Articles You Might Have Missed

Around the world people are taking the initiative to mitigate climate change. Here are some good news briefs compiled by the Climate Issue group of the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom.

The Fortune of Torrential Rainfall

For generations, during dry periods, California farmers have pumped water from deep underground to keep their crops hydrated when surface water supplies are scarce.

But weather trends have made water access unpredictable. Periods of intense precipitation and flooding punctuate long droughts. Between 2019 and 2021, the region’s groundwater stores declined sharply, at a rate 31 percent faster than in previous droughts.

Along with the agricultural industry, about 85 percent of Californians rely at least in part on groundwater. Now, entire towns are running out of drinking water, particularly rural Latino communities. In 2022, 1,489 wells were reported as dry in California, a more-than 40 percent increase over the previous year

This year, as California was racked with torrential amounts of rain, farmers used a new idea to help the drought they had been facing.

They flooded their orchards and fields with excess stormwater during the wet season and let it soak into the ground.

 We’re going to treat this [aquifer] like a bank,” says the owner of Gemperle Orchards, who’d seen research about this method through her role as a member of the Almond Board of California. “Every year that I can put [water] in, I’m going to put in. And then, every year that I need, as emergency backup, to take out, I’m going to take out. But I’m going to … watch what I take out to make sure it balances about what I can put in during the wet years.”

It worked and crops remained healthy when the water receded.

California state officials preliminarily estimate a total of at least 3.8 million acre-feet have been recharged across the state this year, including both on-farm and other efforts, though more data will be confirmed next year.

Protecting the Central Valley’s water supply is a matter of national concern. The 400-mile-long region, framed by rugged coastal mountains to the west and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada range to the east, produces about a quarter of all the food consumed in the United States.

Reasons to Be Cheerful, Elizabeth Hewitt, July 27, 2023

An Environmental Twist on the Singing Nun

Near the multimillion-dollar homes, pools and golf courses of the renowned New York escape, Southampton, lies the land of the Shinnecock who have resided on Long Island for at least 13,000 years. Their livelihood is dependent on Shinnecock Bay. However, in the last 40 years, overdevelopment in the Hamptons without a municipal sewer system has elevated the nitrogen level in the bay, devastating its bounty.

Developing a kelp hatchery in the bay was taken up as a last-chance effort to save the tribe’s inheritance. Amazingly, with the help of sisters living across the bay in a convent on 200 acres, the leap of faith seems to be working.

Research has found that sugar kelp can absorb carbon and nitrates from the water, making it a natural means of combating ocean acidification. Starting a kelp farm would involve developing kelp from seedlings in tanks in a hatchery and then farming them in the bay.

But, land and buildings were scarce, so the Shinnecock turned to their neighbors The sisters offered a cottage at their retreat center to serve as a hatchery. When the question of finances came up, Sister Joan was clear: any profits made from the kelp farm belonged to the Shinnecock. “We’re here to support you and to affirm you,” she said.

Within a couple of months, the cottage was transformed with fish tanks and warming lights. In 2021, the Shinnecock Kelp Farm was launched, and, to date, 20 lines of kelp have been planted in the bay. The sisters help check the kelp lines and even babysit the worker’s children. They offered a “kind words” program during the pandemic, where sisters sang and recited poetry to the seedlings … now, they’re making it a regular practice.

The kelp seedlings are benefiting from this unique effort by the nuns. Every morning, there is a Zoom call from the sisters to the hatchery. The nuns patiently wait their turn to sing a hymn, play a flute, or just talk softly and sweetly to the plants.

“When we started our hatchery, we were doing a lot of research for ways to give our kelp the best start in life,” said tribal member Danielle Hopson Begun. “Studies have shown that plants respond well to high-frequency tones. After the Zoom call, “I would tell you, as someone who is in the hatchery every day, you could see the growth mushroom,” said sister Kerry Handal.

Will this effort succeed — well, they have just been awarded $75,000 to support their efforts. In the last two farming seasons, there has been an increase in scallops, clams, sea horses, and other species that haven’t been seen in the bay in years that are sheltering in their kelp lines. “We expanded our hatchery 10 times this season,” said Hopson Begun. In addition to their original farming site, they have since added two more at opposite ends of the bay. They hope, in time, to expand their farm sites deeper into the bay and ocean, and are currently working to secure the boats they would need to do so.

A New Climate Hero — Beavers

Beavers are no longer a nuisance in California. The state has implemented a new policy to both protect and preserve beavers.

Beavers are considered a nuisance by most homeowners and there are usually hundreds of people who apply for permits to kill them.

But, like many surprises we have encountered as we find new ways to restore our planet, beavers had the right idea after all. They are part of nature’s way that helps create healthy habitats for endangered species like coho salmon. Young salmon grow and thrive in beaver ponds before heading to the ocean.

California now embraces the furry creature that creates lush habitats that encourage species to come back to urban areas … They also enhance groundwater supplies and help buffer against wildfires.

Yes, they can still irritate homeowners as they chew down trees and wreak landscapes.  But now homeowners are encouraged to use alternates to eradication — like using flow devices in streams or wrapping trunks of trees.                

The government is even running pilot projects to remove the beavers to places that are more suitable to where they can be more beneficial.

Two relocations are on the Thule River. The tribes on the Thule have been seeking beaver restoration there for 10 years. And hope to finally see a project completed this year. This push follows similar efforts in other states including Washington.

This is a complete change in attitude toward the lowly beaver, who is now a habitat hero.

Goodnewsletter<> Amy Taxin, July 24,2023

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