Category Archives: environmental news

How do humans cope with nature’s wrath?

The question keeps popping into my noggin when I watch and read reports of fire such as the blaze that is terrorizing southern California.

How do human beings hope to cope with the wrath that Mother Nature can bring to us?

I’ve lost track of the acreage destroyed by the fire whipped by the ferocious and relentless Santa Ana wind. It’s in the many hundreds of thousands of acres. It covers many hundreds of square miles. Media reports tell us it’s larger than the cities of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco. It could be that it’s larger than all of them combined.

I heard just prior to the weekend that the calming wind gave firefighters a break, that they gained ground on the fire. Then the wind kicked back in, setting the firefighters back on their heels.

Yet the firefighters keep at it. Thousands of them are battling this blaze. They’ll stay in the fight for the duration, until the last ember is extinguished.

I heard also they have come from many states to fight these fires. My wife and I caught a glimpse earlier this year of how firefighters rally to fight a common foe. We traveled in October to Oregon, driving through California from Needles all the way to the Oregon border. We saw smoke, but no flames from the fire that erupted in California’s famed Wine Country.

We visited with firefighters mustering at a Nevada County,  Calif., site to fight a blaze burning near Grass Valley. They came from far away to lend a hand. En route north along Interstate 5 we saw a Seattle Fire Department truck heading home, with Old Glory waving proudly in the wind. They epitomize the best of the human spirit.

I suppose I have just answered that question about coping with nature’s awesome wrath.

The human spirit can rise to any occasion.

‘Climate change’ anyone?

I am acutely aware that one cannot pigeonhole weather forecasting into neat categories.

What’s more, I also know that trying to predict what Mother Nature brings to any region is a crapshoot even in the best of circumstances.

But what in the world is going on this week?

Here we are in the Texas High Plains region. We’re tinder dry. It’s cold, but we’re continuing this dry pattern that’s beginning to cause the TV weather forecasters some anxiety.

Then we get news that snow is blanketing regions of this state and points east. It’s snowing this week in regions where (a) it hardly ever snows and (b) the snow is supposed to fall long after it blankets the Texas Panhandle.

We remain snow free. The Texas Gulf Coast is under several inches of snow. My friends along the Coastal Bend, Houston and the Golden Triangle are bundling up and driving ever so slowly and cautiously in conditions with which they are totally unfamiliar.

Is all of this a symptom of climate change? I’ve long argued that one cannot take a single weather event and equate it with whatever might be happening globally. I usually argue that it’s best to argue climate change by seeing the big picture.

This very weird reversal right here in big ol’ Texas, though, seems to suggest to me that we might be witnessing one element of a much bigger weather story.

Happy Trails, Part 61

Now, wait just a doggone minute!

My wife, Toby and Puppy and I are holed up at an RV park on what I have described as the Texas Tundra, where it’s plenty cold.

Wait! I awoke this morning to learn that snow is falling down yonder in that so-called “warm climate” area of Texas. Corpus Christi? Snow. The Golden Triangle (where my wife and I raised our sons)? Same thing.

One of our dear friends in Beaumont has referred to it all as the meteorological “weirdometer.” It’s snowing where it ain’t supposed to snow, but it’s still dry where it does snow, she says.

Yeah, that’s weird, kid.

Climate change? Is it really and truly changing? Aww, I won’t go there … this time.

Our retirement journey has taken a strange turn. Our intention is to spend much of the winter pulling our fifth-wheel RV to “sunny and warm” climes relatively close to home while we try to sell the house where we lived for 21 years.

Maybe we’ll make it happen. Eventually. It’s just a good thing we have no immediate plans to hit the road for points south.

We have to wait for the snow to clear out.

Good grief! Weird!

Climate change portends more ‘Harveys’

Hurricane Harvey once would be considered the storm of a lifetime.

Not any longer, according to a new study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT report suggests that by the end of this century, storms of the magnitude of Harvey could occur once every five-and-a-half years.

The study was put together by Kerry Emmanuel, a professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT. According to Texas Monthly:

“It’s very, very easy for people—even scientists—to get confused by this. You have to be very careful with what you mean by the event,” Emanuel says. The study looks at both Harvey-like storms hitting the greater Houston metro area (which he forecasts will go from a 2,000-year-storm to a 100-year-storm), as well as storms of that size making landfall anywhere in Texas, which is how we get to the 5 1/2 year number.

What do you suppose is the cause for this increasing frequency? Let me think about that for a moment. There. Time’s up. I am pretty certain we’re talking about climate change.

The deluge brought by Harvey dumped 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour period on Houston and the Golden Triangle this past summer. And that event came after Harvey roared ashore at Rockport with killer winds and immense tidal surge.

It will take years for the Texas Gulf Coast to recover fully from the storm. Texas officials have enlisted Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp to oversee the rebuilding of the coastal region from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle. Think of what might await such an effort years from now. No sooner would the work be done than it might occur again.

Read the TM story here

The Texas Monthly piece I’ve posted with this blog entry doesn’t mention climate change/global warming explicitly. I have mentioned it here. I only can surmise as much to explain why the level of storms thought to occur once in a century might take place with such frightening frequency.

This is a terribly ominous trend for the coastal regions of our state.

The question now presents itself: What in the world are we going to do to either protect our coastal region from such destruction?

There’s also this: What are we going to do to reduce the number and ferocity of these storms?

That’s it, Mr. President: Let’s just kill ’em all

What in the name of endangered species is Donald John Trump Sr. thinking?

He tweets an outrageous policy shift that allows elephant trophy hunters to import their prize to the United States, bringing calls of outrage from environmentalists around the world.

Then he says he’s putting his policy “on hold.” Until when? Further review? Or has someone knocked some sense into that thick, unpresidential skull of his?

The purpose of this reported policy change seems to be to undo yet another decision delivered by President Barack H. Obama, under whose watch the United States imposed the trophy import ban. The former president’s aim was to protect one of Earth’s most magnificent creatures from extinction.

Obama’s successor doesn’t seem to believe that the best way to protect one of God’s creatures is to deter others from killing them.

According to The Associated Press: (Interior Secretary Ryan) Zinke issued a statement later Friday saying: “President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical. As a result, in a manner compliant with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed.”

This is a simple proposition, in my humble view. If you disallow the importation of trophy animal parts into the United States of America, you would deter American trophy hunters from killing these great beasts. Several countries in Africa already are imposing shoot-on-sight policies regarding poachers who kill the creatures illegally and then sell the ivory tusks at top dollar.

Elephant herd numbers have declined dramatically over many years because of trophy hunters and poachers.

I do so fervently hope and wish the president rethinks his nutty notion about exposing these beasts to greater peril. And spare me the argument that the best way to strengthen these animals’ existence is to kill them.

The best way to strengthen them is to let nature take its course.

Government endorses notion that humans cause climate change

It’s called the “gold standard” of environmental studies.

It comes from the U.S. government and it goes directly against the president of the United States, who calls climate change a “hoax.”

The U.S. National Climate Assessment blames human beings for accelerating the planet’s changing climate. Trump, meanwhile, continues to parrot the line of climate change deniers by disparaging that idea that Earth’s climate actually is changing.

What fascinates me is that the report came out on the eve of the president’s visit to China, which he has said is responsible for perpetrating this so-called hoax. What might he say to Chinese political leaders’ face were they to challenge him on his ridiculous assertion?

This, too, is worth noting: Syria has just signed on to the Paris Climate Accord, from which Trump withdrew the United States, citing an alleged negative impact on U.S. jobs. Think of that for a moment. Syria isn’t exactly an internationally known champion of environmental issues; meanwhile, the world’s leading and most powerful nation has backed out of an agreement signed on to by the rest of the planet.

The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, is rolling back measures taken by the Obama administration. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, another climate change denier, insists that President Obama lacked the authority to implement changes mandating cleaner air requirements.

What one never seems to hear from Pruitt is any commitment to protect the environment, which the EPA’s title would appear to demand of the federal agency.

Why in the world can’t we get past the notion that Earth’s climate is changing? I am open to debating the cause, although the latest government study likely would put the kibosh on any serious debate over whether human activity is the primary catalyst behind the planet’s changing climate.

Climate change is the real thing

Rising sea levels present a serious challenge to the entire planet. Same for the increasing ferocity of storms. Meteorologists tell us annually that the planet’s median temperature is increasing.

Can we stop the impact of all these elements? We cannot know the answer if we keep denying what is becoming painfully obvious.

Earth’s climate is changing. It is long past time we got busy trying to stem the damage that’s being done to the only planet we have.

 

Trying to process Perry’s affection for fossil fuels

I am having a bit of difficulty processing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent tortured and convoluted connection between the use of fossil fuels and sexual abuse.

The former Texas governor spoke in Washington the other day and said — you have to follow this closely — that nations in Africa can avoid sexual abuse of children and young women if they burn more fossil fuels that help “keep the lights on.”

I’m still in a bit of a fog over how one connects one with the other — and does so with a straight face.

I want to offer another element in this strange conflating of energy use and sexual abuse. Actually it’s hard setting aside Perry’s nutty notion that sexual attacks occur only at night, but I’m going to try nevertheless.

When the energy secretary governed Texas, our state turned into a leader in the development of alternative energy sources. I’m talking mostly about wind power. Yet the energy boss seems to have swilled the fossil-fuel Kool-Aid served up by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who seems enamored with the oil and natural gas industry.

If the energy secretary believes it’s important to keep the lights on, why doesn’t he fall back on the wind power that has become such an enormous presence in places like, oh, the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains?

I don’t often say something positive about Perry, but the development of a clean, renewable alternative energy source — which has an infinite supply out here on the Caprock — provides a pretty stellar legacy that should make the former governor proud.

Indeed, he ought to speak more openly and aggressively about promoting wind energy as a critical component of the national energy policy.

I haven’t heard much from Perry on that score. Instead, he offers a silly notion that connects burning fossil fuels as an antidote to sexual abuse.

Weird, man.

Follow the logic if you can

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick “Oops” Perry has made a curious leap between fossil fuel development and consumption and sexual abuse.

I’m trying to connect the dots. I am having a difficult time of it.

Perry said fossil fuel consumption can prevent sexual abuse because the “lights are on.” The Energy boss made his remarks at a forum sponsored by NBC News and Axios.

According to The Texas Tribune, Perry said: “It’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, ‘one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people.’”

Oh, boy.

Is he pushing fossil fuels as an energy source or is he speaking about the brutality of sexual abuse suffered by villagers?

I’m going to assume — given the secretary’s former position as the governor of Texas, which produces a goodly amount of oil and natural gas — that he is pitching fossil fuel consumption.

Or is he?

Here seems to be where the Trump administration that Perry serves is missing the boat. This big world of ours is full of alternative energy sources that also can keep the lights on. Wind, solar, hydropower … they all are renewable, clean and safe. I’ll also throw nuclear power into that mix, too, even though nuke plants — which are safer than they used to be — aren’t yet totally safe from cataclysmic accidents.

Perry went on, according to the Tribune: “But also from the standpoint of sexual assault, when the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts,” Perry continued.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s foremost environmental interest groups, has called on Perry to quit in light of his remarks. I won’t go that far.

Perry offers confusion

I do question the logic the energy secretary is employing in connecting fossil fuels with sexual predation.

He lost me.

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.