Category Archives: environmental news

Let’s call it ‘Environmental Destruction Agency’

Scott Pruitt long has been known as a friend of the oil industry. He denies the existence of climate change. Pruitt is no friend of the environment.

So, what does Donald John Trump do? He puts this guy, the former Oklahoma attorney general, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now the EPA boss is showing his chops, as if there was any doubt. He is revoking protection of an Alaska salmon fishery, one of the most valuable in the world. He has met with a mining company executive who wants to start mining within the bounds of that fishery.

I hereby propose we rename the EPA. Let’s call it the Environmental Destruction Agency. Shall we?

The Bristol Bay Watershed was placed under federal protection by the Obama administration, which concluded that any mining or other industrial activity would destroy the fish habitat that is so valuable to fishing interests, sportsmen and women and consumers who enjoy the taste of salmon.

Barack Obama leaves office. Donald Trump takes over. Then the new president installs this guy Pruitt, who has met with Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, a mining outfit that wants to work within the watershed.

Pruitt continues to play footsie with interests that have little interest in environmental protection.

I’m quite sure Collier never would admit to wanting to destroy the fishery or the watershed. The Obama administration took three years of review to decide to set the watershed aside. It determined that any mining within the watershed would destroy permanently a resource upon which so many people rely.

Pruitt, though, appears to have decided that protecting the watershed isn’t in the national interest.

How about changing the name of the EPA to the Environmental Destruction Agency?

Sad.

Firefighters showered with love, good wishes

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — This makeshift sign spoke volumes to my wife and me as we arrived in this small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

They’re fighting a fire here. It’s not as devastating and tragic as the Santa Rosa fire that is blazing in California’s famed Wine Country near the Pacific Coast. It’s still pretty big.

Residents of Grass Valley and Nevada County have expressed their thanks to the men and women who have come here from far away to battle the fire near Grass Valley.

Children have written the messages. They have offered their own love and blessings and asked for blessings from God. They have urged the firefighters to stay safe to enable a safe return to their own families.

We’ve offered our own expressions of gratitude for what these men and women do. They sign on to protect and to serve. They answer the call. They rush toward the danger, not away from it.

None of this has been lost on the people they are protecting and serving, as my wife and I noticed upon our arrival at an RV park at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, which have become a staging area for roughly 1,000 firefighters who’ve come here to fight Mother Nature’s red-hot wrath.

I’ve seen these men and women do their duty up close back home in the Texas Panhandle, where we’ve lived for more than two decades. Wildfires have ravaged our landscape over the years, too. They have destroyed homes, killed livestock and, yes, taken some human lives too. The firefighters have braved dastardly wind that often sweeps across the High Plains. I salute them every chance I get.

I am doing so again as my wife and I watch these young firefighters prepare to enter the field of battle against the flames.

I am absolutely certain they appreciate the community’s expression of gratitude displayed on that chain-link fence that surrounds their base camp. They are in our thoughts and prayers.

These men and women are doing heroic work

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — The nation’s eyes, ears and hearts are dialed in to the tragedy that’s unfolding a bit northwest of here, in Santa Rosa.

Fire has destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens of people. The death toll is expected to increase. Firefighters have poured in from all over the continent to assist in that terrible fire.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I came to Grass Valley on vacation. En route to this marvelous place we learned of another fire. We half-expected to drive to a site full of smoke; we thought we might have to purchase surgical masks to keep from inhaling all that smoke and dust.

We arrived to find the sky relatively clear, unlike what we saw in Chowchilla about 180 miles south of here. Then we pulled into our Nevada County Fairgrounds RV park and found quite a sight: dozens of firefighters roaming around; rows of firefighting equipment; tents full of supplies (food, clothing, blankets, etc.); one-person tents pitched everywhere.

They’re fighting these fires fiercely. They seem to have caught a break with the weather. The winds were calm upon our arrival, although we heard from several folks that the previous day brought choking smoke to the area.

We visited with a young man who appears to be a senior firefighting officer. He guesses about 1,000 firefighters are on hand. He said they are coming in “from all over. The Midwest is the farthest away.” Jail inmates are fighting the fires. They’ve got CCC crews on the task, too.

He estimated that the fire has burned about 14,000 acres.

It isn’t yet contained, he said.

What’s more, the efforts of these men and women are not going unnoticed by the community. They have made signs on the chain-link fence bordering the fairgrounds. They have earned the community’s gratitude and wishes for God’s blessings to all of them.

On our way back to our RV site, we encountered four young firefighters: three men and a woman. “Where you from?” I asked. “Northern Idaho,” came the response from one of the men.

“We just want to thank you for all you do,” my wife said. “That means everything to us,” he responded. “We sure don’t do this for the pay,” he joked.

These young heroes are here apparently for the long haul, or as long as it takes.

God bless all the firefighters scattered throughout this fire-ravaged state.

Who knew Lake Meredith could come this far back?

I am astonished at what I am reading about Lake Meredith, the 52-year-old reservoir due north of Amarillo that has had its share of ups and downs over many years.

Ute Lake, which is up the Canadian River from Lake Meredith, is overflowing. Water is pouring over the dam at Ute and is on its way into Lake Meredith. Water planners don’t yet know much water will flow into Meredith, but I’m here to tell you that it’s a big deal no matter how much water Lake Meredith receives.

You see, the lake that provides water for several West Texas cities — including Amarillo and Lubbock — is in far better shape today than it was about six years ago.

The lake was down to around 23 feet. It was rated as being at virtually zero capacity. Today? The lake level is approaching 70 feet, which is down from the 100-plus-foot historic high in the 1970s, but it’s still a damn sight better than it was when we were crippled by that regional drought.

Let it flow

You can count me as a doubter who believed the lake was doomed to remain down. You also can consider me astounded that Lake Meredith is rebounding to the extent it has been able to do.

The recent rain has helped, as it has fallen directly onto the Lake Meredith watershed. Now comes news that the deluge that soaked Ute Lake, N.M., also is bringing relief to Lake Meredith.

Yes, most of the Meredith water goes toward irrigation of cropland. Some of it pumped into municipal drinking-water systems.

It’s good news to be sure. I do hope, though, that High Plains residents do not grow complacent about the need to conserve this precious resource. Our water supply is going up … today. Tomorrow could tell us a different story.

Such as been the history of Lake Meredith.

More chaos from Trump; this time it’s those Paris Accords

This is what I mean when I mention the chaos that emanates from Donald J. Trump’s White House.

He said he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, citing the worldwide agreement to cut carbon emissions as endangering U.S. jobs. Then comes word that the president is having second thoughts.

Major media outlets — such as the Wall Street Journal — report that Trump is having second thoughts about his decision to pull out of the agreement. The White House says “no!” that’s not the case at all. The president intends to pull out; he’s going to keep one of his major campaign promises, White House flacks insist.

Then there’s confusion over whether he wants to renegotiate the accords to make them more acceptable to whatever concerns he has over them. Is he willing to renegotiate or not? A European Union officials said the United States won’t renegotiate the deal, but will review the terms to decide if there’s some wiggle room to allow continued U.S. participation.

Sheesh! I keep wishing for a No Drama Obama type of White House operation. Former President Barack Obama used to operate under a premise that the less drama, confusion and, yes, chaos, the better for the White House.

Donald Trump’s modus operandi is to pursue precisely the opposite result. The more chaos and confusion, the better.

Can we get our stories straight? Ever?

Why deny the obvious about the climate?

Donald J. Trump must know more about climate change than the scientists do … kind of like he knows “more about ISIS than the generals.”

A report from The Hill newspaper reports that the president has surrounded himself with those who deny the existence of climate change, those who disbelieve the overwhelming scientific consensus that Earth’s climate is changing and that the planet’s temperatures are rising.

Scott Pruitt, for example, runs the Environmental Protection Agency after serving as Oklahoma attorney general and suing the daylights out of EPA over rules and regulations designed to, um, protect the environment.

I’m baffled by the idea that the president can deny what appears to be obvious. Polar ice is melting; the annual mean temperature is rising around the world; sea levels are threatening to rise to dangerous levels.

The only debate appears to be its cause. Manmade or natural terrestrial evolution. I happen to believe human activity at a minimum has exacerbated the problem. But that’s just me.

Suppose, though, it is a function of Earth’s natural cycle. What are we human beings supposed to do? Do we just do nothing? Do we not seek to abate some of the impact? Do we simply keep pouring carbon dioxide into the sky, cut gigantic swaths of forestland?

Human non-intervention, in my mind, is intolerable.

If the planet’s evolutionary cycle is going to do what it does, why must be sit idly by and do nothing?

Pruitt wants to have a public national public debate on climate change. I’m actually OK with that. What I’m not OK with is dawdling over whether human beings should take action to stop what’s happening to the only planet we can call home.

Limbaugh to flee storm that creates climate change ‘panic’

I cannot let this one pass without a brief comment.

Radio talk show host/blowhard Rush Limbaugh is packing up his belongings and heading for safety in the face of Hurricane Irma, which is bearing down on South Florida, where Limbaugh lives.

Why is this even worth anyone’s attention? Limbaugh said on his talk show that the “liberal media” are hyping the dangers of these killer storms to boost their belief in climate change, which I reckon Limbaugh thinks is a hoax — putting him right next to Donald John Trump Sr. in the climate change denier ranks.

I am left to presume that when faced with the grim reality of Mother Nature’s wrath, Limbaugh is going to do the smart thing after all.

Which is to get the heck out of Hurricane Irma’s path..

Do I expect the talk show gasbag to come to his senses? Will he stop blathering the nonsense about climate change?

Umm. Not for an instant.

Time to tap that limitless prayer well … once again

It’s a good thing that humankind’s wellspring of prayer knows no limit. We can pray forever. For eternity. Until the end of time.

I now shall do so yet again, just as I did for our friends and the millions of others along the Texas Gulf Coast as Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey bore down with all its rage and savagery.

The recipients now are those who sit in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Oh … my. What awaits them?

Irma is churning across the Atlantic Ocean. The storm has drawn a bead on South Florida. It’s a Category 5 monster, with sustained winds of about 185 mph. Have you seen the traffic moving north, away from that monster? And have you wondered — as I have — about the few motor vehicles one sees on the news video heading south, toward the storm’s Ground Zero?

We don’t have many friends in South Florida. But I worry specifically about a former colleague and friend. She’s a journalist who lives in Fort Lauderdale. I am going to pray extra hard for her and her loved ones’ well-being.

While all this has occurred here in Texas and what is about to occur along the Florida coast, my hometown of Portland, Ore., is choking from the smoke and ash being deposited from that hideous Eagle Creek fire just east of the city.

The fire started on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, but it has jumped the big river and is now burning forestland in Washington. I read today that firefighters are beginning finally to contain the blaze — and that the weather might be about to turn in the firefighters’ favor with shifting wind and some rainfall expected over the weekend.

Let it rain! As a friend of mine pleaded, we need to send some of that Texas deluge north to the Pacific Northwest. If only one could do such a thing.

Hurricane Irma is being called the monster of all storm monsters. It’s stronger, windier, larger than any storm in anyone’s memory. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a pigmy compared to what Irma is expected to deliver. That’s pretty damn scary, given the damage Andrew brought to South Florida and then to the Louisiana coast.

I guess I should ask those who read this blog to join me in some prayer for our fellow travelers over yonder in Florida and along the Caribbean. Keep praying, too, for those along the Texas coast who are trying to cobble their lives back together. And, yes, please pray that firefighters extinguish the Eagle Creek fire sooner rather than later.

Just remember: Our prayer source is infinite.

Climate change is real, NW fires notwithstanding

I’m seeing a bit of social media chatter that needs to be put in perspective.

Some of it is conflating a couple of key issues: climate change and those horrific fires that have scarred many thousands of forestland in Oregon and Washington.

Critics of climate change deniers are pointing to the Oregon and Washington fires as evidence that climate change is real.

I agree with the notion that Earth’s climate is changing, that its temperatures are warming. The fires that began along Eagle Creek just east of Portland, though, were the result of a dumbass who allegedly was playing with fireworks in tinder-dry woodlands above the Columbia River.

Oregon State Police have a suspect. He’s a teenager. He is a minor, so we won’t know his name, which I guess gives me license to refer to him as a dumbass.

Back to the issue of climate change/global warming. It’s playing out far from the Pacific Northwest.

The Texas Gulf Coast just got hit with a Category 3 hurricane/tropical storm. It dumped 50-plus inches of rain on Houston and the Golden Triangle; it brought killer winds to the Coastal Bend. It has created unspeakable grief, agony and misery along the coast.

But wait! Now there’s a Category 5 storm blasting its way toward South Florida. It has winds of 185 mph; gusts are reaching 225 mph.

Meteorologists and other scientists are speaking in unison — more or less — on this subject: We’re going to see more catastrophic storms in quick succession in the future because of climate change.

The debate, though, centers on the cause of this change. The scientific consensus appears to suggest that human activity has exacerbated the change, through carbon emissions and immense deforestation.

The fire will be extinguished. I remain supremely confident that the forest will be restored over a lengthy period of time. Humankind can repair the damage done by a single thoughtless idiot.

The frequency of those storms? The rising sea levels? The intensity of the savagery that boils up out of the ocean?

That problem requires our immediate attention, if only we’d stop bickering over whether the climate is changing. It is. Let’s get busy finding solutions to this worldwide crisis.

Daddy Dittohead goes bonkers once again

I have decided to no longer refer to Rush “Daddy Dittohead” Limbaugh as a “conservative radio talk-show host.”

He’s certifiably loony. His goofiness goes beyond ideology, whatever his might be.

Limbaugh said this about Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 killer storm that is threatening Puerto Rico, South Florida and the Carolinas:

“Here comes a hurricane, local media goes on the air, ‘Big hurricane coming, oh, my God! Make sure you got batteries. Make sure you got water. It could be the worst ever. Have you seen the size of this baby? It’s already a Cat 5. Oh, my God, oh, my God, it’s bigger than the island of Haiti. Oh, my God.’ People run to the stores, they stock up everything, and they hoard. And they end up with vacant stores, nothing there. And it’s a big success. TV stations got eyeballs, the advertising businesses have sold out of business, gotta restock and the cycle repeats.”

Do you get it? He says Irma is a conspiracy to promote makers of emergency supplies. This storm ain’t a punchline, dude!

Limbaugh has said that these killer storms have been used to promote “liberal agenda” items, such as global warming/climate change. He’s not buying it.

He also said: “You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.”

Earth to Rush: These storms are causing serious human misery. Millions of Americans on the Gulf Coast are suffering at this very moment. Perhaps millions more Americans will suffer from Hurricane Irma’s savage attack on U.S. territories and on South Florida.

Let’s not minimize the impact of these storms by dismissing worry about future calamities that could be a result of climate change.

I once wrote in a column that Rush Limbaugh is to political commentary what Willard Scott — a former TV weatherman/funnyman — was to meteorology. “Except,” I wrote, “Willard Scott makes me laugh. Rush Limbaugh makes me sick.”