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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Phoebes 02

A Black Phoebe

I have been writing a monthly article for a set of three neighbor magazines for the past couple of years now. These magazines are distributed to a handful of east bay neighborhoods. I have shared one or two of the articles in previous posts, and am thinking of doing so more regularly, so here is the article on Phoebes that I wrote for the November issue of Berkeley Hills Living, Monclair Living, and Piedmont Living magazines.

Berkeley Hills Living – November 2019 Issue

Phoebes 01

A Say’s Phoebe

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Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon 2019 logoPoint Blue Conservation Science has a blog called Science for a Blue Planet that highlights the great work done by this organization. The blog post reporting on the 2019 Bird-a-thon features the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings!  It is really wonderful to get this kind of acknowledgement, and exciting that the Sanderlings might be the high species total winner this year!

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Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon 2019 logo

Dear Sponsor,

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first, and is the longest running, youth Bird-a-thon team that the Point Reyes Bird Observatory has ever organized. I was one of the founding youth members and am now the team leader.

Since its beginning, the Sanderlings have established a very successful tradition of crisscrossing Marin County every fall, finding as many bird species as possible in twenty-four hours, and raising money for bird research and conservation. During the 2018 bird-a-thon, the Sanderlings were particularly successful when we found more bird species than any other team that year! Over the years our team members have changed as our youths get older, move away, or enter college. Wherever they have spread, Sanderlings members carry a passion for birds and nature with them that was, in part, nurtured by our team.

We are now preparing for our 2019 bird-a-thon! To support this team, I would like to invite you to become a sponsor of the Sanderlings. Your support sends a powerful message to the birding community that a team of young people can make an important contribution to bird conservation. This year, the Sanderlings bird-a-thon will be on October 5th. When you become a sponsor, I will be sure to let you know how the day goes.

Becoming a sponsor is easy! Just go to: https://pointblue.securesweet.com/contribute_paymentspring.asp?userid=1&fundid=832 and enter your info, or follow the QR code, below. I hope you are able to support this wonderful team. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

 

Sincerely,

Aaron

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Leader

QR Code - blog

Sanderlings 2018 Team Photo

The 2018 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings.

 

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How much is a Kirkland’s Warbler worth?

What is the monetary value of a California Condor?

Once of the significant changes that is being made by the current presidential administration to the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to take the economic considerations of a project or a impacted species into account. This will mean that if a particular project could generate a lot of money, it might be able to move ahead even if it destroyed an endangered species. Also, if measures to save a particular species are expensive, they may be ignored in favor of a profitable project.

This is a terrible change.

Protecting a species should be undertaken simply for its own right. If that is expensive, so be it. If it is difficult, so be it. If it is unprofitable, so be it!

Economic considerations have no place in deciding which species to save and whether or not some species to go extinct. Period.

If economic considerations do become part of the endangered species conservation decision making process, we will all have to answer the two questions that I began this post with. Many industries will be working hard to put dollar amounts on species, and to make sure those values are as low as possible.

Here is a short video from Beau and the Fifth Column, a youtube content creator I like, on the subject.

Let’s talk about the Endangered Species Act, Chickens, and Painters….

And here is a link to written testimony by Dr. Jane Goodall to the U.S. House of Representatives on the value and importance of the Endangered Species Act.

Dr. Jane Goodall to the U.S. House of Representatives

One result of adding economic considerations into conservation decisions will be more extent species. And this during an ongoing extinction crisis.

 

 

 

 

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In 1982, the year I was born, there were only 22 California Condors alive in the world. Those 22 birds were all that remained of a population that once spanned the western US, and bits of Canada and Mexico. The Condor population plummeted as a result of lead poisoning, hunting, habitat loss and pollution.

California Condor 01

Geographic range of the California Condor in the 1880s

By 1987, the world population of California Condors was 27 birds. Since the causes of the California Condor decline were distinctly human activities, it only seemed appropriate for humans to step up and attempt to fix what they had broken. To that end, the 27 birds were captured and taken into a captive breeding program run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The goal of that captive breeding program was to first raise Condors and establish multiple captive breeding populations, and then to establish multiple wild populations. It was an ambitious plan.

Over the last 37 years, the program has overcome countless challenges from figuring out how to hatch condor eggs, to how to raise babies that will grow into wild adults, to teaching those young adults to find food. California Condors are not fast breeders. A pair will only lay one egg each year, and they sometimes skip years. The young birds take several years to grow and gain full independence, and will begin to breed after about five years. It has taken extensive amounts of money and time, but success after success have become realities.

California Condor 03

An adult California Condor

A small number of captive breeding populations were established in zoos raptor breeding facilities. In 1992, Condors began to be released into the wild. Additional releases established small populations in California, Arizona, Utah, and Mexico.

Now a new milestone has been reached. In March of this year, the 1000th California Condor chick has hatched since 1987 when the captive breeding population was initiated. This brings the living population to around 500 individuals, since numerous chicks, juveniles, and adults have died in the last 37 years. The 1000th chick hatched in the wild to a pair of Condors living in Zion National Park in Utah.

A population of 500 individuals is still not big enough to be out of danger of extinction, and as such are still protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. But it is certainly a wonderful accomplishment, and the 1000th chick born is also a occasion to be celebrated. Hopefully, the California Condor population will continue to grow, and the amazing birds, the largest in North America, with their 9 foot wingspans will be circling 15,000 feet over our heads in greater numbers and across greater areas as the next 37 years unfold.

California Condor 02

 

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The United Nations (UN) announced last Friday, the 10th of May, 2019, that almost every country on earth has agreed to a legally binding plastic waste pact. This agreement will mean that several thousand different types of plastic waste will be tracked. This means that countries will have to monitor and keep track of plastic waste within and beyond their boarders.

Related imageThis agreement sends a strong message to governments, industries, and consumers that the issue of plastic waste cannot be ignored. This is a good thing since plastics in the environment have become a huge problem. There are gigantic rafts of plastics floating in the oceans of the world (at least one is the size of the state of Texas). There is plastic scattered along every road, in every river, on every beach. A recent dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (the deepest dive by a submarine ever) even found some pieces of either metal or plastic trash as the sub scanned to bottom.

Image result for plastic in the oceanWe humans need to stop flinging our trash all over the world. The wide-spread agreement on this need as evidenced by the wide-spread by-in to the plastic waste pact is encouraging. Unfortunately, one of the few countries that did not agree to the pact was the USA. I very much hope that my country will turn around on this stance.

 

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Image result for ecorestore

A view of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has produced a video called Restoring California’s Great Estuary that explains the EcoRestore initiative which is one of the big, state-wide efforts that is aiming at restoring some fairly significant amounts of habitat to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Being that I work for a State agency called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, this is something that I pay a lot of attention to. But there are a lot of reasons that everyone who lives in California, and many people who live outside the state, should also be interested in this video. A large portion of the people, farms, ranches, and industries in California rely, at least in part, on water from the Delta. That fact alone should make efforts like

Also, I work with many of the people featured in this video including my boss, Campbell Ingram. Seeing talented people that I know talking about an issue that I care about makes this video that much more appealing to me, but that probably won’t have much impact on you.

Enjoy!

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Jakarta 01

Jakarta, the capitol city of Indonesia.

Climate change is having more and more dramatic and direct effects on life on earth. One of these effects that climate change is having on humans that I read about just recently is the plan by the Indonesian government to move their capitol, Jakarta.

Jakarta 04

Flooding in central Jakarta.

It turns out that Jakarta is one of the fastest sinking cities in the world. A significant portion of the city already lays below sea-level, and with a predicted sea-level rise of between 20 inches and 5 feet in the next century, it is likely that Jakarta will be flooded by 2050.

In order to move the capitol, a new city will have to be built. It is not yet clear if the new city will be somewhere else on Java (the same island that Jakarta is on and the most populous island in Indonesia), or if it will be built on a different island (Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo has been suggested).

A move such as this is a huge and historic example of managed retreat (which I have written about previously here).

This process will take a while. Not only will new government buildings need to be created, but all the people who work in those buildings,, and their families, will need homes to live in, stores to shop in, schools to go to, police and fire departments to protect them, hospitals to care for them, parks to play in, etc., etc. Building a city is a daunting proposition.

But it is a very good thing for the Indonesian government to be thinking about. Very forward thinking, indeed. Just about every country on earth is going to have to consider how it is going to change in response to sea-level rise and other effects of climate change. Doing so before disaster strikes is a much wiser strategy than waiting to scramble after the disaster has already occurred.

Jakarta 02

Jakarta at night.

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WalletHub is a personal finance website based in Washington D.C. They specialize in helping individuals decide how to finance large purchases, choose credit cards, and about various types of bank accounts. One of the things that WalletHub produced a few months ago is a ranking of the greenest cities in the USA. While the report, called Greenest Cities in America, was written in October 2018, it is still getting a lot of attention now.

Green Cities 01

This report ranked the 100 most populous cities in the USA according to how they scored across four dimensions 1) Environment, 2) Transportation, 3) Energy Sources, and 4) Lifestyle and Policy. Each of these dimensions have many criteria that contribute to them, and the total scores of all four are combined to form a cities score.

The top ten greenest cities are:

  1. San Diego, CA
  2. San Francisco, CA
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Irvine, CA
  5. San Jose, CA
  6. Honolulu, HI
  7. Fremont, CA
  8. Seattle, WA
  9. Sacramento, CA
  10. Portland, OR

The bottom ten greenest cities are:

90. Jacksonvile, FL, 91. Gilbert, AZ, 92. Cleveland, OH, 93. Mesa AZ, 94. Lexington-Fayette, KY, 95. Detroit, MI, 96. Memphis, TN, 97. Toledo, OH, 98. St. Louis, MO, 99. Corpus Cristi, TX, 100. Baton Rouge, LA.

Some of the note worthy findings are that of the top ten greenest cities in this analysis, 6 are in California and 8 are on the west coast, but only one is on the east of the Mississippi. Also of note is that no west coast states appear in the bottom ten cities, and the only eastern seaboard state in the bottom ten is in Florida.

Other than the strait ranking, the report also highlights some other interesting facets. One such facet is the percentage of each cities that is devoted to green space. This criteria had a three-way tie between Honolulu, HI, Anchorage, AK, and Fremont, CA. The cities with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, per capita, were Virginia Beach, VA, Reno, NV, Hialeah, FL, San Bernardino, CA, and Honolulu, HI which is a pretty wide geographical spread of cities. A criteria that I was a bit surprised to see included was the number of farmers markets, per captia, in a city. This criterion jumped out at me because it does not seem like a particularly important aspect of the greenness of a city, but I suppose this may stand as measure of how environmentally conscious the population of a city might be.

All in all, it is an interesting report and generally fun to look over and think about. Enjoy!

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Climate Risk 02From the Office of the Director of of National Intelligence of the United States of America comes a new Worldwide Threat Assessment by the US intelligence community.

Worldwide Threat Assessments represent the collective insights of the bulk of the US intelligence community on matters that threaten USA lives and interests around the world.

This most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment points out in several places that climate change is a growing national security threat. One way that global climate change poses a threat to US national security is because of how it influences and encourages infectious diseases. The reports finds that the US and world will likely remain vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as the flu and other pandemics. Such outbreaks will cause increases in “death and disability, severely impact the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.” It also finds that the work that has been done to control infectious diseases has very much improved the situation, but that these improvements may still be inadequate for addressing more frequent outbreaks of diseases due to rapid and unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human intrusion into unsettled lands, expansion of international trade and travel, and climate change.

Climate Risk 01

A second way that global climate change poses a threat to US national security is because of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires, sea level rise, etc. One particular area highlighted in the report is the worsening effects of sea level rise on urban areas of Southeast Asia. These effects take the form of damage to infrastructure that is likely to impact military bases, inflict economic costs, and lead to human displacement and loss of life. Another area highlighted in the report are the increasing food insecurities around the world, social injustice, human migration, and interstate tensions in countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Jordan that all result from increasing droughts, heat waves, and floods caused by climate change.

 

Climate change is real. It is having effects on the entire world now. Many of those effects are dramatically impacting the way humans around the world live, and those impacts are being felt by US citizens now and will only get more drastic as time goes on.

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