On a warm spring morning in 1976, when Beth Pratt was 7 years old, she noticed a “For sale” sign posted in the woods near her home just north of Boston.
“I asked my mom what it meant,” she recalled. “She said the land was up for sale and would soon be flattened by bulldozers.”
The next day, Pratt went door to door in her neighborhood of old elms and deep porches asking for donations to save one of her favorite outdoor playgrounds. Then she called the phone number on the sign and made an offer: $5.
After several seconds of silence, the person on the other end of the line said, “Wonderful. Just $40,000 more and that property is all yours.”
Today, Pratt is still raising money for causes she believes in. At 52, Pratt heads the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign, which seeks to raise funds to build an $87-million bridge that will allow isolated clans of cougars to cross a 10-lane stretch of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.
To get a full measure of her dedication to the cause, start with the campaign’s poster puma, P-22. A likeness of the lone mountain lion prowling the chaparral-covered slopes in Griffith Park is tattooed on Pratt’s upper left arm.
Groundbreaking is just around the corner. The thought of it brings a proud smile to her face.
“When I took on this assignment I thought, well, how hard can it be?” Pratt said, shaking her head. “I didn’t dream it would grow into a nearly $100-million project that would consume almost 10 years of my life.”
An artist’s rendering of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, set to break ground in late January.
(Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation)
When it is completed, the 200-foot-long, 165-foot-wide bridge will be the largest and most expensive of its kind in the world — and the only one designed to save a species from extinction.
It is crucial, scientists say, to restoring gene flow among small, isolated populations of cougars trapped south of the freeway that roars with 300,000 vehicles each day in the Santa Monica Mountains and cougars confined to the north in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.
Recent scientific studies suggest there’s an almost 1 in 4 chance that Southern California mountain lions, which have the lowest genetic diversity documented for the species aside from the critically endangered Florida panther, could become extinct within 50 years.
The next few months are vital for those cougars and for Pratt, regional executive director in California for the federation. As of early December, the effort still needed $5 million to meet deadlines and contractual obligations.
Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park. Her ability to raise considerable amounts of money owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders.
(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)
Yet Pratt looked pleased on a recent morning, writing grant proposals and soliciting donations over the phone in her home near Yosemite National Park. Her living area is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.
She had reason to be pleased. Future historians may look back on the second decade or so of 21st century American architecture as the Age of Wildlife Crossings. Congress in November passed a national infrastructure package that for the first time sets aside $350 million in federal funding for wildlife crossings to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in all 50 states.
This would not have been the situation most people would have predicted when Pratt took on the tricky fundraising job. Wildlife bridge proposals, she quickly learned, come with a hitch: You need money to get past the blueprints, but you need blueprints to generate donations.
It’s rare these days — and almost impossible — to see a big-bucks urban wildlife project survive such long odds, particularly in a region that is home to unbearable traffic jams, smog and cookie-cutter planned developments.
Her ability to raise money in breathtaking amounts owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders — celebrities, corporate leaders and philanthropists — who have ready cash and enjoy throwing elegant private fundraisers for progressive causes.
Beth Pratt, a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.
(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)
While the Westside may not be the natural habitat of a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, Pratt learned that she could successfully coax the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Barbra Streisand without changing habits.
Pratt carries a backpack instead of a purse. At one Beverly Hills fundraiser, the host asked, “Are you going hiking after this?”
“I discovered that mountain lions are a great icebreaker when you don’t have much else in common,” she said. “For example, when I met my favorite actor, Viggo Mortensen, at a Santa Barbara film festival, I only talked about cougars and not about my 20-year crush on him.” Pratt shoved a furry P-22 figurine under his arm as a reminder.
Her other gifts are patience, energy, ambition and what Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation, described as “relentless competence.”
Between solicitations to prospective donors, Pratt has partnered with photographer Robb Hirsch to publish the first in-depth account of the wildlife in Yosemite in almost 100 years.
She also promotes the Liberty Canyon project during visits to local elementary schools and annually retraces the 20-mile odyssey that P-22 braved from the Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park. The cat’s route took him over concrete and backyards, commuter traffic and culverts.
A 2014 photo provided by the National Park Service shows a mountain lion known as P-22 in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles.
(National Park Service )
“Some of her supporters have been moved to tears,” said Paul Edelman, deputy director of natural resources for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, “seeing Beth emerge from the brush near the carousel at Griffith Park looking bedraggled, dusty and sunburned.”
When asked about her heroes, she quickly gives credit to Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.
A selfie taken by Beth Pratt with Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, right, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.
Pratt sensed a kindred spirit in Mapp after they met about a decade ago. They both have great faith in the transformative power of the outdoors, and they both were struggling through personal issues while launching unprecedented projects that would define their careers and nurture new cooperative relationships between the urban and the wild.
“We became professional confidants who bonded in our own brand of sisterhood,” said Mapp, 49, a former Morgan Stanley analyst whose Outdoor Afro has expanded into a nonprofit with chapters in 36 cities across the nation. “For us, it was like Stars Wars’ Yoda says, ‘Do or not do. There is no trying.’”
The #SaveLACougars campaign kicked off in 2014 after the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund joined forces to raise money for the project at Liberty Canyon, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
“Normally, the majority of funding for projects of this scale comes from government agencies and not private donations,” Pratt said. “But the incentive was powerful to act quickly and reach out to visionary private investors or the lions of L.A. County would vanish within our lifetime.”
One of Pratt’s first donors was veteran rocker David Crosby. “This has always been a very uphill project and Beth is a very brave, focused and strong girl,” he said. “I plan to be there when they cut the ribbon on that wildlife bridge.”
Beth Pratt’s home in Midpines, Calif., is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.
(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)
Since 2020, wildlife biologists have discovered the physical manifestations of extremely low genetic diversity among several of the dozen cougars that roam the 275 square miles in and around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — a tail kinked like the letter “L,” only one descended testicle and abnormal sperm.
In the face of such a dire prognosis — what biologists call an extinction vortex — conservationists are stepping up calls for construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing at Liberty Canyon.
As envisioned by architects and Caltrans, cougars would move unseen by humans over a reinforced concrete-and-steel wildlife crossing landscaped with native vegetation — including oak and willow trees — and irrigation systems, and shielded with sound walls and light deflectors to dampen the noise and glare of headlights below.
Fencing up to 12 feet high would funnel wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, deer, coyotes, skunks, badgers, squirrels, mice and lizards over the passage. To reduce roadkill, fencing would also extend several miles in both directions from the project footprint.
Project partners include the California Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.
Because the bridge crosses the freeway, Caltrans will oversee design and construction — but the agency is not providing funding. Instead, most of the funds come from more than 3,000 private, philanthropic and corporate donors around the world, including a recent $25-million challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.
Mountain lions as a species are not threatened in California, but the state Fish and Game Commission has granted cougars in six regions from Santa Cruz to the U.S.-Mexico border “candidate status” to be listed as threatened sometime next year.
The action came in response to a petition co-sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation. It argues that six isolated and distinct cougar clans within those regions make up a subpopulation that is threatened by extinction.
“In car-centric California, what we do with our roads is critical to the future of mountain lions,” said Brendan Cummings, the center’s conservation director. “A new, more hopeful relationship is breaking ground on the side of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon.
“This project is significant not just because it will directly benefit our endangered Southern California cougars,” he added, “but also because of what it represents: the most important step toward reimagining and rebuilding our infrastructure to ensure a continuing place for them and other wildlife in 21st century California and beyond.”
Not everyone is a believer, however. Critics ask why we should willingly share more space in our crowded world with stealthy, 140-pound predators who kill livestock and might menace us if we walk down a trail at night.
Pratt has answers. And there is an edge of impatience mixed with her self-effacing humor as she delivers them.
“I don’t want to see people hurt, but it’s important to put the risk in perspective,” she says. “Over the past century there’ve been less than 20 mountain lion attacks in California, six of them fatal. Yet, 3,000 to 4,000 people die every year on California’s highways.
“So c’mon,” she adds, “ask yourself when was the last time you helped pull an endangered lion back from the edge of extinction?”
There have been tumultuous years. But by perseverance and a generous measure of personal charm, Pratt has become California’s most recognizable promoter of wildlife crossings.
“Beth rocks,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. “I’d like to see her apply her considerable organizing powers to other roads driving local lions toward extinction.”
What’s the only thing cooler than a castle? An ice castle. Figuratively and literally, these ice castles and other impressive winter displays are among the best of the bunch. Read on for some of the most breathtaking ice castles and sculptures in the country. FYI: Unless specified or noted as a free attraction, check the website listed for entrance fees, which vary depending on age and day.
Ice Castles New Hampshire, North Woodstock, New Hampshire
Ice Castles New Hampshire, North Woodstock, New Hampshire (White Mountains New Hampshire)
In the majestic White Mountains, journeyers will be treated to a fairy-tale display of ice castles from mid-January until mid-February depending on the weather conditions. All of the castles are hand-constructed and hand-placed by ice artists using hundreds of thousands of icicles, and you’ll also see tunnels, ice caves and ice slides. Illuminated by LED lights, visitors can also opt for a horse-drawn sleigh ride or the “Enchanted Forest Walk.”
Ice Castles in Lake George, New York (Courtesy to A.J. Mellor for Ice Castles)
Prepare to be amazed in the Empire State. In Lake George, you’ll be treated to ice displays with LED lights and colors at the Festival Commons at Charles Wood Park. This new winter event is expected to be open from January to early March, weather permitting. Each hand-built castle is said to take thousands of hours to create, and each castle is approximately a whopping one acre in size.
Ice Castles in Midway, Utah (Courtesy of Valor McNeely)
It’s to Utah we go for yet another Ice Castles experience. This one, situated in the scenic foothills of the Wasatch Mountains at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center — a one-time Winter Olympics venue — is Ice Castles’ original outpost. Guests will be amazed by ice-carved slides, fountains, caverns and narrow slot canyons, crafted completely in ice and inspired by the natural slot canyons for which the Southwest is known. For a special outing, hop aboard a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Wasatch Valley for ice-ing on the cake. Ice Castles in Midway, Utah, typically opens in late December or early January and remains open through late February.
International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado
International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado (The Breckenridge Tourism Office)
Not familiar with Breckenridge’s International Snow Sculpture Championships? Once you start scoping out videos from the mesmerizing event, good luck leaving the YouTube vortex. The celebrated snow-sculpting competition brings together 12 teams from around the globe to hand-carve 20-ton blocks of snow into larger-than-life art. Making these pieces even more impressive is the fact that competitors can only use hand tools. The carving week takes place Jan. 24-28, 2022, and viewing week for this unique outdoor art gallery is Jan. 28-Feb. 2, 2022.
Ice Castles in New Brighton, Minnesota (A.J. Mellor)
Head to Long Lake Regional Park in the Twin Cities suburb of New Brighton, and you’ll be greeted with quite the frozen sight to behold. As you marvel at the castle, take note of the various caverns, tunnels, crawl spaces, slides and fountains, all handcrafted from individually placed icicles. To up the ante, there’s also a sculpture garden with fairy-tale-themed ice sculptures linked by a light grove along a wooded trail to the castle. Ice Castles in Minnesota historically opens in early January and stays in place through early March, weather permitting.
Michigan Technological University’s 100th Winter Carnival in Houghton, Michigan
Michigan Technological University’s 100th Winter Carnival in Houghton, Michigan (2nd Sandbar Productions and Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau)
From Feb. 9 to Feb. 12, 2022, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will host this free-to-visit carnival that’s sure to dazzle folks of all ages. Every year, the carnival has a different theme, and students put on quite the spectacle through highly detailed snow and ice sculptures. Some of the largest sculptures take a month to create, and smaller statues are built overnight. There are also broomball games, comedy skits and the carnival’s queen coronation to enjoy.
Ice Castles in Lake George, New York (A.J. Mellor for Ice Castles)
A crazy-cool citadel awaits at Geneva National Resort and Club in this so-called “Newport of the west,” where you can ooh and ahh at caverns, arches, ice slides, an ice maze, crawl tunnels, the arctic alcove (a popular spot for proposals) and more. To boost your holiday activities quota, you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ridge along the shoreline of Lake Como. Due to the shorter winter season in Lake Geneva, Ice Castles in Wisconsin typically doesn’t open until late January and only remains open through late February, weather permitting.
Winter Carnival Ice Palace in Saranac Lake, New York
Winter Carnival Ice Palace in Saranac Lake, New York (The Adirondack Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism)
This free attraction alone is well worth a visit to the charming mountain town of Saranac Lake. At the winter carnival, the ice palace is the pièce de résistance, erected on the shore of Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay and built similarly as it was in 1897, the first year the palace revealed its shimmering, glimmering self. Using ice harvested from Lake Flower with 1,500 blocks stacked atop each other, this ice display is built by volunteers. Visible for the duration of the carnival Feb. 4 to 13, 2022, heavy equipment is now used to help make the labor easier, but the communal spirit of neighbors coming together to make something special is ever present.
Samoset Glacier Ice Bar & Lounge in Rockport, Maine
Samoset Glacier Ice Bar & Lounge in Rockport, Maine (Samoset Resort)
Yes, grown-ups can enjoy a good old-fashioned ice castle excursion, but for some adults-only fun, it’s tough to outshine this ice bar and lounge put together by ice sculptors and designers who devote weeks to chiseling down 300-pound blocks of ice to fashion bars, seats, tables, ice luges, couches and sculptures. Fire lamps and faux-fur cushions round out the mix as you sip on hits like a “snowball martini or “Old Man Winter” and warm up with New England clam chowder and chili. There’s live music at night and the bar will be open Jan. 14-15 and Jan. 21-22, 2022, with free access for hotel guests and $25 for outside visitors.
Ice Maze at CityCenterDC in Washington, D.C. (Albert Ting / CityCenterDC)
Our nation’s capital recently welcomed the return of the Ice Maze at The Park at CityCenterDC, a mixed-use development and public park. The free, interactive experience surpassed its previous ice records, with a 130,000-pound clear ice maze accompanied by multicolored lights. This year, the maze was created by 10 international award-winning sculptors and ran in mid-December for three days. Ice activations have been a tradition at CityCenterDC for the past five years, and an announcement will come in 2022 as to what surprise guests can expect in the new year.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday that he is “certain” more than 70 people are dead after a tornado traveled around 227 miles through the commonwealth and is wreaking havoc on even more states as it pushes eastward.
Beshear called it the most devastating tornado event in state history, and he said that the death toll could top 100.
“Everywhere along this line of this tornado where it touched down … has been severely and significantly impacted,” Beshear said.
“It is indescribable,” he said. “The level of devastation is unlike anything I have ever seen.”
Beshear earlier said about 110 people were inside a candle factory in Mayfield when the tornado struck.
At least four different tornadoes struck the state during the night.
“It hit Mayfield as hard as just about any town,” the governor said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks to reporters at the Statehouse in Frankfort, Ky., Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (Associated Press)
Other nearby towns were also hit, he said.
He advised Kentucky residents to stay as safe as they can and warned them to stay off the roads as emergency crews continued their response.
He declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard, he said.
Police departments and other agencies were using heavy equipment to clear fallen trees and other debris, he said.
Earlier Saturday morning came reports that hundreds of customers were without electricity in Jefferson County, Kentucky, with an estimated 20,000 or more losing service statewide, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
The Kentucky State Police warned that “Loss of life is expected,” in a social media post around 1 a.m. Saturday.
According to the National Weather Service, the tornado producing storm system is expected to go through southeastern Alabama, Georgia, and parts of the Florida panhandle this afternoon into tonight. Portions of the mid-Atlantic are also under a “marginal” risk of severe weather this evening.
During a press conference on Saturday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said that the Amazon warehouse collapse in Edwardsville has resulted in six deaths so far.
For centuries, indigenous groups in north-east India have crafted intricate bridges from living fig trees. Now this ancient skill is making its way to European cities.
When monsoon clouds bring pelting rains to the village of Tyrna, Shailinda Syiemlieh takes the nearest bridge to reach the opposite bank of a gushing stream. The bridge is no ordinary structure made of concrete and metal. Instead, it is composed of a single giant fig tree that sits by the riverbank, and the support that Syiemlieh walks over is a mishmash of aerial roots tightly knotted and woven together. The bridge is not only a part of the landscape, it is helping to support its ecosystem at the same time.
Tyrna lies just above the plains of Bangladesh in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya, which hosts hundreds of these bridges. For centuries, they have helped the indigenous Khasi and Jaintia communities to cross swelling rivers in monsoons. “Our ancestors were so clever,” says Syiemlieh, “When they couldn’t cross rivers, they made Jingkieng Jri – the living root bridges.”
Meghalaya hosts some of the wettest locations on Earth. The village Mawsynram, the world’s rainiest place, receives an annual rainfall of 11,871mm (39ft) – that would be enough to submerge a typical three-storey house if deluged all at once. Nearby Sohra comes second, averaging 11,430mm (37.5ft). From June to September, monsoon winds sweep north from the Bay of Bengal, passing over the humid plains of Bangladesh. When these air currents meet the hilly terrain of Meghalaya, they break open – and torrential rains begin.
When monsoon downpours periodically isolated the remote villages of Syiemlieh’s ancestors from nearby towns, they trained living aerial roots of Indian rubber fig tree (Ficus elastica) to form a bridge across flooding rivers.
The trees are important not just for crossing rivers, but they hold a revered place in Khasi culture (Credit: Alamy)
Building these bridges takes decades of work. It begins with planting a sapling of Ficus elastica – a tree that grows abundantly in the subtropical terrain of Meghalaya – in a good crossing place along the riverbank. First the trees develop large buttressing roots and then, after about a decade, the maturing trees sprout secondary aerial roots from further up. These aerial roots have a degree of elasticity, and tend to join and grow together to form stable structures.
In a method perfected over centuries, the Khasi bridge builders weave aerial roots onto a bamboo or another wooden scaffolding, wheedle them across the river and finally implant them on the opposite bank. Over time, the roots shorten, thicken and produce offshoots called daughter roots, which are also trained over the river. The builders intertwine these roots with one another or with branches and trunks of the same or another fig tree. They merge by a process called anastomosis – where branching systems like leaf vessels, tendrils and aerial roots naturally fuse together – and weave into a dense frame-like structure. Sometimes, the Khasi builders use stones to cover the gaps in root structures. This network of roots matures over time to bear loads; some bridges can hold up to 50 people at once.
The generations that follow the initial bridge builders continue the maintenance of the bridge. While only one single person may maintain small bridges, most require the collective effort of families or the entire village – sometimes several villages. This process of care and development down the generations can last for centuries, with some bridges dating from 600 years ago.
As well as being a regenerative form of architecture, living root bridges grow stronger with time, self-repairing and becoming more robust as they age. “When it rains heavily, small cement bridges wash away and steel bridges tend to rust, but living root bridges withstand the rains,” says Syiemlieh.
“People came to realise that root bridges are much more durable than modern alternatives, and they cost absolutely nothing. So villagers now repair root bridges they had abandoned in the forest valleys.”
This resurgence in interest in root bridges is in part thanks to the efforts of Morningstar Khongthaw, a native from Rangthylliang village, who founded the Living Bridge Foundation. Khongthaw and his team create awareness about root bridges, repair and maintain old bridges while also constructing new ones.
The living root bridges of north-east India have become famous as a tourist attraction – but they could also inspire European urban architecture (Credit: Getty Images)
Unlike conventional bridges, root bridges are also central to their surroundings. Apart from producing their own building material, the trees absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide over their lifetimes. They help stabilise the soil and prevent landslides. Conventional bridges can disrupt the soil layers, but roots can anchor different soil structures which helps protect against soil erosion, says Ferdinand Ludwig, professor for green technologies in landscape architecture at the Technical University of Munich, who has been studying the bridges for 13 years.
This is true of many trees, but Ficus elastica plays a particularly important role in its ecosystem, says Salvador Lyngdoh, a local to Meghalaya and a scientist at the Biodiversity Institute of India, whose work focuses on conservation in the Himalayas. Fig trees are framework species that promote biodiversity around them: moss grows on them, squirrels live in their branches, birds nest within their canopy, and they support insects that help with pollination. The act of turning these trees into bridges can also help animals to thrive in their habitat, says Lyngdoh. Bark deer and clouded leopards are known to use root bridges to move from one part of the forest to another.
Root bridges may not be able to outperform the conventional kind in every sense, Lyngdoh notes. A conventional bridge can bear more weight, for example. “But root bridges are much more useful to a large sphere of natural species than the modern bridges we have,” he says. “The living root bridge is a mosaic that’s embedded within the forest. Species do not differentiate between the bridge and natural forest.”
This form of indigenous architecture has fascinated scientists like the Technical University of Munich’s Ludwig, for the potential to learn from them to make buildings and spaces in other parts of the world greener.
Ludwig sees these bridges as an example of not just sustainable development, which minimises the damage and degradation of natural systems, but of regenerative development. The latter attempts to reverse degradation and improve the health of the ecosystem. But understanding the living root bridges is not an easy process.
“There’s no one way to build these bridges,” says Ludwig. “How these roots are pulled, tied and woven together differ from builder to builder. None of the bridges looks similar.”
The lack of historical written information on the bridges has also been a challenge in researching them. Until the British colonial period in the 19th Century, native Khasi inhabitants in Meghalaya didn’t have a written script, as the Khasi way of life is passed down through oral histories. This has meant that documented information on the bridges is sparse.
The fig tree is uniquely adaptable to making root bridges, but other species can also be used to integrate into architecture, such as the London plane tree (Credit: Alamy)
So Ludwig’s team turned to conversations with Khasi bridge builders and digital tools to understand the bridge-building techniques. They started with mapping the complicated shapes of roots and built digital skeletons of the bridges; next, they used photogrammetry – recording, surveying and interpreting root bridges using photographs – to document the bridges and construct 3D models using them.
“[Conventionally], when we construct a bridge or a building, we have a plan – we know what it’s going to look like,” says Ludwig. “But this isn’t possible with living architecture. Khasi people know this; they are extremely clever in how they constantly analyse and interact with tree growth, and accordingly adapt to the conditions.” Whenever a new root pops up, Khasi builders find a new way to integrate it into the structure.
But in Europe, with its very different climate, using Ficus elastica wasn’t a viable option, so they had to make compromises, choosing instead Platanus hispanica, the London plane tree. “That’s not all. The Khasi have incredible knowledge because they live in nature, and are deeply coupled with the ecosystems. We are not,” says Ludwig. So his team used digital tools to mimic this process and to settle on a geometry that allowed for weaving twigs together into a roof. The team constantly trims and prunes the trees to encourage them to grow to keep the trees thinner.
“We are learning how to react to plant growth in Europe: humans plant trees, trees grow, humans react, trees react again,” Ludwig says. “This way of interacting with nature is essential for a sustainable and regenerative future.”
The Double Decker Root Bridge of Meghalaya is now famous, drawing tourists from around the world (Credit: Alamy)
Ludwig hopes that living architecture can contribute to improving the outer wellbeing of residents in cities. Integrating trees in buildings, bridges, and parks will help bring nature into crowded areas. “The idea is not to copy the bridges, but to borrow the elements of this indigenous engineering and try to understand how we can adapt it in our urban environments,” says Ludwig.
Julia Watson, architect and assistant professor at Columbia University, whose work revolves around nature-based technologies of indigenous knowledge, says part of this is changing the way we see trees.
“Instead of viewing trees in cities as passive elements, we can view them as active infrastructures, to expand the ecosystem services trees provide in the urban context,” she says. For instance, trees can reduce the effect of urban heat islands (where concrete structures absorb heat and keep cities warmer) and lower outdoor ambient temperature, Watson notes.
The Ficus elastica provides potential that goes far beyond bridges, Watson says. These trees needn’t be an add-on to a building, but an integral part of its façade or roof.
In Meghalaya, the Khasi’s practice of bioengineering takes integration of the trees with their surroundings one step further, bringing people together as well as the ecosystem. The bridges, Lyngdoh says, promote community life and create reverence within the society when people come together to build, maintain and repair the bridges.
The young bridges being trained today won’t be traversed by those who are tending to them now, but by generations to come. “The community doesn’t think of today. It’s a selfless act. It’s a conservation philosophy,” says Lyngdoh. He sees this selflessness as a sacred element that pulls the community together and protects the ecosystem.
As well as being a part of Khasi culture, the root bridges have always brought economic benefits to the community. In the past, a network of bridges connected villages with nearby cities, providing a pathway for locals to transport and sell betel nut and broom grass. Today, there is also the tourism economy they bring, says Syiemlieh.
About 3,500 steps below Syiemlieh’s home village of Tyrna is the Double Decker Root Bridge that connects the two banks of the Umshiang River. When water levels rose high, Khasi villagers trained additional roots of the same fig tree across the river higher above the water, creating a second bridge over the first.
Today, it’s a major tourist attraction. As tourists began flocking, homestays opened. Locals built campsites and guided visitors through the hilly jungle. Makeshift stalls stacked up everything from crisp packets to bottled drinks. In March, when Syiemlieh visited Laitkynsew, a village just south of Tyrna, she saw locals pull, twist and weave aerial roots of a fig tree on bamboo scaffolding to build a triple bridge – two layers run parallel to each another as in the double-decker bridge, while a third root layer is slanted across the river bank. “Maybe they thought that three layers can attract more tourists,” says Syiemlieh.
Tourism comes with concerns, Syiemlieh says. Aside from the empty crisp packets and bottles, some root bridges see crowds of hundreds at a time as tourists clamber for selfies, potentially overburdening the trees. But locals are already planning different models of sustainable tourism.
Khongthaw, for example, is building a museum and a learning centre to educate tourists about living root bridges and other infrastructure made of Ficus elastica, such as canopies and tunnels in the deep jungles, and ladder-like structures, which farmers would use to climb up and down rock ledges on the way to Meghalaya’s fertile plains for cultivation.
Although still in its infancy outside Meghalaya, Watson hopes that architecture inspired by the living root bridges could come to play a fundamental role in cities – bringing with it benefits for urban air, soil and wildlife. “Living infrastructure can support incredible biodiversity and species, not just humans,” Watson says. “We need that biodiversity to survive.”
Activists are increasingly suing governments and companies to take action against climate change – and winning. Could this be a turning point?(Image credit: Getty Images)
David Schiepek, a student from the southern German state of Bavaria, has been involved in climate activism for around three years. “After all this time fighting, protesting and talking to politicians, I was losing hope a bit,” the 20-year-old says. “I feel like my future is being taken away.”
But in May this year, an unexpected event gave him a fresh sense of optimism. A lawsuit brought by a number of environmental NGOs, on behalf of a group of young activists, resulted in Germany’s constitutional court ruling that the country’s climate protection act must be amended to include more ambitious CO2 emissions reductions. The decision stated that the government’s failure to protect the climate for future generations was unconstitutional.
“I saw that, finally, politicians can be put under pressure and forced to take measures against climate change,” Schiepek says. “It really changed the way I see politics.”
Now he is hoping to build on this ruling, which applies only to the federal government. He has been recruited by an NGO, along with other young people from around Germany, to bring similar cases against their local state governments. Technically, he is suing his state to take action on climate change.
The last few years have seen a snowballing of court rulings in favour of environmentalists around the world. The cumulative number of climate change-related cases has more than doubled since 2015, according to a report authored by Kaya Axelsson of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and colleagues. Just over 800 cases were filed between 1986 and 2014, while over 1,000 cases have been brought in the last six years, researchers Joana Setzer and Catherine Higham of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment found. Thirty-seven of those cases were “systemic mitigation” cases brought against governments.
One of the most high-profile was a Dutch case in 2015, in which a court ruled that The Netherlands’ government has a duty of care when it comes to protecting its citizens from climate change. The judges decided the government’s plan to cut emissions by 14-17% compared with 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful given the threat of climate change. They ordered the target be increased to 25%. As a result, the Dutch government closed a power plant four years earlier than planned and introduced a new climate plan in 2019. Elsewhere cases have led to similar rulings – including the recent German one that inspired Schiepek, as well as cases in countries such as Australia.
The rising number of cases is paving the way for stricter enforcement of environmental laws around the world and giving activists like Schiepek a new sense of hope.
A number of high-profile rulings have found certain governments’ and corporations’ climate action has been insufficient (Credit: Getty Images)
Roda Verheyen, one of the best-known environmental lawyers in Germany, and one of those who represented citizens in Germany’s constitutional court case this year, says she believes there are three reasons for the increase in successful cases. “One is that courts take a long time to actually come to conclusions,” she says. An increasing number of cases have been filed since 2014, so some are only now being heard after many years of work.
“And then obviously the narrative of what society perceives climate change to be has changed,” she explains. “A lot of law is flexible to some degree, because you always have to interpret existing rules. And when [judges] do that, they take into account societal norms and how belief systems might have changed.”
She compares this development to marijuana-related offences – as attitudes towards the drug have become more liberal in many countries, sentences have become much lighter. In the context of climate change, the public now overwhelmingly accepts the scientific consensus that it is man-made, and polls regularly put it towards the top of peoples’ concerns. This has in turn made courts more willing to rule against those responsible for emissions.
Verheyen explains that this year’s German ruling is significant because many countries do not have a constitutional court that can make this type of decision. Secondly, it is unlimited, so applies from now until forever, and she expects it to have a big impact on other cases around Europe.
Roda Verheyen successfully represented citizen’s in Germany’s constitutional case in 2021 (Credit: Alamy)
“Our 2022 business plan will reflect this new target, which we are committed to delivering regardless of whether we win or lose our appeal against the ruling,” the Shell spokesperson says.
These reductions don’t include the emissions from burning Shell’s fossil fuel products, which come under the category of Scope 3 emissions. The Dutch ruling stated that the company also needed to reduce its Scope 3 emissions, but the Shell spokesperson says that these findings hold Shell accountable for a wider global issue.
Paul Benson, a lawyer at Brussels-based NGO Client Earth, which specialises in environmental litigation, says this case “sought to apply the same reasoning [from the ruling against the Dutch government] to a corporate body. That was very novel, and I think a lot of commentators and people in our fairly enclosed legal circle weren’t entirely sure what way the court would interpret [that].”
“I was thrilled for a court to find that a company’s climate policy is in effect inadequate,” he continues, calling the judgment “ground-breaking”. The case was also the first time that a company was ordered to comply with the Paris climate agreement: “[It] shows the Paris agreement has teeth – not just against governments, but against companies.”
This has paved the way for other lawsuits seeking to force corporations to comply with the treaty – Verheyen is currently working on a lawsuit against German carmakers BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen which, if successful, would force them to phase out combustion engines by 2030 in line with the Paris goals. “As you would expect, actors in this space and lawyers in our community have been studying the [Shell] judgement very carefully, and sought local reasoning to apply [it] in their jurisdiction,” adds Benson.
“The complaint has not yet been served on us,” says a spokesperson for Daimler, which makes Mercedes-Benz vehicles. “We do not see a basis for a cease-and-desist declaration, because we have long since issued a clear declaration for our ‘lane change’ to climate neutrality: As a car manufacturer, it is our ambition to become fully electric by the end of the decade wherever market conditions allow.”
A BMW spokesperson says: “The BMW Group is firmly committed to the Paris climate agreement and already leads the automotive industry in the fight against climate change.” Meanwhile a Volkswagen spokesperson says that Volkswagen was the first car manufacturer to commit to all targets set by the Paris climate agreement “and is committed to become net carbon neutral at the latest by 2050”, aiming to invest €35bn [£30bn/$40bn] in electric mobility before 2025.
Benson and one of his colleagues, Sebastian Bechtel, both stress that the cases taking place now only challenge a fraction of environmental destruction that is happening around the world. Many activists do not have the financial resources to take on big corporations. “A lot of countries do not want to bring these claims,” Bechtel says. “In the UK, those relate primarily to costs. In other countries, it’s simply not possible to go to court to enforce specific laws.”
Increasingly solid science proving anthropogenic climate change and shifting public sentiment are two reasons for the uptick in climate lawsuits (Credit: Getty Images)
Back in Germany, a newly launched NGO, Green Legal Impact, is seeking to address this issue by offering specialised training to young lawyers and connecting civil society groups to those offering legal representation. Managing director Henrike Lindemann says that as a young environmental activist she “always saw that young people had political ideas. And then there were lawyers, often old white men, who told us our ideas were not possible because of the law,” she says. “And I thought, I want to know for myself if this is true. And if it is, I want to know how to change it.”
Lindemann says that one of the aims of the organisation is to encourage activist groups to be strategic in the court cases they pursue, so that any judgments can pave the way for further litigation. She gives the example of a number of current cases challenging the planned 850km (530 miles) of motorway due to be built in Germany, which she argues has not been looked at through the lens of climate. “I think if the court [ruled against one part of motorway], the discussion would change,” she says. “It would not just be about that one section of motorway, it would be the entire plan. And then we would have to change the whole discussion around mobility.”
The question of access to justice also brings about the issue of whether those in the Global South, who are disproportionately impacted by climate change, could in future bring cases against corporations or governments in wealthier nations. Green Legal Impact is already working on helping people in other countries who have been impacted by German companies’ actions seek justice, and a recent UK ruling stated that communities can sue parent companies for environmental damage caused by their subsidiaries.
Verheyen says it would be difficult to find courts to support cases against foreign governments, “unless at some point one very severely hit country decides to go state-versus-state, which has been a topic of conversation in academic and political circles for a long time, but hasn’t happened.”
Environmentalists are feeling optimistic after this year’s judgments. But given how slowly courts move, do they feel this may all be too little, too late? “Obviously I don’t think it’s too late, otherwise I would stop what I’m doing,” replies Verheyen. “I think we’re actually seeing a lot of movement.”
Benson agrees. “I think there’s a tendency sometimes for people to think about climate in a fatalist way,” he adds. “But everything we do now to mitigate and adapt is hugely worthwhile.”
In terms of which potentially ground-breaking cases we might see in future, Verheyen suggests that both the finance sector “and anything to do with land use and forests” are areas where she is expecting more action to arise. “If you look closely at the Shell judgement, it says, no further fossil fuel investment, full stop,” she explains. “If I was a financial institution, I would be looking very closely at that one.”
But overall, lawyers working in this field are keen to point out that litigation isn’t a silver bullet for ending the climate crisis. “It’s just one of the levers that can be pulled to trigger necessary change,” says Benson. “The other levers are activism, policy and, of course, science. But [litigation] is an incredibly powerful tool, and I think this year we’ve seen that.”
The 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire created a mosaic burn pattern from unburned to high severity. Photo George Wuerthner
The Capital Press, an Agricultural emphasis newspaper, recently ran a story about the 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire and the influence of forest management on the fire’s impact upon trees. In particular, the 26 Nov 2021 issue story titled Lessons from Disaster: What The Bootleg Fire Reveals About Forest Managementfeatures quotes from people representing The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Klamath Tribe, ranchers, and forestry professors.
Blackened stumps indicate this area was thinned prior to the Bootleg Fire but with no effect on fire severity. Photo George Wuerthner
The basic theme of the Capital Press article is how thinning and prescribed burning reduced the Bootleg fire’s intensity and the mortality of trees in a thinned and prescribed burned area owned by TNC. The article’s photos show treated areas with limited mortality and nearby untreated areas with blackened snags. Proponents of thinning have cited this article in favor of more forest manipulation. The article has been republished in other areas like the Deschutes River Conservancy website.
If one did not know much about wildfire ecology, the photos accompanying the article might persuade you that thinning and prescribed burning should be widely applied to our forests.
However, there is much unstated in the article. For instance, there is abundant evidence from numerous high severity blazes around the West that “fuel reductions” typically fail. Of course, not all fuel reductions fail, but most do not significantly alter the outcome of fires.
The blackened stumps are trees that were “thinned” prior to this fire in the Scratchgravel Hills near Helena, Montana. The density of the remaining trees is lower than most “thinning” projects, but still burned severely in this wind-driven blaze.” George Wuerthner
Like in nearly everything in science, there are anomalies, what I call the 99-year-old grandmother exception. Everyone has heard about people who might smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and live to be 99 years old. Some point to such people to “prove” that smoking cigarettes doesn’t cause cancer or reduce your life expectancy.
However, science is about statistical averages. And statistically, if you smoke, you are more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers.
This map shows the perimeter of the Bootleg Fire, and all the bright colors indicate past “fuel reduction”. Map by Bryant Baker.
And this is where the TNC “proof” needs context. I have no idea why the fuel treatments on TNC lands appeared to reduce fire severity, but I can say that it was an exception in the Bootleg Fire. A review and map of the Bootleg Fire Perimeter showed that nearly 75% of the area had previously been “treated” by various “fuel reductions.”
TNC logging advocates would likely respond and say not all “fuel treatments” are equal, which is true. The best treatments involve thinning smaller trees, followed by prescribed burns.
The 2007 Jocko Lakes Fire in Montana severely burned an area that had been previously logged/thinned. Photo George Wuerthner
Nevertheless, I have visited dozens of large wildfires and seen many areas that had been thinned and treated by prescribed burn where the fire spread and tree mortality was unaffected by such fuel reductions. Nearly all large wildfires have burned through landscapes with significant acreage of “fuel reductions.”
More than 19,000 structures were burned in the Camp Fire which raced through Paradise, California. Note the green trees above the burned-out foundations of a gas station. Photo George Wuerthner
For example, the Camp Fire, which charred the community of Paradise, California, was surrounded by clearcuts, hazardous fuel reductions (FS euphemism for logging), and even several recent wildfires—none of which prevented the rapid spread of the blaze.
Holiday Farm Fire burned the western slope of the Cascades in a region with extensive logging. Map Oregon WIld
Similarly, the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire, which raced across the western slope of the Cascades in Oregon, burned through a landscape dominated by past commercial logging, including numerous clearcuts.
Map of the 2021 Dixie Fire in northern California where bright colors indicate past fuel reductions. Map Bryant Baker.
The 2021 900,000 acres Dixie Fire blazed across a heavily logged landscape in northern California also failed to alter the fire progress.
A previously thinned area on the Dixie Fire near Chester, California. Photo George Wuerthner
A 2016 review of 1500 fire found that fire severity was higher in areas treated by fuel reductions compared to wilderness and parks where no logging is allowed, and presumably, fuels are higher.
All of these examples are robust because they don’t focus on the exceptions, but provide a statistical test of the idea that fuel reductions can reduce large blazes.
NOT ALL BURNING IS UNIFORM
Some of the variability in fire burn patterns is due to weather, timing, and topography. For example, the wind has an enormous influence on fire spread. Wind effect is exponential. Wind gusts can push a fire through any fuel reduction or toss embers over any treatment. Conversely, if the wind dies down, fires will shift to the ground surface and often muddle along.
Slope also influences fires. A fire racing up a hill burns hotter because of the “preheating” of the fuels above by the fire below. Conversely, a fire “backing down” a slope tends to burn at a lower intensity.
Finally, most fires tend to burn at a lower intensity at night due to higher humidity and lower air temperatures.
An area that had been thinned and treated just two years previously with a prescribed burn on the Deschutes National Forest, Oregon. The robust regrowth of grass now makes this more vulnerable to fire and should be burned again. The requirement for continued “management” makes the idea of doing extensive forest-wide treatment a pipe dream. Photo George Wuerthner
Even to the degree that thinning/prescribed burning might reduce fire severity, its effectiveness wears off over time. Thus, any fuel reduction treatment must be continuously “maintained” by additional logging and burning—all of which is disruptive to the forest ecosystem, wildlife, and soils.
The people quoted in the Capital Press article attribute the larger fires across the West to “excess fuels.” However, nearly all studies show that climate/weather is the driving force in high severity large blazes. The West is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in a thousand years does not seem to enter the discussion with the “fuels are the problem, logging is the solution” crowd.
For one thing, the idea that “fire suppression” contributed to fuel build-up ignores the role of climate. Large blazes had always occurred with the right weather/climate conditions long before any “fire suppression” and even with Indian burning.
The decades in the middle of the last century (in blue) were cool and moist and the area burned was significantly less than the decades before or after which were warmer and drier. Nature was “effective” at fire suppression.
During the middle of the last century (approximately 1940-the 1980s), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a periodic shift in Pacific Ocean currents, brought cooler and moister weather to the West. During this period, there were far fewer ignitions and limited acreage burned. Interestingly glaciers also grew in the PNW during this period due to the increased moisture and cool temperatures.
Glaciers in the PNW grew during the cool PDO in the mid-1940s-1980s. Photo George Wuerthner
Fire suppression proponents point to this period as the time of “successful” fire suppression, but in reality, Nature was good at suppressing fires.
Then starting in the late 1980s and continuing to the present, the PDO shifted, and warmer, dryer weather has prevailed. That shift in climate, along with human Greenhouse Gas Emissions, has led to much warmer conditions, as well as extensive drought. It is these weather conditions that are the main factor in large blazes.
Proponents of logging like TNC and forestry professors tend to discount the harmful effects of logging on forest ecosystems. However, the snags resulting from high severity fires are not ecological disasters but critical to healthy forest ecosystems.
Dead trees killed by the Dixie Fire are critical to healthy forest ecosystems. They store carbon, provide habitat for many plants and animals. Photo George Wuerthner
Therefore, high severity fires are essential for “healthy forest ecosystems. Some studies suggest that biodiversity in the snag forests resulting from high severity burns is the highest of any habitat type. For instance, nearly 50% of all birds depend on the snags resulting from high severity fires, whether for nesting, roosting, or feeding. In addition, down logs and snags store considerable amounts of carbon.
Episodic fires are the source of snags that fall into streams creating some of the important habitats for fish and aquatic insects. George Wuerthner
And many ecosystems depend on the periodic input of large dead trees for ecological stability. For instance, the input of large trees into rivers may only occur every couple of hundred years, but that input of large snags is critical to healthy aquatic ecosystems.
Logging along the Santiam River, Oregon. Logging is a major contributor to GHG emissions which creates climate warming that promotes more wildfires. Photo George Wuerthner
Another issue downplayed or ignored in the Capital Press piece is that even dead trees store carbon for significant amounts of time. While logging releases carbon immediately. Studies in Oregon show that 35% of the annual GHG emissions result from logging and wood processing.
Thinning and new logging road on Willamette National Forest, Oregon. Logging roads are a major source of sedimentation in streams. Photo George Wuerthner
Other impacts associated with logging include sedimentation of streams resulting from logging roads, the spread of weeds, disturbance of wildlife, and changes in age and genetic structure of forest stand (resulting from thinning), compaction of soils, and other well-documented impacts associated with any logging operation are all typically ignored or dismissed.
I have often gone on field trips with thinning proponents and asked them to indicate which trees in the stand are genetically resistant to drought, fungi, mistletoe, or bark beetles. Thinning can reduce the genetic variability in a forest stand; all I get is bewildered stares as if my question is crazy.
Ironically, the proponents of massive thinning across the forested landscape are among the first to point out that the active “fire suppression” policy was a failure; few of them appear to question their promotion of a similar west-wide forest manipulation in the name of fire reduction.
An even more critical question seldom entertained is whether efforts to reduce fire severity and spread is even a wise policy. There are continued references by proponents of thinning that the forests are burning differently than in the historical past, without acknowledging that the current climate/weather conditions are different. We are experiencing one of the worse droughts in a thousand years. Under different climates, you would expect different responses by vegetation. Perhaps large blazes in some forested stands are a way for the planet to adjust to extreme drought and high temperatures.
TNC and the Forest Service’s response to wildfire is based on an Industrial Forestry Paradigm that sees dead trees as undesirable and failure to see the forest ecosystem through the trees. Even if thinning/prescribed fire reduced wildfires, translating that into a general policy of forest manipulation across the landscape might be a disaster for forest ecosystems.
Foundation of a burnt-out house near Fort Klamath. Treating the area from the home outward is the best way to protect communities. Photo George Wuerthner
Promoting fuel reductions from the home outward for a hundred feet or so can help protect communities, but beyond this distance, fuel reductions typically have little influence when extreme fire weather conditions prevail.
About The Author
George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology Visit Authors Website → If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it!
”At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour.”
The highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java spewed thick columns of ash, searing gas and lava down its slopes in a sudden eruption triggered by heavy rains on Saturday. At least one villager died from burns and dozens were hospitalized.
Mount Semeru’s eruption in Lumajang district in East Java province left several villages blanketed with falling ash.
A thunderstorm and days of rain, which had eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome atop the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) Semeru, triggered an eruption, said Eko Budi Lelono, who heads the geological survey center.
Ash covers the street in the Lumajang District in Indonesia, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 after Mount Semeru’s eruption. Indonesia’s highest volcano on Java island has spewed thick columns of ash, searing gas and lava down its slopes in a sudden eruption triggered by heavy rains. (AP Photo)
An injured man, covered in ash, is placed on a small truck to be taken to the hospital in the Lumajang District in Indonesia, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 after Mount Semeru’s eruption. Indonesia’s highest volcano on Java island has spewed thick columns of ash, searing gas and lava down its slopes in a sudden eruption triggered by heavy rains. (AP Photo)
He said flows of searing gas and lava traveled up to 800 meters (2,624 feet) to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday. People were advised to stay 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the crater’s mouth, the agency said.
“Thick columns of ash have turned several villages to darkness,” said Lumajang district head Thoriqul Haq. Several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas, he said, adding that power blackout hampered the evacuation.
The debris and lava mixed with the rainfall formed thick mud that destroyed the main bridge connecting Lumajang and the neighboring district of Malang, as well as a smaller bridge, Haq said.
Remains of a bridge in a slope, destroyed by the flowing lava, is shown in the Lumajang District in Indonesia, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 after Mount Semeru’s eruption. Indonesia’s highest volcano on Java island has spewed thick columns of ash, searing gas and lava down its slopes in a sudden eruption triggered by heavy rains. (AP Photo)
A house covered by ash is shown in the Lumajang District in Indonesia, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 after Mount Semeru’s eruption. Indonesia’s highest volcano on Java island has spewed thick columns of ash, searing gas and lava down its slopes in a sudden eruption triggered by heavy rains. (AP Photo)
Despite an increase in activity since Wednesday, Semeru’s alert status has remained at the third highest of four levels since it began erupting last year, and Indonesia’s Volcanology Center for Geological Hazard Mitigation did not raise it this week, Lelono said.
Villagers rest at a temporary shelter after evacuating their homes following the eruption of Mount Semeru in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, Dec 4, 2021. The highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java spewed thick columns of ash high into the sky on Saturday, triggering panic among people living nearby. There were no immediate reports of casualties.(AP Photo/Hendra Permana)
One man died from severe burns, and 41 others were hospitalized with burn injuries, said Indah Masdar, the deputy district head. She said two villagers were reported missing, and several sand miners were trapped in isolated areas along the village river.
Entire houses in Curah Kobokan village were damaged by volcanic debris, Masdar said.
Villagers rest at a temporary shelter after evacuating their homes following the eruption of Mount Semeru , in Sumberwuluh village, Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. The highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java has spewed thick columns of ash high into the sky, triggering panic among people living nearby. There were no immediate reports of casualties. (AP Photo/Rokhmad)
Television reports showed people screaming and running under a huge ash cloud, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust. The last time Semeru erupted in January, there were no casualties.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.
Giant Sequoia trees in the western Sierra Nevada range in California have been severely damaged and estimates have said somewhere between 2,261 and 3,637 sequoia trees have been lost this year, alone.
This has been a bad year but last year was even worse as an estimated 7,500 to 10,400 trees were lost to wild fires, according to the Associated Press. That means the lightning strikes in California have destroyed nearly 20% of all giant sequoias in the last two years. The giant sequoia is the Earth’s largest trees and are native to about 70 groves in the western Sierra Nevada range in California.
These giant sequoia trees were once considered nearly fireproof, but are being destroyed in wildfires at rates that are alarming experts. Fires in Sequioa National Park and the surrounding national forest that also bears the trees’ name tore through more than a third of the groves in California in the last two years.
Officials said the overall rising temperature of the planet in addition to a historic series of droughts in California, along with decades of fire suppression tactics have allowed such intense fires to ignite that it could cause the destruction of so many of the trees, many of which are thousands of years old.
Over the centuries the giant sequoia has adapted to have a bark thick enough to protect itself from the lower intensity of fires that were commonly ignited by lightning strikes in the region previously.
The lower intensity fires even help the trees, clearing other vegetation so the great sequoia can continue to grow and the fire will open the cones, causing the tree to release seeds. However, due to the dry and hot environments, the fires of the past several years have burned too hot for the seed to grow, endangering the areas where the most trees were burned.
California has seen its largest fires in the past five years, with last year setting a record for the most acreage burned. So far, the second-largest amount of land has burned this year.
Superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks said, “The sobering reality is that we have seen another huge loss within a finite population of these iconic trees that are irreplaceable in many lifetimes. As spectacular as these trees are, we really can’t take them for granted. To ensure that they’re around for our kids and grandkids and great-kids, some action is necessary.”
Black-footed Albatross map, NatureServeThe Black-footed Albatross is the only one of its kind commonly seen off the North American coastline. It’s rather small as albatrosses go, but still impressive, with a six-foot wingspan. Its species name, nigripes, derives from two Latin words, niger meaning “black,” and pes meaning “foot.”
Although drift nets and longline fisheries remain constant threats, the Black-footed Albatross faces a gauntlet of newer challenges: invasive predators and introduced plants on nesting islands, ingestion of plastics, and climate change.
More than 95 percent of the world’s population of Black-footed Albatross nests in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, with the largest colonies on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island. (Laysan is also home to the recently introduced Millerbird.) Although these islands are protected, they are vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise and increased storm intensity.
Life over the Ocean
Black-footed Albatrosses are beautifully adapted for a life at sea and can remain airborne for hours, landing only on the water to rest or feed. Their specialized tubular noses (found among many seabirds, including Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater) filter salt, allowing the birds to drink seawater and giving them an excellent sense of smell.
This keen sense helps the albatross locate its prey over vast expanses of ocean. Favored foods include flying fish (both eggs and adults), squid, crustaceans, and offal thrown from ships.
They forage by seizing prey at the surface, up-ending to reach underwater, or diving short distances with wings partly spread.
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Like other albatross species, including Laysan and Waved, this bird is slow to mature, not breeding for until five years or older. It also has a low reproductive rate and mates for life.
Males are the first to arrive on the breeding grounds, where they re-claim the nest site that the bird and its partner may have used for many years. The strong pair bond shared by these birds is established and maintained through elaborate displays, including bowing, mutual preening, and head-bobbing.
The Black-footed Albatrosses’ nest, rebuilt each year, is a simple scrape in the sand, usually at or above the high-tide line in an open or sparsely vegetated area. Both birds build the nest and take turns incubating their single egg. If this egg is lost—whether to a predator or some other threat—the birds will not attempt to breed again until the following year.
Black-footed Albatross, Greg Lavaty
Black-footed Albatross in flight, showing its impressive six-foot wingspan. Photo by Greg Lavaty
For about 18 to 20 days after hatching, one parent broods and guards the nestling while other forages for food, switching off every day or two. The chick is fed by regurgitation by both parents until it fledges, at four to five months old. Advocating for Black-footed Albatross
The Black-footed Albatross is included on the Watch List in the State of North America’s Birds 2016 report, which highlights species most in need of immediate conservation action.
ABC continues to advocate for Black-footed Albatross and other seabirds impacted by commercial fisheries. We also support legislation to ratify the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) by the United States. And we recently launched an interactive web-based tool to help fisheries avoid accidentally catching seabirds: fisheryandseabird.info.
ABC has also collaborated with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners to secure predator-free breeding habitat for seabirds on islands in Hawaii.
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It is Friday again, and we are so grateful that we didn’t miss it. Today is also Good News Friyay, and we have two stories.
The first story is about the preliminary test of the Boyan Slat ‘Jenny’ Ocean clean-up system.
Photo courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup
Boyan Slat’s team removed 20,000 pounds of plastic debris from one of the significant “plastic islands” in the Pacific on the first trial of his System 002 nicknamed “Jenny.” It is a system where two boats pull a u-shaped collection device. (pictured) “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch can now be cleaned,” announced Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat, the wunderkind inventor who’s spent a decade inventing systems for waterborne litter collection. This means the 1.4 trillion pieces of plastic down to 1mm in size can be removed from the oceans by 2040.
ExxonMobil has not backed away from its commitment to carbon taxes contrary to what media reports built around the comments of one lobbyist suggest.
In fact, the oil and gas company remains committed to combatting climate change by creating market incentives that will supposedly cut a path toward ?net zero emissions? in its recent reports and its public comments.
That path will come at a hefty price for American consumers, American families, and businesses without making any discernable impact on climate, according to recent studies from free market-oriented outfits.
But there are no indications that Exxon is prepared to reverse course on its anti-carbon proposals. That much is made clear in Exxon?s 2021 ?Energy and Carbon Summary? where the company details new emissions reductions objectives in line with the goals of the U.N.?s Paris Climate Agreement in its 2021 ?Energy and Carbon Summary.? That?s pretty green.
Prominent environmentalist Michael Shellenberger deplores the doomster messaging ahead of the Glasgow COP. In an interview with EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders,” Shellenberger noted that while climate change is a very “real” thing, the slogan that no one is safe is “misleading” to the general public. Excerpts in italics below from zerohedge article IPCC’s “No One Is Safe” Slogan Is Deeply Misleading.
The IPCC published a report in August stating that human-caused climate change is accelerating and that radical changes to human behavior are needed to avert disaster.
Following the findings, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said of the report that the “alarm bells are deafening” and the situation is a “code red for humanity.”
Meanwhile, Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the findings showed that “nobody is safe. And it is getting worse faster.”
However, Shellenberger, who is the founder and president of…
The solid waste division of Pinellas County, where Tampa Bay is located, said they had picked up 600 tons of dead marine life since late June, as NPR reported.
“The bay is really hurting right now,” Pinellas County resident Maya Burke told NPR. “It’s significant numbers of dead fish all up and down the food chain, from small forage fish all the way up to tarpon, manatees, dolphins… If it’s swimming in the bay, right now it’s washing up dead.”
The devastation prompted more than 100 protestors to march along the St. Petersburg waterfront on Saturday, as The AP reported. The demonstrators called on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency in order to provide funds to address the problem.
“This is not political,” protest organizer Aimee Conlee said at the demonstration, as The AP reported. “This is life. This is water, and water is life.”
The St. Petersburg City Council backed the call with a resolution passed last week, but DeSantis has said there is enough funding available from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection without a declaration.
Red tides are caused by an overabundance of the algae Karenia brevis, The Smithsonian explained. This algae is naturally occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, but is made worse by nutrient pollution, according to The AP. It is unusual for these blooms to occur in Tampa Bay during the summer months, NPR reported. Instead, they typically begin in the fall and end by January. The last serious summer red tide was in 2018, and this year’s outbreak looks to be worse.
“This is not normal,” NOAA oceanographer Richard Stumpf told NPR. “The fact that it’s been three years since the last one is not good.”
The outbreak comes around three months after a major leak at a phosphate plant wastewater pond located in a Piney Point reservoir near Tampa Bay. Experts say pollutants from the leak could be worsening the tide, but are unlikely to be its original source.
“I don’t think that the red tide was originated as a consequence of Piney Point,” Tom Frazer, Florida’s former chief science officer and a professor and dean at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, said in a public discussion reported by WUSF. “One of the things that we saw with the red tide early on was that it was south of the discharge area, with the red tide continuing to kind of migrate or move northward into lower Tampa Bay.”
He said that other sources of the outbreak could be runoff from septic tanks, stormwater systems and agricultural or lawn fertilizer.
The number of fish washing up dead on the beach could also have been increased by winds from Tropical Storm Elsa earlier this month, according to NPR. Pinellas County and St. Petersburg officials said they removed nine tons of fish in a 24-hour period following the storm, according to The Independent.
Red tides can also harm human health by worsening the effects of asthma and other respiratory conditions. Scientists warn these events may get even worse because of the climate crisis, since warmer waters favor the algae and more extreme precipitation events increase runoff and nutrient pollution.
“Because of climate change, we are at a crossroad with regard to control of harmful algal blooms, and must aggressively tackle the problem before it becomes so difficult that in many ecosystems we are faced with the option of allowing these micro-organisms to go unchecked,” experts warned in a 2015 letter published in Environmental Science & Technology.
Any Teslas round here? [image credit: Edal Anton Lefterov @ Wikipedia]
A bit of light relief perhaps, unless you’re already one of the victims or could soon become one. Are electric cars more appealing than combustion-engined types to hungry rodents? Check those brake cables.
– – –
Elon Musk may have a rat problem, says The New York Post.
Fans of the South African billionaire’s electric cars say rats, mice and rodents are chomping down on their Teslas.
And despite having dropped tens of thousands of dollars to buy the pricey vehicles, Tesla refuses to cover the damage.
Sarah Williams, a 41-year-old physician who lives in Manhattan and uses her Tesla to commute to work in the Bronx, told The Post of an alarming incident when she took her 2018 Model 3 into Tesla’s Paramus, NJ, dealership in mid-May after her air conditioner had stopped working.
Some Los Angeles-area beaches were closed to swimmers on Monday after 17 million gallons of untreated sewage spilled into the Pacific Ocean.
Sanitation officials said the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey had become “inundated with overwhelming quantities of debris” after a power outage, triggering the plant’s relief system to discharge the waste matter through a pipe one mile offshore.
Hyperion Executive Plant Manager Timeyin Defeta said in a statement that the “emergency measure” was necessary “to prevent the plant from going completely offline and discharging much more raw sewage.” He added, “Normally the discharge of treated sewage is through the five-mile outfall.” According to the L.A. Times, “Dafeta said he believes that the incident was the largest amount of untreated sewage discharged through the one-mile pipe over the last 10 years,” and “the one-mile pipe was last used for a major discharge of wastewater in 2015.”
17 million gallons of sewage is about 6% of a daily load, Defeta said.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health issued a beach closure order on Monday affecting swim areas around Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach. They will remain closed until water samples are confirmed negative for elevated bacteria.
On Monday afternoon, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn tweeted, “We are going to need answers about how and why this happened.”
“Protocols for notifying regulatory agencies and the State’s Office of Emergency Services were followed,” said Defeta on Monday. “Water quality sampling and testing of shoreline (beach) samples are currently being conducted, and our monitoring vessel traveled to both outfalls to make observations and take samples for analyses following regulatory permit protocols.”
Shortly after taking this picture a lifeguard approached me and said that 17 million gallons of sewage were dumped in this ocean last night… he did say that I would want to take a good long shower tonight as well which I will be doing pic.twitter.com/TtwhEM327Q
At about noon on Sunday, a large amount of debris unexpectedly clogged filtering screens with openings less than an inch in size at the treatment plant, said Barbara Romero, the director of L.A.’s Department of Sanitation and Environment.
The plant’s managers tried adding screens to replace the ones that were blocked. They also tried redirecting the flows to a storm drain system within the plant — an alternative way to bring the water through the normal treatment process.
But after several hours of recirculating the water, the system was still too overwhelmed…
So about 7:30 p.m., plant workers discharged the wastewater one mile out and 50 feet deep into the ocean. The normal process directs treated wastewater 190 feet down.
According to Romero, sanitation workers successfully routed the flows of water back through the standard treatment process around 4:30 a.m. on Monday.
Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to protecting coastal waters of Greater L.A. warned that “bacteria and viruses in raw sewage are extremely dangerous to people and can carry a variety of diseases.”
The group posted information about the discharge on its website and urged people to stay out of Santa Monica Bay until further notice.
PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT: 17 million gallons of raw sewage were spilled into the Santa Monica Bay on 7/11-7/12. Dockweiler State Beach and El Segundo Beach are closed to the public. We recommend staying out of the water. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.https://t.co/8sP1MplBKapic.twitter.com/PNl7QJlu9u
“Debris such as tampons and plastic trash, when released into the Bay, can harbor bacteria and can cause entanglement of wildlife, but it seems in this case that debris were successfully filtered out of the spill before it made it to the Bay.”
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Wildfire burns above the Fraser River Valley near Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, on Friday. James MacDonald/Getty Imageshide caption
Wildfire burns above the Fraser River Valley near Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, on Friday.
James MacDonald/Getty Images
Emergency responders in Canada are currently battling more than 180 wildfires in British Columbia amid an intense heat wave that has left hundreds dead in the Pacific Northwest.
About 70% of the active fires were likely caused by lightning strikes, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service’s dashboard. Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist with the company Vaisala, says a lightning detection network uncovered more than 700,000 lightning strikes in the area between June 30 and July 1.
About 95 miles northeast of Vancouver, residents in the village of Lytton were forced to evacuate to avoid a spreading fire that began Wednesday afternoon.
While two residents have already been confirmed dead by the British Columbia Coroners Service, others are still missing.
For three days, Lytton suffered through record-breaking heat, reaching up to 121 degrees Fahrenheit. Then on Wednesday, the fire started and the village’s roughly 250 residents were forced to flee.
Lytton resident Jeff Chapman was with his parents as they noticed smoke and flames in the distance. He helped them climb into a freshly-dug trench, before fleeing when he realized there wasn’t enough space. The fire arrived in just 10 minutes, he told the CBC.
He ended up lying near railroad tracks only to watch a power line fall on top of the trench where his parents were.
“I just can’t get it out of my mind,” Chapman told the network.
Now about 90% of Lytton is burned, according to Brad Vis, a member of Parliament representing the area.
In response to Lytton’s devastation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federal aid would be sent to help the village rebuild.
The fires come amid a massive heat wave for the region. Extreme heat can intensify the risk of wildfires.
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for the British Columbia Coroners Service, said last week in a statement that 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” had been reported in the last six days of June.
“͞While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related,” Lapointe said, “it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather B.C. has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province.”
The coroners service said between June 25 and July 1, 719 overall deaths were reported, which is three times the number that would be expected for the same period.
The U.S. is also being pummeled by heat, with the northwest and north-central U.S. feeling extreme temperatures. Many areas continue to experience temperatures in the 90s and 100s, according to the National Weather Service.
Scientists say the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. The health risks from them may also be greater early in the summer, when people are less accustomed to higher temperatures.
Grazing damage adjacent to a rock art site, Sonoran Desert National Monument. Photo G. Anderson/WWP.
The Sonoran Desert National Monument was established in 2001 with very specific terms about how grazing should be managed on these lands. The Proclamation basically said that grazing should be permanently banned from parts of the monument and could only continue on portions of the monument where it was found to be compatible with resource protection. (You can read all about the early days of Western Watersheds Project’s involvement with the Sonoran Desert NM, but the short version is in 2008 we had to sueto get the Bureau of Land Management to start the process of determining grazing compatibility and in 2013 we filed another lawsuit because of their flawed determination process. We won that lawsuit in 2015 the Bureau was compelled to reassess its plans.)
The 496,000-acre monument proclamation specifically identifies the need to protect and preserve:
“… [M]any significant archaeological and historic sites, including rock art sites, lithic quarries, and scattered artifacts. Vekol Wash is believed to have been an important prehistoric travel and trade corridor between the Hohokam and tribes located in what is now Mexico. Signs of large villages and permanent habitat sites occur throughout the area, and particularly along the bajadas of the Table Top Mountains. Occupants of these villages were the ancestors of today’s O’odham, Quechan, Cocopah, Maricopa, and other tribes. The monument also contains a much used trail corridor 23 miles long in which are found remnants of several important historic trails, including the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, the Mormon Battalion Trail, and the Butterfield Overland Stage Route.”
With such a rich array of archeological and cultural sites, you might think they would want to take a hard look at the effects of cattle trampling, cow pies, increased erosion, and other livestock-caused unnecessary degradation of these places.
By finding that no historic properties are affected, the agency is relieved of any obligations such as identifying historic properties, evaluating historic significance and effects, or consultation, and then, you know, actually protecting them. So, what exactly is this guy getting paid to do?
It’s appalling that the Bureau of Land Management would rubberstamp grazing authorizations like this, especially since his caveat – “if the allotments are properly managed” – is easily proven to be an baseless assumption. (That map is old, but it’s the most recent map we’ve got.) A huge percentage of western public lands managed by the Bureau are completely failing land health standards and many more have only outdated assessments or none at all.
In other words, the largest land management agency in the U.S. doesn’t even know the effects livestock have on cultural sites and, at least in Arizona, doesn’t seem to think that’s any big deal. We know that 1,400-pound cattle trampling ancient pottery will destroy it. We know that cattle tend to rub against ancient walls, toppling them over. And we know that a priceless and irreplaceable cultural legacy, spanning thousands of years of human occupation, is being destroyed everywhere that cattle are turned loose and left unattended on our public lands. So why, again, is the Bureau of Land Management allowing this to happen on lands specifically set aside to protect and preserve archaeological treasures and historic trails?
It?s interesting isn?t it? Texas is the Left?s most sought after prize as far as turning the last major electoral state blue. And so for a second time this year with the weather, one of the legs of their agenda driven phony climate war is exposed, and we find them blaming the fossil fuel ( in this case NG) for a Texas power disaster.
Here is what people who do not actually look at the weather, but use it for nefarious purposes do not want you to understand. That the weather swings back and forth! It is always going to test limits and guess what, if you can observe it better, you will see it hit limits. What the left does understand and our side can not seem to get the urgency of, is this, THEY KNOW HOW TO USE IT TO DRIVE HOME THEIR AGENDA. We have sat here…
The Carmichael Coal Mine formally know as Adani, located in central Queensland, Australia, has been found to be clearing potential Koala and endangered animal habitat without the required wildlife spotter as promised by the company. Large mining companies in Australia have been getting away with too much for too long, and the power they have in Australia makes this type of lawless behaviour possible. The Adani Mine has admitted to clearing land without the promised wildlife safeguard and has potentially decimated important Koala habitat as well as that of many other endangered species.
Act now and demand Environmental Minister Sussan Ley follow up on this environmental injustice and hold large mining corporations accountable for the mistakes they make!
The Adani Mining Corporation has breeched environmental codes on many occasions, including clearing around a separate mining pit, which was cleared in a manner that was inconsistent with clearing procedures. Another incident was documented in January 2021, when an additional environmental officer should have been present for flora and fauna spotting.
The mining company admitted to these faults, although this was only after the clearing and damage had already been done. This is the fifth documented instance with non-compliance to environmental conditions and the governments slap on the wrist style of punishment is highlighting the failure within the Australian judicial system to stop this from happening. The Carmichael Coal Mine is not complying with the legal codes surrounding the environment and its animals and seems to believe they are somewhat untouchable when it comes to Australian law.
Sign the petition now and tell Sussan Ley to take action in following up environmental breaches by large mining companies in Australia!SHARE2.4KTWEETEMAILEMBED
🌎 As much as NASA missions and scientists turn their gazes outward at the cosmos, we continue to spend the most time studying our own oasis and keeping fingers on the pulse of Earth's changing climate.https://t.co/OMAaX1JzFR
Apparently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under Joe Biden agrees with my conclusion that oil company activities in Alaska pose minimal risk to polar bears (Crockford 2019, 2020, 2021). Although this ruling is not yet final, they have proposed that oil exploration and extraction activities on the North Slope of Alaska can proceed over the next five years.
After noting that no major offshore oil spills have ever taken place in the Alaskan portion of the Beaufort Sea (see map below) and that all spills to date have been on land with no impact on polar bears, the proposed rule in the 200+ page assessment states:
WildEarth Guardians files Endangered Species Act petitions for climate-threatened desert plant 5 – 6 minutes
Washington, DC –WildEarth Guardians has submitted emergency petitions (here and here) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to immediately provide federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for both the eastern and western species of Joshua tree, icons of California’s Mojave Desert.
Guardians submitted these petitions to list the Joshua tree on an emergency basis under the ESA, while simultaneously challenging the Service’s 2019 decision under the Trump administration to deny Joshua trees protected status as a “threatened” species in federal court—a listing decision that was prompted by a previous petition submitted by Guardians in 2015.
Guardians’ emergency petitions were submitted in advance of what is expected to be yet another severe fire season in Southern California. Last summer, the Mojave Desert reached a record-breaking 130 degrees while enormous wildfires like the Dome Fire also decimated thousands of acres of Joshua tree habitat, destroying an estimated 1.3 million Joshua trees.
Joshua trees have existed for over 2.5 million years, but multiple published, peer-reviewed climate models show that climate change will eliminate this beloved plant from the vast majority of its current range, including its namesake National Park, by century’s end without robust efforts to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and address threats from invasive grass-fueled wildfires.
“Over the past six years, more and more climate studies have come out validating the position raised by Guardians in its 2015 petition—that a significant amount of the Joshua tree’s current habitat will be rendered ‘climatically unsuitable’ within the next 30 to 70 years without human intervention and a government-driven change of course,” said Jennifer Schwartz, staff attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “Under the Trump administration, the Service irrationally dismissed the best available science. But we’re hopeful that either a court victory or these emergency petitions will force the agency under new leadership to do the right thing and grant Joshua trees the federal ESA protections they deserve.”
In addition to an abundance of new climate studies, the petitions point to a major change since the filing of the 2015 petition. In September 2020, the California Fish & Game Commission (CFGC) unanimous vote to grant western Joshua trees (the species found almost exclusively in California) candidate status under California’s version of the ESA, the California Endangered Species Act or (CESA). This decision was based, in part, on the best-available science confirming that increasingly frequent, higher intensity fires have resulted in significant, widespread mortality of Joshua trees and this trend is projected to continue into the future.
“The California Fish & Game Commission took a pivotal step in protecting western Joshua trees by granting them candidate status under the California Endangered Species Act, and now we need bold action by the Service to ensure permanent, federal protections for both species,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “Guardians is optimistic that the Biden administration’s historic recognition of climate science and affirmative policy actions to fight against catastrophic climate change will carry over into protections for climate-vulnerable species like the Joshua tree.”
While the Endangered Species Act is America’s most effective law for protecting imperiled plants and wildlife in danger of extinction, the Trump administration promulgated a series of regulatory changes that seek to weaken protections for critically imperiled species, for instance by precluding their listing based on threats from climate change and limiting the designation of critical habitat. Guardians, and a coalition of conservation groups, are seeking to reverse these changes through multiplelawsuits and consistent pressure on the Biden administration.
“Guardians is committed to the steadfast defense of the ESA and the species that rely upon it for their very survival,” said Larris. “After the end of the worst administration for biodiversity conservation in history, we believe that, under the leadership of Secretary Deb Haaland, there is opportunity for the Service to create a viable future for the Joshua tree and countless other dwindling species.”
Since the ESA’s enactment, 99 percent of listed species have avoided extinction, and hundreds more have been set on a path to recovery. According to a recent United Nations report, over a million species are currently at risk of extinction. Researchers estimate that, if not for ESA protections, 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006.
Given adequate sunlight and nutrients, phytoplankton populations can multiply into blooms large enough to be visible from space. That was the case on May 18, 2021, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image of a phytoplankton bloom along the coast of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Some of the nutrients that fueled the bloom likely came from runoff from the Delaware River watershed. Farms, wastewater treatment plants, urban and suburban areas, and other sources all contribute nutrients that can encourage blooms.
“It’s always a challenge to be definitive about what MODIS is picking up in the coastal zone. There are a lot of things that provide color to the coastal ocean, including sediment, chromoporhic dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and phytoplankton,” explained Bob Chant, an oceanographer at Rutgers University. “But in this case, it sure looks like we are seeing the Delaware River plume, which contains all three of those elements of color, plus enough nutrients to fuel and sustain large blooms.”
The Delaware River plume may have also gotten some help from below the waterline. “Winds from the south often drive surface waters offshore due to Earth’s rotation and Ekman Transport,” said Chant. “This often causes nutrient-rich water to well up toward the surface in the summer.”
The tides likely also contributed to the appearance of this bloom. “The image occurred during a neap tide, a period with more moderate tides when the bay discharges more fresh water and the plume becomes larger,” said Chant.
On a global scale, phytoplankton are responsible for nearly half of Earth’s primary production, turning carbon dioxide, sunlight, and nutrients into the food that ultimately fuels almost everything in the sea, from finfish to shellfish and from zooplankton to whales.
Unchecked oil and gas extraction threatens climate, Colorado’s North Fork Valley
WASHINGTON—Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service’s 2020 approval of a plan that allows fracking across 35,000 acres of Colorado’s Western Slope. The North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan allows 35 new fracking wells in the North Fork Valley and Thompson Divide areas of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.
Today’s lawsuit says federal agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws by failing to fully assess the potential for water pollution and harm to the climate, and by refusing to analyze alternatives that would minimize or eliminate harm to the environment. The plan would result in about 52 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution, equivalent to the annual pollution from a dozen coal-fired power plants.
“This case is about confronting the Trump administration’s complete disregard of law, science, and public lands,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We can’t frack our way to a safe climate and we certainly can’t afford to keep letting the oil and gas industry run roughshod over Colorado’s irreplaceable and vital public lands.”
“The Trump administration charted a course to destroy public lands and our shared climate,” said Peter Hart, staff attorney at Wilderness Workshop. “This master development plan is a 30-year commitment to the disastrous ‘energy dominance’ agenda which ignored significant impacts on the communities and spectacular values of the North Fork. We are determined to hold our federal government accountable to a more sustainable future for Colorado’s public lands, wildlife, people, and climate.”
“Fossil fuel development and sustainable public lands don’t mix, especially in the roadless headwaters of the Upper North Fork Valley,” said Brett Henderson, executive director of Gunnison County-based High Country Conservation Advocates. “This project is incompatible with necessary climate change action, healthy wildlife habitat, and watershed health, and is at odds with the future of our communities.”
“We are in a megadrought in the North Fork Valley and the Western Slope. The water used to frack in the watershed risks precious water resources and only exacerbates the climate and the water crisis,” said Natasha Léger, executive director of Citizens for a Healthy Community. “This 35-well project is the beginning of much larger plans to extract a resource that should be left in the ground and for which the market is drying up.”
“This dangerous plan promises more runaway climate pollution in one of the fastest-warming regions in the United States,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re suing to force federal agencies to stop ignoring the climate emergency. Like the planet, the Colorado River Basin can’t survive a future of ever-expanding fossil fuel development.”
“It is past time for the federal government to meaningfully consider climate change in its oil and gas permitting decisions,” said Melissa Hornbein, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Gunnison and Delta Counties have already exceeded 1.5°C of warming; the project failed to meaningfully analyze impacts to climate, roadless areas, and the agriculture and eco-tourism centered economies of the North Fork Valley. More drilling is projected to harm Delta County’s tax revenue, not help it. These communities need land management that serves the public interest.”
Colorado’s Western Slope is already suffering from severe warming. The Washington Post recently featured the area as the largest “climate hot spot” in the lower 48 states, where temperatures have already risen more than 2 degrees Celsius, reducing snowpack and drying Colorado River flows that support endangered fish, agriculture and 40 million downstream water users.
In January 574 conservation, Native American, religious and business groups sent the then president-elect a proposed executive order to ban new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal public lands and waters. In February the Biden administration issued an executive order pausing oil and gas leasing onshore and offshore pending a climate review of federal fossil fuel programs. In June the Interior Department will issue an interim report describing findings from a March online forum and public comments.
Background: Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide fossil fuel leasing ban on federal lands and oceans would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals.
Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroy habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have inflicted immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.
Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons. Pollution from the world’s already producing oil and gas fields, if fully developed, would push global warming well past 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Melissa Hornbein, Western Environmental Law Center, (406) 471-3173, firstname.lastname@example.org, Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414, email@example.com, Grant Stevens, Wilderness Workshop, (319) 427-0260, firstname.lastname@example.org , Brett Henderson, High Country Conservation Advocates, (866) 349-7104, email@example.com, Natasha Léger, Citizens for a Healthy Community, (970) 399-9700, firstname.lastname@example.org
The peer-reviewed evidence is compelling that CO2 emissions are net-beneficial, rather than harmful, and the social cost of carbon is negative. Here are some papers:
Dayaratna, K.D., McKitrick, R. & Michaels, P.J. Climate sensitivity, agricultural productivity and the social cost of carbon in FUND. Environ Econ Policy Stud 22, 433–448 (2020). doi:10.1007/s10018-020-00263-w
Uddin S, Löw M, Parvin S, Fitzgerald GJ, Tausz-Posch S, Armstrong R, O’Leary G, Tausz M. Elevated [CO2] mitigates the effect of surface drought by stimulating root growth to access sub-soil water. PLoS One. 2018 Jun 14;13(6):e0198928. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0198928
Fitzgerald GJ, et al. Elevated atmospheric [CO2] can dramatically increase wheat yields in semi-arid environments and buffer against heat waves. Glob Chang Biol. 2016 Jun;22(6):2269-84. Glob Chang Biol. 2016 Jun;22(6):2269-84. doi:10.1111/gcb.13263.
Donohue, RJ, Roderick, ML, McVicar, TR, and Farquhar, GD (2013), Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 3031–3035, doi:10.1002/grl.50563.
O’Leary GJ, et al. Response of wheat growth, grain yield and water use to elevated CO2 under a Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment and modelling in a semi-arid environment. Glob Chang Biol. 2015 Jul;21(7):2670-2686. doi:10.1111/gcb.12830.
Loehle, C., Idso, C., & Bently Wigley, T. (2016). Physiological and ecological factors influencing recent trends in United States forest health responses to climate change. Forest Ecology and Management, 363, 179–189.doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.12.042
Zhu, Z Piao, S, Myneni, RB, et al (2016). Greening of the Earth and its drivers. Nature Climate Change, 6(8), 791–795. doi:10.1038/nclimate3004
Those are all recent papers, but studies measuring the benefits of elevated CO2 go back more than a century; for example: Gradenwitz A. Carbonic Acid Gas to Fertilize the Air. Scientific American, November 27, 1920. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican11271920-549
The ONLY justification for wind power – the massive subsidies upon which it entirely depends (see our post here); spiralling power prices (see our post here); and the suffering caused to neighbours by incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound (see our post here) – is the claim that it reduces CO2 emissions in the electricity sector.
Because wind power fails to deliver at all hundreds of times each year, 100% of its capacity has to be backed up 100% of the time by fossil fuel generation sources – which run constantly in the background to balance the grid and prevent blackouts when wind power output collapses – as it does on a routine, but unpredictable, basis (see our posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). And for more recent woeful ‘efforts’:
The mountains of dismal hard data tends to cut against the wilder claims emanating from the wind-worship-cult compounds that wind power ‘displaces’ – and will eventually ‘replace’ – conventional generation sources, but the ‘threat’ to BIG COAL, BIG GAS & BIG OIL is more imagined than real:
Even before the blades start spinning – the average wind farm clocks up thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions: “embedded” in thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete. So, every wind farm starts with its CO2 abatement ledger in the negative.
Here’s Andy’s Rant with a breakdown of just how much CO2 goes to build one of these things.
So what’s the carbon foot print of a wind turbine with 45 tons of rebar & 481m3 of concrete? Andy’s Rant 4 August 2014
Its carbon footprint is massive – try 241.85 tons of CO2.
Here’s the breakdown of the CO2 numbers.
To create a 1,000 Kg of pig iron, you start with 1,800 Kg of iron ore, 900 Kg of coking coal 450 Kg of limestone. The blast furnace consumes 4,500 Kg of air. The temperature at the core of the blast furnace reaches nearly 1,600 degrees C (about 3,000 degrees F).
The pig iron is then transferred to the basic oxygen furnace to make steel.
1,350 Kg of CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg pig iron produced.
A further 1,460 Kg CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg of Steel produced so all up 2,810 Kg CO2 is emitted.
45 tons of rebar (steel) are required so that equals 126.45 tons of CO2 are emitted.
To create a 1,000 Kg of Portland cement, calcium carbonate (60%), silicon (20%), aluminium (10%), iron (10%) and very small amounts of other ingredients are heated in a large kiln to over 1,500 degrees C to convert the raw materials into clinker. The clinker is then interground with other ingredients to produce the final cement product. When cement is mixed with water, sand and gravel forms the rock-like mass know as concrete.
An average of 927 Kg of CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg of Portland cement. On average, concrete has 10% cement, with the balance being gravel (41%), sand (25%), water (18%) and air (6%). One cubic metre of concrete weighs approx. 2,400 Kg so approx. 240 Kg of CO2 is emitted for every cubic metre.
481m3 of concrete are required so that equals 115.4 tons of CO2 are emitted.
Now I have not included the emissions of the mining of the raw materials or the transportation of the fabricated materials to the turbine site so the emission calculation above would be on the low end at best.
Extra stats about wind turbines you may not know about:
The average towering wind turbine being installed around beautiful Australia right now is over 80 metres in height (nearly the same height as the pylons on the Sydney Harbour Bridge). The rotor assembly for one turbine – that’s the blades and hub – weighs over 22,000 Kg and the nacelle, which contains the generator components, weighs over 52,000 Kg.
All this stands on a concrete base constructed from 45,000 Kg of reinforcing rebar which also contains over 481 cubic metres of concrete (that’s over 481,000 litres of concrete – about 20% of the volume of an Olympic swimming pool).
Each turbine blade is made of glass fibre reinforced plastics, (GRP), i.e. glass fibre reinforced polyester or epoxy and on average each turbine blade weighs around 7,000 Kg each.
Each turbine has three blades so there’s 21,000 Kgs of GRP and each blade can be as long as 50 metres.
A typical wind farm of 20 turbines can extend over 101 hectares of land (1.01 Km2).
Each and every wind turbine has a magnet made of a metal called neodymium. There are 2,500 Kg of it in each of the behemoths that have just gone up around Australia.
The mining and refining of neodymium is so dirty and toxic – involving repeated boiling in acid, with radioactive thorium as a waste product – that only one country does it – China. (See our posts here and here).
All this for an intermittent highly unreliable energy source.
And I haven’t even considered the manufacture of the thousands of pylons and tens of thousands of kilometres of transmission wire needed to get the power to the grid. And what about the land space needed to house thousands of these bird chomping death machines?
You see, renewables like wind turbines will incur far more carbon dioxide emissions in their manufacture and installation than what their operational life will ever save.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the “cure” of using wind turbines sound worse than the problem? A bit like amputating your leg to “cure” your in-growing toe nail?
Target: Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
Goal: Halt sand dredging that threatens marine ecosystems and habitats of Taiwan.
China has begun a fresh round of obliterating the sand banks that separate it from Taiwan. This maneuver is believed to be a tactic for intimidating the smaller region and attempting to wipe away its natural defenses. The strong-arm method is also taking a hidden but no less devastating environmental toll.
The operations involve mining sand by essentially displacing and pumping it up with large dredging ships. Hundreds of these vessels often conduct illegal dredging around Taiwan’s waters, but as tensions have risen between the regions the activity has become more frequent and more overt. The estimated 100,000 tons of sand dredged on a daily basis are already likely devastating the delicate marine ecosystems that call these waters home.
The centerpieces of these systems, small seabed-dwelling organisms, lose their lives directly as their habitats are destroyed and their bodies sucked up and spit back out as carcasses. A devastating domino effect could collapse the entire food chain. Worse yet, the loss of sand creates shoreline erosion that could even adversely impact life on land.
Sign the petition below to urge an immediate cease and desist to this wholesale environmental degradation.
Dear President Xi,
China wants to position itself as a leader on clean technology and environmental sustainability. Yet this country continues to conduct arguably the most devastating and least-regulated form of mineral extraction on a wide scale. So-called sand mafias have made blood money from the destructive practice of sand mining. The world’s most populous country has created an empire out of this environmentally unsound practice.
The continued dredging of the Taiwan Strait is the most egregious example. You may see these exercises as a short-term power play, but the decades’ worth of damage you are inflicting on vibrant marine ecosystems will last several lifetimes. Nearly 100,000 tons of sand are likely lost in one day alone. With this loss comes habitat erosion, a seabed strewn with carcasses, and a food chain without its most critical links.
Please stop these dangerous dredging exercises before they fuel a catastrophe beyond your control.
Target: Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Vicki Christiansen
Goal: Terminate plans to develop a copper mine on Oak Flat.
Oak Flat in Tonto National Forest, a sacred land to the Apache people, was sold to a London based company to build a massive copper mine. This will not only cause grave destruction to this ancestral land and burial site, but it will also seriously damage the environment. Oak Flat is an important habitat for endangered wildlife and migratory birds.
The project is sure to deplete water supply and quality in the region. It is predicted that the mine would eventually cause the land to cave into a crater a mile wide and a thousand feet deep. The decision to sell this land to a multinational corporation was a disturbing betrayal to the local Indigenous communities and it must be stopped. Sign the petition below to demand cancelation of the copper mine on Oak Flat.
Dear Mrs. Christiansen,
The sale of Oak Flat to a London based copper mining company is a violation of local Indigenous communities and will be detrimental to the region’s wildlife and water supply. Oak Flat is sacred ancestral land and must be protected and regarded with respect.
President Joe Biden has spoken extensively of his desire to address the climate and ecological crisis. That being said, this environmentally harmful project is not in alignment with the current administration. Plans to place a copper mine in the Tonto National Forest must be terminated immediately. An apology also needs to be issued to the surrounding tribes for this vial disregard of their land and culture.
Following in the spirit of Britain's Queen Boudica, Queen of the Iceni. A boudica.us site. I am an opinionator, do your own research, verification. Reposts, reblogs do not neccessarily reflect our views.
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard