Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pope Francis Conservation Encyclical

God has given us this planet as a gift, to provide for our needs.  And the correct response to receiving such a magnificent gift is surely one of gratitude, love and respect.

Pope Francis encyclical on the environment showed profound courage.  His warning of the impacts of climate change has amazing implications.  As a former chemist, Pope Francis acknowledges that humans are a major contributor to greenhouse emissions and global warming. 

The  International Energy Agency's recently cited that the fossil fuel industry last year got subsidies totaling $510 billion dollars.  Leaders and experts of all walks have advocated a carbon tax to price greenhouse emissions or some sort of emissions trading system.

The $8 billion Vatican Bank is divesting in fossil fuels and shrinking its carbon footprint. 

The Pope urges us to seriously address the whole "technological paradigm" of climate change impacting those less fortunate and the economic impacts.

This document agrees with the scientific consensus advocating global agreement to quickly lessen the use of fossil fuels.  This encyclical talks about pollution, consumption, and other ways  we are rapidly deteriorating our fragile earth.

Below are his key points:
 * “An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness,” 

* “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?"

* “recent World Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.” He writes, “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.” 

* "The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.”

* The importance of access to safe drinkable water is “a basic and universal human right."

* “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

* “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever,”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Improving Our Housekeeping

Housework in America reflects interesting patterns.  Liana Sayer at the University of Maryland documents that in 1965 the average American woman spent four hours a day on housework while the men just 30 minutes.  In 2012 this changed where the woman spent less than  two and half hours a day while the men and hour and half.  Woman in the U.S, still do about 1.7 times a much as men in 2012 but they also now are more into the workforce.  Thus men need to up their output by 70 percent to be as productive as the average woman at housework. 

When there is a birth of a child then woman increase their work by three hours a day not including being with the child while men increase their total work by an hour and a half according to a 2015 Ohio State study by Dush and Schoppe-Sulllivan.

Bottom-line is that there is inequalities in household labor. Before parenthood the average man's workweek was three hours longer than his partner's before birth (paid work and unpaid housework, including childcare). However, after birth the man worked eight and half hours less per week than his partner.  

How the sexes share in their housework have a great impact on a larger good housekeeping practices. Woman have a critical role in conservation and pollution prevention.  Also, men can profit from better environmental improvements not just at home but outside their doors.  Such measures plant seeds of hope for future generation not just in the U.S. but all over this earth.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mount Tom- A Magic Love for Green Mountains

 We must conceive of stewardship not simply as one individual's practice, but rather as the mutual and intimate relationship extending across generations, between the human community and its place on earth- John Elder, Inheriting Mount Tom, 1997

Just recently I was attending a memorial of a dear old friend in Woodstock, Vermont driving from another Woodstock in Virginia close to home.  We all return to our beloved earth in many ways. Both were I live in the Shenandoah valley and were I grew up in home Washington D.C. share the story of saving the land.

For example, most American's did not know that George Washington was a revolutionary farmer as one of this country's first composter and who also did the land survey for my valley. 

Low and behold, Woostock, Vermont is the birthplace of some major conservation champions planting seeds for the benefit of many generations. First this is where our nation's foremost environmental pioneer, George Perkins Marsh, grew up.  His book Man and Nature (1864) was the first prophetic road-map illustrating the value of land stewardship.  

George witnessed firsthand man's impact on nature due to deforestation in Vermont.  He commented, "brought the earth to desolation almost as complete as that of the moon,"  George helped start the Smithsonian Institute and was an American diplomat.

Next, in 1869 Frederick Billings, a successful businessman purchased the Marsh family farm.  It then was surrounded by devastated land with barren hills and silted rivers degraded by over logging. He went to school with Marsh's son and applied Marsh's wisdom. Frederick enacted model stewardship measures with state of the art forestry and agriculture methods including raising purebred Jersey cows.  Also the Billing's dairy and farming innovations were shared by his neighbors near and far who also excel. 

In 1890, Frederick dies. Again the torch of this stewardship legacy is passed on. Frederick's wife, Julia, continues their work with the support of three generations of remarkable women. His three daughters Mary French, Elizabeth Billings, and Laura Lee become the vanguards of environmental best management. 

Much of the past, present, and future environmental advancements are due the tireless and less recognized efforts of women.

Once again, Billing's grand-daughter Mary French becomes the guiding force to continue this inter-generational model in stewardship at Mount Tom.  Also, she expands her efforts when she marries philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller.  As a couple they help expand our national parks securing the hundreds of thousand of priceless forest acres throughout the United States for the enjoyment of all.  

It is no accident that of their magic Mount Tom property.  It inspired great people to do great things.  The threads of   resource conservation, selfless service, inter-generational stewardship act like the recycling chasing arrows. 

There is nothing more beautiful in life when we apart of such divine act of interconnecting.  Whenever someone gives their best to this world they in turn receive the many "happy returns" by their public service.  And this conservation translates into further joy and happiness for generations to come.    

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wastewater = Life

The recent Western and California drought forces us to explore new innovations because of the lack and need for water.  Water reuse is becoming more attractive mimicking just how water is recycled on this blue planet.  Also it reduces the disposal of wastewater and if properly managed improves our water’s quality.  Especially since how in the West improved water efficiency has many obstacles counter intuitively increasing both water consumption and its best allocation. The “use it or lose it,” allocation system is counterproductive.

No better example of water conservation driven by economic growth than Las Vegas. 93% of water used indoors is treated and then used again either in irrigation or back to Lake Mead in Las Vegas  (Where the River Runs Dry, David Cohen, New Yorker, 5/29/15, pg 58).

Florida has been a state leader in recycling their water. The Sunshine State has nearly tripled this reuse in the last 20 years.  (*Getting Past the "Yuck" in Florida and other States,  Kuwayama and Kamen, Resources for the Future,  no. 189, 2015 pg, 10-12).  If Florida could reuse all the wastewater it could that volume would represent 67% of the state's wastewater capacity in 2012. 486 reuse facilities creating a reuse capacity of 1,711 million gallons per day in 2012.  Of this capacity, on average about 725 million gallons were actually being daily used. 

In 2013 Florida used recycled water in 548 golf courses, 961 parks, and on the grounds of 328 schools, 321,340 residential yards and 39,000 agricultural acres. Less than one percent was used for toilet flushing, decorative foundations, commercial laundry, cleaning of roads and sidewalks, vehicle washing and the making of concrete (Ibid, pg 11).

The National Research Council (2012) estimates that reusing all municipal wastewater that is discharged could supply 6% of the total water use and 27% of all residential, consumer and industrial uses (Ibid, pg 10)

Florida established a promotional and educational policy to encourage water reuse.  Research documents that water reuse gets better public support when information about water quality and public health protection is effectively communicated to stimulate consumer confidence.  Such public awareness on water supply issues is critical to such best management practices. 

Applying reused water in irrigation and low-value uses makes better sense due to costly recycling technologies that can transform wastewater back into drinking water.  Recapturing and reusing water is evolving because of our dwindling supplies of pure water and increasing demands.  The better we emulate our hydraulic cycle and recycle water the better we all will benefit

Americans use three times more water each day than Europeans or 1,300 gallons each person here in the U.S. Wastewater reuse will become a significant growth industry. In 2003, USEPA estimated that we Americans generated 12.5 billion tons of wastewater each year.  Each year Americans use, discard and recycle more than 17 billion tons of waste. Better tracking of the entire material cycle can provide us with better insights to management our limited resources.