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Mitzvah Moments by Tish Levee -June 2016

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Mitzvah Moments by Tish Levee - June 2016

by Tish Levee

The San Francisco Bay’s on the ballot. 

If you didn’t have any other reason to go the polls on June 7th, here’s a really important one. We’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to protect our region by voting for Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay, which allows Bay Area voters to invest $500 million over 20 years – via a $12 per year parcel tax – to enhance the Bay and protect the shoreline for future generations. Lear more at  of oil.

How many oil spills does it take before we get it?  

Recently a Shell Oil site leaked roughly 88,200 gallons (2100 barrels) of oil, creating a visible 2  X 13 mile slick in the Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of oil spills occur in US waters each year, but most are small in size, spilling less than one barrel of oil.

However, in the 47 years since the oil well blowout in Santa Barbara, California, there’ve been at least 44 oil spills of over 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) affecting US waters. The largest was the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon well blowout in 2010, which released a net of more than 3 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. Even relatively small oil spills, however, can cause major environmental and economic harm, depending on location, season, environmental sensitivity, and type of oil.

Spills don’t just happen in the ocean. In 2013, Steve Jensen discovered the largest spill on land while harvesting wheat on his South Dakota farm. A Tesoro Corporation pipeline leaking an estimated 20,600 barrels (865,200 gallons) of oil that covered an area equivalent to seven football fields. Last fall, a natural gas well at Porter Ranch in Southern California leaked 100,000 tons of methane before it was capped after 111 days.

All the spills around the world, not just in the US, are a major reason to “Keep it in the Ground.”

Fossil fuels drive climate change, meaning more wild fires.

We just lived through a devastating wild fire last summer in Lake County. The recent fire in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada, was ten times the size of the Valley Fire. Both, however were fueled by tinder and helped by unseasonably warm weather and low humidity, and they added to the problems that created them. By May 12th, the Alberta fire had released the equivalent of 5% of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Climate warming means earlier snow melt, and hotter, longer droughts which leave soil and vegetation drier and help to push fire season to begin earlier and last longer – on average 78 days longer than in 1970. 

Wildfires in Canada and Alaska may have far reaching effects, because they can strip away the protective layer of vegetation, exposing the permafrost and releasing all the stockpiled carbon stored there into the atmosphere. 

Wildfires both directly contribute CO2 to the atmosphere and hinder forests’ ability to absorb CO2 for years to come. In other words, more wildfires means more GHG, accelerating the very climate change that may have helped kick off the fires in the first place – not to mention changing the equation for rest of the globe.

Science may not show a direct link between climate change and the existence of any one particular fire, but there is no doubt why the blaze that devoured the Alberta town was so powerful. Mike Flannigan, a wildfire scientist at the University of Alberta, says, “We attribute the increase in wildfires and their severity and intensity to human-caused climate change… Many of us saw a Fort McMurray-like situation coming, but none of us expected anything as horrific as what has happened.”

Three easy  ways you can help fight climate change—

1)  Stop idling your engine! 

If everyone in the US idled their car engines just one minute less per day, we’d save over 92 million gallons of gasoline a year, reducing CO2 emissions by nearly 225,200 tons.

2) Go meatless once a week.

Producing one pound of beef creates 30 pounds of GHC emissions, versus less than 1.5 pounds of GHC for a pound of carrots, potatoes, or rice.

3) Buy local. 

The average American meal travels 1500 from farm to plate.

© Tish Levee, 2016