Year 2, Month 5, Day 9: And Not A Drop To Drink

The Lompoc Record issues warnings about water shortages in the wake (pun intended) of the Interior Dept. report.

And here is what the experts say will happen:

There will be more rain and less snow, with snowpacks melting much earlier in the season. The result is that less water will be captured, rivers will flood briefly, then run nearly dry. Fish habitat will slowly disappear, as will reliable water supplies for most of Southern California.

It’s not just California in the center of this environmental bulls-eye. Eight western states will be affected, with the biggest impacts being on water supply and habitat maintenance.

The scientific community is not optimistic about water supply in California, which has the greatest range of climate conditions of all the western states.

It’s a good piece and deserved a little backup. Sent April 30:

Our collective inability to think in the long term is not something of which our species should be proud. The recently issued report on water shortages in the Western U.S. is a case in point. Many climate-change deniers reject these warnings because their immediate experience contradicts them; “it rained today, therefore there will certainly be ample water in 2050.” Others, of course, are convinced that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a global cabal of climatologists. Either way, the resulting political paralysis fosters inaction — at a time when action is urgently necessary. The potential for severe long-term droughts should not be fodder for political gamesmanship; this is a regional emergency that calls for new infrastructure, new technology, and rededication to the notion of the common good. The agricultural and societal consequences of failure make this a matter to be treated with seriousness and alacrity.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 5: And Not A Drop To Think

The Colorado Independent also writes about the Interior Department report on water shortages:

The report, which responds to requirements under the SECURE Water Act of 2009, shows several increased risks to western United States water resources during the 21st century. Specific projections include:

· a temperature increase of 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit;

· a precipitation increase over the northwestern and north-central portions of the western United States and a decrease over the southwestern and south-central areas;

· a decrease for almost all of the April 1st snowpack, a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin runoff; and

· an 8 to 20 percent decrease in average annual stream flow in several river basins, including the Colorado, the Rio Grande, and the San Joaquin.

Sent April 26:

The coming decades of intensifying climate change are going to wreak a singular sort of havoc on the American West. With a history of complex water disputes going back to the first settlers in the area, Colorado’s future shortages will make those of previous centuries pale in comparison. Climate scientists have sounded the alarm for years; Secretary Salazar’s report is only the latest in a long line of studies and investigations, all pointing to more or less the same conclusion: climate change is real, it’s caused by humans, it’s happening everywhere — and it’s going to cause us all a world of hurt. Meanwhile, the national discussion of this grave danger has been grossly distorted by professional denialists, whose paymasters in the fossil fuel industry are loath to relinquish even a tiny fraction of their immense profits. Sadly, “enlightened self-interest” is as rare today as water will be in 2040.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 13: Grrrrrrr.


Dear Secretary Salazar — The Department of the Interior may have set some higher safety and environmental impact standards for offshore drilling, but will this translate into increased enforcement of these standards? If the moratorium on drilling is lifted, we need to significantly increase the budget for inspectors and regulators who will be a powerful presence on each and every drilling rig.

During the previous administration regulations were first gutted, then flouted, then ignored, leading inexorably to the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon disaster. It won’t make a bit of difference if the regulations are toughened unless the enforcement environment is made much, much, much more stringent.

The plain fact is that these big oil companies have been getting away with environmental crimes for decades — oil and coal extraction has severely damaged ecosystems around the world, many of them irrevocably. With our planetary system already in a state of shock from increased greenhouse gas emissions, there can no longer be any excuse for allowing fossil fuel industries free rein in their misuse of extractive technologies.

Any adjustment to safety and environmental regulations that assumes responsible behavior on the part of these organizations is hopelessly naive. I confess to grave disappointment; I had hopes that the present administration was prepared to recognize the grave environmental consequences of unbridled corporate sociopathy. I hope that I am proven wrong, but I am afraid that the Department of the Interior has just gotten played. Again.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 29: Who Cares About Some Hapless Toad?

I read an article at the GOS which noted a new piece in Scientific American outlining a whole mess of different problems we’ll be facing in years to come if we want to keep the planet habitable for humans and other life. The whole list is pretty depressing (what a surprise!). I selected one area on which to base a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Dear Secretary Salazar,

In a newly published article in Scientific American, environmental scientist Jonathan Foley describes nine separate thresholds below which different environmental systems must remain if we are to maintain the health of our planet. Among these is the crucial area of biodiversity loss.

The scientific community notes that the current rate at which we are depleting the diversity of the Earth’s flora and fauna is at least 100 times the historic average, and easily ten times what could be considered a safe measure.

Biodiversity is critical for the planet’s long-term survivability, because it is through a wide spectrum of life-forms that ecological resilience is maintained. Monocultures are more prone to disease, predation and the devastating effects of ecological shifts. If a population depends primarily on a single food source, a crop failure can devastate an entire population inside a season — the lesson of the Irish potato famine.

It is crucial that the Department of the Interior make efforts to educate Americans about the importance of biodiversity in maintaining our country’s natural resources for future generations. It is increasingly apparent that the rich web of life upon which we all depend is far more fragile than has been assumed. Our collective behavior needs to change if we are to survive as a culture and as a species.

It’s equally important that the DOI be more proactive with regulatory initiatives to protect threatened species and habitats. There is no room left for giveaways to corporate special interest groups. While so-called “charismatic megafauna” may have their own constituencies, many of the life-forms facing extinction are obscure and seemingly insignificant. But ecological science has demonstrated time and time again how even the smallest creatures have crucial roles in the functioning of our environment.

Humanity’s rapid expansion and exploitation of the Earth’s resources has turned out to be a mixed blessing, providing luxurious lifestyles for some while triggering potentially catastrophic effects on our climate and biosphere. I urge the Department of the Interior to be even more proactive in educating Americans about the dangers we face — and to act vigorously to protect “the least among us.”

Thank you,

Warren Senders