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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Environment's Wildlife Dangers by Robert Glenn Ketchum

Before I began to use Facebook (FB) as an autobiography with my photographs, those of you who follow me know I was posting stories and data related to specific environmental issues. I have now reserved my Saturday-Sunday FB postings to announce my various public events, AND to occasionally re-visit some of those important environmental issues of interest.

A recent series of articles in the Los Angeles Times (LATimes) reminded me of a Facebook post I put up awhile back, entitled 'Thunderheads', in which the Smithsonian Channel brought together 250 international researchers take part in a unique collective project studying thunderstorms. The pertinent part of their many discoveries for me was the fact that hailstones, especially large ones, form around a VERY particular particle of matter – the particle matter put up in the air by wildfires! I've embedded the 'sneak peak' video, as it's going to air early August. Check your local listings for the next time this show airs, as it's a must see!

So the LATimes stories that triggered my recall of this Smithsonian show were a sequence of articles – these are worth a complete read not only because they are informative, however I have ALSO HIGHLIGHTED A MORE SUBTLE THREAD OF THOUGHT that ties these articles together in a disturbing way.

(Photograph © 2013 Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times, October 2006)  

Article, America's fire danger: Fire seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer. LA Times, op-ed by John N. Maclean, July 4, 2013
This is a short editorial view of the increasing fire danger and its financial impact on the west.

(Photo Credit USA Today)
Article, As Arizona fire rages, scientists warn of more unpredictable blazes: Natural and man-made factors have led to larger, more perilous wildfires. Arizona's Yarnell Hill blaze may be Exhibit No. 1.
LA Times, by Julie Cart, July 3, 2013

This article is ostensibly about the nineteen firefighters who recently lost their lives and why the fire they were fighting was so unpredictable and overtook them. However, the most chilling factoid worth noting within the article is “the average fire is now FIVE times as large as it was in the 1980’s.” It also notes a recent fire in CO that burned across snow fields it was so hot.

Firefighters work along Sunrise Highway in Mount Laguna, Calif., Monday, July 8, 2013, where they set off a back burn on the east side of the highway. The wildfire reportedly burned more than 100 cabins at a mountain camp east of San Diego. 
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / Associated Press / July 9, 2013) 

Article, Wildfires may have bigger role in global warming, study says
LA Times, by Geoffrey Mohan, July 10, 2013

In 2011, New Mexico experienced the huge Las Conchas fire and they have since been studying its effects. What they have learned is that fires of that scale contribute to global climate change and are significantly more warming of the atmosphere than previously thought.

So, as we are discovering, many large “systems” of which we were previously unaware are being affected by climate change. Massive wildfires are now part of a dangerous “closed-loop system.” Drier, warmer conditions make bigger fires possible, bigger fires throw up particle matter that creates more dangerous and destructive hail formation. Collectively all of these fires are “dramatically” affecting climate change as well by warming the atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere is likely to mean even drier conditions on the ground, particularly in the west. Fires, thunderstorms, and climate change are now part of a warming system that is FEEDING ON ITSELF. 

Lastly, this final article is simply a study analysis by the Department of Energy expressing their concern that climate change will impact the power grid adversely. Rising temperatures will place greater demand on power generation for cooling, and rising oceans threaten the capacity to generate power because they will displace/disrupt established power generating stations.

(DOE Report Details Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather. Photo Credit U.S. Department of Energy)

Article, Climate change report: Weather, rising seas imperil power plants
LA Times, by Marina Villeneuve, July 11, 2013
It would seem to me these scenarios are going to be stunningly expensive to fix/repair if we allow them to become even more exaggerated than they already are. WE THE PEOPLE need to DEMAND our politicians:

  1. Stop wasting valuable time and dollars arguing over, and funding unnecessary mega-construction projects. If they want to build things so badly, improve the infrastructure to support the traffic of a stronger economy and CREATE A NEW LESS-VULNERABLE POWER GRID. 
  2. STOP USING TAX DOLLARS/FEMA-FUNDING TO HELP REBUILD IN PLACES THAT R CLEARLY AT RISK. If people choose to rebuild in established danger zones they should be responsible for their own insurance risks. 
  3. Get over the knee-jerk, head-in-the-sand reaction to climate change AND DO SOMETHING POSITIVE instead of being re-active and in a constant state of recovery from the increasing number of extreme weather events. 
Perhaps if our politicians spent less time arguing and more time actually LEARNING, they could support amazing scientific discoveries that might make a difference.

Because I have spent much time in rural communities, often off-the-grid, one recent breakthrough is especially interesting to me – a man has designed a battery system that converts urine into storable battery power, allowing for electric generation anywhere enough urine can be collected – or as the inventor stated, every loo can now become a power-generating station.

OR, how about the astounding water-minimizing, hydroponic, solar-generated, skyscraper rooftop, organic gardening systems invented by Sky Greens of Singapore:

(Photo Credit: Kalinga Seneviratne, Inter Press Service, IPS.) 

Article, Farming in the Sky in Singapore by Kalinga Seneviratne


If we CANNOT get our politicians to stop squabbling foolishly and respond to these challenges NOW, many of the comforts of life as we know them will be gone by mid-century… so WE MUST MAKE THEM PAY ATTENTION TO THESE ISSUES THEY ARE TRYING TO IGNORE/AVOID. If we do not succeed at this, may I suggest you practice your atlatl throwing.

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