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Your September 2020 Pathfinder Newsletter
 
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Reflection
 
    Since 1989, orthodox Christians have observed September 1st as the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation." This year Pope Francis wrote an extraordinary letter marking the day, a message well worth reading in full.
    For now, though, I’d like to focus on just one word the Pope uses over and over again in his letter, and that’s “relationship.”
    As in “We have broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with our fellow human beings, and with the rest of creation. We need to heal the damaged relationships that are essential to supporting us and the entire fabric of life.”       


Table Mountain
photo by Jack Hartt

    Noting that wildlife populations have plunged by more than two-thirds in the last 50 years due to human activities, the 2020 Living Planet Report, released Sept. 10th, eerily echoes the Pope’s words: “The findings are clear. Our relationship with nature is broken.” As we head toward warming unknown in 34 million years, we see the wreckage of this severed relationship. My mind is seared by images I saw recently of hundreds of elephants in Botswana who died because their watering holes became contaminated with blue-green algae, a toxic result of global warming.    
    How on earth do we begin to heal what is so horribly broken? I think it starts by remembering our place on earth, by understanding, as Francis writes, that “we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters.”
   That means paying attention to the natural world, expressing gratitude for its gifts, and giving back. However humble our efforts may seem. Opportunities jump out at me in the garden, from reuniting wolf spiders with egg sacs inadvertently disturbed as I turn over soil, to rescuing thirsty bees from drowning in my water buckets. By leaving low-hanging raspberries for the wild rabbits. Or by regularly thanking the fruits and vegetables through song.


29th Street Garden
photo by Jack Hartt

    I’ve done that last little give-back without knowing until just recently how the Hidatsa Indians of No. Dakota sang “watch-garden” songs to their corn. It was partially a practice to keep the crows away but not wholly: “We Indian people loved our gardens, just as a mother loves her children, and we thought that our growing corn liked to hear us sing, just as children like to hear their mother sing to them.”
    Small things? Maybe. But I believe there’s a connection between not rescuing a bee or singing to corn, and elephants dying from waters made toxic by human-caused warming.
    In his letter, Francis urges us to learn from people like the Hidatsa,“our indigenous brothers and sisters, who live in harmony with the land and its multiple forms of life.” At a conference early this year in Ottawa that focused on nature-based climate solutions, a leader from the Dené Tribe challenged the audience to shift their thinking from dominance to partnership by replacing “land-use” planning with “land-relationship” planning. 
    As wildfires ravaged California, a native of the Karuk Tribe mourned that his people’s age-old practice of cultural burning had been ignored. “We hold the knowledge of fire, forests, water, plants and animals that is needed to revitalize our human connection and responsibility to this land. If enabled, we can overcome our current situation and teach others how to get it done across the western United States.”
    Perhaps you’ve heard about the Wild Church (other than the one on a mountain peak, or in your own back yard)? Congregants meet for worship in a natural setting such as a meadow or grove of trees. Or it could even be a clear-cut, or another damaged wild place that deserves apologies and care.
    The Wild Church was started in 2016 by a woman who’d spent years campaigning for climate action. Eventually she realized that “Trying to shift people without understanding and addressing the underlying worldview is like moving a mountain one pebble at a time.” Though she still thinks climate activism is necessary, she “believes there’s even deeper work to do,” which is “changing the underlying relationship between humans and the rest of the world.”
    Francis, I think, would add his whole-hearted “Amen.”



Read on for  Good News; TFF project updates; and Climate Updates
 
Note: as you read the sections below, you will find embedded hyperlinks that are blue and underlined.

Yes, there’s good news

Bye Bye, Big Oil?  On 9/14, BP gave just the latest signal that the dirty energy industry is dying—admitting global demand for oil may have already peaked while projecting significant growth in renewables over the next few decades.  BP's chief economist noted that "the share of renewable energy grows more quickly than any fuel ever seen in history."   Read more here

Big Oil’s backers jump ship: ExxonMobil was dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the same day that Storebrand, a major European investor, announced it was blacklisting the company over its anti-climate lobbying. Storebrand announced it would divest from companies that are actively lobbying against the Paris Agreement or climate regulations. Storebrand has also blacklisted companies that get more than 5% of their revenues from coal or tarsands. Major investors like Blackrock, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and the Norwegian Oil Fund have announced similar exclusions as they, too, reduce their exposure to fossil fuels.   Read more here

Insurance giant to end support for fossil-fuel industry: Major Australian insurer Suncorp will end any financing or insuring of the oil and gas industry by 2025, adding to its existing ban on support for new thermal coal projects. Suncorp has already stopped insuring, underwriting or directly investing in new oil and gas projects and will phase out underwriting and financing existing oil and gas businesses by 2025. All direct investing in the oil and gas sector would end by 2040. This puts Suncorp at odds with the government, which has recommended Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic should focus on gas.   Read more here

Fossil fuel-free by 2040: Biogen, a multi-national biotech company, is launching a $250 million initiative to eliminate fossil fuels from its global operations by 2040.  The initiative will not only supply green energy to Biogen's facilities, but will include "how we use plastics, incorporating green chemistry into product life-cycle and even extending and engaging our suppliers." Biogen is the first Fortune 500 company to commit to the fossil fuel-free goal.   Read more here


Image courtesy of TheBarentsObserver.com

Fossil-free steelmaking: Sweden's  HYBRIT plant (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) aims at replacing coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steelmaking, with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen. The result will be the world’s first fossil-free steelmaking technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.   Read more here

Investing in "natural capital" projects:  A push to better recognize the economic value of “natural capital” – water systems, biodiversity, soil and carbon stores – has prompted the creation of what aims to be the world’s largest investment firm dedicated to projects that help the planet. Multinational financial services giant HSBC and Pollination, a boutique climate advisory and investment firm, announced a joint venture to meet a multi-billion dollar demand for environmentally-friendly investment beyond renewable energy. The new body would back projects in sustainable forestry, regenerative agriculture, water supply improvement, bio-fuels and “blue carbon” capture in oceans and coastal ecosystems.   Read more here

Ban on new gas-powered cars by 2035: California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order 9/23 that would ban the sale of new cars in California that run only on gasoline by the year 2035. The bid to reduce emissions and combat the climate crisis makes California the first state to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines.   Read more here

Oranges could help recycle batteries: Researchers in Singapore have come up with a technique that uses orange peels to extract precious metals from spent lithium-ion batteries. The research, presented in Environmental Science & Technology, is a solution to tackling food waste and electronics waste, and could lead to recycling the growing heaps of batteries that end up in landfills each year.   Read more here

Solar hydropanels pull water from air: Harnessing the power of the sun, Zero Mass Water’s Source hydropanels pull water vapor from the air and bring it through faucets as drinkable water. An initial demo project is bringing this new air-to-water technology to Navajo households. And there’s potential for the technology to scale up and be deployed at small residential homes, roof-mounted on community buildings, and even in “water farms” adjacent to entire communities.   Read more here


Image courtesy of AnthropoceneMagazine
 
Simple paint job saves birds: Wind energy is one of the world’s most promising renewables—some calculations suggest that strategically placed wind turbines could conceivably power the entire planet. But each year, turbine blades kill hundreds of thousands of birds and bats. This concern has led to a number of proposed interventions, from turning off wind farms during migrations to installing special whistles only bats can hear. A new study presents a relatively low-cost, set-it-and-forget-it option: just paint one of the turbine blades black. “Overall, there was an average 71.9% reduction in the annual fatality rate” at painted turbines.  Read more here 

Huge dump will power homes: After the world’s largest landfill closed down, New York officials and nonprofits began a decades-long transition from dump to green outdoors space. Creating a park three times the size of Central Park has involved goats, using landfill fumes to methane-power homes, and plenty of manpower as buried trash gets turned into hills of native grass. Fresh Kills landfill, once the dumping site for all of New York City’s garbage, had trash mounds said to have reached 20 stories high. Now it’s just months away from reopening as one of the world’s great rewilding projects.   Read more here

Rewilding land could roll back 16 years of global emissions: Worldwide, livestock tread on pastures that if returned to forests and grasslands, could sequester vast amounts of carbon. Researchers pinpointed an area of seven million square kilometers—about the size of Russia—spread across the planet, which could sequester carbon once more. The rub is, to free up this land area, humanity would need to cut back significantly on meat. Reducing consumption of farmed meat by 70% would free enough land to sequester 332 gigatons of carbon by 2050, through restored vegetation and soil. If humanity switched to an entirely vegan diet, the sequestering potential of freed land would rise to 547 gigatons. This rewilding would sequester an amount of carbon equivalent to the last 9 to 16 years of global carbon emissions respectively (with the higher number occurring through humans completely swearing off meat.)    Read more here

Turbine collects energy from walking: Scientists in China have developed a “tiny wind turbine” that can scavenge energy from the breeze made while walking. Once placed on a person’s swinging arm, the airflow is enough to generate power. “We won’t see this innovation replacing the big turbines, but we are seeing increasing numbers of these sort of technologies being used for energy harvesting …providing power in places that are otherwise quite hard to get electricity to.”    Read more here

Sweden transforms homes into power stations: As well as targeting 100% renewable electricity production by 2040, Sweden is transforming homes into highly efficient "prosumers" - buildings which both produce and consume the vast majority of their own energy. Meanwhile local "district heating" plants are using excess heat to produce over 75% of the warmth Swedish households need. The country also combines the world's highest carbon taxes with relatively cheap energy prices.   Read more here

 

Transition Fidalgo & Friends Project Updates

Share-the-Bounty Stands: Our 3 free-produce stands will be up at least until Nov. 1, possibly longer. Those of you with surplus garden produce, please continue to supply the stands at the library, Harbor House, or at 2509 H Ave. We're so grateful to all of you, as well as to the folks at Moondance and Well-Fed Farms for giving us their unsold produce at the end of the Saturday Market!



Seed-Saving: Screens have been purchased for cleaning the seeds, and thanks much to board members Bud Anderson and Warren Carr for offering to build frames for the screens. Winnowing of the first seeds for the community seed library should happen sometime this fall. Contact Sequoia at gaiarisingfarm@gmail.com if you'd like to get involved.

Fidalgo Forest Stewards/ACFL monitoring:
  • Weather station: Jon Ranney and Jack Hartt met with folks at the Waste Water Treatment Plant folks and Bob Vaux, deputy director of Anacortes Parks. They came up with a location for our weather station and data recorder at the plant. It was installed last week and is already recording Anacortes-specific weather data. The site is within the fenced yard of the plant, free and clear of obstructions for an adequate distance. This is a big step forward!
  • Phenology studies: these have resumed on salmonberry, Indian plum, and ocean spray shrubs as well as the maples and alders. We're looking for 10% coloration, then 10% leaf fall, then 100% leaf fall. These studies, along with the cedar tree monitoring, will help build a baseline of data against which to measure changes in the community forest lands.
  • Soil Moisture monitoring: the equipment is in place and doing its work. It should give us wonderful info as we see the eventual end of summer drought and the return of the rains. Next year we'll begin a full year of measurements to watch what unfolds.
Interested in helping out with any of these forest projects? Let Jack know at skagitjack@outlook.com.

Resilient Living Series: To help build personal and community resilience in these especially challenging times, TF&F has started a series of virtual presentations that began in July and will continue every other month. The first presentation was on water storage systems and our Sept 30 (Wednesday, 7PM) presentation will be on food preservation techniques. Go to https://www.transitionfidalgo.org/gatherings/ for more info and the Zoom link.


 

Climate Updates ... because we need to know


Gulf Stream circulation weakens: There's growing evidence that the Gulf Stream system in the Atlantic is apparently weakening, with consequences for both the US and Europe. The gigantic overturning circulation of the Atlantic water (AMOC) moves almost 20 million cubic meters of water per second as warm surface water flows to the north and returns to the south as a cold deep current. This transport releases enormous heat over the northern Atlantic and has a lasting effect on our climate. Since the 1980s, researchers have warned of a change in this flow as a result of global warming and two new studies now provide evidence of a weakening.    Read more here

Massive ice chunk breaks off Greenland glacier: A chunk of ice nearly twice the size of Manhattan has broken from Greenland's largest remaining glacier and fallen into the ocean, a phenomenon attributed to record-breaking Arctic warming. The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said the ice shelf had lost 160 square kilometers since 1999. "We should be very concerned about what appears to be progressive disintegration at the Arctic's largest remaining ice shelf." News of the latest breakage from the Arctic's largest ice shelf came as NOAA announced that this summer has been the hottest ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere.   Read more here

Two major Antarctic glaciers tearing loose: Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5% of global sea-level rise. The survival of Thwaites has been deemed so critical that the US and Britain have launched a targeted multimillion-dollar research mission to the glacier. The loss of the glacier could trigger the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to eventually raise seas 10 feet. The new findings were published 9/14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   Read more here

2020 carves "deep wound" in Earth’s ice: The UN weather agency says this summer will go down for leaving a “deep wound” in the cryosphere — the planet’s frozen parts — amid a heat wave in the Arctic, shrinking sea ice and the collapse of a leading Canadian ice shelf. The World Meteorological Organization said that temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average, provoking a “vicious circle” where the ice decline contributes to more warming. Many new temperature records have been set in recent months, including at a Russian town in Siberia, which reached 100F on June 20.   Read more here


Fresno County, 9-8-2020   
Image courtesy of CommonDreams.org
 
Planet heading toward warming not seen in 34 million years: A new study in Science warns that "Earth is on track for some of the strongest, fastest climate change the planet has ever experienced." Undertaking "one of the most comprehensive investigations of the Earth's climate history," researchers analyzed ancient sediments and found that 50 million years ago, temperatures were more than 10C hotter than now. However, reaching those temperatures took thousands or even millions of years, which is much different than the accelerated warming occurring today. "Earth could once again reach a temperature threshold not seen for at least 34 million years" in only a few centuries unless society limits greenhouse-gas emissions.   Read more here

Northern hemisphere has hottest ever summer: June, July and August were 2.11F above the 20th-century average, according to NOAA. The new record surpasses the summers of 2016 and 2019. Last month was also the second-hottest August ever recorded for the globe. The numbers put 2020 on track to be one of the five warmest years.   Read more here

"We're in a new kind of era": What's happening now is far worse than the western fire season has ever been. Catastrophic fires in Oregon burnt down a small town and prompted the evacuation of much of the small city of Medford. In northeastern California, a fire expanded by a quarter million acres in 24 hours. That's a new kind of fire and "we are in a new kind of era". This is the fourth year of a climate-crisis fire season amplified in duration, scale, and intensity, and it's already worse than the last three in most respects. It comes on the heels of unprecedented heat throughout most of California, with a temperature reaching 121F in Los Angeles County.    Read more here

Climate change fuels record wildfires: Global warming has increased the odds of unprecedented heat extremes across more than 80% of the planet and “has doubled or even, in some areas, tripled the odds of record-setting hot events” in California and the Western U.S., said Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh. Research by Diffenbaugh and colleagues published last month found that the number of days with extreme wildfire weather in California has more than doubled since the early 1980s, primarily due to warming temperatures drying out vegetation. “It means that even with no change in the frequency of strong wind events, even with no change in the frequency of lightning, the risk of wildfire and risk of large, rapidly growing wildfires goes up as a result of the effect of that warming.” Bad forest management, combined with human behavior — intentional and unintentional starting of fires — have contributed to the problem. But “We have seen the rapid warming of California summers really turbocharge the type of conditions that are suitable for rapid growth of wildfires. We see fires growing from essentially nothing to a quarter of a million acres in one day. And that’s because the conditions are ripe, and temperature plays a large role.”   Read more here


Fighting fire in Brazilian wetlands 
image courtesy of NY TImes

Brazil on fire: A record amount of the world’s largest tropical wetland has been lost to the fires sweeping Brazil this year, devastating one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet. The enormous fires — often set to clear land, but exacerbated by unusually dry conditions in recent weeks — have engulfed more than 10% of the wetlands in southwest Brazil, known as the Pantanal, exacting a toll scientists call “unprecedented.” The fires in the Pantanal raged across an estimated 7,861 square miles between January and August, according to NASA. And to the north, the fires in the Amazon — many  also deliberately set for commercial clearing — have been ruinous as well. The enormous scale of the fires in the Amazon and the Pantanal, has been seen by astronauts in space.    Read more here

Smoke may benefit coastal waters: According to the associate director of science with Ocean Networks Canada, particulate matter from burning forests that ends up in the ocean acts as fertilizer, providing minerals and nutrients to phytoplankton that live near the surface and are the base of the ocean's food system. Phytoplankton are aquatic microoganisms that perform photosynthesis, just as land-based plants do. This makes them the primary producers of pretty much all the edible carbon in the ocean. Particulate matter, though harmful to respiratory systems, is predominantly organic carbon from burned vegetation and can contain minerals such as iron that help phytoplankton grow.  The benefits may be bigger along the US coast, where wildfires have raged  this summer. Ocean Networks Canada has sensors on BC ferries that will show if the chlorophyll in the water has increased, which would point to phytoplankton growth.   Read more here

Bipartisan study calls for carbon tax: The U.S. financial system, including banks, agricultural and oil interests, as well as regulators and investors, requires a unified front in accounting for climate-change risk, says the first comprehensive government report on such efforts, released 9/8 by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The CFTC revives a call for taxing carbon pollution, which would require congressional approval, and which has so far been a regional effort, with mixed results. The CFTC group’s chief recommendation is to “establish a price on carbon” that is robust enough to incentivise the private sector to cut use of oil and gas.    Read more here

Climate crisis could displace 1.2bn people: More than 1 billion people face displacement within 30 years as the climate crisis and population growth drive an increase in migration with “huge impacts” for both the developing and developed worlds. The Institute for Economics and Peace says 1.2 billion people live in 31 countries not sufficiently resilient to withstand ecological threats. 19 countries with the highest number of threats, including water and food shortages and more exposure to natural disasters, are also among the the world’s 40 least peaceful countries. Many of the countries most at risk will also experience significant population increases, further driving mass displacements. The IEP said the world has 60% less fresh water than it did 50 years ago, while demand for food would rise by 50% by 2050 and natural disasters would increase in frequency due to the climate crisis, meaning even some stable states would become vulnerable by 2050.    Read more here

Global North drives climate crisis: The cli­mate dis­as­ter fuel­ing unprece­dent­ed fires across the west­ern U.S., threat­en­ing to drown the Mar­shall Islands, and unleash­ing peren­ni­al hunger crises on South Sudan is a glob­al cat­a­stro­phe. But the glob­al respon­si­bil­i­ty is not born equal­ly. An analy­sis shines new light on the out­sized role of the US, EU, and the Glob­al North in cre­at­ing a cli­mate cri­sis that, while felt every­where, is dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly harm­ing the Glob­al South. As of 2015, the US was respon­si­ble for 40% of ​“excess glob­al car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.” And the Glob­al North (the US, Cana­da, Europe, Israel, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Japan) is respon­si­ble for 92%. In con­trast, the Glob­al South—which bears the brunt of droughts, floods, famines, storms, sea-lev­el rise and deaths—is respon­si­ble for just 8% of excess glob­al CO2 emissions.   Read more here

2020 hurricane season roars in: In April, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was was shaping up to be one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. A month later, NOAA’s annual Atlantic hurricane forecast confirmed that prediction, saying the nation should prepare for between 13-19 named storms — an abnormally active hurricane season. We’ve already seen 13 named storms. Thanks to the possibility of a La Niña weather pattern and ocean water warmed by rising temperatures, we may be on track to eclipse the record hurricane season of 2005, when 28 named storms formed in the Atlantic. (A storm must have sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour to get a name.)    Read more here

Ocean running low on oxygen: “Ocean deoxygenation is the 3rd but less-reported member of an evil climate-change trinity, along with global warming and ocean acidification." Since 1960, low-oxygen areas in the open ocean have expanded by 4.5 million square kilometers. Some regions have lost 40% of their oxygen, and the volume of water containing zero oxygen has more than quadrupled. Add to that the rapidly growing number of coastal dead zones caused by a nitrogen glut, and we have a life support emergency. Although the ocean’s oxygen content has fallen just 2% overall, the decline has occurred almost entirely in parts of the ocean where marine life is usually most abundant, so its impact is far greater than that percentage suggests. Research is ongoing, but it's clear that climate change is responsible for most oxygen depletion in the open ocean. An Ocean Anoxic Event (OAE), when the level of dissolved oxygen in a large part of the ocean plunges to (or near) zero, has happened many times in Earth’s history, most recently about 94 million years ago, when loss of oxygen wiped out a large proportion of marine life. Ocean conditions today are similar to those that prevailed before that crisis, and are rapidly getting worse. If oxygen loss continues to accelerate, large-scale extinctions of marine species are virtually certain. Even at present levels of deoxygenation, the damage is extensive.   Read more here


 
A Parting Gift

Rest in the loveliness of life in the sea  - visit Dakuwaqa's Garden at this link here.
It is 4:49 in length.

The Pathfinder is compiled and edited by Evelyn Adams.


 
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