The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Mitzvah Moments by Tish Levee - September 2016


Mitzvah Moments by Tish Levee - September 2016

by Tish Levee

July was the warmest month on record – ever!

Not only were global mean temperatures this July the warmest on record for July, they were the warmest for any month, dating back to 1880, according to NASA. The last three years has seen three of the four warmest recorded Julys.

Extreme weather events, including flooding, are related to climate change. 

A week after what’s being calling the Great Flood of 2016 wrecked much of southeastern Louisiana, 13 people have died, about 4,000 people remain in shelters and 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the worst U.S. natural disaster since 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. Now heavy rain, up to 11” in one location, is falling in southern Texas, causing flash floods. 

Since May 2015, there’ve been eight events, including the Louisiana flood. In some area in Louisiana, as much as 31 inches of rain fell – the equivalent of a “1,000 year rain,” or a 0.1 percent chance that occurring in a given year. Many destroyed homes weren’t in flood zones, so their owners had no flood insurance.

Blame climate change for this flood. Climate activist Bill McKibben of said, “This is exactly what scientists have been predicting.…Warm air holds more water vapor,” which is turning out to be one of the most important facts of the 21st century. He added that while Louisiana was flooding, huge flood events were also happening in Moscow – with the biggest rains in 129 years of record-keeping – the Sudan, and Manila.

Forest fires are fueled by climate change. 

Several years of drought have brought more fires in California. While last winter we saw much needed rain, it also meant a huge growth of grasses that are now dry and fueling fires statewide. 

Our historic drought stressed trees across California, making them ideal prey for these beetles. Higher temperatures favor them, making possible two generations per year rather than one. And extreme winds resulting from climate change may increase their outbreaks.

Thus the drought and hungry beetles have created more than 66 million dead trees in California – more than twice the number there were last year, says the US Forest Service. As a result, California is a tinderbox. Long term drought weakens the trees’ resistance to bark beetles. The insect infestations dry out vegetation further, creating forests that can light up like tinder. Fires then damage more trees, attracting more beetles, and turning more forests brown.

The drought may seem over, BUT…  

Since California rolled back water restrictions in May, water usage has started to creep up. Recently 343 of the state’s 411 water districts reported having enough water to meet their customers’ demands – even if the next three years are unusually dry – and thus set their conservation standard at 0%.

However, we live in a Mediterranean climate, with a population much greater than our water resources can support long term. When the next drought comes, and it will, it’ll take time to gear up for it. That’s why we need to  keep practicing all the good habits we’ve learned during the latest drought, and never feel as if there is enough water. ‘Cause there really isn’t.

Thinking of putting in a new lawn? 

Now that water restrictions have been lifted, it may seem a good time to replace that dead, brown lawn. But don’t put down new sod. Instead, make the switch to  drought-tolerant plantings, especially native plants. You’ll save yourself a lot of work, money, and most of all, water. In Sonoma County, 500 square feet of lawn requires about 2800 gallons of water a month to maintain, but less than 100 gallons a year planted in drought-tolerant landscaping. (Note: These figures are from 2009.) If perchance your lawn isn’t dead yet, you may qualify for a rebate from city or county agencies. Fortunately, our local agencies are still encouraging water  conservation with this and other rebates.

This month’s website is  

I love this website. It has lots of short articles/tutorials on recycling questions with great information – reading them earns points you can use for shopping and discounts. Unfortunately, most of the discounts are on the Penninsula for now, but that can change.


©Copyright Tish Levee, 2016