The Great Warming

What does it take to get the attention of our young people, the generation that will be most impacted by the coming changes of such great magnitude?

Certainly it must reach them through the buzz, use the internet and other current technologies well, and be timely. The Great Warming seems to have covered those bases, even if the home page is so full of great information as to be overwhelming. And what a great graphic, don’t you think?

So let me narrow it down for you, for starters: Check out the Discussion Guide on Global Warming: Changing CO2urse. (Not a typo, but it takes a minute.)

Sponsored by the Northwest Earth Institute, seven study guides are offered, including

  • Voluntary Simplicity
  • Choices for Sustainable Living
  • Exploring Deep Ecology
  • Discovering a Sense of Place
  • Globalization and Its Critics
  • Healthy Children-Healthy Planet
  • Global Warming: Changing Co2urse

As you might imagine, the module on Discovering a Sense of Place caught my attention. I have seen this bonding between people and place crucial in my own story to gain a perspective not possible as a migrant homeowner. Even one’s sense of patriotism–honoring the father-land, literally–must begin in the countryside before it can fully extend to love of country.

Also, a reminder that Step It Up 2007 (Bill McKibben’s “distributed revolution”) is April 14. Read more about it in Business Week.

Bloodroot

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It’s happening, as it always does, too quickly. Every drive down the lane shows something else already gone by as Spring rushes through on its way to summer. Already, these bloodroot photographed a few days ago along the roadside near home have dropped their petals; the oddly-lobed and distinctive sheathing leaf that belongs one per plant will now begin to swell, growing six inches across by the middle of May.

The red-sapped rhizome that gives this plant one of its common names contains some caustic substances (perhaps accounting for the native American use of this plant as a emetic.) They also are said to have used the “blood” as a war paint or skin “tattoo”.

I used to demonstrate this on field trips by digging a bloodroot rhizome, breaking it in two to show the oozing red interior (I once had a student become faint from seeing this gore) and paint a red-orange stripe across my forehead. Very dramatic. Very stupid, I’ve learned since.

The sap contains the toxin sanguinarine. Recently, some ill-advised breast cancer patients used bloodroot sap topically, and developed disfiguring skin lesions.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about bloodroot is a feature it shares with two other very early-blooming plants, Dutchman’s Breeches, and Trillium. They all exhibit myrmecochory and produce elaiosomes.

What? These aren’t familiar words? Don’t you just love botanists for the way they wield Latin and Greek to their advantage and the obfuscation of others?

Very simply, these plants produce a little nutrition treat called an ELAIOSOME attached to their tiny seeds. These are “intentionally” attractive to ants, who gather the seeds, feed the treat to their young, then dispose of the actual living seed in their nutrient rich frass, or waste bin.

In a week or so, I’ll see if I can show you a closeup of a dissected Bloodroot seedpod and enlarged leaf to compare to the tiny leaf wrapped now around just the base of the single flower.

Clean Coal: Count the Costs

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More than 470 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining. Watch this video about mountaintop removal, including excerpts from the documentary Kilowatt Ours, featuring Woody Harrelson and a soundtrack featuring an original recording of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” sung by Willie Nelson. (08:23)

PLEASE do more than watch the video when you visit the link. Keep clicking on the page. Get an education. Then educate somebody else. Maybe even a politician.

You might also keep in mind this quote from a few days ago: “the Bush administration released a new energy plan in April 2001 that called for construction of 1,300 new power plants by 2020.” And understand that “clean coal” mined just as you see here will power those plants. Unless WE SPEAK OUT for our mountains, streams, freedoms and rights.

Leaving the Best: Sustainable Forestry

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I’m sorry not to have been able to write at greater length about Jason Rutledge and Healing Harvest Forestry Foundation. A few more images of his demonstration last Saturday in nearby Copper Hill can be found here.

Suffice it to say, Jason is an early ambassador and elder statesman of forestry stewardship. He and his son, Jagger (who you can see in the gallery image cutting up the tulip poplar he just dropped) are engaged in a work of love (the profit is small and hard to come by, especially in a day of declining timber values.) And both are as articulate about their purpose, methods and goals as you’d ever expect to find coming from a suit and tie, much less from the garb of a woodsman in the backwaters of Virginia forests.

What Healing Harvest sees perhaps most clearly is there is more to the forest than the trees. In the end, it is the “environmental services” of the forest–its carbon sequestration, cooling effect, energy conversion and especially water resource impact–that makes our woods so valuable to us. To US, not just the small landowner who thinks in terms of his acres during his day.

But then, Jason can also convince you that it makes sense now and in pennies to consider leaving your woods better and better with each sucessive, selective, low-impact, worst-first cutting.

In this demonstration, Jagger Rutledge used a “Swede cut” to drop a tulip poplar 31″ across at breast height. (The area it grew in is destined to become a pond). He estimated the tree was about 80 years old. The 8-foot section that was cut from the trunk of the tree weighed approximately 2200 pounds. And the Rutledges’ team of Suffolks moved it away as if it were made of balsam wood, leaving no dozed road, no collateral tree damage–just a scuff in the leaf litter in the process.

Waste Not, Want Not

Inefficiency: energy converted uselessly to heat of friction and incompletely burned energy residues: air and water pollutants.

The answer: Efficiency boosts–a much better solution to having more energy and less waste (including famously: greenhouse gases). Here’s a snippet from a piece by Lester Brown on Huffingtonpost.com

One crucial area of focus, a step we can take essentially immediately, is raising energy efficiency–especially in the United States.

When the Bush administration released a new energy plan in April 2001 that called for construction of 1,300 new power plants by 2020, Bill Prindle of the Washington-based Alliance to Save Energy responded by pointing out how the country could eliminate the need for those plants and save money in the process. He ticked off several steps that would reduce the demand for electricity:

* Improving efficiency standards for household appliances would eliminate the need for 127 power plants;

* More stringent residential air conditioner efficiency standards would eliminate 43 power plants;

* Raising commercial air conditioner standards would eliminate the need for 50 plants;

* Using tax credits and energy codes to improve the efficiency of new buildings would save another 170 plants;

* Similar steps to raise the energy efficiency of existing buildings would save 210 plants.

These five measures from the longer list suggested by Prindle would not only eliminate the need for 600 power plants, they would also save money. Although these calculations were made in 2001, they are still valid simply because there has been so little progress in raising U.S. energy efficiency since then.

Fred sez: When the time comes, I’ll vote against the BIGGER HAMMER approach. Sometimes LESS is MORE.