Nature and Environment
News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.


5 Things to Know About Energy Regulations That Were Rescinded in 2018

 

 Photo credit Pexels

Regardless of a person's political leanings, it's difficult to argue the Trump administration has not had a significant impact on the environment.

Here are some of the most useful things to keep in mind about the energy policies that have been rolled back this year.

1. Oil Drilling Sites Can Become More Plentiful

At the beginning of 2018, the Trump administration reversed three policies related to oil drilling.

One allows hydraulic fracking to happen on federally protected lands or waters, and another overhauls safety regulations put in place by the Obama administration in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon crisis.

Finally, there's a plan to develop more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf, including areas that were previously off-limits for oil drilling.

Analysts say the reduced regulation will make parties more prone to scrutiny if they make mistakes. But, more potential for oil drilling also ramps up the potential environmental impacts, including oil spills and increased pollution.

2. The EPA May No Longer Measure the Full Health Effects of Reducing Air Pollutants From Energy Plants

In October 2018, news broke that Trump is considering rescinding a rule for how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must make decisions about the use of substances that pollute the air. Currently, the EPA measures the costs of industries complying with new standards versus the effects on public health.

When looking at the latter, it considers the positive health effects that happen by reducing pollutants other than the ones the EPA is evaluating — also known as co-benefits. For example, under the Obama administration, the agency calculated limiting the release of mercury into the air would result in a $9.6 billion benefit to public health.

However, after taking co-benefits into account, the EPA said the total positive effects to public health could be as much as $90 billion due to the way limiting mercury would also curtail soot and nitrogen oxide.

Now, if a rollback proposed in 2018 goes into effect, the Trump administration will conclude it's not appropriate to calculate co-benefits, and the EPA will loosen the previous limitations on carbon dioxide. Analysts are also worried that the move will have a domino effect and soon apply to other substances, too.

3. States Can Set Regulations for Coal-Fueled Power Plant Emissions, Which Could Hurt Health

A plan known as the Affordable Clean Energy Rule lets states set rules about greenhouse gas emissions related to coal-fueled power plants. It would replace an initiative under the Obama administration called the Clean Air Plan, which sought to prevent the premature deaths that result from coal pollution.

In contrast, a forecast shows the Affordable Clean Energy Rule could result in up to 1,400 more premature deaths each year and could exacerbate respiratory ailments, especially in kids.

In light of this news, it's important to remember there are sustainable uses for power plant waste. For example, coal ash serves as a replacement for the natural materials used when producing portland cement, which gets widespread use around the world. It's essential to continue to look at sustainable options for coal waste that could positively affect the environment.

4. The Trump Administration Disbanded an Air-Quality Review Panel

A list of EPA panels that will continue their work in 2019 does not include the Particulate Matter Review Panel, which is a 20-person group of experts that work for the EPA and evaluate microscopic airborne pollutants. However, the EPA would not comment on its reasons for discontinuing the meetings of that group.

The news concerned environmental activists who said the decision represented a continual trend to become less dependent on science when making decisions about the environment. Since energy regulations often affect air quality, it's not difficult to see how this change could give more leeway to entities in the energy sector, potentially making air pollution problems worse.

5. Climate Change Progress Has Already Slowed

A team of expert scientists pored over thousands of reports and concluded there is only a 12-year window left to keep the effects of climate change at a moderate level. Failing to do that, they say, raises the risk of devastating storms, famines and other events that could put the world in crisis.

And, according to Trevor Houser, leader of the energy and climate team at The Rhodium Group, an independent research organization that analyzes global trends, only a few of the Trump administration's rollbacks will reduce the United States' climate change progress by 1 to 2 percent.

Houser calls out these factors as causing the backslide:

1. Replacing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan with something less restrictive

2. Attempts to reduce limits on methane emissions associated with oil and gas operations

3. The decision to keep vehicle fuel economy standards at 2020 levels instead of tightening them

Small Changes Have Lasting Impacts

This sobering overview shows how a small number of regulatory changes can have adverse effects on a country or the world.

That's why it's crucial for concerned citizens and people involved in local government to enact smaller, but still significant, changes for energy regulations when possible.

Staying proactive is a necessity that affects individuals as well as larger society.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Modern Homesteading: How Homesteaders Are Using Smart Tech to Stay Independent

 

Homesteaders value their land for more than its profitability. In the countryside, the air is cleaner, the nights are quieter and there's a sense of calm. It's an independent lifestyle distanced from the demands of a major metropolitan area, with its crowded streets and perpetual flow of people.

Though independence from towns and cities has its own unique appeal, it's not without its challenges. The modern conveniences of urban living aren't always available to homesteaders, and their seclusion only compounds the problem. It seems, at first, like an unavoidable compromise.

Fortunately for rural families and farmers alike, this is not the case. They've incorporated smart home devices into their properties to enjoy the benefits of technology while retaining their independence. Through the use of modern products, they've reached a comfortable balance.

Smart Security

Consumers can choose from a broad selection of smart home devices to protect their property against intruders. Given the isolated nature of many rural properties, this is particularly relevant to homesteaders. They can't depend on a next-door neighbor to report suspicious activity and act on their behalf.

Through the simple installation of security cameras, a homesteader can ensure the safety of themselves and their family. Even when they're absent from their property, an app on the user's smartphone enables them to survey their land and alleviate any unnecessary anxiety over potential intruders.

A surveillance system also allows farmers to assess and attend to other threats that might harm their livestock, like coyotes and wolves. It's a pressing issue that farmers have to consider, with predatory animals accountable for over 10 percent of deaths among calves. A proactive approach reduces this risk.

Motion Sensors

Navigating a rural property in the dark can prove perilous without the proper lighting. With the installation of motion sensors, a farmer can move about their property at night and depend on an automated system to keep them safe. They're far less likely to stumble or hurt themselves in an accident.

If a farmer needs to find an item in an unlit shed and has to struggle to locate the switch, they could potentially snag themselves on a sharp object and suffer injury. Motion sensor technology can prevent these incidents and others like them, turning the lights on the moment a person steps into the room.

Motion sensors also serve as an additional security measure. Uninvited visitors who sneak into a homesteader's property at night may feel threatened by a sudden light and decide to retreat. Both criminals and predatory animals depend on stealth, which is something a motion sensor doesn't allow for.

Smart Thermostat

A rural property requires a substantial amount of energy to run. In maintaining the temperature of barns, workshops and outbuildings, farmers sometimes struggle with their monthly expenses. Through the installation of a smart thermostat, however, they're able to offset costs and improve their efficiency.

These devices don't require manual input to adjust the temperature and can learn the schedule of the user to accommodate their patterns. In heating and cooling a homestead only when it's necessary, they conserve energy and reduce excess expenditure. They'll gradually accumulate considerable savings.

According to the Department of Energy, turning the thermostat back 7-10 F can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling. With a programmable thermostat that regulates itself, farmers can take advantage of smart technology for both their comfort and finances.

Monitors and Controls

In the agriculture industry, success often depends on productivity. Professionals can maximize their productivity through special smart home devices designed for commercial use in farm operations. They can monitor the energy, food, water, fresh air and temperature in their facilities for peak performance.

Technology is also in development that assists farmers in tending to their crops, with devices that manage nutrient levels and irrigation. Through the automation of common duties, these devices have the potential to increase production by a significant margin. Small-scale farmers can consider expansion.

Even simple tools benefit from the integration of smart technology. Equipment that helps to monitor and manage a property is useful, but something as small as a digital smart level can take much of the stress off  of basic homesteading chores and repairs. A seemingly insignificant change can make life much easier.

Modern Homesteading

A reliance on smart technology may seem contrary to a rural lifestyle, but a balance is possible. Those who enjoy the countryside know the importance of using all the resources at their disposal, and the products mentioned here are only some of the solutions that can improve their lives.

As homesteading blogger Victoria Gazeley astutely observed, "modern homesteading isn't about living the life of someone in the 1800s. It's about showing appreciation for the old ways of doing things. Homesteaders can respect that tradition and still adapt to modern challenges." With the devices detailed above, that's exactly what they've done.


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Has the Edible Landscape Gone Too Far?

 

The writer’s country cottage in Virginia is surrounded by lawn and meadow, and then forest. Wildlife stays in the woods, where there is both food and shelter from predators.

I realized recently, with a sickening thud of recognition, that maybe I’m part of the problem.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. And, boy, am I sorry. What’s the problem? Bears, for one thing. Deer. Bobcats and pumas, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and flocks of wild turkey. But mostly, where I live, bears.

When three bears – a mama and two half-grown cubs – suddenly appeared in my field of vision the other day it didn’t register at first. Wow, I thought, those sure are three big shaggy black dogs walking up the middle of the street…off leash. Uh, wait a minute. Those aren’t dogs, they’re bears! Beautiful beasts: lustrous, muscular, and in no big hurry. Unless they are.

“Something’s wrong with this picture,” I thought. Not: bears are bad; rather, this many bears in my central Asheville, N.C., neighborhood at midday is new and disturbing.

Sure, it’s common knowledge among locals that there are bears in the city. But over the dozen years that I have lived here their incidence has changed radically, from occasional bear sightings in the more remote and wooded parts of town, to frequent sightings in the closer suburbs, to, now, the appearance of groups of bears in a downtown neighborhood full of kids, pets, Airbnb visitors, delivery trucks, and a few old folks like me. I

Seeing those bears appear and disappear so fast – emerging from one clump of vegetation and slipping away into another – alerted me to all sorts of unpleasant possibilities. I understand that black bears are not particularly aggressive unless threatened with their cubs alongside them. But it wasn’t part of the social contract when so many of us humans moved into these walkable center-city neighborhoods that we would be sharing the sidewalks with 300-pound free-range omnivores rocking two-inch claws.

And then I remembered that earlier in the year, July of 2018, some neighbors had sent me video of a large bear walking up the steps of their house, eager to get at the grapes that festooned their front porch. This wasn’t just any house: my husband and I had designed and built it some years earlier and later moved two doors away on the same block to build another new house. I had planted those too-successful grapes and carefully trained them onto the porch supports, and I had planted the pawpaw trees that were loaded with ripening fruit, and I had planted the Asian persimmon tree in the front yard; now that it’s mature, the plump dusky orange fruits come ripe and drop like sugar bombs onto the sidewalk in autumn. I had planted the apple tree too. Insert either video clip or photo grapevines porch woven.

I Invited Bears Into the ‘Hood

More landscaping, more edibles and drinkables from our city lots. That was my cry for years, both in print and on the lecture circuit. See what I can grow? Everything! And I had the nerve to tell audiences to take away their bird feeders and keep kitchen compost out of the yard so that “critters” wouldn’t be attracted. Now I see I was missing something.

Looking around the city, though, my self-criticism was tempered by the realization that everyone else is doing the same thing. Planting, planting, planting. And in five years, or twenty, or fifty, it all goes so wild, because it’s so foreign to our nature to kill a tree or root out a shrub. And it’s simply a plant’s nature to proliferate.

These grapevines growing in central Asheville, carefully trained through porch railings, will eventually attract bears right up to the owners’ front door.

Insert your own city wildlife stories here, my urban homesteading friends. In Asheville at any rate, the common wisdom is that humans have encroached onto bear territory, so naturally there will be encounters.

I just don’t buy it. Look back to photos of 100 or 150 years ago in many parts of the United States – and in the case of Virginia or New England, earlier still, well before photography existed – and you will see the hillsides denuded, clear cut for the voracious American timber industry. Around Asheville the bare mountains were often planted with tobacco or left to erode, certainly not creating bear habitat, nor habitat for much of anything else.

No, I think today’s bears -- and bobcats and deer and turkey – are re-colonizing, re-occupying the habitat that we now supply for them ourselves within our densely planted cities: forest, forest understory, and the margins of forest. We are willfully, if unwittingly, growing wildlife habitat, confusing lushness in the city for rationality, whereas what we might need is a look back to Old Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America: their ornamental gardens smaller than small, sometimes only a few potted plants in a courtyard; orchard lands typically situated out in the country, easily patrolled; and vegetables grown behind walls or fences.

What has called this issue to my mind so strongly is the move that my husband and I are making this year from the big city – Asheville – to an old farming community near the New River, in southwest Virginia. We are retiring, seeking dark skies at night, a different way to see the world by day, and a way to take a zero off our living expenses. Our small Virginia house, 800 square feet, is surrounded by a few acres of lawn and meadow, and beyond that nothing but forest.

Just now we’re in the phase when we go back and forth to Virginia every few weeks with car loads of books and pots and pans and winter clothes to drop off.

>Living more and more in the country, where deer and bear and turkeys and bobcats all thrive, I have been shocked not to have seen a single bear all year, and only a few fleeting deer. Several shy turkeys that sped off as soon as they perceived a human. These are wild, wild animals in their natural habitat, and in contrast the closely cropped lawn surrounding our Virginia house makes anything that moves a target for some predator. Every living thing is eating something else. Even the bears get eaten, as hunting is encouraged but highly regulated in order to keep populations in check; Virginia hunters harvested more than 2,800 black beras in 2017, North Carolina almost 3,500, leaving the breeding population intact.

Out of whack bear populations, then? With hunting prohibited inside cities, and with every leafy suburb likewise a hunting-free zone, it’s no wonder that wildlife and people are facing crisis together.

My apologies for encouraging this imbalance in the past. My call now is: Plant Less. Remove More. Open up the yard or put a wall around it. Take out a tree.

Move to the country, where the wildlife is wild. Or stay in the city, making every square inch of landscaping a wildlife-free jewel. It’s time to look at a bigger picture.

Nan K. Chase @drinktheharvest, tends her edible, drinkable landscape in western North Carolina, concentrating these days on the allium family (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, chives), perennial herbs, rhubarb, serviceberry and crabapple trees, plus greens and carrots in the shoulder seasons. She is the author of Eat Your Yard! and co-author of Drink the Harvest, and her crabapple jelly has won a blue ribbon at the Mountain State Fair.


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Saga Of A Wildfire: Part 2

 

Post Wildfire Problems

In the first part of this series regarding the Colorado Spring wildfire I related the experience of going through evacuation and the wildfire itself. This segment will deal with the aftermath once we returned to our home and what follows.  It has been 10 weeks since we were able to return to our home and now we are dealing with the lingering after effects of the wildfire. While our property and structures are thankfully intact the area around us is totally and completely destroyed (see photo).

Soot And Ash Irritation:

When the wind blows, which it does frequently, the ash and soot blow around in clouds that sting our eyes and choke us. The wildfire burned so intensely hot that in much of the area it burned the nutrients out of the soil 3-4” deep, so there is nothing growing to keep it from being blown around. We keep our windows closed but it still invades our home and settles on everything. We dust daily and 10 weeks later the dust cloth still comes away black from the ash and soot. We can feel it on our skin and it is gritty on our teeth. It burns our eyes and our voices are raspy. Ballpoint pens don’t write well as this fine dust adheres to paper. It accumulates in the carpet and we are frequently shampooing the carpeting to get it out.  

Soot And Ash Infiltrates Everything:

The water that puddled up on the tarp was mostly black. Our deck and sidewalk are black or dark grey from the soot and ash. There is abundant soot and ash to keep blowing on the wind for a very long time. Rarely have we looked forward to snow as we have this year. Electronics do not function as well due to the soot infiltrating inside them.  Soot/ash is attracted to any heat source like refrigerator or freezer motors/elements and they too need more regular cleaning.

Lingering Odor:

Beyond the annoyance of the never ending fine soot/ash that permeates every nook and cranny in the house we still have the smell outside especially when it becomes wet or damp. There is little doubt  that these problems will persist long after the snow melts next spring.

Increase Risk Of Flash Flooding And Avalanche:

While our prior concern was wildfire our new concern is the spring run off that will wash all that ash and soot and dead trees down the mountain. The wildfire also burned over the top of the mountain and all that is left now is black ash/soot where there were once healthy trees and ground vegetation. Once the snow season starts and the snow accumulates the sun will penetrate the snow and when it reflects off the blackened ground it will generate heat and possibly form a teflon type surface that could facilitate avalanches.

More Physical Hazards:

Working outside is hazardous as many trees are burned off at the base and only a small stem of wood is holding them up. The trees are prone to fall unexpectedly when the wind strikes them from the right direction. Ash pits also exist where trees and roots have burned down into the ground and formed holes covered with ash that can injure a leg if you accidentally stepped into one. 

Bureaucratic Requirements:

In addition to going through a wildfire the magnitude of the Spring wildfire, the problems of dealing with post bureaucratic requirements are what some have discovered as the second trauma. State, federal and county requirements are that ash has to be removed from a home site in 6 mil plastic bags or the landfill won’t accept it. They also suggest a licensed contractor trained in hazardous waste removal to perform the disposal. On top of this they want all metal roofing washed on site before it is removed. They are still debating how to dispose of cement blocks or cement.

Bureaucracy And Common Sense Are Not Always Compatible:

The concern is asbestos, lead paint and other hazardous waste. Asbestos was prohibited in 1972 and homes built in this community were built years after it had been banned. Bureaucrats do not understand that kind of logic or reasoning and stick to their regulations whether they make sense or not. Most homeowner insurance policies I am familiar with only allow 5% of the coverage on the dwelling for debris removal. Hence a $200,000.00 home would only have available $10,000.00 for debris removal. Asbestos testing and core samples prior to debris removal are far more expensive than normal debris removal due to the special handling required.    

Bureaucracy - Help Or Hindrance?

It seems to me that the bureaucrats would want to help those victims of a wildfire rather than hinder them or impede their rebuilding. Common sense and logic do not seem to dovetail into bureaucratic policy. I would also think that they would not want the environment degradation to be unnecessarily be drawn out and not impede the cleanup with bureaucratic red tape.  /p>

Revised Evacuation List:

Hopefully our personal experience and observations from going through a wildfire will enable others to revise  their evacuation planning and give them a heads up regarding the aftermath. We discovered that when given a short time to evacuate our pre-arranged items to take with us were not as realistic as we thought they would be. We didn’t take nearly enough clothes and our toiletry kit lacked several items. Evacuation items need to be more carefully evaluated if we are ever forced to evacuate again in the future.

Unforeseen Problems:

Our smart phones and computers did not work because the cell towers burned down along with the transmitting stations. We were without internet or cell coverage for several days post evacuation before it was finally restored. There were many false rumors going around and to have accurate information when you are out of your home and far from the daily briefings having working communication is very important.

Summray

In summary: Having a good well thought out and accurate evacuation plan is essential but when you are rushing to evacuate and in a mild panic it is easy to overlook some things and grab others that are not really needed. There are service agencies usually available to assist evacuees and I would suggest that they be utilized as they are a stabilizing force during a chaotic time. This blog has been written to provide insight into what can be expected if impacted by a wildfire. We made mistakes in pre-planning and did not account for the panic experienced when having to leave our home suddenly. For us nothing went exactly as planned but our planning was flawed from the start however it went better than having no plan.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle in mountain living and experiences visit their personal blog site at:www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com

 


 

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The Earth Law Movement Grows

 figure-1 from Pexels.com

Pexels.com

Originally published in 1972, Should Trees Have Standing? rallied a new environmental movement. Christopher Stone, a professor at the University of Southern California, wrote the article and then published a book with the same title. Article here. The idea of Rights of Nature appeared in the United States Supreme Court later in 1972, when Judge William O.Douglas wrote a dissenting opinion to the Sierra Club v. Morton decision:

Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality; a fiction found useful for maritime purposes ... So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life ...The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled.

What’s happened since the 1970s?

Since Stone’s essay, the movement has taken big leaps forward. In 2008 and 2011, two countries (Ecuador and Bolivia) amended their constitutions to recognize Rights of Nature. The movement has continued to build with 160+ municipalities and towns around the world, three rivers (Whanganui in New Zealand, Atrato and Amazon in Colombia) and a volcanic mountain (Mount Taranaki) now recognized as having legal rights recognized in the courts

Earth Law Center has launched nearly two dozen initiatives to secure legal rights recognition for rivers, coastal regions, towns, and Marine Protected Areas. 

figure-2 from Pexels.com

Pexels.com

What will it take to make the Earth Law the norm?

According to a new paper from the University of Pennsylvania, roughly 25% of people need to take a stand before the large-scale social change occurs. This idea of a social tipping point applies to standards in the workplace and any movement or initiative. Today the normative framework advances through a proliferation of conferences, ‘ high-level panels,’ international targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals, treaties, and conventions.

The body of international agreements that has emerged captures and nudges along the world’s evolving understanding of its condition, building our sense of belonging to one ‘humanity’. Very little of it is ‘hard law’, enforceable in the courts. But it sets standards that national movements can use to rally for change in legislation and public attitudes. Betsy Levy Paluck, a Princeton University psychologist and recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant has spent her career studying how shifting social norms affect behavior. She looked at the change in American attitudes toward same-sex marriage before and after the Supreme Court decision that established it as a constitutional right in June 2015.

In the months before the decision, Paluck and Tankard surveyed people in cities all over the country. They repeated the survey after the decision was announced. They found that while personal opinions on same-sex marriage hadn’t shifted, people’s perception of others’ opinions had changed almost immediately. Americans, whether liberal or conservative, thought that their fellow-citizens now supported same-sex marriage more than before, even though, in reality, the only thing that had changed was the ruling of a public institution. The impression created by the ruling was that “more Americans currently support same-sex marriage, and that even more will support it in the future,” Paluck said

The voice of authority speaks for many, influencing social norms because they change our perceptions of what other people think. So, for this reason, the Rights of Nature movement has focused on securing legal rights recognition for nature to strengthen and evolve the protection of natural ecosystems.

figure-3 from Pexels.com

Pexels.com

What can you do to spread Earth Law?

To add your voice to strengthening the protection of nature both now and for future generations, consider:

Donating to ELC

Signing up to volunteer at ELC here

Staying informed by signing up for ELC’s newsletter

Connecting with ELC on social media

Darlene May Lee is Executive Director of Earth Law Center, which works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. She works to build a force of advocates for nature's rights at the local, state, national, and international levels. Connect with Earth Law Center on TwitterFacebookand LinkedIn. Read all of Darlene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Be an Ecotourist Anywhere

 cape breton highlands

Scene along the Cape Breton Highlands National Park Cabot Trail.

While ecotourism is generally considered to include travel to endangered natural areas, you can apply its principles—conscientious, low impact, environmentally-friendly travel that benefits local people and their environment—to any travel destination. Green tourism, ethical tourism, and sustainable tourism are other applicable terms. Simply put, travel responsibly. Anyone can do it.

How to Be a Responsible Traveler

Skip the traditional, kitschy tourist venues in favor of natural ones. Take the back roads; spend an afternoon in a public garden; visit a local, state, or national park; get the kinks out by walking or jogging on a greenway trail or taking a hike on a local path; pick up a brochure and do a walking tour of the area.

Visit a farmers’ market. You might find breakfast goodies, snacks for your travel, or fixings for a picnic lunch. Chances are you’ll discover some nifty items for your holiday shopping list, too. While you’re at it, stop at roadside farm stands. My husband and I came by some delicious and healthy wild blueberries that way.  

saint john farmer's market

Founded in 1785,, the Saint John, New Brunswick, City Market is the oldest farmer's market in Canada.

Support local artisans and craftspeople. You’ll find products indigenous to the area, a great way to shop for the special people in your life. You’ll probably even get to meet and chat with the maker. Not only will your gifts be unique, but there will be a story behind them.

Eat local—organically if you can. Chains are so boringly predictable, but a good local restaurant will feature locally grown foods put together in interesting combinations. Strike up a conversation with your waitstaff or the folks sitting in the next booth to enjoy even more local culture.

Consider staying at an Airbnb, another way to support the local economy. It’s an easy way to get to know local people, local culture, and local lore. I recently got a personal tour of a real-life New England village by my Airbnb host, learning lots of village history in the process. Sometimes you can get a whole house to yourself for less than even a low-end hotel chain. That way, you can prepare your own meals from food you bought at the farmers’ market earlier in the day.

Discover local events. Is a local 4-H fair taking place during your visit? What about a volunteer fire department supper or a community hall bingo game? Take them in. Could there be a better way to become part of the place you find appealing and help the local economy at the same time?

Being a Better Tourist

Do your homework: learn about an area before you start your travels so you’ll know what to look for and what makes it special.

Meet locals: show an interest in their little corner of the world.

Embrace the local culture: visit local sites, like a local history museum; appreciate the uniqueness of the area you’re visiting.

visit local sites

We found names of my husband's ancestors on the Founders' Monument at the Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo by Ron Wynn

Leave a good impression: don’t complain when things aren’t exactly the way they are back home—you might as well stay put if you’re not looking for something new and different.

Cherish, Don’t Destroy

By following these tips, you can make your next trip one that’s fun for you and that benefits the planet at the same time. Just keep the following concepts in mind: low-impact, environmentally friendly, cultural awareness, and supporting local well-being.

Happy travels.


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Saga Of A Wildfire

 

Coping With Wildfire:

We have just personally experienced the third largest and possibly the hottest burning wildfire in Colorado history. This is a first hand report from our experience and the lingering problems encountered by this wildfire. I have titled this blog ‘Saga’ as it is an ongoing story that will be divided into two easy read segments. We had pre-planned for a wildfire since we knew our state is a semi arid state that is prone to wildfires. Perhaps our personal experience will give others insight into how a wildfire impacts people if found in the same situation.

Restricted Outside Burning:

Prior to the actual wildfire we had been in an extreme red flag warning area instructing us ‘no outside burning’ of any kind for weeks before the wildfire was started. The person who set the wildfire has not been tried yet so I do not want to comment on how the wildfire started except to say it spread rapidly and before it was put out had burned 108,000+ acres. We were in the adjoining community and were only a handful of miles from the origin and where the fire started. There were 134 homes in our community that were destroyed and countless undeveloped lots.

Emergency Notification:

We were enjoying our evening dinner when we received the reverse 911 notification of a wildfire and we were in pre-evacuation status. Since the wildfire was north of us and heading due east we wrongly assumed it would pass us by. We went outside and could observe plumes of smoke a few miles north of us. A few minutes later  we received the second reverse 911 call to evacuate. We gathered our pre-arranged evacuation kits and loaded up our vehicles. Then we attempted to load our three dogs into the vehicles; however two are disabled with seriously weak back legs. That took us far more time than we had anticipated and by the time we turned off the propane tank and closed up the house we were late evacuating.

Evacuation Fail - Turning Back:

As we were leaving the community we could see the flames and smoke ahead of us and with only one way out of our community it appeared we were cut off from escape. We therefore returned home to await further instruction when another reverse 911 call told us it wouldn’t be safe if we didn’t evacuate by 7:30 p.m. We knew the drive out of our community would take us longer than that. We therefore spent a sleepless night watching the fire glow in the sky but not particularly moving toward us. The next morning we readied ourselves for evacuation if it became safe to leave. We knew we were more safe at our home than being on a road that was probably encased by fire.

Evacuating Through A Gauntlet Of Fire:

About noon a sheriff deputy came to our house and told us if we left in the next 5 minutes we could safely get out as the route was open. We left immediately and as we left recognized the wildfire was now moving toward our home. We drove through one area of heavy smoke and flames and could feel the outside heat through the vehicle doors. Once through those flames and embers we came upon a few firefighters in the road who told us to turn around as it was very bad ahead. Being unable to turn around and go back they told us to use extreme caution in going through the second area of flames and embers.

Another Evacuation Plan Failure:

It was nerve racking but we safely managed to get through the second gauntlet of fire. Our evacuation plan included camping in one of the nearby campgrounds. That was another flaw in our evacuation plan because when we finally found a vacancy and were setting up our tent the center support broke making it unusable. We then drove to the nearest town and found a motel (with the aid of a relative) that could accommodate us along with our dogs. We ended up spending two weeks being evacuated while hoping our home and property were safe.

Short Return Investigation:

After one week when it was safer to enter our community we were allowed to return to our property for a 1 ½ hour inspection. Our home was thankfully intact but it had experienced intense heat, spot fires and heavy smoke, plus we still had some hot spots burning. I spent my time putting water on hotspots (we keep two 55 gallon barrels for wildfire) while Carol emptied the freezer and refrigerator of spoiled food.

Misting System Failure:

In our wildfire mitigation plan we had installed a misting system to keep our deck wet without draining our well. Another mistake because the well/system runs off electricity and the first thing the firefighters do is cut electricity so they are not having to deal with live lines. A backup generator that would run off propane when electricity is disrupted would have kept the misting system working but we did not have that benefit. Also we were told to turn our propane tanks off. One week later we were allowed to return home on a permanent basis. Regretfully one hundred thirty four of our neighbors did not have a home to return to.

Hottest Wildfire Unit Commander Experienced:

While evacuated we did receive daily progress briefings from the incident fire commander if we could get to the scheduled meetings or connect on a live feed. We were told this was the hottest wildfire the fire commander had experienced in his 30 years of fighting fires. Our community was so extremely dry and there was sufficient fuel that it was estimated to have burned between 3-4,000 degrees (F). When we arrived home to stay we observed numerous trees that had exploded from the sap inside turning to gas leaving holes in the charred trees.

Back Home - More Fortunate Than Most:

Upon returning home we still had no utilities and the house reeked of strong smoke odor. Once electricity was restored we set up an ozone machine that we had purchased and it completely destroyed the smoke odor and we were able to live more comfortably. We are now surrounded by total devastation but we are in an oasis of green vegetation and our property, home and outbuildings are virtually untouched. Many others were less fortunate.

Next Part - Dealing With The Aftermath:

The next blog edition will be about the lingering and ongoing problems encountered once we began life again in our home. While most people generally assume that once you are back in your home all is well; however that is far from the reality of dealing with the aftermath of a wildfire.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their life in remote mountain living and their experiences visit their personal blog site at:www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com

Photo Courtesy of Bruce McElmurray


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