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Archive for the ‘Environmental Protection’ Category

I just read in the San Diego Union of January 26, 2020, that some juvenile pyromaniac set the palm grove in the Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert on fire last week. That spot was one of my favorite day hike destinations in Southern California, and I have been there dozens of times over the years and have taken many a visitor there. Since the offender was a juvenile, law enforcement does not give any details about what happened.

Over the decades, I have hiked the Palm Canyon in the Anza Borrego Desert many times, and I have often documented those trips here. Just a few links, oldest to newest:

The Oasis – A hike a did with my friend Mike (coincidentally the same Mike from the post right below….) in 2008. In that post you can see a few nice pictures of the famous Palm Canyon palm grove, which is visited by about 20,000 hikers a year.

Exploring Climbing of Indianhead – A hike I did with my son Devin in 2010, on our way up the canyon. We did a stop at the palm grove and you see a few pictures of it in this post.

Attempt to Hike Indianhead – Take Two – Another hike with Devin in 2012, making our way farther up the canyon. There are a few more palm groves along the way that the casual 20,000 hikers that reach the first one never see. The hiking after the first grove is treacherous and not for weekend hikers.

Attempt to Hike Indianhead – Take Three – An exploratory hike I did myself in 2013.

And while I am droning on about Indian Head, even though it’s not fully related to the palm canyon, here is my account: Attempt to Hike Indianhead – Take Four – This was my last attempt in 2014, and I think probably my last one altogether for Indianhead. Indianhead shall remain unclimbed by me.

New Palm Grove 2010 – 2017 – An account of 7 years of monitoring the new palm grove. In this post you can see a selfie of myself with the grove in the background.

New Year’s Day a Winter Wonderland in the Desert – the last time I was there with Devin was New Year’s Day of 2019. There are a few good pictures of the oasis.

Here are two clips from the San Diego Union of today:

Above with the blaze underway.

Here is what the great trees looked like a few days later, still smoldering.

The grove had last burned in 1970, when a boyscout had played with matches. I remember seeing charred tree trunks there over the years presumably still from that blaze. The rangers expect that the large trees, even though they are all thoroughly burned, will actually recover and sprout new branches at the top.

Also, with all the thick underbrush and shadow eliminated, and boosted by the nutrients of the ash, new undergrowth and seedlings will sprout quickly. I’ll have to go out in a few weeks since I haven’t been there yet in 2020, and see for myself.

I am afraid it’ll never quite be the same again in my lifetime like it was here with me on January 1, 2019:

[click to enlarge]

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I was in disbelief. I googled and fact-checked. This really happened.

When Trump was passed over for Time Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year in favor of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student who has risen to international fame for her powerful climate activism, his campaign eventually edited Trump’s head on Greta’s body on a fake cover of Time Magazine, framed in a Trump campaign text message.

I have two questions:

  1. What adult can possibly be jealous of a 16-year-old girl reaching the pinnacle of the media world by promoting a powerful message of world-impact?
  2. What President of the United States would possibly feel good about actually attacking a 16-year-old activist on social media because he was jealous of her?

Why doesn’t Trump invite the girl to the White House, congratulate her on her success, get to know her, and ask her questions about how he could help her with her mission? That is what any president in the history of our country would have done.

Until Trump.

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There are only a hundred thousand giraffes left in the wild and their numbers are going down rapidly. There are now less giraffes left in the world than elephants. Most people are not aware of this catastrophic decline. Check out this video interview of Dr. Malu Celli with the Calgary Zoo, an expert in giraffe conservation, for more information.

 

 

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This Sunday morning in the San Diego Union (of Sep 8, 2019) I found this article:

[click to enlarge]

Our government just issued another permit to allow a Michigan trophy hunter to import skin, horn and skull of a rare black rhinoceros he shot in Africa. The guy paid $400,000 to anti-poaching programs for the privilege.

Our government needs to stop issuing these permits. So do those of other nations, including China. To be fair to Trump, he has issued “only” two such permits during his tenure. Obama issued three since 2013. My question is, what do those trophy hunters have that makes our government bow to their pressure?

There are only 5,500 black rhinoceroses living in the wild, half of them in Namibia. And they are allowing some of them to be killed by trophy hunters. In what universe do you have to live for this to make sense?

The argument is that the money from trophy hunting funds the anti-poaching efforts. Scary as it seems, it’s probably correct, but I believe it’s still misguided.

I call bullshit.

If there were a properly conducted crowd-funding campaign to collect $400,000 to offset this one Michigan man’s permit, I believe it would be successful. If only 400,000 people around the world put in just one dollar, it would be accomplished. I’d put in a lot more than one dollar.

I really think we need zero tolerance for all big-game hunting, both trophy hunting and poaching. We need to make it so big game hunting is socially viewed as disgusting, so nobody can get away with it anymore. Those hunters with heads of big game in their lodges in Michigan, Montana and Shanghai need to be embarrassed about the trophies, not admired. Only once the practice is socially unacceptable in all rich countries will this stop.

I know that this is not likely to happen, and we will kill those last 5,500 rhinos.

Then where will the Chinese get their placebo rhino horn powder?

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If Hillary got it, you’d be doing wind. Windmills. Weeeee. And if it doesn’t blow, you can forget about the television for that night. ‘Darling, I want to watch television.’ ‘I’m sorry! The wind isn’t blowing.’ I know a lot about wind.

— The President of the United States

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Randy Morgenson was raised in the Yosemite Valley in the 1950s, where his parents both worked. His father was an avid naturalist, photographer and later tour guide. Of all the places in the world to grow up in, Yosemite must be one of the most fabulous, spectacular and awe-inspiring places to be.

It is therefore no surprise that Randy became a park ranger as soon as he was old enough to serve. He loved the Sierras, the mountains, nature, solitude and serenity. He was the quintessential ranger.

Being a backcountry ranger means getting flown out into the wilderness in the spring by helicopter with supplies, and getting picked up again the fall. I have hiked in the Sierras, so I know its remoteness, its beauty, and – of course – its challenges. In the High Sierras of California, there is still true wilderness. There are places where no human steps for years. This means there is solitude where one can reflect and regain the natural connection to Mother Earth. But there are also dangers everywhere. Most people think of bears and mountain lions, and yes, they are there, but very few people ever see any of them. The true dangers are getting lost without food, water or shelter, being exposed to the sometimes violent and hostile elements at high altitudes with no chance of anyone coming by to help. Or falling in an avalanche, or slipping on an ice field, or stumbling off a cliff, or drowning in a meltwater-swollen creek.

Backcountry rangers are there to assist hikers with advice, or with emergency services, if needed.

The problem for the rangers is that it’s a seasonal job. There is no work to be done in the winter. So who can afford a lifestyle to go away into the mountains every summer at low pay, and then come back in the winter and do something else for gainful employment. Not only is it largely impossible, it’s also hard on relationships or a marriage.

Randy and his wife Judi didn’t have children, exactly for that reason. But over the years, Randy’s love for the mountains eclipsed his relationship with Judi and cracks started to appear in the fabric of their marriage. As the seasons went by, Randy became more and more disillusioned with his life when he was not in the mountains.

The Last Season chronicles Randy’s life and his experiences and reputation as a backcountry ranger over decades. When, one day, Randy doesn’t check in on the radio like he is supposed to, the reader participates in the massive search and rescue effort for Randy launched by the park service.

The Last Season is a riveting book about people who do what they absolutely love to do, and how they live, and die.

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Trisha and I went on a Jeep ride today with Chris (of Piper and Heath) and Roy (a wildlife photographer) in the backcountry of San Diego County. We went out in two Jeeps (for redundancy) and spent the day cruising places otherwise completely inaccessible.

Here is Chris driving down a steep section of rocky trail while Roy spots him. Trisha is the passenger.

Later in the day, Chris, the wilderness guide per excellence, served up a perfect picnic complete with wine and gourmet salads:

If you are ever looking to travel to Africa with expert guides, call Piper and Heath, and I promise, they will take care of you with first class service.

Thanks to Chris and Roy for great outdoors adventure today.

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Other Minds – The Octopus, the Sea,

and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

When we think of intelligent animals, we think of whales, specifically dolphins, apes, elephants, dogs, crows and parrots. I have written much about this subject, and you can find the posts by selecting Animal Intelligence from the categories dropdown on the right.

We generally do not think of octopuses as intelligent. However, octopuses, as well at cuttlefish and squid, commonly classified as cephalopods, are highly intelligent animals.

Peter Godfrey-Smith, the author of Other Minds, is a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, who started studying octopuses in the process of thinking about consciousness in humans and in animals.

Other Minds tells the story of how animal life first started on earth, and how the invertebrates started splitting off from the vertebrates some 500 to 600 million years ago. As it turns out, cephalopods are invertebrates, and all other intelligent animals are vertebrates, including humans. The common ancestor of both humans and octopuses are small flat wormlike creatures that lived over 500 million years ago. As a result, an octopus is about as different from a human as you can get, and still have two eyes – and a mind.

Godfrey-Smith illustrates many astonishing examples of octopus intelligence and it becomes quite clear that, yes, they are really bright, and yes, they are very alien, very different from us. He says that the closest we are likely ever to come to meeting an alien intelligent being is going to the aquarium and watching an octopus.

I searched and found a few astonishing videos. The first one is of an octopus escaping from a ship’s deck. Since an octopus has no hard parts, no bones, no shells, he can squeeze himself through a hole as small as his eyeball, his hardest part. The video below demonstrates that.

Octopuses can also learn to use tools and solve complex problems. Here is an example of an octopus opening a jar into which it has been placed.

There are other examples that show how an octopus can open a jar from the outside to get to the prey locked inside.

I am highly interested in animal intelligence and alien intelligence, so this book turned out to be a treasure trove of information and great anecdotes and stories. I learned much about the evolution of life on earth, and the development of intelligence and consciousness. If you have similar interests, this is a book you must read.

The author is trying to be factual, and the book is therefore more of a text book than an entertainment book, which makes it somewhat challenging to read.

But I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I am sure I’ll refer to it in the future.

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[click for credit: John Hartzell, Middle Age Riot]

So true, so true. Except for the child labor, perhaps!

What are these people we put into power thinking? What on earth is good about this?

Now, if it were actually TRUE that a million jobs would open up due to this loosening of regulation, I could even understand it. But there won’t be new jobs. There is no new demand for coal in this country. Demand for coal has steadily declined in the last 10 years, and will continue to do so.

So all this does is open the gates for the polluters. And there lies the rub:

That’s why this is being done: Coal guys have been hurting, and now they can relax and squeeze the last 10 years worth of pennies out of their dying industries.

Trump is actually using our emotions about coal miners to get what he wants for Big Coal. The coal miners that stood behind him when he signed the executive order were pawns. He does not give a shit about them or their lives. They’ll never set foot in his golden tower. He is using them. He is using us. He is using his voters.

And we’re making America dirty again?

Be careful what you vote for!

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We now have put Scott Pruitt, who has made a career of suing the EPA as Oklahoma’s attorney general, who is a climate change denier – contrary to his own recent statements – in charge of the EPA.

We recently saw an executive order to allow dumping of coal mining waste into streams, reversing an Obama order to the contrary. Supporters argue that this is not a new order, but simply a return to standards that were in place since 1983.

Ok, so we’re rolling that clock back to 1983, and we’re not so bad, because Reagan allowed it too?

This is all done for a few thousand coal mining jobs in the United States.

Great. We’re bringing jobs in coal mining and fracking back to the United States. China, Europe and even India are rapidly implementing renewable energy technologies. For instance, in Holland, all trains now run on wind energy. China just canceled 103 coal plants. China leads the world in implementation of solar energy.

Chinese children go to school 260 days a year. Americans 180. American children will be able to learn more about Noah’s ark when Betsy DeVos gets to implement her pet projects and bring “God to our schools.”

America puts its people to work in coal mines. China trains its people in renewable energies, software engineering, and manufacturing engineering.

That’s how we’re making America great again, folks.

Believe me.

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godbless

A note left on a car in North Carolina:

Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president.

Gay families = burn in hell!

#Trump2016 #Repent #GodBless

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In the Vice Presidential debate, Mike Pence mentioned “the war on coal” several times. I had not heard that term before. All I knew was that coal was a major polluting agent and we were doing well by steering our economy away from it. Yes, coal workers would be suffering, just like tobacco workers suffered before them, and blacksmiths when horses were phased out of city traffic. The time of coal is over. Now all we have to do it convince China to do the same.

According to this article by the Associated Press:

PENCE: The economy has stagnated under President Barack Obama, with the Democrat waging a “war on coal.”

THE FACTS: The coal industry is struggling, but the Indiana governor incorrectly blamed its woes solely on new federal regulations, omitting the effects of steep competition from cheap natural gas.

 

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Here is a picture of smog in the U.S.

Smog in the US

[click to enlarge; picture credit: NASA]

The red areas are smog in 2005 and 2011.

It shows nitrogen dioxide, which we produce in gasoline engines in cars and trucks, and by burning coal in power plants. Due to work by the EPA, which first started curbing nitrogen dioxide in 1971, its concentrations have been falling over time.

Power plants have installed scrubbers to remove pollutants from their smokestacks, and car manufacturers have adopted catalytic converters. Since 2005, electric utilities have reduced burning of coal and gone to the cleaner natural gas. Our air is much better today than it was 10 years ago, and much better than 30 years ago.

Do we really believe this would have happened without the EPA?

Yet, there is Ted Cruz who yells he wants to abolish the EPA because it is a “job killer.”

One must wonder about the sanity of these people. During the Obama years, we have added over 14 million jobs in an unprecedented job growth period of 70 uninterrupted months. We have created way more jobs than were destroyed during the Bush years, particularly toward the end, when the economy crashed.

Yet, somehow, the EPA is killing jobs.

Do we really want to remove the EPA, start burning coal again, subsidize petroleum companies, and turn the yellow and blue areas read again on the map above?

Because that’s exactly what would happen.

I vote that we keep the EPA. It’s doing a remarkable job in our country, and with the “job killing” that’s going on (adding 14 million in 70 months) I am fine with it continuing to “kill jobs” at that rate.

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Every year when we get a delivery of telephone books I get angry, since I pick them up at the door and toss them straight into the recycle bin. What a colossal waste! They are printed and then distributed by hand to households. How expensive that must be. But nobody seems to use them anymore. It’s been at least 20 years that I actually opened up a telephone book. But I get them every year.

This year was even worse. The book must have been delivered at our gate on Saturday afternoon. Then it rained overnight. Today, I picked up a soggy phone book and before I tossed it into the recycle bin which is a few feet from our gate, I decided to take a picture:

Telephone Book

I got frustrated about this and checked online. Most of the links are about “recycling” phone books. What the heck? Why recycle. Why not just print stop printing them, and producing them on demand when somebody actually asks for one? Who is paying for this? I am sure we consumers are, somehow.

Here is a site with Opt-Out information. I am registering myself right now.

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Whenever the Republican candidates trumpet on stage that the EPA is the first agency they want to abolish, it has the most adverse effect on me.

Just watch what happened in Flint, Michigan. The city decided to save money and use water from the Flint river, rather than Lake Huron, for the city’s water source about two years ago. The Flint river is so corrosive that it rusted and corroded the lead pipes that distribute the water. With the corrosion, lead levels 20 times the safe amount were in the city water. Eventually, a local pediatrician figured it out. Then came the cover-up by the city, before that finally crumbled, and now the news comes out.

But back to the EPA. We have the EPA to hold people and businesses accountable. Without the EPA, factories would be free to dump poison into the rivers and into the air. Without the EPA, industry would be free to rape the land and its people. And don’t tell me that industry would volunteer to “be good.”

Just read up and see what kinds of pollution we had before the EPA (before 1970). The country was polluted. But then again, just go to Mexico, or India, or Brazil, or China – to see real pollution. Then come back and tell me you want to abolish the EPA.

It’s strange how the same people that keep harping about the legacy we leave for our children are also those that wouldn’t mind pumping more CO2 into the air, allow pollution into the rivers, and open up national parks for logging and mining.

I honestly cannot understand that thinking.

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