Category Archives: environmental news

Drive home: not for the timid

I want to offer a serious shout-out to my fellow North Texans who today demonstrated that smart people do exist and they do occupy motor vehicles wisely through some seriously inclement weather.

My day began inauspiciously enough with a drive from McKinney to Fort Worth, where a friend of mine and I went to see a movie. We enjoyed the new release, “Ezra.” We had lunch and then I headed back to my house in Princeton. My GPS said it would take a little more than hour to make the trip. Bwahahaha!

I was heading for the Sam Rayburn Tollway when I saw it get very dark, very quickly. It was about 4 p.m. Then the rain came. With a vengeance!

Lightning flashes lit up the sky. The rain came down in seemingly Biblical amounts. The wind started to howl.

I turned on my four-way flashers and slowed my Ranger pickup way to down to around 35 or 40 mph.

This is where I want to offer a bouquet to the hundreds of other motorists I noticed. They did the same thing. Flashers and a major slow-down.

I noticed one serious wreck on the tollway median; a young couple had crashed through a utility pole and their car was parked rear-end first on the embankment, suffering heavy damage. The couple appeared to be OK. I said a quiet prayer that they would get emergency personnel attention soon.

I don’t normally take time on this blog to bitch about bad drivers. I do want to offer a good word about those I saw driving with an abundance of caution in some highly inclement conditions.

Oh, I am sure there were some wannabe-Mario Andrettis out there who thought they could power through the rough stuff no matter what. I am just grateful beyond measure they did so out of my field of vision.

We have been getting a lot of this kind meteorological violence in recent weeks. It could be that we are wising up to Mother Nature’s unspeakable power.

Whatever. May we never lose sight of the value of those lessons.

Politics enters eclipse coverage

Leave it to the TV network talking heads to inject contemporary politics into discussion about the historic wonder of a total solar eclipse.

I was taken aback … but not surprised.

Listening to the eclipse run-up early this afternoon, an MSNBC commentator noted that an eclipse actually prevented a war from erupting in ancient Greece. I didn’t catch the name of the adversary facing down the Greeks.

Then she wondered out loud whether during these contentious times that we could have a similar peace-finding result from the eclipse that swept across the eastern third of the United States.

We all know the answer to that one. No! It won’t end the sniping, the backbiting, the innuendo here at home and the wars that rage in Europe and the Middle East.

It’s kind of a quaint thought, however.

The old-time Greeks didn’t have social media to take their minds away from Mother Nature’s splendor back in the day. Nor did they have cheap tinhorn politicians who play to TV cameras whenever someone — anyone! — turns on the lights; oh sure, they had their tinhorns, but they were motivated by simpler means.

Here’s my immediate takeaway from what we witnessed today in North Texas.

For a few minutes in the early afternoon, I wasn’t worried at all about what mere mortal politicians were doing or saying in the halls of power. Not in Congress, or the White House, or City Hall or the county courthouse. My focus was straight up as I watched the moon block the sunlight shining on Earth.

Nothing else mattered. Nothing!

A gigantic event awaits

Epochal events, by definition, don’t come around often, but when they do it is good for the authorities to prepare for them with all the resources they have on hand.

North Texas is about to be the scene of one of those events on Monday. It will occur shortly after 1 p.m. when the moon passes in front of the sun, turning the bright daylight of a mid-spring day into the blackness of night.

The last total solar eclipse I can recall occurred in the early 1980s. On that day the sky was overcast, just as the weather service is predicting for much of Texas on Monday. But the sky over Oregon got dark during that earlier event, as it will on Monday here in Princeton, Texas, where I am hanging my hat these days. I remember then hearing about how zoo animals cowered in the dark, how wolves howled and dogs barked.

The TV stations, plus all the cable networks are planning wall-to-wall “team coverage” of the event beginning around noon. I heard one of the local TV stations is planning to launch drones presumably to get above the cloud cover to take pictures of the moment the moon darkens the sun’s glow.

Police departments and Texas transportation officials are planning to make their presence felt on our streets, roads and highways to ensure motorists are paying attention to the traffic and avoiding the temptation to look skyward, even though the weather guys and gals say there will be nothing to see.

I obtained my eclipse-watching glasses. I am staying home that day. I’m going to look skyward at just the right time … hoping that a break in the clouds might occur in correct spot to get a glimpse of the event.

And no, I will not peer with unprotected eyes at the sun the way the 45th POTUS and his wife did some years ago when they looked at an eclipse that appeared over the East Coast.

However, I am ready to be thrilled by this event that won’t repeat itself in this country until I am long gone.

Staying put for this one

Command decision time, which means I have decided to stay home for The Eclipse. There. It’s done and I ain’t moving.

I keep reading in the local newspapers about how the cops are going to be out in force the afternoon of next Monday to make sure everyone’s behaving behind the wheels of their vehicles. They express concern about motorists not paying attention to the traffic while the sky darkens above them.

Fine. Let others hassle with all of that. I am staying put. It’s going to be the kitties — Macy and Marlowe — and me in our house in Princeton, Texas. which is in the middle of Ground Zero of the eclipse event.

My son who lives with me will be at work. So will my other son who lives in nearby Allen. My granddaughter will be in school close to their home and my daughter-in-law will be home, too, presumably staying safe.

The National Weather Service is predicting overcast skies that day. It’ll still get plenty dark for about four minutes sometime after 1 p.m. Eclipse watch parties? Getting together with friends to marvel at the universe? Forget about it!

I am staying where I know I’ll be safe from the nut jobs out there.

Goodness survives the flames

Stories about fire that rages out of control bring fear and hopelessness to many of us; we worry about what it all means and the lives it affects.

It seems the Texas Panhandle wildfires that have burned something far north of a million acres of rangeland would produce so little news to cheer.

Then I hear about all the trucks hauling hay into the fire zone. The hay is being trucked in to feed the livestock that has survived the inferno. It’s coming from neighboring ranches unaffected by the rampaging flames.

These demonstrations of selflessness remind us of the good that resides in the hearts of those who feel the pain being inflicted on those who must face down nature’s fiery wrath.

I no longer have a personal stake in what is happening in the Panhandle region of this great state. We moved away from there in 2018. Our son sold his home this past year to move near his brother’s family and me after my dear bride passed away.

I do have friends remaining in the region. I know of at least two families that have evacuated their homes and then returned once the danger had passed; they are thanking God Almighty their homes are still intact.

I am going to cling to the knowledge of the good that has presented itself as the remote region of Texas fights the flames. May it remind us of the good in humanity that fire cannot destroy.

Yes on DST!

My man cave wall calendar caught my eye this morning as I was getting my day started.

It told me that on March 10 we return to Daylight Saving Time. My first reaction? Why can’t we just make it a permanent feature of our calendar? No need to switch to Standard Time in the fall and then back to DST in the spring.

We go through this drill every year. We switch back and forth and every … single … year we hear the same gripes from those who bitch about their body clocks needing adjustment. How they cannot get used to the extra hour of daylight in the evening or having to “fall back” in the autumn.

Personally, I never have had a problem with switching to Daylight Time and then back to Standard Time. However, if we’re going to keep bitching about doing it, my own preference would be to keep the Daylight Saving Time as a permanent fixture.

I like the extended daylight in the late spring and summer months. As for the fall and winter months, well … I wouldn’t care. It gets darker earlier in that time of the year.

The Texas Legislature a couple of sessions ago toyed with the idea of asking Texans what they preferred. The proposed resolution would have placed three issues on the ballot: Keep it as it is; permanent DST; or permanent Standard Time. I was prepared to vote for permanent Daylight Saving Time … but then the Legislature couldn’t get its crap together in time to put the issue on the ballot.

Maybe the 2025 Legislature can get organized early enough when it convenes in January to enable us to decide what we want to do. I know that’s a big ask, given the nature of our Legislature and the idiocy that seems to govern the legislative flow at times.

I’ll hope for the best. Meantime, I am going to enjoy Daylight Saving Time when it arrives in a couple of weeks.

Yes, climate is changing

You hear it almost unfailingly whenever we get hit with a cold snap, such as what has gripped North Texas — and much of the rest of the country of late.

It comes from climate change deniers who scoff at the notion that our climate is changing, and the globe is getting warmer. I heard it the other morning while having breakfast with some gentlemen with whom I am acquainted. They dissed the notion of global warming.

I didn’t say a word, as I don’t know them well enough to challenge such nonsense.

One of our local TV meteorologists put it well recently in a public service announcement. The weather, he said, defines what is happening in the moment, while “climate” defines longer-term trends.

That was his way of telling us to disregard current weather conditions when discussing whether the climate is changing.

I believe he is correct.

I remember the time during an earlier D.C. cold snap when climate change denier U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma took a snowball to the floor of the Senate to make some kind of idiotic argument that climate change is a hoax, a product of liberals seeking to damage to the fossil fuel industry which, I should add, was a big contributor to Inhofe during his years in public life.

The term “global warming” has for all intent been replaced by “climate change,” which I believe is a more inclusive description of what is happening to our good Earth. We indeed are suffering through more climate extremes from year to year.

The data we receive from worldwide meteorological organizations is beyond dispute. It is that despite these cold snaps, Earth’s mean temperature is rising year over year, the global ice caps are melting, mountain glaciers are receding and that thousands of species of wildlife are endangered by the changing climate.

When I hear the climate change deniers dismiss the evidence because they’re bundling up to protect against frigid air temps, I am left only to shake my head in dismay at their ignorance.

City manager hire: Is it perfect?

If one is to accept the views expressed in an op-ed column published in the Dallas Morning News, then Princeton City Council could have hired the perfect individual to be the new city manager.

Whether manager-designate Mike Mashburn achieves perfection, of course, remains to be determined.

Why the early optimism?

Arun Agarwal writes in today’s DMN that “urban parks” form a shield of serenity in a bustling environment. The tagline at the end of his column describes Agarwal thusly: Arun Agarwal is president of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board and vice chair of the Texas Economic Development Corporation.

OK, he’s got some street cred on the subject. What about Mike Mashburn? He comes to Princeton after serving as an assistant city manager in Farmers Branch, where he emphasized park development in that community.

Meanwhile, Princeton voters have approved a city bond issue with funds dedicated to park expansion and improvement. It’s a match made in heaven, yes? Hmm. Could be.

Agarwal writes: Regardless of socio-economic status, age or ethnicity, urban parks provide a neutral ground where individuals can come together in an environment of belonging and shared identity. Picnic tables, playgrounds and sports fields become platforms for interaction, dialogue and the forging of meaningful communal relationships.

Agarwal cites a park study aimed at finding the benefits of park development. He writes: Furthermore, this study established that Dallas parks advance equity by helping to build intergenerational wealth, and that our parks generate real estate value through property value premiums and park-oriented development.

I met Mashburn on Friday after the council approved his hiring, and he mentioned he liked the “small-town feel” that Princeton provided. I reminded him that Princeton is still a small-ish town, but it stay that way for much longer, as it is in the midst of a growth explosion.

Which makes the benefit of “urban park” development more critical for the residents of this city.

What’s more, parks can improve our health, according to another study that Agarwal cites. A more recent study, presented last year, found that 78% of repeat visitors to Buffalo Bayou in Houston reported a decrease in physical ailments such as stress, asthma and general poor health since beginning to come to the park, and 90% said it contributes to improved quality of life and sense of well-being.

Parks promote community, equity and economic growth (dallasnews.com)

So, are we on the verge of a park-related improvement in our collective physical, emotional and spiritual health?

I look forward to seeing if our city manager can stir up the elixir.

City, college scrap recycling program … damn!

This bit of news out of Commerce and the university that serves North and Northeast Texas simply is astounding.

KETR-FM radio reports that the city of Commerce and Texas A&M University-Commerce have abandoned the recycling program that had been functioning in the city since 2016.

Why is this so distressing? Because I have spoken with officials who recycle material in Princeton and in other North Texas communities and they proclaim great success with the effort. It has reduced landfill waste by nearly one-third, say Community Waste Disposal officials, preserving and extending the life of existing landfills. Indeed, recycling became a way of life in my house the moment my bride and I moved into Princeton.

That isn’t happening, apparently, in Commerce, a community about 50 miles east of Princeton.

KETR reports that the university and the city issued a press release announcing the termination of the recycling effort. According to KETR.org: The release, along with information obtained from Commerce City Hall, indicates that the reasons behind the decision include the rising costs of the program, the limited effectiveness stemming from misuse of the recycled collection bins, and a general lack of education with regard to how the recycling program was intended to work.

It appears that part of the problem stems from residents tossing household trash into recycling bins, which of course is a no-no to the company seeking to recycle the material it receives.

TAMUC, City of Commerce can local recycling program (ketr.org)

KETR reports further: “We regret that the current recycling program was not a good fit for our community at this time. We are exploring fiscally responsible recycling solutions that might work in the future,” says University Police Chief Brian Vaughn, who now directs the Department of Emergency Management and Safety for A&M-Commerce.

Not a “good fit” for the community? Is that for real? We are talking about a university town, full of students who ought to embrace the notion of recycling as a way to protect this precious planet of ours.

I am left almost without much to say about this except to offer my profound disappointment in a community I thought would embrace a program such as this as a statement in favor of protecting our cherished Mother Earth.

Climate is changing … period

Let’s be sure to wait for what’s to come this winter, as it likely will drive many environmentally conscious Americans to the verge of screaming out loud.

We have endured a searing summer, with high-temperature records falling seemingly every day. It has become almost a given in weather-watching circles that severe summers usually precede severe winters. We’ll go from very hot to very cold.

What will be the mantra we can expect to hear? It will come from climate-change deniers who, when trying to stay warm during the next frigid winter, will express open doubt that Earth indeed is getting warmer.

Let’s hold on for a moment, eh?

There’s a simple difference between the terms “weather” and “climate.” Weather is intended to examine day-to-day events. Climate looks at the longer term. So, when someone says the climate isn’t changing because it’s cold on a given winter day, then he or she is blowing it out of his backside.

Many of us prefer the current term of art, which is “climate change,” rather than “global warming.”

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association reports damn near every year about how our climate events are getting more frequent and more severe.

Of course, the linchpin argument centers on the reasons for the intense change. I happen to be one American patriot who believes human beings are significantly responsible for the change in our climate. Thus, I won’t listen to the climate-change deniers.

We are throwing carbon emissions into the air; we are cutting trees and removing plant life that turns carbon dioxide into oxygen. This isn’t happening by itself. It is happening because human beings are acting irresponsibly.

I am preparing for a severe winter. I also am getting ready to listen to the doubters who will deny the obvious, that our climate is changing.