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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Albertsons Just Lost My Business

Sprouts . . . 

Whole Foods. . . 

but not Albertsons

Albertson's is no longer giving a credit when you bring your reusable bags to put your groceries and other items in. Just the other day they gave a customer a five cent credit per bag but no longer. I don't need a credit to recycle. However, I'd rather patronize a place that shows that it values recycling by giving the credit. I called Sprouts and they give a five cent credit. Whole Foods gives a ten cent credit. Want to know where I will be shopping from now on? Not Albertson's.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rumor


This is really more about the built environment. However, since we have been discussing drainage, here goes:

Apparently some of the apartments at the Roderick Artspace Lofts have two bathroom drains - one in the shower and one on the bathroom floor. Reportedly there has been overflow on the bathroom floor drains. Supposedly, this is because those drains were never hooked up to the sewer. The overflow is hurting Fab Lab.

Artspace Lofts is the home of local artists.

Not in the plans? Oversight during construction? 

Where were the City of El Paso engineers and inspectors?


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Scenic Drive Closures

Click image to enlarge.

Scenic Sunday will continue this week and for the weeks to come in spite of construction that will shut down the Richmond and Louisville entrances from Alabama. Here's what the press release from El Paso Water says:

"Starting Monday, August 14, El Paso Water will close Scenic Drive from Wheeling Avenue to Alabama to all traffic for several weeks to complete the next phase of the Kentucky Dam stormwater improvement project.

"Additionally, small portions of neighboring streets will be restricted to local traffic during construction:


  • Streets between Scenic Drive and Alabama
  • Streets between Wheeling Avenue and Altura Avenue


"Drivers will still be able to enter and exit Scenic Drive by detouring around the closure on Alabama Street and turning west onto Wheeling Avenue."

Spread the word.

"The $3.9 million project will help reduce flooding in Central El Paso. The project will increase the capacity of nearby ponds and add piping that keeps water off the streets by directing stormwater into the dam. Additionally, the project will improve service in the area by replacing water and wastewater lines."


Monday, August 14, 2017

Economies of Scale

Kauai Solar Farm. Photo from Tesla.

What would be cheaper in El Paso: to go off the electric grid or to have some solar and also depend upon the grid or to be a part of a community solar grid? I still haven't seen any hard and fast figures for each of these options. 

Check out this case study: Welcome to Paradise: Batteries Now Included. It begins by telling the story of Luke Evslin of Kauai, Hawaii, who, because of his desire to be as carbon-free as possible, went off the grid. What did he discover:

"Relying on personal power. . .is no way to power a community, let alone an island.

This became obvious to Evslin midway through his yurt experiment: Inefficiency is the ultimate downfall of any individual effort to address climate change."

“'Either you’re wasting electricity in a closed system, because it’s sunny and your batteries are full, or you don’t have enough power and you gotta run your generator,'” Evslin says. “'That’s not a bug in my system. That’s a feature of any off-grid system.'”

Kauai is quite a story. Mayor Bernard Cervalho led the charge for clean energy in keeping with the Paris Accords. The success on Kauai is notable and Evslin is a benefactor.

Bottom line:

"The economies of scale are such that Kauai’s utility cooperative can install a solar-and-storage unit for about half what it would cost a family to install the same amount on a house. Even when it comes to the island’s fossil fuel–generated power, the utility can produce more from a gallon of gasoline than someone with a $100 generator in their basement."

Read Welcome to Paradise


Friday, August 11, 2017

What a Disaster!


For a number of years now, many of us have been oohing and ahhing about Montecillo, El Paso's stellar example of smart growth. Although it may have some restaurants and stores integrated into its layout, it is turning out to be one huge environmental disaster. In this case "new urbanism", if it can be called that, has sadly neglected green infrastructure/low impact development. It is just the same sad old destruction of the desert by plowing up hills and dumping dirt into arroyos. It. along with the Top Golf development threatens surrounding eco-systems. For example, someone got a close-up look of Cement Lake the other day. From the description, it should probably be renamed "silt lake". 

EPT is responsible for both the Montecillo development and the Top Golf development. The City is responsible for permitting them to do what they are doing and these permits go back a number of years now.

Behind the Draft House

Return to the Alamo Draft House. Note how the drainage plans are not working. Keep this in mind. There is another huge problem with the development of the land that now contains the movie theater and soon will see other businesses. Was the destruction of a hillside and arroyo the result of a need to do flood control for Montecillo all along? Rather than having "smart" growth, we have a cancer that is eating up the environment.

Detention Pond behind Alamo Draft House
Arroyo adjacent to Fire Station #31. Note infrastruture debris

Once again, look at the "drainage" control at the Draft House. The gunnite and other strategies have not held back the erosion and the spilling of silt onto the parking lot. This same strategy using gunnite was apparently used at an arroyo adjacent to Fire Station #31 on Mesa Park Drive. With just a bit of rainfall recently (not a horrendous storm such as the one in 2006) the entire infrastructure was washed out. 

Montecillo

Now take a look at the stepped development of Montecillo. Note the same use of fabric and gunnite and note the silt already seeping through the "barrier". 

Click image to enlarge.

More especially, look how the hills are plowed up and see the arroyos being filled in. Forget having any really natural features. This smart growth is concrete and asphalt and apartment-looking buildings.


What happens when you cover-up arroyos? Does the water in a storm obey the new path of tiny culverts? No, the water follows the historic flood plain. Like Superman it does leaps and bounds and hydraulic jumps over the insufficient culverts, taking out backyards, washing boulders, rocks and debris down hill.

Is there a drainage or development plan that the City of El Paso doesn't approve?

Ever heard of swales?

What a disaster!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Study: Production of Enough Plastic to Cover Aregentina Causes Havoc



[If you can't see the video, 
please go to www.elpasonaturally.blogspot.com.]


Thank you Marshall Carter-Tripp for a Voice of America story, Study: Production of Enough Plastic to Cover Aregentina Causes Havoc. It says:


July 19, 2017
TORONTO — More than nine billion tons of plastic has been produced since 1950 with most of it discarded in landfills or the environment, hurting ecosystems and human health, according to the first major global analysis of mass-produced plastics.

Nearly 80 percent of this plastic ended up in landfills or the environment and production in increasing quickly, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in the study published on Wednesday.

Less than 10 percent was recycled and about 12 percent was incinerated.

"If you spread all of this plastic equally, ankle-deep, it would cover an area the size of Argentina," Roland Geyer, a professor of industrial ecology and the study's lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It is an enormous amount of material that does not biodegrade ... I am very worried."

Burning plastics contributes to climate change and adversely impacts human health, while build-ups of the material can hurt the broader environment, Geyer said.

Packaging is the largest market for plastic and the petroleum-based product accelerated a global shift from reusable to single-use containers, researchers said.

As a result, the share of plastics in city dumps in high and middle income countries rose to more than 10 percent by 2005 from less than 1 percent in 1960.

Unlike other materials, plastic can stay in the environment for thousands of years, Geyer said.

There are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world's oceans, according to a 2014 study published in a Public Library of Science journal.
This build-up harms marine life and ecosystems on sea and land, Geyer said.

If current trends continue more than 13 billion tons of plastic waste will end up in the environment or landfills by 2050, researchers said.


Some resources:

10 Tips for Living with Less Plastic

100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life

Two Years of Living Plastic Free: How I Did It and What I've Learned


Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Odds and Ends

Big thanks to El Paso Inc. reporter, Dave Crowder, for doing a story after reading an Elpasonaturally post. His Inc. story is: Is Topgolf construction threatening an I-10 embankment?

On Facebook find and join: Share El Paso - Plants and Animals. Great posts by William Hoover and images by Liz DeMoultrie and others. This tells us what we are trying to save here in the El Paso Southwest.

Download this free booklet online: CASTNER RANGE BOOKLET: SUMMARY AND UP TO DATE STATUS ON EFFORTS. Janaé Reneaud Field, Frontera Land Alliance Director, says:

"[It] tells you the story of El Paso’s Castner Range, the 7,081-acre closed firing range that still belongs to Fort Bliss. All of you have played a part on Castner Range in recent years, so you know the campaign we have waged to keep it conserved for all time. The booklet tells the history of the Range from pre-historic days through its years as an active artillery site (1926-1966), then into the early 1970s when parts of the Range were transferred to the City of El Paso for development, and onward to our recent, vigorous and increasingly-successful campaign on behalf of Castner’s conservation. The booklet makes it clear that El Pasoans stand united in their desire to conserve Castner Range, whether as a separate National Monument or as a part of the Franklin Mountains State Park."

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” We can do all that we can to oppose Trump's environmental policies. What we immediately and most certainly have control over is our lifestyles. Read two stories posted in GristJust trading beef for beans could get the United States near its CO2 goal and Now you can plant a tree to offset Trump’s climate policies. Be sure to check out Grow the Forest.

Definitely of interest: How Green Energy Will Help Slow Nuclear Proliferation.
It's from Defense One.

Have a great week. 


Friday, August 4, 2017

"A Water War Is Developing"



"A water war is developing," that's how rancher and conservationist, Bill Addington, puts it in a recent Facebook post. Bill was recently interviewed for a story that appeared in the Houston Chronicle two days ago: As the oil patch demands more water, West Texas fights over a scarce resource. (Of course this story didn't run in the El Paso Times - it isn't midwest or east coast enough. They also missed this story which is even closer to home: El Paso case could set the path for rooftop solar. They also missed telling us that one of our EPISD Trustees, Susie Byrd, completely shucked her duties and missed a vote on a $500 Million budget so she could be with Veronica Escobar in Washington DC to start currying favor with the PACs Escobar will need for her run for Congress. Of course, Bob Moore would never betray his puppetmasters.)


Sorry - I digress. Read the Chronicle story about demands for water. Some key points:


  • "West Texas land baron and oilman is on the verge of pumping 5.4 million gallons of water a day" to the Permian Basin for fracking.
  • Hughes is not the only person wanting to pump precious water to the Permian Basin for fracking oil. There are other water pirates.
  • That water is precious to ranchers and farmers. Some springs have already dried up.
  • Energy companies use water by the billions of gallons for fracking (See chart above).
  • "West Texas' network of aquifers are interconnected; water pumped from one can reduce flow in another."
  • The Permian Basin contains the nation's most bountiful oil fields and is the most profitable.


Addison has published a list of Rep. Will Hurd's next Town Hall meetings and is urging people to attend and speak out against pumping water needed by ranchers, farmers, resorts and, well, just plain folk. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017
EL PASO- 1:00pm-2:30pm Dairy Queen, 800 N Zaragoza Rd, El Paso, TX 79907
SOCORRO- 3:00pm-4:30pm Peter Piper Pizza, 10870 North Loop Road, Socorro, TX 79927
Monday, August 7, 2017
PRESIDIO- 10:00am-11:00am The Enlightened Bean Café, 201 W O’Reilly St, Presidio, TX 79845
ALPINE- 1:30pm-3:00pm Sul Ross State University, Lobo Village Community Room, East Highway 90, Alpine, TX 79832
FORT STOCKTON- 5:30pm-7:00pm Dairy Queen, 408 W Dickinson Blvd, Fort Stockton, TX 79735
Tuesday, August 8, 2017

PECOS- 10:00am-11:30am Dairy Queen, 1226 S Eddy St, Pecos, TX 79772

Says Addington: "It is critical we attend Rep Will Hurd's Town Hall meeings. I will be attending the Pecos Town Hall at the Dairy Queen this Tuesday, August 8th. We must find an elected Reprentative to start championing our critical issue of water and the future of our region. Several Water Pirate companies and the oil & gas industry have targeted our homelands for extreme extraction and export via huge long pipelines to supply the Permisn Basin trillions of gallons of our aquifer ancient waters for extraction and export."

Addington posted on Monday:

"A water war is developing. Our side wants our precious ancient and finate aquifer water to continue to be sustainably used for drinking water for our communities, our cattle and other domestic animials on our farms and ranches, and for our wildlife and river. The Water Pirates want to put that all of our futures at risk by water mining, unsustainably taking vast amounts of water out of the underground bolsons by pumping and transfering our shared waters far away to the oilfields in the Permian and Delaware basins for thousands of gas and oil hydraulic fracturing aka frack wells. Each well fracked can use 2 - 8 million gallons of water, sometimes much more. Multipy this number by 2,000 wells. We cannot allow this to happen. Many more water pirate companies will want to drill, pump and send our aquifer water away to the vast oilfield in the Permain Basin if caring residents do not stand up and defend their home and their familie's future."

There are some things that should be held in common and never be private property: air and water are the two biggies.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Makes You Wonder


Alamo Drafthouse Parking Lot. Erosion is coming from the Arroyo side.

Yesterday I mentioned TxDOT Regional Engineer Robert Bielek's concern about the development at the Top Golf site. It seems that the developer has underestimated how much run-off the development will cause and, thus, in Bielek's words, "compromise the stability of the embankment upon which I-10 sits." Although alerted to the problem, the City continues to "permit" EPT to develop the land. Bielek has told the City that TxDOT "will consider the City equally responsible for any damage to to the I-10 embankment or our [TxDOT's] drainage structure because of this oversight." 

Surely our city leaders care more about the safety of people and the integrity of our freeways and less about whether they could win a legal battle with TxDOT. Surely our city leaders want to do the right thing by satisfying TxDOT with an acceptable plan. I sent a link to yesterday's blog post to Mayor Margo, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and Khalil Zaied. I asked for responses. As expected, there have been no responses. (One possible good note: Mr. Bielek just now told me that "[the TxDOT] staff has been meeting with the developer but no final resolution as yet." Sounds as if yesterday's post has had impact.)

I am aware that EPT also did the Alamo Drafthouse project. Many of us watched in horror as an arroyo was destroyed and an entire hillside dug out. The destruction of this open space was justified by the fact that is would be a "new urban" project. 

I went by the Alamo Drafthouse today and noticed an inordinate amount of sand/dirt in the parking lot. I asked the manager about it and was told that they get the erosion every time that it rains. I'm not an engineer, nor do I play one on televsion and I don't really know about the drainage solutions that I saw. However, what I saw does concern me. Over time, judging from the dirt in the lot, there will be a considerable amount of erosion. 

This picture and the one below are from the retaining wall between the entrance to the theater parking lot and the hillside topped by the apartments. Note the stain and rocks from erosion.


Apparently EPT's solution to the instability of the hill next to the theater, was to put some kind of fabric on top of the slope and drill horizontal pipes into the hillside. As the pictures show, the erosion doesn't come down the slope, it feeds through the pipes.

I do wonder whether similar drainage solutions are being used by EPT at the Top Golf site and, if so, I better understand what Bob Bielek is saying.

I certainly would not live in the apartments above Alamo Drafthouse. 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Will the City of El Paso Destroy Cement Lake?

Cement Lake

The City of El Paso's apparent failure to address a critical drainage issue at the Top Golf construction site might very well destroy one of El Paso's rare gems, Cement Lake. Moreover, according to TxDOT Regional Engineer, Bob Bielek, the failure of the City to address the matter with the developer of Top Golf, EPT Land Communities, might also "overload the structure and compromise the stability of the embankment upon which I-10 sits.  This could have additional effects on the lake such as excess siltation."

Bielek also says that "it does appear that the developer is underestimating the contribution of the development to the overall runoff, and there appears to be insufficient retention on the developer’s site to adequately meter the flows in a way that will protect the embankment and the drainage structure."

The City of El Paso has apparently provided the developer with a permit to construct Top Golf but has failed to consult with TxDOT regarding drainage requirements including not just the embankment of the freeway but Cement Lake. The developer has furnished no credible plan to TxDOT.

Bielek told City Council about this problem last March. Elpasonaturally has asked him three times since then whether they have recived a credible plan. Mr. Bielek's last reply came nine days ago on July 24th in an email: "Still waiting on an acceptable design."

Bielek did contact the City Manager, Tommy Gonzalez, months ago and yet there is still no "acceptable plan". It would seem that the City has permitted the developer to undermine the integrity of I-10 and destroy Cement Lake. Bielek says, "that we [TxDOT] will consider the City equally responsible for any damage to the I-10 embankment or our drainage structure because of this oversight."

El Paso Water, city environmental and open space activists have sought for many years to preserve El Paso's natural Cement Lake.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Something to Brag About

From this . . .
To This

All of us get the El Paso Electric Newsletter with our monthly bill. This month EPE is touting their new community solar facility. I was impressed by these two sentences:


"After the first year of operation, generation from this 3,000 kW facility will prevent more than 11 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from entering our atmosphere. This is equal to saving almost five million gallons of water and planting more than one hundred twenty-eight thousand trees."

Without getting into the debate about rooftop versus community or the current rate case and the contention that EPE is hobbling their rooftop competition, the above facts are something to brag about.

I repeat what CEO Mary Kipp said in the newsletter:

"We're very excited to bring this new facility online and begin generating credits for our customers who wanted to invest in solar energy without any equipment or embedded subsidies . . . We have several utility scale solar facilities that are part of our generation mix, and this latest project allows us to keep supporting innovation in renewable energy, and make it more accessible to our customers through our Community Solar Program."


Monday, July 17, 2017

They Aren't Asking for a Big Sacrifice

This is Lineman Appreciation Month
Linewomen Too?

Last week KFOX14 ran this story: Residents frustrated after El Paso Electric asks them to cut back after recent outages. Reporter, Kaylee Heck, quoted resident, Elizabeth Lopez. "'The bills keep going up higher each month because of the heat, but now we don't have the service we're paying for,'" Lopez said. 

They don't have the service they are paying for? No. They paid for the service that they got. EPEC doesn't charge for the future delivery of electrons. It charges for the electrons that you demanded and got. 

They gave the residents of this eastside El Paso community a list of ways to conserve electricity while they replace a transformer. I know how frustrating and aggravating it is to be without power or water or gas. I did it for a week while I was living in Washington State. The cats and I survived. In this case, no one is going without power as the work is done. Asking for energy conservation buys the insurance that no one will go without power. 

Here's my main point. The list of conservation tips that they gave the neighborhood is exactly the same list of conservation tips that they recommend for everyone else:


  • Set your thermostat at 78°F or higher - every degree of extra cooling will increase energy usage six to eight percent.
  • Use ceiling fans and portable fans to circulate the cool air.
  • Install patio covers, awnings, and solar window screens to shade your home from the sun. Shade south and west windows with plants or trees to block the heat during the summer.
  • Close interior blinds, drapes, or shades to block the sun and heat during warm weather.
  • Consider using a clothesline instead of a clothes dryer.
  • Outside air conditioning units, or condensers, should be shaded.
  • On warm days raise your thermostat to 80°F or higher if leaving for more than four hours.
  • Setting your thermostat to a lower temperature than normal will not cool your home faster.
  • Try to save heat and humidity-generating activities (cooking, laundering, and dishwashing) for early morning or evening hours.

I use ceiling and portable fans. I have shade trees. I close the interior shades. I use a clothesline (except in inclement weather). I do not run applicances like the dishwasher or clothes washer while running my AC. Etc.

I'm not bragging but concurring. I know that EPEC is especially unpopular now because they are asking for a rate hike. Nevertheless, they encourage energy conservation and, Ms. Lopez, they bill you for the amount of electricity that you use. The tips are good for cutting down that amount and making sure that everyone has uninterrupted service.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Get the inside scoop on what's happening at Hueco Tanks State Park


Attention all nature park lovers - get the inside scoop on what's happening at Hueco Tanks State Park when Superintendent Ruben Ocampo gives his "State of the Park" report at a Greater Big Bend Coalition Meeting on Saturday morning, July 15 at 11am at the Northeast Regional Command Center in El Paso on Dyer. Ruben will cover the park's interpretive program, erosion and d-stretch. The d-stretch method is used to find new pigments in the park. This image enhancement technique helps brings out very faint rock art. Learn more about the meeting at https://greaterbigbend.wordpress.com/…/state-of-the-park-h…/

Thursday, July 13, 2017

God of the Mountain

Sunrise Hikers before a trek to Schaeffer Shuffle. Karl Putnam is the second person from the left.

If memory serves me correctly, it was Michelle Tan who deemed Karl Putnam "God of the Mountain". It was on one of our early Sunrise Hikers outings. She also decided that, if Karl was the GOM, I was his Moses. Moshe became my hiker moniker. I probably got the name because I would tell the Sunrise Hikers that our destination was just around the corner and then we would wander farther in the desert mountains.

Karl died yesterday as a result of a thirty foot plunge off a cliff. He had taken yet another group up to the site of the 1944 B-24 crash in Red Rock Canyon. At the site is a cross, which Karl erected since the original had rotted. Also there is a plaque which Karl restored. It bears the names of the airmen who perished in that crash. The cross sits above a cliff. During a group picture by the cross, Karl apparently passed out and tumbled over the precipice.

[Go to www.elpasonaturally.blogspot.com to view video if you don't see it here.]

GOM had favorite hikes - the B-24 crash sites, the B-36 crash site, Kenyon Joyce Canyon and the Knife Edge on the ridge of Mt. Franklin - the most dangerous part of the ridge to cross. Karl was an intrepid climber who even made it to the top of the Mammoth's tusk using belts and, only later, more sophisticated gear.

Here's the main thing I want to say about Karl. He was a friend. When I began to have heart problems, I couldn't walk and climb as fast as I once did. Others in the group would let me fall behind. Karl didn't. He stayed with me. When the group scaled up the rocks of the Thunderbird, I realized that I wouldn't make it. Karl grabbed my arm and pulled me up. 

The Sunrise Hikers played an important role in getting more and more people interested in group hikes. However, thanks to Michael Romero, who founded the El Paso Hiking Group, the number of hikers ever since has grown geometrically. Karl was one of the principal organizers.

He loved sharing his hikes with others and always wanted people to enjoy the outings. He always asked me how someone from the early days of the Sunrise Hikers was doing. He cared for each of them individually, along with everyone else he led on subsequent hikes. He was just that kind of guy.

Something tells me that he will live on in the Franklins. From now on when I look up at the mountains, I will think about Karl Putnam, God of the Mountain.

This Fall's Celebration of Our Mountains will be dedicated to him.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Clouds and Mosquitoes

Image from National Geographic Kids

Even if one is neutral on the subject of global warming, "all tropical diseases which are mosquito borne, are moving further and further from the equator," Robert Resendes, Director of El Paso's Health Department, tells us. More than any other animal, mosquitoes are responsible for more human deaths - 725,000 according to NASA's Earth Observer. Adam Voiland's June 28th story for the Earth Observer, Time to Hunt Some Blood-Sucking Bugs, describes the problem. Voiland tells us that NASA and the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment) Program have come up with a way for you and me to help take some of the bite out of the mosquito scourge. It's especially an effective way for kids who love science to get involved. (Pay attention science teachers.) It's an app: Mosquito Habitat Mapper.

Voiland explains that the Mapper is . . .

". . .an app that makes it possible for citizen scientists to collect data on mosquito range and habitat and then feed that information to public health and science institutions trying to combat mosquito-borne illnesses. The app also provides tips on fighting the spread of disease by disrupting mosquito habitats. Specifically, it will help you find potential breeding sites, identify and count larvae, take photos, and clean away  pools of standing water where mosquitoes reproduce."


[Sorry for the inconvenience; if you receive elpasonaturally by email, the video won't show. We are changing that. For now just go directly to elpasonaturally.blogspot.com.]

To be sure, mosquito mapping and mashing isn't the only thing that NASA and GLOBE will do together. Their current app is just for you to observe clouds, take pictures and help scientists better understand atmospheric conditions. Soon the Mosquito Habitat Mapper will be added. Then you can watch clouds and help fight mosquito-borne diseases that kill so many people every year.

To get the app for cloud observation and to be first in line for the Mosquito Habitat Mapper go HERE. It will be much more worthwhile than snap-chatting, but then again, I'm a science nerd.

Click on image to enlarge or see bottom of Voiland's article.

One last comment about fighting mosquitoes. Did you know that our city's Health Department doesn't deal with mosquitoes although, as Resendes explains, the Health Department does work "closely with UTEP entomologists and Environmental Services Vector Control staff." Perhaps a little policy tweaking might be a good idea, if such tweaking is possible in a top-down/chain of command style of leadership currently entrenched in El Paso City government. Of course, I wouldn't know about such things.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Canary in the Coal Mine

Sierra Club image

When prophet, seer, revelator and polygamist, Brigham Young, beheld the Great Salt Lake Valley, he proclaimed to his fellow Mormons (Latter Day Saints): "This is the place." The Mormons had treked nearly 1,300 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake to escape the persecution they had suffered at the hands of - well - some Christians. Of course, they would discover that the lake was not a fresh water lake but a salt water lake. Nevertheless, obedient to their prophet, they made do with the territory, thrived as a community, and extended their empire throughout the west and their religion throughout the world.

Today, the Great Salt Lake is drying up and it is not alone. Other saline lakes and the Colorado River Basin are doing so as well. (That Basin by the way is responsible for 15% of our food and $1.4 trillion of economic productivity.) It's not only the case of the mismanagement of water in the west, it's the result of the total contribution of principally industrial societies to global warming. 

Western yellow-billed cuckoo
Image from the Audubon Society

The drying up of these lakes is taking its toll on bird habitats. It's long but worth reading - the Audubon Society's Executive Summary—Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habitats in Decline. The online summary has great pictures, maps and charts.  The declining ecosystem and bird populations should be a warning to humans. It is, as Marshall Carter-Tripp informs us, a matter of the canary in the cage in the coal mine. An op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Saline lakes are drying up across the West — and putting birds at serious risk, is not just an aviary problem. It forebodes human problems. The Times piece puts it this way when looking at the decline of one species in particular, the western yellow-billed cuckoo:

"Why should we care about the western yellow-billed cuckoo? Well, for one thing, the effects of water loss on birds tell us a lot about how falling water levels will affect humans. Birds are highly sensitive to ecological changes, which makes them excellent indicators of environmental health. When colonial seabirds start abandoning nesting sites en masse because of dramatic drops in water levels, as occurred in the Salton Sea in 2013, or are forced to relocate because of toxic dust kicked up by winds blowing across dry lake beds, we know that humans soon will feel the effects of those changes."

John Fleck, a journalist who lives in New Mexico, says this in his blog post for today, birds and water in a changing West:

"This is a critical point in thinking about contemporary water/environmental politics. It's not enough to simply say "But the birds!" Environmentalists' greatest chance for success requires helping ensure reliable supplies for the people, because without that the environment will always take the hit."

John Sproul teaching students

It is encouraging to see the work of the Audubon Society and other "prophets and seers" to reclaim critical water features. Here in El Paso, we have the extraordinary work of John Sproul (the John Muir of El Paso) to revive the Rio Bosque Wetlands. He is assisted by the Friends of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park

[Remember the birding trip hosted by our local Audubon Society this Saturday. More info in yesterday's blog post.]


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Go Birding This Saturday

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Our El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society has scheduled another birding outing for this coming Saturday, July 8, 2017. Join them for a field trip to the Animas Creek Area west of Caballo Lake. This area contains the only Arizona Sycamores east of the Continental Divide. The Brown-crested Flycatcher nests here. You may also see Summer Tanagers, Yellow-breasted Chats and Cassin's Kingbird. 

Bring a lunch and plenty of water.  They will depart at 6:00AM from the southwest corner of the parking lot at the El Paso Outlet Mall at I10 and Transmountain (Talbot Rd. entrance to the Mall).  Contact Mark Perkins at 915-637-03521 for more information.

Arizona Sycamore

Elpasonaturally will continue promoting the El Paso Auduboners and their outings. There are many benefits to birding besides just getting outdoors and observing animal behavior rather than electronic behavior. It also means interacting with other people. Oh my! I Googled Benefits of Birdwatching and got this long list of entries.

From HealthFitnessRevolution there are 10 listed:

  1. Appreciation for Nature
  2. Patience
  3. Contemplation and Introspection
  4. Quick Reflexes
  5. Mental Alertness
  6. Cardiovascular Health
  7. Sense of Community
  8. Acceptance
  9. Travel
  10. Increases Upper Arm Strength

The El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society goes birding around El Paso and on field trips such as the one this Saturday.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Declare Independence from Plastic Straws and Swizzle Sticks


Elpasonaturally published a post about the Be Straw Free program about three years ago. Since then ten-year-old Milo Cress, the founder, has become a teenager. A little over a week ago the Washington Post did a story about Cress and the drive to go strawless: A campaign to eliminate plastic straws is sucking in thousands of converts by staff reporter Darryl Fears. 

Please take a few minutes to read the article.

As Fears points out, one of the big reasons why more people think straws suck is a video that went viral of a straw stuck in a sea turtle's nose. You can watch the long version or the short version. It will gross you out and will make you think twice about using plastic straws in restaurants, bars - well - everywhere. 

"OK" you might say. "El Paso not only has no sea turtles, it doesn't have a sea." But we do have wind and straws get picked up and dumped in the river or even fly faraway to the ocean. The main point is that they are wasteful. It's just plastic that we can really do without.

It's not just straws. It's also swizzle sticks. Jiggle your drink. The tinkling of ice is pleasant to hear. Use your finger. If your finger is so dirty, what are you doing in a public place anyway? Besides, the alcohol will kill whatever germs may be hiding in your pores. If you really are fastidious to a fault, use flatware.

I do request no straws or swizzle sticks. More often than not, force of habit takes over and the wait staff brings them sprouting from a drink anyway. I yank them out, wave them, and say: "These are wasteful. Just more plastic polluting our earth."

Landfills are growing and growing. Don't believe it, take time to visit the euphemistically named, Camino Real Environmental Center in Sunland Park. Many Atlantic seaboard states don't have room for landfills. They are shipping billions of tons to landfills in Kentucky and the Midwest. It's big revenue for those states. It's also a great way to increase the carbon footprint. Why worry though; there is no such thing as global warming you know. 

Click through these pictures and find out where the largest trash dump in the world is located.

Take action. Don't use straws and talk to the management of your favorite restaurants about it. If your business or organization uses them, ask them to stop. Recruit others.

Let's declare independence from plastic straws and swizzle sticks.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Doña Ana Commissioners Vote to Protect National Monument


In case you didn't get the news, on Tuesday the Doña Ana County Commissioners voted 4-1 to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Read about it HERE. Apparently there were three overflow rooms. The crowd was overwhelmingly for the Monument.

Of course, the real decision will be made by Trump's Interior Department led by Mr. Ryan Zinke. (A teacher friend of mine says that her students refer to him as "Stinky Zinke".) The Interior Department is accepting comments now until July 10th. Visit SWEC's page to see where to submit your comments and tips for good comments. Act quickly, the 10th is a week from this coming Monday.

You may want to go a step further and support a Sierra Club fund to fight the Trump administration's all out attack on the environment. The Club writes: "We must stand together like we never have before. We are already mobilizing and launching an emergency campaign to stop Trump's efforts to derail everything we've achieved in the last eight years." Make a donation HERE.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lois Balin Talks about Celebration of Our Mountains June Event: Bat Watch


Our Urban Biologist, Lois Balin, was recently interviewed by ABC-7's Mauricio Casillas. Topic: Celebration of Our Mountains special June 30th event: Bat Watch. See the interview HERE. Get information about the event HERE. Plan to attend this free program about our friends, the bats.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bat Watch Friday 6/30 at 7:15 PM at 3344 Eileen Drive


Click on images to enlarge.
"Bat Watch", a program of Celebration of Our Mountains, has been a very popular event in the Fall line-up. Now, however, is a great time to view the bats. So, this Friday, June 30th, at 7:15 PM there will be a very special June bat watch beginning at the home of Judy Ackerman, 3344 Eileen Dr. Get more information online HERE.


Monday, June 26, 2017

ACTION ALERT! Protect Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Travel-National Geographic image

The designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument could be in danger of being Trumped. Back in April, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Department of the Interior to conduct a review of all national monuments designated since 1996. The Southwest Environmental Center writes: "The intent behind this order is clear: to reduce or eliminate monuments to make way for more mining, logging, and extraction."

SWEC tells you where to go online to make a comment. It even gives you some tips for making an effective comment. Go HERE.

Tomorrow (June 27) at 9AM the Doña Ana County Commissioners will consider a resolution to save Organ Mountains-Desert Peak. If you want to attend, follow this Action Alert from the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition:

Creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014 inspired Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition’s efforts to make Castner Range a National Monument (these efforts continue).

This Tuesday, the Doña Ana County Commission will be voting on two Resolutions that will potentially impact the future of our Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.

We urge you to attend the County Commission meeting on Tuesday and contact the Commissioners now asking them to pass the Resolution supporting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, and oppose any anti-Monument resolution or amendments.

The stakes couldn't be higher-it's crucial that the County Commission take a strong stand of support of our National Monument. YOUR voice is critically needed on Tuesday to make this stand.
Help Protect Public Lands
What:  Dona Ana County Commission Meeting
Date:  Tuesday June 27th
Time:  9 AM
Location:  845 N. Motel Blvd. Las Cruces, NM  88007
Agenda:  HERE

Urge Doña Ana County Commission to protect our public lands and oppose any anti-Monument resolution or amendments.
Here are the Commissioners Email Addresses and office phone numbers:


District 1
BILLY G. GARRETT
Office:      (575) 525-5808
E-mail: bgarrett@donaanacounty.org

District 2
RAMON S. GONZALEZ
Office:      (575) 525-5804
E-mail: rgonzalez@donaanacounty.org

District 3
BENJAMIN L. RAWSON
Office:     (575) 525-5807  Cell:  575-649-4153
E-mail: brawson@donaanacounty.org or brawson@rawson-inc.com

District 4
ISABELLA SOLIS - CHAIR
Offfice:     (575) 525-5810
E-mail: isolis@donaanacounty.org

District 5
JOHN L. VASQUEZ - VICE CHAIR
Office:      (575) 525-5809
E-mail: jvasquez@donaanacounty.org
Additional Background Information

Join the Facebook Event HERE.
Article: "Pearce urges Zinke to shrink Organ Mountains monument" HERE.
Friends of Organ Mountains Desert Peaks Information HERE.
Monument Official Site HERE.

Sierra Club has more information HERE.

From the Albuquerque Journal. Click on image to enlarge.