Category Archives: environmental news

Happy Earth Day … Earth

Dear Earth … well, this is your day. We human inhabitants of the only planet we can call home celebrate you and presumably give thanks for being alive and well enough to wish you good health.

Agreed, your health ain’t great. We human beings are doing our best (or shall I say our worst) to mess you up. Your climate is changing. Our planet is getting hotter every year. I keep reading about how glaciers are melting at a quicker rate than expected. Yes, I know what happens to that glacial ice: It turns to water and the sea levels are rising, endangering our seaside communities around the world.

The debate has pretty much ended about whether human beings are responsible for it. We are. We keep wiping out forests and we keep pouring carbon-based pollutants into the air. On behalf of my fellow humans, I apologize for the mistreatment we have laid on you.

I want to boast just a bit, Mother Earth, about what we’re doing in our North Texas community to help you. I live in a community, Princeton, that recycles expendable items. The disposal company gives us bins into which we can toss our recyclable material: plastic, paper, metal. It all goes in there and I am told that it reduces landfill waste by about 40%. That’s not bad.

Mother Earth, I am sure you remember the era in which the U.S. government decided to honor you. It came in 1970, when a Republican served as president. Yes, it was President Nixon who thought enough of you to establish the Environmental Protection Agency. Ah, yes. Those were the days.

Imagine a MAGA Republican today endorsing such a thing. It won’t happen … but that’s another story for another day.

I just want to wish you well, Earth and I want to call on my neighbors and fellow Americans — along with my fellow terrestrial travelers — to honor you every single day we all are able.

Rivers are, um … full!

EUGENE, Ore. — I am back in the state where I began my life on this good Earth and noticed something intriguing — but not at all surprising, given what we have heard and read — as I drove here.

The rivers are full, as in brimming full of water. They’re past their normal “full” settings.

The North and South Umpqua rivers? Full. The headwaters of the Willamette River? Full. Every creek was more than a creek as I drove past them.

That is what the “atmospheric river” has brought to the normally wet Pacific Northwest, or as one of my sisters calls it: the Great Northwet.

It’s good to be back, even though it is under circumstances I would trade for a moment, given the tragedy I have suffered in recent weeks. I said when Kathy Anne passed away that I wanted to get out of the North Texas home we shared. I have done so.

The trees are mighty tall. Many of the leafy varieties haven’t yet bloomed, but their day is coming soon.

The rivers look healthy, as do the playas that dot the landscape. The mountain sides have snow, and that, too, will help alleviate the drought conditions that have plagued this region in recent years.

Ah, yes. It’s good to be back, although I don’t call it “home” any longer. Home is where I live these days nine miles from my granddaughter.

Still, I intend to get caught up with family members and friends.

The journey has borne plenty of emotional fruit for me. I am glad and grateful to have taken this plunge.

The ‘river’ has arrived!

EUREKA, Calif. — I set out this morning headed northward from the San Francisco Bay Area, and with forecasters predicting a return visit of that Atmospheric River.

My sister expressed some faint hope that they would get it wrong.

They didn’t. It arrived with a vengeance … again!

I drove into the sucker from Oakland and it never dried out when I landed at my next stop just south of the Oregon border.

To be honest, I totally get why our California countrymen and women are tired of the wind, rain, and “wintry mix” that doesn’t seem to let up. We’re now well into the spring season and it feels damn near like winter.

You are welcome to spare the notion that the prolonged cold doesn’t mean our “climate is changing.” It damn sure is changing, so I won’t debate anyone here on the merits of climate change.

I just had hoped to avoid that “atmospheric river” nonsense on this westward trek. Hey, it has taken my mind off the sad event of a month ago that prompted me to leave my house in North Texas.

So, the trek continues into Oregon, the state where I came into this world more than seven decades ago … and where it rains for three days before anyone even notices.

Atmospheric River update …

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — I am about to skedaddle from this lovely coastal city … apparently in the nick of time.

The weathermen and women tell us that the Atmospheric River is about to start “flowing” again over the region sometime Tuesday. Toby the Puppy and I hope to be on the road en route north to a coastal town just south of the Oregon border.

Does that mean we can breathe easily? Hardly, according to my family members here. One of them said we would be driving “into the belly of the beast.”

Well, OK. I am aware of the hazards. I have told ’em all that we are prepared to stop whenever the need arises.

The locals here are understandably full of the nervous jerks when it comes to this weather pattern. It has been — to say the very least — a highly unusual winter.

It has been a cold winter and a very wet one, indeed. The mountain snowpack isn’t quite a record, but I understand it’s close.

But, Toby the Puppy and I have a bit of a schedule to keep. Fortunately, we’ll be staying with family members over the course of the next several days on the road. Which means we aren’t bound by “cancellation policies” at various lodging establishments.

It’s been an adventure so far. I am just going to hope for the best as we motor on.

Water, water everywhere

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The hours-long drive along California Highway 99 opened my eyes to the ravages that Mother Nature has brought to this wonderful part of the country.

They have water here. Too much water!

The playas are full; some of them are overflowing. I ventured across several bridges spanning rivers. I glanced at the rivers as I sped by. Lete me be clear: I don’t know what the “normal” streamflow looks like for the San Joaquin River, but what I saw as I glanced at the river was far from what I am certain is normal.

I got a text message from my sister in Santa Cruz, telling me it was “pouring” once more. I’ll be heading that direction in a couple of days. She did tell me the other day that if her neighborhood is underwater that “the entire city is gone,” which is her way of telling me they’re fairly safe from the deluge. I do hope so.

The weather forecasters apparently are in love with the term “atmospheric river,” which sounds like a cool term to use to describe the torrents that have fallen for the past several weeks. I’ll say, though, that the current term du jour is more appealing than “bomb cyclone,” which has been used to describe previous events of this magnitude.

There well could be more of this madness awaiting me as I continue my travel north from the Bay Area in a few days. I plan to see my niece in Eureka, which is on the coast just south of the Oregon border.

A respite from The Flood would be so nice. Indeed, I believe the good folks here have enough water to last them a while.

Human nature = human mystery

Human nature and all its complexities provide human beings with one of this world’s greatest mysteries.

We’re coming out of a cold snap that enveloped much of North Texas. We awoke this morning to 20-something-degree temperatures, but it has “warmed” up to the mid-40s. Tomorrow it’ll be even warmer.

The mystery is this: Why do we humans bitch when it gets too cold and then bitch during the Dog Days of Summer (no pun intended) when it gets too hot?

Do you want more irony? Suppose we lived in an area where the climate is perfect every single day of the year. By “perfect” I mean 72 degrees, with no wind and low humidity; it would rain for about two hours every third or fourth day.

The irony of that circumstance is that we would complain about the weather “never changing.” That we would want more variety. That we would welcome a snowstorm or a heat wave … just to make life interesting.

We human beings. We’re all so fickle.

Coastal protection: It’s a big … deal!

Protecting our coasts ought to be among the top issues facing members of Congress. It is with that admonition that I welcome news about legislation designed to do precisely that in the wake of a monster hurricane that stormed ashore in Texas.

The U.S. House is considering the most expensive coastal protection project in history. It’s called the National Defense Authorization Act and its pricetag is a doozy: $34 billion.

Hurricane Ike roared across Galveston Island in September 2008, threatening the Houston Channel and putting the nation’s petrochemical industry in dire peril.

Now, I have no intention of taking credit I don’t deserve, but I happen to be one journalist who’s been talking about coastal protection for decades. It became a favorite issue of mine when I worked for the Beaumont Enterprise from 1984 until 1995. I became acquainted with a Texas land commissioner, Garry Mauro, who also deemed coastal protection to be critical to our national survival.

Coastal erosion long has been a hazard to the Gulf Coast, with wetlands being consumed by rising gulf tides every year.

I am heartened to see the aggressive measures taken by Congress. As The Associated Press reported, “The Texas coastal protection project far outstrips any of the 24 other projects greenlit by the bill” under consideration by the House.

Hey, it’s a big deal! How big? Consider that one particular project calls for the construction of a coastal barrier the size of a 60-story building laid on its side that aims to prevent storm surge from entering Galveston Bay and endangering the Houston Ship Channel.

Construction will take two decades to complete.

Got it? That’s big! It’s also important!

Say ‘no’ to this gasoline ban

I am not generally inclined to protest local government’s desire to make our lives more tolerable, but Dallas City Council is pondering an issue that goes too far in ensuring such comfort.

The city is considering a ban on all gasoline-powered lawn equipment. Yep, you can’t fire up the lawnmower or the leaf blower after 2030 if the council proceeds with this effort.

The Dallas Morning News editorial board has spoken already on this nutty notion and the paper makes a lot of sense in saying the council might be reaching way beyond its grasp.

The Morning News said in an editorial published the other day: Promoters of the ban will point to climate change and air quality as harmful, but the council presentation last month included no evidence that is true.

One element of this idea does make sense. The city, according to the DMN, ought to ban contract landscapers from using this equipment if it sees fit. No problem with that. However, if Mr. or Ms. Homeowner wants to use a gas-powered lawnmower and leaf blower to gussy up their yard, they should be allowed to do so.

Granted, I don’t live in Dallas. I live a bit north of Big D in Princeton. I kind of fear that that the city fathers and mothers here might get an idea to follow Dallas’s lead.

Don’t go there, Princeton City Hall.

Let’s set differences aside

Media representatives have been yapping in the past few days about the “political differences” that exist between President Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

They point out that the differences might stand in the way of the federal government rushing aid to the stricken state in the wake of Hurricane Ian’s destruction.

Let’s set the differences aside … shall we?

DeSantis is being talked about as a potential 2024 Republican candidate for president. Joe Biden is likely to run for re-election.

First things first. President Biden has some comforting to deliver to beleaguered fellow Americans. One of them happens to be his potential rival, DeSantis.

The two men will meet later today. They likely will talk repeatedly in the weeks to come as the feds seek to help Florida rebuild from the destruction that Ian brought to the state’s Gulf Coast.

There will be time for the political stuff. I am not interested in hearing about the differences between these men. I just want them to reach out to each other in search of common ground to repair the lives shattered by Mother Nature’s wrath.

Change of weather brings cheer

I want to take a moment or two away from politics and policy to extol the virtues of seasonal change.

It took a few days after the official arrival of the autumnal equinox, aka the arrival of fall, but I am feeling a bit more cheerful tonight.

The weather topped out here in North Texas at something a bit north of 80 degrees. It began to cool dramatically as the sun approached the western horizon.

I do look forward to the seasonal changes. From summer to autumn is particularly welcome this year. It was as if spring never really arrived. We froze for weeks on end during the winter of 2021-22. Then summer arrived … with a vengeance!

I joked this morning that I was “ready for summer” when I saw that the temperature was 47 degrees. I was just kidding, of course.

I am not kidding, though, in welcoming autumn’s arrival. Soon enough, autumn will give way to winter. There’s chatter out there about whether our electrical grid can withstand another killer freeze which paralyzed us in February 2021.

I won’t worry about that just yet. I just want to welcome the seasonal change. It’s always a good day when we can go from dawn to dusk without turning on the air conditioner.