Friday, June 09, 2006


Ecotourism and Conservation, can they be mutually beneficial?

When we talk of ecotourism, I think there are varying levels of concern and commitment to the environment and that varying programs and participants adhere to. Conservation efforts should include providing local peoples with substantial economic benefits that raise their standard of living and allow them to financial liberty to protect the ecological areas that they live off of. Income from tourism can be used to reduce exploitation from outside industries that might degrade the land. Tourism generally has lower negative impact on environments than mining, drilling, logging, etc. Tourism that is truly dedicated toward conservation can have a great educational benefit for the participant who might become interested in or passionate about protecting ecology and biodiversity. There are however, risks in bringing outsiders into an area and setting the natural environment up as a tourist hot spot.

Coral reefs especially have been damaged by tourist use as they become ever more popular diving and snorkeling spots for new and inexperienced divers. Cruise ships unload hundreds passengers to enjoy pristine areas and

dying coral reef

healthy coral reef

unfortunately the coral is too sensitive for this mass amount of exposure. Humans often stand on the coral to rest, knock off chunks of it in passing, and in general damage the living organisms that make up the important reef environment.

I think that a more limited number of tourists should be brought into an environment that is made not simply to suit their every comfort in a wild setting, but to bring them into the natural environment to experience nature as local people might. I think that tourism in fragile and important areas for biodiversity is not viable unless a strong educational component is present. Ecotourism should be nature oriented tourism that combines sustainable principles and education with environmentally conscious development and building. It should be stressed that these principals do not allow for the Ritz like services in any region of the world. However, it should demonstrate the natural beauty and efficiency that can be accomplished designing around nature and its processes.


Source: World

I think that one area of the world inparticular where tourism has been is in Sub-Saharan Africa where wildlife tourism has begun to flourish and become a powerful force in protecting forest, biodiversity, wild species, and whole areas of forest that are threatened by illegal logging and poaching from desperate local peoples. In Kenya alone, 55,000 people are employed by the wildlife tourism industry which gains enough money to protect the land, provide wages, help build local schools , and provide education and training about conservation and sustainability. In this region of the world, colonial legacies of apartheid, racial intolerance, economic devastation , social instability and regional warfare have led to extreme poverty and serious environmental degradation. By making sanctuaries and national protected lands where locals are trained and hired as park rangers and research guides, ecological progress has been made that has contributed to social and economic gains for the local communities. Ex-poachers make excellent rangers and can protect the environment once they are able to feed their families and gain some stability in their lives.

I think that done for the right reasons with the environment and the local people at the heart of the push for tourism, ecotourism can benefit a community and its inhabitants. Sadly, I'm sure there are many operations that run counter to these principals and they need to be evaluated and re-managed or shut down if they are doing greater ecological harm than the area would otherwise have suffered. In this case, there is probably little educational value to the tourist, and in the long run, there will be no economic or social benefit to the local population or the local ecology.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Where's the Efficiency?

Efficient Energy Source?

The world is waiting for new technologies, for photovoltaics to be built into the design of houses and buisnesses, for infrared rays to charge up our offices even overnight, heck for a modified pea plant to power us to the moon, but as we wait climate changes are happening at rates that scare many science minded people.

Jim Hansen, a senior climate expert at NASA has recently announced his belief that we have no more than perhaps a decade to reduce greehouse gases if we are to avoid toppling a disasterous climate threshold. If you don't belive him perhaps you can look to the Inuits and shipping capatains in the Antarctic where ice blocks are splitting increasing the speed of of thinning of sea ice, the melting of glaciers, the thawing of permafrost. All this activity has led native villages to erode into the sea causing their relocation and has put a smile on the shipping industry as the glacial thinning has opened new shipping lanes. Sea ice has decresased 8% in the Arctic.

We as a global society cannot wait and wait and wait....For the past 45 years, the power industry in the US has been stuck operating at a 33% efficiency rate.

To take a look at what some entrepreneurs have done in the US, we can look at Tom Casten, CEO of Primary Energy Ventures. They specialize in a new (and unfortunately not growing rapidly enough) field of large scale energy recycling and cogeneration. This is a process where existing facilities use waste energy to produce heat or electricity called "combined heat and power" or CHP. These efficiency designs are being recognized as successful solutions that can help slow climate change if adopted on a widescale while new technologies are developed and implemented.

The science being utilized here is pretty straightforward, energy recycling captures the heat that otherwise becomes a byproduct of industry. In Erope where energy costs are more expensive, it is common for excess manufacturing steam to heat local homes. Denmark, the Netherland and Finland produce more than 1/3 their electricity from CHP, currently in the US we are at 9%. India has had major success in implementing cogeneration technologies, notably in their sugar cane mills which burn the bagasse (leftover sugar cane).

The technology works and the profits from such a system are real as well. Casten's company calculates that it saves 2 million tons of CO2 per year in the US alone. According to ecologists, that like planting 1.5 million trees or removing 400,000 cars off the road. His company also generates more than $80 million a year in revenue.

Recently in the US, Casten has proposed the Fossil Fuel Efficiency Standard, a federal law which would eliminate the $25 billion in government subsidies afforded to the fossil fuel industries. This could be a major push in deregulating the electric industry while ratcheting up regulations yearly for stricter energy efficiency standards. The EPA supports such industrial techniques and they should be widely considered especially in urban areas where industry is constructed alongside housing options. While energy and CO2 relaease is a growing problem, new solutions to increase efficiency have to be taken seriosuly, especially when economically they make a lot of sense to implement.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Desert Pressures

Protecting the Deserts:

The Global Deserts Outlook, produced by the UN's Environment Programme, is described as the first comprehensive look at the Earth's driest regions, in this recent report it was found that the world’s deserts need better management. The authors of the study call for more careful use of scarce water resources to safeguard the futures of desert populations.

The report defines desert regions in the following three ways:

  • Climatologically, as the arid and hyper-arid areas of the globe
  • Biologically, as ecoregions that contain plants and animals adapted to an arid existence
  • Physically, as those areas with ample extensions of bare soil and low vegetation cover

These areas of the world all together occupy almost ¼ of the Earth’s land surface, some 13 million square miles which are inhabited by over 500 million people. Most of them live at desert margins where the pressures threatening ecosystems in arid areas are at their greatest.

It is estimated that population growth and inefficient water use by 2050 is set to move some countries with deserts into conditions of water stress or water scarcity. Some of these proposed countries are Chad, Iraq, Niger and Syria.

Renewable supplies of water which are fed to deserts by large rivers are also expected to be threatened by 2025, these including the Gariep River in southern Africa; the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers in North America; the Tigris and Euphrates in south-western Asia and the Amu Darya and Indus Rivers in central Asia.

One exciting example of a new plant that can help feed the world’s people without using freshwater supplies is Nipa, a salt grass harvested in the Sonoran desert of north western Mexico at the delta of the Colorado River. The Cocopahs people harvest this plant which lives on pure seawater and produces large grain yields similar to wheat. Some reports say that it is a strong candidate for a major global food crop and could become “this desert's greatest gift to the world.”

Desert areas around the world are increasingly becoming popular areas for tourism. In the search for cheaper housing, people are spreading out into desert communities as evidenced by Riverside County being the fastest growing county in California. In these desert areas people try to have the same look of home and yard as any other area. New housing tracts are designed with full green lawns around the homes and the watering systems spray clouds of mist into the burning desert air in the middle of the day. This type of planning and management is inefficient and damaging to the environment especially when population demands keep expanding the margins.

Developers and individuals need to take into account the climat eand the area when desiding how big to build homes, what plants to use in landscaping, and what the overal design and layout of the community should be.

Humans are encroaching further and further into the deserts which many think of as dead environments, but which are rich in biodiversity and have real benefits and functions for humanity. We have to think differently about this arid environment as a place that needs to be protected, as an ecosystem with intrinsic value.

Sustainable Design

Sustainable Architecture and Design:

I was very interested in the videos we watched on sustainable architecture and design and community development plans. It looks to be such an amazing field that blends sustainability principles with actual design and transforming the way people live. It also transforms that they know. Where we live is something that can help shape how we live. When we are exposed on an everyday basis to environmentally conscious design, building in harmony with nature and conservation principles, it profoundly affects what we know and what we see as possible. It expands our norms, it transforms the way we live and how we think about our role in the environment.

I think this is especially true with the idea of greening our schools and designing them in ways that make them less environmentally damaging. In building schools this way, they become part of the curriculum themselves and can be a tool to educate students about the environment consciousness, design and stewardship. Global Green USA is one organization that endorses environmentally sustainable buildings for education facilities. They also work for sustainable low income housing and other worthy milestones.

The Rocky Mountain Institute also has programs on sustainable design which is very science based, as well as Cal-Earth, the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture which focuses on art and practical design.

I think that as it stands, it is hard to get information on these ideas because it is hard to get exposed to these concepts. I feel that this is why primary education needs to be inundated with environmental studies and the campus itself should be build in a way that familiarizes not just students, but teachers, parents and the community with sustainable design and environmental awareness.

Here a link on how to bring sustainable design to your school!:

I think we need more hands on learning in our schools, even our colleges. We need courses that take us to see these new technologies and allow us to build with them on our own. UCI should have experimental rooftop gardens on its buildings and more courses should utilize our arboretum and places were even BA students can get hand on practical experience!

A roof garden can double the life of the roof, provide insulation against winter cold and summer heat and reduce runoff by at least 50%. It reduces air pollution and dust and creates an ecological oasis for nature.


Abattoir: Slaughterh
ouses in the United States

"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone
would be vegetarian."

Paul and Linda McCar
tney, 1996

"You have just dined, and however scrupulously
the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful
distance of miles, there is complicity."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1870

Poultry slaughtering process:

Pig Slaughtering:

Video on treatment of different animals in factory farms and in slaughterhouses:


Does milk do a body good? What about Dairy Cows??


”Corporate-owned factories where cows are warehoused in huge sheds and treated like milk machines have replaced most small family farms. With genetic manipulation and intensive production technologies, it is common for modern dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day— 10 times more than they would produce in nature. To keep milk production as high as possible, farmers artificially inseminate cows every year. Growth hormones and unnatural milking schedules cause dairy cows' udders to become painful and so heavy that they sometimes drag on the ground, resulting in frequent infections and overuse of antibiotics. Cows— like all mammals— make milk to feed their own babies— not humans.

Male calves, the "byproducts" of the dairy industry, endure 14 to 17 weeks of torment in veal crates so small that they can't even turn around.
Female calves often replace their old, worn-out mothers, or are slaughtered soon after birth for the rennet in their stomachs (an ingredient of most commercial cheeses). They are often kept in

tiny crates or tethered in stalls for the first few months of their lives, only to grow up to become "milk machines" like their mothers.”

”Cow's milk is an inefficient food source. Cows, like humans, expend the majority of their food intake simply leading their lives. It takes a great deal of grain and other foodstuffs cycled through cows to produce a small amount of milk. And not only is milk a waste of energy and water, the production of milk is also a disastrous source of water pollution. A dairy cow produces 120 pounds of waste every day -- equal to that of two dozen people, but with no toilets, sewers, or treatment plants.

Lancaster County, Pa., manure from dairy cows is destroying the Chesapeake Bay, and in California, which produces one-fifth of the country's total supply of milk, the manure from dairy farms has poisoned vast expanses of underground water, rivers, and stream

s. In the Central Valley of California, the cows produce as much excrement as a city of 21 million people, and even a smallish farm of 200 cows will produce as much nitrogen as in the sewage from a community of 5,000 to 10,000 people, according to a U.S. Senate report on animal waste.”

”Dairy products are a health hazard. They contain no fiber or complex carbohydrates and are laden with saturated fat and cholesterol. They are contaminated with cow's blood and pus and are frequently contaminated with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Dairy products are linked to allergies, constipation, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, America's leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding cow's milk to children, saying it can cause anemia, allergies, and insulin-dependent diabetes and in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease, America's number one cause of death.

And dairy products may actually cause osteoporosis, not prevent it, since their high-protein content leaches calcium from the body. Population studies, backed up by a groundbreaking Harvard study of more than 75,000 nurses, suggest that drinking milk can actually cause osteoporosis
(Information taken from"

Americans need to take their own health as well as animal welfare into consideration. We have a culture of consumption, but what are we consuming, how is it raised, what is it fed, how is it killed? We cannot stand by blindly and say, I didn’t know, I don’t want to know. With all things, we have an obligation to step forth and seek some knowledge about the world we live in and the role we play in it.

Slaughterhouse Design:

The design of slaughterhouses was largely influenced in the 1970’s by Dr. Temple Grandin. Her work was an effort to make the corrals and holding pens more humane and less stressful for the animals (which in the end can speed productivity). She was interested in patterns and flow and she used animal psychology to develop corrals with long sweeping curves so that the animals cannot see what lies ahead but focuses on the animal in front of it. It is thought that 54% of the slaughterhouses in the US are designed with these principles.

These attempts are worthwhile; however by looking into the current process in the
slaughterhouses, this is not enough. It is my belief that these industries are too
large and mechanized to ever be humane to the individual animal being “processed.”
While it is not feasible for everyone to order their meat from small farms or to farm
themselves, and while we in the
US consume large quantities of meat “This year, 280
million Americans will each consume 36 animals. Thirty-four of those creatures will
have wings. One of those creatures will moo. One will oink,” slaughterhouses must
continue to meet our demand.

For me personally this is not enough. I don’t disagree
ethically with consuming animals, but I heavily disagree with the packaged way they
are provided us and the process and lives the animals must bear out. It is important
to me the quality of life the animal was able to live, and the way that it was killed.
I have lived on a small farm and I have seen animals slaughtered and I have never had a
problem until I looked further into how most animals are treated and processed for our
BBQs. I think seeing and understanding even humane animal killing will limit your
consumption, will give you an understanding of the animal and the life that must be
taken for you, and will give you pause to appreciate that life and consider your
We are desensitized by fluffy pictures of chickens and neat packaging, desensitized
because although we know there is blood and a dead animal inside, it is almost as if
it is nothing, it gives us no thought, no pause, no conscience, no restraint. I
feel that Native Americans had it right when they were responsible for the death of
the animal and they prayed over them in gratitude for their sacrifice. There is no
gratitude in our society, just gluttony and ignorance. People keep saying, “Oh God, I
don’t want to know, and that’s soo gross. Just don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.”
For me, this has been a serious dillema.   The concept taken ethically seems simple and direct  action
swift, yet when taking into account uprbringing, norms and pure gut desires, the challenge can be great.
At times I almost feel that the organic and free range option has been a ploy to capitalists to
sound friendlier, make the mea tindustry somehow fluffier and more humane. They offered
a sidepath down which you could feel good about yourself -but I'm not so sure it's any different.
In its deception it's worse because mindful consumers become placid as we are thrown the free-range
token on which our conscience can rest. Subdued and quieted, the process can continue with
everyone feeling a little better about themselves, well, except the anmials, and possibly the
workers and their families who no doubt by their meat off the paycheck and yet suffer from the
fallout of this line of work. Organically certified is not enough, the animals are all raised in the same
way, and free range or not, they die by the same process in the same slaughterhouses as any
run of the mill beast with hormones. They are transported in open crates and pried screaming off
frozen truck walls and floors.

Perhaps we should push for decentralized, smaller farming and family farmed packing operations.
Perhaps we should take control of our spending power and our stomachs as we look at what our
diet is doing, what it's actually costing. If we consider ourselves carnivores tha tin the cycle of life
have the capacity and the righ to eat meat, then we should eat it knowing that it was raised under
humane conditions with a quality of life outside its gorging fat cells. If we have any sense in Kharma, we should be praying that
whateve happens, we don't come back a farm animal. Through those eyes, we might get a better glimpse of the
industry than we bargained for. I used to think that moderation was enough, but that seems another
myth that in an ethical world might be tolerable, but that today simply enables the madness.

"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone
would be vegetarian."

Paul and Linda McCartney, 1996

It’s time more people speak out and seek the knowledge for themselves; its time we look inside the slaughterhouse and stop pretending that we can do nothing and it’s better not to know. Gail Eisnitz has done many years of work herself and has given us all a good start.

Gail finishes the chapter by quoting Gerald Kuester of USDA:

"There are about 50 points during processing where cross-contamination can occur. At the end of the line, the birds are no cleaner than if they had been dipped in a toilet."

Here is a link to more information from the HFA, the Humane Farming Association :

Monday, June 05, 2006


The Challenges of Electronic Waste:

E-waste is a serious problem that the world is facing due to the rapid increases in technology and speed at which this technology changes. E-waste can be both valuable as source for secondary raw material, and it is toxic and damaging to the environment if treated and discarded improperly. The rapid technology changes, low initial costs, as well as the upsetting standard of planned obsolescence have made this a serious problem that the world must deal with.

While it is mainly the industrialized nations speeding through new technologies and tossing out the old fridges, computers, CD players, monitors, radios, and Nintendos, disturbingly it is the poorer unindustrialized nations with lower environmental standards, fewer protections and worse working conditions that are being shipped the e-waste. Here they are processed and disposed of despite the Basel Convention, an international treaty which bans the transfer of such waste to other countries for disposal. These actions are largely illegal and China and India are large processors of such waste from the US and other nations.

Computer monitors and televisions are a major problem when they are illegal burned and disposed of or are dumped into landfills. They contain a cathode ray tube CRT, which can contain from 5-8 lbs of lead. The hazardous elements inside of computers are lead, silver, cadmium, mercury, selenium, and chromium, all substances which are known to cause serious human health risks and death.

What are Our Options?:

Changing the culture of consumption and the engineering pattern of planned obsolescence is something that should be instilled into industries and individuals alike. Consumers need to push their agendas with their dollars and buy products that last. We need to be outspoken that we aren’t willing to buy things that are made to fall apart. We need to support companies who are dedicated to these greener principles; that buy back old products or take them back for recycling purposes. As individuals we need to take a serious look at our patterns of consumption. How many computers, cars, phones, i-pods have we gone through in the last couple years? How did we dispose of them when they had served their function?

Over 97 percent of computer contents can be reused or recycled. It is important to think of these items as valuable, reusable, not just junk.

What Has Been Done?:

The United States Congress is considering a number of e-waste bills including the National Computer Recycling Act introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson, Democrat from California. This bill has continually stalled.

Several states including California have passed their own laws regarding e-waste. California was the first state to create the legislation, followed by Maryland, Maine, and Washington. In 2004, California introduced a fee on all new monitors and televisions sold to cover the cost of recycling. The amount of the fee depends on the size of the monitor. That amount was adjusted in July 2005 in order to match the real cost of recycling.

  • Many companies will now refurbish and recycle electronic equipment to keep them out of landfills.
  • Many manufacturers are dedicated to take-back programs for used e-products.
  • Alternative materials that have no hazardous material (although they still create regular waste the goes into landfills) have been developed such as LCD panels and plasma screens.
  • A number of non-profits and charities have been developed to refurbish old computers and electronics to be donated to schools and underprivileged children in need of the technology and equipment.

Look at what YOU have, what you will buy, and how you will get rid of the old stuff! What is your role in this cycle?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Meat Farming: Antibiotics and the Meat we Eat

Meat Farming: A Look into what we Eat...

We know that ranchers and farmers have been feeding small doses of antibiotics to farm animals daily so that they might gain as much as 3 percent more body weight, a huge deal when profits are involved. Such antibiotics like tetracycline are thoughts to kill the flora living in the animals’ intestines and this helps the animals utilize their food more efficiently adding to their weight gain.

The main concern is that antibiotics used to treat human illnesses are put into the animals’ food and drink and over time creates a type of super bacteria that is resistant to the drug. This resistance can be passed on to humans can pose a great human health risk when you think of what might happen on a global scale when our antibiotics are no longer effective in fighting our illnesses.

It is estimated that there are 15-17 million pounds of antibiotics used sub-therapeutically in the United States each year. Antibiotics are given to animals for therapeutic reasons, but this use isn't as controversial even though there are ethical as well as heath concerns involved when sick animals are used for meat farming. The conditions the animals are raised under in meat farms could be a reason for the number of sick animals needing medication.
Concern about the growing level of drug-resistant bacteria has led to the banning of sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in meat animals in many countries in the European Union and Canada. In the United States, however, such use is still legal. The World Health Organization is concerned enough about antibiotic resistance to suggest significantly lowering the use of antibiotics in the animals we eat. In a recent report, the WHO declared its intention to "reduce the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in food animals for the protection of human health." Specifically, the WHO recommended that prescriptions be required for all antibiotics used to treat sick food animals, and urged efforts to "terminate or rapidly phase out antimicrobials for growth promotion if they are used for human treatment."

A study from the New England Journal of Medicine done in 2001 found that: 20 percent of ground meat obtained in supermarkets contained salmonella. Of that 20 percent that was contaminated with salmonella, 84 percent was resistant to at least one form of antibiotic.
Lowering or halting sub-therapeutic antibiotic use in animal production could have serious economic effects on the meat and poultry industry. According to the same report, U.S. hog producers saved about $63 million in feed costs in 1999 due to their use of low levels of sub-therapeutic drugs; they would have suffered an estimated loss of $45.5 million in 1999 if the drug use was banned.

Despite these statistics, even within the industry, there is a growing movement to reduce at least the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals raised for food. Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Foster Farms, which collectively produce a third of the chicken Americans eat, recently declared their intention to greatly reduce the amount of antibiotics fed to healthy chicken. There is still no way for consumers to know whether one of these companies' chickens has been treated with antibiotics, although some corporate consumers, McDonald's, Wendy's and Popeye's among them, are refusing to buy chicken that has been treated with fluoroquinolones. Increased public pressure may cause the companies who grow animals for food to collectively decide that putting extra weight on feed animals isn't worth the possibility that they are putting consumers' health at risk.

Along with the consumer's health risk I think as consumers we have an ethical responsibility to look at the process by which we recieve our meat products and evaluate the standards by which the animals were raised and slughtered. Is the production process ethical? Is it humane? If it is not, does this go about adding to the health risks we face when we eat altered, sick and unhealthy animals?

Here is a book by author Madeline Drexler, former medical columist for the Boston Globe. In her book, Secret Agents, she argues that farm animals in this country live in unmatched squalor. "The site of modern meat production," she writes in her book, is akin to a walled medieval city, where waste is tossed out the window, sewage runs down the street, and feed and drinking water are routinely contaminated by fecal material."

Pigs are held here until they are 250 lbs,about 6 months old. Then they are taken to slaughter.
Turkeys going into the slaughter:

Below is a flash animation video about the meat you eat that is informative and hopefully entertaining. Take time to watch it for a quick overview of meat farming in America today.

Here are some ideas for how you can take action to help protect our foods.
Take Action Now:

More good ideas are buying ORGANICALLY CERTIFIED foods that do not have hormones or drugs fed to the animals, as well as buying FREE RANGE meats where the animals are spaced and raised humanely for a natural and healthier meat.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Aswan High Dam

The History:

The Aswan High Dam, completed in 1970, controls the largest river in the world, the Nile. It is near the border of Egypt and Sudan and has created the world's third largest reservoir, Lake Nasser. The Nile has a long history of annual flooding which contributes to the fertile soils along its banks. The Aswan dam was built in part to control these flooding cycles as well as to create hydroelectric power from the dam itself. Earlier shorter dams had been built at Aswan in 1889, 1912 and 1933, but they were insufficient to hold back the flood waters and near breechings showed how dangerous these dams could be. The dam, whose estimated cost is thought to be at around $1 billion, was paid for by Egypt with funds obtained from nationalizing the Suez Canal. In 1959 the Soviet Union steeped in as well paid for possibly an entire 1/3 of the cost of the project. They also provided technicians and machinery and the entire dam was designed by the Russian Zuk Hydroproject Institute.

The Bright Side:

The Aswan High Dam contains 17 times the material used in the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Dam is 11,811 feet long, 3215 feet thick at the base and 364 feet tall. It provides irrigation and electricity for the whole of Egypt and provides about a half of Egypt's power supply and has improved navigation along the river by keeping the water flow consistent. The dam created a 30% increase in the cultivatable land in Egypt. The electricity producing capability of the Dam has doubled Egypt's available supply. When the dam first reached its peak production rates, it allowed most of the villages in Egypt to connect to electricity for the first time, a large step in community development. The dam also mitigated the negative effects of the large floods in 1964 and 1973, as well as the droughts in 1972 and 1983. An entire fishing industry was created around Lake Nasser, which increased yields and offered more jobs. Today however this industry is struggling because of the distance from large markets.

The Down Side:

In order to build the dam both people and artifacts had to be moved. Over 90,000 Nubians had to be relocated. Those who had been living in Egypt were moved about 28 miles away but the Sudanese Nubians were relocated 370 miles, a great distance a huge disturbance to their lives. The loss of silt in the flood planes and the nutrients reaching the ocean is a huge problem. Farmers have been forced to use about a million tons of artificial fertilizer as a substitute for the nutrients which no longer fill the flood plain. Fish and shrimp harvests are declining because of a lack of nutrients entering the ocean where the Nile ends. The Nile Delta itself has lost much of its fertility. This silt gets caught in the dam and is slowly lowering the water storage capacity of Lake Nasser. Irrigation practices have led to water-logging of the soils and increased salinity. Many are concerned about the long term effects the dam will have on the ecosystem of the area and its wider impacts. There has also been significant erosion of coastlines due to lack of sand which was once brought by the Nile, all along the eastern Mediterranean. The Swan Dam has actually increased the salinity of the Mediterranean Sea, which affects its outflow current into the Atlantic Ocean. It is being studied and questioned weather this change in outflow properties might have an impact on global weather patterns.

I feel that although dams can do a great deal of good, the environmental damage that they create in the long-run can outweight the benefits they offer. We have other energy alternatives to large scale damming, and I feel that just as in the case of mud-slide areas and areas with a high risk of fire, proper regulating, zoning and public managment needs to be enforced. Nature has its essenital cycles and people need to realize we cannot bottle these forces without significant risk and eventual loss. Dams are increadibly expensive in their construction and maintanence, and they pose a lingering danger to those who live beneath the reservoirs. A look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can show us what can happen when we loose respect and vigilance over our attempts to control natural systems. Today China has built as many dams as the entire rest of the world, and they are in the process of building the Three Gorges Dam. Serious concerns need to be raised about the proliferation of this means of human adaptation.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Los Angeles: An Oasis in the Desert-How is it possible?

This blog is about environmental sustainability as a pressing national and global issue being explored today. The death of many natural areas is taking quite a toll on the natural environment with compounding effects that domino into other areas of the ecological system.

I think that Angelinos today need to take a close look at where we get a majority of our water from, as it is not simply the Colorado River and it does not come without a cost to someone. The California Aquaduct runs from the Owens Valley to LA and over the last 10 years it has been responsible for transporting half of LA's clean drinking water to the city. It was designed and built by William Mullholand, an immigrant from Ireland who completed the project in 1913. The century long withdrawl of this water however has had a large impact on the residents and local ecology in Owen's Valley leaving Owens Lake dry to the lakebed and sticking resident of the Owen's Valley with serious problems due to toxic dust storms swirling from the sediments resting on the exposed lakebed. Los Angeles Water and Power has set to work with a mitigation effort to protect the health of Owens Valley residents and visitors, but it comes at a great cost as this area has to be under constant monitoring and expensive mitigation systems must remain in place as long as the lake is dry.

Best Available Control Measures
The MOA specified that the City must choose from amongst 3 control measures the GBUAPCD has certified as Best Available Control Measures (BACM) for Owens Lake. The 3 BACM are Shallow Flooding, Managed Vegetation, and Gravel. The first phase of dust control implementation, completed December 2001, consists of 13.5 square miles of Shallow Flooding.

Shallow Flooding
Shallow Flooding involves flooding the area to be controlled until it is either inundated with a few inches of water or the soil becomes thoroughly saturated to the surface with water.
The second phase of dust control implementation, completed in July 2002, consists of nearly five square miles Managed Vegetation. Managed Vegetation involves growing native vegetative cover that will by hold the shifting and emissive lakebed in place, locking up the dust.

Managed Vegetation
The third phase of dust control implementation, completed in March 2003, consists of one and a third square miles of additional Shallow Flooding.

Current Status
To date, the City has completed construction on approximately 19 square miles. Therefore, the city is nearly 2/3 complete with its obligation. Planning and design are currently underway for the additional 11 square miles to be specified in GBUAPCD’s revised SIP. An additional two to four construction phases are expected to meet these requirements. The Department of Water and Power is currently evaluating its budget for the program based on the GBUAPCD’s SIP.

Los Angeles also recieves water from the Mono Lake Basin. This began after WWII with the Mono Basin Project as a way of providing another reliable water source to LA. Simmilar problems have plagued Mono Lake due to the diversion of water from its tributaries to provide for LA's growing populations and water needs. Since 1941, the volume of water in Mono Lake has been halved while its salinity has doubled. Large toufas, interesting dried salt formations protrude from the blue waters as distinct markers of the ecological collapse the area is facing. Much work has been done through volunteer activism, citizens groups, government action and non-profit interventions. These groups have led a coalition to support the fight to protect Mono Lake with litigation, legislation and negotiation. The area while still threatened, serves as a hub for classes and environmental education to take place.

How you can help (from the Mono Lake Committee Website):
There are many ways you can participate in and celebrate the Mono Basin's recovery. The Mono Lake Committee organizes a number of volunteer events each year to plant trees, eradicate exotic weeds, or census shorebirds. We also have an ongoing Photopoint Project in which participants select a favorite restoration site to photograph on an annual basis. Our annual Bird Chautauqua is a chance for you to learn more about the Mono Basin's birds and how they are responding to restoring habitats on the streams and around the lake. This is a very exciting time at Mono Lake--we hope you'll participate in some way in restoring Mono Lake!