Category Archives: Natural Habitat

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.