First things first, though. Or, last things last: the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, and all the rest are long gone, but I’ve got one final pumpkin from the garden that needs eating.
Now that 2018 is drawing to a wintry close, soon this blog project will as well. I’m not sure exactly what’s ahead for next year—no one ever really is, are they? But now that I’ve given so much thought and a little hands-on work to how my life relies on healthy soil and water, I do find myself thinking more and more about how I can rely on wind and sun as well. Renewable energy must be the future for all of humanity, and I’m interested in how my own work can help bring about that future.
I do love celebrating a good year and brightening these wintry days with a little festive decorating. And the New Mexican tradition of setting out luminaria is a particularly lovely way to do it.
World Soil Day came at a perfect moment, prompting me to reflect all the way back to the very beginning of this journey. Soil is where all food begins. It’s also exactly where we started back in January: standing before an expanse of crumbly dry dirt and wondering how I could possibly bring it to life. I knew nothing. And then I began to learn.
I attended local classes where instructors taught us how to analyze soil’s texture and amend it with organic matter. I joined the county’s Master Composters and began creating my own rich compost at home with an indoor worm bin and an outdoor pile. Eventually I gathered seeds from the region; I planted and watered and weeded and waited. I got my hands dirty over the months until, at last, I harvested the fruits of my labor.
I didn’t harvest all that much, of course. If I actually needed to feed myself then I’d have starved to death long ago, just as I predicted. But the goal wasn’t to become a self-sufficient food producer overnight. It was to experience how much time and effort and care go into producing the food we eat. It was to learn about the vast ecosystem of land and people who labor on our behalf each day to produce our food and enable us to live. And it was to explore how we can support a food system that’s healthy and sustainable, locally and globally.
In that sense, I think this has been a good year for me and my little food garden.
Nothing like these cold, bleakly-lit days and long, frosty nights to make you feel like curling up under a blanket and waiting out the winter. And it’s not even officially winter yet.
It gets cold in the desert at night, particularly up in the mountains; the stars hammer on the rock and strike frost.
Biting the Sun
While the sun shines brightly on New Mexico and its growing ranks of solar panels, I’m particularly interested in educating myself more on the promise of wind energy…
I’m proud these days to have helped elect Tim Keller as mayor of Albuquerque. Per the Albuquerque Journal editorial board:
Albuquerque’s mayoral administration is embarking on a path to power city government with 100 percent renewable, clean energy within four years.
Last week, Mayor Tim Keller announced a partnership with Public Service Company of New Mexico that would have city-owned facilities using 25 of the 50 megawatts of electricity produced by a brand new solar generating station. That would put the city’s energy use at 58 percent renewables, compared to 4 percent today. Reducing energy use and installing $25 million worth of solar panels on city buildings are also part of the city’s road map to 100 percent renewable energy.
It’s a time of transitions.
From harvest to hibernation. From autumn to winter. From 2018 to the unknowns of the new year ahead.
From a Republican-dominated federal government to a Democratic House. From the tumultuous first two years of the corrupt and regressive Trump presidency to a blue wave of resistance and progressive leadership going forward.
From fossil fuels to renewable energy, we hope. What other hope do we have?
I keep coming back to this line from the op-ed I shared yesterday:
California has done our part, passing 100 percent renewable energy requirements by 2045 to move toward a clean energy future. We need to invest in technologies to mitigate climate disasters, not recklessly expand offshore oil drilling.
Starting a home garden is well and good, and has been, for me, a meaningful way to engage with the food I eat and consider the soil, seeds, sun, and labor that go into nourishing me every hour of every day. I plan to continue growing vegetables for myself in the seasons ahead, as well as supporting local farms through CSA memberships and voting with my dollars when it comes to local, organic, sustainable food cultivation.
Already, though, I’m beginning to transition mentally to the next question. Food keeps me alive each day. But other forms of energy keep my life running: gasoline to drive to the coast and back, natural gas to heat my home and cook my dinner, coal- and nuclear-generated electricity to light my rooms and let me type these words. I already try to minimize the energy I use by walking rather than driving whenever possible (minus the occasional long trip), setting the thermostat efficiently, and switching off my low-watt light bulbs when I leave a room. Gold star sticker for me, right? But even if we all do our little bits and pieces to live efficiently, it won’t be close to enough for the globe. What else can I do as a single citizen? How can I help do my part to move toward a clean energy future?
Another sight that startled me while driving along the California coast last week, just a few hours after passing the charred remains of the recent Woolsey Fire in Malibu, was a steady march of offshore oil rigs on the western horizon. There were dozens of them over the miles, hazy in the distance but still very much present; they studded the ocean view on every beach we passed. I didn’t realize this blue state had allowed its blue waters to be tapped by the fossil fuel industry in this way and to this extent.
The above photo is mine; here’s another to show what the drilling rigs look like in detail.
Now that we’re unwinding from our road trip back home, I looked up more about California’s offshore drilling and found this op-ed published just a few days ago: “Trump’s half-baked offshore drilling plan is not safe” by Mary Creasman for The Hill, published November 23. Below are a few excerpts.
President Trump’s plan to open California’s iconic coast to unsafe oil and gas drilling is unfolding minute-by-minute. First, he and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed opening the largest swath of our country’s offshore drilling reserves ever offered to oil companies. Then, they proposed rolling back critical safety measures in place to prevent oil spill disasters.
These announcements were not just half-baked remarks to put a smile on the face of Big Oil. The Trump administration is hellbent on expanding drilling throughout our waters, a shameless money grab that flies in the face of what Californians care about.
Our state remembers well the tragic oil spills that caused irreversible damage to our oceans. From San Francisco to Santa Barbara, these preventable disasters destroyed habitats, killed wildlife, and devastated coastal communities that rely on beaches for their livelihoods.
At a time when the deadliest wildfire in California history continues to burn, we need bold action to fight climate change and transition our economy away from dirty fossil fuels. California has done our part, passing 100 percent renewable energy requirements by 2045 to move toward a clean energy future. We need to invest in technologies to mitigate climate disasters, not recklessly expand offshore oil drilling.
Today is Giving Tuesday—as the movement describes itself on its website, “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.”
Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.
Feeling generous? Here are a few nonprofit organizations working hard to protect the planet (and all of us who live on it) that could always use our support.
Reporting on all things environment and climate, including investigative deep dives: Grist
Informing consumers of the importance of their purchasing decisions: Story of Stuff
Organizing communities to engage political leadership: Citizens Climate Lobby
Influencing public policy and developing incentives for companies to improve their environmental stewardship: Environmental Defense Fund
Employing hundreds of scientists to help protect ecologically significant waters and lands around the globe from threats like development, pollution, and invasive species: The Nature Conservancy
…Not that there’s anyone left who claims they don’t believe in climate change and humanity’s role in fueling it. Right?
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated 4:04 PM ET, Mon November 26, 2018
(CNN) President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed a study produced by his own administration, involving 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate scientists, warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change.
Why, you ask?
“I don't believe it,” Trump told reporters on Monday, adding that he had read “some” of the report.
Read more on CNN, or, really, any other reputable news outlet today. Just Google it. But be quick: by tomorrow coverage of our president’s disbelief will be eclipsed by another news cycle.
Who’s fueling the climate change that’s fueling the wildfires that are burning the land? Us, of course. Us, driving our car a thousand miles across the desert just to enjoy the ocean for a few days and then drive back again, burning fossil fuels the whole way. And us, all of us, driving all our cars all around. And us, heating our homes with natural gas and cooling them with air conditioning. And us, buying petroleum-derived plastic products and carrying them around in plastic bags. All of us. Those who think about it, and those who don’t. Those who care about it, and those who don’t. Those who believe it, and those who don’t.
I was able to witness firsthand the effects of climate change on the coast west of Los Angeles yesterday. What was meant to be a carefree vacation in sunny California, planned weeks ago, turned into a strange sort of ecotourism when our road trip took us along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu where the Woolsey Fire burned just a week earlier.
We’d been driving south through green hillsides for an hour when suddenly we hit the Santa Monica Mountains. They were burned bald of trees and scrub; the exposed dirt beneath was scorched black. The sky was a clear blue, but the air smelled of smoke. We passed at least a dozen white utility trucks servicing downed power lines. Traffic lights that had lost electricity were temporarily replaced by stop signs. Where elsewhere rows of palm trees waved like verdant flags, here their skeletons were charred black.
According to the latest data posted online by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, three people lost their lives in the blaze and 1,500 structures were destroyed. Yet we rolled on through past tourist-filled beaches and surfer-filled ocean waves as if this were just another Friday. Just another holiday weekend.
Today, the day after Thanksgiving—when, per this morning’s NPR coverage, 70% of the American population is busy kicking off their holiday shopping with Black Friday sales in-store and online—the Trump administration released a congressionally mandated federal report on climate change.
New federal climate assessment for U.S. released
November 23, 2018 — A new federal report finds that climate change is affecting the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, and human health and welfare across the U.S. and its territories.
Key findings of the NCA4, Vol. II
Human health and safety, our quality of life, and the rate of economic growth in communities across the U.S. are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The cascading impacts of climate change threaten the natural, built and social systems we rely on, both within and beyond the nation’s borders.
Societal efforts to respond to climate change have expanded in the last five years, but not at the scale needed to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.
Without substantial and sustained global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and regional initiatives to prepare for anticipated changes, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.
Agriculture and food production
Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly challenge the quality and quantity of U.S. crop yields, livestock health, price stability and rural livelihoods.
Continued changes to Earth’s climate will cause major disruptions in some ecosystems. Some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing transformational changes, affecting communities and economies that rely upon them.
Water and the coasts
Changes in the quality and quantity of fresh water available for people and the environment are increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry and recreation.
Climate change will transform coastal regions by the latter part of this century, with ripple effects on other regions and sectors. Many communities should expect higher costs and lower property values from sea level rise.
Climate change threatens the health and well-being of the American people by causing increasing extreme weather, changes to air quality, the spread of new diseases by insects and pests, and changes to the availability of food and water.
Indigenous cuisine is more than just the food, ingredients or cooking techniques that were used. There is meaning behind it. It brings families together and unites communities during celebration or mourning. You take from the land only that what you require and give thanks to the creator for the gift that was shared to you to share with others.
Chef Quentin Glabus (Frog Lake Cree First Nations),
quoted in “This Thanksgiving, Make These Native Recipes From Indigenous Chefs”
On this day before Thanksgiving, I’ll let this plaque speak for itself.