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

Old Dogs Rock


Life is just full of surprises! Some are happy surprises and some maybe not so happy. We had a good surprise a few days ago that is worth sharing with readers because it reminded me of how truly inspirational old dogs can be. Carol had gone into town for our thanksgiving groceries and ended up coming home with a 15 month old German Shepherd female. We usually plan to do as much as possible on our trips to town because town is 45 miles one way. One of her stops was to pick up Rx for our senior German Shepherd male, Bozwell. 


Her trip to our veterinarian takes her right by the local animal shelter. She glanced over and saw a German Shepherd dog sitting in the corner of her outdoor enclosure. While we love all dogs the German Shepherd is our dog of choice. She pulled up to the enclosure and one of the attendants asked if she was looking for a dog. Carol said she wasn’t but wanted to take a picture and send it to me. As it turns out Lucy is 15 months old and was going to be transferred to another shelter in a distant city the following day.  

First Stop - Our Veterinarian: 

Welcome home, Lucy; you are now part of our family and entitled to all the love and spoiling we can muster for you. Carol took Lucy immediately to our veterinarian for an exam and her rabies shot. We know our dogs intimately and knew that integrating another dog cold turkey like this would not be a problem. We have brought many dogs into our pack family over the years and because we fully understand our dogs, introducing a new dog has never been much of a problem for us. 

Canine Communication: 

Many dog parents know that their canine family is always watching and studying them. Ours are no different and in return we carefully observe them and study their behavior because we want to know and meet their needs as fully as possible. Most people know that dogs have a communication system that we are mostly unfamiliar with or don’t fully understand.  In introducing Lucy to Bozwell and Ruby we got to observe that communication first hand again. 

Senior Dogs Do The Best Introduction: 

Lucy was terrified when Carol brought her home but just watching Bozwell and Ruby bring her to a level of calmness was heartwarming. Lucy had the wide eyes, ears laid back, head down and tail so tight against her belly it appeared she didn’t have a tail. Ruby stayed a distance from Lucy and let Lucy, as her courage grew, eventually come to her for sniffs. Bozwell was equally aloof and must have realized due to his much larger size she was frightened of him. When they were later in the backyard after all had gone potty he gave her a playful bark and they commenced to play with her being much faster than his 12 ½ year old body could muster. Ruby then engaged in play and then Lucy was welcomed into the family. We have found first introductions are best initiated on neutral ground one dog at a time. 

Being An Alpha Leader: 

We will do the basic command training but our two older dogs took care of the welcoming and social interaction and behavioral parameters. For us it was a joy to watch and realize how truly awesome our senior dogs really are. I’m constantly reminded how wonderful they are because I see it daily in various forms. That brings me to our family leadership techniques regarding our canine family and what is required to be the alpha leader. 

The Lucas Technique: 

Many years ago we sponsored a male wolf named Lucas at the local wolf sanctuary. Lucas was a very unique alpha wolf in that he did not lead his pack by dominance. Instead Lucas was the unanimous leader because of his immense love for each member of his pack. Until his death in old age not one male pack member ever challenged him for leadership. Lucas maintained order in the pack in a gentle and respectful way. Never in fierce dominance but gentle and loving and his pack responded by keeping him the alpha leader. Lucas was a unique wolf that broke the mold when it came to wolf behavior. He led his pack out of  pure love. Other males in the pack were far more fierce but they lacked Lucas’ capacity for love. 

Lead Gently And With Love: 

Therefore I fully subscribe to the Lucas method of being an alpha male. Over the years I have watched our dogs closely to better understand their needs. The more we can understand the needs of our dogs, the better we can provide for those needs using the “Lucas technique”.

We do not raise our voices to our dogs or speak harshly to them. That is difficult at times as one is deaf, one is becoming hard of hearing while Lucy’s hearing is normal so we must be extra cautious.  It is our desire to love each one according to their individual needs as much as Lucas loved each of his pack, therefore keeping order and discipline. 

Only When We Understand Their Behavior Can We Meet Their Needs: 

Our dogs have always seemed to thrive on the Lucas technique and are a well adjusted loving pack. Lead in love and they respond in love. It takes a sincere desire to first understand them and then meet their needs. Over the years I have learned so much from our dogs and how they interact with each other and it has made me a far better pack leader to them.

Bruce and Carol live in the mountains in S. Colorado with their canine family and take measures to protect them from the wild predators that are around. They lead a somewhat different lifestyle and for more on them and their canine family visit their blog site at: You can read all of Bruce's Mother Earth news posts here.



Gain a deeper understanding of your canine friends through in-depth breed profiles that showcase how working dogs think. From familiar breeds such as the Border Collie, Corgi, and Dachshund to the lesser-known Akbash, Puli, and Hovawart, Janet Vorwald Dohner describes 93 breeds of livestock guardian dogs, herding dogs, terriers, and traditional multipurpose farm dogs, highlighting the tasks each dog is best suited for and describing its physical characteristics and temperament. She also offers an accessible history of how humans bred dogs to become our partners in work and beyond, providing a thorough introduction to these highly intelligent, independent, and energetic breeds.

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.

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.

A Sustainable Career: Landscape Designer Amy Dutt

Amy Dutt Urban Wild

Amy Dutt is the Owner of Urban Wild Ltd, a sustainable landscape design/build and consulting company operating in Ohio since 2001. “We create landscapes that bring ecology into lands and lives.” Her specialties include landscapes that manage rainwater (Green Stormwater Infrastructure) and Nature Playscapes.  

Nature Playscape Plan 

Nature Playscapes are the most rewarding places to design and build. Young children today live an indoor life full of technology and stressors. Watching a child play happily outside at one of our Nature Playscapes touches my heart and gives me hope.”Amy Dutt Landscape Designer

 My outfits vary dramatically. I wear business clothes under my Carhartts so I can do a quick-change into a blazer for a business meeting.

 Stormwater Infrastructure

Some days Dutt will be on a construction site, other days she’s meeting with parks and organizations looking for creative ways to fund land conservation. There are days potting up plants and driving a tractor, or days in the workshop building cedar ‘mud kitchens’ for a preschool.

 Mud Kitchen

 “I love the variety and the challenge of being a pioneer in the field of ecological land design.”

 Scioto Gardens Native Plants

This year Amy joined with 5 other partners to purchase Scioto Gardens, a Delaware, Ohio nursery specializing in container grown native plants. Birds, bees and wildlife in Ohio evolved with native Ohio plants, yet the typical landscape installed in the growing suburbs of Central Ohio contain few plants beneficial to life. For years, Amy had been purchasing landscape quality plants from Scioto Gardens, native plants grown in real soil, which couldn’t be found at other nurseries in the area. “When the previous owners announced they were retiring, we jumped in together because we couldn’t imagine a world without Scioto Gardens.”

“I took a crooked path to find my passions.” With a degree in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University, Amy quickly climbed the ladder as an engineer at Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc. She was the Engineering Quality project leader for the first luxury car Honda produced in the United States (the 1999 Acura TL). When she left Honda in 2003, she was managing a department of 110 engineers. “Pregnant with my first child, I went on maternity leave. I didn’t want to pay someone else to raise my kid.”

Transplanting Garden Plants In Bags

Always inspired and awed by nature, she felt a calling to work on land and water, so she pursued that without having a particular plan. Dutt allowed the way forward to open to her by paying attention when people or opportunities came that felt right.

“I could never have imagined I’d be designing or building or growing native plants when I was an automotive engineer. I’m so engaged and fulfilled by what I do, and I feel grateful that much of my work is outdoors. “I didn’t realize what I was missing…I need to be outside”


Projects include a rain garden design for Columbus, Ohio’s COSI, AHA! Children’s Museum Nature Playscape, Mary Evans Child Development Center, Montessori School in Cleveland, and Liberty Park design concept and team leader for Steam Restoration and Green Stormwater demonstration. Dutt is also co-founder of Central Ohio Natural Playscape Inititative.

Landscape Design Children Playscape

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


The Living Landscape 

Written by Rick Darke and Douglas W. Tallamy, two of the most important voices in sustainability and horticulture, it is the definitive guide to designing a beautiful, biodiverse home garden. The authors first explain each layer of the landscape and what role the plants within them play in the larger environment, from providing berries for birds, food for bugs, or a place for bees to pollinate. The authors then put this information into context and offer design strategies to implement into a home garden. Helpful charts offer suggested plants, including natives and nonnatives, for each region. Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.

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.

Backyard Adventures with Nature Playscapes

 Natureplayscape mud kitchen

Nature playscapes are outdoor spaces created to encourage nature play that promotes risk-taking, exploration, and hands-on learning. The natural materials such as wood, stone, grass, sand, and native plants surround children with the natural world. Studies have shown that children stay engaged longer and use more imagination and creativity in a nature playscape than in traditional playgrounds. Finally, one of the single most common influences on adult conservation values comes from unstructured, frequent childhood play in wild settings that can be obtained in a nature playscape at home or a park or school setting. 

 Nature playscape sand play

Many of the components are easily and inexpensively created in a back corner or side yard at home or in preschools, daycare settings, schools or children’s museums. All of the components create an environment that encourages imaginative adventures like digging for treasure, cooking up a menu of mud favorites, catching critters that are attracted to the playscape, collecting leaves, stones or other natural materials and hiding in tall grass or rolling down a grassy hill. Some of the elements of a playscape can be included into any outdoor space:

  • Stumps, stepping stones, or tree cookie paths (log slices used as stepping stones)
  • Grassy hills to roll down or even sled on
  • Digging space with soil and/or sand 
  • Boulders and large rocks for climbing
  • Log or lumber balance beams
  • Natural hiding spots created with plants such as willow tunnels, sunflower teepees or tunnels from hollow stumps or built into a hill
  • Loose parts-tree stumps, logs, tree cookies (slices of logs), pots, pans, cooking utensils, buckets, leaves, acorns, buckeyes and natural materials
  • Shelters, tents, playhouses, forts
  • Mud or sand kitchen
  • Trees to climb

Nature Playscape sand play

A source for inspiration, ideas and supplies is nature playscape expert, Rusty Keller’s, Earth Play site.

Nature Playscape

A quick Internet search will provide ideas and plans for a mud kitchen made with pallets from very simple to kitchens for multiple budding mud chefs.

Adding a raised bed for vegetables and herbs expands the learning and play value and encourages children to try new vegetables they have grown themselves. Bird feeders and butterfly garden provides more of nature to explore.

Nature playscapes are popping up all over the country providing fun family outings.

Our favorites:

AHA! A Hand’s On Adventure Raymond B. Martens Playscape Lancaster, Ohio

Franklin Park Conservatory Children’s Garden Columbus, Ohio

Cincinnati Nature Center Schott Nature Playscape

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest Kentucky

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.

What's Your Moral Obligation in Response to Our Climate Emergency?


According to the Alliance of World Scientists, as professionals they have a moral obligation to warn humanity about what they see evidenced. On November 5, 2019, over 11,000 of the group's allied scientists warned us all again, this time via a formal statement in the journal BioScience: "Planet Earth is facing a climate emergency."

Now that the scientists have once again fulfilled their obligation to warn of danger, it's time for each of us to meet our moral obligations. What might that be? From my perspective, each of us has a responsibility to carefully consider the scientists' warnings, and then to respond with wise action.

The statement from the Alliance scientists was blunt: The climate crisis has arrived. It's more severe than anticipated. It's accelerating. It threatens everyone. Me. You. Your family. Everyone.

The warning is not new, but rather renewed. Forty years ago scientists from 50 nations met at the First World Climate Conference in Geneva. Then and there they agreed that unmistakably disturbing climate trends made it urgently necessary to respond. Since then scientists have sounded alarms repeatedly: at the 1992 Rio Summit, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and at over 20 other global assemblies.

Yet another warning was set to be sounded in December in Chile at a meeting to prepare for the Paris Agreement, supposedly activating in 2020. But profit and politics have intervened. That December meeting has been cancelled. In any event, under the leadership of Republican President Donald J. Trump, the USA refuses to participate. The USA is not going to do much of anything, other than continue to drill and to burn.

If you want action, you are going to have to take it yourself. And if you don't want action, then you are asleep at the wheel.

The 11,000+ Alliance scientists agreed in their statement that to ease the epic suffering due to the climate crisis, we need an immense increase in our efforts to conserve our biosphere. By default, at least for now, it's up to us to find and implement our own responses.

To secure the future, we must change how we live, in ways that improve our planet's vital signs.

As you contemplate your responses to the warnings and the harsh reality they describe, I encourage you to research and then to implement sustaining and earth-healing agroecological initiatives. They mitigate climate change, and they accentuate food security.

By agroecology I mean the range of human initiatives ranging from composting, and backyard, neighborhood, and community gardens to food coops, farmers markets, CSAs, urban farms, organics, biodynamics, permaculture, community kitchens, and more. There are thousands upon thousands of such initiatives in America and globally. Now we need millions more of these initiatives. In my view it is fundamentally wise and necessary to be actively involved with agroecology. Now.

Photo credit courtesy of Extinction Rebellion.

Independent journalist Steven McFadden is rooted in cyberspace at Information about his wider work and all of his nonfiction books is available at You can read all of his Mother Earth News posts here.

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.

How Can We Use Less Fossil Fuels?


Photo by Dan Meyers, Upsplash

In a previous post on this site, I discussed current fossil fuel usage and future trends. One of the ongoing trends on the horizon seeks to reduce society's dependence on fossil fuels. Here are some ways to start achieving that aim:

Fuel Efficiency Reduces Oil Usage

Analysts say fuel-efficient cars have a substantial effect on reducing the demand for oil. Demographics and driving patterns play a role as well, but automakers continually make vehicles with better fuel efficiency, which results in less reliance on fossil fuels.

Also, an analysis published in 2018 by Morgan Stanley analysts forecast a decline in oil demand due to several things, such as increased ride-sharing and electric vehicles, along with fuel economy requirements.

If people are serious about using less oil, one practical thing they can do is invest in cars that use different fuel sources, such as electricity. In the United Kingdom, the government plans to introduce a green license plate scheme whereby people who have electric cars can avail of perks, including free parking.

What if a car got its power from the sun? A Californian company recently released a prototype for a solar-powered car that can go up to 40 miles per day and never needs charging.

It's too soon to say how much people will embrace ultra-fuel-efficient cars or ones that don't need traditional types of power at all. But, engineers are working hard to give the option to individuals who are ready and eager to use fewer fossil fuels.

Plastic Alternatives Could Reduce Oil Requirements

Statistics estimate that 8-10% of the total oil supply goes towards making plastics, which totals approximately 12 million barrels to make the plastic bags used in the United States alone. But, for more than a decade, scientists have made progress in creating plastics without oil. They use a variety of creative approaches, such as making it from a chemical found in pine needles to relying on sugar and carbon dioxide instead of crude oil.

These possibilities are fascinating and give a glimpse into how some of the most familiar materials people use today may get more eco-friendly. We need to be realistic about the scalability of innovations, too. Most won't come into widespread use right away, and the demand for oil is still strong.

Data from the International Energy Agency expects global oil demand to increase by 1.4 million barrels per day throughout 2019. It's not feasible to expect any new material to immediately replace plastics that need crude oil. So, when people wonder, "How can we use less fossil fuels?" they should keep in mind that the practical way forward is to be open and supportive of sustainable replacements while continuing to use conventional plastics.

Goat-Grazing Services Offer an Unconventional Way to Reduce Fossil Fuels

People don't think of changing their lawn-care habits as a way to make a dent in fossil fuel usage. However, whether from mowing or the excessive use of fertilizer, lawn care has a larger carbon footprint than many expect. It's understandable why households want beautiful-looking lawns. They increase the curb appeal of homes and help families take pride in where they live.

Mowing the lawn is time-consuming, noisy and uses fossil fuels. Some companies offer an alternative by providing goat-for-hire services. The grazing animals munch away in a customer's yard for a day, then leave.

Estimates say that 38 goats could tackle 50,000 square feet of grass in a day. Plus, they typically prefer types of grass that people consider weeds. That means even in a short time, they can make noticeable differences.

Refusing to Support Fossil Fuel Projects or Companies Could Have an Impact

Another ongoing trend among sustainably-minded individuals is the divestment of fossil fuel companies. That means ceasing their investments to no longer associate with those enterprises. In 2014, the number of institutional investors that committed to removing fossil fuel stocks from their portfolios was less than 200. The figure now totals more than 1,100, statistics indicate.

One of the main goals for divestment is to make fossil fuel companies realize that times are changing, and they need to increase their investments in renewables.

Similarly, about 1,000 engineers and 90 organizations in Australia signed a pledge to weigh all future projects against the need to mitigate climate change. Some parties there fear a revolt against coal-based initiatives or think it'll become more difficult to find engineers to do required work.

The engineering professionals who decided to become choosier about which projects they take on believe that the engineering sector at large can play a defining role in stimulating future change. Otherwise, they'll continue to promote the use of fossil fuels.

Being Mindful of Vampire Energy Makes a Difference

Vampire energy is the power consumed by an appliance when it's off, such as while in standby mode. Statistics say that more than 100 billion kilowatt-hours of vampire energy gets wasted in the U.S. alone. This translates to nearly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide or the equivalent of the emissions from 15 million cars annually.

Considering that a significant segment of electricity used in the U.S. still comes from fossil fuels, keeping tabs on vampire energy and the appliances that use it makes a difference for people who want to cut down on their fossil fuel dependence. The easiest thing to do is to unplug gadgets when they're not needed. Relying on power strips for multiple appliances in the same area also helps because it regulates the power flow.

Intentional Actions Are Valuable

Here, we've covered some practical responses to the "How can we use less fossil fuels" question. They aren't the only things people can do to reduce their fossil fuel usage, but they're practical ways to get started on that goal.

People should remember that when enacting positive changes, it's best to pick a few meaningful things to do and stick with them. Encouraging friends to follow suit is beneficial too.

Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including MOTHER EARTH NEWS. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on You can read all of Kayla's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.



Renewable energy is good for your wallet. Those who see that opportunity are already seizing it … all the way to the bank. Green Is Good is a no-nonsense guide to how you, the average American, can easily incorporate clean energy and energy efficiency into your daily life … and in the process save money, make money, and help wean your community off fossil fuels. Renewable energy guru Brian F. Keane walks you through the cost-benefit trade-offs that come with the exciting new technologies and introduces you to the revolutionary clean-energy products on the horizon, making the ins and outs of renewable energy easily accessible. He shows what you can do on every level to seize the opportunity and profit from it. A renewable energy future isn't just good for the environment; it's good for the economy, and Green Is Good will show you how-before it's too late.

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.

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.

Strange Wild Animal Behavior


Living remotely and at high altitude (9,800’) we have seen some pretty strange things in our 23 years living full time in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of southern Colorado. We had a herd of deer that would come to visit for several months each year and they would follow me around while I would work outside. Then there was a hen turkey that did the same. Wherever I go she would be just a few feet away. Or the sage hen that would walk along with me. Then one time there was a black bear that came down the mountain while we were cutting firewood and sat down 20 yards away and watched us cut firewood for the longest time, and when we finished it got back up and went on its way.

Animal behavior often is puzzling. Animal behavior can be puzzling at times and not being an animal behaviorist, I am never really sure what their true intentions are or if they are just curious or possibly they sense we mean no harm and just want to share our company. There once was a mother black bear that stayed around our cabin for several weeks with her two tiny cubs and used us to train them. When the cubs would get close she would signal them and they would run and scamper up a tree. We would be within 15-20’ of her and her cubs and apparently she considered us good subjects to use to train the cubs. 

Do animals sense fear? We can only assume the obvious and that is they are not alarmed by our presence and have a certain degree of trust when we are around. That might be because we are not fearful of them and respect them and their space. I believe animals can sense fear or danger and usually respond to it defensively or aggressively by biting or fleeing. One time we encountered  a mountain lion that was about 20’ from us. It coiled up on the ground, hissed, snarled with ears and lips laid back and showing us some very nice yellow teeth. We stood in place and when the lion sensed we meant no harm it finally got up and bounded away in the opposite direction. I even talk to the birds and often they will let me know when they are out of food and will sit within a few feet of me as I refill their feeder. 

Animal communication. I talk to all our animals and birds, and how much, if anything, they understand I don’t know. In the deer's case, I have found they are much more intelligent than I would have thought. I would give them a request and sometimes they would actually do it. One example was when I asked one buck deer that we were familiar with to let me use his antlers when they were ready to come off. He shook his head right then and one fell off at my feet and then he walked over a few feet and shook the other one off. They are now mounted on the back of our front door and used as a hat rack. No one was more surprised than I was when he did that. 

Elk herds hold a convention. Nothing really puzzled us as much as last month. We looked outside early in the morning and there was a small herd of elk with one mature bull with a nice set of antlers. Then another herd joined them and another and another until there were nine very large and mature bulls and more cows and young elk than we could count. It was during the rut season and usually the bulls don’t intermingle when there are so many eligible cows around.

If elk can gather and get along, why can’t people do the same? We watched the combined herd and many of the bulls were standing side by side as peaceful as could be for a full hour. The elk herd was all around our house. The photos attached were taken from inside the house so the deck railing is in the photos. To go outside would have spooked the elk away so we were left to taking photos from inside. Out of the nine bulls we counted only two actually had a half hearted pushing contest and it was only symbolic as they were really not interested in dominance. In the past we have seen them when they were serious about dominance and these two were not.

Nine herds gather for friendly meeting. The herds assembled and formed one very large herd where they intermingled with each other and then just as suddenly as they had combined divided back into smaller herds and all went off in different directions. It all appeared very friendly and organized and for whatever reason they all congregated at our house for a short while. I have talked to others who are more familiar with elk and their behavior and they advised this year was a very different year for elk. After the rut they often combine into one large herd but this was right during the peak of the rut. 

Environmental causes to blame? It may have had something to do with the wildfire last year; we do not know. We are surrounded by burn scar and our 11 acres are like an oasis of green in a very scarred area. However within a mile of us which was not part of the burn area there is a large lake and forest which would seem far more attractive to elk. We do not know why the elk held a convention at our home but it was extremely interesting to observe. Whatever their intent or behavior we fully enjoyed observing them close up and enjoyed having such a large herd of elk make themselves right at home around our house.

Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site at Bruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.



Many people think of wildlife as something distant, creatures living in natural forests and remote public preserves. But most wildlife in the United States isn’t found in the distant wild. It lives on our private lands, in our very backyards. Because of this, the nation’s 10 million woodland owners are, in fact, at the forefront in protecting our wildlife for generations to come.

While most landowners want to help preserve the beauty of the natural environment, however, most are unsure where to begin. In Attracting Wildlife to Your Backyard, author and landowner Josh VanBrakle provides readers with 101 easy-to-follow activities and practical approaches to help do just that.

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.

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.

How Much Fossil Fuel Do We Use Today?

Unsplash/Mehluli Hikwa

In the United States and around the globe, people depend on fossil fuels for much of our energy production. This is changing — better knowledge of the health risks caused by pollution and the amount of greenhouse gases fossil fuels release into the atmosphere have made it a less popular option for energy production. Now, both governments and the citizens they represent are wary of depending on it indefinitely.

However, humans still rely on fossil fuels for much of our energy production. So, how much is used today?

What Current Fossil Fuel Use Looks Like

Fossil fuels are energy-dense deposits of natural fuel that are the results of millennia of decomposing organic matter. Oil, coal and natural gas supply the vast majority of the world's energy.

Today, around 80 percent of all energy produced in the United States comes from these nonrenewable resources. Of this 80 percent, the largest share (37 percent) came from petroleum, the next largest (31 percent) from natural gas and the smallest (13 percent) from coal.

The remaining 20 percent of energy is produced by a combination of renewable resources — like wind and solar — hydro and nuclear power.

In terms of physical resources, Americans consume about 7.3 billion barrels of crude oil, 29.96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 623 million tons of coal each year. About 46 percent of that oil, or 3.4 billion barrels, is turned into gasoline. Another 20 percent — 1.46 billion barrels — is made into diesel. The rest is used to produce electricity, as well as consumer and industrial goods — like mineral oil, plastic and steel.

Over the past few years, the amount of total energy consumed has increased, and so has the use of all fossil fuels. The percentage of petroleum and coal, however, has trended down, while natural gas use has gone up. This shift is likely due to the high supply of natural gas in the United States and advancements in fracking technology that make it easier to extract. It also emits less carbon dioxide than petroleum and coal when used to generate power.

Globally, the numbers look a little different — natural gas is used less often abroad, while coal is used slightly more. For the most part, global fossil fuel usage is the same as in the United States — primarily oil, but with significant contributions from natural gas and coal.

Future Trends in Fossil Fuel Usage

Because of the negative impact fossil fuels can have — both in causing pollution and emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide — some countries are looking at other sources.

The long-term trend is moving in the direction of green energy — except nuclear, which has started to decline slowly. In the future, renewable energy will likely take up a much larger share of production than it does today.

Looking at the current trends, however, fossil fuels will continue to supply a large amount of our energy. While renewable energy has trended up somewhat in the past few decades, the gains haven't been substantial — around 1 percentage point more of the total energy production every year. Barring major changes — like a nationwide or global push for 100 percent renewable energy — the future will be greener, but not fully powered by renewables.

At the same time, increasing oil prices may change our consumption habits and possibly push us away from dependence on oil. The cleaner fossil fuels — like natural gas and coal plants outfitted with devices that pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — may continue to eat away at the usage rate of petroleum.

How People Will Use Fossil Fuels

Both globally and in the United States, fossil fuels provide the vast majority of the energy consumed annually. Our consumption of power — and use of fossil fuels — trends up slightly every year.

Our high use of fossil fuels may decrease somewhat in the future, as governments turn toward more sustainable solutions to energy production. However, it's not likely that renewables will make up the majority of energy production any time soon.

Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including Mother Earth News. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory


Green Transportation Basics is a guide to greening your personal driving habits by dramatically improving the efficiency of an existing vehicle using simple measures such as trip planning and regular maintenance to improve fuel economy. This handy guide also explores the most promising new green cars and trucks, including electric vehicles, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and natural-gas cars. And it critically examines sustainable fuels including ethanol, biodiesel, straight vegetable oil, hydrogen and biomethane, evaluating each according to a set of established criteria.

Don't let your dream of greening your transportation idle – Green Transportation Basics will guide you through the myths and misconceptions and provide clear options for the road to a more sustainable future.

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