Conserve & Pro$per

Planning for One Grand Junction, Colorado

I attended a public meeting last Tuesday night April 9th with an estimated 200 residents at the Two Rivers Convention Center to discuss the One Grand Junction comprehensive plan. Fortunately, this first meeting is only the beginning of many conversations to come about what we want this naturally beautiful area to look like in the next 10 to 20 years. The project website contains a social map to share ideas for where you live and find out the City-County boundary lines.

At the public meeting we shared our issues, concerns, and suggestions for future actions. The majority of the people identified Smart Growth as their #1 issue. Within in the city limits, we’re seeing a housing boom increasing over the past three years with corn fields getting converted to closely spaced single family tract homes, typically with eight houses per acre. There appears to be a lack of infrastructure planning to widen roads, build sidewalks and bike paths, create new neighborhood parks and preserve open space to keep the small-town feeling.

I felt surprised that water and drought issues did not rank very high on the concerns list. I brought it up to a few people who thought that they did not see people wasting water. There is much more work to be done to communicate water issues to the community!

The biggest obstacle I currently observe is the need for proactive jurisdictional partnerships. To put it simply, all the various government officials need to develop a unified plan of working together. About 75% of the land in Mesa County is federal. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is being proposed to move its headquarters to Grand Junction but this did not come up at the planning meeting. The State controls funding for school districts and Mesa County is very poorly funded compared to more affluent areas of Colorado. Due to different tax rates, there are big differences between city and county services. So fulfilling the vision of One Grand Junction will take a lot of people finding and sharing common ground!

If you want more information on these activities, contact David Thornton, AICP Principle Planner with the City of Grand Junction, 970-244-1450, davidt@gjcity.org

Electric Bicycles for Enjoyment and Commuting

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are gaining in popularity and becoming more affordable. Several bike shops in Grand Junction are adding e-bikes into their inventory of road and mountain bikes. For a great website showing reviews of e-bikes check out Electric Bike Reviews. I’ve been watching and test riding e-bikes for several years and have not been ready to spend $3,000 to $5,000 yet. I’m hoping prices will continue falling, just like with other technology, as the bikes become more popular. I’ve also been thinking if I got an e-bike it would be mostly for enjoyment to keep up with my son who can ride for longer distances as I get winded easily. The bikes are especially becoming popular with seniors who need the extra energy boost for an enjoyable ride. Buyer beware - there are some “cheaper” e-bikes coming from China for around $1,500 that lack in quality and reliability.

A friend of mine at work just purchased an Easy Motion (BH Bikes Emotion). Previously, he occasionally rode a regular bike from his home which is mostly downhill about six miles. But he found riding home discouragingly strenuous. So the e-bike is helping with the commute rather than driving his SUV. He purchased the Emotion bike for about $3,000 from Colorado E Bikes that specializes in building, selling, renting, and repairing quality e-bikes.

Yesterday, I rented an e-bike for this weekend. Colorado E Bikes charges $70 per day - however, I got the bike on Saturday afternoon and since they are closed on Sunday, I will take it back on Monday morning spending the one day charge.

The rental bike is made by Haibike. I rode the Sduro model home along the lovely Colorado River front trail with the top speed of 20 mph. The bike motor kicks in with pedaling to the speed of the bike and automatically slows down on curves and disengages when hitting the brakes. When I arrived home and after taking an hour break, my son and I rode together for about three hours. His top speed is about 10 mph and needs to walk up the hills. I found the Velo Plush saddle not fitting very comfortably and the handlebars lower than I would like.

Another friend recommended Populo Bikes and Commencal for bikes, parts and accessories.

So it’s great to experiment with various products and only buy something that we will really need!

Government Actions Causing Earthquakes: Time to Celebrate Sunshine Laws and Groundwater Awareness

Government actions are mostly paid by individual and corporate taxpayers which requires transparency! This week we celebrate Sunshine Laws and Groundwater Resources awareness. Take a related example of brine injection causing earthquakes.

On Monday March 4th, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake hit southwestern Colorado near the Utah border. Some people in Grand Junction and Moab felt the shaking. The likely cause of this local seismic activity is from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) salt water injection wells. The Paradox Valley contains naturally-occurring salt deposits and to keep salt water out of the Dolores and Colorado Rivers, BOR uses high pressure brine injection that is widely known to be causing earthquakes. See the Montrose Press as an example.

This week we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of National Groundwater Awareness Week March 10-16, 2019!

Also, the National Archives celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) — on March 11th there will be a special event!

Green New Deal: Inserting Realities into Radical Proposals

The Green New Deal proposed this month in Congress calls for radical changes to how we get our electricity. The non-binding resolution introduced by two progressive Democrats as reported by NPR suggests the energy sector can be converted to 100% zero-carbon power within 10 years while at the same time eliminating future nuclear power plants.

Can the U.S. realistically eliminate generating electricity from natural gas, coal and possibly nuclear sources in the next decade? According to the Energy Information Agency, here are the present sources of power generated in the U.S.: Natural Gas 33%, Coal 29%, Nuclear 20%, Hydroelectric 7%, Wind 7%, Solar 2%, and Biomass 2%

As you can see, 64% of current power generated releases carbon. Nuclear power does not directly emit carbon into the atmosphere and receives mixed to negative support by environmentalists. Currently, renewable wind and solar only accounts for 9% of power generation.

So it is not realistic to propose converting the entire power fleet in a decade to renewables only. Senator Diane Feinstein from California, which leads the nation in renewable power generation, said the Green New Deal must be modified to be more realistic, provide funding such as a carbon tax, and not have such an ambitious timeline. Most of the news coverage showed her defensively debating with children.

I believe that the Green New Deal is timely for creating the debates needed to move the United States from being the second largest emitter of carbon (China is the largest) to leading the future of green power generation and that rational realism, such as including new nuclear technologies as reported in Forbes, needs to be adopted in future legislation and energy planning.

February 2nd Groundhog's Weather Prediction Accuracy

Today, quite unusually,, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow predicting an early spring! The Pennsylvania groundhog’s family has been making these predictions for 133 years! When our son was young we learned to sing the song to remember this event:

I’m a Little Groundhog, short and stout.

February 2nd I come out!

If I see my shadow, they will shout,

Six more weeks of winter no doubt!

It’s a fun song for kids and might stimulate their imagination for animal instincts and nature. Also, for the whole family the Bill Murray-Andie MacDowell 1993 movie repeatedly is a fan favorite!

But for rational adults, how accurate are Phil’s predictions as compared to actual temperature results?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is part of the Department of Commerce which includes the National Weather Service. Not only do they provide life-saving, super critical data for all of us everyday, they’ve also compared Phil’s historic predictions to actual temperatures! Here’s some groundhog history:

“Groundhog Day originates from an ancient celebration of the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox—the day right in the middle of astronomical winter. According to superstition, sunny skies that day signify a stormy and cold second half of winter while cloudy skies indicate the arrival of warm weather. “

Surprisingly, Phil’s saw his shadow to predict longer winters 104 years and did not see his shadow to predict early spring 18 years. In the past 10 years, Phil’s been correct only 40% of the time but that is like batting .400!

The Children's Fight for Sustainability: Jesus said The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

In the United States, two groups, Our Children’s Trust and Earth Guardians, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2015 to give youth legal rights to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere. Their lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon states that government actions (filed during the Obama Administration) that are causing climate change violates the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as protecting public trust resources.

In Europe this week, children in several cities are cutting classes to march and protest for a sustainable future. The BBC reports of 35,000 children marched against climate change in Brussels!

So what did Jesus, over two thousand years ago, mean in the Bible verse Mathew 5:5 by saying “The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth?” My reading of various interpretations is that Jesus encouraged his followers to be strong and humble - recall his actions against the thieves in the temple?

The environmental movement rise in the 1960’s focusing on local issues is transforming into a global fight for not just sustainability, to preserve resources, but for survivability! What would Jesus be saying right now given how destructive forces (eco-thieves) are robbing our children’s futures? This is a call to action for us all to become more informed about what we can do to reduce our impacts on the Earth. Perhaps we need an eco-inheritance tax rather than tax breaks for the ultra rich?

Finding Nature’s Fountain of Youth

Remember the story of Ponce de Leon who sailed from Spain to Florida about 20 years after Columbus looking for the fountain of youth? He searched for spring water that could heal all ailments to live a long life.

My growing up with asthma, the fountain of youth seemed magical to think that nature could heal us. I’ve learned to control asthma by living in a healthy environment with clean air and exercise. We’re still looking for the mythical fountain of youth but know so much more about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle by combining the best from western and eastern practices to conserve and prosper!

When I developed acid reflux as a young adult, I tried various antacids which did not solve the problem. I explored various treatments like Ayurvedic medicine that focused on my diet to eliminating toxins. This helped tremendously but did not solve the problem until many years later I learned about Celiac disease and needed to go “gluten-free.” That was over seven years ago when it was hard to find many wheat-free options.  Now there are so many great gluten-free foods and meals at restaurants available! But just because the food is gluten-free it still many not be healthy if loaded with sugar or salt. In general, reducing carbs and eating more fish, fruits and vegetables keeps us from gaining weight.

Recently, I’ve been learning more about the effects of stress causing inflammation that can lead to many diseases. Check out the website and publications by Dr. Mimi Guarneri, a cardiologist who speaks passionately about her work in Integrated Medicine. Listening to Dr. G’s audio tapes on the Science of Natural Healing, I had no idea that my frequent sinus infections could be caused by eating too much cheese and other dairy products!

So nature does provide us a fountain of youth when we care for our environment and are careful with what we eat and drink!

To Conserve & Pro$per: Let Us Count The Ways!

I heard Chinese Proverb many decades ago that says, “The more possessions you own, the more possessions own you.” At the time I loved to collect books and possessed an extensive library. As I moved around with many boxes of books I eventually donated the books and relied on public libraries. This took a great weight off of my back!

For over six years we’ve demonstrated that even living in an area of no public transit we are happy with one vehicle for our family. We are paying less for car insurance, maintenance, fuel, car washes, and we have more quality family time together. Personal vehicles like personal computers might be the trend but the costs to our pocketbook and the environment will only increase.

So will a carbon fuel tax be one solution to combat global climate change? This would promote green energy sources and decrease demand on hydrocarbons and burning coal for electricity.

The essence of learning to conserve fits many themes to shrink our footprint, have less impact, consume less, 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), and promote more green space. We must plant more trees and preserve the forests and wildlife that remain!

For a New Year’s resolution, let’s all go on a diet and exercise more! Eat less, get thinner, breath fresher air, feel our connection with animals and the environment and find ways to recognize and solve our local, national, and global challenges.

May we all promote a peaceful and prosperous lifestyle!

Fighting for Our Health, Lives, and Climate

Today, 200 countries including the United States agreed to implement the Paris climate accord. What does this mean? See the latest from BBC News!

Also today in the news, a U.S. District Court judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act is illegal.

In my opinion, fighting for our health care and the climate directly affects the lives of humans and all life on Earth.

Mining coal can cause black lung disease. Burning coal can cause air pollution. Air pollution causes asthma and other illnesses. Illnesses will be covered by the Affordable Care Act rather than having insurance companies say people cannot get health insurance. Obtaining health insurance is currently difficult to afford due to the lack of competition, cuts in the program, and greed by many in the system.

The same can be said for drilling and burning other fossil fuels that contribute greenhouse gases that are causing global temperatures to rise, altering our weather patterns, making storms more severe, melting glaciers, raising sea level, and affecting all life on the Planet.

So we must keep working for our survival and challenge those you are in denial!

The Environmental Legacy of the 41st President

Today, the nation celebrated the life of President George Herbert Walker Bush with a state funeral at the National Cathedral.

My friend Dave, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey as a Research Hydrologist in Helena, Montana, sent me an article of a 1989 speech by the 41st President at the Montana capitol. Beyond the Clean Air Act Amendments mentioned in my previous blog, I had forgotten that President George H.W. Bush spoke out strongly for the U.S. to lead the world to defend the environment, promote conservation, plant trees, and combat global warming (climate change). He directed EPA to provide training to Peace Corps volunteers.

Here is an excerpt from the speech:

“The single most significant word today in the language of all environmentalists is interdependence. That’s a fact all Montanans should find it easy to appreciate. Not so many miles from where we stand is a spot called the Triple Divide, where the waters begin their separate journeys to the Pacific, to the Gulf of Mexico, to the Hudson Bay and the Arctic beyond — the Earth’s own geography lesson in global interdependence. The plain fact is this: Pollution can’t be contained by lines drawn on a map.

The actions we take can have consequences felt the world over. The destruction of the rain forests in Brazil. The ravages of acid rain that threaten not just our country, but our neighbors to the north and not just the east but the lakes and forests of the west as well. The millions of tons of airborne pollutants carried across the continents and the threat of global warming. We know now that protecting the environment is a global issue. The nations of the world must make common cause in defense of our environment. And I promise you this: This nation, the United States of America, will take the lead internationally. (Applause.)

Here in this great state, you’re already taking the lead with your commitment to the environment, led by every schoolchild in this state who’s planted a Ponderosa Pine to commemorate 100 years of history. In just a few minutes I’ll be planting a tree of my own, and let me say from the heart, there’s no finer symbol of the love each one of us feels for this land than a tree growing up in Montana’s good earth. We’re working hard to clean up America, but we can’t stop there. We’ve got to work with the rest of the world to preserve the planet.

We’re already taking action. To preserve the ozone layer, we’re going to ban all release of CFCs into the atmosphere by the year 2000. To prevent pollution of the world’s oceans we’re going to end virtually all ocean dumping of sewage and industrial wastes by 1991. (Applause.) And after that, anyone who continues to pollute is going to pay for it with stiff fines. And we’re going to join forces with other nations.

In February, the United States will host the plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In July when I visited Poland and Hungary, I pledged America’s help in tackling the increasingly serious pollution problems those two nations face. At the Paris economic summit, we helped the environment achieve the status that it deserves at the top of the agenda for the seven major industrial democracies. And I mean to keep it right there at the top of the agenda. (Applause.)

America spends more than any other nation in the world on environmental research, and we’re going to continue this pioneering effort to protect the environment and put that environmental expertise to work in the developing world as well. We cannot pollute today and postpone the cleanup until tomorrow. We have got to make pollution prevention our aim. And sharing our expertise with the world is one way to do exactly that. Today, I want to announce a new environmental initiative — one that will bring the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps together in a joint venture in the service of the global environment.

Beginning in 1990, as part of their standard preparation for duty, Peace Corps volunteers will be trained by the EPA to deal with the full range of environmental challenges water pollution, prevention, waste disposal, reforestation, pesticide management. Armed with greater knowledge about our environment, our Peace Corps volunteers are going to help spread the word in the developing world. They’ll work to stop pollution before it starts and ensure that economic development and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. And Montanans know more than most how much that means, how vital it is for us to accept our responsibilities, our stewardship — the environment in Montana, across America, and around the world. We hold this land in trust for the generations that come after. The air and the Earth are riches we simply cannot squander.”

Momentous Climatic Events Last Week

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday for shopping deals, heavy rain along coastal California finally ended the tragic fires that spread north and south. The Camp Fire near Chico killed about 88 people, injured dozens, displacing 1000’s of people out of their homes, and impacted millions of people from significant air pollution. That same day the U.S. Government released the fourth national climate assessment that shows burning carbon is causing climate change and impacting our health, environment, and economy. See how these factors are interrelated in chapter 17.

On Monday, November 26, 2018 NASA successfully landed a probe on Mars!  Scientists and engineers beat the odds learning from previous missions for InSight to drill down to see what lies beneath the surface of Mars.

Exploring Mars captures international attention while NASA scientists continue to make important contributions to understanding our Earth. So how does NASA know climate change is occurring due to carbon pollution? See the overwhelming factual evidence for climate change!

On Friday, November 30, President George H.W. Bush passed away at age 94. His dedicated career of public service included environmental accomplishments with the passage of the Clean Air Amendments Act in 1990.  I worked with a colleague in Washington who helped as a Senate staffer and said the original Clean Air Act legislation had many challenges to get through Congress and they needed to show photographs of air pollution affecting national parks like the Smoky Mountains. The amendments had bipartisan support to improve air quality, reduce acid rain, save the protective ozone layer with more bans on CFC’s, and prevent an estimated 230,00 premature deaths and for “Better air quality, better health protection, better economy.”

 

 

 

Austin City Limits Drinking Water Supplies

Heavy rain and flooding occurred this week along the Colorado River of Texas (not the river that flows from Colorado to Mexico) which flows from the Hill Country through Austin on the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The sediments derived largely from farm land have overwhelmed surface water supplies and water treatment plants so the City of Austin issued a boil water notice and water conservation measures. Boiling water before drinking will remove bacteria, parasites, and other organics. Other towns that provide deep groundwater supplies are not affected by the boil water notice.

More Bicycles than Cars or People in Amsterdam!

I’ve posted 15 photographs of our visit to Amsterdam this past week showing the popularity of bicycling and multiple parking locations near train stations, canals, schools, office parks, ferry boats, beach areas, and trains (check out the bike folded in half)! There are more bikes than people and about four times more bikes than cars according to AwesomeAmsterdam.com! Many people do not own a car and depend on biking around town. Obviously the air is clearer and people are healthier getting daily exercise. One day I wondered why all the 100’s of bike seats turned red, was it from a tour group - compare gallery bike photos 4 and 9 at the Sloterdijk Train Station? No, a clever advertiser overnight added seat covers. Luckily bicycle parking is free to all.

UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals

UNESCO Global Geoparks and their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  • Especially target 1.5:
    "By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters"

Disaster risk reduction is essential to ending poverty and fostering sustainable development. The bottom-up approach of the UNESCO Global Geoparks reduces the vulnerability of local communities to extreme events and other shocks and disasters through active risk awareness and resilience training.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

  • Especially target 4.7:
    "By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development"

UNESCO Global Geoparks actively educate their local communities and their visitors of all ages. UNESCO Global Geoparks are outdoor classrooms and incubators for sustainable development, sustainable lifestyles, appreciation of cultural diversity and the promotion of peace.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  • Especially target 5.5:
    "Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life"

UNESCO Global Geoparks strongly emphasize the empowerment of women through educational programmes or the development of women’s cooperatives. Such cooperatives provide an opportunity for women to obtain an additional income in their own area and on their own terms.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

  • Especially target 8.9:
    "By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and product"

The promotion of sustainable local economic development through sustainable (geo)tourism is one of the key pillars of a UNESCO Global Geopark. This creates job opportunities for the local communities through tourism, but also through the promotion of local culture and products.

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Especially target 11.4:
    "Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage"

Protection, safeguarding and celebrating our cultural and natural heritage are the foundation of the holistic approach of the UNESCO Global Geoparks. UNESCO Global Geoparks aim to give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen the identification with the area.

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • Especially target 12.8:
    "By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature"

  • and target 12.b:
    "Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products"

UNESCO Global Geoparks educate and create awareness on sustainable development and lifestyles. They teach the local communities and visitors to live in harmony with nature.

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Especially target 13.3:
    "Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning"

All UNESCO Global Geoparks hold records of past climate change and are educators on current climate change. Through educational activities awareness is raised on the issue and people are provided with knowledge to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

  • Especially target 17.6:
    "Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism"

  • target 17.9:
    "Enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the sustainable development goals, including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation"

  • and target 17.16:
    "Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries"

UNESCO Global Geoparks are all about partnership and cooperation, not only between local stakeholders, but also internationally through regional and global networks were knowledge, ideas and best practices are shared. Experienced geoparks guide aspiring geoparks to reach their full potential.

Outline for Potential Book

Occasionally I get ambitiously motivated to write a book to share experiences from my Earth Science perspective on individual to global survivability, i.e. improving our odds, through adversity and becoming more resilient. I would like to summarize blog posts over the past three years, learn and discuss local examples I’ve heard about here in Grand Junction -- like capturing landfill methane gas to supply CNG vehicles -- and seek out the best practices worldwide. I started on an outline for a book that I am initially calling:

Survival Sustainability: What We All Need to Know Now and For Our Children’s Future

Here is an outline with some ideas that I began BEFORE finding 30+ books on the topic of sustainability. This outline might take the form of book chapters:

Successful and Unsuccessful Societies Throughout History

                Greek Trojan Horse, Rise & Fall of the Roman Empire, Hopis Seven Generations, Chaco Canyon and Pueblo People from Mesa Verde to Santa Fe

What Kind of Place Will Our Children and Grandchildren Inherit?

Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Meeting Our Basic Needs: Maslow's Hierarchy

Food, Diet, Exercise, Health, Water, Homes and Bathrooms, Getting Around

Origins of Our Universe and Many Changes Through Geologic Time

Life, Proliferation, Population Bomb, Extinctions

Earth’s Precious Resources and Finite Capacity

Nature: Weathering Extreme Events including Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Tornados, Hurricanes, Drought

Neighborhood Watch to Governance – Local, County, State, Federal, International

Resilient Businesses and Investment Opportunities

Reestablishing the Ecological Balance of Nature – Wilson’s Half Earth proposal

Global Walk for a Livable World and Hands Across America

Nature and Spirituality – Indigenous People, Emerson, Thoreau, Ammachi

Appendices: Checklists

Please send me your thoughts about this book proposal and things you would like to know more about! Thank you!

International Cooperation for Global Survivability: Let the Thai Cave Boys Be a Beacon of Hope

The recent rescue of the Thai Cave Boys serves as a great example of what humans can accomplish under the most challenging, dangerous, and extreme conditions and what we can learn in surviving other environmental crises. When the Thai soccer team went missing, apparently the parents did not even know where they had gone. One boy on the team did not join them for the cave adventure and knew where they had gone as a team many times before. However, this time heavy rains blocked their exit and forced the boys and coach deeper into the limestone cave system. They survived on drinking the relatively clean water from drips coming off the top of the cave ceiling rather than the dirty flood water. The coach had been a Buddhist monk for many years, which most young men in Thailand spend time at the temple for blessing the family. So he instructed the team on being calm and to meditate. The physically-fit children stayed positive and when they were discovered to still be alive by two British divers, they sent back humorous and caring messages to tell their families they would be ok. They asked their teachers not to give more homework!

The rescue became an international event with people around the world sending prayers for hope. Thais, Americans, Aussies, Brits and other diving teams came together to trouble shoot options. These experts had never before experienced such dangerous conditions and they had to brainstorm different ideas on how to swim the children out through the dark, cold, narrow passageways.  The local governor took charge of the situation and made the decision to perform the rescue immediately before the monsoon rains raised the water levels. The Thai King help acquire resources and equipment from other countries. Many people demonstrated courage in the face of adversity! Local farmers allowed their rice fields to be destroyed in order to divert and pump water out of the caves, block water fall entrances and lower water levels.

So in summary, human errors and misunderstanding of the power of nature caused the initial crisis of trapping the explorers. Many did not give up hope of finding them and most importantly as far as I know the children did not panic. When people globally came together to solve the local problem, they worked together and made many sacrifices – including the Thai diver who ran out of air and died – and loss of businesses for the greater good to rescue these children.

So for many problems we face where human errors are due to a misunderstanding of the power of nature, we must find a way to globally come together and realize we are sharing this planet’s resources and we must find solutions to our problems. Americans cannot continue to dump 25% of the world’s carbon in to the global atmosphere and then stay ignorant of the evidence for climate change. We need advanced nuclear power and recycling of spent fuel to provide a source of clean energy in addition to other renewable sources. We cannot be against everything and block all progress. We need to teach more engineers to understand the power of nature and design structures to work with nature rather than believing we can control nature. We can plant more trees rather than destroy the forest. Water restrictions based on the local aridity should be continuous and not just during droughts. We cannot over consume, create trade imbalances, and dump our waste without it having serious economic and ecological effects.

The Thai diver rescue team is now helping rescue flood victims in Laos – an engineering failure of an unfinished dam project due to heavy rains.

Observations traveling to Washington D.C.

Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. and have several observations to share:

  • The first carbon neutral airport in the U.S., where I connected flights, is at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) that purchases wind power, runs buses on natural gas, operates advanced cooling systems, and employs many more innovations.
  • Since 2010, Washington D.C. charges five cents for one plastic shopping bag to reduce use of plastic and benefit watershed projects called "Skip the Bag, Save the River."
  • Riding the Metro or driving from the suburbs to work downtown you might feel like being packed into a sardine can during peak hours. Ridesharing is very popular through traditional carpools and casual free rides called Slugging
  • The weather in D.C. was unusually cool and wet for June and we heard about recent heavy rains and floods. The Eastern U.S. is experiencing the opposite of the extreme drought conditions in the Western U.S.
  • News broke this week that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting three times faster than a decade ago! Here is the abstract from the journal Nature:

"The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimetres (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain."

Where Have All the Conservatives Gone?

Pollster Frank Luntz describes his role in the 1994 Contract With America in his enlightening 2007 book Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear. He states that since the 1980's, "conservatism" has been more popular than the Republican Party. The first mid-term election of the Clinton Presidency resulted in a landslide victory for the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House by convincing more than 300 candidates to join the pact. Key elements of the "Contract" included auditing Congress to remove waste, fraud, and abuse as well as  balancing the federal budget just like families must do. The theme of these conservatives was to restore accountability, responsibility, and opportunity. Well the opportunity for fiscal restraint was lost over the past 25 years due to two major wars and responding to other crises while the number of true conservatives who speak out about the national debt greatly diminished. One person who frequently speaks with conservative ideals is outgoing Arizona Senator Jeff Flake who stated nine months ago:

“No budget gimmick or phony spending offset can hide the fact that $20 trillion is the largest debt ever owed by any nation in history. It’s time for Congress to change the way Washington does business. Shutting down the Washington favor factory with a permanent ban on earmarks and eliminating duplicative, wasteful, and unnecessary federal spending would be a good start.”

Let's dream and take action by doing better for our children who will inherit our savings or our debt. This should be our top priority to conserve our world's precious resources before it's too late!