Category Archives: environmental news

We’re soaked around here, but is drought really over?

I’m going to have to do the virtually unheard of thing later today: At not quite the halfway point in August, I’m going to empty our rain gauge, which is full of water.

We’ve gotten slightly more than 5 inches of rain at our humble abode in southwest Amarillo so far this month. My wife and I empty it at the end of each month before waiting for more rainfall. This month has been a soaker, man!

The National Weather Service station near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport reports that Amarillo has received 19 inches of rain year to date; that’s 5 inches more than normal and 6 inches more than we had at this time in 2016.

So, put another way, we’ve achieved just about our average annual amount of precipitation — and we still have more than four months to go in this calendar year.

All of this begs the question: Is the drought over?

I’ve heard it said about the crippling drought the High Plains endured in 2011 that it would take an epic amount of rain to bring us officially out of drought status. I cannot remember the specifics, but given that the Ogallala Aquifer takes so very long to recharge given its depth that the rain has to fall in virtually biblical amounts to break the drought.

I’m going to continue believing that and monitor my water use accordingly.

We don’t have one of those automated irrigation systems in our yard. So that’s not a particular issue for my wife and me. We serviced our outdoor faucets during the depths of the drought, so we’re good there. We do things in the kitchen such as turn on the sink faucet sparingly when washing dishes. We remodeled one of our bathrooms a couple of years ago and had one of those “gravity flush” toilets installed, which saves water.

We’re not paragons environmental purity. I don’t intend to portray us as such. Water preservation, though, remains on the top of my mind’s awareness, even when it’s pouring out of the sky.

I keep thinking, too, about that fabulous PBS documentary “The Dust Bowl” that aired not long ago. It told the terrible, horrifying story of how prolonged drought and reckless farming techniques formed a sort of “perfect storm” that created what has been called the nation’s “worst manmade environmental catastrophe.” The Texas and Oklahoma panhandles were in the bullseye of that hideous event.

Our farming techniques have improved since the 1930s. Yes, we can control how we take care of our land. The return of the kind of Dust Bowl-era drought, though, is far beyond our meager effort to dictate to Mother Nature.

Let’s keep that in mind — even as we welcome the rain that keeps drenching us.

Manmade or cyclical climate change? Doesn’t matter!

Let’s set aside for a moment the debate over whether Earth’s changing climate is the result of human activity or it’s just part of the epochal cycle the planet goes through every few thousand millennia.

I happen to think human beings do play a big part in it. That’s just me.

The bigger issue of the day is this: It doesn’t matter one damn bit!

Whether the planet’s climate is warming because of carbon emissions or deforestation or whether it’s part of Earth’s life cycle, human beings need to do something about it.

Now! Although it might too late.

The Trump administration has just informed the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, joining those two other stalwart nations that didn’t sign the accords in the first place: Nicaragua and Syria.

Earth’s temperature is rising. Sea levels are rising, too. Indeed, the levels will rise even more once a glacier the size of Delaware melts into the ocean; the iceberg broke off of Antarctica recently.

Climate change deniers — led by the current head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — insist that there’s nothing we can, or should, do to abate those changes. We have members of our Congress who suggest that since human activity isn’t the cause that human beings shouldn’t be held responsible to slow it down, if not stop it altogether.

The president of the United States calls climate change/global warming a “hoax” perpetrated by China and other great powers seeking to intimidate the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

I keep coming back to a simple, fundamental point: Whatever the cause — cyclical or at human hands — we human beings are the dominant life form on Planet Earth. Old Testament scripture instructs us to “fill the Earth and govern it.”

So, are we going to govern it or are we going to just sit back and let nature’s forces have their way?

Yes, I know that human beings cannot match nature’s power. I know we cannot change the flow of the rivers, or stem the tides that will rise no matter what we do to prevent it.

Human beings, though, can insist we stop decimating our forests, depriving the planet of vegetation that oxygenates our atmosphere; without it, the air fills with CO2 and, by design, grows warmer. It’s that simple.

Will any of that prevent Earth’s climate from changing? Probably not. However, it is better to seek to do something than to do nothing at all. That’s what good stewards of the world we inherited must do.

Gore was ‘wrong’ about Trump

Albert Gore Jr. must possess a bottomless wellspring of hope in his soul.

The former vice president told Stephen Colbert this week that he had hoped Donald J. Trump would change his mind regarding his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change accord.

He has given up. The former VP says on Colbert’s late-night talk show that Trump is beyond redemption regarding climate change, which has been Gore’s signature issue since leaving the vice presidency in January 2001.

According to The Hill: “I went to Trump Tower after the election,” said Gore, who was on the show to promote his new movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

“I thought that there was a chance he would come to his senses. But I was wrong.”

The former vice president perhaps can take some solace in the belief — at least I believe it — that Trump doesn’t understand climate change or that he doesn’t grasp the theories floated by scientists around the world that human activity is a major cause of the planet’s changing climate.

Science means nothing to the reality TV celebrity-turned-president of the United States.

It doesn’t make Al Gore feel any better, to be sure. Perhaps his wellspring of hope is diminished somewhat as it regards the president of the United States.

Why take aim at grizzlies, Mr. President?

Donald J. Trump’s latest executive order has me scratching my head in utter disbelief.

The president has removed the Yellowstone grizzly from the Endangered Species List. I don’t get this one. Not at all!

There are roughly 700 of the beasts in the wild near the fabled national park that sits in the northwest corner of Wyoming and which straddles the state lines of Idaho and Montana.

Seven hundred!

Is that a lot of the big bears? I don’t consider 700 animals as constituting a glut of them. The president, though, suggests that the Yellowstone grizzly population has increased sufficiently to warrant its removed from the ESA.

“The ongoing recovery of Yellowstone grizzly bears is an undeniable example of how the ESA can bring a species back from the brink. However, we are concerned over how grizzly bears and their habitat will be managed after delisting,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former congressman from Montana, hailed the delisting. So did Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, both Republicans.

Call me an unapologetic animal lover. I don’t want these magnificent beasts’ habitat compromised any more than it already has been, even with its listing on the ESA.

I’m not at all clear on the ill effects that the bear’s presence on the Endangered Species Act has brought to any human being. Where is the harm? What does its removal from that list mean for the beasts’ future?

Let’s not set a new water-use record, OK?

Amarillo residents think they need to be No. 1 … apparently.

City Hall staff reports that water usage Tuesday tied an all-time daily record, set in August 2002. Residents and businesses pumped 92 million gallons of water in a single day.

That’s a lot of, um, lawn irrigation, car washes and pool fillups.

The city’s Every Drop Counts water conservation mantra needs to be placed on the top of residents’ minds.

Yes, the city took a lot of rain early this month. My wife and I were on the road, but we heard about it. Our favorite playa, Lake McDonald, has been revived thanks to the abundant moisture.

News about heavy water use does concern me. I’m sure it concerns you, too.

I want to harken back about two years ago when the city’s administrative staff was run by a certified water expert. City Manager Jarrett Atkinson could talk water policy, conservation and management with the best of ’em. Then he quit as city manager because — as I understand it — he had difficulty working with the then-new City Council majority. He landed in Lubbock, where as city manager he is now lending his water-conservation expertise to that city’s governing council.

The message ought to remain the same in the city Atkinson left behind. Our water is not infinite.

I get that it’s hot! Summer has arrived. However, every drop of water does count. Really. It does!

Tillerson’s ‘loyalty’ has its limits on Paris accord

Donald John Trump’s version of loyalty seems to have gotten lost on the secretary of state.

To which I say to Rex Tillerson, you go, Mr. Secretary!

Tillerson told a U.S. Senate committee today that he respects the president’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change accord, but that he disagrees with him.

I disagree with Trump, too. That’s no surprise to those who read this blog. What does surprise me is that Tillerson, given his business background as CEO of ExxonMobil, would support the Paris accord.

It’s a pleasant surprise, to say the very least.

I also will give the president props as well for finding a secretary of state who would have the courage to challenge Trump’s infamous penchant for total loyalty among his senior administration officials.

I believe Tillerson qualifies as one of the president’s top hands.

Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he still supports the climate change accord hammered out and signed by more than 190 nations. Trump blathers about “lost American jobs” and regulations that force fossil fuel companies to reduce their payrolls. What he never discusses are the jobs created by alternative energy endeavors.

I don’t expect Tillerson’s testimony to persuade Trump to change his mind. It does give me hope that reasonable minds at least can have a voice in an administration that that seems to have too few of them.

NYC might have answer to Trump decision on Paris accord

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed an executive order that might reverberate all across the greatest nation on Earth.

His order mandates that the city he governs adheres to the Paris climate accord that Donald J. Trump decided isn’t worth the United States’ participation.

Oh, no. The president declared that the United States no longer will take part in a worldwide agreement hammered out and signed by more than 190 nations. The nations have pledged to promote worldwide efforts to curb the impact of climate change around the world. The United States was one of them. Until this week!

Not to fear. NYC will adhere to it. So might other major cities across the nation. Ditto for governors who also have executive authority to exercise.

Now, do I expect Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to buck the president? Umm. No.

Do I expect newly Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson to issue an order from City Hall that commits this city to adhere to the climate change mandates? Not holding my breath for that, either.

But there might be an answer to the president’s decision which, all by itself, has managed to enrage world leaders across the globe.

It well might occur at the hands of local government officials who’ll buck the president’s own misguided, ill-considered, ill-informed order to flush the Paris accord down the toilet.

Does POTUS believe climate change is a hoax?

Donald J. Trump campaigned for the presidency on the heels of a series of outrageous assertions.

One of them involved climate change.

This individual would travel around the country and declare that climate change is a “hoax” — perpetrated by nations such as China. He would buck the consensus developed by the worldwide scientific community. Many scientists, including more than a few Nobel laureates, have concluded that Earth’s climate is changing, the temperature is warming — and that humankind is largely responsible for the change.

Polar ice caps are shrinking; animal habitats are being threatened; rampant development is ridding the world of millions of acres of forestland; yes, sea levels are rising and vast expanses of coastline around the world are being threatened.

A hoax? I don’t think so.

So the president pulls the United States out of the Paris Accord meant to unite the world’s nations in the fight against the changing climate. He wants to “make America great again.” How does this move accomplish that? By taking the world’s greatest nation out of the global discussion?

The president keeps harping on jobs, how regulations rob Americans of jobs. He never mentions all the jobs being created by the development of alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and nuclear power.

Trump yaps about bringing back the coal industry, about boosting the production of petroleum. He rolls back environmental regulations with the blessing — and this is hard to stomach — of the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

And yet, when the media keep asking the president’s representatives about whether he still believes climate change is a hoax, they won’t answer. They hem and haw, they bob and weave, they won’t provide a direct answer to a direct question.

I’ll ask again here: Does the president still insist that all the evidence we are witnessing in real time is a hoax, a figment of our imagination?

Kushner, Ivanka get stiffed by POTUS/Dad

Just when you thought Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were deputy presidents of the United States, the actual president stiffs them on their staunch support of the Paris Accord aimed at dealing with climate change.

What gives? Oh, I think I know, actually.

The nationalist wing of the White House inner circle got to the president; it had his ear for the final time before announcing Thursday that he would pull the United States out of the worldwide alliance to fight the planet’s changing climate and the consequences it is bringing.

So much, then, for Ivanka and her husband’s legendary influence over the president. Frankly, I stand with them — and against Trump and his nationalist buddies — in this crazy development.

The president’s daughter and son-in-law weren’t alone in their support of the climate agreement. National security adviser H.R. McMaster wanted to stay involved; so did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; same with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. I should add, too, that a number of key Republicans in and out of public office wanted the president to stay the course.

No can do, he said.

The issue is American jobs, which the president believes would be lost because this country would work with other nations in seeking to curb the causes of global warming and climate change.

What … utter … crap!

This isn’t how you ‘make America great … again’

Donald J. Trump’s vision of “making America great again” now means that the United States of America will sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world wages war against climate change.

This isn’t surprising. Neither is it acceptable in any form or fashion.

The president today announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Accords, which aligns more than 190 nations in the fight against climate change.

It isn’t, as opponents have contended, a top-down edict forcing nations to adhere to some sort of global mandate. The agreement, hammered out among the participating nations, allows for individual countries to adapt to policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions and scale back on the myriad causes of climate change and, yes, the warming climate.

Scientists around the world have concluded that human activity has played a major role in the changing climate. The Paris Accords are meant to bring nations together to hold humans accountable for their actions.

The United States is the big dog on the planet. We are the greatest nation on Earth and we need a place at the world’s table.

The president today just pushed us away from that table. Why? To satisfy the electoral base that help elect him.

This is a sad day for those of us who are concerned about the fate of the world.

This isn’t how the greatest nation in that world is supposed to lead it.