“Carbon Dioxide is an inconvenient product of easy living”
In John Sandford’s new thriller, Saturn Run, the famous mystery writer tells of a future voyage to Saturn where an American team learns of the future from aliens. One of the most fascinating fictional disclosures is the universe is filled with great starships, They carry whole cultures in search of new planets to replace their home planets destroyed by global warming from carbon dioxide (CO2). http://www.amazon.com/Saturn-Run-John-Sandford-ebook/dp/B00USMCJX6/
On the other hand, we may have the same problem here on Earth. Our planet produces and absorbs CO2 in a balance through oceans and plant life. In this balance much of that CO2 becomes stored in the Earth in carbon fossils. In simple terms, when we burn fossil fuels we release that stored CO2 and cause an imbalance. This imbalance contributes to the increase in the CO2 that blankets the earth and our climate gets “global warming.” Essentially, we use energy from fossil fuels to make life more convenient, yet the result is higher unabsorbed CO2 causing a warming planet. This is pretty much the theory that governments are working on to fight global warming by cutting back on burning fossil fuels.
What can an individual do about the problem of too much CO2 on our planet? Let’s try to get a handle on the size of the problem.
In 2011 according to the World Bank statistics for countries on the planet, the United States contributed per capita about 17 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in our use of fossil fuels. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC/
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a partial answer for citizens. It is called the Household Emission Calculator. It lists the assumptions and references for categories of CO2 emissions. The calculator allows you to analyze your CO2 contributions in pounds of CO2 and perhaps cut back on them. http://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ .
Here are some of the EPA categories and instructions on how to calculate your own household contribution. You can learn how much you can save if, for example, you lower the house room temperature only one degree.
Category one: Household vehicles. There are two calculations: One uses the EPA statistics drawn from fuel economy. The other is higher and uses the full fuel lifecycle including extraction, processing and transportation of fuel.
21,100 pounds is average per year per household.
Category two: Electricity which averages about 14920 pounds per year assuming 957 kWh month.
Category three: Natural Gas, which, if you use it, averages about 8,049 pounds per year assuming 5,583 cubic feet.
Category four: Fuel Oil, which, if that is your choice, averages about 16,779 pounds per year, assuming 62 gallons /month.
Category five: Propane, which if you use it, averages about 5,679 pounds, assuming 38 gallons /month.
Category six: Waste Disposal. According to the EPA if we can reduce packaging and non-packaging paper products, recycle construction debris and improve composting and recycling we could substantially cut CO2 emissions. Perhaps we could cut our household contribution to this CO2 total if we send our newspaper, glass, plastic, metal and magazine trash to the most efficient recycling which is the cause of the CO2.
Think about the real cost of our inconvenient product of easy living. It’s a debt we can’t repay. However, we can cut down the increasing debt. For example, if we walk more and drive less we can make a difference in producing CO2. Perish the thought, but we could turn off the car air conditioner and drive with the windows down. We can all imagine steps we can take. Remember, if the planet gets too sick, there is really no good cure or pill we can give it. We don’t want our grandchildren to have to migrate to a new planet on one of those starships that Sandford writes about in his novel.
“Water, water everywhere but not a drop for me!”
Years ago, I had a dream that I was in my studio working on a story. I heard a tap at my back door. I stood up and went to the door. I remember thinking that one of the neighborhood children must be there asking me for help finding one of their soccer balls constantly kicked over my fence.
When I opened the door I looked around my large backyard with all its heavy shrubs and my wife’s flower beds, but spotted no children. Perhaps, I thought, someone is playing a trick on me. The kids are always up to something and kidding around is part of life on my street. Perhaps my wife could speak to some of the other women on the street and see what could be done. Honestly, I work at home and could use a little more peace and quiet.
I pulled on the handle and closed the large wooden door. Just as I turned towards my studio, there was another tap.
This time I opened the door and looked down more closely. A bundle of brown and black fur moved near my shoe. Two small animals were resting there. Their eyes were on me. They were chipmunks and one had no tail.
Now, this is the funny part. My mind received a message. How that happened I do not know nor understand. Be that as it may, the message was in good English and in a courteous tone.
The chipmunk with no tail asked, in a chuckling sort of voice, “Can I have a drink of water from your kitchen faucet?”
After I recovered from surprise, I spoke, “Sure.” Then I added, after glancing around the large backyard, still wet from morning dew, “What happened to the water out back?”
He nodded that he understood me and sent his mental answer, “It is polluted.”
Needless to say, and even though I was not a little surprised at the pollution, I asked him to wait a moment. I rushed to my kitchen and fetched a saucer of cool water. I put this in front of them. They stood on hind feet, front paws on the side of the small glass dish. They gulped and licked the water.
After a minute, the one with no tail rubbed his mouth with his front paws and sat back satisfied. Apparently chipmunks don’t spend much time doing any one thing. He chuckled again and sent his mental message,
“Thanks. This warm weather makes me thirsty especially when I run around chasing my girl.”
“What happened to your tail?”
He replied over his shoulder as they ran away, “My mom said the bad water she drank caused me to be born without a tail.”
When I woke up I went to the back door and looked out. The yard was the same as always. I placed a bowl of fresh drinking water on the ground and watched as the chipmunks came to drink. I didn’t see one with no tail and I didn’t get any mental messages.
Later as I began studying better methods of providing wholesome drinking water to animals, I attended a meeting of my bird watching friends at the suburban home of the club president. It was a colorful get-together with about fifty birders, both men and women and a few children. There was the usual collection of imitation of bird sounds with human callers showing their latest voices. I remember one caller voicing a plaintive nuthatch which was delightful.
I was in a conversation with several of my friends when an older gentleman joined us. We were talking about my new favorite subject, providing fresh water to wildlife, and he asked me, “It’s foolishness. Don’t you think that birds can find water?”
Well, he was a distinguished birder, known for achieving a life list of hundreds of local birds he had seen. I didn’t want to start an argument. I did reply, “I know that they can find some kind of water around the yard.”
He replied, “That’s the whole point. Nature takes care of itself.”
Then I asked him a more pointed question. “Would you drink from the puddles on your lawn?”
He smiled at me as he realized I’d just pointed out the whole issue. He walked away without answering.
These days, each morning I go to my backyard and place fresh water outside for the wildlife. I always look around for a chipmunk with no tail. He’ll be a descendant of the one I dreamed about. If I should spot him, I’ll look into his eyes, give him a wink, and let him know that I’m trying.
Something to remember:
Water covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface. Of this 96 percent is in the oceans and about 2 percent is in groundwater. 2 more percent is in ice and the rest is in the atmosphere. Only 2.5 percent of this water is fresh and almost 99 percent of that is in ice or underground, not easily available to animals. Less that .3 percent is in rivers and lakes and the atmosphere. A tiny bit more is carried in plants and animal bodies.
Here’s another interesting fact. About 70 percent of the small portion of the water on earth that is drinkable by animals is used in human agriculture including animals raised by humans to be eaten.
Wildlife doesn’t have much left to drink, does it?
Thomas Hollyday 8 /22/2017
Living with Nature- Two Thoughtful Books
At one time or another some of us have thought about what it might be to live in nature, out in the sunlight with clear air and clean water and with the company of animals around us.
Most of the books about this subject are unrealistic and don’t write of dangerous animals, disease, and lack of medical care. Self reliance is the reality of nature living.
Two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, have tackled this subject.
JANE, The Woman Who Loved Tarzan, by Robin Maxwell, Tor Books, 2012, ISBN 9780765333509, Paperback, Ebook, or Audio, https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Woman-Who-Loved-Tarzan/dp/0765333597/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483714521&sr=1-1&keywords=jane+tarzan
From Amazon: “Cambridge, England, 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat dissecting corpses than she is in a corset and gown sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of traveling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin.
When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father to join an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Africa is every bit as exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined, but Jane quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets―and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.”
Critical Acclaim: “Finally an honest portrayal of the only woman of whom I have been really, really jealous. What a wonderful idea to write this book. Now I am jealous all over again!” ―Jane Goodall PhD, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace
My impression of this fictional book is that its fast paced adventure takes the early concept of Jane and Tarzan in Edgar Rice Burrough’s 1912 pulp magazine story and adapts it to the modern world of science. What Maxwell also does also is remind us in 2012 writing style of self reliance. It is humanity in a world without safety or assurance us of a long life. In this way it stirs us to think of ourselves as more than we may be in a our current life. Its a powerful and entertaining reminder of the wonder of nature around us and the freedom it offers is inspiring.
Into the Heart, by Kenneth Good
Simon and Schuster, 1991, ISBN 9780671728748
Kenneth Good’s non fiction scientific book prompts us to ask ourselves the question. “How are we so advanced from these people?” Moreover, “Can we live with nature the way they do?” Many of us who have deserted the city for the homesteading lifestyle will readily admit that any of us can do this and happily so. The book gives us pause in our civilized aspirations to ask whether what we are doing with our lives is really worth it and whether these wilderness folks know something that we don’t.
Bird watching, like any hobby, can become quite complicated. For example, many folks prefer to be called birders. In the United Kingdom they call themselves “twitchers.” On top of that, the technical name for those who study birds is ornithologist.
However, watching birds is relatively easy. You can be a successful birder just by walking trails. As you get more experience you will find that different birds live in various types of shrubbery and terrain. Like humans, wild birds have likes and dislikes about where they live and what they eat. Some forage on the ground and some catch insects as they fly. Some like to hide in shrubbery and some like trees. So as you walk, scope out the different foliage to see who’s home.
You may want to see them up close and you will yearn for a telescope of some kind. Basic 7 x 35 power binoculars start at about $25. Then, when you get confused about identifying what lots of us jokingly call “the little brown bird” or LBB, you will probably buy yourself a wild bird guide. The Peterson guide, as good as any in the bookstore, starts about $10. This gear is easily carried in a small and lightweight fanny pack, leaving your arms free as you walk.
Let’s start with some likely sightings flying over you or sitting in a tree.
Usually you’ll spot some crows. These large black birds are fascinating to watch. For one thing, like ants, they are gifted with organization talents and seem to follow leaders. Many experts have written articles on the meanings of their system of calls. A group of crows will form up in a flock and attack a hawk that has invaded its territory. This “mobbing” is probably to defend nesting sites. You will only see this if the hawk is fairly large as small hawks can maneuver quickly enough to fight the swarming crows.
As you look at the crow remember what we know about this bird. It is one of the smartest animals in the world. It has the ability to make and use tools, often considered a trait only of humans. The family of the American crow includes Jackdaws, Jays, Ravens and Rooks. Most of these have been characters in stories and fables since ancient times.
You might observe some Canada geese. These are the large birds that fly in chevron formations, some all the year, but most in the colder months when they come south from Canada. Walk a little faster and you might see them land in a nearby field or pond for their lunch. This is spectacular as you see them come in, their wings cupped. They enter the water gracefully with hardly a ripple as they settle in and begin paddling around using their web feet. Canada geese can be pretty big birds. One of this species weighed in at 24 pounds with a wingspan of 7.3 feet.
Pretty soon, in the trees and shrubs around you you’ll hear some excited chatting. The source could be a finch, a sparrow or a wren, as they all have similar fussing sounds. You can be sure it’s one of the wren family if the bird sports up thrust tail feathers. Remember when you are watching to approach quietly, slow if possible. Birds scare easily. Hold still a few moments and they will start calling again so you can spot them.
If you keep an eye on larger trees as you pass, you’ll probably see a little bird heading directly down a tree trunk. This is a nuthatch and sooner or later you’ll hear his call, “yank, yank.” Not a lot of birds do this type of walking up and down as they search for food.
On a nearby tree trunk you likely will hear a rhythmic tapping. It’s one of several woodpecker types that hunt for insects in tree bark. If it is big and loud you’ve found birder treasure. This is a pileated woodpecker, huge and noisy and beautiful.
Chances are good on any day you’ll continue to entertain yourself with new specie sightings. On your computer you can easily check out birds that you spot. Google the description and most times you’ll see your bird up close with all his data. You’ll find sites at Audubon and Cornell University that will show you more birds. You will quickly learn what seasons they appear in your area, what kind of shrubbery they like to sit in, and what they look and sound like. Pretty soon you might want to keep a list of the first day you discovered each new bird. This activity is called by birders “keeping a life list.” After a few years you’ll want to look back at old friends and remember when you met them. Just in case you wanted to know, the current life list record holder has spotted about 9000 different birds.
You can be a happy and accomplished birder without spending any money. Or, you can spend your dollars thoughtfully and buy only equipment you need to enjoy the hobby even more. So, get outside and enjoy birding.
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