Our Water, Our Land

by Hannah Gartner

At the beginning of the month President Obama rejected the proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have run crude oil from the Canadian Tar Sands in Alberta to the gulf coast refineries outside of Houston, TX. Over the past few years this pipeline has become a pet project for environmentalist and conservatives alike. One of the reasons that environmentalists have been so adamantly against the Keystone pipeline was its planned path through the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is a 174,000-square-mile reservoir which lies beneath the states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota, and Wyoming. It supplies water to millions of people, and irrigates the fields of farmers in this region. Lying beneath the earth, it is easy to forget that it is there, yet it is so important that it was able to play a role in halting the creation of Keystone XL.

There are many ways in which one can know the world around them. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, most see it as a man-made, concrete jungle. It is more common for someone to know every player in the world series than where their water comes from. The danger than becomes that things like endless tap water are taken for granted, always expected and not preserved.WWF

The United States Great Plains; Source: World Wildlife Fund

The Ogallala Aquifer is just one of hundreds that lie beneath the surface of North America. The map below shows the vast extent of land carrying these underground pools in the United States alone. Aquifers are formed when rock is porous enough to let water flow through. The layer of rock and water that is formed is called the water table. Depending on the type of rock, that water will run faster or slower. This also dictates how quickly the water in an aquifer can replenish itself. Through clay this can take a very long time, while a sandstone water table may refill much quicker. This is incredibly important to think about when using an aquifer as a water source.

aquifers in the US

Aquifers in the United States; Source: USGS

It would be amazing if we were able to say that the Ogallala Aquifer is safe now that Keystone XL has been vetoed, but this is not the truth. Since the 1940’s Midwest farmers have used this water source to grow vast amounts of corn, cotton, wheat, and cattle. The  current estimate is that 30 percent of the water in this aquifer is already depleted, and it is projected that this percentage will only rise over the coming years. As of yet that farmers and citizens who utilize the Ogallala Aquifer are not taking action to stem this problem.

Even if you live very far away from this particular aquifer, there is a lesson to be learned here. The Earth is plentiful, but it is not endless. It is important to understand the land and water systems were you do live though. This may mean looking beyond the surface to what is hidden underground. Take the time to do your research, become an informed citizen, and try to find the ways to interact with your land in the most appropriate ways.

 

A Growing Storm

By Hannah Gartner

Source NASAOn October 23rd
Hurricane Patricia made landfall on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Thishurricane, which was the strongest ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, narrowly missed causing severe damage despite reaching wind speeds of 200 mph. A week later no deaths have been reported and the damage is limited to flooding and mudslides within rural Mexico. This is due to a few factors, namely the fact that Patricia avoided a direct hit to more populated areas such as Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, and that once on land it lost power very quickly. An excellent response from the government also made a huge difference in mitigating the damage.

This storm is just the latest to be added to the list of record shattering weather events. Although the research is ongoing, there is indication that global warming will cause an increase in storms to this caliber. Last August The Weather Channel published a list of the top ten most powerful hurricanes to ever occur within the Atlantic. Five of these storms have taken place since 2000, and only two occurred before 1950. It seems that the intensity of storms is on an upward trend. Some climate scientists even predict that we will have a storm on the level of Hurricane Katrina every two years.

Source Boston.comOther natural phenomena are also on the rise due to global warming. California is currently entering its forth year of draught and has been consistently recording its highest on average temperatures. On the other end of the spectrum, the record shattering snow in New England last winter has been attributed the disruption of the Arctic polar vortex which is occurring through global warming. These two examples only scratch the surface of the many instances of changing weather.

After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, Yeb Sano, the country’s climate change representative, said the following words in front of the United Nations: “We can take drastic action now to ensure that we prevent a future where super typhoons become a way of life.” After seeing his country destroyed by this storm he knew he had experienced climate change first hand. Action must be taken to slow down, stop, and reverse the degradation of the natural world or these storms will become the norm. We cannot count on the luck that Mexico received last week. There is hope, but only if business does not continue as usual.

Earth Day Every day!

By Marcelo Kawanami

Yesterday, Gamiing hosted its annual Earth Day event where participants from all ages had the chance to learn about the importance of nature through interactive and fun games!
Earth Day official day is actually April 22. And do you know the origin of this date? On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets for ’60s-style demonstrations and marches, calling attention to the perilous pollution of America’s land, air and water. Ten thousand flocked to the Washington Monument for a folk music concert featuring Pete Seeger and U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie.

From this date, Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 and it became a global event with over 1 billion participants from 192 countries. Earth Day events will be held throughout the week. You can check all events at the Earth Day Network site: http://www.earthday.org/greencities/events/

I am Water

By Marcelo Kawanami

Last week, charity: water, a non-profit organization focused on the fund of water projects in developing nations, posted a powerful short video showcasing the importance of water and the impact that this essential natural resource has in the life of our planet.

One of my favorite statements of the video: “It takes a great wall to hold me back, but I can be held by a human hand”.

Living Planet Report 2014

By Marcelo Kawanami

WWF has recently published is famous Living Planet Report 2014, in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, the Global Footprint Network, and the Water Footprint Network. This 170+ pages report brings an in-depth analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of the human activity.

Covering the entire global ecosystem, the report was very focused on topics that are very relevant to Gamiing such as freshwater, marine biodiversity, and water scarcity. I separated below some key highlights from the report:

• Energy generation uses Living Planet Report 2014approximately 8 per cent of the global water withdrawals, afigure which rises to 45 per cent in industrialized countries

• The main threats to freshwater species are habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution and invasive species (Collen et al., 2014). Direct impacts on water levels or on freshwater system connectivity have a major impact on freshwater habitats

• More than 200 river basins, home to some 2.67 billion people, already experience severe water scarcity for at least one month every year

• Global freshwater demand is projected to exceed current supply by more than 40 per cent by 2030 (WRG, 2009); by 2030, almost half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress (OECD, 2008)

• Energy generation uses approximately 8 per cent of the global water withdrawals, a figure which rises to 45 per cent in industrialized countries

You can download the full report in the following link: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/

You can also find the booklet summary if you are too busy!

Curious Facts!

By Marcelo Kawanami

Today I was researching some interesting topics for the blog and I crossed many interesting facts and figures that I thought very interesting to post here! Did you know that:

  • Canada is home to approximately 60% of the world’s lakes?
  • Lake Karachay, Russia, is considered the most polluted lake in the world? It was used as a radioactive dumping ground for years.
  • the Caspian has characteristics common to both seas and lakes? It is often listed as the world’s largest lake, although it is not a freshwater lake.
  • Lake Titicaca in Peru is the highest navigable lake in the world? It is about 12,500 ft (3,810 m) above sea level. This lake is also South America’s second largest freshwater lake.Lakes
  • the lowest lake is the Dead Sea (it’s considered a lake but called a sea), which is in the Jordan Valley of Israel? The surface of the water is 1,340 ft (408 m) below sea level. Almost nothing can survive in it besides simple organisms like green algae.
  • Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes and it’s also the freshwater lake that covers the greatest surface area in the world?
  • Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake and is located in Siberia, Russia, north of the Mongolian border? It is 5,369 ft (1,637 m) deep – more than one mile straight down.

Geoengineering: is this the right solution for climate change?

By Marcelo Kawanami

David Keith

Hello everyone! I know we have been absent from the blog lately, but things are quite busyat Gamiing Nature Centre with our workshops and programs. This Sunday (May 18th) we will host our famous Frog Call Identification Workshop! This is a great workshop for the entire family to enjoy the spring in our Centre and learn more about the native frogs and toads.

 

Today I would like to share with you a great interview sent by Mieke Schipper with David Keith regarding a controversial topic called geoengineering. Geoengineering is the deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system with the aim of reducing global warming.

GeoengineeringClimate engineering has two categories of technologies- carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management (SRM). Just as an example, SRM techniques aim to reflect a small proportion of the Sun’s energy back into space, counteracting the temperature rise caused by increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which absorb energy and raise temperatures.

This is a very polemic topic once the interference of engineering techniques in order to revert global warming can also negatively impact the environment. Below I selected some links for you guys to know more about this topic. Share your thoughts with us regarding geo-engineering!!! Do you think geoengineering is a possible solution to climate change?

Interview with David Keith: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/04/13/david_keith_makes_the_case_for_geoengineering.html

Oxford GeoEngineering Programme: http://www.geoengineering.ox.ac.uk/what-is-geoengineering/what-is-geoengineering/

GeoengineeringWatch.org: http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/

Global Insights: China

By Marcelo Kawanami

China has rapidly emerged as a global super economic power. Nevertheless, the country’s environment is significantly suffering with this fast development. Without proper environmental policies and regulations, China has accumulated huge environmental debts that will have to be paid back.

Fishermen row a boat in the algae-filled Chaohu Lake in Hefei, Anhui province

Lack of waste removal and proper processing has exacerbated the problem; almost 90% of underground water in cities and 70% of China’s rivers and lakes are now polluted. Combined with negligent farming practices, the water crisis has turned China’s arable land into desert, which today claims around 27.5% of China’s total land mass.

Some 400 million Chinese lives are affected by desertification, according to the government, and the World Bank estimates that the overall cost of water scarcity associated with pollution is around 147 billion RMB, or roughly 1 percent of GDP. exacerbated the problem; almost 90%of underground water in cities and 70% of China’s rivers and lakes are now polluted. Combined with negligent farming practices, the water crisis has turned China’s arable land into desert, which today claims around 27.5% of China’s total land mass.

Pond filled with dead fish on the outskirts of Wuhan, central China's Hubei provinceThe water pollution of rivers and lakes in China is critical and is severely affecting villagers that rely on these natural sources to survive. Just to have an idea, a recent report conducted by WHO (World Health Organization) estimated that nearly 100,000 people die annually from water pollution-related illnesses in China.

The lack of environmental regulations coupled with economic development of emerging countries is significantly impacting the nature. Increasing the awareness towards this topic is the first step to take the first action!

Global Insights: Colombia

By Marcelo Kawanami

Tota Landscape

Our trip around the main water resources in the globe and their current situation continues. Today we will explore Lake Tota in the beautiful Colombia, a country that is emerging as an economic power in Latin America. Lake Tota is the largest lake in Colombia and it is located in the department of Boyacá. A vital water source for the country, the lake is key to the tourism and also the ecosystem of the country. The iconic Lake Tota is the habitat for local wildlife, including several threatened or endangered bird species. Additionally, many cities surrounding the lake rely on this water resource for consumption and agriculture.

Nevertheless, the same agriculture that relies on the lake is also destroying it. The department of Boyacá, where the lake is located, is one of the main producers of onion in the region. The pesticides and fertilizers used in the cultivation of onions are strongly polluting the lake.

Many organizations are fighting for the lake’s protection, which recently gained global headlines but not for positive reasons.  I attached a video from BBC talking about the lake.

One of the main organizations that is focused in the social-environmental balance of the lake is Fundación Montecito (http://www.fundacionmontecito.org/). I strongly recommend everyone to visit their website and check out their projects and actions.

Global Insights: Nicaragua

By Marcelo Kawanami

This week we land in Central America. In 2007 I had the great privilege of visiting Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America. Still unexplored in comparison to its neighboring countries, Nicaragua has a natural landscape composed by volcanoes and lakes. The two main lakes are Lake Nicaragua, which is the largest in Central America, and Lake Managua, also known as Lake Xolotlan. Both lakes are the largest bodies of fresh water in the region.

Nicaragua’s lakes are also known for its unique biodiversity. For example, Lake Nicaragua, despite being a freshwater lake, has sawfish, tarpon, and sharks! Initially, scientists thought the sharks in the lake belonged to an endemic species, the Lake Nicaragua Shark (Carcharhinus nicaraguensis). In 1961, following comparisons of specimens, the Lake Nicaragua Shark was synonymized with the widespread bull shark, a species also known for entering freshwater elsewhere around the world.

Both lakes are extremely important for the local and regional ecosystem. Nevertheless, the lakes have been severely polluted, mostly by decades of sewage being dumped into them. Lake Managua is the most critical one, where Nicaragua’s capital, also name Managua, lies on in its southwestern shore. Many communities rely on the fishing sources of the lake in order to survive.

Organizations focused on the preservation of lake shores from around the globe have turned their attention into Lake Managua. The video above explains the importance of the lake and one of the greatest projects implemented in the country in order to clean Lake Managua. The implementation of the water treatment plant was a big kick-off for cleaning up this natural resource.

Despite intensive cleaning campaigns and projects, the lake still need a lot of improvement. Below you can find some local organizations that fight for the protection of the environment and, above all, try to integrate communities into the local ecosystem:

• Adic: http://www.adicnicaragua.org/
• Fundenic: http://www.fundenic.org.ni/