Abalone, near endangered, once enjoyed by our parents…what will we pass on to our kids?

The next time someone asks you to drive less or recycle, try not to think about how much that annoys you. Instead think about the world that your children or grandchildren will live in. Will it be better or worse than the one you enjoy now?

Many signs are pointing to it being worse. One of those indications comes from an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune discussing the incoming extinction of Abalone on the West Coast.

..baby boomers who grew up peeling them off rocky outcroppings so that the practice became part of California beach culture.

“You used to be able to get an abalone sandwich for lunch when I first got here in the early 1970s,” Butler said.

I’ve never eaten an Abalone or even seen one. Am I already a part of that generation experiencing a worse world?

Abalones were a staple of coastal life for centuries — a nearshore fishery once topped 5.4 million pounds — until they were all but wiped out by disease, overharvest, predatory otters, poaching and habitat destruction.

By 1997, state officials had shut down all abalone fisheries south of San Francisco in hopes of saving the species.

In many ways the answer is yes, the environment passed down to me is worse than it was before.

The good news is that the solution defies generations. It requires the passion and motivation of young scientists combined with the wealth, political policies, and experience of older, often retired, specialists and philanthropic individuals.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently formed a task force to save the black abalone, which was listed as federally endangered in 2009. A recovery plan is expected in about two years, though scientists said it’s complicated by poaching in the United States, limited harvest enforcement in Mexico and the potential that climate change will speed the spread of disease in the population.

There is still an abundance of hope, but first we must overcome our balking at minor inconveniences.

Continue reading Abalone, near endangered, once enjoyed by our parents…what will we pass on to our kids?

Go local: an explanation of foodsheds

With all this talk about eating local and counting miles I thought it would be good to explain what it really means. The foundation for local eating starts with a foodshed.

Foodshed: a region or area from which a population draws its food.

The typical limit on these regions is 100 miles. Draw a 100-mile circle around where you live and that is your foodshed.

In economic terms this is ideal distance a farmer, or her goods, can travel to reach a market. That way it arrives on your plate as fresh, ripe, and nutritious as it can be.

Go outside of this limit and there is an increasing reliance on fossil fuels and a decreasing quality of the food.

For those concerned about pollution, global warming, or oil-addiction these “food miles” are a cause for concern. Farmers face similar concerns, albeit from the other side, with a rising cost of gas and oil-based fertilizers that narrow their profits.

Still for others the “go local” movement represents a desire to get the very best food they can find, and that is the fundamental reason for foodsheds.

I’ve tried to document what happens to our health with the advent of low quality foodour acceptance of it, and the difference in nutritional content.

These rings of farmland surrounding our communities represent the ideal of sustainable living. Where the countryside is not poverty-stricken, but instead a vibrant economic sector known as much for its wineries and ‘farm-days’ as it is for fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Even more these areas are often recession proof as evidenced by their continual rapid growth during the past half-decade.

It is for all these reasons that the locavore movement is popular and gaining momentum, there is something in it for everyone. Even the beefiest of meat eaters.

For further reference I’ve pulled together several maps of America’s foodsheds. Take a look.

san francisco california foodshed map 100 mile local locavore
Click for a larger image.

Continue reading Go local: an explanation of foodsheds

Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy

In 1985 a small group of concerned citizens set off on a mission to protect the last remaining wetlands in Huntington Beach, some 147 acres out of what used to be over 3,000.

Today, their dream is coming true as the Huntington Beach Wetland Conservancy owns and has restored a majority of the land, some 100 acres from the Santa Ana River to the AES Power Plant.

The remaining pieces are a 44-acre parcel located between Newland and Beach Blvd, and a tiny triangle, some 7/10 an acre, sandwiched between the Huntington Waterfront Hilton and a new residential neighborhood. These, too, will soon be owned by the Conservancy.

Here is how that Newland Marsh looks now:

Dry, full of trash and non-native invasive plants

And, the restored marshes:

That's a Grey Heron in the center drinking some water (click pic to view large size).

The difference is clearly the water.

Why Wetlands?

A wetland is “the link between land and water and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Some common names for different types of wetlands are swamp, marsh and bog.

Continue reading Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy

Are cars causing Global Warming?

I often hear folks complain about cars and the pollution they cause. This seemed a little off so I did some investigating.

Out of all the ways to go green, including reducing energy use, buying green products, and driving less…

 

Which one is the best for the environment?

 

The EPA keeps a tally of these things on their Climate Change page and in an Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions (pdf).

The results are astounding. Cars account for only 17% of all emissions. While 80% comes from home use, business, and food.

 

[box type=”shadow”]

2009 US Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Business — 35.6%
  • Electricity — 33%
  • Personal vehicles — 17.8%
  • Agriculture — 7%
  • Residential — 5%
  • US territories — 1%

* Business = factories, business vehicles, office buildings
** Residential = gas heating
*** Includes CO2 and all other gasses 

[/box]

 

To put it another way. If you buy a recycled product or reduce your energy use, that has 2x greater impact than driving less does.

This means things like hang drying your clothes, buying recycled toilet paper, reusing floss, and turning off the A/C, are much more important than biking to work.

I know, I know, this just doesn’t seem right.

The numbers don’t lie…so next time you get in the car think, instead, about how you can reduce your energy use or buy a sustainably created product.

 

More on the Numbers

 

If you think about driving, most of the recommendations are for health concerns instead of pollution problems. Things like biking to work and reducing traffic congestion. Or, it is about geopolitics and our reliance on other countries for oil.

The thing is, most of the car industry is green and even innovative. There are smog checks, 40 mpg cars, engine filters galore, a huge used car industries (i.e. reuse), and awesome junkyards (recycle).

From the top, where the rich subsidize the innovations like electric cars. To the bottom, where the middle and poor buy used to save money. The entire industry appears to have itself aligned in an environmental way.

Compare that to the energy industry and green product market where that alignment isn’t quite there yet. Buying a used car saves money and helps the entire industry, and it is considered cool/smart. Whereas, buying recycled or hang drying your clothes makes you kind of extreme, and not all locations offer products.

Not to mention the incentives are tiny. The pennies and dimes I save in electricity use make me to question the extra effort. The only thing that keeps me going is “think of the kids”, lol.

This may be a good place for smart government. A good example would be the car industry, where those who drive a lot or purchase low MPG cars pay much more at the pump. They also pay more taxes and if you look at how much tax is loaded into each gallon, it’s a lot.

Perhaps there could be an extra tax on those who use more electricity. Make those who own big houses or a million appliances pay more. Use that money to fund clean energy projects.

I’m seeing this happen in a few regions but not at the scale where it needs to be. I say tax the hell out of wasters and over-users otherwise it makes all my reductions inconsequential.

Plus, it sure would be nice to get rid of these coal and gas power plants…

 

Which one would you rather have in your backyard?

 

Huntington Beach Green Expo


The 4th annual Huntington Beach Green Expo arrives Saturday, September 17, and runs from 9am to 5pm. It will be located at the HB Pier Plaza on the corner of PCH and Main St.

The free event put on by the HB Chamber of Commerce is a vendor showcase of goods and services. A good place to learn a lot about the latest in green technology. An important element for anyone in California and especially those in Huntington Beach.

After all, the city is leading the country in environmental issues and sustainability.

There are coastal wetlands with miles of protected lands for birds, fish, and all the large mammals that feed on them (dolphins, seals).

There is the recycling rate that was best in the State at 71% up from 45% in 1995. The local waste company, Rainbow Recycling, will be at the Expo.

If you’ve been down to City Hall or Central Library then you’ve seen the solar panels in the parking lot. These panels are expected to turn 40% of building energy use to solar. Several solar companies will be at the event.

Finally, there is the contentious plastic bag ban on all single use bags. The city council is largely split on this issue and so are the residents, but it is likely to pass.

That is not to say that we don’t have our issues. In a recent post, I explored the surfboard industry and found out that surfboards are dirty. I mean super toxic and not at all recyclable; something Surf City can’t ignore.

Continue reading Huntington Beach Green Expo

A Guide to DC's Environmental Film Festival

Kieran Timberlake: The Loblolly House

I love movies. The only thing better than movies is a film festival full of them. In the last few years I’ve become a regular film festival attendee (see my Sundance Festival Guide).

It was with some surprise then to learn that DC has its very own film festival. A major event that is possibly the best of its kind in the world, the Environmental Film Festival.

It runs from March 15-27 and presents 150 films at 60 venues, with an expected attendance of 26,000 filmgoers.

What makes any festival interesting is the sense of discovery where you find yourself watching a movie you would never otherwise see. And, that film will most likely never again be in your local theater or even on Netflix. They are works of art that while good enough to be selected at film festivals, will never make it into the studio circuit of big budgets, posters, and red carpets.

Being in DC is uniquely special as well since the city produces a huge amount of documentaries. I once heard a friend at the DC Film Institute joke that we are not Hollywood but Docu-wood.

The subject of this year’s festival is Energy, but I noticed several other topics just as interesting: the chesapeake bay, architecture, lectures by professors, nuclear waste, short films, and adventures in cold places.

Where Whales Sing

After looking through the list of films I quickly realized that I want to see them all. With over 60 movies making the first cut as “must-sees”. My festival instincts kicked in as I reminded myself that every movie was chosen because it is worth seeing.

The wise option then is to choose my absolute favorites:

The next step is to plan out my 12 day schedule. This process helped me a bit to narrow down my schedule to just 21 movies. Leaving room for a day job and food but little else.

Here is the full list (with links). I hope a few of these tickle your fancy and you end up attending one or two. Leave a comment about your experiences or if you need someone to go with (because I sure do!).

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects

—-

Mar 15

Wasteland and Wilderness: Lecture by Peter L. Galison – 5:30pm

The Polar Explorer – 8pm

Mar 16

Mission Blue – 7:30pm

Oil Rocks – City Above The Sea – 7pm

Mar 17

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie – 7pm

Mar 18

El Muro – 6:30pm

Mar 19

Into Eternity – 1pm

Mar 20

Kieran Timberlake: Loblolly House – 1pm

Countdown To Zero – 6:30pm

Mar 21

World Water Day: Global Water and Population Films and Panels – 6pm

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects – 7pm

Mar 22

Where Whales Sing – 10:30am

An Evening With Chris Palmer – 7pm

Mar 23

Short Films on the Chesapeake: The Last Boat Out, The Runoff Dilemma, Watermen, & Sturgeon: Eggs To Die For – 6pm

Mar 24

Planeat – 7:30pm

Mar 25

We Still Live Here: As Nutayunean – 7pm

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air – 7pm

Mar 26

I.M. Pei – Building Modern China – 2pm

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga – 3pm

Mar 27

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization – 3pm

A Murder of Crows – 1pm

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

A Guide to DC’s Environmental Film Festival

Kieran Timberlake: The Loblolly House

I love movies. The only thing better than movies is a film festival full of them. In the last few years I’ve become a regular film festival attendee (see my Sundance Festival Guide).

It was with some surprise then to learn that DC has its very own film festival. A major event that is possibly the best of its kind in the world, the Environmental Film Festival.

It runs from March 15-27 and presents 150 films at 60 venues, with an expected attendance of 26,000 filmgoers.

What makes any festival interesting is the sense of discovery where you find yourself watching a movie you would never otherwise see. And, that film will most likely never again be in your local theater or even on Netflix. They are works of art that while good enough to be selected at film festivals, will never make it into the studio circuit of big budgets, posters, and red carpets.

Being in DC is uniquely special as well since the city produces a huge amount of documentaries. I once heard a friend at the DC Film Institute joke that we are not Hollywood but Docu-wood.

The subject of this year’s festival is Energy, but I noticed several other topics just as interesting: the chesapeake bay, architecture, lectures by professors, nuclear waste, short films, and adventures in cold places.

Where Whales Sing

After looking through the list of films I quickly realized that I want to see them all. With over 60 movies making the first cut as “must-sees”. My festival instincts kicked in as I reminded myself that every movie was chosen because it is worth seeing.

The wise option then is to choose my absolute favorites:

The next step is to plan out my 12 day schedule. This process helped me a bit to narrow down my schedule to just 21 movies. Leaving room for a day job and food but little else.

Here is the full list (with links). I hope a few of these tickle your fancy and you end up attending one or two. Leave a comment about your experiences or if you need someone to go with (because I sure do!).

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects

—-

Mar 15

Wasteland and Wilderness: Lecture by Peter L. Galison – 5:30pm

The Polar Explorer – 8pm

Mar 16

Mission Blue – 7:30pm

Oil Rocks – City Above The Sea – 7pm

Mar 17

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie – 7pm

Mar 18

El Muro – 6:30pm

Mar 19

Into Eternity – 1pm

Mar 20

Kieran Timberlake: Loblolly House – 1pm

Countdown To Zero – 6:30pm

Mar 21

World Water Day: Global Water and Population Films and Panels – 6pm

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects – 7pm

Mar 22

Where Whales Sing – 10:30am

An Evening With Chris Palmer – 7pm

Mar 23

Short Films on the Chesapeake: The Last Boat Out, The Runoff Dilemma, Watermen, & Sturgeon: Eggs To Die For – 6pm

Mar 24

Planeat – 7:30pm

Mar 25

We Still Live Here: As Nutayunean – 7pm

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air – 7pm

Mar 26

I.M. Pei – Building Modern China – 2pm

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga – 3pm

Mar 27

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization – 3pm

A Murder of Crows – 1pm

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie