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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Plant Zones Shifting as Climate changes

Tomorrow is national Arbor Day, although each state has its own celebration of tree-planting, some coinciding with the national, some varying in accord with planting times. The Arbor Day site will provide you with your state's date, as well as your state tree, in case you don't know what it is.

In something from The Arbor Day Foundation yesterday, I learned an interesting, worrisome, alarming, (take your pick, or all of the above) tidbit, the fact that plant-hardiness zones in this country are shifting, causing The Arbor Day Foundation to draw up its own zone map differing quite a bit from the official USDA map. This morning I have stumbled upon an article in USA Today further explaining this trend and the map controversy that accompanies it. Anyone who gardens to any extent is aware of the USDA's map of hardiness zones. The map we are currently using is 18 years old, drawn up in 1990. In a further illustration of this admin's reluctance to base official statements on anything resembling scientific fact, a new map prepared for the Dept. of Agriculture in 2003 was rejected as showing a warming trend. The USDA hotly denies any hesitation to acknowledge the potential impact of climate change, and says they are bringing out a new map within the year, one reflecting a thirty year period of climate data giving a "fuller picture of the world climate" than the sixteen year period used for the rejected 2003 map. (Emphasis added.)

The article, Warming Shifts Gardeners' Maps, gives us the current USDA map upfront, then provides a place to input your zip code and find your new, warmer, zone using the ADFoundation map. As it's Arbor Day, and Earth Day, and just in general, spring, we're heading to our closest native plant nursery to look at trees that might thrive here in our ever-hotter and drier yard. It's one of the best things we can do right now for our planet. But before you invest in a commitment to a tree, check the Arbor Day Foundation map, the results might surprise you. (Photo: Pinyon Pine, New Mexico's state tree.)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Food Crisis Abroad and at Home

Well, looks like Tankwoman has beaten me to the post I have been mulling for a couple of days now....the one about the food crises taking place all over the Third World. In places where people already mainly live on beans and rice, or some local equivalent, these bottom line staples have been priced out of sight. It's not just the petroleum it takes to produce and ship them, it's also a consequence of what is happening vis-à-vis "alternative fuel," to wit: ethanol. Which is a subject for a whole other, and quite lengthy, post. The food crises in Africa, Asia, and, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti, didn't just come out of left field yesterday, they have been growing and worsening for several months now.

For the past two weeks Bill Moyers' Journal has focused on hunger, both in the Third World and right here at home. Two weeks ago the program was about the Congo, where the hunger is mainly a consequence of the unending wars taking place there; last Friday the focus was on hunger in the USA, and the struggles that foodbanks and food pantries all over this country are experiencing as they try to feed the people in their neighborhoods. People right here in Washington, and New York and Chicago and Albuquerque and Boston can't afford to buy bread, or rice or milk, and the food pantries can't afford to keep those staples on their shelves, let alone get any fresh vegetables, fruit or protein to offer their needy clients. No, we are not yet approaching the sort of situation happening in Haiti or Thailand or The Congo, but it is, perhaps, only a matter of time.Please go to Bill's website and watch the past two weeks' shows if you missed them when they were broadcast.

With Tankwoman I have to say that as I find out more about the real hunger all around me, my own full pantry and refrigerator, my ability to purchase just about anything I want to eat, is currently making me feel a lot less hungry and certainly a lot less smug about all those organic veggies and fruit I like to be able to buy. On the Moyers Journal Blog right now there is a guest post by David Beckham, president of Bread for the World, called A Chance to Help Those Who Need It Most. Beckham was Moyers' guest on the two shows I have mentioned here. He is a minister and an economist, and in his Moyers guest post he trains his attention on the Farm Bill currently threshing its way through Congress. He has suggestions for what we can do to get a farm bill passed that will help feed those in this great need. Until such a bill is passed, also please consider locating your local foodbank (mine is charmingly called "The Roadrunner Foodbank,"in honor of our goofy state bird), and donating on a regular basis, even, if you have the time, volunteering there as well. Foodbanks and food pantries in all of our cities are shutting down because they can't keep food on the shelves. They are the last beacon of hope for many...please help keep them lit.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Isn't The Environment Just A Big Bother?

Today's news brings the word that in order to complete the remaining border fence/wall between the Southwestern US and Mexico, a fence many think will never actually fulfill its proposed mission (We're talking actual fence here, not the "virtual" fence, which the feds themselves already acknowledge is not working.), The Bush administration is proposing to bypass more than thirty environmental and land-management laws and regulations. The area under consideration here is parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that are home to many threatened species,the endangered jaguar, America's largest native cat, to name just one. Our friends in Congress have granted the waivers to the Department of Homeland Security, to the delight of gun-toting conservatives and the consternation of groups like The Nature Conservancy, Sierra club and Defenders of Wildlife. Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, made the following statement yesterday in response to this decision:
Thanks to this action by the Bush administration, the border is in a sense more lawless now than when Americans first started moving west.

Laws ensuring clean water for us and our children—dismissed. Laws protecting wildlife, land, rivers, streams and places of cultural significance—just a bother to the Bush administration. Laws giving American citizens a voice in the process—gone.
Clearly this is out of control.

It is this kind of absolute disregard for the well-being and concerns of border communities and the welfare of our wildlife and untamed borderlands that has forced Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club to take a stand and say ‘No more!’

Just a few weeks ago we filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to fight the unconstitutional authority the Bush administration has seized to waive any and all laws it views as inconvenient in its rush to build an unpopular, ineffective border wall. Today’s egregious abuse of power is more proof that this cannot be allowed to continue.
Most of the lands where the border fence is being constructed are protected federal lands, National Monuments and Forests containing species that occur nowhere else in the United States. For more from Defenders of Wildlife on the impact of current federal immigration policy on the environment, read this paper, On The Line, about the Arizona borderlands alone.

Crossposted to The Blue Voice