Friday, May 30, 2014

City Calls for 6 Month Pilot Program for Composting Zoo Waste

It's about time. Elpasonaturally has been touting Seattle Zoo's Zoo Doo for years. Now the City of El Paso will begin a pilot program to compost herbivore and other waste materials through New Green Organics

Next step: Recycle Glass, El Paso!

See, I told you that the TWDB wasn't listening to Lois Balin. Here's the press release from the Dallas Country Club look-a-likes:

Texas Water Development Board approves $200,000 in an agricultural water conservation grant to the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1

For immediate release.  Contact: Kimberly Leggett at 512-463-5129

AUSTIN – (May 29, 2014) – The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) today approved an agricultural water conservation grant in the amount of $200,000 to the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (El Paso County). The grant will assist with agricultural irrigation system improvements to the Riverside Canal.

The El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 will use the funds to line the canal with fiber-reinforced concrete to reduce water loss.

The TWDB is the state agency charged with collecting and disseminating water-related data, assisting with regional planning and preparing the State Water Plan for the development of the state’s water resources. The TWDB administers cost-effective financial programs for the construction of water supply, wastewater treatment, flood control, and agricultural water conservation projects.

I learned also that the lifelong dream of WID#1 Board President, Johnny Stubbs, is the concrete lining of the Riverside Canal. Some people want to cure AIDs. Some want to save rain forests. Some want to save a less than one mile strip of a natural ecosystem along the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park in El Paso, Texas. Johnny? Johnny dreams of concrete.

Water, Water Everywhere: Paean to a Vanishing Resource

The El Paso Museum of Art announcesWater, Water Everywhere: Paean to a Vanishing Resource

June 1 – August 24, 2014
Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery

Water, Water Everywhere: Paean to a Vanishing Resource will open to the public Sunday, June 1, 2014 in the Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery at the El Paso Museum of Art.  Entrance to the Museum and this exhibition are free to the public. MAP

Water is the world’s most crucial commodity and basis for all life on earth; its preservation and protection thus present one of our greatest environmental challenges. Continuing the long and noble tradition of art as cultural and political critique, Water Water Everywhere: Paean to a Vanishing Resource is an exhibition of video work examining water issues, the films being looped together and projected in the EPMA’s Peter and Margaret de Wetter Gallery. Intended to complement the larger Summer exhibition Vanishing Ice, this show features works that range in duration from less than a minute to half an hour. The films move in approach from artistic to documentary, and the international array of artists represented explore water from personal, social, and political perspectives. The works are experimental, educational, humorous, solemn, animated, or acted. Water Water Everywhere was curated by Jennifer Heath and organized by Baksun Arts & Books in Boulder, Colorado.

The EPMA’s major Summer ticketed exhibition is Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775–2012, curated by Barbara Matilsky of the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington, where the exhibition premiered. Following its presentation in El Paso, Vanishing Ice will tour internationally to appear at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. The Whatcom also created a website for the exhibition:

Combining international work in a variety of media by historical artists such as Ansel Adams, Thomas Hart Benton, Albert Bierstadt, and Gustave Doré and contemporary creators such as Olaf Otto Becker, Jean de Pomereu, Alexis Rockman, and Spencer Tunick, Vanishing Ice considers this diverse and stunning landscape imagery within the context of global warming. The exhibition traces the emerging popularity of alpine and polar landscapes in the eighteenth century, and their evolving meanings through time—for instance, as records of previously uncharted realms and geologic history or as exceptional expressions of the Romantic sublime or the cosmic and spiritual in nature. We also learn notable parallels between the original artist-naturalist-explorers who traveled to icy regions in association with government- or business-sponsored research or commercial voyages, and many contemporary artists who collaborate closely with scientists and writers to investigate and call attention to the fragility and fate of these areas under climate change.

In addition to presenting great art and enriching our knowledge of climate history and issues, Vanishing Ice offers local audiences exposure to unfamiliar topography very different from the Chihuahuan Desert—as well as the chance to beat the heat this Summer in El Paso! And finally, the Nepalese-born American artist Jyoti Duwadi will create a large ice installation outside the museum for the opening reception; Duwadi’s melting work references the beauty, grandeur, and fragility of ice in this contemporary age of unprecedented global warming.

Visiting the El Paso Museum of Art During Home Games and Other Southwest University Park Events

The El Paso Museum of Art is located near Southwest University Park. 
Please anticipate heavy traffic for home games and other stadium events.
Options for paid parking include the Mills Plaza, Convention Center, and Camino Real parking lots which are all located within one block of the Museum.
Limited metered parking is available on Main Street. 
Please arrive early for best parking options.

El Paso Chihuahua’s Game Schedule Calendar:

Sun Metro is a great way to get to the El Paso Museum of Art, Southwest University Park and Downtown.  
Sun Metro has a trip planner and a quick route finder on their website that are great for figuring out your stops.
Please visit:

Museum Hours
Mondays and major holidays          Closed
Tuesday through Saturday              9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Thursday evenings                        Extended until 9:00 PM
Sundays                                      12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

For more information please call (915) 532-1707

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Riverside Canal at the Rio Bosque Should be Preserved not Lined with Concrete

Click to enlarge image. Canal is red line at top of park boundary.

I attended the meeting of the Texas Water Development Board at the TecH2O Center this morning. The reports were basically nodding-off boring with the exception of Malynda Cappella's briefing on Zero Discharge Desalination. ZDD's not exactly a party pleaser but the presentation made it so. I didn't stay for the report on the Texas v. New Mexico litigation. I did hear Chuy Reyes, the General Manager of Water Improvement District #1. You can always count on Chuy to say some things that make you shake your head and wonder if God at some point ran out of neurons.

Mr. Reyes trumpeted the cornucopia of El Paso farmers: pecans, Pima cotton, corn, wheat, chili, onions and alfalfa. Then he said that "some of us" are working to get dairy farms back to El Paso. Mind you that his remarks were made in the context of water conservation and what the water district was doing for water conservation. Pecans, cotton, dairy farms - these are all pretty heavy consumers of water. When the Texas State Wildlife Biologist, Lois Balin, addressed the board following Chuy, she began with a suggestion that less water hungry crops could replace our current guzzlers. Her words fell on the deaf ears of what could pass for the Dallas Country Club - a board of 4 men, 1 woman and no Hispanics or blacks. Not one asked Ms. Balin a follow-up question about crops or the Rio Bosque.

Reyes went on to talk about the need to concrete all canals. There is some virtue in concreting canals - but there is never any virtue in destroying wildlife habitats and precious ecosystems in the process. Balin's principal point was the need to preserve the less than one-mile stretch of canal which borders the Rio Bosque. It is earthen - river alluvian. Ms. Balin said that, on her most recent visit to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, she counted 25 species of birds using that canal, observed soil invertebrates and, of course, the rich plant life. Concrete some of the canal beyond the borders of the wetlands sure, maybe. But don't concrete line that portion that makes up the precious ecosystem of the Rio Bosque. People who see only the dollar and cents of concrete lining canals can at least understand the dollars to be gained by ecotourism. Again, a similar area in New Mexico brings in $18 Million a year in tourism.

It would, however, be nice if these concrete loving folks would understand one other very simple concept. If I lose a gall bladder and a kidney, I can limp along. If other vital organs start shutting down, I'm in trouble. An organism needs the complexity of organs, glands, skin, blood and sinew working together to be healthy, live and keep on living well for a length of time. Now think of the living world as one big organism. It's made up of vertebrates such as ourselves, invertebrates, things flying, things crawling, microscopic things making processes work in soil and in gut. If you start shutting things down in this organism, life becomes less healthy and less lengthy. 

A less than one mile stretch of canal with a rich ecosystem should be preserved. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bike to the Chihuahuas Game

Click on image to enlarge.
Dust off your bikes and join us for an easy breezy one mile bike ride to the ballpark where Velo Paso will host a FREE bike valet courtesy of the El Paso Scottish Rite and Race El Paso.

What is bike valet? 
It's secure bike parking monitored by dedicated volunteers. Leave your bike locks at home and enjoy the ballgame. Cubs do it, Nats do it, even Giants and Stanford Trees do it. So let's do it, let's bike valet! 

First pitch is at 6:35 pm. $5 Lawn seating. $2 beers. Bring a blanket. Get your tickets here.

Too far to bike to the ballpark?
No problem. You can park and ride from the First Christian Church on 901 Arizona Ave. A group will depart from the First Christian Church at 6 pm for an easy one mile ride to the ballpark. 

Click on image to enlarge.

WHERE: Bike valet available behind the Scottish Rite Temple on Missouri and Santa Fe.

WHEN: Thursday, May 29th at 6:35 pm (Valet open from 6 pm to one-hour after the game)

WHO: Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition

WHY: Because it's Bike Month and you deserve VIP treatment for riding your bike.

Please RSVP for FREE tickets at

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Friday Video: Lyndon B. Johnson's 'Great Society' Speech

Fifty years ago yesterday on May 22, 1964 President Lyndon Baines Johnson delivered his "Great Society" speech as a commencement address at the University of Michigan. One of the dignitaries present was Governor George Romney, the father of Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. 

Just as so many in my generation have done, I have long judged President Johnson by the disastrous Vietnam War. For me his accomplishments with civil rights legislation, his "war" against poverty became mere footnotes in the back of the book about him. Such was the result of the blinders I wore because of that ugly Indochina war. 

My friend and keen political scholar and observer, Lewis Cole, remarked in an email to me: "We know now, of course, how badly the Kennedy cabinet he kept, East Coast elites whom he was somewhat intimidated by, abused his trust in their judgment re: Viet Nam."

For the first time in my life I heard LBJ's Great Society speech yesterday after reading John de Graaf's post: That time Lyndon Johnson made a killer case against unbridled growth cross-posted on Truth Out under the title of The Greatest Modern Presidential Speech Turns 50. (The Truth Out post seems easier to read at least in Chrome and I like the title much better.) 

I have listened to the speech three times now and plan to listen to it again.

The video embedded above gives the gist of the speech. YouTube has the complete address HERE but it is really an audio track. 

LBJ was no orator. His delivery was always so dry, drawn and labored. It is easy to miss the humor in his speech because of the lack of inflection. But, trust me, the man was wry and witty.

Read the Grist post or the Truth Out post and you will learn that Johnson was way ahead of his time. His Great Society of the pursuit of happiness and the quality of life over quantity has largely been lost in modern America. Only recently has the dream begun to stir again. Vietnam, Watergate, Reagonomics, Bush, Clinton, Bush and the emphasis is still on quantity of wealth - and we know where most of that quantity is going. 

We know now where unbridled growth has led us: the brink of global climate catastrophe, urban sprawl and vanishing usable water, polluted seas, rapid die out of thousands of species of animals, a widening rift between rich and poor, an oligarchy in America rather than democracy, an American Empire blind to the indigenous peoples and the resources of their lands that they subjugate so that a can of peaches on our grocery store shelves and a gallon of gasoline can be as cheap as possible for the American consumer. Unbridled growth has led to a whole class of CEO's and Wall Street traders who can only be described as sociopathic. Banks not people have become too big (too precious) to let fail. And a whole generation of politicians have become the puppets of corporations whose power, thanks to the Supreme Court, now rivals the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

"The purpose of protecting the life of our nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a nation." - Lyndon B. Johnson

I'm listening now, Mr. President. I hear you after 50 long years.

El Paso business leaders, builders and sprawlers, TxDOTers: Hear these words now:

"[The Great Society] is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake.  . . . We have always prided ourselves on being not only America the strong and America the free, but America the beautiful. Today that beauty is in danger. The water we drink, the food we eat, the very air that we breathe, are threatened with pollution. Our parks are overcrowded, our seashores overburdened. Green fields and dense forests are disappearing.

"A few years ago we were greatly concerned about the "Ugly American." Today we must act to prevent an ugly America. For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature, his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted." [My emphasis]

And sprawlers, if you won't hear, El Pasoans certainly CAN.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Visit the Tramway State Park on National Trails Day

Click on image to enlarge.

Map to Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park.

Texas Water Development Board in El Paso May 29

TWDB Board to hold work session in El Paso on May 29

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will hold a work session in El Paso to provide information on the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and an opportunity for public input on the SWIFT.

In addition, the Board will hear updates on the Texas v. New Mexico litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the Rio Grande Compact. The Board will also consider approving $2.1 million in grants for agricultural water conservation projects.

The meeting will be held in El Paso at the TecH2O Center, 10751 Montana Avenue, Rio Grande Auditorium, on May 29, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Other topics on the agenda include a presentation on desalination activities in the El Paso area and an overview of TWDB's financial assistance program, the Economically Distressed Areas Program.

The public and interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend and provide public comment.

Visit the Texas Water Development Board online.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bosque Pipeline Out to Bid

Old Bosque map showing Re-built (Old) River Channel.
Click image to enlarge.

Good news. The pipeline for the Rio Bosque has gone out to bid. This means that EPWU is pretty much on schedule if not a bit ahead. Additional good news is that EPWU not only has completed a new well but has connected it with the visitor's center as well as to the old river channel where it will be used for more irrigation.

Butterfield Trail Isn't Taking on Drought

Butterfield Trail isn't taking on drought and don't believe them when they tell you that they are even though the El Paso Inc. wrote a pretty darn good PR piece for them.

First, read this story: Butterfield Trail takes on drought - El Paso Inc.: Local News.

It's good news that run-off from rainwater is used as well as high-tech irrigation. But spare me the notion that drilling a well into the Hueco Bolson some how helps El Pasoans conserve water for a drought. Let's say that Mr. D'Souza and Mr. Balliew go to lunch together and decide (oddly) to share a glass of ice tea. They each dip a separate straw into the beverage and suck. Oh no! The ice tea runs out sooner.

I think that I will go dig a well into the Bolson and start bottling Hueco Water in plastic bottles and selling my product through every big box store from coast to coast. Let's see how that helps El Paso with drought.

Enough said.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Time To Clean Mountains of All Lettering

Image courtesy of Valerie Provencio
As of this morning, the news media was reporting that the new massive lettering on the Juarez Mountains has been put on hold. KVIA's story with news video is HERE. El Diario's report is HERE. Even if you do not speak nor read Spanish, watch the video. You will be stunned by the huge urns of paint and the assembly line of workers up and down the mountain to create this latest graffiti. The El Paso Times story is HERE.

What is disgusting and stunning and a judgment on our anti-environmental culture is the lack of outrage by those interviewed on KVIA. One man thought that it was a good way to get a message out. Another thought the earlier message about reading the Bible was good and that this one honoring a specific person was not. One person stated that Mexico can do what it wants. One gringo on the USA side of the border also didn't seem to care about flora, fauna, or geology. 

Both sets of graffiti on the Juarez Mountains is the work of a sect, La Luz del Mundo. In a nutshell they believe that the true Christian Church created by Jesus himself abruptly ended when the last Apostle of the 1st Century died - supposedly John in 95 BCE. The true church was reestablished in Mexico last century with a new Apostle. Between the end of the first century and the 19th century, no soul was saved because the true church wasn't around. The current Apostle is Samuel Joaquín Flores, whose 50th Anniversary on the job is being "celebrated" by these yahoos in Juarez. 

La Luz del Mundo has a "temple" here in El Paso at 3130 Idalia Avenue

Let us hope that officials in Juarez will succeed in forcing the removal of the lettering. Elpasonaturally suggests that, until all lettering on the Juarez mountains is removed including the "message" about the Bible, Juarez and all of its commerce should be boycotted and shunned. Pressure must be put on this City to do the right thing. With what seemed to be the waning of a long and violent drug war, some El Pasoans have ventured across the border again. There has been interest expressed in once again opening up hikes in the Juarez Mountains under the banner of the yearly Celebration of Our Mountains. The Coordinator of COM now says, "Hell NO!"

But Juarez is not alone. For many years, several letters symbolizing local schools scarred the Franklin Mountains. Most have just about disappeared except for the "A" - once a fixture for Austin High School. The mountain (believe it or not) is privately owned and the owner now rents the lighting of the letter. As it is a "business", the letter is well-maintained. Nevertheless, public outrage and pressure should be brought to bear on the owner to get rid of the letter and do environmental remediation. I'm a graduate of Austin High School and I don't need a letter feel proud of my old alma mater. In fact, I would be prouder if AHS would repudiate this particular piece of graffiti.

Paint and gas cans left behind when the A is freshly painted or lit.

There is no excuse for graffiti scarring the Juarez Mountains or the Franklin Mountains. Sadly we seem to live in a culture that doesn't give a damn. Or not. And that is what we need to find out. Time to put pressure on those who destroy our mountains with their "messages".

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Outrageous Graffiti Mars Beauty of Juarez Mountains

Picture courtesy of Valerie Provencio. 
Click on image to enlarge.
Our neighbors to the south don't seem to mind the total obliteration of the natural beauty of the Juarez Mountains. New graffiti as shown above is being added to the ugliness of what has existed for too long now:

Click on image to enlarge.

Elpasonaturally asks: What kind of pressures can be placed on Juarez leadership to have all the graffiti removed? 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Greens Must Have Integrity and High Ethical Standards

Sometimes it seems too easy to characterize those who are categorized as "green" or "environmental" or "conservationist" or "pro-sustainability" as "nut-cases", "tree-huggers", well-intentioned but poor or unethical business people. Too often we "greens" make it too easy for others to characterize us as such.

Recently I received as a member of State Senator Rodriguez's Sustainable Energy Advisory Committee a link to a web site. It was sent I'm sure as food for thought. Unfortunately it was just bad science and anyone in the industries that we often take to task - whether engineer or administrator or manager - would be the first to point a finger and say that "greens" just don't know what they are talking about. The link sends you to a page that begins: "Free Energy Live In Action!" Anyone with a simple science education will tell you that there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. There is no "free energy." It violates the Laws of Thermodynamics.

I also hear from time to time about "green" companies that practice rather shady labor practices. That again is too bad because reputable businesses and organizations that promote LEED standards, or GI/LID or conservation are accused of guilt by association.

If green is going to prevail with the general public, greens must have the highest scientific and ethical standards and not make sweeping generalizations and un-scientific claims and practice business unethically. Sustainability isn't snake oil. It's real medicine for for a sick world in a lot of pain.

Perhaps we "greens" need to police our industry much better than we have been.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sign the petition to save Lincoln Center and its murals from being destroyed.

About twenty or more people attended the Metropolitan Planning Organization this morning to speak out against the destruction of Lincoln Center and a number of murals painted on pillars of an overpass. 

Although Judge Veronica Escobar explained that the MPO really doesn't own and therefore has no final authority over Lincoln Center (I am told that she does not favor saving this historic building whose heritage is cherished by Hispanic families, ancestors of the Ascarates, Rosa Guerrero and many more), Rep. Pickett, Senator Rodriguez and others pointed out that the MPO has control of the funding of projects. Somewhere along the line they could defund a project that requires destroying the Center. The fear is that, once the MPO, votes to include the HWY 54 project in a Transportation Program, TxDOT really has all control. Indeed the MPO voted to include HWY 54 into a TIP. 

Although MPO has agreed to a process (which some say doesn't predetermine an outcome), there has already been a de facto determination. Ted TxDOT Houghton has already stated publicly that Lincoln Center will be destroyed. TxDOT Regional Engineer, Bob Bielek, in emails to Sen. Rodriguez and Joyce Wilson has said that the building will be destroyed. Moreover, even if there are a number of alternatives now, Bielek speaks of them as Platonic abstractions not ready for the scrutiny of the public. We know this routine all too well. When the final process is trotted out, it will be done at a public meeting so that there is the window dressing of public input. However, the decision-making going into determining which alternative will be used to connect the Border Highway with I-10 will be done behind closed doors. Never mind, heritage. Never mind the will of the people who want an alternative that preserves Lincoln Center. (Bielek said today that the pillars would be left standing thus preserving the murals.)

The MPO may not have final say. But the MPO is the only place where people can go and, in a civil manner, voice objection to Houghton's and TxDOT's desire to destroy Lincoln Center. Sadly, TxDOT does own the Center. However, TxDOT is an agency of the people of Texas and WE are the people. That is why we look to our Congressman, our State Senator and Representatives and our City Council to voice our opinion - and all have agreed on the rightness of saving the Center. We also look to the MPO. Through these elected people and institutions we have a civil manner to press our case. However, given the royalism and the elitism of TxDOT, one begins to wonder whether the voice of the people must be expressed in manners less civil, by civil disobedience or perhaps with greater force. Those alternatives must also now be weighed.