Advocates for access to long-awaited shared solar in Virginia continue to plug along despite being jolted by a pair of policy setbacks this winter.
For one, they fear a $55 monthly utility customer fee proposed in mid-February will quash a nascent residential program set to roll out in Dominion Energy territory next year.
Then, on the heels of that announcement, the General Assembly opted to deep-six three measures designed to spur shared solar in rural Virginia, replacing that legislation with yet more studies on the topic.
The takeaway? The State Corporation Commission will likely be determining the fate of Dominion’s program while that same regulatory body guides the outline of future shared solar options in the countryside. Read the full article.
See below also, my novel about heat and water issues in Tucson, Arizona. Learn how different cultures respond to living in hot places with limited water. Consider the wildlife affected by human induced climate and follow Duma, a jaguar in the Sierra Madre Plateau. We can solve this problem and live better.
The National Collaborating Centre on Environmental Health in Canada prepared this very helpful document on health checks during extreme heat events. Download and keep it with you and your family or coworkers if you are in extreme heat events.
The chart below shows the relative humidity and temperature and how they interplay to create lethal conditions such as heat stroke and death. See the second chart below which is in Celsius for recommendations to protect yourself.
I know the Colorado River where it flows through canals across sweltering fields of lettuce, and where it runs under highways, past skyscrapers and homes. It spreads over shallows where it rises into a cerulean sky to join with clouds.
Yet, the ghost of another river abides here, too.
My first encounter with the Colorado River occurred as I travelled over the Laguna Mountains in California into the Imperial Valley of southern Arizona. My body understood before my brain that I had entered a place of tight margins.
It was early March. I thought the region would be cool. As I reached the desert floor—a descent of 6,000 feet—the temperature rose and the balmy sea air from which I had emerged, dried into hot metal fumes off the hood of my truck. Air streamed hot and unfriendly past the open windows. Yet I was surrounded by a surreal sight of sprinklers throwing arcs of water over row upon row of broccoli and lettuce. Discovering farms in a desert initiated my long meditation on the conundrum of how 40M people came to live in a place where water is the limiting factor, where life balances on a sharp edge.
At the time I did not know that I was meeting the river itself.
In Yuma, Arizona I instructed children descended from the River People who were among my middle school students. Through them I learned the long history of human settlement along the river. For them history reached back thousands of years. Their culture observed the river’s spring floods and tranquil summer flow by moving to the hills when it flooded, returning as it receded to plant crops in the flood plains. They were expert fishers. Legends of people walking across the river on the backs of abundant fish persist in memory. They hunted game in the mesquite forests and among the reedy banks of the river developing a sustainable technology and material culture.
When the first Europeans began to explore the area, one tribe alone had an estimated 20,000 people living above and below what is now the U.S. – Mexico border. Today, desert people abide in and around current day metropolises of the American West. The old cultures knew how to live well on the land under their feet—knowledge that persists to this day.
Read about the history of the Cocopah Nation in Yuma, Arizona.
Fast forward to the 20th century. The United States sent John Wesley Powell to answer a question: “Could the West be farmed like the eastern half of the United States?” Powell made three expeditions to determine the feasibility of farming and city-making in dry lands. A scientist, he studied the watersheds, which was logical. He consulted native people, farmers, and cattle owners. His answer to the lawmakers was not popular. He reported that any development in the west should be done according to the watershed and a set of rules. Annual rainfall for replenishment of ground water would provide the limitations for growth. For example, if a farmer buys land in dry country, he should pay to bring that water to his enterprise and observe the natural recharge limits.
Powell mapped the available water sources. He had lost an arm in the Civil War making his accomplishments even more astounding, including navigation through the Grand Canyon by raft and boat when the Colorado was still running free and fierce.
Congress and colluding business tycoons paid no heed to Powell’s report (1879), lusting over the profits. They asserted that the country could prevail over nature, somehow, someway, with massive dams, canals, and all manner of concrete and steel. The river became the locked and labored one that I came to know. Now, a record drought, dwindling ground water, and water wars over a jerry-rig of litigation known as the Law of the River, exhibits their folly. Forty million people face a doubtful future.
What gives me hope is the knowledge that the Colorado River Indian Tribes exist today. Could they lead us out of this crisis? Help us reset to a new relationship with the river?
Over my years of meditating on “the water issue,” I have imagined that not too far in the future children bicycling through abandoned roadways, past forlorn and silent high rises, might ask their parents, “What place is this? What happened here?”
Preposterous, you say. What could be more so than what we created in a land where life exists in narrow margins? A river has a body and a spirit that is interrelated with ours and all living creatures that imbibe its life-giving waters. That is not fiction but science and lived experience. These principles can never be violated without consequences. Eventually the river dies and all life dependent upon it. Desert peoples observed, experimented and then fit their lifeways to the river’s way. That is what we must learn to do, using our advanced technologies to mimic nature’s circular systems that regenerate energy and recycle materials.
When I moved to Tucson, the first night there I attended a poetry reading by a Tohono O’Odham elder who described her childhood living in a one-room adobe far from the nearest river. Ofelia Zepeda’s nation captured water from rainfall during the summer monsoon. The people practiced “dry” farming in which no irrigation was available, only rainfall and gratitude. She told us how the old women pulled the rainclouds from the sky with their harvesting sticks. I was moved by her beautiful poems and stories.
Upon walking to my car, thunder rolled above and a deafening crack of lightening played in a vast display across the heavens. Dark monsoon clouds released buckets of rain that filled streets, making gullies in the soil, and immediately chilling the air. It was July and the monsoon rains. For me it was a baptism, an initiation and welcome to the real and living desert.
Every once in a while a book comes along that resets the compass of writing. Lorne Rothman’s tale, Southcrop Forest, sets a new standard for ecological literature.
An exciting tale about Auja, a young red oak, and Fur– a collective conscience from a colony of tent caterpillars–Rothman has created an eco-fable as magical as a Tolkien adventure even as he teaches forest ecology. We learn about the imperiled state of the forests at the hands of “hewmans.”
Auja lives in Southcrop Forest where trees retain the ability to communicate across the land through their roots, soil, and leaves–Southcrop Vision. Forests were once connected across the world and could communicate by feeling each others sensations. That was before the hewmans cut down the trees, separating forests by false rock (roads or highways) and their rapacious machines chewed down ancient trees and killed the farms that had kept them alive for eons.
As the story opens, we learn that Southcrop Forest is on the verge of destruction. Auja awakes full of hope and joy, glorying in the sunlight, when the remembrance of their doomed future makes her boughs droop. She is watching a group of fuzzy caterpillars nibbling away in her canopy when suddenly a voice speaks to her! At first Auja thinks it is her fellow trees who whisper continuously but then she realizes the voice is coming from the colony of tent caterpillars. Fur introduces herself to Auja and explains that her colony is a Rune–an ancient being that arose at a Gathering of trees and people a thousand years before.
Guide Oak, a wise being, guides Auja to engage Fur to travel to the Dark Forest (Boreal Forest) to obtain a special gift and take it to Deep Sky where it will save the forests to the north of Southcrop. And thus, the epic journey begins.
Along the way readers learn about the life cycle of the tent caterpillars, their viral and insect predators; the ancient geological history of the land and how trees repopulated the earth after the Big Ice (ice age.)
The mysterious “gift” is the Holy Grail Fur toils to find. He must cross the false trails, battle rogue wasps and a viral plague that infects the forests he travels through.
Rothman, a zoologist, provides young readers with endnotes rich with scientific nomenclature; Old Norse lore; Native American history; chemistry and climate change science which can be easily used in a classroom or enrich the understanding of young and adult readers alike.
This book offers the reader a blend of the magical with the hard realities of the human ecological footprint on the natural world. Through nonhuman characters we see the folly of the “hewman” (a brilliant play on words) from wisdom that understands the web of life as the source of life itself.
The last sentence in the story makes me believe Rothman plans a sequel. I hope so. Southcrop Forest should be required reading for all youth–a textbook and a legend for a new generation and an ecological age.
Dr. Timothy Snyder published On Tyranny, a short, pocket-sized book, in 2017 after we began to understand Donald Trump and his radical right wing Republicans, as a threat to our democratic way of life. Even conservative Republicans have defined this group of Republicans as a “clear and present danger” to our democratic way of life.
Heather Cox Richardson, historian and author of Letter to Americans podcast, gives an especially cogent and concise explanation of “where we are post Roe”.
When I wrote Threshold, I lived in the Sonoran Desert in Tucson. Later I moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Both places are hot and getting hotter. Too little water or too much water are the respective outcomes for these distinct regions in the United States on the Fourth of July.
When I was writing Threshold, climate change science was rapidly developing but still considered the domain of zealots.
The fact that the Earth is warming is indisputable. The average increase between 2009 to 2018 was 1.34 degrees Fahrenheit. While that may seem small this is a complex figure calculated from average temperatures across the planet, from very cold to very hot. Total surface area of the Earth is billions of square meters. For the average temperature to rise takes a huge amount of energy.
Humans being the complex species that we are, we ignore signs of impending problems when we feel unable to do anything about it. We stick our heads in the sand. That response spells trouble for us.
Read a review about Threshold, then pick up a copy. Its worth the study of how various people react and respond. The book is not a dystopia but a realistic look at how I believe the near future might unfold based on my experience.