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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Future generations gets their day in court (at least in Oregon)

The Oregon Court of Appeals has held that two teens are entitled to a judicial declaration of whether Oregon officials have a “public trust” obligation to “protect the State’s atmosphere as well as the water, land, fishery, and wildlife resources from the impacts of climate change.”

In Chernaik v. Kitzhaber, the court reversed the trial judge’s dismissal of the case and remanded for a decision on the merits.  This is one of dozens of similar actions brought in the name of kids across the country to force government to act more aggressively to combat climate change. The young activists—with a little help from environmental advocacy groups Crag Law Center, Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center—argued that the state has displayed a frustrating lack of urgency:  “I don’t want to live in a wasteland caused by climate change,” Olivia Chernaik told the Eugene Register-Guard.

The public trust doctrine stems from English common law, which states that some resources are so central to the well-being of citizens that they cannot be freely alienated and must be protected. The doctrine was adopted by the U. S. Supreme Court in its 1892 decision Illinois Central Railway v. Illinois, which held that the state could not convey outright title to a substantial segment of the Chicago lakefront.

In 1983 the California Supreme Court greatly expanded the doctrine in National Audubon Society v. Superior Court, extending the public trust doctrine to limit already-vested water rights. In that case, the issue was whether the state must act to limit the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s appropriation of water from tributaries to Mono Lake in the face of declining lake levels.  The expansive reading given the public trust doctrine by the California Supreme Court set the stage for court imposition of regulatory controls to protect the environment, even if doing so might upset settled property rights in a natural resource.

When the Chernaik case is re-heard on remand, we'll find if if Oregon courts will pick up the public trust baton.  Among other things, the state could be ordered to do more to limit greenhouse gas emissions —even if that comes at the expense of other political priorities.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is the California water situation hopeless?

California drought solutions infographic
NRDC and Pacific Institute’s issue brief "The Untapped Potential of California’s Water Supply"


Not according to a story in Mother Jones.  Increasing water use efficiency -- something the energy experts have been focused on for years -- can do wonders. 

But it requires faith in, and public backing of the government.  For which most Americans just seem to have lost all capacity. Which is why Americans seem doomed to keep sliding into third-world status while other industrialized nations continue to rise.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Very early occurrence of Craveri’s Murrelets off San Diego (and can the end of the world be far behind?)


Gary Nunn, Paul Lehman, Barbara Carlson, and other top San Diego birders have noted the very early arrival this year of Craveri’s Murrelets (Synthliboramphus craveri).  Writes Gary:
Catching many seasoned observers by surprise, this very early calendar date pair of Craveri’s Murrelets Synthliboramphus craveri were passed off as Scripps’s Murrelets while being watched at close quarters aboard a pelagic out of San Diego on 07 June 2014. Steadfastly avoiding flight, the two murrelets paddled away from observers and did not reveal their characteristic darker underwing pattern. However the detailed examination of photographs, after the event, revealed all other characteristic field marks of this rarely seen enigmatic Southern California alcid visitor. Note the longer and thinner bill, with tweezer like mandible tips, the solid black face marking under the eye conjoining the chin, and the black colored spur on the breast side. In addition around the eye can be seen two very small white eye arcs, which I find from close up photographs are characteristic of this species. In general it is possible to see a small white fleck in front of the eye in many Scripps’s Murrelets. This white fleck mark is usually more pronounced in one individual in pairs that are seen together (I think there is perhaps a slight sexual dimorphism in the extent of white face coloration in Scripps’s Murrelets). No such mark exists on these birds, they show an evenly black marked face in front of the eye.
It appears these Craveri’s Murrelets are as many two full months ahead of the more normal calendar date of first occurrence in Southern California.

Photo by Gary Nunn
Paul and Barbara wonder if this is related to two different pairs of Scripps's Murrelets way north off Humboldt County during May, which is very early (and fairly rare) for that latitude.

Gary further notes that 2014 is "shaping up poorly for breeding seabirds in Baja in general with several species now documented to have abandoned nesting rookeries and islands."  He says "it all seems a bit awry somehow... we are also experiencing an early influx of several thousands of Elegant Terns [in San Diego] for example, which appear to have abandoned Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California."

Is this about a failure of food stocks in the Gulf of California?  And if so, what's the nexus (if any) to Global Climate Change?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

When Global Warming Kills Your God

Here's a fascinating article in the Atlantic that paints a powerful picture about the devastating impact the warming climate is having on Alaska Natives.

It's bad enough that an estimated 86 percent of Alaska Native villages will require relocation over the next 50 years because of climate changes.

Consider Newtok, Alaska — a town of 354 perched at the mouth of the Ninglick River, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. In 2009, it was one of 26 indigenous villages listed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as “priority action communities”: The ground beneath Newtok is being usurped by the sea at such a rate that the village may only have two more years before the first houses fall away.

Salmon dry in the sun in the indigenous Alaskan village of Chefornak -
Loren Holmes
Throughout Alaska, climate change is intensifying storm surges and thawing the permafrost — land that used to remain frozen year-round. Highways are sinking, and trees have teetered to such rakish angles that they have become known as drunken forests.

The article also looks at the case of 23 Alaska Natives who were punished by the state for defying a fishing ban. Their case will be heard at the Alaska Court of Appeals, possibly sometime this summer. According to the article, "the fishermen’s civil disobedience has been framed as a First Amendment issue: The Yup’ik believe they have an obligation to continue their ancestral traditions." In an amicus brief, the ACLU stated —
A Yup’ik fisherman who is a sincere believer in his religious role as a steward of nature, believes that he must fulfill his prescribed role to maintain this 'collaborative reciprocity' between hunter and game. Completely barring him from the salmon fishery thwarts the practice of a real religious belief. Under Yup’ik religious belief, this cycle of interplay between humans and animals helped perpetuate the seasons; without the maintaining of that balance, a new year will not follow the old one.
While the trial judge appeared sympathetic, he still felt the state had sufficient reason for imposing the ban. It will be interesting to see how the court of appeals deals with this defense, particularly under current changing conditions.
There, state-appointed judges will grapple with the same question the court faced in 1979, when an indigenous hunter named Carlos Frank was charged with illegally transporting a newly slain moose. Frank argued that he had needed the animal for a religious ceremony. Two lower courts found him guilty, but the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the verdict, calling moose meat “the sacramental equivalent to the wine and wafer in Christianity.”
Thanks to Turtle Talk for the heads up.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Don't fear the reaper

Apologies to Blue Oyster Cult.  But between people being in the thrall of the modern American 'health' care industry, and our unrestrained exultation of youth, the great Oliver Sacks offers some insight into the joys (no kidding!) of old age:
LAST night I dreamed about mercury — huge, shining globules of quicksilver rising and falling. Mercury is element number 80, and my dream is a reminder that on Tuesday, I will be 80 myself.
Elements and birthdays have been intertwined for me since boyhood, when I learned about atomic numbers. At 11, I could say “I am sodium” (Element 11), and now at 79, I am gold. A few years ago, when I gave a friend a bottle of mercury for his 80th birthday — a special bottle that could neither leak nor break — he gave me a peculiar look, but later sent me a charming letter in which he joked, “I take a little every morning for my health.”
Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. My mother was the 16th of 18 children; I was the youngest of her four sons, and almost the youngest of the vast cousinhood on her side of the family. I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know.
I thought I would die at 41, when I had a bad fall and broke a leg while mountaineering alone. I splinted the leg as best I could and started to lever myself down the mountain, clumsily, with my arms. In the long hours that followed, I was assailed by memories, both good and bad. Most were in a mode of gratitude — gratitude for what I had been given by others, gratitude, too, that I had been able to give something back. “Awakenings” had been published the previous year.
At nearly 80, with a scattering of medical and surgical problems, none disabling, I feel glad to be alive — “I’m glad I’m not dead!” sometimes bursts out of me when the weather is perfect. (This is in contrast to a story I heard from a friend who, walking with Samuel Beckett in Paris on a perfect spring morning, said to him, “Doesn’t a day like this make you glad to be alive?” to which Beckett answered, “I wouldn’t go as far as that.”) I am grateful that I have experienced many things — some wonderful, some horrible — and that I have been able to write a dozen books, to receive innumerable letters from friends, colleagues and readers, and to enjoy what Nathaniel Hawthorne called “an intercourse with the world.”
I am sorry I have wasted (and still waste) so much time; I am sorry to be as agonizingly shy at 80 as I was at 20; I am sorry that I speak no languages but my mother tongue and that I have not traveled or experienced other cultures as widely as I should have done.
I feel I should be trying to complete my life, whatever “completing a life” means. Some of my patients in their 90s or 100s say nunc dimittis — “I have had a full life, and now I am ready to go.” For some of them, this means going to heaven — it is always heaven rather than hell, though Samuel Johnson and James Boswell both quaked at the thought of going to hell and got furious with David Hume, who entertained no such beliefs. I have no belief in (or desire for) any post-mortem existence, other than in the memories of friends and the hope that some of my books may still “speak” to people after my death.
W. H. Auden often told me he thought he would live to 80 and then “bugger off” (he lived only to 67). Though it is 40 years since his death, I often dream of him, and of my parents and of former patients — all long gone but loved and important in my life.
At 80, the specter of dementia or stroke looms. A third of one’s contemporaries are dead, and many more, with profound mental or physical damage, are trapped in a tragic and minimal existence. At 80 the marks of decay are all too visible. One’s reactions are a little slower, names more frequently elude one, and one’s energies must be husbanded, but even so, one may often feel full of energy and life and not at all “old.” Perhaps, with luck, I will make it, more or less intact, for another few years and be granted the liberty to continue to love and work, the two most important things, Freud insisted, in life.
When my time comes, I hope I can die in harness, as Francis Crick did. When he was told that his colon cancer had returned, at first he said nothing; he simply looked into the distance for a minute and then resumed his previous train of thought. When pressed about his diagnosis a few weeks later, he said, “Whatever has a beginning must have an ending.” When he died, at 88, he was still fully engaged in his most creative work.
My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.
 I am looking forward to being 80.  
Something to think about between those joyless Sudoki brain exercises and Botox treatments.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Do Eucalyptus trees engage in unfair competetion?

We've already discussed at length the controversy about extrmely successful exotics like Eucalyptus trees. But if you're committed to living with these down-under vegetables, or if you just have no real choice in the matter (they're on the neighbor's property, removal would cost too much, you need the shade as the climate shifts, you actually like them, etc.), what can you do to landscape under them.

A 2007 conversation over at GardenWeb does a pretty good job with the problem. Starting with a post that ponders the widely-held belief that "something" exuded into the soil by Eucalypti kills off competing plants, respondents weigh in with varying degrees of civility (ah, the Internets!) to arrive at some convincing approaches to the problem.
 

First off, that the Eucalyptus is in fact significantly allelopathic seems well-documented. See below for a sampling of papers on the subject.

In addition to engaging in chemical warfare, many species of Eucalyptus have other bad habits.  


While not necessarily phreatophytic, these trees can suck lots of water and nutrients from the surrounding soil ... so much so that new plants have a hard time competing.

Some species (notably Eucalpytus globulus) cast dense shade that can be troublesome for many popular ornamentals and food-bearing plants.

Finally, the shear biomass of a large Euc can mean great quantities of dropped leaves, lost branches, and bark peels that can bury or overwhelm lesser organisms.

What all this suggests is that under Eucs tough, drought-resistant, and shade-resistant plants and shrubs are probably your best best.  In addition, keeping the area clear of Euc droppings may help.

While your results may vary, some folks clam the following choices may fare well under and around Eucs.  Those marked "+" are California natives.  Many of the others listed here are moderately to highly invasive ... which may only make matters worse.  Choose wisely!

Large Shrubs, Small Trees —
Acacia longifolia SYDNEY WATTLE

+Arctostaphylos sp. MANZANITA
Callistemon citrinus LEMON BOTTLEBRUSH

Cotoneaster COTONEASTER

Escallonia ESCALLONIA

+Heteromeles arbutifolia TOYON

Melaleuca nesophila PINK MELALEUCA

Myoporum laetum COAST SANDALWOOD

+Myrica californica PACIFIC WAX MYRTLE

Nerium oleander OLEANDER

Pittosporum undulatum VICTORIAN BOX

+Rhamnus californica COFFEEBERRY

Xylosma congestum SHINEY XYOLOSMA
Medium Shrubs —
Abelia x grandiflora ABELIA

+Arctostaphylos MANZANITA 
Cistus ROCKROSES

Correa AUSTRALIAN FUCHSIAS

Cotoneaster COTONEASTER

Escallonia ESCALLONIA

Fatsia japonica JAPANESE ARALIA

Galvesia speciosa ISLAND SNAPDRAGON

Juniperus JUNIPERS

+Mahonia aquifolium OREGON GRAPE

+Mahonia nevinii NEVIN'S BARBERRY

+Mahonia pinnata Shinyleaf Mahonia/ California Barberry 
Nandina domestica HEAVENLY BAMBOO

Nerium oleander OLEANDER

Pittosporum tobira TOBIRA

Rhaphiolepis umbellata INDIAN HAWTHORNE

Ribes sanguineum glutinosum PINK-FLOWERING CURRANT

Rosmarinus officinalis ROSEMARY

Viburnum tinus LAURUSTINUS

Westringia COAST ROSEMARY
Small Shrubs —
Cistus ROCKROSE

Correa AUSTRALIAN FUCHSIA

Escallonia ESCALLONIA

+Mimulus aurantiacus and hybrids BUSH MONKYFLOWER

Nandina domestica HEAVENLY BAMBOO

Pittosporum tobira sp. Wheeler's Dwarf DWARF TOBIRA

Rhaphiolepis umbellata INDIAN HAWTHORNE

Sollya heterophylla AUSTRALIAN BLUEBELL CREEPER
Large Perennials —
Acanthus mollis BEAR'S BREECH

Dietes vegeta FORTNIGHT LILY

Elymus condensatus BLUE WILDRYE

Phormium tenax NEW ZEALAND FLAX
Small to Medium Perennials —
Agapanthus LILY-OF-THE-NILE

Aristea ecklonii BLUE STAR IRIS

Asparagus (many) ASPARAGUS "FERN"

Bergenia cordifolia PIG'S SQUEAK

Clivia miniata KAFFIR LILY

Dianella tasmanica FLAX LILY

Helleborus lividus corsicus CORSICAN HELLEBORE

Hemerocallis DAYLILIES

Heuchera maxima CORAL BELLS

Liriope LILY TURF

Muhlenbergia rigens DEER GRASS

Nephrolepis cordifolia SOUTHERN SWORD FERN

Pelargonium GERANIUMS

Penstemon BEARDTONGUES

Phormium tenax (dwarf cultivars) NEW ZEALAND FLAX
Ground Covers —
Aptenia cordifolia RED APPLE

+Arctostaphylos TRAILING MANZANITA

Coprosma kirkii TRAILING COPROSMA

Cotoneaster TRAILING COTONEASTERS

Duchesnea indica MOCK STRAWBERRY

Hedera IVIES

Juniperus TRAILING JUNIPERS

+Mahonia repens CREEPING BARBERRY

Myoporum parvifolium TRAILING SANDALWOOD

Ophiopogon japonicus MONDO GRASS

Vinca major TRAILING PERIWINKLE
Vines —
Distictis TRUMPET VINES

x Fatshedera lizei BOTANICAL WONDER

Hardenbergia violacea WINTER WISTERIA
Hedges/Screens —
Acacia longifolia SYDNEY WATTLE

Callistemon citrinus LEMON BOTTLEBRUSH

Hakea suaveolens SWEET HAKEA

Juniperus JUNIPER

Ligustrum japonicum JAPANESE PRIVET

Myoporum laetum COAST SANDALWOOD

+Myrica californica PACIFIC WAX MYRTLE

Nerium oleander OLEANDER

Pittosporum eugenioides WAVY-LEAF PITTOSPORUM

Pittosporum tobira TOBIRA

Prunus ilicifolia HOLLYLEAF CHERRY

Rosmarinus officinalis ROSEMARY

Viburnum tinus LAURUSTINUS

Westringia COAST ROSEMARY

Xylosma congestum SHINEY XYLOSMA

Well, there you have it.  We'll update this post as we experiment with these ideas.  Good luck, and good botonizing.

 

* * *

Papers supporting the proposition that the Eucalyptus is significantly allelopathic:
Allelopathy: How Plants Suppress Other Plants by James J. Ferguson, professor, Bala Rathinasabapathi, associate professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida at Gainesville.

Pulmonate gastropod species composition inside and outside eucalyptus forests by Michael J. WalGren and Lisa E. Andreano, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Morro Bay State Park, 1 Lower State Park Road, Morro Bay, CA.

FINAL LAND MANAGEMENTPLAN BURTON MESA ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, State of California, DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME.

California drought is a risk to my beer?!

From Grist ...

As Jeremy Marshall, Lagunitas’ head brewer, tells NPR, the Petaluma-based outfit prides itself on using “that unique, signature, clean Russian River water,” to achieve the deliciousness of their beers. But as Lake Mendocino, the Russian River’s major source, dries up, it could mean they’ll have to resort to a less tasty option: groundwater.

“It would be like brewing with Alka-Seltzer,” Marshall says.

So yes, your beer is under threat. 

Worse yet, mine is too!

Not only will we have to develop drought-hardy barley and contend with price spikes in the face of climate change, shriveling rivers could translate into a shift in water sources that would lend a certain harsh taste to your favorite brews.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kill your lawn!

Grass lawns are the default for most American yards, but a some folks are starting to realize there are other options such edible landscaping, xeriscaping, or low-maintenance groundcovers.  Better yet, go Native!

The continuing drought emergency in California is also causing some gardeners to rethink their water-, time-, and chemical-guzzling grass landscapes.

History 

Lawns as we know them may have originated as grassed enclosures within early medieval settlements used for communal grazing of livestock, and were probably not all that distinguishable from pasture fields.  

Over time lawns became popular with European landed aristocracy, but before the invention of mowing machines in 1830 they required enormous inputs of cheap manual labor.  Indeed, keeping a large, heavily manicured lawn showed that the owner could afford to opulently own and keep land that was not being used for housing or food production.  

These European aesthetics eventually took root(!) in America, aided by the romantic and transcendentalist movements of the 1800s (and by the Shakers, who in the late 1700s began the first industrial production of high-quality grass seed in North America).  Some experts also point to the rise of war memorials after the Civil War as having increased demand for large manicured lawns.

The geographic expansion of grass lawns was completed when these un-creative anachronisms were imported to the mostly-arid West as pioneers were replaced by suburbanites emigrating from the much wetter Eastern U.S.

How to kill your lawn!

Before starting, you'll want to ensure that your grand plan doesn't run counter to CC&Rs or other  restrictions in your neighborhood.  And while much progress has been made, some communities still view anything other than a lush green lawn as "weeds" which must be "abated" annually.

Once you've determined that you're going to kill your lawn, you'll need to first remove the existing grass.  Experts offer two main approaches: an organic technique that uses no pesticides, or a chemical method that employs an herbicide.

The organic method begins with placing plastic sheeting on top of the grass. "You need something that will totally stop the gas exchange of the atmosphere," Kowalewski said. "You're essentially suffocating the plant." In the heat of summer it could take 2-3 weeks to kill the grass.

The conventional (chemical) method is to spray a non-selective herbicide such as glyphosate on the grass in early morning and away from other plants. Apply again two weeks later to kill any dormant weed seeds that may have germinated.
Caution!  When applying garden chemicals, always wear protective clothing and follow the instructions on the label carefully!
Regardless of which method you choose, experts recommend scalping down the live grass with a mower, then scalping down the dead grass with a mower when it turns brown and aerating the deceased lawn.




 
Since living grass root parts will probably remain underground, it's prudent to completely remove any sod as well. A hand- or gas-powered sod cutter can be rented to separate the sod from the soil. Adjust the blade depth one-half to one-quarter inch. Afterward rake up sod manually with a square shovel or pitchfork.  This material can then be composted by using the 'heap' or 'trench' method, which will over time cook the roots to death.

Now what?

With the old turfgrass successfully removed, you're ready to establish your new landscape.  Good luck, and thanks for helping to conserve our shrinking water supplies!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Anheuser-Busch to buy Blue Point Brewing

The LA Times reports that The North American subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois, is moving into the craft beer business, announcing Wednesday it will buy Blue Point Brewing Co., a N.Y. craft brewery.

Blue Point first began brewing craft beers 15 years ago in Patchogue, N.Y., and has become popular on the East Coast.

Anheuser-Busch did not disclose terms of the deal, but the move is the latest in efforts to expand AB InBev's footprint.

This move follows in the footsteps of Chicago-based mega-brewer MillerCoors acquiring the once-delightful Blue Moon brand.

Then there's Redhook Brewing, which began as a craft brewery back in the 80s. Since then, however, it has formed the company Craft Beer Alliance Inc. (with Widmer and Kona) and Anheuser-Busch InBev owns about 35 percent of the company.



Or consider Goose Island which was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev for $38.8 million in 2011.

Or what about Magic Hat, which had all the makings of a great craft brewery when it opened up shop in the early 90s. But they acquired Pyramid Brewing, then enticed North American Breweries (the company that owns Labatt and a few other imports) to purchase the entire conglomerate.

Nor is Leinenkugel a craft brew. Aside from being owned by SABMiller, it has been reported that Lenkie uses "adjunct ingredients" for flavor enhancement. Scurrilous.

Finally, if you’ve been to Hawaii, you’ve had a Kona. Actually, you can find them all over the place (36 states to be exact). That's because 35 percent of Kona is owned by Anheuser-Busch.

***
Ah, capitalism. If someone figures out a better way than you to do something ... buy and absorb them!