Bad Signs. The Mendocino Complex fire is the largest wildfire by area in California history. The Mendocino and Carr fires together burned nearly 650,000 acres. Fast forward six weeks and move south less than 100 miles, and now, both the most destructive fire, by structure count, and most deadly fire in California gripped the state. The Camp Fire is considered the deadliest fire anywhere in the United States in 100 years.
By 9:00 AM or so on Thursday, November 8, I started receiving images from friends and family in Chico, CA, showing the all too familiar orange glow in the sky. Think “The Upsidedown” from the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” but orange. A few hours later, it became apparent that this fire was serious. I arrived at a ghostly landscape the next evening to meet with evacuated family members.
A Uniquely Destructive Fire. Rain mercifully fell at long last in Northern California during the week of Thanksgiving. The rain helped fire crews contain the blaze at 95% as of the morning of November 24. As of the same day, 153,336 acres burned and 18,733 buildings, including 13,954 residences, were destroyed. There were 84 people who lost their lives, 3 firefighters were injured, and 475 people remain missing. Nearly 6,000 firefighters, 23 helicopters, and 630 fire engines fought the fire. The cost of such a response will be staggering.
Fear surrounds our collective image of bees. Media reinforces the notion that these insects are more ‘killer’ bee than honeybee. If you’ve ever seen the 90s movie “My Girl,” you were no doubt devastated when McCauley Culkin dies of anaphylaxis from a bee sting. Maybe you also thought the next time you got stung by a bee, you would die too.
Perhaps you saw the final season 3 episode of “Black Mirror” (on Netflix – highly recommend). “Black Mirror” too preys upon our fears, depicting a swarm of robo-bees controlled by a killer hive mind-linked to social media networks.
A startling reality is robotic bees are not so farfetched. Scientists are researching how to create mechanized pollinators in the wake of pollinator decline. And Walmart has had a patent pending for pollination drones since March of this year. If you’ve never heard the term “pollinator,” it generally refers to the multitude of bugs, insects, birds, bats and rodents that aid in the transfer of pollen to fertilize plants. Only fertilized plants will reproduce and bear fruit or seeds, making pollinators the essential messengers of love. Pollinator populations across the board have dwindled due to climate change and environmental stressors such as habitat loss, pesticides (particularly neonicotinoids), monocultures, parasites, and diseases. Continue reading “Pollination Nation? Bee decline makes crops suffer”→
SEE Development. Faced with a changing climate, the need for smarter development is clear. Unfortunately, cities in the U.S. and across the planet have developed without social, environmental, and economic foresight. This result is some combination of inefficient design, extensive energy demand and carbon emissions, tremendous waste, negative health outcomes, etc. The solution to this problem is SEED, which stands for social sustainability, economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and design. Adoption of these principles as a systematic approach to development is expanding across the globe. The United Nations, for instance, issued its most recent Environmental, Social, and Economic Sustainability Framework in January of 2015. Failing to take all these concerns into account is inherently unsustainable and leaves cities and populations across the globe vulnerable.
Plastic Does Not Disappear.“Every bit of plastic ever made still exists.” Plastic permeates the Earth and its ecological systems. Since the advent and mass adoption of plastic, roughly over the last 100 years, humans have treated plastics like they are bio-degradable. Spoiler alert, they are not. Plastics also gradually break down into smaller debris, making the collection problem even worse. The result is an astonishing concentration of plastics, often ending up in oceans around the globe.
Pacific Gyre Accumulation. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (“GPGP”) is a region of the Pacific Ocean, between the United States and Japan, where dumped plastics accumulate due to natural ocean currents. The GPGP is an area of incredible plastic concentration, estimated to be roughly twice the size of Texas. Though the problem has been known for some time, a recent study—using perhaps the most comprehensive research method yet—has concluded that the concentration by weight of plastics in the GPGP may be between four and sixteen times more than previously estimated. The study estimates a minimum total of at 80,000 tons (approximately 176,000,000 pounds) of plastic floating in the gyre. Continue reading “Ocean cleanup problems and solutions”→
Little substantive action is being taken in the United States to combat the grave challenges that climate change is clearly presenting. This summer, two massive Northern California wildfires burned, raining ash and spreading smoke as far as New York. The Carr fire burned over 220,000 acres in Redding, CA, and the Mendocino Complex fire burned over 410,000 acres across Colusa, Lake, and Mendocino counties. California is not alone in dealing with historic heat and wildfires: across the United States in the last 30 days, there has been over 2,000 new daily record high temperatures and over 5,000 new daily highest minimum temperatures established. Internationally, wildfires in Greece have killed at least 91 people, and Japan recorded its highest ever temperature on July 23, 2018 at 106 degrees. Sweden is experiencing the worst drought on record, with wildfires burning into the Arctic Circle.