The rain had just fallen heavily here prior to our arrival.

We looked back and saw a huge flooded area under a bridge crossing the freeway that obviously was too dangerous for motor vehicle traffic. For all I know at this moment, someone might have gotten caught in there and paid a huge price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I thought immediately of the 1997 flood that crippled Grand Forks. The Red River spilled over its banks and inundated the city. I remember reading at the time that farmers here had relied on levees to alter the river’s course; they used the water to irrigate their crops.

However, the river goes where the Almighty intends for it to go. Such was the case then when the Red River decided that little ol’ humankind wasn’t going to dictate its water flow.

I am unaware of the measures they took to prevent that kind of catastrophe from repeating itself.

However, we did see that lots of standing water — much of knee- or perhaps even waist-deep in some places as we made our way toward the RV camp where we spent the night.

As we prepare to leave this lovely community, I will express hope that the nice folks here have learned their lessons from that Red River tragedy.

Just remember: The river ain’t gonna go where human beings tell it to go; it goes where it is meant to go all along.

Rain threatens region still recovering from earlier deluge

REGINA, Saskatchewan — My worry index is off the charts today as I listen to reports of extreme rain and flooding in a part of the world I know pretty well.

My wife and I are away at the moment, vacationing in Canada, but CTV News is all over the story: Rain is inundating the Golden Triangle region of Texas, that southeastern corner of the state that barely two years ago was blasted by the unspeakable wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

I am not going to make this a political blog, other than take note that climatologists have said all along that we can expect this kind of extreme weather as we cope with and combat the effects of climate change. It ain’t a hoax, folks. It’s real and it is affecting lives daily.

The Gulf Coast storm is another example of it.

However, my concern turns now to my friends who live there, folks we got to know during nearly 11 years living in Beaumont. We return when we can. When we do we see the destructive marks that Harvey left behind when the storm blasted ashore in 2017.

My heart breaks for them all. We send them our love and our hope that they find the strength to persevere.

They’re calling it ‘Sharpiegate’ … sheesh!

I wish I could have avoided referring to this latest Donald Trump controversy as a “gate”-type matter, but I guess I must.

They’re calling it “Sharpiegate” now. This is the story involving the president producing a map showing that, by golly, Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian’s destruction.

You know what happened next, right? The National Weather Service contradicted the president’s assertion. Trump wouldn’t/couldn’t admit he goofed. So he trots out the map with the Sharpie-drawn line extending from the “cone of uncertainty” that the NWS had established regarding Dorian’s path.

Now the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has weighed in. NOAA backs Trump’s assertion.

I fear all NOAA has done is feed Trump’s never-ending Twitter tirade appetite. The president will bask in whatever NOAA has presumed.

NOAA vs. NWS

How about we end this matter? How about we no longer are fixated over whether Trump drew that line extending from that cone of uncertainty. I have no doubt he did, but that shouldn’t consume us.

Oh, wait! If the media plan to let it go, will the president follow suit? Or is he going to keep stirring it up for the media to report on it … and then accuse the media of peddling “fake news”?

My head is about to explode.

Meanwhile, the Amazon forests are burning

Americans are rightly worried about the damage that Hurricane Dorian is likely to bring to the eastern coast of the United States.

I am, too.

I also am worried about the damage being done to our planet’s atmosphere by those wildfires along the Amazon River watershed. I have heard the region called the “oxygen chamber” of the planet. However, many millions of trees are destroyed by the fire, exacerbating the climate change that is plaguing Earth.

The Amazon fire story has been shoved aside for the time being, thanks partly to the rain that fell on much of the region in recent days and also because our attention has been diverted to the peril Dorian is bring to the east coast.

It’s kind of a karma thing with me. I had written a blog post just a few days before the world was startled by the immense Amazon forest fires. I remain deeply worried about the impact that deforestation has had on changing climate worldwide. That worry only deepened when we heard about the fire that incinerated so much of the forest.

We all know of the value of that forest land. It produces oxygen to replace that atmospheric compound being consumed by living creatures that inhabit Earth. With fewer trees the less oxygen is generated to counteract the carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere.

Yes, the result is dire. It results in a warming of Earth’s atmospheric shroud and it produces dramatic and potentially catastrophic changes in our planet’s climate.

It’s never a good time for vast stretches of forest land to go up in smoke. In this period of time, as Earth’s climate is changing, those fires present a clear danger to the survival of the only planet we have.

Climate change? It is no hoax!

Huh? Trump hasn’t heard of a ‘Category 5 hurricane’?

This won’t require a lot of space on which to comment, but I am baffled/confused/astounded at one of the president’s latest pronouncements.

As monstrous Hurricane Dorian bears down on the East Coast of the United States, Donald John “Environmentalist in Chief” Trump said he isn’t sure he’s ever heard of a Category 5 hurricane.

Really, Mr. President? Are you fu***** serious?

How does the guy who says he knows “more about anything” on Earth make such a claim?

He calls himself the world’s No. 1 environmentalist. He says he knows “more about ISIS than the generals, believe me.” He calls himself the “king of debt.” He says he knows how to wheel and deal with the best of ’em. Trump calls himself the best, most knowledgeable, most coherent student of any field of any kind.

So he said he doesn’t think he’s ever heard of a Cat 5 storm.

Is this individual out of his mind? Don’t answer that question. I think I know.

Trump’s ‘concern’ about Dorian … is it authentic?

It has come down to this, given Donald Trump’s abject failure to perform one of the unwritten roles of his presidency.

A massive hurricane named Dorian is bearing down on south Florida. Trump was set to fly to Poland this weekend to commemorate the start of World War II. He canceled his trip, citing his need to “monitor” the monstrous hurricane which — by the way — is threatening the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

I believe it is fair to wonder whether the president is authentically concerned about the Floridians threatened by the storm or is he more concerned about whether his glitzy palace survives the impact with minimal damage.

Yes, the cynical side of me is wondering what really is driving this president to forgo a monumental foreign trip. He could “monitor” the storm’s progress from across The Pond. He could be on the phone with FEMA managers, with first responders, with Florida government officials.

He’s staying home, though, to “monitor” the situation.

Hey, at one level I am glad he’s decided to stay home. I just wonder, though, how he’s going to respond publicly when Dorian roars ashore. I wonder whether he’s capable of saying the right things, of responding in the proper manner, of performing as “consoler in chief.”

He hasn’t done it yet, no matter the circumstance.

So, just why is Donald Trump staying home? This individual’s demonstrated lack of compassion and empathy compels me to ask.

Hells Canyon: a national treasure that needs added status

VALE, Ore. — I didn’t snap the picture attached to this blog post, but it illustrates a point I want to make with this brief message.

The picture is of Hells Canyon. The Snake River running along the floor of this chasm separates Oregon from Idaho.

The canyon is part of what’s called the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Now, I grew up in Portland, about 330 miles west of this region, but I long have lamented that this magnificent piece of God’s good Earth isn’t a national park. Yes, I have wanted that designation since I was a kid skipping rocks across puddles in Portland.

Oregon has a single national park. Crater Lake is a beaut. It fills a caldera left by the explosion about 10,000 years ago of Mount Mazama. It’s the deepest lake in the country. It is as blue as blue gets.

Hells Canyon, though, sits on the edge of a region known as the “Oregon Alps,” also known formally as the Wallowa Mountains. I want the federal government to designate this region as a national park.

Yes, it’s not a simple task. There exists a certain amount of politics involved.

Let’s face a brutal fact as well. There ain’t gonna be a national park named anywhere in this country as long as Donald J. Trump serves as president. Trump seems to hate public land that has been set aside for recreational purposes. He has issued executive orders removing that land from public care, allowing private interests to harvest its mineral wealth.

Hey, there’s a certain irony in this discussion. Hells Canyon happens to be situated in the heart of Trump Country. The eastern region of Oregon and all of Idaho is quite friendly to this president.

I have no proof of this, though, but my strong hunch is that many residents of the northeast corner of Oregon and neighboring Idaho would welcome a national park designation for Hells Canyon with open arms.

Vale is just spittin’ distance from the Snake River just a bit south of the southern reaches of Hells Canyon. Being here simply reminds me of what I have wished for since I was a whippersnapper.