Category Archives: Natural Habitat

The Dangers of Roundup In Food and the Environment

Ever wonder why so many people prefer to eat organic food and are even willing to pay more for it? Or why so many people are suddenly gluten sensitive when they eat wheat or other grains which contain gluten? And, why are there such increases in the rates of allergies, asthma, auto-immune diseases, cancers, autism, dementia and other modern diseases of the western world?

Human beings, along with all living things and our environment, have never before in history been exposed to so many different synthetic chemicals nor in such large amounts. Some scientists think of it as a grand experiment. This exponential increase in chemical use parallels the increases in modern diseases.

The use of so many chemicals in our daily lives started after World War II when large chemical companies that had manufactured chemical weapons, nerve gas and mustard gas no longer had a market for their products. So, they diluted their products and sold them to the public to use as pesticides, (an umbrella term that includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides).

One of these companies, Monsanto, produced an herbicide called Roundup. Roundup has become the most heavily used herbicides in history. There’s a good chance that when you sit on a park bench, walk along the pavement or lean on a fence, you’ll come into contact with Roundup.

Because Monsanto has been so successful in claiming it is very safe, it is sometimes used indiscriminately, sloshed all over sidewalks, parks and landscaping. It is also heavily used by farmers, particularly those in large industrial agriculture.

On July 7, 2017, Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, was listed on the Proposition 65 list as, “known to the state of California to cause cancer.” It had already been listed as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health organization.

Scientists have found Roundups’ glyphosate is a unique chemical that destroys the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract thus allowing the pathogenic bacteria to overgrow. Many scientists think that is why it is capable of causing so many different types of diseases.

Our “good” gut bacteria is very important to our ability to stay healthy. Because Roundup and other glyphosate based herbicides are the most widely used in the world and have been used for decades, despite Monsanto’s claims of safety, many people worldwide have discovered its negative effects.

Roundup Ingredient Label

Many countries, cities and localities around the world have either banned glyphosate based herbicides like Roundup or greatly restricted its use. It is banned in the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and Malta. Sri Lanka banned it because it was linked to a fivefold increase in chronic kidney disease resulting in roughly 20,000 deaths in Sri Lanka’s farming communities.

Another reason we are exposed to so much glyphosate (it is in our air, soil, water and in the bodies of 99.6 percent of us), is because of genetically engineered food crops. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are food crops or animals that have had a gene from another completely different organism, plant or animal, forced into them through genetic engineering. This has been done to corn, soy, canola, sugar beets and a handful of other widely used crops.

Monsanto has developed these genetically engineered foods for the express purpose of making them “Roundup ready,” which means, capable of withstanding massive amounts of Roundup without dying. Because Monsanto has patented these seeds, it not only makes money on the patent, it sells more and more Roundup, not only because the crops can withstand more, but also because “superweeds” have developed which are also capable of withstanding more Roundup.

In 1996, New York’s attorney general won a lawsuit against Monsanto for using “false and misleading advertising” in claiming it was, “safer than table salt,” “practically nontoxic” and “stayed where you put it.”

Monsanto has also claimed that genetically engineered food will produce higher yields, and, thus, “feed the world,” but this claim has proven untrue.

An environmental group, also in New York, is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for ignoring the dangers of glyphosate, which it claims has caused the demise of the Monarch butterfly population. Glyphosate has also been linked to harming honeybees and contributing to colony collapse disorder.

An article titled, “Roundup Revealed – Glyphosate in our Food System” says, “The modern industrial food system, which heavily uses herbicide-resistant GE crops, is increasingly understood to be unsustainable. Investors, companies and communities will all benefit from a more sustainable food system that will feed the planet today and for generations to come with reduced human and environmental impact.” We cannot afford the health consequences or the environmental damage caused by the use of Roundup and other toxic chemicals.

This article first appeared in the September 6, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Karen Perkins can be emailed at

BECOMING CALIFORNIA – a documentary about environmental change

When: Wed, November 8, 7:00 – 9:30 pm
Where: Peacock Hall

BECOMING CALIFORNIA is an Emmy-Award winning public television documentary about environmental change on America’s western edge. Narrated by Jane Fonda and with original music by Pat Metheny, the film shows how the needs of nature can be reconciled with the demands of civilization.

From the fog shrouded redwoods of the northern coast to the sun drenched deserts of the south, Becoming California is the story of natural change across deep time – how colliding land forms interact with the ocean and atmosphere to create one of the most beautiful, diverse and biologically rich places on earth. Award winning Producer/Director Kit Tyler brings California’s ecological transformation to life through stunning cinematography, astonishing aerials from across the state, over 40 interviews with top scientists, educators and business leaders, and through personal and inspiring stories of how everyday Californians are creating a new and hopeful story: the California of tomorrow.


Jane Fonda wrote:

“When I was asked to narrate the California Legacy Project’s documentary “Becoming California” I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned much about the makeup of the California landscape from its State Parks, having hiked in the Redwood forests and camped in Sequoia National Park among others, but I was surprised to learn there was much I wasn’t familiar with and even areas I thought I understood turned out to be far more unique and interesting than I ever imagined. I loved finding out about the geological histories that brought us what we see today— from the vast oil field that lay beneath what is now Los Angeles; to the the movements of tectonic plates.

By exploring California in three parts, “Becoming California” asks the question; Can nature and civilization coexist? What I like is that it rather than bringing gloom and doom there is a sense of hopefulness.  I was so moved that it was frequently hard to read some of the lines without tearing up.”

World’s Plastic Binge

Sandra Laville and Matthew Taylor reported in the Guardian on June 28 that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20 percent by 2021, creating an environmental crisis. More than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300 billion a decade ago.

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable, but efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans are failing to keep up with usage. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7 percent of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5 million and 13 million tons of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University in the UK reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish.

There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. In May of this year, scientists found nearly 18 tons of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific. Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations.

The majority of plastic bottles used across the globe are for drinking water, according to Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor and one of the world’s experts in plastic bottle production. “This increase is being driven by increased urbanization,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. China, India and Indonesia are witnessing strong growth.

Plastic bottles are a big part of the huge surge in usage of a material first popularized in the 1940s. Most of the plastic produced since then still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose. Major drink brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year according to an analysis carried out by Greenpeace after the company refused to publicly disclose its global plastic usage.

The top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6 percent of recycled Pet in their products, according to Greenpeace. A third have no targets to increase their use of recycled plastic and none are aiming to use 100 percent across their global production.

Plastic drinking bottles could be made out of 100 percent recycled plastic, known as RPet and campaigners are pressing big drinks companies to radically increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles. But brands are hostile to using RPet for cosmetic reasons because they want their products in shiny, clear plastic, according to Steve Morgan, of Recoup in the UK. In evidence to a UK House of Commons committee, the British Plastics Federation (BPF), a plastics trade body, admitted that making bottles out of 100 percent recycled plastic used 75 percent less energy than creating virgin plastic bottles. But the BPF said that brands should not be forced to increase the recycled content of bottles.

The industry is resisting any taxes or charges to reduce demand for single-use plastic bottles – like the 5p charge on plastic bags in the UK that is credited with reducing plastic bag use by 80 percent. Coca Cola said it was still considering requests from Greenpeace to publish its global plastics usage. A spokeswoman said: “We continue to increase the use of RPet in markets where it is feasible and approved for regulatory food-grade use – 44 countries of the more than 200 we operate in. If we are to increase the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles even further then a new approach is needed to create a circular economy for plastic bottles,” she said.

This article first appeared in the July 19, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News, Judith Schumacher-Jennings, author.

A SEA CHANGE: a film exploring the decline of the world’s oceans

On Wednesday, September 13th at 7 pm in Peacock Hall, Sustainable Rossmoor will show A SEA CHANGE. The film takes the audience on a journey to explore the sources of the declining state of the world’s oceans. A young boy, his grandfather, scientists, and entrepreneurs look at the causes, the results, and possible solutions for ocean acidification, bringing a crucial and little-known issue to the attention of film-goers.
Sven Huseby, a retired educator, connects with his grandson, Elias, through their mutual fascination with underwater mysteries. Sven travels to some of the globe’s most gorgeous locales, trying to thread his way through the science and sociology of the oceans, a journey that takes him to Northern California, Alaska and the farthest reaches of arctic Norway, where his ancestors were born. Fishing was their life. There’s lots of breathtaking footage of the natural world, from the tiniest pteropod (the fluttery, planktonic sea snail that is most threatened by acidification) to the most majestic Norwegian scenery.
Ocean acidification is the result of carbon dioxide combining with water and making carbonic acid. Much of the carbon dioxide released by cars and trucks, and the burning of other fossil fuels dissolves in the sea, thereby fatally changing its chemistry by gradually increasing the water’s acidity — making it a less livable environment for many sea creatures.
“I fell completely in love with Sven and the extraordinarily bright Elias. The people in the film are very real and approachable and the ocean footage is stunning. It’s optimistic with the whole section about solutions at the end. It has a broad appeal for all ages.”
Dr. Cat Dorey, Sustainable Seafood Advisor, Greenpeace International.
“A SEA CHANGE offers a searching, emotionally powerful look at ocean acidification. This problem is sometimes called the ‘evil twin’ of climate change. This story is full of heart, scientifically accurate, and lyrical. It also offers a good reason for hope, which is indispensable in the face of such a huge challenge.”
Brad Warren, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership
The feeling that we have stolen something from our children falls heavy on the old, who wonder whether they have done right by themselves, their family, and their society. Sven Huseby feels this deeply as he discovers that his generation has profoundly changed the atmosphere by adding carbon dioxide. We see a thoughtful person who thinks and moves carefully, and never makes you feel sorry for him or the planet. When he asks questions, you feel that you want to help him. Mr. Huseby wants you to test the roots of your idealism, your resolve, and your hope for the future and its children.”
Jeffrey Levinton, Director, Marine Biology Web Page; Distinguished Professor, Stony Brook University
The story that “A SEA CHANGE” tells is urgent, unsettling and desperately in need of understanding and action. All Rossmoor residents and their guests are invited. 90 minutes. Captions.

Queen of the Sun – What Are the Bees Telling Us?

Movie Date and Time: May 10th, 7 PM in Peacock

Queen of the Sun -What Are The Bees Telling Us?

“This is a remarkable documentary that’s also one of the most beautiful nature films I’ve seen” described Roger Ebert. This film poetically balances a sense of urgency about the global bee crisis with hope and inspiration. It earned a 97% rating from Rotten Tomatoes critics, and nearly a dozen international awards.

Filmmaker Taggart Siegel takes us on a journey through the mysterious world of beehives and their catastrophic disappearance. He explores the precarious world of the bees through interviews with beekeepers and global experts, helping unravel the multiple factors behind bee colony collapse. Best-selling author Michael Pollan and Gunther Hauk, beekeeper and founder of the world’s first formal bee sanctuary, are two of the featured authorities playing supportive roles to the film’s lead characters: the bees.

These fuzzy little creatures keep us alive; they are responsible for 4 of every 10 bites of food we eat.  Yet, their own survival is at risk largely due to human activity. Their grace and harmony is daunted by ominous “insect deserts”—fields of mono-crops (such as almonds or soy) that stretch for miles and offer no year-round habitat to sustain the bees. Pesticides, parasites, queen breeding, and genetically modified crops are just a few more of the culprits responsible for the disappearance of the world’s bees. A recent study reveals 1 in 4 native bee species is going extinct.

Queen of the Sun What Are the Bees Telling Us reveals both the problems and the solutions of renewing a culture in balance with nature. With captions.

Saving The Bay (Part 1)

Movie Date and Time: April 12th, 7 PM in Peacock

Sustainable Rossmoor will show SAVING THE BAY on Wednesday, April 12 at 7 pm in Peacock Hall. The film shares an invaluable lesson about how ordinary citizens can have an impact on protecting and enhancing our natural environment. Spearheaded by three women in the East Bay hills, the story of how the San Francisco Bay was saved is not only compelling in its own right, but launched a movement that continues.

Narrated by Robert Redford, SAVING THE BAY also explores the history of one of America’s greatest natural resources — San Francisco Bay — tracing the Bay from its geologic origins through years of catastrophic exploitation to the restoration efforts of today. This film takes viewers on an unforgettable journey around the waters of San Francisco Bay and the larger northern California watershed from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Farallon Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

According the the film’s website,  SAVING THE BAY received four regional Emmy awards including for Best Documentary in May, 2010. When the series premiered in two parts on KQED October 8, 2009, it had the single highest rating of any PBS program in the nation the evening of its initial broadcast, with the audience increasing every 15 minutes until the end.

The April 12th showing in Peacock Theatre will feature Part 1 of the original PBS documentary with Part 2 shown at a later date. The film begins with the formation of San Francisco Bay following the last Ice Age and the Native Peoples who settled along its shores 3,000 years ago. It follows the history of  the European exploration and settlements by the Spanish and the Russians. The California gold rush led to San Francisco’s rapid development into a major metropolis  and brought a radical change for the Bay. By century’s end, San Francisco Bay became the center of the broad economic empire on the Pacific, changed forever by the expansion of the commercial shipping industry.

The history of the Bay shows how people-power triumphed, but the struggle continues to balance the competing demands of major urban centers amidst an environmentally sensitive landscape. Captions included. Learn more by visiting the Save the Bay website.


Transformation of a Farm Boy

I grew up on a small farm in northwest North Dakota.  As a boy, my passion was raising beef cattle.  As an eleven year old 4-H member, I had the grand champion steer at the Burke County Fair.  There was no doubt about it…I would be a beef rancher when I grew up.  I bought a wonderful young heifer which would be the keystone of my herd.  (paid $150, which is the equivalent of about $1,000 today.)

Tragedy struck!  My family decided to move to the west coast.  My dreams went up in smoke.  As I grew older, I heard of the negative effects of eating red meat, so gradually reduced the amount of rib-eye and hamburger I was consuming.

Beef Cattle and Global Warming, Who Knew?

Recently, I haven’t been eating much beef.  Then last  week, I watched a program on the National Geographic Channel called “Before the Flood”.  It is a good documentary on the problems associated with climate change.  One of the points the film made, was that cattle are a major contributor to global warming.  Not only are millions of acres of forest lands being clear-cut to create grazing lands, but it seems cows have a nasty habit of belching out methane, a green-house gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere.

People our age have a hard time dealing with change.  Nevertheless, I have decided to take one small step to slow down global warming by giving up beef and cow’s milk.  I will continue to enjoy chicken, turkey, fish and almond milk, although I’m sure they have some adverse effects on the environment as well.  Ice cream will stay for the present.

If you are like me and lather on catsup, mayo and relish on your burgers, you’ll find out turkey burgers or even vegi-burgers don’t taste that much different than beef burgers.  So, this isn’t any grand sacrifice.  Pretty much a drop in the bucket as far as meaningful action against climate change.  But I really believe that little things add-up.  Turning down the thermostat, walking instead of driving, car-pooling, taking public transportation, enjoying life here in Rossmoor instead of  going on that round the world cruise, considering  buying solar panels for your roof…there are lots of small decisions we can make that will add up to a better world for  our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

So, I’m not sorry that my parents sold the farm and moved west.  Raising beef cattle would have been so “20th century.”  Vegi-burger, anyone?

This article first appeared in the November 23, 2016 issue of the Rossmoor News, author Bob Hanson.

To Bee or Not To Bee

I don’t know about you, but for me, fruits and nuts are among my favorite foods.  One of the reasons I enjoy living in California is the abundance of fresh, local fruit year-round.  Nearly all fruits and nuts are dependent upon bees for pollination, and bees, my friend are in trouble.

Colony Collapse Disorder

In the mid to late 2000s an increasing number of beekeepers began noticing significant reductions in the number of honeybees in their hives.  They gave it a name: colony collapse disorder.  This is a serious problem for agriculture since the USDA estimates that a third of our diet comes from food dependent upon pollination. As proud owner of a tangelo tree which we planted when we moved into Rossmoor, each winter I am concerned about whether or not enough bees will find their way to our tree.

The United Nations estimates that 40% of invertebrate pollination species including bees and butterflies are on the brink of extinction.

The research I have done indicates that there are multiple causes for the plight of these beautiful little friends. One of the primary causes apparently is a mite that transmits viruses to the bees.  Other factors include nutritional deficiencies, weather, diseases and pesticide use.

Friends of the Earth, a large environmental organization believes that the agricultural and gardeners use of pesticides is a major factor in bee death.  They currently have a campaign to phase out the use of bee-killing neonics.  Large retailers including Home Depot and Lowes have agreed to stop selling plants pre-treated with neonics by the end of this year.  Other garden stores and hardware stories have been less cooperative.

This article first appeared in the September 07, 2016 issue of the Rossmoor News, author Bob Hanson.

Tice Creek: A Hidden Treasure

We have a hidden treasure here in Rossmoor. Drive along Rossmoor Parkway and you’ll see the terrain slope down to a lush green glen. Occasionally a glimmer of water can be seen. This meandering little stream is Tice Creek. Its source, fed by a spring and runoff from surrounding hills, trickles through a marshy area just south of the new tennis courts. It flows into Las Trampas Creek, a tributary of Walnut Creek.

A healthy creek is an irreplaceable natural resource and a wonderful amenity. Proper care of stream banks and riparian vegetation can enhance property, prevent erosion problems, avoid flood losses, preserve water quality and contribute to the survival of wildlife.

Flowing water is calming and soothing. While sitting by or walking along the creek, one can rediscover nature, finding quiet little oases hidden behind a vale of green. Or walk along a gurgling riffle while watching damselflies play tag. There are many benefits Tice Creek brings to our little valley.

Riparian Corridors

Riparian corridors function as sponges retaining soil moisture, recharging ground water supplies. Water stored in soil is released slowly back into streams helping maintain stream flow. This sustains aquatic life during dry seasons. Healthy riparian vegetation catches sediments and pollutants before they can reach the creek.

During rainy periods the creek provides flood control. Leaves, grass and limbs collect in the creek, recycling nutrients that support a diversity of aquatic life. A leafy canopy provides shade. The cooler water is hospitable to many organisms, and the cool, moist microclimate is also beneficial for many terrestrial species.

Stream corridors are among the most productive habitats. They are particularly important in arid and semi-arid landscapes such as Tice Valley. Tice Creek and its surroundings add to the diversity and abundance of plant and animal life in our valley. The roots of trees and other plants stabilize the banks against erosion. Aquatic insects and other invertebrates, fish, frogs and salamanders occupy the waters, while birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles inhabit the surroundings. The varied habitats along a creek, areas of riffles and still deep pools provide a variety of niches for wildlife.

Animal Migration Along Creeks

Creeks and surrounding habitats also provide important wildlife corridors allowing animal migration. Contra Costa County once consisted of a vast, open plain, populated by elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer and grizzly bear. Tice Creek traversed the upper reaches of this plain. Steelhead trout migrated up its waters. Walnut trees, buckeyes, oaks, cottonwoods and dense patches of strawberries, blackberries and huckleberries bordered the creeks.

The hunter-gatherer Miwoks lived in harmony with this environment. Subsequent Spanish and American settlers introduced agriculture and cattle. Riparian plants were eaten and trampled by cattle causing instability and erosion. Subsequent urbanization brought creek diversions, dams and pollution, further degrading creek ecosystems.

In Rossmoor, the construction of buildings and the golf course necessitated rerouting of Tice Creek and caused sedimentation and erosion problems. As beautiful as our creek is, it is no longer a pristine environment. Invasive plants such as privet and English Ivy have crowded out native plants that support a healthy ecosystem. Run-off from hardscape and loss of stabilizing plants along the creek banks has led to serious erosion problems. Sediment from erosion, from roofs and lawns, as well as construction, reaches storm drains and is discharged into our waterways. Light and air cannot filter through to the streambed. These silts suffocate life-sustaining gravel habitats necessary for survival of fish eggs and aquatic insects.

In many areas of the creek, lack of shade warms the water, creating unfavorable conditions for many organisms. Pollutants are also a problem. Fertilizers can cause overgrowth of algae. Pesticides, detergents, motor oil and many toxic chemicals flow down gutters and storm drains into the creek, poisoning aquatic life. Diversions and disruptions such as dam culverts disturb the creek’s natural course and its inhabitants’ lives.

An Eco-System of Its Own

A healthy creek is a continuous system. If a creek is intermittently buried in a culvert or its flow is blocked by dams or debris, the stream system is disrupted, negatively impacting ecological diversity. Get to know our creek. Obscurity is one of the threats faced by unfamiliar areas like our creek. It is easy to turn a blind eye toward environmental damage in a place you never see.

The simple pleasure of creek walking presents us with an opportunity to get our community to embrace the creek as the precious resource it is. Taking a walk along the creek can be an interesting and enjoyable exploration–right here in Rossmoor. The simple pleasure of creek walking can be a rewarding experience for people of any age or interest. Whether you want to exercise, learn about nature, be inspired or simply get together with friends, the creek walk has something to offer everyone.

As residents of Rossmoor we have an opportunity to be good stewards of our creek environment. The way we treat the creek not only affects Rossmoor, but all waters downstream, including the bay and ocean. For those who enjoy nature and would like to help the creek, there are environmental groups like Friends of the Creeks that organize creek cleanups and help restore a more natural environment.

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 2 p.m. in the Club Room at Creekside, Lesley Hunt, a founding member of Friends of the Creeks, and Rossmoor’s new landscape manager, Rebecca Pollon, will speak about Tice Creek and its place in the Walnut Creek watershed.

This article first appeared in the July 20, 2016 Rossmoor News, author Ron Gallin