Category Archives: Natural Habitat

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

Fracking Must Cease

Just what we need….something new to lose sleep over. Those of us who listen to the scientists and are concerned about not messing up the earth have been working to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. Now evidence is piling up that while carbon dioxide is bad, an even worse problem is methane. It turns out that methane is much worse at trapping heat than carbon dioxide is.

Methane Gas: A Bi-product of Fracking

Methane gets into the atmosphere a number of ways. It comes from swamps and wetlands; it escapes from the bottom of the ocean and vegetarians point out that cattle belch up huge quantities of the gas. But what we are now realizing is that fracking releases enormous amounts of it, most of which escapes while drilling for oil and natural gas in the. A lot of attention is being devoted to sealing wells to prevent leaks, but this is proving to be very hard to do.

Until recently, natural gas was being touted as a panacea, in that it produces much less carbon dioxide when burned than coal does. Most new power generating facilities use natural gas because it is cheap and clean-burning. What’s new is the realization that in the process of capturing the gas from underground shale formations, huge amounts escape into the atmosphere.

Harvard scientists have discovered that methane emissions increased 30 per cent between 2002 and 2014.

A recent study found that if as little as three per cent of the methane escapes during drilling operations, then methane from drilling will do more climate damage than burning coal has. Preliminary data indicates somewhere between 3.6% and 7.9% of the gas actually escapes into the atmosphere.

There are other problems with fracking. Remember the farmers in Pennsylvania who discovered that the water coming out of their faucets would burn when lit by a match? In the process of breaking apart shale rock formations, it is almost inevitable that some of the released gas will make its way into the water table. Earthquakes seem to be getting much more common in areas where fracking is going on. For the first time, Oklahoma is now earthquake country. Here in California where water conservation has been a big issue, fracking requires huge amounts of the precious resource.

In November, President Obama announced that he was rejecting the Keystone pipeline. He said “if we are going to prevent large parts of this earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release dangerous pollution in the sky.” Now that we know unburned methane is much worse than the carbon dioxide formed by combustion, there is even more reason to leave the fossil fuels in the ground.

The political considerations of this are tremendous. Everyone likes cheap gas. The coal miners in West Virginia want to keep their jobs. The farmer in North Dakota who knows he has oil under his soil wants to be able to retire from it. Those of us who have Exxon stocks in our portfolio hate to see them lose value. But our problems will seem small as we watch rising sea levels displace half of the population of Bangladesh and submerge the homelands of the Pacific Islanders. Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate admitting concern about global warming.

Unless we are looking forward to Rossmoor Parkway becoming oceanfront property, we should be promoting efforts to develop wind power, sun power and other renewable energy sources as the alternative to fossil fuels -especially methane.

Major fossil fuel companies have known about the science of global warming for decades. However, instead of addressing the harm they knew their products were causing, these companies chose a course of public denial and deception. It’s payback time for them.

New York state recently banned all fracking operations in that state. Environmentalists in California are trying to enact a similar ban here. Sounds like a good idea to me.

This article first appeared in the April 20, 2016 issue of the Rossmoor News, author Bob Hanson.

Save Our Bees

Bees pollinate a significant majority of the world’s food. One of every three bites of our food we eat is pollinated by bees and these vital pollinators are in serious trouble. In America alone, honey bees pollinate nearly 95 fruits and nuts, including almonds, cranberries and apples. In year 2000, the total value of crops dependent upon bee pollination was estimated to exceed $15 billion.

The War on Bees

Worldwide, honey bees yield about $200 billion of pollination services. Bees are playing a critical role in maintaining natural plant communities and ensuring production of seeds and most flowers. Pollination is needed for plants to reproduce and so many plants depend on bees or other insects as pollinators. Bees and other pollinators are reaching a tipping point with beekeepers reporting annual losses of a third or more in recent years. It was reported that there were a total of 2.44 million honey-producing hives in the United States in 2008, down from 4.5 million in 1980 and 5.9 million in 1947.

Unfortunately it seems like our civilization has declared war on honey bees. Overdevelopment, habitat destruction, mites and diminishing plant diversity have all negatively impacted our native bee population. But neonicotinoid pesticide is probably the biggest factor in killing bees.

The studies in the United States and Europe have shown that extremely low doses of neonicotinoid – both alone and in combination with other pesticides – can cause impaired communication, disorientation, difficulty to return to hive, decreased longevity, suppressed immunity and disruption of brood cycles in honeybees, making them less productivity in gathering food. Some pesticides are killing bees directly when bees are on flowers. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been used for 20 years to control a variety of pests. As a result of a campaign by   Friends of the Earth, Home Depot and other stores have agreed to stop selling these poisons.

Colony collapse disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear. While this is not an entirely new happening, recent years have seen a dramatic rise in the occurrence. In the six years leading up to 2013, more than 10 million beehives were lost.

Save the Bees

Bees need our help! Bee communities, both wild and managed, have been declining over the last half century as pesticide use in agricultural and urban areas increases. Changes in land use have resulted in patchy distribution of food and nesting resources. This has many growers concerned about how they will continue to be able to pollinate their crops. Now more than ever, it is critical to consider practices that will benefit pollinators by providing habitats free of pesticides, with ample potential nesting resources.

After five years of review, California officials have not only failed to complete an evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), they continue to allow more and more of the bee-harming chemicals on the market. The International Body of Scientists released a comprehensive global assessment of the harm that pesticides do to bees. A new report shows that these very same pesticides are found in many backyard plants at levels of concern.

Pesticides touch every aspect of our lives. Pesticides cause severe abnormalities in children like autism, diabetes and cancer; a startling number of children’s diseases and disorders are on the rise; many allergies people did not suffer when natural fertilizers were used. Children are sicker today than they ever were a generation ago. Science leaves little room for doubt. Children exposed to pesticides in utero or during other critical periods may have lower IQs, birth defects, development delays and face higher risk of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cancer.

During the spring of 2015, President Obama unveiled the first national strategy for improving the health of bees and other pollinators. The plan calls for restoring 7 million acres of bee habitat. The administration is also proposing $82.5 million for honeybee research.

Neonics are the most heavily used class of insecticides in the United States. People all over the world are seeking healthier alternatives in their own lives and taking collective action to create real change in our food and farming system.

What You Can Do

You, too, can help. Take one of these actions:

  1. Write a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency demanding that they pull these bee killing pesticides from the U.S. market. Our planet and food supplies depend on it.
  2. Cut down or quit using strong, synthetic fertilizers and sprays on your plants and garden.
  3. Volunteer for projects to restore natural habitats. This is a great way to help native bees that are part of our ecosystem.
  4. Buy local honey because this will support your local beekeeper and also help the native bees.
  5. Urge Congress to protect our bee pollinators.
  6. Attend the next meeting of Sustainable Rossmoor (Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. in the Vista Room at Hillside) when pesticides and how to reduce dependency on them will be discussed.

Source of information from PAN/Pesticide Action Network.

This article first appeared in the January 20, 2016 issue of the Rossmoor News, author Klaudia Sikora.