Massive Threats to Our Oceans

Minnehaha Creek drains into the Mississippi River which runs to the Gulf of Mexico

I’ve pledged to reduce single-use plastic in my life, Refuse plastic straws & cutlery, use refillable water bottles, coffee cups, & bring my own bag to the store. Together we can do this! Join me & take the challenge  Mick Jagger

Two thirds of our earth is covered by ocean, and our oceans are paying a price for our behavior on land.

The Mississippi River water shed drains much of the United States.

This afternoon I walked over the Minnehaha Creek, and saw plastic bags stuck in the ice. I live 1,500 miles from an ocean, but this creek, a few blocks from my house, drains into the Mississippi River which runs into the Gulf of Mexico over a thousand miles away.  When the ice melts, this plastic will probably take a long journey down the Mississippi River and end up in our oceans.What we do to the land, we do to our water.  Most ocean pollution starts out on land and is carried by wind and rain to the sea. Plastic from the land ends up in the ocean and plastic is so durable that the EPA reports “every bit of plastic ever made still exists.” Even the pristine Arctic Ocean is being inundated with plastic. Read at Arctic. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy5c-BZUjHQ  See this video how Norway recycles plastic.

The second threat to oceans is our warming planet. Oceans in 2017 were warmer than they have ever been.  Most of the heat from our warming planet is absorbed by the oceans. More than 90 percent of the Earth’s heat related to global warming is absorbed by the ocean.  Read at ocean heat.

What are the consequences of warming oceans?  Warmer oceans could bring storms, rain droughts and winds like we have never seen.  The hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico are just examples of what could come. The warming ocean melts the glaciers faster causing sea rise.   Cities and countries will be under water if this trend continues, and many people will become refugees having to move inland causing refugee crisis to get worse and worse. Unfortunately, this is only going to continue with extreme drought in some places and too much water in others!

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42947155

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics/

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It’s For the Birds!

Black-capped chickadee outside my window

2018 is the year of the bird!

What does that mean? It means Audubon, National Geographic, Cornell, BirdLife International, and most importantly, bird lovers everywhere are teaming up for a year of action for birds! 2018 is the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and what better way to honor our most important bird-protection law than with our own small ways of protecting birds.  Sign up to take a pledge to help birds here.

 

My bird friendly yard. The birds eat the seeds of these cone flowers all winter

Birds are struggling because of loss of habitat, and heavy use of pesticides and other chemicals by farmers, corporations and gardeners. My thing is creating a friendly habitat for birds. Audubon has plants for bird friendly yards. Read at Audubon

 

Simple things You can Do

Find a place to recycle your bottles, cans and paper.
Say “No” to plastic bags!
Bring you own shopping bag

We now have plastic in our water and in the fish we eat. Do we really want to put plastic fibers into our bodies every time we eat and drink?

I have three simple thoughts about litter and recycling today: First, countries that have less plastic have less litter. Second and third, if everyone would recycle more, and change the plastic bag habit, it would make a big difference on our planet.

Here is an interesting plastic comparison for you.  This is based on observation during the past month while I have been travelling through Central Asia and Iran. Central Asia uses very little plastic except for black plastic bags for purchases and plastic bottles for soda.  Iran by contrast uses lots of plastic. Beside plastic bottles, restaurant food, hotel towels, and many things that don’t need to be, are wrapped in plastic. Plastic cups and straws are used in Iran, but I saw none in Central Asia. Where would you guess there is a terrible litter problem? The contrast was enormous.  I brought Iranian plastic home to recycle.

Governments clearly need to become aware of the problem, and businesses like Coca Cola need to take more responsibility for the plastic they produce.

While I was thinking about this I came across an excellent essay by ECOwatch with great suggestions for everyone (see below) But keep it simple and by recycling and reducing  plastic bags you can make a big difference on our earth!

From Ecowatch:

  • Complain to retailers. Pressure retailers to do away with over-packaging.
  • Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
  • Use natural clothing fiber rather than synthetic clothing, as synthetic cloth releases plastic fiber in every wash cycle.
  • Choose to reuse. Neither plastic shopping bags nor plastic water bottles can be easily recycled.
  • Deposit return schemes are highly effective ways to reduce plastic bottle waste. In Germany, where a bottle-return program is in place, nearly 98 percent of plastic bottles are returned.
  • Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics.
  • Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.

Happy Autumn!

Thoughts for the first day of fall on Lake Superior:

Bees love the fall asters

Crickets sing, eagles whistle, the wind howls and pounds waves against the sandstone bank.
The red tips of the maples, the blooming asters, and the shortening days say one thing, summer has turned to fall!

Summer’s End
By Judith Viorst

One by one the petals drop
There’s nothing that can make them stop.
You cannot beg a rose to stay.
Why does it have to be that way?

There is an unusual explosion of painted ladies this fall

The butterflies I used to chase
Have gone off to some other place.
I don’t know where. I only know
I wish they didn’t have to go, and all the shiny afternoons
So full of birds and sun are done. I do not want them done!

The sun sets on summer 2017, Lake Superior

How Can We Embrace Water?

Wetlands along the Mississippi River

The earth has a natural balance. The prairies, lakes, wetlands, deserts, mountains and oceans and rivers all work together to provide food and habitat for living things. Unfortunately, some places have gotten out of balance. Some areas are suffering terrible drought, and others have more rain and water than they can manage.

Building cities, driveways, parking lots, and roads changes the earth’s balance. What had been surfaces that were pervious, water drained through, are changed into impervious surfaces, that do not drain.  Wetlands have gotten the shaft the past 200 years taking away the natural healing for our earth. Farmers have drained the wetlands to be used for agriculture and cities have drained and paved over these valuable places that naturally clean our water and provide homes for so much wildlife. When you build a city on a wetland you take away the natural ability to drain the area. You also destroy the dynamic life that lives there.

Houston sits on a wetland. Without any regulation parts of Houston were built on a wetlands. The concrete and asphalt took away the earth’s drainage capacity. The original wetland wants to flood, that’s what it is supposed to do, but all the hard paved surface has left only small patches of ground to drain the water and guess what? You have a flooded area.

How can Houston embrace their water? I hope that as Houston rebuilds from Hurricane Harvey they will work to maximize pervious areas, areas that drain, and limit the concrete and asphalt. It is impossible to plan for a 50 inch rain, but with some good science and skilled planning, some houses and many lives can be saved.  Regulation and good minds are needed instead of a “Do what you want” attitude.  I hope the people of Houston will try!   It is so wasteful and expensive not to try to change the way they do things.

Areas need to be created that capture the water so it drains into the earth not into the rivers and streams. Run-off creates polluted water.  The earth naturally cleans the water as it is absorbed by the earth.  I hope Houston is willing to replace some concrete with renewed wetlands and rain gardens that will keep such destruction from happening again! Homeowners could be required to install pervious or permeable driveways or gardens that absorb water, or some area on their property that absorbs a percentage of water. See permeable driveways for ideas.

I heard one Houston homeowner on the radio, his house had flooded 3 times in the past 5 years.  It is insane to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result!  Maybe we can all learn something from New Orleans. See below.

After fighting water New Orleans is starting to embrace their water problem with a new paradigm. I hope Houston can learn from them. Read about it at New Orleans.

Also, Mayors along the Mississippi River are embracing wetlands to improve water quality and this will help New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, also! Read about at wetlands.

Houston, it’s your turn!  Wetlands can soak up lots of flood water. Can you do things differently this time around? Start listening to the scientists, engineers and environmentalists.

Houston helped put a man on the moon. Houston is the leader in the medical field. It could also begin to be a smart, resilient city if it puts its mind to it. That’s all it’s got to do. Read more at Houston.

 

 

 

Scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston’s explosive growth is largely to blame. As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of

Enjoy the Butterfly Explosion

Enjoy the Butterfly Explosion
Painted Lady

Painted lady butterflies are one of my favorites. This week in Minneapolis we had an explosion of painted ladies as they migrate south. Other cities have experienced painted lady migration also. Read about their  migration at Fargo and Lawrence.

Pearly everlasting, painted lady host plant.

Pearly everlasting is a host plant for the painted lady caterpillars and I watch their lives cycle all summer in my yard as they transform from caterpillar, to chrysalis to butterfly on these interesting white flowered plants.

Want to know more about the painted lady? Thoughtco has more information on them. Read at painted lady

Go for a walk and see if you can find migrating monarchs and painted lady butterflies.

Painted Lady by Dave Carpenter, Nokomis Naturescape