H2lOw Flow: Saving Water Via a Low-Flow Showerhead

With the drought affecting over 60% of the US this year, lots of people are paying attention to water scarcity issues. In a warming world, there will be higher levels of evaporation. That means some places will encounter more arid conditions that will lead to drought.

Since water is a greenhouse gas, more water in the atmosphere means more warming. This is called a positive feedback loop.

Since the water can’t stay in the atmosphere, it comes down in the form of precipitation, often times a deluge, and many places will encounter an increase in flooding. When water comes down too fast, as with a flood, it’s hard to hold on to. So places that encounter flooding can still have water scarcity issues along with the devastation floods bring. Drought and flood are twin sisters in a climate changing planet.

Living in the high desert, I find people are hyper-aware of water scarcity issues but we don’t always do all we can to decrease our water usage. By lowering your water footprint, you save yourself money and become better prepared for the changes that the future will bring.

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A standard shower head delivers 5 gallons per minute of water (gpm) or more. Today’s low-flow showerheads have flow rates of less than 2.5 gpm. That means switching to a low-flow showerhead will save you 25 gallons of water for each 10-minute shower. So, for a family of four, showering once a day, you can save 100 gallons of water per day just by installing a new showerhead. This also saves on your water heating as it uses more energy to refill the tank and re-heat rather than just keeping the water at a constant temperature.

The filter I chose was the Rainshow’r Bernoulli Polished Chrome Shower Head. Made in America, the Bernoulli Showerhead incorporates the scientifically recognized Bernoulli principle of pressure changes in fluids at increasing flow rates. So in using half the amount of water, the Bernoulli gives you a full stream spray. What I really like about the Bernoulli showerhead was that you can connect it to a shower filter. For me this was the Rainshow’r CQ-1000-NH Dechlorinating Shower Filter.  So, I have the advantages of water savings as well as chlorine filtration-win/win. Price was about $25 each. Now you don’t have to feel guilty about finishing that song in the shower-just make it a short one.


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World Record: Germans Meet Half of Energy Needs With Solar Power

Solar Powerplant on former Landfill in Fürth/G...

Solar Powerplant on former Landfill in Fürth/Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend, the world passed an important milestone, half of Germany‘s electricity needs were supplied by solar power. While naysayers in the US continue to profess that it’s impossible to run a major economy on renewables, the Germans are proving them wrong.

Between May 25 and 26, German solar plants produced 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour. That is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by 20 nuclear power plants running at full capacity.

In the wake of the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor last year, Germans made a commitment to walk away from nuclear power as a source of energy. They immediately closed 8 of their 17 nuclear power facilities with plans to decommission the remaining reactors by 2022.

What’s the secret to Germany’s success? Many factors, including a commitment to clean renewable energy, coupled by some smart policy decisions that helped make solar more competitive early on. Germany’s feed-in tariffs (FiTs) helped subsidize the start-up costs by paying businesses and individuals for the energy they produced.

Germany now  has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined. It’s on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. In a country that receives as much sunlight each day as Alaska, these statistics are truly impressive.

 

 

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As Spring Begins, Record Heat Across the US Has Obama “a little nervous”

As spring is ushered in, a heat wave across the United States sends temperatures hovering 40˚F above normal in some places. In the Southwest, a snow and ice storm. And powerful tornadoes ripped through the Midwest.

According to Climatecentral.org,“On March 15 alone, 593 record daily high temperatures were set or tied, along with 445 record warm low temperatures. This compares to just 10 record cold high temperatures, and only 2 record cold overnight lows. In Chicago, temperatures have soared past 80°F four days in a row — the earliest that has ever occurred, breaking a record set in mid-April, 1896.”

Also in Chicago, President Obama made an appearance at a charity fundraiser hosted by Oprah Winfrey and said, “We’ve had a good day. It’s warm every place. It gets you a little nervous about what’s happening to global temperatures. But when it’s 75 degrees in Chicago in the beginning of March it gets you thinking…”

Finishing the president’s thought, Oprah interjected, “Something’s wrong.”

Yeah,” Obama agreed. “On other hand we really have enjoyed the nice weather.”

This ambivalence is the hallmark of the Obama presidency. His willingness to hold two contrary opinions in his head and balance them out without assigning any degree of urgency.

Global climate change and the extreme weather events it produces, fueled by the amount of CO2 and greenhouse gases that we dump daily into our atmosphere is only going to intensify with more extreme weather in the coming decades. At some point, one wonders if Obama will look nostalgically back to the balmy days of March 2012 and wonder if maybe he should have payed more attention to the science.

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Florida’s Great Senator- The Oldest Cypress Tree in North America

Senator CypressEvery young student can tell you what are the biggest theme-park attractions in Orlando.  But probably very few can tell you about Big Tree Park, home Florida’s oldest and most distinguished resident, the Senator bald cypress tree. Located in Longwood, FL , the Senator majestically looms high as if he could touch the clouds, above a land blanketed with way too many strip malls and concrete.

Big Tree Park, part of the Spring Hammock Preserve is a nice reprieve from the modernized world and also a nice glimpse back at what Florida’s past must have looked like. Its amazing that the Senator still exists and wasn’t a casualty along the road of Florida’s development frenzy. (In fact, cypress wood was highly prized  for building by early Floridians, as the heartwood is famous for its resistance to insects and decay.  This characteristic is only found in very old cypress trees.)

The Senator has the the distinction of being the oldest cypress tree in North America and also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River. Its estimated to be 3500 years old,  and according to Wikipedia, the fifth oldest tree in the world. It is 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). As you can read from the dedication plaque, the Seminole Indians and other Native Americans Indians used the tree as a landmark. In 1925, a hurricane destroyed the top of  the tree, reducing its height by 47 feet.

Continue down the boardwalk and you will meet the Senator’s companion, Lady Liberty, a mere 2,000 years young.

Park admission is free and it is usually not very busy. I like to visit the Senator in different seasons. Its like returning to see an old friend, there is always something different and interesting going on.

Its almost impossible to capture the massiveness of the Senator cypress in a photo. To appreciate it, you will just have to visit in person (about a half hour drive from downtown Orlando).


Map Symbol Maps with Driving Directions [Seminole County Disclaimer]
Location: West of U.S. 17-92  at 761 General Hutchinson Parkway Longwood, FL 32750
Hours: The park hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset seven days a week 363 days a year. (Note:Parks Close at 5pm on the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.)The park is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Contact: 407-665-2001

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Plus 10 Reasons to Plant (Native to Your Area) Trees in Your Neighborhood

1. Trees Give us Clean Fresh Air– Trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Every mature urban tree removes up to 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and releases 13 pounds of oxygen into the air each year.

2. Trees Cool Our Earth– Trees cool the earth by giving us shade and by transpiring water through their leaves. Trees are known as carbon sinks because they remove the heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

3.Trees Act As Wind Break in a Storm or Hurricane-Trees that are planted and maintained correctly, serve as barriers against strong winds.

4. Trees Clean Our Water– Roots absorb and remove pollutants from the water that recharges our drinking water aquifer.

5. Trees Reduce Storm Runoff and Protect Against Topsoil Erosion– Humans need fertile topsoil to grow crops. The roots of trees hold onto the soil and save it from erosion.

6. Trees Provide Habitat for Native Wildlife and Migrating Birds– Trees provide nectar, nuts sees and fruit for wildlife to eat. Trees also provide another component of habitat, shelter and a place to raise young.

7. Trees Provide Food For Humans As Well.

8. Trees Increase Property Values and Add Beauty to the Landscape– Well cared for trees add 5-7% to the sale price of a home.

9. Trees Contribute to Community Pride and Peace– Urban communities with trees are more peaceful, quiet, and cooler and act as a deterrent to crime.

10. Without Trees There Would Be No Humans– Trees play a vital role in our planet’s ecosystems. The Amazon rainforest has been named the “Lungs of the Planet” because it provides the essential service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and  produces nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen.

More info on Trees:

Florida Urban Forestry Council

Treelink.org

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James Hansen on Cap-and-Trade, Tipping Points and Where We Go From Here

Image in public domain from NASA. http://www.n...

Image via Wikipedia

In a recent interview, post- the COP15 Conference, the nation’s top climate scientist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen discussed his views on cap and trade, tipping points and how we can move forward in the aftermath of Copenhagen.

Hansen also has a new book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity where he discusses these issues at length.

The entire interview with Amy Goodman is visible at the end of this post. I’ve pulled out some highlights.

Hansen says, “I’m actually quite pleased with what happened at Copenhagen, because now we have basically a blank slate. We have China and the United States talking to each other, and it’s absolutely essential. Those are the two big players that have to come to an agreement. But it has to be an honest agreement, one which addresses the basic problem. And that is that fossil fuels are the cheapest source of energy on the planet. And unless we address that and put a price on the emissions, we can’t solve the problem.”

On Cap and Trade: “Cap and trade, they attempt to put a cap on different sources of carbon dioxide emissions. They say there’s a limit on how much a given industry in a country can emit. But the problem is that the emissions just go someplace else. That’s what happened after Kyoto, and that’s what would happen again, if—as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, they will be burned someplace. You know, the Europeans thought they actually reduced their emissions after Kyoto, but what happened was the products that had been made in their countries began to be made in other countries, which were burning the cheapest form of fossil fuel, so the total emissions actually increased.”

But what you need to do—and many people call that a tax, but in fact the way that it should be done is to give all of the money that’s collected in a fee, that should be across the board on oil, gas and coal, collect that money at the mine or at the port of entry from the fossil fuel companies, and then distribute that to the public on a per capita basis to legal residents of the country. Then the person that does—that has less than average carbon emissions would actually make money from the process, and it would stimulate the economy. It would give the public the funds that they need in order to invest in low-carbon technologies. The next time they buy a vehicle, they should get a low-emission one. They should insulate their homes. Such actions. And those people who do that will come out ahead. That’s—the economists agree that that’s the way you should address the problem, with a price on carbon. Otherwise, the emissions will just continue to go up.”

On Tipping Points: “Well, there are tipping points in the climate system, where we can push the system beyond a point where the dynamics begins to take over. For example, in the case of an ice sheet, once it begins to disintegrate and slide into the ocean, you’ve passed the point where you can stop it. So that’s what we have to avoid.

Another tipping point is in the survival of species. As we begin to put pressure on species and move the climate zone so that some of the species can’t survive because they can only live within certain climate parameters, because species depend upon each other, you can drive an ecosystem such that when some species go extinct, then the entire ecosystem will collapse. So you don’t want to push the system that far.

And these tipping points are not hypothetical. We know from the earth’s history that these have happened in the past, especially when we’ve had large global warmings. We’ve driven more than half the species on the planet to extinction. And then, over hundreds of thousands and millions of years, new species come into being. But for any time scale that we can imagine, we would be leaving a much more desolate planet for our children and grandchildren and future generations. So we don’t want to pass those tipping points.”

On Atmospheric CO2:What we have now is 387 parts per million. But we’re going to have to bring that down to 350 parts per million or less. And that’s still possible, provided we phase out coal emissions over the next few decades. That’s possible. We would also have to prohibit unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and oil shale.”

On Moving Forward: “What needs to happen right now—we have this great opportunity this spring, I would say, to have discussions in the House and Senate about what really needs to be done to solve this problem. And it’s not cap and trade with offsets. We can prove that that’s completely ineffectual. What we have to do is put a price on carbon, and the money that’s collected needs to be given to the public, not used for boondoggles, like Congress is taking—plans to take the money from cap and trade that’s collected in selling the permits to pollute and to use that money for things like clean coal or to give the money back to the polluters. That won’t solve the problem. We have to give the money to the public.”

“There were a couple of encouraging things in Copenhagen. For one thing, Al Gore made a clear statement that a carbon price is a better solution than cap and trade. And John Kerry also indicated that he had an open mind on that question. So that’s why I say the discussions in the next few months are very important, because the way the United States goes is going to determine the way the world goes, I think.”

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Al Gore and Political Will in the Concrete Forest

As I descended off I-95 into the concrete forest that now covers the city of Miami, I pondered the artificial shade. Darkness permeated while the sun rested high in the sky.

Al Gore at Miami Book Fair Construction raged on even in the early morning hours of Saturday. As the construction workers labored, the homeless slept. The forest was still, despite the jack hammer vibration penetrating the silence.

I looked upward at the pervasive high-rises that the city touts have surpassed 60% occupancy, although that is not obvious from appearance. Too bad that Miami can’t house some of its homeless in these buildings. It would be good public relations for the city, not like the messy shantytown farther up the road.

But that would never happen in the concrete forest. Here, corruption and bad political decisions spread like the invasive melaleuca trees that swallow the Everglades to the west.

It is amidst this concrete forest, I had come to the Miami Book Fair to see former VP, Al Gore promote his book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis(Rodale Books, $26.99).

Gore’s presentation was articulate, engaging and funny. He discussed the more than thirty summits he’s convened around the world, bringing together the eminent voices of climate change science. The good news, Gore told us, is that we have everything we need right now to solve the climate crisis. In his book he outlines some of the solutions from renewable energy to CCS to soil initiatives. We have everything we need, except perhaps ‘political will’. Gore closed his presentation with his classic line, “ but political will is a renewable resource”. Al Gore at Miami Book Fair

As I held that thought in my head, I wanted to ask him about this line he’s been using since before the film, An Inconvenient Truth,  “political will is a renewable resource”. We all lived that. Last November we had a historic election. We voted in unprecedented numbers for change.

We changed our political leadership but climate change still sits on the backburner in the Senate. The US with 5% of the world’s population still produces the majority of the total greenhouse gas emissions. There are some figures that show China- who now holds almost all of our manufacturing jobs- dumped more heat trapping gases into the planet’s atmosphere in 2009. Although looked at on a per capita basis, the USA still holds the award for world’s largest polluter.

We know the historic legislation, H254: American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House this summer doesn’t adequately addresses the severity of this crisis we are facing.

Al Gore at Miami Book Fair “We need to go quickly and together,” Gore said. Yes, as we approach December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen the world’s population agrees, but does the US government? And, how do we get there with the democratic leadership we have? That is the question I wanted answered. Surely, Gore must have some opinion.

But, before I got a chance to ask him, his publishers had me pulled out of the book signing line because I was holding a DVD of An Inconvenient Truth. The line was only for people who purchased copies of their book, Our Choice.

Thus, I am left with my unanswered question and a few photo souvenirs.


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