CB’s Green Report: Drought Conditions Worsen Southwest Water Crisis

As if the fight over water from the Colorado River and Lake Mead could get any worse in the Southwest, the area is facing extreme drought conditions. A recent USA Today article reports that January and February 2009 are the driest beginning of any year since America started keeping precipitation records over a century ago. These low water levels are causing severe droughts in Texas and California, which exacerbates the water crisis in the Southwest.

USA-Today-drought-map-320.jpg

The map reflects the exceptional (brown-red), extreme (orange) and severe (dark yellow) water problems in California, Nevada and Texas.

USA-Today-Precipitation-Map320.jpg

Richard Heim, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center told USA Today that the 2.69-inch average rainfall across the U.S. in January and February is the least amount of moisture in those months since NOAA began keeping records in 1895.

USA-Today-Drought-Record-sm.jpg

The current dry spell started in Central Texas in 2007, and hit California along with the rest of the Southwest in 2006. Los Angeles only received 3 inches of rain during 2006-2007, its driest year on record.

As a result of these prolonged drought conditions in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a drought emergency in February 2009.  For the first time in 15 years, Los Angeles is planning to implement a water rationing system – achieved “through price-enforced household conservation and tough new lawn watering restrictions.”

“The level of severity of this drought is something we haven’t seen since the early 1970s,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in unveiling his city’s drought plan, which also would put more water cops on the beat.

And to save endangered fish populations, the courts are reducing the amount of water taken from rivers (Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water source in Northern California). Water officials also decided to cut their Sierra Mountains water source pumped to cities and irrigation districts by 85 percent according to Reuters. These measures highlights the growing tensions between farms/agricultural water uses and animals as well farms/agricultural versus urban/metropolitan water needs.

Thus, another major loser in the water fight are farmers and ranchers.

California farmers lost more than $300 million in 2008 and economic losses may accelerate to 10 times that this year as 95,000 people lose their jobs. Farmers will get zero water from the main federal supplier (Reuters).

As farms continue to suffer, major Southwest cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are growing in population. People are moving to the warm sunbelt.

“For the last few years, the driest states, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, have been the fastest growing. And you know that can’t be sustained,” said James Powell to Reuters.  Powell is the author of “Dead Pool,” a book about global warming and water in the U.S. West.

It’s not surprising that California, the world’s eighth-largest economy, uses enough water to cover the state of Washington in a foot of water.  And approximately 80 percent of the water is used by farms growing crops like organic lettuce and rice. The drought induced water cutback to the farms will cause a dramatic decrease in California’s agricultural production —- which has serious economic implications as well as food supply ramifications.

And to make matters even worse, the droughts are making California more vulnerable to wildfires.  Last year, a record 500,000 Southern Californians had to vacate their homes because of fires.

State officials are using prison inmate crews to clear away brush and create fire breaks around communities to reduce the risk of wildfires, said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (USA Today).

A water shortage, drought conditions, fewer crops and the potential for fires is a red flag for an impending disaster.




CB’s Green Report: Post Turkey Day News

Free veggies anyone? More than 40,000 people showed up to pick free vegetables left over from the harvest at a Colorado farm about 37 miles north of Denver. The farm owners expected about 5,000 to 10,000 people to pick a few carrots and potatoes last Saturday. Instead, more than 11,000 cars showed up and the people picked the fields clean. Owner, Ms. Miller, told the Denver Post, “Overwhelmed is putting it mildly. People obviously need food.”

And in Los Angeles recently, Mayor Villaraigosa revealed his long-range plan to generate “enough solar power to meet one-tenth of the city’s energy needs by 2020.” His goal could be achieved if solar panels are installed on public and private energy generating facilities as well as on residents’ homes. This initiative will also help the city’s Department of Water and Power reduce its use of fossil fuels, like natural gas and coal, and benefit global warming reduction efforts. If the Mayor’s plan were successful, Los Angeles would become the “hub of the solar-energy industry.”

The White House may become a “green” house. In the recent Barbara Walters interview with President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, Obama said that he wants to make the White House green. He plans to work with the chief usher for house and evaluate his new home’s energy efficiency. When asked why the focus on greening the house, Obama said, “Part of what I want to do is to show the American people that it’s not that hard.”

Global warming is a global concern. Although the global economy is in the pits right now, HSBC bank’s second annual global poll found that 43 percent think climate change is a bigger problem than the financial crisis. And 78 percent of those polled want their countries to do their “fair share” of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Although the global citizens polled want their governments to fight global warming, invest in renewable energy (55 percent), and participate in climate talks (27 percent), as individuals, these people are less willing to change their own lifestyle than last year (47 percent in 2008 vs. 58 percent in 2007). Have they ever heard the expression that change begins with YOU?

So if you are a big greenie, where can you meet like-minded individuals? Funny you should ask. There is a new social networking site called Greenwala. The site is designed to help people learn more about being green, brag about their green works with family and friends.




Caramel Bella’s The Green Report: Oh No, Not the Kangaroos Too….

Last week it was the penguins, now it’s the kangaroos. According to research by Australian scientists, kangaroos could also become extinct this century if temperatures rise only two degrees Celsius. Researchers at James Cook University issue yet another warning about global warming’s effect on animals.

Speaking of global warming, let’s follow the Brits. British energy and climate minister Ed Miliband said Thursday he endorsed proposals to reduce Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. This legally-binding pledge makes the UK the “the first country to commit to severe cuts in the production of carbon dioxide and other gases responsible for global warming.

Coming off the final presidential debate, we all heard Sen. Obama’s and Sen. McCain’s views on their proposed energy policies. To most people’s surprise, both candidates endorse nuclear power, at varying degrees, to gain oil independence from the Middle East. A recent New York Times article lays out their nuclear ideas.

On the presidential front, good news for bikers from avid cyclist: George W. Bush. Before the president leaves office, the Bush administration plans to give mountain bikers more access to national parks and other public lands. On Tuesday, the National Park Service confirmed that it is “preparing a rule that will allow decisions about some mountain bike trails to be made by park managers instead of federal regulators in Washington, a process that can take years.”

Before you eat your next bite of sushi, do you know if it’s “sustainable?” According to the sustainability guides published by three conservation groups, mackerel (aji or sawara) is fine but best-selling, fatty bluefin tuna (toro) are out. The “ocean-friendly” books produced by the Blue Ocean Institute, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Environmental Defense Fund lists whether the seafood is caught by sustainable methods. The guides list the fish by their English and Japanese names. “The three new cards will be officially unveiled Oct. 22 at Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar, which the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Ken Peterson described “as the only fully sustainable sushi restaurant in the United States.” Now, you can be eco-conscious to the last sushi bite.

Now about those oceans…. Does less ice lead to more water? University of Edinburgh scientists announced a plan Thursday to survey a fragile part of an Antarctic ice shelf this year to determine if it will crack off in coming decades and have an impact on global sea levels. Other portions of this ice shelf have already broken off in 1995 and 2002. The U.N. Climate Plan said that rising world sea levels, fueled by global warming, could cause more powerful storms, heatwaves, floods and droughts.




Caramel Bella’s: The Green Report

The dangers of global warming strike the penguins. According to a recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, if the earth’s climate increases by only two degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) half to three-quarters of Antarctic penguin colonies could be wiped out or severely harmed. Sadly, a United Nation report predicts the climate change will occur by the end of the century if greenhouse gases aren’t decreased. Poor, poor penguins.

Could greener fuels cause world hunger? A United Nations food agency is asking the same question in its call for a review of biofuel (cleaner, plant-based fuel) subsidies and policies. The examination will look at biofuel’s role in higher food prices and hunger in poor countries. With the biofuel subsidies in place, many farmers plant more crops for fuel than food because it brings in more dough.

Speaking of dough, green technology is where it’s at. Venture capital is pouring into the clean tech industry that focuses on alternative energy, pollution reduction, recycling and conservation. Biotechies and biopharma workers are headed over to the green side. According to VentureSource, venture funding in clean technologies increased from $216 million in 2002 to $2.5 billion last year.

Financial crisis threatens climate change. A lack of credit and limited capital may result in fewer developed countries investing in green initiatives to help poorer countries upgrade to clean energy technology. In an AP interview, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. climate secretariat summed it up best when he said, “You can’t pick an empty pocket.”

(more…)




Hamburgers = High Fashion?

Did you know that the French think hamburgers are chic! According to a New York Times article today entitled “In Paris, Burgers Turn Chic,” American hamburgers are the latest fashion in France.

And although we may want to take credit for the hamburger becoming high cuisine, we have to look at why the burger is achieving this level of hype.

From the NYT: “It has the taste of the forbidden, the illicit — the subversive, even,” said Hélène Samuel, a restaurant consultant here. “Eating with your hands, it’s pure regression. Naturally, everyone wants it.”

The article continues: “Hamburgers were everything that French dining is not: informal, messy, fast and foreign.”

So, the French seem to be embracing the roguishness of the U.S. culture exemplified by its burger. However, they are adding a bit of French chic to it with burgers seasoned with black ketchup, made of blackberries and black currants.

If you aren’t dying for a burger now, check out the NYTimes article. Me: I’ll take a veggie burger please!

Smooches,
The Caramel Bella




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My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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