environment

environment

California Drought Signals Limits on Growth

California now faces what Gov. Jerry Brown describes as perhaps the state’s worst drought since record-keeping began a century ago. Water shortages threaten household use and agriculture. To meet this challenge, Brown has asked residents to cut water consumption by 20 percent. Mandatory conservation may be ahead.

The impact of the drought could be substantial on farming in the state’s highly productive San Joaquin Valley. If present conditions continue there, growers may have to forego planting between 600,000 and 700,000 acres.

Less a Water Shortage than a People ‘Longage’

A January 19, 2014 article in the San Francisco Chronicle – “California Drought: Water officials look to rules of '70s”– raises the specter of the most severe water shortages in the state in decades.

It’s the Bottom of the Ninth – Now it’s Nature’s Turn to Bat

“Nature is no longer merely the inert stage on which the human drama plays out. Nature…has its own grand narrative…that says you can no longer take me for granted ….”

Wagering on the World’s Future

In 1981, two flamboyant American college professors with diametrically different worldviews made an unfortunate bet that we population and environmental activists have been living down ever since.

One was a pessimistic ecologist and the other an optimistic economist. How could it have been otherwise? When was the last time you heard of optimistic ecologists and pessimistic economists?

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

A fascinating article in an alternative Canadian newspaper hit on something important recently when it claimed that “it’s not cool to be pessimistic.”

As the article’s headline observed: “Optimism abounds despite grim data on climate change, overpopulation, oil depletion, and economy.”

Paper or Plastic?

Significant Plastic Problems Still Remain in a California without Plastic Bags

Golden, Grizzly or Brown Bear

By whatever name, Ursus arctos survives and thrives only in areas with few humans

As a kid, I was fascinated with the wooly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius). It was tough to accept that I would never actually get to see one alive, since they went extinct about 10,000 years before I was even born, as the Ice Age slowly released North America from its frozen embrace.

Bill Gates Weighs in on ‘The Bet’ over the Earth’s Future

In 1981, the same year that Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft, an economist and an ecologist made a simple but epic bet. The outcome of this wager still reverberates – and haunts – more than 30 years later.

Business professor Julian Simon bet biology professor Paul Ehrlich and two colleagues $1,000 that the prices of five metals of the Ehrlich team’s choice – chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten – would decline over the coming decade. Ehrlich et al. wagered that the prices would increase.

The California We Lost: California’s Precious, Beleaguered Wetlands

Wetlands, once disparaged as wastelands that produce little more than muck, stench, pestilence and swarms of mosquitos, are now recognized as one of the most important of natural habitats.

“Wetland” is a catchall term that encompasses tidal salt marshes, freshwater riverine marshes, riparian zones, sloughs, swamps, bogs, vernal pools, muskegs, fens and more.

California’s Sinking San Joaquin Valley

I have written often about California’s worsening water resource problems. At the same time our population and water demands are growing, with no end in sight, the long-term availability of freshwater is diminishing. This relationship can be depicted in a simplified schematic:

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