Yes, California is STILL in a drought emergency…fake lawns, anyone?

California Drought 2014 web

Brown is the new green?  Brown grass — or alternatives to green lawns — SHOULD be the new normal for many lawns in California.

It’s been over six months since California declared a drought emergency with the goal of reducing 20% of our water use.

Instead, water use actually increased this year!

How is this possible?  Many areas of California closed out year 2013 as the driest in recorded history.  

Yet three years into this drought — and despite wide local (and National) media coverage and attention — water use has gone up.

Do people not watch the news, don’t care, are selfish and do not see this drought as a real and long-term problem? Are there not enough Public Service Announcements (PSAs) or are people ignoring the PSAs?

It could be too that unlike floods, fires or other emergencies, drought is gradual…so as long as water comes out of our faucets and water hoses, perhaps we don’t think of it as a real emergency?

A couple of days ago, California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved regulations to allow local law and water organizations to fine water wasters up to $500 per day (e.g., for hosing down sidewalks, washing cars with free-flowing hoses, excessive lawn watering).

I wonder if the threat of a $500 fine will make a difference.  What will it take to get the point to California residents that we are in a serious situation.  Is it because water is too inexpensive for the average California consumer?

By the way, near our neighborhood a new lawn made from artificial grass is in process of getting installed…

Are your neighbors doing something similar or xeriscaping — installing llandscapes or gardens that minimizes or eliminates water needs?

I have always disliked plastic plants and especially plastic flowers, but the fake (no water EVER needed) lawn if you must have a green front yard?  Hmmm….

Related Links: California Department of Water Resources and Sunset Magazine article Should you fake the lawn?

Mosquito bites and the chickungunya virus

A viral disease called chickungunya is now being spread by mosquitoes in the US.   Oh great…one more thing to worry about with mosquito bites.

Types of mosquitos spreading CHIKV virus

Chikungunya (CHIKV) is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Most common are the mosquito types on this photos (Aedes spp., predominantly Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus).  These mosquitos are the same type that spread dengue fever.  They bite in the daytime.  Photo via CDC website.

Have you heard about chickungunya?

The first outbreak of the disease was in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The name ‘chikungunya’ is from a word in the Kimakonde language (spoken in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique) that means “to become contorted” or “that which bends up”.

It describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.  Signs and symptoms also include a sudden start of fever often accompanied by joint pain. Other symptoms are muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days.

Most infected patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several weeks or months, or even years.  The good news is that deaths from chikungunya are rare.

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted – map via the US CDC

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chikungunya (CHIKVI) has occurred in Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, CHIKVI was found for the first time on islands in the Caribbean.

chik-inbound-english-tSince then, CHIKVI has been found in multiple countries or territories in the Caribbean, Central America, or South America, and now in the US.

NOTE: In California, the mosquito Aedes albopictus (one of the types that spread CHIKV) are found in Southern and Central California.

Its habitat are small containers and old tires.

As there are no known vaccine or medication, the CDC advice is to reduce your exposure by:

There are currently no antiviral medicines to treat the chikungunya virus. However, there are medicines to reduce the fever and pain experienced by those exposed to the virus.  For more details, visit the CDC’s website about chikungunya, here.

yellow fever mosquito

Photo via montereycountymosquito.com

Also visit Monterey County Mosquito website, here:  Excerpt:

The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti is a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses, and other diseases. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the thorax. The mosquito originated in Africa but is now found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world, now including many parts of California.

And by the way, there is also a measles outbreak now, which originated in the Philippines!  Over forty-thousand cases were reported in the Philippines between January to May, 2014.  More on the measles outbreak, here, including information on what travelers can do to protect themselves if traveling to the Philippines.

Blog post information source from the U.S. CDC and World Health Organization (WHO)

An encounter with a (not so scary) snake

Backyard snake Monterey County CA 1

I’m sure my intense fear of snakes stems from an  encounter with a huge snake when I was around 5 years old.

We lived near a rice field in the province of Bulacan (Luzon island in the Philippines).

While I was in the outhouse (an outdoor bathroom) by myself, the snake crept inside through the gap between the bamboo door and the dirt floor.

I froze in fear, and then let out the loudest scream I could summon.  Shortly after, I heard my mother running towards me and then right outside the outhouse door.

I was too frightened to move and unhinge the door, so my mother had to break the door to get to me — and not so easy to do as she was in the late stage of being pregnant with my brother.

Perhaps because of my screaming, or maybe it was really interested or following something else, the snake was gone by the time my mother got through the door.

Rice Fields and mountain background

Rice fields in the Philippines, coconut trees and mountain backdrop. Photo Lolako.com

Since venomous sakes — including the Philippine spitting cobra, one of the most venomous snakes in the world — often hunt for rodents in rice fields near where we lived, a group of neighbors, with their machetes firmly in hand, formed a line at the rice fields behind the outhouse to look for the snake.  I can’t remember if they caught it.

Rice-Field-Almost-Ready-for-Harvest

Many decades later…I am (understandably!) still afraid of snakes.  I am not fearful of spiders, or bees or most bugs really…but when I think of snakes and sharks...the feeling of fear is immediate.

And it turns out that even people without a conscious fear of snakes are wired to react fearfully to snakes because snakes were among the earliest threats and predators to human beings.

A few days ago, my 9-year-old grandson Jun found a 2 1/2 foot long snake skin in the backyard.  Fascinated, he was holding it stretched above his head when he came over to show me what he found.

And this morning, as I was coming from the driveway, here is what I encountered…

Pacific Gopher Snake in Monterey County

I now know that snakes are important to our ecosystem...so instead of running away and screaming, I grabbed my camera and took a photo (thank you zoom lens) so I could learn more about this snake living near our home.

Pacific Gopher Snake range in California

A visit to the California Herps website’s picture gallery made it easy to identify the snake.

It is a Pacific Gopher snake and harmless to human beings.  It is found in a wide range in the state of California, as shown in red on the map at left.

Because gopher snakes are sometimes mistaken for more dangerous rattlesnakes, they are killed unnecessarily.

The California Herps website notes:

It is easy to avoid this mistake by learning to tell the difference between the two families of snakes as shown in these signs.

Unless you have experience handling venomous snakes, you should never handle a snake unless you are absolutely sure that it is not dangerous.

rattlesnake vs gopher snakeHere are some interesting snake facts:

Worldwide:

map of world distribution of snakes

map of world distribution of sea snakes and land snakes via Wikipedia

  • Snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica (see Life is short, but snakes are long blog post on the most widespread snakes in the world)
  • Most snake bites occur in agricultural and tropical regions
  • There are 3,000 known species of snakes — of which, only 15% are considered as dangerous to people.
  • Most snake related deaths occur in South Asia, with India reporting the most deaths of any country (this would make sense though, as India is the most populous country in South Asia).
  • Worldwide, snake bites are most common during the summer when people are outdoors and when snakes are most active

In the USA from the wanderingherpetologist.com

  • There are more casualties in the United States due to car accidents (37,594), lightning strikes (54), and dog attacks (21) each year than from venomous snakebites (5).
  • approximately 7,000-8,000 people are envenomated each year in the United States but there is only an average of 5 casualties
  • In Texas alone, there were more casualties in 2005 from drowning (308), firearms/hunting (79), and venomous arthropods (16) than venomous snakebites.

In California

  • CaliforniaHerps.com- a guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California is a super website with loads of information, pictures and useful links.  Visit the page on what kind of reptiles and amphibians might live near your home and how to encourage them to stay there, by clicking here.

I am less fearful of snakes since I learned that most snakes are NOT dangerous to humans, and that most snake bites to humans are caused by snakes that are NOT venomous.

Remember though, unless you are a snake expert,  it is best to leave lots of room between you and any snake you may encounter…and don’t kill snakes!

Further reading and resources:

Related post about animals (and endangered animals) from Lola Jane (click on photo to link to article)

Sierran Tree Frog profilePost about the Sierran Tree Frog (photo by Lola Jane)

…It is comforting to know the little frogs survive in our backyard, despite the large presence of big business agriculture in our county (Monterey is the only county in the United States with more than 1 BILLION in annual vegetable sales).

 

Leatherback-turtle-found-dead-off-leyteAbout the Giant Pacific Leatherback Turtle and the connection between Indonesia / the Philippines and Monterey Bay, California)

Photo by Austin Don Perez for Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, via post by Iloed.C at www.skyscrapercity.com

 

Philippine-Eagle-Close-up-photo1On the critically endangered and magnificent Philippine eagle (Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com)  ...the Philippine Eagle, pithecophaga jefferyi – and referred to as “haring ibon” or king bird.  It is among the rarest and most powerful birds in the world.  In 1995, it was designated as the national bird as well as an official  symbol of the Philippines.

Shark-photo-Sean-Van-SommeranPost about Sharks!

The photo is of a 4,000 lb shark tagged in Santa Cruz, California and caught by accident in the Sea of Cortez area, Mexico.  Photo Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, contributed by Sean VanSommeran.

Also see comparison of shark attacks vs. lightning fatalities on the US Coast

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”
— Baba Dioum

Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

The words “why are Filipinos like chameleons” showed up on my blog’s search engine terms recently.

Chameleon definition

Mixed-Up-Chameleon by Eric CarleI did not write an article (until now) that connected the two words — Filipino and chameleon — but I do write often about Filipinos and the Philippines, wildlife, and about a particular chameleon, as in the Eric Carle book that I read to my grandchildren, The Mixed-Up Chameleon.

Initially I thought the search words were funny.  Chameleons — a special kind of lizard — are not native to the Philippines.  And then I wondered what information was sought…was this inquiry and the string of words derogatory?

And are Filipinos like chameleons? We Filipinos do tend to blend in, don’t we?   We all speak English (very well — and most with a clear American accent) and since English is one of the most popular language in the world, all that much easier to blend in, right?

Aside from language, is it also because most Filipinos are Christians?  A Pew Research demographics study on global religion found that Christians are the most evenly dispersed around the world and represent the largest percentage among the world’s religion  (2.2 billion or 32% of the world’s majority religion) .

20_religionCountryMap from Pew Research

Graphic on majority religions by country from Pew Research. The Philippine archipelago has the most Christians among countries in Southeast Asia,

I am pretty sure that Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world — around 10% of the total population, and 2.2 million contract or Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) — according to Philippine government data.

  • When I lived in Germany in the mid 1980′s, one of the first things our landlord, Klaus, wanted to do was to introduce me to the Filipina married to a local German, in our town of Dudeldorf.
  • When we first immigrated to the United States and living in Portland, Maine (of all places, right, and not exactly a hotbed for Filipinos in America) my mother quickly found another Filipina living nearby who befriended us.

So,  super chameleons?  Able to survive in any environment, no matter where on the globe?  Or rather, is it more because we don’t stick out?  The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, so most Filipinos have Spanish last names.  Is this another way we blend, since our names are not so unusual?

A friend theorized that because the Philippines is a nation of islands (over 7,000 in case you did not know), Filipinos are accustomed to traveling beyond their own island to the next…and the next, so what is another 5,000 more miles?  It’s in our DNA!  Hmmmn, interesting, and maybe!

Are Filipinos everywhere because they like adventure, because Filipinos like to travel? Is it by necessity, for survival? Because we must…as a sacrifice to contribute financially for the greater good of the family?

In 1980, the Philippines scored higher than China, Thailand and Brazil on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Indicators (HDI). The most recent UN HDI report show these three countries now have higher HDI scores than the Philippines.  And after World War II, the only other country in Asia richer than the Philippines was Japan.

So what happened?  Could it be because the Philippine population has more than DOUBLED in the last 3 decades?.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, and according to United Nations GDP / per capita income data, over 40% of Filipinos live on less than $2 per day.

These days, I think Filipinos are everywhere primarily because of over population and because the economy cannot support the population…so by necessity.

Every year, millions of Filipinos have no choice but to leave their homeland to find work elsewhere.  Many work in the shipping industries (notice that when cruise lines, or container ships are in the news, often, there are Filipino crew members?)

The Philippines export nurses all over the world.  And most recently, our teachers, too.

It is easier to understand Filipino communities in neighboring countries like Australia, New Zealand, and especially Japan.  But Zambia?  ICELAND, The Isle of Mann?

Tropical Philippines web

Photo of banka (traditional Philippine outrigger boat) Lolako.com. From lush green tropics to….Scandinavia?

And how is it that Filipinos manage to survive, and even thrive in countries with climates and cultures so different from their homes?  And do we — the chameleons –  blend in no matter where we are  because it’s safer if others like us, accept us, include us in their, and what then becomes OUR community?  In Sweden alone, there are over 20 Filipino communities! (see Fincomlas Sweden)

I admire Filipino characteristics — our friendly, caring nature, resilience, our sense of humor, and strong commitment to family  — and yes, maybe the chameleon qualities in a positive sense.  But I do hope that in my lifetime, the majority of Filipinos who live and work overseas will be because of their own choice to do so, and not because they have no other choice.

This post was inspired by a search query on my blog, and turned emotional when I thought of families torn apart and separated for many years due to the economic needs of Filipinos.  I’ll continue to explore more on this topic, and of course to celebrate and remember our food and culture.

In the meantime, if you are a Filipino in a faraway place, please share your experience, or your family’s experience.  Do you think Filipinos are like chameleons?  If so, is this positive or a negative?

Related Lolako.com posts:

Which of California’s 15 coastal counties are tsunami ready?

Despite the 5,000 mile distance between the California coastline and Japan, our coastal community was affected by the March 2011 tsunami (and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.)

Moss Landing Beach

Photo Lolako.com

Between debris that washed up on the U.S. Western coastlines — and our worries of radiation contaminated items reaching our shores  —  to the bathtub effect that caused millions of dollars of damage to boats and property at the Santa Cruz harbor, the disaster originating thousands of miles away directly impacted us.  It was another reminder of  how small our world really is, and our interconnectedness …

March-11-Tsunami-Effects-in-Santa-Cruz-Photo-Larissa-Mueller

Sailboats in the Santa Cruz Harbor crash against each other Friday morning as a tsunami surge sucks out muddy, backwater from the upper harbor. Photo by Dan Coyro/Sentinel

My post 2 years ago (Is Monterey County ready for a Tsunami) listed Monterey County –  along with the California counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Orange as TsunamiReady™ — under a program administered by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).

Tsunami-Hazard-Warning-Sign3

Tsunami Hazard Zone sign at Monterey County area beach.   Photo Lolako.com

The California counties designated as TsunamiReady™  met NWS criteria, including developing a safety plan, setting up alert systems and promoting tsunami safety through public outreach.

The addition of the counties of Marin, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Diego means there are now 8 counties listed as TsunamiReady™ in California.

The state of California is divided into 58 counties. The California coast covers 840 miles (1,350 km), and 15 of California’s 58 counties directly face the Pacific Ocean.  These counties are:

  • Del Norte County
  • Humboldt County
  • Los Angeles County
  • Marin County
  • Mendocino County
  • Monterey County
  • Orange County
  • San Diego County
  • San Francisco County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • San Mateo County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Santa Cruz County
  • Sonoma County
  • Ventura County

Counties in bold are listed as TsunamiReady™.  We will follow-up again next year to see if all of California’s coastal counties receive the TsunamiReady™ designation.

Do you live in one of California’s coastal communities?  With this month marking the 3rd anniversary of the Japanese tsunami disaster, do you know — or care — if your community has a TsunamiReady™ designation?

Related LolaKo.com posts:

Drought and the 2014 official California shower

2014 California Shower

This is a somewhat funny graphic on showers during a drought — but it is actually a reality that we need to consider in light of California’s drought emergency.  (Graphic source – Save our Water website)

What do you think?  Skip a shower — shower every other day or two?  Super short showers?

Strigil used by Greeks and Romans web

Photo of ancient shower/bath tool called a strigil

Skipping a shower or two every week may be better for our skin and hair anyway.  There are parts of the world where taking a shower every other day is the norm.

Just as long as we don’t have to skip showers altogether!

Ancient Greeks and Romans used olive oil and this tool called a strigil to clean dirt off (first they rubbed olive oil on their skin, and then scraped away dirt and grime).  Hmmm…

It’s a good thing there are over 400 growers / producers of olive oil in California…oh wait, the drought can adversely affect olive oil production too!   The 2012 drought in Spain — the world’s top olive oil producer — resulted in a huge drop in Spain’s olive oil production, and increased olive oil prices in Europe.

So okay, we will continue to do our part to cut our water use, and hopefully we will not have to revert back to using olive oil and a strigil instead of modern showers.

Showering habits aside, and on a serious note, the drought here in California will affect not only our vegetable crops, but also olive oil, nut and fruit production.  Farmers are already having to pull out or let trees die and expect losses for many crops.

Less nuts and fruits to pick means less work for the agricultural sector, higher prices for everyone...

President Obama is in the Central Valley today with a promise of millions of dollars in aid to help California farmers due to the drought.  He also pledged to speed up federal help that threatens the agriculture industry.

Save Water link to Christian Science articleMore on Obama in California: a pledge of drought aid, climate change planning, from the CSMonitor’s website, here. 

“He’ll offer a message of hope and a message that the federal government will do all that it can to try to alleviate some of the stress connected with this drought,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Thursday night.

Lolako.com drought-related posts:

If you live in California, how has the drought affected you?  As a resident here, are you making changes to your routines or plan to?

Zero Waste…from the city of San Francsico to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Can you imagine a time when we recycle or compost everything in our household and send NOTHING to landfills or to incineration facilities?

The recycling rate for Americans has increased to 34% compared to less than 10% a few decades ago.  Although we are headed in the right direction, the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on our municipal solid waste indicate there are still millions of tons of trash going to landfills.

Recycling-Bins-at-big conferences

For environmentally progressive cities and businesses, standard recycling programs are not enough.  Zero waste is the new goal and the next step towards protecting our environment and conserving resources for future inhabitants of our planet.

I posted a new article on Native Leaf’s blog about San Francisco — voted the greenest city in North America– and its zero waste goals including how they plan to recycle textiles (because we in the U.S. send 39 million pounds of textile products to landfills each year).  Click here or the photo below to view the blog post.

View of San Francisco from TI rd

Early evening panorama photo of picturesque and environmentally progressive city of San Francisco, California (population 825,863).

Recently, an organization called the U.S. Zero Waste Council awarded its first ever Platinum Certification to the Northern California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.   Excerpt:

…The goal of businesses participating in the Zero Waste Certification program is to divert all end-use material from landfill, incineration and the environment, while achieving a minimum of 90 percent diversion based on the standards set by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is exceeding this by 9.8 percent.

Sierra Nevada logoSierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Chico facility received this platinum certification by reaching an amazing 99.8% trash diversion rate!

The sustainability culture at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is established  during the first day of work, when employees are given reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags.  What a terrific way to set the tone and culture of sustainability…and for how the company works.

In addition to this recognition, Sierra Nevada also received awards from the EPA (Green Business of the Year), PG&E (Clean and Green Award), the state of California’s Waste Reduction Award Program, among their many accolades.

This is one beverage that environmentalist can feel good about drinking!  For more on how Sierra Nevada achieved their 99.8% diversion rate, click here.

What if all major metropolitan cities and corporations set zero waste goals?  With the way things are going and the strange world climate patterns we are experiencing, we may not have a choice….that is, if we want our grandchildren to live in a planet similar to what we now have.

I do wonder if the Philippines’ biggest beer (and largest food company) company, San Miguel is setting sustainability programs…

Related Lolako.com post:

Informative graphic from the U.S. EPA below.  Click on the graphic or here for posters, facts and figures on municipal solid waste in the United States.

EPA Recycling Graphic

Some rain finally, but there is simply not enough to meet water demands in California

California is 2/3 into the wet season, the time of the year when we are supposed to get the most rain.

water drops cling to pine needles after rain

water clings to the tips of pine needles after Wednesday, February 6, 2014 rainstorm

Though we finally have rain — and rain is in the forecast for many parts of California this weekend — it would have to rain every other day until May of this year to get our water to normal levels (see press conference video from California Department of Water Resources at the bottom of this post).

Monterey County Field

Irrigated farm fields, Moss Landing – California Central Coast

With most of California’s water going towards irrigation needs for 10 million acres of farmland, and because California grows nearly half of all fruits, nuts and vegetables in the United States, our worst drought on record will surely have a ripple ffect for the rest of the U.S. in terms of the cost and availability of produce and nuts.

Droughts increase our wildfire and firestorm risks, and as of the end of January, 2014 there were already 400 fires across the state compared to ZERO fires in January of 2013.

And now for the first time in the 54 year history of the California State Water Project (SWP) – the largest state-built and operated multipurpose water and power system in the United States — no water will be released for urban and agricultural uses.  This means that water allocation to all 29 public water agencies in California is being cut from 5% to zero, except for human health and safety needs.

So even with the expected rain this weekend, our state still face severe water problems and California residents need to get serious and creative with water conservation efforts to continue to address our continuing drought emergency.

Water Saving Hero

Water Saving Hero graphic from an Urban Drought Guidebook prepared by the California Department of Water Resources in 2008 (note: website on this graphic is no longer operational)

Related:

Information on the latest in water-efficient technology from faucets to toilet fixtures available on the California Urban Water Conservation Council website

Most recent press conference posted on YouTube from California Department of Water Resources below:

Of interest:

  • California has approximately 100 million acres of land.  Of this total, 43 million acres are used for agriculture (16 million acres are grazing land and 27 million acres are cropland).

The California State Water Project, the largest state-built and operated multipurpose water and power system in the United States, includes 34 storage facilities, 20 pumping plants, four pumping-generating plants, five hydroelectric powerplants, and approximately 701 miles of canals, tunnels, and pipelines including the 444-mile California Aqueduct.  For more, visit the California Department of Water Resources website, here.

hot_topics_smoke-flames

California’s higher than normal temperatures, record driest year and now a drought emergency

Something is not quite right with our winter weather.

Frisbee and no frost here

Silhouette photo of our grandsons enjoying the late afternoon warm weather at the beach last week with their Frisbee.

Here in the Central Coast of California, most of us can’t remember the last time it rained, and are experiencing much warmer than normal temperatures.

According to the most recent State of the Climate report, published by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), our state had little rain (AGAIN) last year, resulting in a record driest year.

2013 National Precipitation ranking

Temperature-wise,California also had much warmer than normal temperatures last year.

2013 Statewide Ranks NOAA

Even without the official stats, we know the weather is certainly not normal and we were not surprised when California Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation last week declaring a drought emergency (to urge Californians to reduce their water use by 20% indoors and out).

From the website Saveourh2o.org:

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

...The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the first snow survey of the year on Jan. 3 and officials measured the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year.  According to DWR, the readings this month and in 2012 are the driest on record.

Not only is the snowpack dry, the state has suffered from a lack of rain, with many areas ending 2013 with the lowest rainfall amounts on record. 

According to DWR, Gasquet Ranger Station in Del Norte County—which is normally one of California’s wettest spots with an average annual rainfall of nearly 100 inches—only received 43.46 inches last year.  Sacramento ended the year with 5.74 inches of rain, vastly lower than the normal 18 inches the region usually receives.  Downtown Los Angeles set an all-time low with just 3.4 inches of rainfall.  The city’s average is 14.74 and the previous record low was 4.08 set in 1953.

Field ready for planting Monterey County

In a state (and especially here in Monterey county) where agriculture is a major industry, this creates serious problems for farmers and significantly increases wildfire / firestorm hazards.

We are in dire need of major rain storms to alleviate the drought situation…but so far, there is no rain in the immediate weather forecast.

seelings farm field monterey county

To learn more about what we can do to conserve water, visit the Save our Water website (I’ve added their widget to my website’s sidebar for an easy link, and to get daily water saving tips).

Did you know…California produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables across the nation?  American consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.  Production Statistics Source: California Department of Agriculture

Related:

KQED’s The California Report: How will drought affect California Agriculture?  Agriculture consumes about 80 percent of the water used in California

California Drought And The U.S. Food Supply – Tom Ashbrook’s On Point Program on the drought emergency in California, and what it may mean for the nation’s food supply.

Hundred Years of Dry: How California’s Drought Could Get Much, Much Worse (from Time Magazine Science and Space – scientist fear California’s long-ago era of mega-droughts could be back)

Field of strawberries rd2

Rows of strawberry plants Monterey County California

 

Lolako.com agriculture-related posts:

Biggest and Smallest Shark

I’ve posted several articles about sharks on my blog — originally because of my irrational fear of sharks.  When I think of sharks, I usually think of BIG sharks…like the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Q A book about Sharks by Ann McGovernMy older grandson read the Scholastic book Questions and Answers about SHARKS by Ann McGovern, and we learned more!  Note: The book is great for readers in Grade 3 to Grade 5.

So…we knew that there were over 370 different types of sharks and about the whale shark — which at 60 feet long is the biggest shark, and the biggest fish in the world.

We didn’t know about the a tiny shark that fits in the palm of your hand.  Except:

The Japanese named it tsuranagakobitozame.  The word means “the dwarf shark with a long face.”

At about 5 inches long, the tsuranagakobitozame is one tiny shark (with a very long name)!

To learn more about whale sharks (which are listed as Vulnerable” on the IUCN Redlist. because of pressures from unregulated fisheries in China, India and the Philippines), please visit the Georgia Aquarium’s FAQ page, here.  The Georgia Aquarium and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Japan, are places to see whale sharks on exhibit.

Also visit the The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Ichthyology Department for a great FAQ page on shark basics, here…and if you are curious to know if sharks sleep, if sharks have bones, or how long sharks live.

Did you know….fossil records show that the ancestors of modern sharks swam in our oceans over 400 million years ago?  That makes them older than dinosaurs!  Turns out that sharks have changed very little over time.

Click here to view Lolako.com’s shark related posts

Why the China communist party ban on extravagant banquets may save some sharks from extinction

Each year, millions of sharks are killed just for their fins, a practice called shark finning.  The fins — the most profitable part of the shark — are removed and the shark is returned to the sea alive, and eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean and suffocates.

Outside of Asia, the state of California and New York are among the largest market for shark fins.  A new law banning the sale of dried shark fins took effect in California in August of this year.  In New York, a new law banning the possession, distribution and sale of shark fins will also be in place next summer.

Shark fins NOAA photo

Photo of NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins via Wikipedia commons – http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag230.htm

Although U.S. bans will impact shark fin demands, the bans should also focus internationally, and on the worlds largest consumers of shark fin products, namely China, Japan and Thailand.

Last year, Chinese communist party officials banned extravagant items like expensive shark fin soups from official banquets.  This military action made a big difference in shark fin consumption in China.

Excerpt from an article posted on The Independent earlier this month:

A crackdown on extravagance and corruption within China’s ruling Communist Party is causing headaches for officials used to splashing the cash on banquets, but it’s proving a lifesaver for sharks.

Consumption of shark fin, the key ingredient in the pricey and extravagant banquet staple shark-fin soup, has dropped by 70 per cent since the end of last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

The party leadership launched a campaign in December, vowing to target extravagance and waste, and demanding austerity from cadres and military officials as a means of curbing graft (click here to read the article)

This move by Chinese military officials is similar to a Wal-Mart effect.  As the world’s largest retailer, manufacturing decisions by Wal-Mart — such as,making its vendors minimize plastic packaging — affects the environment simply because of Wal-Mart’s size.

So let’s hope this extravagant banquet ban in China will continue to lessen the demand on shark fins.  And that continued education from celebrity ambassadors (like the Yao Ming / Richard Branson pleas for Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins) puts a stop to this cruel practice and  give shark populations a chance to recover –especially in light of the improving Chinese wealth, making this once expensive restaurant item more affordable  for many more diners (scary thought!).

Richard Branson and Yao Ming Shark ban

Retired basketball star Yao Ming teamed up with British magnate Sir Richard Branson (founder and of Virgin Atlantic) to launch a campaign urging Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins soups.

Right now, 50 of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

I do wonder if the celebrity ambassador actions influenced military officials, and what impact it made, at least prior to these extravagant banquet bans.

I am less fearful of sharks now after learning about sharks on my post about the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez,

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS - NOAA)

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS – NOAA)

Related Lolako.com posts:

U.S. coast comparison of shark-attacks vs number of lightning fatalities

The man-eater label — shark attack or a shark-encounter

Links:

San Francisco based Wild Aid – Celebrity Ambassadors

Below video on shark finning

A raft of sea otters

Sea Otter Group Moss Landing

Raft of sea otters at Moss Landing Harbor area, photo by Jun-Yong Brown

“Is this natural?” asked the tourist from Israel as he stood next to me and my grandsons, amazed at what he was seeing.

“I mean, are they wild–is this their natural habitat or some preserve?” he added.  I replied “Yes, they are wild, and this is where they live.”

Raft of sea  otters rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

We were at the Moss Landing State Beach earlier in the day, and my grandsons were excited to see  two sea otters swim past us, very close to the shoreline.

Then on the way home, we stopped to look across the inlet area facing Elkhorn Slough and were delighted to see a congregation of otters…much more excitement!

About 5 minutes after watching the raft of otters…they all swam away.  The conference over perhaps….or maybe it was time to forage for food.

Seeing the raft of otters was a nice way to end to our day at the beach, and I am again so happy to live in the Monterey Bay area, with so many opportunities to see wildlife.

White Face Sea Otter rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

During the early part of the 1700′s, the California sea otter population was estimated to number 150,000.

From the mid 1700′s until the early part of 1900, these otters were almost hunted to extinction for their fur.

Today, California sea otters remain endangered with a population of  less than 3,000.

Boys at Moss Landing beach rd

Earlier in the day, my grandsons spotted 2 sea otters swimming close to the shore at Moss Landing State Beach

Sea-otter-in-kelp-anchor-eye-open-close-up

Photo by Jeff Roth

For more on sea otters, visit related Lolako.com Post: The sea otter’s one-eyed peak  

Adorable Sea Otter video – on the rocks by Monterey Bay wildlife photographer Efren B. Adalem

and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website page Sea Otters as Risk

For more on Elkhorn Slough, visit  the Elkhorn Slough.org website here.  Excerpt:

Dunes and broad stretches of open sandy beach characterize the inner curve of Monterey Bay. The expansive beaches are interrupted only by the outlets of the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers, and the entrance to Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing Harbor. The protected waters of the slough and its associated mudflats, wetlands, and nearby dunes provide a haven for a wide variety of birds, fish and unusual marine life. This remarkable variety of habitats provides visitors a rare opportunity to explore and discover nature’s secrets.

Adorable sea otter

If you need to change your mood today — or for fun and lightheartedness — take a look at this adorable sea otter video found on Monterey Bay wildlife photographer Efren B. Adalem’s website (Ooh! Look! Photography)…

Efren’s otter pictures are used in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s newly remodeled sea otter exhibit.

To view Efren’s stunning wildlife photograph gallery, visit Ooh! Look! Photography, here:

From Efren… “I am enjoying documenting the birds and wildlife in the Monterey Bay area of California. We live in one of only three fresh water wetlands left in California.

This special place needs to be protected for all the migratory birds that need wetlands to survive. Ooh! Look! Photography donates a portion of its profits after taxes to The Watsonville Wetlands Watch.

And yes, I adore sea otters!

Related Links:

Lolako.com’s post, The Sea Otter’s One-Eyed Peak…

More on sea otters here (link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Web Cam)

America’s Oil Boom – US projected to overtake Saudi Arabia as #1 oil producer by 2020

Related to my post yesterday (countries paying the highest and lowest gasoline per gallon), today’s topic on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point programThe North American Energy Revolution — looks at the blessing and the curse as North America becomes the new fossil fuel powerhouse.

Does this mean we need not worry about supply and increasing our consumption and dependence on oil? And the curse part, will this halt the incentive to move towards a cleaner, greener alternative energy source if there is this new abundance of oil here in the US? And what of our climate and environment?

To listen to the radio program episode, click here

For Monterey, California related blog post on this topic, please visit the Local Nomad’s “South Monterey County Land to be Auctioned off for Oil Development”.  Excerpt:

….The Monterey Shale, the largest oil-shale reservoir in the country, is estimated to hold some 14 billion barrels of oil. The federal government is preparing to lease out a large chunk of it for oil development, spanning Monterey, Fresno and San Benito counties.

Bloomberg.com’s article Oil Shockwaves From U.S. Shale Boom Seen by IEA Ousting OPEC

…North America will provide 40 percent of new supplies to 2018 through the development of light, tight oil and oil sands, while the contribution from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will slip to 30 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.

Gasoline Prices — countries paying the highest and lowest per gallon

I thought that gas prices were trending down….yeah, right.  Is it ever going to go down?

Gas Arm Leg Both sign at Moss Landing Antique Fair

Gas Arm Leg Both sign spotted at Moss Landing Antique Faire last year

Below is an example of gasoline price this week in the Monterey Bay area, California…

Monterey County California Gas Prices rd

I was curious to know how American gas prices compared to the rest of the world and found an interesting Bloomberg.com article on Highest and Cheapest Gas Prices by Country.

Note: The article is based on gas prices from Jan. 3 to 18, 2013 of select countries with a minimum income of $3.50 a day per person.

It  turns out, the top 5 highest price per gallon countries are more than DOUBLE what we pay here in the United States.  The top five:

  1. Turkey – $9.89 per gallon
  2. Norway $9.63 per gallon (and the only large oil-producing country with high gas cost, as they use oil profits for services to the population, e.g., free college for citizens)
  3. Netherlands – $9.09 per gallon (it is interesting that the Dutch has the most bicycles per capita in the world)
  4. Italy – $8.87 per gallon (it cost the same for Italians to fill up their tanks each week as it does to buy a weeks worth of food)
  5. Portugal – $8.82 per gallon (64% of this price goes towards taxes, which went up over 10 years ago to help protect the environment)

And the 5 countries that pay the least per gallon of gasoline?

  1. Venezuela – $0.06 per gallon, where according to the article, “the cost of filling up the 39-gallon tank of a Chevrolet Suburban in Venezuela is $2.34, compared with $128.31 in the U.S. and $385.71 in Turkey”.
  2. Saudi Arabia – $0.45 per gallon
  3. Kuwait – $0.81 per gallon
  4. Egypt – $1.14 per gallon
  5. United Arab Emirates – $1.77 per gallon

So…compared to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia…heck yeah we are paying a lot, but compared to Turkey and Italy, hello(!) it turns out that gas is quite cheap here in the U.S.

Then again, from a conservation and climate change standpoint, do you think gasoline should cost even more here — and everywhere else — to force us to conserve our resources and further reduce emissions (cars emit greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming).

I do wonder if a transition to alternative energy sources is happening way too slow, or worse, too late for our planet’s global warming problems?

If you are interested in seeing gasoline cost in countries like the Philippines, Canada, the United States and how 57 others rank, click here…

What is the gas pricing like where you live?  Too high, or too cheap in your opinion….

Philippine Eagle on the IUCN Redlist (critically endangered) and Species of the Day Feature

The Philippine Eagle is critically endangered, and has been on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red list since 1994.

Considered to the be largest bird in the world, the Philippine Eagle is endemic to the Philippines and is known to exist only in the islands of Mindanao, Leyte, Samar and eastern Luzon —  of the thousands of islands in the Philippine archipelago.

Endangered Philippine-Eagle-Close-up

Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com

The rapid decline of these magnificent birds — and official  national symbol of the Phillipines –  is mainly due to extensive deforestation and illegal logging in the Philippines.

Here is a link to quick facts on this magnificent bird, featured on the IUCN Red List Species of the Day feature: http://www.iucnredlist.org/sotdfiles/pithecophaga-jefferyi.pdf

For more on animals listed on the IUCN’s Red list of Threatened Species, visit the website at http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Related Lolako articles on the Philippine Eagle- Haring Ibon (King of Birds):

Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle

Post on the Philippine eagle video at ARKive.  ARKive’s mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

Farewell to Melanie Mayer-Gideon

I was saddened to learn of Melanie Mayer-Gideon’s passing. She was only 52 years old.

Melanie, along with her husband Yohn owned the Captain’s Inn Bed and Breakfast in Moss Landing.  We met after her comment on my blog post What Low Tide Reveals — when my friends Jean, Joselyn and I visited the Captain’s Inn.

Through Melanie’s blog comment, she further connected and extended her knowledge and her love of this area to a transplant like me….

I did not realize until now, how instrumental she was in getting the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) rebuilt after the Loma Prieta earthquake (the major Bay Area 1989 – World Series Earthquake).

Melanie-of-Captains-Inn b

An excerpt from the MLML/Cal State website:

We have lost a champion, an advocate, colleague, a student, an alum, a friend, and a devoted mother, all way too soon and in unexpected tragedy. 

The recent news has deeply penetrated the labs, our network and the resonated sympathies keep pouring in…we are reeling, and the drums are beating. 

We wish that there was more comfort in this passing, but for now, there seems to be little beyond shock and our memories.  Yet, we want you all to know, that these memories, and our personal interactions with Melanie, have touched us in many personal and formidable ways. 

Melanie was a true native of north Monterey County, graduated Salinas High School in 1978 and eventually found her way into graduate school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in her own backyard. 

Her thesis involved the “Flowering Plant Recruitment into a Newly Restored Salt Marsh in Elkhorn Slough, California,” advised by Mike Foster, Greg Cailliet and John Oliver.

Her thesis research reflected her ‘community’ approach to life,  acknowledging Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Ken Moore, Sheila Baldridge, Larry Jones, Preston Watwood, Ken Delopst, Lynn McMasters, Gail Johnston, Dorothy Lydick, George Knauer, Meritt Tuel, Brian Fadely, Peter and Tony Young, Ruby Peterson, Marge Reidpath, Benthic Bubs, Mark Sliger, Keiko Sekiguchi, Mark Silberstein, Frances Cresswell, Steve Horn, her parents and her brother Eric.

Two years following the completion of her thesis, the laboratories were completely destroyed by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and Melanie’s trajectory experienced a course correction towards a new kind of restoration: that of the laboratories’ reconstruction. This also launched her career as a permit consultant.  She, together with a small cadre of attorneys and other MLML graduates, was the point person for reconstruction strategy….

….Her love of life and people was always obvious in her smile and loving personality. Her values, love, life, integrity and accomplishments should serve as an example for us all, and will never be forgotten.  To Yohn and his family, we offer our deepest sympathies and our utmost support.

Kenneth Coale, Mike Foster, Greg Cailliet, John Oliver

Read the complete post “A Tearful Farewell to Melanie Mayer-Gideon: True MLML Champion, Friend, and Alumna” here.

Farewell Melanie, and condolences to your family and your many friends in the community.

Geek news to shark tracking? There’s an app for that!

It seems that there really is an app for everything.

Over the weekend, I found out — from a nice young techno wiz of course — about Appy Geek, an app that lets techno geeks track all the latest news from all the top providers.

appy geekThat is of course, if you MUST keep up with all things Android, Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Samsung, HTC, smartphones, tablets, gadgets, Windows, start-ups, science, video games, internet and etc.

The unsettling part is when I googled Appy Geek and landed on a webpage, there was a notice that the app is compatible with my specific phone (and my specific wireless carrier).  Kinda creepy, though at this point, I don’t know if I really want to know how THEY know…

And for an app that relates locally to the Monterey Bay and conservation efforts, there is also the Shark App — a project by Marine biologist Barbara Block, winner of the 2012 Rolex Award for Enterprise, to monitor the activity of sharks off the coast of California and increase public awareness of the marine environment.

Excerpt from an article on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species…

Barbara Block has been studying the ocean for more than 30 years. Between 2000 and 2010 she was co-chief scientist for the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) programme and part of the Census of Marine Life. The information from these projects identified “hotspots” in the ocean off the coast of California where upwelling currents in the California Current during spring provide nutrients that cause plankton blooms which in turn attract fish and large marine predators such as sharks.

buoy_rolex_awards_bart_michiels

Photo by Bart Michiels via IUCN Red List website

Barbara will use her Rolex Award to fund the construction, testing and deployment of three listening buoys that will be located in marine sanctuaries at three California hotspots. Each time a tagged shark swims within half a kilometer of a buoy its presence will be detected and the information will be sent not only to Barbara’s laboratory but also to ordinary citizens across the world that have downloaded the new Shark Net app.

wave glider

The bright yellow, seven-foot long Wave Glider and fixed buoys will transmit data from tagged animals between Monterey Bay and Tomales Point. (Kip Evans) – photo via www.theepochtimes.com

To Barbara, engagement with these marine animals is key if people are to understand why they need to be protected.

To download the free Shark Net – Predators of the Blue Serengeti app, click here (compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.)

Related Links:

Lola Jane article The man-eater label: Shark attack or a shark encounter?

Article from The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/nov/18/barbara-block-sharks-app

Article from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ -  http://www.iucnredlist.org/news/tracking-sharks-with-the-rolex-awards-for-enterprise

The man-eater label: Shark attack or a shark encounter?

Sharks have an image problem. It’s the way they look really….and what about all the attacks we seem to hear about during summer?

Or just maybe…this image problem is rooted in what we call sharks, you know, man-eater, or our lack of understanding of the important role that sharks play in the ocean ecosystem.

How about our method of labeling and categorizing human contact with sharks?  The media reporting what really was a shark encounter as an attack?

Image of Shortfin-Mako-Shark from NOAA Gallery (Isurus oxyrinchus)

A report by Christopher Neff (University of Sydney) and Robert Hueter (Center for Shark Research, Sarasta, Florida) proposes moving away from “shark attack” labels and a new way to categorize human-shark interactions. The proposed categories are:

1.  Shark sightings: Sightings of sharks in the water in proximity to people. No physical human–shark contact takes place.

2. Shark encounters: Human-shark interactions in which physical contact occurs between a shark and a person, or an inanimate object holding that person, and no injury takes place. For example, shark bites on surfboards, kayaks, and boats would be classified under this label. In some cases, this might include close calls; a shark physically “bumping” a swimmer without biting would be labeled a shark encounter, not a shark attack…
3.  Shark bites: Incidents where sharks bite people resulting in minor to moderate injuries. Small or large sharks might be involved, but typically, a single, nonfatal bite occurs. If more than one bite occurs, injuries might be serious. Under this category, the term “shark attack” should never be used unless the motivation and intent of the animal—such as predation or defense—are clearly established by qualified experts. Since that is rarely the case, these incidents should be treated as cases of shark “bites” rather than shark “attacks.”
4. Fatal shark bites: Human–shark conflicts in which serious injuries take place as a result of one or more bites on a person, causing a significant loss of blood and/or body tissue and a fatal outcome.  Read more here…

Until recently,  I would not have put much thought on shark encounter nomenclature.  But many shark species are in trouble and shark populations devastated due to modern fishing methods and an elevated demand for shark meat, fins and cartilage.

I am less fearful of sharks now, compared to 1 year ago.  During my post on the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, I learned the important role that sharks play in our ocean ecosystem.

Right now, 50 of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.  Yet only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected.

Mano, Galapagos Shark image from NOAA website (Carcharhinus galapagensis)

A better understanding and image boost for sharks — starting with proper labeling of human-shark encounters — will help to protect these ancient creatures, and hopefully stop the alarming decline in their population, and the further imbalance of our ocean ecosystem.

The best thing to do about our fears — especially irrational fear — is to learn the facts.  After all, facts and our knowledge drives our actions!

Do you think this change in reporting human-shark encounters will help?

Related links:

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences: Science, policy, and the public discourse of shark “attack”: a proposal for reclassifying human–shark interactions

Lolako’s article: Fatalities from shark attacks vs. being struck by lightning:

Lolako’s article: 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

Oceana.org – Sharks Overview

Pelagic.org – The Pelagic Shark Research Foundation