Monday, March 8, 2010

An eyewitness account of global warming, from Will Steger

I belong to a LinkedIn group that is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Recently they invited Will Steger, the famed Arctic and Antarctic explorer, to share insights he has gained through four decades of travel across the world’s ice caps.

I wasn't able to attend the original presentation, but a link to the recorded version is available online. The introduction and core presentation take about 37 minutes. You’ll be glad you took the time, when you click here to see the presentation.

© 2010 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

If you're close to water, you might find some of these stories interesting

If you’re ever cleaned-up a dump site, this blog will bring a smile to your face. It explains how some conservation officers in Missouri tracked-down some dumpers with a little basic detective work.

Closer to home, the amazing prospect of water shortages in the land of lakes. This story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune explains how suburbs could over-tap ground water supplies in the not-so-distant future, and force more cities to drink from the Mississippi.

A question of cost-efficiency and compliance in Minnesota’s DNR set-aside program. In another story from the Star Tribune, questions are raised with regard to the amount spent on conservation easements and whether greater monitoring is in order.

A generous contribution to a big-name river group. A catalog company called “Orvis” plans to donate up to $120,000 to American Rivers, which intends to focus on two specific rivers as benefactors of the gift.

Family compensated for devoting land to conservation. A Florida program provides aid toward private conservation efforts, but might not be enough to protect the land from development, due to property tax rates.

Some of these stories illustrate just how much money changes hands in the name of conservation, stewardship, or environmental protection. I’m not sure why it’s so expensive to say, “clean-up after yourself,” and “don’t wreck the place, other people will need it when you’re long gone.”

© 2010 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

One step forward and two steps back

Forward: Vermont story update. In the middle of February, I wrote a posting that mentioned a nuclear power plant in Vermont that was leaking tritium. Since that time, the state senate has voted to not renew the plant's operating permit when its current license expires in 2012. See this update from the February 26 edition of the New York Times.

Back: The Supreme Court gives us a tough Act to follow. Also from the New York Times (2/28/10 issue) comes this storyabout how recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have severely weakened regulators ability to enforce the Clean Water Act of 1972. (The story is part of the impressive "Toxic Waters" series from the NY Times, which I highly recommend.)

It is hard to assume this situation is anything but political; arguments center on the meaning of the word "navigable" as it relates to whether a waterway can be regulated. It has always been my understanding of the Act that "navigable waters" mean any waterway which can be navigated by any watercraft, based on that waterway's annual high-water mark. In other words, if the river, stream or connected lake can be navigated during the high waters typically associated with a spring thaw, it is protected. But now, the spirit of the law has apparently been neutered. (I guess it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.")

Here's hoping the legislature can bring clarity to the meaning of the law, before the courts and their interests are allowed to irreparably "muddy the water." For more about the Clean Water Act, and how it was fought for, I highly recommend a book called The Riverkeepers, as explained in an article I wrote back in December, 2008. Or, visit the EPA website by clicking here.

Perhaps all of this is further support that when it comes to conservation, many things are beyond our control; those things within our reach must be addressed.

© 2010 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.