Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Prayer for Water Protectors evacuating the Oceti Sakowin Camp

Protesters participate in a prayer circle on Turtle Island on Thanksgiving day.
Trump gave permission for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to break the law by proceeding to build the pipeline under the Missouri River with out the required environmental impact statement. The Water Protectors have been asked to evacuate the Oceti Sakowin Camp by 2 o'clock, February 22.

Today at 2 o'clock (N. Dakota time) many will leave the Oceti Sakowin Camp in prayer and ceremony, others (including some veterans) have chosen to make a stand and to be arrested rather than leave.

Water Protector Lisha Sterling writes:

Good morning, water protectors! This is not a vacation! It is time to pray!

In fact, it will be hard to do anything else besides pray today as my thoughts are constantly on Oceti Sakowin, Sicangu and Sacred Stone. May the water protectors stand today in one mind. May peace and strength emanate from the heart of every water protector throughout the camps, and may that peace and strength connect them all like a mycelial web, from heart to heart, mind to mind. May the ancestors and spirits of place rise up to defend the water protectors even as the water protectors stand to defend all our relatives. May those on the side of DAPL and those who would block, remove, or in any way harm the water protectors be confounded today, and let those who have good hearts have their eyes opened and their minds changed so that they too will stand with us.

Let there be peace. Let there be power. Let there be right thinking and right actions.

May our people have the time to fully clear the land that we have called home these many months, leaving no trace, and may we continue to stand together in new places for the protection of the water, the land, the air, and all our relatives as a community of prayer.

Live broadcast of the evacuation here:

or here:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stop Pruitt from destroying the EPA

Just sent this to Senators McCain and Flake. I recommend anyone who cares about the air we breathe or the water we drink should also write to your senators:

Dear Senator,

I grew up in Southern California in the 60s and 70s. I well remember days we couldn't go outside because of smog alerts when the smog was so thick you couldn't see the back wall across the yard. While LA does still have some pollution issues to deal with, the days of dangerous smog are over. Why? Because President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Stricter emission standards, conversion to unleaded gas, and penalties for communities that exceed safe levels of airborne pollutants have made the air safer for all of us to breathe.

The EPA plays a vital regulatory role in our government. Gone are the days of choking smog, rivers that catch fire every summer, and acid rain. While there is still much to be done, we have come a long way in this nation towards creating a healthy and clean environment.

That is why I am writing you today. President Trump's nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has shown on many occasions (including 14 lawsuits against the EPA while he was the AG of Oklahoma) that he will not support the actions of the EPA that have improved our environment over the last 46 years. I am begging you, please do NOT vote for Scott Pruitt's confirmation to head the EPA.

Thank you,
Daniel Stormont

How confirming Pruitt will prohibit Arizona's progress

I just sent the following e-mail to Senator Flake at:

Dear Senator Flake,

Sure, Arizona has abundant reserves of coal, but that doesn't mean it is in our best interest to extract it from our public lands. Extracting coal uses up our already depleted water supply. Why do that when Arizona has a more abundant and profitable alternative: solar energy. Solar energy has already created more long lasting, high paying jobs than all of the fossil fuel industries combined.  Why aren't we leading the way in this growth industry?

In the midst of a 20 year drought, shouldn't we find more sustainable methods of procuring water than pumping it 320+ miles uphill from the Colorado River?  Why do that when Tucson has enough annual rainfall to supply every Tucsonan with water. We need to incentivize water harvesting and rebuild our antiquated "flood control" system to sink the water into our depleted aquifers. This would also save taxpayers millions yearly from flood damage.

Investing in a more sustainable infrastructure would not only create job security (rather than those temporary coal mining jobs) while protecting our national treasures that bring in 21 billion in tourism dollars.

It's not too late to be a hero to our children. Please, vote "no" on Pruitt. As head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt will protect the fossil fuel industry, not support a clean infrastructure that will strengthen Arizona's economy. He will cut regulations that protect Arizona's beautiful land, air and water. Confirming Pruitt will only prohibit Arizona's progress.

Jana Segal

Now to Senator McCain...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tucson's Community Seed Banks vs. Monsanto

Seed Library table during seed exchange at the Loft screening of "Seed."
What distinguishes Tucson as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is that we are a model for seed libraries with our world renown Native Seeds Search and Seed Library of Pima County Public Library. The purpose of these seed libraries is to maintain a wide diversity of seeds to combat Monsanto's monopoly on seeds that threatens our food supply.
Then why on earth would the Pima Country Board of Supervisors allow Monsanto to have a greenhouse to experiment with GMOs here in Tucson? Isn't that the antithesis of what Tucson stands for? Why would we use our tax dollars to incentivize them?

The people who represent us, the Pima Country Board of Supervisors, are currently holding hearings on Monsanto. 

For more information, read, "Monsanto to grow greenhouse crops in Tucson area."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Leave the Leaves or Park the Bark

Brad showing off curb cut.
Ever since Brad Lancaster gave us a tour of his lush desert landscaping, I have been meaning to write a blog about leaving the leaves and bark where they fall. We have three big eucalyptus trees that are always dropping something…branches, leaves, or bark all over our back yard.

We have spent hours (days really) trying to pick the leaves out from the crevices of decorative lava rocks, and between sharp agave in our cactus garden. Ouch! It was a revelation (as well as a relief) to discover that it was good for our plants to leave the leaves and bark as natural mulch. (Native trees are especially good for this.)

Let me tell ya, it was pretty friggen’ cool to learn about curb cuts from the man who initiated the first guerilla cuts in Tucson - back when they were still illegal! A curb cut is where you cut out a section of a street curb allowing water to flow from the street into a catchment basin. The water then sinks into the ground and irrigates a desert tree (usually mesquite or palo verde). That is why the trees that line Brad’s street in the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood are so big and full - creating an oasis in the desert. 

A catchment basin with mulch, a bush and a mesquite tree.
Brad explained how he made the catchment basin by digging a 2-3 foot hole, lining the hole with rocks with sections on different levels. He filled the hole with wood chips, and planted desert grass, bushes and trees in the different sections depending how much water they required. The wood chip mulch works together with the roots from the grass and bushes to create a sponge to hold the water, and allows it to sink into the ground, refilling our aquifer. This is what Brad calls "planting the rain."  The roots from the grass also act as a filter to remove any gas or oil picked up from the street. How cool is that!

Brad also shared how he used the chop and drop method to make natural mulch around his trees. He dug up some of the mulch to show how rich the soil was under it. Unfortunately, in Tucson, our idea of a tidy, well-kept yard requires raking up all that good stuff and throwing it in the trash to become part of a landfill. 

Dan pours dish water in channel instead of directly on the Mexican Honeysuckle. 
Dan and I have been experimenting with other ways to use these techniques. As some of you may recall, we have been incorporating some simple rainwater harvesting features in our backyard. I dug a little channel from our brick patio to the hummingbird trumpets. Then we started watering them with dirty dishwater. We didn’t want to put the soapy water (even environmentally friendly soap has sodium) right on the plant. So we poured it in my little channel. I noticed the impact of the water was causing erosion, so I lined the ravine with dried leaves from the eucalyptus trees to slow down the flow. (I googled to make sure the toxic leaves wouldn’t hurt the plant. Some people thought it might actually benefit the plant by keeping away bugs. But all toxicity fades when it dries up and starts to degrade.) 

Note: I asked Brad if it's alright to keep the eucalyptus leaves - since I had heard they put poison in the soil. He replied that eucalyptus trees like them. 

We also alternate with clear water (the water left over from rinsing vegetables, etc.), to ensure the soil doesn't get sodium buildup.

Bark lets water sink in while rocks help block splashing.
Then Dan began watering the eucalyptus trees with dish water. But when I threw the water on it, it splashed mud back at me. (Kinda like spitting in the wind…) So I decided to try a mini version of a catchment basin – so it wouldn’t splash me. I dug a six inch hole and covered it with some old eucalyptus bark that I crumbled into smaller pieces with my hands.

I dug a hole under the bark and voila... WATER! 
Yesterday, I was curious about how well the water was sinking in, so I dug up the bark and found water under the dirt. The bark was keeping it from evaporating. 

Of course, this is all a process (a learning one at that...) Someday we would like to get a chipper to turn all those sticks and bark into natural mulch to replace the boring gravel that keeps the rain from sinking into the ground. I think Brad would be proud.

For more information on how to "plant the rain" read Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster or contact Watershed Management Group