Nadja Popovich: Lake Ice Future

New York Times:

In a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists for the first time quantified the effects of rising temperatures on ice cover across 1.4 million lakes in the Northern Hemisphere. They found that, from Wisconsin to Japan, thousands of lakes that used to freeze reliably every winter already see some years without ice, and that “an extensive loss of lake ice will occur within the next generation.”

The vanishing ice will affect cold-water ecosystems and be felt by millions of people who live near northern lakes, the study said.

The study.

Cody Nelson: The Boundary Waters Future


The Boundary Waters may seem unchangeable and stoic. But humankind’s actions over time are far too much for nature. If you know where to look, you can already see the Boundary Waters transforming from a lush forest into a desolate grassland. Warmer temperatures caused by human greenhouse gas emissions are letting maple and oak to start invading the region.

”Later on when the summers get really hot, because it’s shallow rocky soil, most of the trees will die and it will end up being savannah,” said University of Minnesota forest ecologist Lee Frelich. “So grassland with scattered oak trees.” The Boundary Waters’ eventual transition to a savannah, as predicted by research from Frelich and others, is a stunning example of how climate change will affect Minnesota...

Jacques Leslie: Self-Driving Cars - Utopia or Dystopia?


Automated cars, often referred to as “autonomous vehicles” (AVs) — whose passengers determine their routes without having to drive them — are being widely developed and tested, and probably will be used commercially in controlled settings within a few years. Lyft, Uber, and others have introduced ride-sharing, in which customers agree to travel with strangers in return for reduced fares. Put all three concepts together in one vehicle, posit that within a few decades this shared EV-AV technology will take over the nation’s automobile fleet, and the outcome seems environmentally irresistible, verging on fantastical.

But it’s equally plausible that the vision may turn out to be a mirage. Automated vehicles may eventually be widely adopted, but if the fleet is not electrified using renewable energy, or car sharing fails to take off, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution could actually increase. A study last year by University of California, Davis researchers projected that if vehicles are automated but not electrified or shared, greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector would go up 50 percent by 2050 compared to business as usual. But if shared, electrified, automated vehicles flourish, greenhouse gas emissions could plunge by 80 percent, the study concluded⁠.

Andy Balaskovitz: Offshore Wind on the Great Lakes


Eight miles north of Cleveland in Lake Erie, the Icebreaker Wind project is poised to become the first offshore wind project in the Great Lakes. The project, lured by LEEDCo, is owned by Icebreaker Wind Power through the Norway-based investor Fred. Olsen Renewables. Pending federal and state approval, developers anticipate construction will begin in 2020 on the six-turbine, 20.7 MW project.

Some renewable energy advocates hope Icebreaker will catalyze further Great Lakes offshore wind development by settling economic, environmental and regulatory concerns. Skeptics fear it could be a one-off demonstration that is unlikely to be scaled up. And opponents like the North American Platform Against Wind Power and others with concerns about aesthetics, renewable energy or potential impacts on wildlife worry it will lead to a flood of projects throughout the region.

Walker Angell: Bicycles Benefits

Bicycles are arguably the most efficient form of transportation there is. Over 4 times faster than walking and they can carry heavier loads. Bicycling requires much less infrastructure, maintenance, and space than motor vehicles and are massively more affordable for individuals and communities.

Dave Orrick: Walleye Decline with Global Warming

Pioneer Press:

Natural walleye lakes could be a rarity in Wisconsin by mid-century, thanks to climate change, a new study warns. And the largemouth bass shall inherit the warmer waters — and flourish, the government-funded study further predicts.

By as soon as 2040, a mere 4 percent of Wisconsin lakes might be able to support naturally sustained walleye populations — a 60 percent reduction from today — while the number of lakes conducive to high-abundance largemouth bass populations could rise to 89 percent, up from 60 percent today, according to the study, co-authored by researchers from state and federal agencies...

The bass-walleye transformation isn’t new. For 30 years, researchers have watched traditional walleye lakes become bass-dominated lakes, often to the chagrin of anglers and cabin owners. The root cause is not known for certain, but it correlates with lakes getting warmer as summers have grown hotter and winters have become shorter and less severe, said Gretchen Hansen, the study’s lead author. The warming climate is a likely culprit because biologists have long established that in similar lakes, walleyes dominate in cooler waters and largemouth bass in warmer waters.

Philip Warburg: Floating Solar

Yale Environment 360:

Floating solar panel arrays are increasingly being deployed in places as diverse as Brazil and Japan. One prime spot for these “floatovoltaic” projects could be the sunbaked U.S. Southwest, where they could produce clean energy and prevent evaporation in major man-made reservoirs.

The Colorado River’s two great reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are in retreat. Multi-year droughts and chronic overuse have taken their toll, to be sure, but vast quantities of water are also lost to evaporation. What if the same scorching sun that causes so much of this water loss were harnessed for electric power?

Installing floating solar photovoltaic arrays, sometimes called “floatovoltaics,” on a portion of these two reservoirs in the southwestern United States could produce clean, renewable energy while shielding significant expanses of water from the hot desert sun.

Janet Marinelli: When is a Plant Native?

Yale Environment 360:

Among the plants that survive on the family property where [Emily] Dickinson confined herself for much of her adult life are picturesque old trees called umbrella magnolias (Magnolia tripetala) — so named because their leaves, which can reach two feet long, radiate out from the ends of branches like the spokes of an umbrella.

The trees, believed to have been planted by Emily’s brother Austin, have jumped the garden gate in recent decades and established wild populations not far from the poet’s home. This new location is a couple of hundred miles north of the tree’s native range, centered in the sheltered woods and ravines of the Appalachian Mountains, and is the first evidence that native plant horticulture in the United States “is giving some species a head-start on climate change,” according to Smith College biologist Jesse Bellemare.

Ironically, the denizen of the Dickinson homestead is also challenging basic precepts of conservation practice, such as what is the definition of “native”? Are climate refugees that hitchhike north via horticulture less worthy of protection than plants that arrive on their own? Do they pose a threat to existing native species? Should native plant gardening, the domestic form of assisted migration, be used to help plants stranded in inhospitable habitat?

Who are you to judge the merits of a new arrival? Remember species are judged based on our values -- the ecosystem does not care. See ‘My Science Articles’ for an article on non-native species management that is just creating environmental wrecks.

For more information on Emily Dickinson's gardens see this recent New York Times article.

Thompson and Rogers: Global Warming Threatens Lake Trout

Thunder Bay News:

Warming water from climate change is beginning to encroach on the habitat of Northwestern Ontario’s cold water fish. Research conducted at the Experimental Lakes Area shows the region’s temperature has warmed 0.4 C over each of the last five decades. Shorter winters are heating surface water and delaying lake trout spawning.

The runoff from increasing summer rain is causing a tea-like discolouration, affecting the water’s heat distribution and compounding the change. Added together, fish biologist Lee Hrenchuk can see consequences for aquatic ecosystems beginning to show.

“The average size of an adult fish has been decreasing over time and we’re seeing this mostly in the cold water fish species that are really dependent on having good spring periods and good fall periods where they can do a lot of eating,” Hrenchuk said.

Kevin Duffy: Rare Orchid Threatened with Global Warming

Great Lakes Echo:

As climate change threatens wet landscapes with persistent and intense droughts, natural resource managers look for ways to preserve the remaining habitats of the rare species that dwell in them.

It’s not easy. “There’s a big problem with managing climate sensitive species,” said Sue Galatowitsch, professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at the University of Minnesota.

That problem – the uncertainty of the future climate – was the focus of a recent study of how best to protect a rare orchid in Minnesota called the small white lady’s slipper.

“Management of very specific, local sites is important because conservation is really a boots on the ground effort,” Galatowitsch said. State plans guide policy, but day-to-day decision-making usually happens one place or person at a time.

Adam Nagourney, Jack Healy and Nelson D. Schwartz: California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth

New York Times:

For more than a century, California has been the state where people flocked for a better life — 164,000 square miles of mountains, farmland and coastline, shimmering with ambition and dreams, money and beauty. It was the cutting-edge symbol of possibility: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, aerospace, agriculture and vineyards.

But now a punishing drought — and the unprecedented measures the state announced last week to compel people to reduce water consumption — is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature.

Great pictures and a story that asks difficult questions challenging our paradigm of technical solutions to limits of nature. 

In 2050

Martin Rees, writing for the New Statesman:

Jody Amiet/AFP/Getty

Jody Amiet/AFP/Getty

I quote Wells because he reflects the mix of optimism and anxiety – and of speculation and science – which I’ll try to offer in this lecture. Were he writing today, he would have been elated by our expanded vision of life and the cosmos – but he’d have been even more anxious about the perils we might face. The stakes are indeed getting higher: new science offers huge opportunities but its consequences could jeopardise our survival. Many are concerned that it is ‘running away’ so fast that neither politicians nor the lay public can assimilate or cope with it...

My theme was this. Earth is 45 million centuries old. But this century is the first when one species – ours – can determine the biosphere’s fate. I didn’t think we’d wipe ourselves out. But I did think we’d be lucky to avoid devastating setbacks. That’s because of unsustainable anthropogenic stresses to ecosystems, because there are more of us (world population is higher) and we’re all more demanding of resources. And – most important of all – because we’re empowered by new technology, which exposes us to novel vulnerabilities.

And we’ve had one lucky escape already.

Reckless are we. Matters are may get worse.

Procrastination on Global Warming Means Coasts Will Continue Flooding

Simon Buckle, writing for IFLScience:

Pete Markham, CC BY-SA

Pete Markham, CC BY-SA

In terms of the physical science, there are perhaps three key headline messages: human influence on the climate system is clear; warming of the climate system is unequivocal; limiting the risks from climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of GHG emissions.

Mitigating our use of fossil fuels lies right at the heart of an effective response to climate change. While a 2°C target remains technically feasible, achieving it will be extremely challenging. The IPCC’s mitigation report compared hundreds of energy modelling scenarios that strongly suggest that to achieve a 2°C target, global GHG emissions would need to be around 40-70% lower than 2010 levels by 2050 and near zero by 2100.

Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
AR5 provides a clear and up to date view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change. It consists of three Working Group (WG) reports and a Synthesis Report (SYR). 

Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases.


If into the reasons for our procrastination you go, only pain will you find. Greed, denial, and delusion. Your science, save you it will not in a world of corruption and immediate profit.

Human-Assisted Migration

Greg Breining, writing for Ensia:

During the last two springs, contract planters for The Nature Conservancy have spread out through the pine, spruce and aspen forest of northeastern Minnesota. Wielding steel hoedads, they have planted almost 110,000 tree seedlings on public land.

What’s noteworthy about planting trees in a forest? Usually foresters plant seedlings grown from seeds harvested nearby, on the assumption that local genotypes are best suited to local conditions. But these TNC workers were planting red and bur oak (which are uncommon in northern Minnesota) from seed sources more than 200 miles to the southwest, and white pine from as far away as the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, 400 miles to the southeast.

TNC is anticipating a day soon — within the lifespan of a tree — when a changing climate may make the forest unsuitable for some tree species and varieties that now live there. Projections for northeastern Minnesota predict warmer and possibly drier conditions — bad news for the boreal species such as white spruce, balsam fir and paper birch that have defined the forest here for centuries. But a warmer, drier climate would likely make the area better suited for species such as oaks.

Helping trees move with change, patience you must have my young padawan.

Poverty Moving to the Suburbs

Reihan Salam, writing for Slate:

Jim Rees, Flickr

Jim Rees, Flickr

You might be wondering why poor families are moving to the suburbs in large numbers—the number of suburban poor grew more than twice as quickly as the number of urban poor between 2000 and 2011—if they are such hard places for poor people to get ahead. Part of it is that as middle- and high-income households moved to the suburbs, the low-wage workers who look after their children had little choice but to follow. Then there is the fact that as America’s most productive cities experience a revival, gentrification is displacing low-income families to outlying neighborhoods and towns.

Before we can understand what makes some suburbs so miserable, we first have to understand what makes others succeed. The most successful suburban neighborhoods fall into two categories. First, there are the dense and walkable ones that, like the most successful urban neighborhoods, have town centers that give local residents easy access to retail and employment opportunities. These neighborhoods generally include a mix of single-family homes and apartment buildings, which allows for different kinds of families and adults at different stages of life to share in the same local amenities. The problem with these urban suburbs, as Christopher Leinberger recounts in his 2009 book The Option of Urbanism, is that there are so few of them, and this scarcity fuels the same kind of gentrification that is driving poor people out of successful cities.

Density matters, ... Look at the suburbs. Judge them by walkability, do you? Save them you can't. 

A City in Denmark with Low Waste

William F. Hewitt, writing for ENIA:

Symbiosis Center

Symbiosis Center

“In 2006, 85 percent of our production was coming from, you can call it ‘black’ fossil fuels, the rest from green sources,” says Niels Christian Kjær, a top executive at DONG Energy and past president of the Kalundborg Symbiosis. “By 2040, we will switch that number: 85 percent will be green energy.”

With support from the central and municipal governments and the European Union, along with the companies, Kalundborg has attracted the attention of business people and investors, policy makers and students from all over the world who come to learn how they can create their own industrial symbiosis. In 2014 alone, it’s had visitors from Turkey, Thailand, Finland, Sweden, Kenya and Denmark, representing a farmers’ association, a development agency, an industrial think tank, an environmental institute, a waste management company, and several universities and high schools.

“What is excellent about Kalundborg is that the town hall has full focus in this,” says Kjær. “They want to be the leading town, number one in innovation. They want to have people come from all over the world to learn and say, ‘Wow.’”

To be Sustainable is to face the truth, and choose. Capture energy, or light. Be a recycler, or eliminate waste.

Rewilding Europe: reconstructing ecosystems by looking mostly forward

Elizabeth Kolbert, writing for The New Yorker:

The newest land in Europe could be used to create a Paleolithic landscape. The biologists set about stocking the Oostvaardersplassen with the sorts of animals that would have inhabited the region in prehistoric times—had it not at that point been underwater. In many cases, the animals had been exterminated, so they had to settle for the next best thing. For example, in place of the aurochs, a large and now extinct bovine, they brought in Heck cattle...

Perhaps it’s true that genuine wildernesses can only be destroyed, but new “wilderness,” what the Dutch call “new nature,” can be created. Every year, tens of thousands of acres of economically marginal farmland in Europe are taken out of production. Why not use this land to produce “new nature” to replace what’s been lost? The same basic idea could, of course, be applied outside of Europe—it’s been proposed, for example, that depopulated expanses of the American Midwest are also candidates for rewinding....

As more aurochs remains have been unearthed and more sophisticated research has been done on them, it’s become clear that the Heck brothers’ creation is a far cry from the original—Heck cattle are too small, their horns have the wrong shape, and the proportions of their bodies are off. All of which has led to a new, de-Nazified effort to back-breed the aurochs. This project is based in the Dutch city of Nijmegen, about fifty miles southeast of Amsterdam, and is entirely independent of the Oostvaardersplassen. Still, it reflects much the same can-do, “what is lost is not lost forever” approach to conservation.

We should increase the biodiversity of our domesticated places and conserve species diversity in our wild places. With regard to 'New Nature', we can admire the beauty of organisms regardless how they arrived in the dynamic, very changing world we also live in.

May you be with Nature. May Nature be with you.


How to Elevate the Twin Cities

Jay Walljasper, writing for MinnPost:

As to improving life for those who are struggling economically, Penalosa recommends: “There is nothing that government could do that would have a higher impact on middle-class families than to enable them to switch from two cars to one, and for poor families to switch from one to none.” In a region like Minneapolis-St. Paul, he says, two-car suburban families typically spend 27 percent of their income on transportation.
Jeremiah Peterson

Jeremiah Peterson

Yes, a city's strength flows from public transportation. But beware of the dark side. Sprawl, suburbia, lack of transportation options; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did most cities in North America.

Reuse: The Next Wave for Water Conservation

Rachel Cernansky, writing for ENSIA: 

Today, due mainly to increasing drought conditions and groundwater depletion, nonpotable uses are expanding. Municipalities are figuring out more ways to treat sewage less like waste and more like a resource. In addition to watering golf greens, recycled water is being used for street cleaning, fire-fighting, geothermal energy production, preventing seawater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, industrial processing, commercial laundering, restoring natural wetlands and creating constructed wetlands.

“Everything that goes down the drain here is treated and reused,” says Greg Flores, vice president of public affairs for the San Antonio Water System, citing university campuses, the San Antonio River Walk, and Toyota and Microsoft facilities as examples.

The more notable change, however, is that a growing number of municipalities are shifting toward or considering “potable reuse” — recycling wastewater into drinking water.
Steve Crise, AWWA

Steve Crise, AWWA

Do not assume anything. Clear your mind must be if you are to discover the real benefits of water reuse.

Neither Growth nor Greed Is Good

John R. Ehrenfeld, writing on his blog:

One of the usual arguments I get after talking about Flourishing, is that economic growth is necessary for the health or a nation and of the businesses within it, and that my way to flourishing requiring an alternative to such growth is either flawed or simply impossible. Before attempting to clarify my reasoning, let me say, categorically, that I do not claim that growth is inherently bad. I argue that the state of the world is such that continuing growth is producing unintended consequences that outweigh whatever benefits accompany it. I am not attacking the neoclassical economic models that lead to the necessity of growth on ideological grounds although there are plenty of such grounds for this tack. My view springs from a non-ideological, pragmatic, systems framework.
Children of Men

Children of Men

Greed is the path to the dark side. Greed leads to exploitation. Exploitation leads to destruction. Destruction leads to suffering.