The least controls the most

In North America we have always more than enough stuff. OK, a lot more than enough of everything we’ve needed for a couple of hundred years. We never had any limiting factor that stopped our growth as a nation for very long – we just moved further west and there it was, more stuff. That stuff was timber, arable and grazing land, wild animals and water.

When we hit the Pacific ocean and our population continued to grow without limit the wild animals were no longer there for food so we ranched. When the limitless forest was gone we started tree farms. For food we farmed every available acre. In all these cases there was something we thought would never run out – water.

In agricultural science there is something called Liebig’s Law of the minimum. It states that growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available, but by the scarcest resource (the limiting factor).

The limiting factor in California has been and is freshwater. It is quickly running out. Various data sources indicate that there is one to three years of water left without a relapse into former rainfall patterns.

Like the lemmings which mass migrate in a quest for food due to over population So Cal and the Bay area populations will have to move somewhere. Where will we put the ‘water refugees’? Steinbeck might have called this ‘Revenge of the dust bowl’.

Think Global – Act Local!

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Hot!

July, 2015 was the hottest month on the planet ever recorded in human history.

Climate change – any questions?

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Release the Balls!!

The drought in California is getting worse and so are the water use regulations. Given that California and the west coast in general are known for coming up with new and innovative ways of doing things, it’s not surprising that they have come up with ‘Shade Balls’. They are round black polyethylene balls that float of the surface of the L.A.’s reservoirs. Their effect is to reduce evaporation, decrease algae growth and help reduce contamination from dust and wildlife. The cost is 39 cents each and the city of Los Angeles is releasing them into reservoirs. They are hollow with water inside so the wind won’t blow them off the reservoirs.

So far 96 million shade balls have been dumped into reservoirs around LA with the expectation that 300 million gallons of water a  year will be saved. I’m not sure if this will be part of a solution to California’s water crisis or it falls under the category of ‘Stupid Things Humans Do’.

So, now that California’s got balls we’ll just have to wait and see if they work.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/los-angeles-reservoir-shade-balls_55ca5a1ce4b0923c12be743d?utm_hp_ref=science&ir=Science&section=science&kvcommref=mostpopular

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The new beach fronts

We all know that climate change is causing the sea level to rise. But, given that our coasts are very crowded across the world what will happen? The article link below provides some interesting information for people to consider – there are graphics for those who don’t like to read. Remember that social changes, people moving, will happen much faster than the water rising. Here in Oregon we have been seeing ‘Water Refuges’ from California fleeing the drought for the last 18 months.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/10/opinions/sutter-climate-sea-level-facts/index.html#

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The empty table

When it comes to the effects of climate change we seem to be focused primarily on one aspect of it – lack of freshwater. There are other items to consider like the food that is produced using freshwater.

With droughts, flooding and variability in not only in seasonal rainfall but freezing temperatures we are seeing decreases in the production of food and fodder crops. Farmers don’t know what to plant when. It’s predicted that the average decrease will be about two percent per decade. This is a global conservative estimate with larger regional decreases forecast.

Many of the world’s major crops have been developed from selective breeding programs to fit into a specific region with a fixed periodicity of rainfall and temperature. Global production estimates are based environmental homeostasis.

The current UN panel on climate quarterly report deals with this issue.

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It is not in comfort that we grow

I’ve been talking with a couple of want-to-be marine biologists over the last few months and they wanted to know what they could do that would help gain entry into the profession.

I said:  “There are a lot of good biologists out there and only a very few positions to be filled every year. Having formal education in another discipline(s) that is useful and desired in the position that you seek will make you stand out from the crowd. Mine was electronics and statistics. A graduate degree in marine biology is a must. Be persistent by going to national meetings and talking with biologists who are working in your area of interest. Do not ignore any area of the country.”

Take courses that you don’t think will be useful but I’m telling you they will be e.g. writing, public speaking, accounting and personnel management. Get off the boat, into the boardroom and learn to speak their language – they control the money – no money, no research ergo no jobs. If some of these things are uncomfortable, well, put on your big-boy pants and work on them.

Here are some uncomfortable things that I and others have found helped them grow into their careers.

1. Question everything.
2. Be honest.
3. Wake up extremely early.
4. Watch your pennies.
5. Track what you eat.
6. Eat only nutritious food.
7. Practice public speaking.
8. Accomplish an almost impossible goal.
9. Pick just one thing to master at a time.
10. Write everything down.
11. Remember names – it flatters people.

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Hottest EVER!

Just in case you’ve not been keeping up with the weather the first six months of 2015 were the hottest ever recorded in human history. Commercial vegetable farmers that I’ve talked here in Oregon’s Willamette valley tell me that because of the hotter weather they will lose months of their growing season based on how they have planted their crops.
Stream and river flows are way down all over the Pacific Northwest. Salmon and steelhead in some areas are being transported around low flow reaches to their spawning beds up stream.

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Captain, there be Marine Biologists!

The annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society is taking place in Portland Oregon August 16 – 20. It is the biggest collection of national, international marine and freshwater biologists you’ll ever see. Since it’s in the northwest this year the favorite topic will be salmon and trout with a health dose of climate change on the side. Papers on applications of technology, interaction with multiple other disciplines and symposia on a wide range of topics will be presented.

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What street do you live on?

As a scientist I have a passion for information (data) that shows me a picture, however dim and fragmented it might be, of the reality of our planet. For the last two years I’ve been using the news services of our nation, BBC and others to see what was being said about global climate change and our response to it.
The United Nations has been issuing some excellent work (IPCC) on this topic for the last several years along with many universities around the world. The major new services argue back and forth creating a lot of contradictory ‘noise’ which the mass of non-science educated people can’t figure out or choose to ignore. In the confusion of information and thought people focus on what they see that is of immediate concern and utility – not what may or may not happen in the next ten, twenty or thirty years.
Those organizations and governments which stand to gain from public inaction caused by this ‘noise’ either sit by doing nothing or add to the confusion.
All this reminds me of an old ‘Twilight Zone’ episode from 1960 called ‘The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street’. I won’t bother you with all the details but just maybe there is wisdom for all of us in the narrator’s closing words:

‘The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill — and suspicion can destroy — and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own — for the children — and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is — that these things cannot be confined — to the Twilight Zone.”

Rod Serling

Things we have lost to Machines

First we taught them to make us stronger, let us drive and fly and then they became smart and taught us. Now, most of us have lost what we let them take from us.
Here are a few of them.

The ability to read maps or use a compass
Do basic arithmetic without a calculator
Take the square root of a number with only a pencil
Read an analog clock
Hand write a letter in cursive
The ability to reason in other than a straight-line
Interact in a group
collaborate with others on problems
Ability to see that life is more than a one or zero
Communicate ideas verbally
Penmanship
Grow and preserve food
Civility
Ourselves

Is this time the sunset of the age of reason and the beginning of the new darkness or will it be a time to reclaim our ability to question rather than accept, lead rather than be led and replace dogma with logic. Only you know. “Don’t trade your heroes for ghosts or hot air for a cool breeze.”

Once we, the ‘boomers’, are gone it will be your country.