water is the new black?

Water is an issue that at the top of my mind these days. Surprising perhaps, as I’m in a place which seems to have a lot of it. Last year I actually set up a drip irrigation system for my tomatoes thinking it would save them from some of the blight issues that come from watering. Alas, our summer had more than enough rain, and we hardly used it at all.

But seriously, I am thinking about water issues a LOT these days. First, naturally, we have a well, and well, we also live in Marcellus Shale land, where drillers are coming at us from all sides. The threat to possible water contamination is real, people. So that’s scary.

But then I’m also thinking about California, where my in-laws live. They live in the central coast, a cute little town, and they are under serious restrictions. They were always metering and using grey water for the garden, but this winter, they’ve been reduced to using grey water in the house–to flush the toilets. They have been shlepping buckets up and down through the house, saving shower water for the toilet, dish water for the toilets, etc. It’s pretty grim. 3 months of overusing and your water could be cut off.

It’s just interesting when you go from the individual level to the industrial or governmental level. So for the in-laws, schlepping and saving, they got this great story. The local water district spilled 168,000 gallons of water in February. They didn’t know there was a leak in the tanks. As one resident points out, each individual is allotted 49 gallons a day, and the amount the water district has lost over the past 6 months equals 24 YEARS of individual permits.

Then there’s the weird case of New Mexico. Today I was reading a story about regulations being lifted for the copper industry. In New Mexico, don’t you know, 90% of all water comes from groundwater sources. That’s kind of scary stuff. Especially when you hear that the copper industry is now pretty much exempt from dealing with the regulations surrounding pollution of ground water, an amendment passed in 2013. That just doesn’t sound like good sense for a drought-plagued state like New Mexico?!

Especially when you also know that the dairy industry is the largest industry in the state. Huh, you say. Yep, that’s right. They got a lot of cows making milk in the desert out there. Makes sense to me? They have the largest herds of any state (average herd size is 2088–big cafo productions). That’s 7 billion pounds of milk! Can you believe that?

Of course, all milk means that these dairies  use (and pollute) a lot of groundwater. 60% of dairies in the state have polluted their nearby groundwater, and like the mining example, they haven’t been required to clean it up.

It just seems like we’re really helping ourselves get to the breaking point even faster than climate change could. It no makey sense to me. All I think I can do, is to try and buy local milk products and avoid those bigger chain brands that are no doubt getting their supply from the desert.

chickens in the factory, climate change edition

Have you hugged your power plant today?

I just can’t stop thinking about a story I heard a few weeks back. 50,000 chickens/4300 turkeys die in separate cases of power outages (one in NC and one in Kansas). Get this, 50,000 chickens died after the power was out for 45 minutes. Less than an hour. 45 minutes between life and death. How horrifying. And it took the folks 26 hours to bury all those turkeys.

Apparently our food system is just this fragile. The birds are jammed in there, it’s hot and needs ventilation even if it’s not 100 degrees outside. A quick google search shows that this is not an isolated incident.

July 2011: Minnesota, reporting nearly 50,000 turkeys died in the heat.
September 2010: 60,000 chickens die in North Carolina. A generator powering fans in the chicken houses quit working.

And Meat & Poultry report that nearly 100,000 broilers have been reported lost to the heat wave in July. In the northern areas, barns don’t have great ventilation systems. Some grow sheds have 20,000 birds in them!

So while some of the farms have back up generators to power the fans, any interruption of the power supply can lead to major losses. Hard to believe that less than an hour is all is takes to do it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change, and while plans suggest that cows will produce less milk in climate change models, I didn’t connect the dots to see that for factory farms, there will be a much increased reliance on a stable power supply. Spooky side effects of factory farming people! Spooky. And really, just a big waste for a pile of unnoticed, unmemorable, tasteless drug-laden,  protein nuggets.

cherry trees and climate change
November 17, 2010, 7:42 am
Filed under: farm, food issues, gardening | Tags: , ,

Been doing a lot of reading about climate change lately. You hear a lot about greenhouse gases and things, but it’s sometimes hard to get specific. It’s about the whole world, and rising sea levels and things like that. Hard to tell how it will really impact you, in your city or region.

But here’s a project that was intriguing–in michigan the climate has warmed up 2 degrees. And as a result cherry buds appear 7-10 days earlier. That doesn’t sound like much but that leaves the buds susceptible to early spring frosts. That meant that in 2002 the cherry growers lost 99% of their crop!

It’s a pretty big investment a farmer makes to plant trees or stay in the fruit tree business. How do you decide to expand, or to abandon ship? What a scary thought. On my little farmette scale, I sometimes feel overwhelmed about planning for the 5-10 year future of the garden. And I’ve really got nothing on the line financially to do so!

The cherry farmers gathered together an interdisciplinary team to study the effects of climate change to try and make some predictions that will help the industry decide what to do. They’ve looked at climate models and done all kinds of analyses to try and bring the predictions down to the microclimate level of their area in Michigan. I’m not sure they’ve wrapped up their analysis yet, and they’ve run out of funding I think, but I imagine that there are a lot of industry groups really starting to get serious about climate change impact on growing conditions.

See here: Climate change and cherry trees.