Are Solar Covered Canals California’s Best Solution to Drought?

Across the globe, drought has become one of the most prevalent and critical issues of our times. In the western US, it’s a growing disaster – with California’s 37.1 million people, the largest state population in the country, facing severe drought conditions. In 2022, fifty-eight California counties were given USDA disaster designations.

There is no easy fix, no simple go-to that will ease concerns about having enough water. Gone are the days where simple conservation by residents would help ease the burden on reservoirs until the annual rainy season comes. These days, the rains are more sparse and less frequent causing reservoirs to have dropped drastically, threatening hydroelectric processes.

Looking to the polestar for innovation, that’s where California is seeking solutions to this grave problem. Thus we see the marriage of solar power and waterways taking place in solar covered canals.

To learn more about this exciting project with huge benefits and potential negatives, check out the full article.

Top foods tainted by chemicals

Farmers have been using pesticides on their food crops for decades. That’s not news. But what IS news is that these pesticides are causing serious harm to humans. Some pesticides have been involved in the pathogenesis (the development) of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases as well as various disorders of the respiratory and reproductive tracts. Many pesticides are endocrine disruptors, substances that alter the function of the endocrine system and cause adverse health effects.

One example of this is that endocrine disrupting chemicals such as those found in many pesticides can damage the reproductive system. Some kill or damage cells; if these are sperm cells or oocytes, infertility can result. Others alter DNA structure, causing gene mutations that may result in birth defects or an inability to conceive. And endocrine disruptor-caused changes in hormone levels or function can result in abnormalities in reproduction, growth, and development, as well as cancer and immune system disorders, in infants and children.

Photo courtesty of Vegan Photo, flickr

Needless to say, our food is a direct link to our ingesting unwanted pesticides. So it’s vital to recognize the foods that are highest in pesticide residue. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) compiles it’s annual Dirty Dozen list. This year’s list (in order of concern) is:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard & mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bell & hot peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes (especially cherry tomatoes)

A recent newsletter from Change That Up added a few to this list:

  • Cucumbers
  • Snap peas
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Lettuce
  • Plums
  • Green beans

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks, flickr

So after reading these lists, what can you do? No, you don’t have to stop eating the veggies you like or the fruit you love. But you CAN do something to help dramatically reduce the amount of pesticides you unwittingly eat along with those fruits and veggies. And the solutions are pretty simple.

First, WASH YOUR PRODUCE!! And washing in just water isn’t enough. Many pesticides are designed to adhere or stick to produce in rain so you need to do more. Wash your produce in either a good veggie wash product – most supermarkets have at least one to choose from – or a simple solution of baking soda and water. It’s a simple method:

Swirl produce in a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda per 1 quart water for 30 seconds (the produce should be submerged in at least 1 inch of water). Then rinse under cold running water. 

Will these methods eliminate all pesticides from your produce? Sadly, the answer is not all. Some vegetables absorb pesticides through their stems into the fruit so there’s no way to get rid of them. For those, another solution would be to buy organic produce whenever possible. You can pick and choose which ones to buy according to the list above if you like. That can help you save on your grocery bill.

It pays to be an informed consumer, and more so as more research reveals the impact of toxic chemicals on humans. But educating ourselves on what’s on and in our food is a crucial step towards living a healthy lifestyle, don’t you think? The more we know, the smarter choices we can make.

Over 50 million birds dead due to avian flu. Yet vaccines are discouraged. Why?

A report today stated that 50.54 MILLION birds have died in the U.S. this year due to the avian flu. It’s the deadliest outbreak in U.S. history according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you look deeper into the story and do a little bit of research, the picture gets dark indeed.

First, the VAST majority of birds that die from this deadly disease are factory farmed chickens, turkeys, ducks and other birds. Factory farmed means these birds are kept in huge sheds, with little to no access to sunlight, dirt or even room to spread their wings or to stand up and move about freely. Their “living” conditions are beyond cramped and are considered by many to be inhumane.

This environment is a breeding ground for disease, just as refugee camps with people stacked upon each other are as well. It’s impossible not to make this kind of comparison.

Second, quick research revealed that according to an article from the National Library of Medicine, a “variety of vaccines have been developed and tested under experimental conditions with a few receiving licensure and field use following demonstration of purity, safety, efficacy and potency.” The same article states that “the use of vaccines against avian influenza viruses in birds has been discouraged over the years.”

So let’s get this straight. It’s more economic to slaughter millions of birds than to dedicate funding and time to finding a preventative that will save millions of lives and protect them from disease and death? It’s all about what’s easiest?

The more I read about this continuing slaughter – be it wild birds, who also seem prone to this scourge unfortunately – the more my blood boils at the callousness of the situation – and at the acceptance of the public of these facts. Yes, they’re birds. They don’t walk on 2 legs; they don’t speak the same language or have the same culture as we do.

But make no mistake. Science has already found that birds feel, they form relationships, they have their own favorites and preferences and they bond with humans if given a chance. So what makes us not have compassion for these creatures? What has us look at them as commodities to be discarded because they’re sick rather than buckling down to find a cure?

An even better question: how long will we humans continue to accept slaughtering animals for whatever reason – be it due to illness or threat of illness, economics or simply lack of wanting to take care of them anymore? We wouldn’t accept this behavior. If it was young children in these dire situations. Animal welfare / rescue organizations would scream and jump into action if it was companion animals such as dogs, cats or horses. So why do we accept this when it’s winged animals?

I know. This is a rant. But as a caring sentient being, as a practicing Buddhist, as a regular human being, I cannot sit by and simply accept that this is “the way things are”. It is inexcusable to me that millions – let me say it again – MILLIONS of innocent creatures meet a terrible death because human beings look the other way for whatever reason.

I challenge you the reader to speak up. Jump on social media and yell at the powers that be – the institution of factory farms, the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and whoever else you can think of. Demand that they DO SOMEETHING to stop this horrendous callousness, this abhorrent slaughter.

Do NOT think that your voice won’t count. Too many think that and nothing gets done. BUT one voice raised can start a movement. And many voices raised gets the attention of those in power – politicians pay attention; the media pays attention. So PLEASE speak up! We MUST stop this atrocity and NOT accept it a the way things will remain.

5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Successful Vegetable Garden To Grow Your Own Food – an Interview with Martita Mestey (for Authority Magazine)

As we all know, inflation has really increased the price of food. Many people have turned to home gardening to grow their own food. Many have tried this and have been really successful. But others struggle to produce food in their own garden. What do you need to know to create a successful vegetable garden to grow your own food? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Successful Vegetable Garden To Grow Your Own Food” we are talking to experts in vegetable gardening who can share stories and insights from their experiences.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Debra Atlas.

Asn environmental journalist, author, newspaper columnist, writer-for-hire, professional speaker and blogger, Debra Atlas focuses on critical environmental, conservation, agricultural and sustainability issues. She has been an avid home organic gardener for over 40 years, always working to improve her skill level and to expand biodiversity in her gardens. Debra’s mission is to inform, educate and inspire.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I became a freelance environmental journalist / writer in 2008. I also started my blog envirothink around that same time. Some of my blog posts caught the attention of a representative of the Costa Rican eco-tourism industry. She reached out to me to ask if I wanted to come to Costa Rica and 1) attend and blog at the 1st annual People Planet Peace conference and 2) to be a guest (for free!) at three eco-tourist hotels and blog about them. It was an incredibly exciting opportunity and so much fun! Like all the best opportunities throughout my career, this one fell into my lap without my seeking it. I love those!!

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three most important character traits instrumental to my success have been:

a. Tenacity

b. An unwillingness to accept “no”

c. Being a very good listener

Click here for the rest of the interview Don’t miss some great stuff!

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Water without plastic — a choice we can make

Photo by tanvi sharma on Unsplash

Plastic bottles are insidiously convenient. They’re easy to pack, relatively lightweight and inexpensive.

Every year, over 481 billion plastic bottles are purchased across the globe. In the US., we buy one million of them every day. Yet 91 percent of the world’s water bottles don’t get recycled, ending up in landfills, oceans or waterways.

The effects of this scourge are grim. Scientists recently reported finding microplastics in human blood and lung tissue. And marine and wildlife die from ingesting plastic, mistaking it for food.

69 billion single-use plastic water bottles are consumed annually in the US, But there’s an innovative alternative that’s convenient, lightweight and recyclable. To find out more click here.

Eco-Anxiety – a Real, Often Frightening Thing

The idea of climate change affecting people’s well-being may seem like science fiction. Yet evidence of climate change has barreled full force into our lives – more frequent, more destructive hurricanes; rising temperatures; melting glaciers and disintegrating ice shelves; severe droughts. This has given rise to what’s termed eco-anxiety. And psychologists are paying attention.

A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association linked the impact of climate change to mental health and referenced ‘eco-anxiety’ as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” The Climate Psychology Alliance – founded by Portland psychologist Thomas Dogherty who specializes in climate – sees this as “an inevitable, even healthy response to the ecological threats we are facing, such as food / water shortages, extreme weather events, species extinction, increased health issues (and pandemics), social unrest and potentially the demise of human life on Earth.”

According to a NY Times article, many leaders in mental health maintain that anxiety over climate change is no different, clinically, from anxiety caused by other societal threats, like terrorism or school shootings.

To learn more about this, go to

An Innovative Solution to Plastic Bag Recycling

Across the globe, we use 5 trillion plastic bags per year. According to the EPA, the U.S. uses 730,000 tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps annually – and less than one percent of these get recycled. Few US recycling centers or curbside recyclers accept them because bags gum up and contaminate their sorting machines. An environmental scourge, few plastic bags make it to landfills. Most get blown by the wind or end up in our oceans, smothering and killing marine life, birds and other wildlife.

Boston-based entrepreneur David New believes he has the solution.

News’s sleek-looking, innovative Obaggo is the world’s first and only in-home plastic bag and packaging film recycling appliance. It compresses up to 25 plastic bags and/or packaging film at a time, creating disks that are the perfect shape and size for recycling.

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Could the EV Superhighway become a reality?

EV Charging Station, photo courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Transportation, flickr

Electric vehicles are cool. Secretly a lot of us would love to own one. But a few factors stand in the way. For many, cost is a big consideration .And because we Americans love to travel by car, the toughest factor that keeps many from splurging on an electric vehicle is that there aren’t enough EV charging stations to make long distance travel easy.

But this problem could be in the process of changing.

The National EV Charging Initiative, a group of associations representing automakers, utilities, labor unions, investors and public interest groups, is working together to bring about the construction of this nation’s electric-vehicle charging network.

“We are driving together toward the future we want and need, delivering the charging network that will allow the transition to zero-emitting vehicles,” said Max Baumhefner, a senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The new bipartisan infrastructure bill would invest $7.5 billion into putting charge points along highways and in disadvantaged communities. Private companies, meanwhile, have already installed more than 100,000 public charging stations, and investor-owned utilities are investing $3 billion to deploy many more.

“With new federal and private investments – and breakthroughs in battery technology – range anxiety should soon go the way of the horse-drawn carriage,” Baumhefner said.

We may not have the much longed-for EV superhighway this year. But the possibility of this certainly is a lot closer than ever before. And that makes buying an electric vehicle a lot more attractive.

Food waste – a huge problem

Americans discard nearly 40 million tons of perfectly good food each year

With the pandemic still very wrecking havoc in our lives, it’s easy to ignore many other important problems, many hidden in plain sight One such issue is that of food waste. Here are some sobering statistics.

The United States has the dubious distinction of being the global leader in food waste. America wastes between 30 to 40 percent of its food supply. We discard nearly 40 million tons of food each year. That’s approximately 219 pounds of wasted food per person.

But we’re not the only ones. The UN reports that globally an estimated 17 percent of the food produced each year is wasted. And most of this – 61 percent – happens in homes, although food service accounts for 26 percent and retailers account for 13 percent.

Why does this happen, particularly with so much food insecurity taking place across the globe?

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A waste problem in plain sight finds a simple recycling solution

Photo courtesy of Dean Moriarty from Pixabay 

If I had to pick, I’d say that my top 2 favorite foods are really good Chinese and Japanese. And, over the years, I’ve become fairly proficient in using chopsticks to enjoy them with. I’ve even been known to quietly swipe a couple of extra one pairs from restaurants so that I can have some at home to use with my leftovers.

But as an environmental journalist, I sheepishly admit I never gave any thought to what happens to the millions of chopsticks used by thousands of restaurants across the country. It’s one of those in plain sight “small” issues that seem insignificant. Even considering the slim figure the humble chopstick presents, imagine the HUGE mountain they would make if they were all gathered together and stacked. The sight would be daunting.

LOOK: This Modular Shelving System Is Made Entirely Of Chopsticks |  Metro.Style
Felix Böck, innovator and CEO of ChopValue

One man stumbled on the idea to make used chopsticks recyclable – and this seemingly ridiculous idea is gaining traction.

Felix Böck, then a PhD student at Canada’s University of British Columbia, Canada, had been venting his frustration over the scant interest in his proposal to use waste wood from demolition and construction sites. Chopsticks in hand, Thalia Otamendi, the woman who is now his fiancée, looked at him and said: ‘Felix, maybe you just have to start with something small,’” said Böck. “And maybe it’s the chopstick.”

From that one statement, a uniquely innovative idea and recycling business was born. Böck sketched out plans for ChopValue, a start-up aimed at giving a new, useful second life to chopsticks. Soon enough, recycling bins were being dropped off at restaurants across Vancouver, methods of cleaning the simple utensils were developed and a process was developed to transform the chopsticks – most of which are made from bamboo – into sleek household items that range from tablet stands to tabletops.

Now, four years later, more than 32 thousand chopsticks have been successfully recycled and repurposed – diverting them from ending up in landfills and creating 40 new jobs.

ChopValue has expanded its North American presence and its process, which uses heat, steam and pressure to transform the chopsticks into wooden tiles. It’s now also being used in Calgary, Montreal and Los Angeles. And the company is dedicated to leading by an example of sustainability in its business practices.

There’s more to the story, which you can find here. But there’s also an important message here. Innovation can come by looking at simple, everyday objects and thinking about them a different way. And one person’s idea can transform something that others consider a wasted product into something new and useful again.

Something to ponder, yes?