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Please take part in this year’s Earth Hour.

Check out the Earth Hour website.

(Gayle still recovering from the flu but planning to take part.)

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Today, I got this link to Leo Murray’s Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip video. It one of the better overviews of what causes global warming / climate change and what the phrase tipping point is all about. (Video is about 11 minutes and 35 seconds).

Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

It’s a great little video and I found it interesting and informative so I thought I’d share. I especially liked his mention of the rampant consumerism that is so embedded in our culture that so many find it difficult to think of consuming less, of buying smaller or conserving our funds, our environment, our energy — and maximizing our enjoyment of life. It’s tiring and exhausting to get, buy, consume, and waste. Having more doesn’t make us any happier than just enjoying what we already have.

The other day I watched 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama and one of the questions from the interviewer was about his observation that in India, among the poorest of the poor, he’d noted that they laughed far more and with true enjoyment that most of the people he knew who had much, much more — where laughter was more often forced or at someone else’s expense.

Things don’t make us happy. People and relationships and taking the time to get to know and enjoy the people around us help to make us happy. So, rethink your own consumerism and I know that I’ll be thinking of mine and how I can make changes in my behavior.

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Today is blog action day and the topic is water. About two thirds (2/3) of our planet is covered with water and yet many people do not have access to clean water. Of all the water on the planet only about one percent is fresh water than we can drink and we are continually polluting that water. [Note: These numbers and figures differ slightly depending on which authority you get the numbers from — I picked conservative numbers.]

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Many of today’s blogs will probably deal with the facts and figures of water, water contamination, pollution, and the need for clean water. I’m going to talk about me — after all this is my blog.

Before we moved to our present house, my husband and I lived in cities and water was no problem — it was just there unless the water main broke. Water to drink. Water to cook with. Water to wash with. Water to flush toilets. Water for house plants. It was just there. In some places it didn’t taste quite right so we got a Britta filter — problem solved.

Then fast forward to our present house and we have a well. Our house sits on 5 acres with its own well and septic system. Now we had to think about water and sewage. We have to be careful what we flush down the toilet because it’s going to go through the septic system and back out into the groundwater — hopefully clean again. If you put the wrong stuff in, the system may not work and that’s an expensive proposition of pumping it out, and so on.

But drinking water hasn’t been a problem. The well is deep and the water has been tested and is safe to drink. There’s an electric pump that brings the water up from that deep well and into the house. No electricity means no water.

A few years back, a hurricane knocked out the power and we were without water for over a week. No pump, no water. Earlier that year we’d bought a rain barrel which sat under a drain pipe from the roof. We’d been using that water to water the garden so we wouldn’t be stressing the well. With no electricity, we could use that water to flush the toilet but it wasn’t drinkable. We had to travel and buy water at stores; an expensive proposition when you needed water for everything — drinking, cooking, washing dishes, washing us.

That experience really made us appreciate just how reliant we were on technology. I remembered staying at a camp when I was a kid that had a hand-pump to bring water into the kitchen sink. But, electric pumps have replaced that in our lives and now without electricity we’re without many of the basics we take for granted — one of which is water.

Now, think about the many people living on this planet who can’t buy clean water. People who need to collect water from rivers, streams, rain barrels and then take their chances drinking it that it won’t make them sick — or kill them. We’re not talking fancy smart waters or flavored waters — just plain clean, disease and parasite free, water. 42000 people die each week from drinking unclean water. Think about that — that’s twenty times the population of the little town I grew up in in Maine. That’s every week just because they lack clean drinkable water.

Humans need water to survive. I’ve heard, but haven’t verified, that you can survive longer without food than you can without water. Yet, we treat our planet as if all its resources are infinite. They are not. While water is in many ways renewable because it can be treated, filtered by the ground, evaporated and returned via rain, it’s not a perfect system in the face of humanities every increasing abuse of our planet and its resources.

In my family we do what we can to help. We use rain barrels and recaptured water for gardening. We try not to buy bottled water and instead use our own water in reusable water bottles whenever possible. When we do buy, we try to buy where some of the money goes toward clean water programs. We try to put our efforts and money into programs and actions that will help everyone sharing the planet with us.

We’re all on this planet together and it’s about time we all spent a bit of time thinking about how we use it and how we can help others to have the basic necessities of life and the most basic of these is clean drinking water.

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We’ve been dealing with car transmission problems for the past two week. The first weekend in May, we lost all the gears except 1st on our way home from Virginia. Monday, we took the car in to the garage. They checked it out and an hour later determined it was indeed the transmission and they needed to order a new one for a replacement as the current one was 13 years old and not likely to last if they rebuilt it. Okay, we rented a car and left it there. We picked it up that Saturday and found that the gears were hard to move into, it popped like a new driver shifting a manual (this is an automatic). We got home and had to go to a meeting and on the way the caution light lit up. Next day we called the garage and they said not to drive it and to bring it back in but they’d order another one. So, on Monday we rented another car for a week. Tonight we picked up the car again with its second new transmission. This time it seems to work. A bit hard to shift from Park to Drive but otherwise pretty smooth. We need to take it back in 10 days for a check.

On the way back we returned the rental car and decided to get all the grocery shopping done because we were there and then tomorrow just do the recycling center. Then yard work and house cleaning. But…

After the first stop it started to rain as we got into the car and then about 3 minutes later we had this…these were all taken from a moving car with the window down.

At first it just seemed like a really heavy rain storm with lightening and thunder. It was coming down in buckets. Then it started to hail. At first I didn’t think much about it then it got bigger and heavier and I remembered my camera.

Rain with hail -- the white stuff on the edge of road.

This photo is only a few feet further down the road and you can see the entrance to Denny’s is now in deep water.

Rain has now flooded the roadways.

The road was covered with standing water and spraying up from all the cars but the worst was the hail. This next photo is barely 3 feet along from the last one.  It’s a bit fuzzier than the others partly because now it was scary. The hail was banging on the roof and the windows and we were really afraid that the windshield would crack or break. You can see the white hail stones on the grass check against the picture above and you’ll see less hail — that’s how hard and fast it was falling.

Hail stones on the side of the road.

I should mention this was during rush hour traffic on this route. Cars were pretty much bumper to bumper. We’re all being pounded by these fairly big hail stone — when it stopped at the shopping center, we check and they seemed to vary from 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Solid ice hitting cars. We got a couple of small dents in the roof but the windows are fine.

Cars were trying to get off the road and find a place to get under cover. There’s no place to do that. What trees there are were in the meridians and this is an area of strip malls with big open parking lots.

Later we heard people on their cells to family talking and remembering the big LaPlata tornado a couple of years back and the damage it did. People remember. I’ve been through hail storms before but nothing like this one — all the others were the ones were the hail was about the size of a pea or smaller.

I guess it’s not nice to take Mother Nature for granted — ever.

[Hyperion here:]  I also took a few short bursts of video with my cell phone, but the format isn’t compatible with any viewers except the one on my phone.  I’ll see if I can’t find some conversion software and add them to the post in a day or two.

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For the past several years, we’ve taken part in Earth Hour but this year somehow — probably lack of promotion on the net — we totally missed it. Not such a bad thing because we do as much as we can every day of the year. We recycle and for us that means we have to drive to the recycle center once a week, although only as part of our normal shopping cycle. We tend to put water in a water bottle rather than buy bottled water. We keep our heat down in the winter and our air conditioning higher in the summer (forget saying turn it off completely we live in an area that gets days over 100 degrees). We use the car to go to and from work (no public transport closer than work). We plan our weekly shopping trips to be as efficient as possible using gas. We’re saving to make take some more measures — replacing the single pane windows in the house, purchasing a hybrid car, swapping out the 20 year old appliances for EnergyStar ones.

We live on 5 wooded acres and have little direct sun during the day. Solar is out for us but we’re looking into other options. But that’s a long term project.

Earth day is a time to think about our commitment to the Earth and strive to live lightly upon it. Here’s a video about Earth day and what it’s trying to get people to think about. Granted it’s by a vested interested party but that doesn’t take away from the core message:

It seems that here in the US there are many people who prefer to put their heads in the sand and pretend that the Earth has infinite resources and all this “green” talk is not worthy paying attention to. Our planet is where we live, work, and play. But it’s resources are indeed finite. There was a recent report that the world will reach peak oil (that point where it cost more to extract the oil and you could possible get from using/selling it and which is the beginning of the end of that resource) within the next 10 years. Others say we’ll reach that point in 5 years or 2 or we’ve already reached it. Note that none are saying it’s not going to happen.

There’s a definition of insanity that I find very cogent. Insanity is doing the same activity over and over and expecting a different result. We can’t go on using petroleum/gas/oil and expect that it won’t someday run out. If we start now putting money into alternative energy sources, we not only help our planet, we help ourselves.

Closing our eyes to the problems of global warming, peak oil, deforestation, water contamination, and species loss will not make it go away. We need to look these problems in the face and come up with plans that deal with what is not what we wish it was.

Take some time on Earth Day to decide how you and your family will do their bit to help save the Earth and its resources. Even something as simple as turning lights off when you leave the room or filling your own bottle with water will help. Every little bit does help and certainly it helps more than doing nothing. Take action to help our planet.

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 A USGS map of the Chilean quake.A NASA report says that the Chilean Earthquakee may have shifted the mass balance of our planet.

Earth is not a perfect sphere. Continents and oceans are distributed unevenly around the planet. There’s more land in the north, more water in the south, a great ocean in the west, and so on. As a result of these asymmetries, Earth slowly wobbles as it spins. The figure axis is Earth’s axis of mass balance, and the spin axis wobbles around it.

“The Chilean quake shifted enough material to change the mass balance of our entire planet,” Gross says.

On the whole this isn’t such a big problem the mass balance of Earth shifts about a lot but the shift due to the quake shifted the balance as much in minutes as it usually shifts in a year. Evidently the shift hasn’t been measured yet. Shifts can effect satellite transmission, tides, winds, and day length. Some of the possible effects may be mitigated because the quake was near the equator.

The interesting thing is no one really knows how big the shift really is or what the consequences will be. Quakes have been happening for thousands of year but now we have the ability to monitor and measure changes in our planet.

Sometimes knowledge can be scary — especially when previously we were blissfully unaware of the possible dangers that earthquakes can cause other than the loss of lives and property damage.

Perhaps learning more about earthquakes and their aftermath will help us understand planet Earth a bit better.

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Picture of Fall Leaves PaperToday was one of those days that aren’t too bad  if you can ignore the constant ringing in the ears.  Yesterday, I managed to catch up on a lot of data entry and finished a project.  So, that meant today I could try to get some reading in — the truth is if you don’t make time for reading it’s difficult to write reviews.  So, reading is nice especially when the temps are a bit nicer and the living room isn’t an ice box — which means I get to curl up on my reading chair instead of having to sit in my office chair at the dining room table (because it’s the warmest room in the house in cold weather).  Managed to read a whole book today.

Luckily, I also managed a load of wash, feeding the birds, feeding the cats, and sweeping the floors — all of them.  Good thing I then sat to read because the sweeping nearly did in the back.  I stopped before the cramping twitches turned evil.

Managed to clear up some paper messes in the dining room/office.  Read some more.  Finally took a break just before Hyperion got home and went out and raked some leaves.  Really, you’d think trees would clean up after themselves or at the very least crumble into dirt in the spring so no one has to rake them all up — again to get the garden area ready.

Tomorrow I’ve got start seeds on my TODO list.  Hope to get to it because it’s March already.  Time to plan the garden and get it all cleared of leaves and weeds and crap so we can get things ready for planting in a month. I’m really looking forward to getting the garden in.

My problem is that I’m either to eager to start and everything is leggy by the time it’s nice enough to put them in the ground or I wait until it’s way too late to even start and we end up just buying a few plants (tomatos, peppers, cucumbers) and planting lettuce so we at least have salad stuff during the summer.

Spring is the time of year when hope springs eternal that dreams will come true — that the garden will grow vegetables and the weeds won’t even think of poking a leaf out of the ground.

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Image of Inconvenient Truth DVDWhen Al Gore wrote Inconvenient Truth about the dangers of global warning, he couldn’t have found a name for his book that could be any more indicative of many people’s reactions to global warming, its possible causes and potential results.

Today, I came across an article in the guardian.co.uk entitled, “Utah delivers vote of no confidence for ‘climate alarmists’“. I figured it was just another bit of ranting about how could global warming exist if it snowed and we had winter. These types of stories happen a lot in the US as many people can not or rather will not grasp the concept of “global” in the phrase “global warming”.

Nope. I was wrong. The state of Utah has proved to the world that the United States has, in positions of power, some of the most scientifically uneducated buffoons on the face of the Earth. Note that the vote on this bill was 56 to 17 — only 17 people could see that this was a bad piece of legislation. Utah Legislature HJR012 says in its General Description:

This joint resolution of the Legislature urges the United States Environmental Protection Agency to cease its carbon dioxide reduction policies, programs, and regulations until climate data and global warming science are substantiated.

Obviously, members of the Utah legislature need a refresher course in General Science 101. They also need to pay attention to what has been coming out of the Climate Change Summits over the last several years. They may also need to watch Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth DVD a few times. No matter what government legislates or believes, facts are facts. Our weather is changing. We can work to mitigate those changes but denying the existence of the facts isn’t going to make them go away.

The scientific community is not in doubt about the need to reduce carbon dioxide emission or that global warming is taking place or that human activity is a part of the equation causing global warming. Utah believes that since they want it not to be true they can simply demand that all the data has to be done again and again and again until they get the results they want. Because at heart, that’s what they’re really trying to do.

It might also be noted that Utah is a solid Republican state. That’s important because the Republican party has been the party of wishful thinking for quite a few years. If they don’t like a fact they try to make out like it isn’t a fact. If they don’t like a law that is passed they try to repeal it. If that doesn’t work they try to make it impossible to enforce or use that law. If they don’t like something, they consistently try to denigrate it, besmirch it, or make fun of it. One thing they never ever do is try to come up with a better way of doing things or helping the country or its citizens achieve their potential.

Unfortunately, passing frivolous legislation and showing a total lack of understanding of scientific data to the world is not going to make global warming go away. Passing legislation that denies the existence of gravity and calling it a passing fancy of Newton will not cause you to float if you should trip over an apple peel. Facts are what they are and denying them and asking for more and more proof of their existence when most countries of the world have already determined the facts to be only arguable in degree not in actuality, only shows that here in American we have discovered a way to live on denial to the detriment of our economy and our country.

I cringe to think what this effort on the part of Utah to maintain its place as a oil and coal producing state in the face of such inconvenient truths will do to the standing of the United States on the world stage whenever science and facts are being discussed. It’s fairly obvious that wishful thinking rather than scientific inquiry rules in at least one state of the union.

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