“American Canopy” on the past of U.S. forests

Eric Rutkow has written a fine history on the rapacious chewing up of American forests and subsequent rise of a faltering culture of forestry management.

Hot earth day

"Most of the US experienced record or near-record breaking temperatures, contributing to the warmest March since national records began in 1895," reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Click on the map for NOAA's March 2012 global climate analysis. After reading it, if you live in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona etc, what are you waiting for? Rip out your lawn. It will save roughly half of the water you use, the often dirty energy needed to pump that water hundreds of miles from wet places to dry ones, the energy needed to mow the lawn once a week, the air pollution caused by the mowers, and the energy needed to cart away and process the green waste. For support on landscape alternatives, check your local native plant society.

News you can use

If it’s pictures of lovely native plants you’re after, go to the website of the Theodore Payne Foundation, which last weekend hosted a garden tour across greater Los Angeles. However, here and now, the story is about numbers. The City of Santa Monica has updated figures comparing the water consumption, labor requirements and green waste production of two side-by-side test gardens, one stocked with native plants and irrigated by drip and the other planted with a conventional complement of lawn and shrubs and watered with sprinklers. According to the project’s landscape designer Susanne Jett, since the two gardens were planted in 2004, the native one has used 81 percent less water, required 71 percent fewer hours of labor and produced 38 percent less green waste. Extrapolate those results across LA County’s roughly 1.6 million privately owned homes and it’s clear that one of the single most effective things

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

A new report from the NRDC is reminiscent of a Soviet-style Southern Nevada children's book praising Las Vegas water manager Pat Mulroy.

Publication this week of “Ready or Not: An Evaluation of State Climate and Water Preparedness Planning” by the Natural Resources Defense Council offers a good example of what happens when lobbyists are charged with assessing the very policy that they had a hand in developing. Las Vegas water manager Pat Mulroy becomes a climate hero and California becomes a nationwide leader in climate-ready water policy, a ranking prominently reported today in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lest anyone mistake skepticism about the NRDC report as an endorsement of climate change denial, let it be said up front: Climate change is fact. What prompts this post isn’t any difference of opinion with the NRDC about the utter urgency of climate change preparedness, or even any over-arching disagreements

High good, low bad: Mead in March 2012

The steady rise of Lake Mead, clearinghouse of Colorado River water for the Southwestern US and Mexico, was heartening while it lasted. From a November 2010 low only seven feet shy of triggering shortage declarations, a steady flow into the biggest reservoir in the US throughout 2011 pushed Mead’s elevation 58 feet above the austerity line.

However, in March 2012, the level began to fall again. Look at year-on-year figures from the federal Bureau of Reclamation and it is clear that since 2000 the overwhelming trend has been downward. The entire river system, including Mead, is only 63% of what Reclamation classifies as full.

If there is good news to be had in decline, and there is, part of it is that an innovative landscape architecture instructor at Cal Poly Pomona is tweaking the founding Reclamation mission to “make the desert bloom.” Charged with leading a sustainability studio this winter, teacher Jessica Hall asked master’s degree

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