Tag Archives: bees

Friday Linkage 9/15/2017

The aspens are turning yellow in Colorado and the tulip trees in my backyard are doing the same.  The temps may still be in the 80s during the day, but fall is almost here.  That means on of these weekend nights will be spent waxing skis and checking over the gear.  It is time to start watching Open Snow’s reports and praying for powder.

On to the links…

As Hurricanes and Wildfires Rage, US Climate Politics Enters the Realm of Farce—It is my hope that we look back on the last fifteen or so years of American politics as an embarrassing interlude before sanity regained its footing.

Why Environmentalists Can’t Afford to Wait Until 2018—Too many times I have heard that a forthcoming election was the moment when the coalition of various environmental groups finally got their act together and drove votes to the polls.  Maybe the combination of the worst president in American history, successive natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, and a joke of Congress actually means it will happen.

The World’s Future Energy System: Cleaner, More Efficient and Less Demand—Despite how messed up things seem to be there is actual hope in the air.

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags—Trump loves a win even if it is for something he purports to not like and set up by a man he openly loathes.  When are we going to be done with this flaccid cantaloupe and get back to some real leadership?

New Research Shows Solar Energy May Have Been Undervalued—You have to love simulations that do not include the fastest growing slice of the energy production market.  There are a lot of roofs in my neighborhood that do not have solar PV panels on them yet that are better candidates than my roof, which produces more than 100% of my household electrical needs.

Colorado Utility says Odds it will Build a Major New Coal Plant are now ‘Remote’—The key line in this article is when the representative for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association said that some of the costs for the coal plant expansion were unrecoverable.  That means the finance people in the room said that a portion of the project would be a loss no matter what.

Offshore Wind Power is Cheaper than New Nuclear Power in the UK—Coal is dead.  Nuclear is non-competitive on a cost basis.  The future is clean and renewable.

DONG Energy To Build World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm—Hornsea Project Two 1,386 MW of offshore wind power is a lot of wind.  Like one quarter of the state of Iowa’s installed wind power in one installation.  Together with Hornsea Project One the combined wind installations represent more than 2,500 MW of clean power.

GE Renewable Energy Unveils Largest Onshore Wind Turbine—Imagine replacing existing GE 1.5MW turbines, which dominated the U.S. market for many years, one for one with 4.8MW turbines from the same company.

MIT Researchers Propose an Ancient Technology to Store Clean Energy—Thermal energy storage is an already developed and vetted technology that could help us in shifting the demand curve to match the production curve of renewables.

How Does Thermal Energy Storage Reach Scale?—It can reach scale by being mandated.  If you want to build a large building in a hot climate like southern California or Arizona you should be required to use a thermal energy storage system to help regulate the peaks and valleys of energy demand and production.  If you are a grocery store or warehouse with huge refrigerator systems you should be required to install these systems.

If Power Start-Up Drift can make it in New York, it may be Lights Out for Traditional Utilities—Utilities are one of the last great true monopolies left in the United States.  Heck, you can get out from under the thumb of the cable company now by cutting the cord but you cannot pick your power company.

Vivint Solar & ChargePoint Announce Fully Integrated Solar Residential Energy Management Solution—The future will be a place where the solar panels on your house, the battery in your garage, and your EV are all integrated into a single system to maximize performance and stabilize the larger energy grid.  Tesla is trying to get to that point with a closed system of Tesla products.  This partnership may be more effective because it can be open source to a degree.

Wyoming ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Suffers Appeals Court Blow—Ag gag laws have flown under the radar in the age of Trump but there is legal wrangling going on that will decide the fate of such restrictions on the First Amendment.  How anyone can interpret these laws as having anything other than a cooling effect on free speech is beyond me.  The other irony is the same people pushing these laws trumpet anything done by James O’Keefe.

The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial—We are all just living a premium mediocre life now.

Minnesota Named the Happiest State, while Red Ones Roil in Angst—Is anyone really surprised by this?  I am just amazed that people in red states just keep electing the same people while their quality of life sucks and accept that the answer is someone else is to blame for the problem.

Health at a Planetary Scale—Getting people to even say public health is hard.  Republicans automatically think it means socialism because the word public is akin to saying Lord Voldemort.  The rest of the world generally does not know what it means and those that do are prone to wonky discussions about outcomes, policy, and efficacy.

As Bees Die-Off, Coffee Production could Plummet more than Previously Thought—Well, piss in my shoe.

Sad Side Yard Transformation

I have truly struggled with my southwest-ish facing side yard. It’s where my two compost bins are located because the afternoon sun really heats things up and it’s a convenient trip from the kitchen to dump scraps.

My first attempt to bring some life and color to this space was a series of butterfly bushes. Epic fail. After the first year I lost one of the bushes. I replaced the lost bush, but by the end of year two all of the bushes were dead. I cut them to the ground and let the bed lay barren for a year while I thought about what I wanted to do.

My second thought was to build a hop trellis and grow some hops for my homebrew. My recent reduction in beer drinking and the subsequent stoppage of homebrewing made that an irrelevant idea. Back to the drawing board. Here is what I was left to work with:

Sad Side Yard

Why not vegetables? Since vegetables are generally annuals I would not need to worry about losing plants to the inevitable winter wind. It’s not a bed that people spend a lot of time looking at, so the aesthetic value of flowering bushes is diminished. Hmmm…..

The first challenge was removing the god damned river rock and landscape fabric. Seriously, this stuff is the worst. The rock just retains heat and provides no benefit to the plants other than keeping weeds down. The landscape fabric actually lets water run off rather than percolating into the soil and it traps dirt on top where weeds eventually take root making the landscape fabric irrelevant. Ugh.

With that dirty, dusty job done things went pretty smoothly. The dirt in the bed was fairly rich, but I still amended it with heaping handfuls on compost and coconut coir. In went three cherry tomatoes, three paste tomatoes, two sweet peppers, two hot peppers, two edamame plants, and four cauliflower starts. A thick layer of shredded cypress mulch on top finished everything off:

Happy Side Garden

What was once a barren and sad side yard has become a vibrant little garden. The picture above is a somewhat dated as the tomato and pepper plants are really taking off with the perfect mix of rain and sun we have been getting in eastern Iowa this spring.

Now imagine how much food we could grow if every house in America just converted one neglected bed alongside their home into a small vegetable garden. Amazing potential.

Friday Linkage 6/27/2014

It’s amazing how busy you can be ferrying children to dance lessons, teeball games, and birthday parties. It almost makes you pine for the lazy winter weekends where the biggest decision was whether or not to put in three mini marshmallows in the hot cocoa.

On to the links…

Justices Uphold Emission Limits on Big Industry—Guess what? The new EPA rules are going to stand as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Assuming Hillary runs and the Republicans go with a slate of crazies as potential nominees these rules have a good decade or more to be law of the land. Dig it.

Nebraska Utility Is Phasing Out Some Coal Units, And It Won’t Cost That Much—Forget what the talking heads on Fix News and you hyperbolic members of Congress have said because the newly released EPA regulations that will likely close down some coal plants will not dramatically alter the American economy. It’s a good thing.

EPA to Reassess Sherco Coal Power Plant’s Effect on Two National Parks—It is starting to feel like coal is on its last legs as a fuel for the future in the U.S. Every time you turn around there is a movement to close down yet another plant for one reason or another.

What’s Better — A Solar Loan or a Solar Lease?—As companies offering solar leases proliferate this is a question that will be asked by anyone considering a residential solar photovoltaic system.

Buying Into Solar Power, No Roof Access Needed—How about a third option for getting access to electricity from the sun?

Colorado Springs Solar Garden Sells Out, Even Before Construction Begins—If you do not believe there is demand for solar power just look at the stunning success of solar gardens in Colorado. These things are fully subscribed well before construction begins.

Utah Utility Cuts Deal For 20 Years Of Solar Power Because It’s The Cheapest Option—Here’s why retiring dirty old coal plants is not going to be that expensive. Renewables are getting to be just as cheap.

Worldwide Solar Power Capacity is 53X Higher than 9 Years Ago! Wind Power 6.6X Higher!—Crazy. Crazy good that is.

How Your Bee-Friendly Garden May Actually Be Killing Bees—Bees cannot get a break. Even when you plant a pollinator friendly garden you may be inadvertently killing off bees. Ugh.

One Quarter Of India Is Turning Into Desert—This is why environmental restoration efforts are so critical. There is a lot of land all over the world that has been negatively impacted by mankind’s hand. We need to heal the land.

Rethinking the Word ‘Foodie’—Everyone would be better off if we recognized the costs—usually externalities—associated with our cracked up food system. Plus, killing the term “foodie” would be great.

How We Can Tame Overlooked Wild Plants to Feed the World—As we lose plants to disease because we have bred out food system to uniformity wild plants will be increasingly valuable. Think about your morning coffee. Most of the coffee we drink is descended from a single genetic strain originating somewhere in Ethiopia. The hundreds, if not thousands, of wild coffee plants that might have resistant to various blights have not been exploited.

We Have a Crappy Healthcare System—I don’t usually talk about the U.S. healthcare system because it pisses me off so much. Have a parent struggle with the system while they are dying and you will have an unceasing hate for insurance companies. In the U.S. we have great practitioners of healthcare—doctors, nurses, etc.—but the archaic and bloated system around these practitioners does nothing but add cost and inefficiency.

Bjorn Lomborg Is Part Of The Koch Network — And Cashing In—If you didn’t already thing that Bjorn Lomborg was a fraud, then the latest news about his affiliation with the evil Koch brothers will just erase any lingering doubts. The man defines sell out.

Friday Linkage 5/9/2014

Climate change is apparently here now that an official report has said so.  If you have looked out your window the past few years you knew this to be true, but now at least it is official.  What that means for climate action?  Probably nothing because, you know, Benghazi.

On to the links…

How We Became China’s Grocery Store and Wine Cellar—I always kind of wondered where all the animals raised and slaughtered in the state of Iowa went.  Now I know.

Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock—In many ways this is just a symbolic gesture that will not have a great deal of impact on either the endowment at Stanford or the coal companies in question.  However, it does not bode well that an increasing number of larger and larger institutional investors are questioning their commitment to coal companies.  Once the market turns…

The Top Ten Global Warming ‘Skeptic’ Arguments Answered—There is nothing more frustrating than trying to talk about global warming and climate change with a “skeptic” who spent the last evening watching Sean Hannity spread more misinformation about whatever the Koch’s have paid him to spew.  At least you can be better prepared for the counter arguments next time.

How Climate Change Is Making America’s Favorite Crop More Vulnerable—Well, if climate change gets much worse we might have trouble feeding ourselves let alone the more than one billion people in China.

A Coffee Crop Withers—In Central and South America a fungus is wiping out coffee crops left and right.  Rust or la roya is spreading, exacerbated by farming practices and climate change.  The good news is that the genetics of the coffee plant are relatively understudied so there might be a wild cultivar that possesses some resistance.

Beyond Honeybees: Now Wild Bees and Butterflies May Be in Trouble—You can see this in Iowa where the population of butterflies is dramatically lower in recent years due to a massive change in the landscape, primarily the systematic destruction of plants that butterflies feed on like milkweed.

This Island Is The First In The World To Be Powered Fully By Wind And Water—Islands, like my favorite Hawaiian islands, make great laboratories for renewable energy because the electrical grids are generally isolated, electricity costs are high, and the potential damage from imported fuel is catastrophic.  The smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands is going to be fully renewable soon.

Hawaii’s Largest Utility Ordered To Help Customers Install More Rooftop Solar—Speaking of Hawaii, HECO—Oahu’s electrical utility and the state’s largest—has been a constant thorn in the side of anyone wanting to deploy residential solar.  Roadblocks are common, excuses are many, and the goal posts for approval seem to move all the time.  The Public Utilities Commission is finally getting some sack and demanding action on HECO’s part.

How Some Simple Changes To Building Codes Could Revolutionize The Electric Car Market—Building codes are not something that many people think about because it is a confusing and arcane world of legalese, but these guidelines have a major impact on how and what gets built in the U.S.

At Chernobyl, Hints of Nature’s Adaptation—Chernobyl and the surrounding area affected by the meltdown of the nuclear reactor is an amazing test site for nature’s ability to adapt to massive change.  I am not saying that this is a test tube for the future under climate change, but it is interesting to think about.

Wolf Found in Iowa—Granted, the wolf was shot and killed but this animal’s recovery is pretty amazing.

Friday Linkage 4/4/2014

I want to apologize for being “off the grid” the past few weeks. It’s amazing how many things can get in the way of writing about things you enjoy: vacation (yay!), health (ugh!), kids (yay or ugh depending upon the day), and just the general flotsam and jetsam of life.

I promise to get off the schneid and put some posts out here very soon.

On to the links…

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come—There has been a lot of reporting on the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and it is important. Very important. Moral of this story is that we need to get ready for an angry Earth.

Minnesota’s Largest Ever Solar Project gets Tentative Regulator Approval—Man, if Minnesota can deploy $250M of solar projects through the state’s primary utility than I think that almost any state in the union should be capable of something similar. It’s not like anyone heads up to Minnesota for lots of sunny days.

Ground Broken At First Utility-Scale Solar Project On Tribal Land—The obituary for utility scale solar was being written a few weeks back after the opening of the Ivanpah facility, but there seems to be some life left in the concept.

Wind Reaches Its Highest Generation Level Ever In Texas, Heralding A Challenge To Natural Gas—Texas may suck at a lot of things, but the state does have a lot of wind. Some of which does not come from Rick Perry bloviating. The wind power coming from ERCOT passed the 10,000 megawatt mark recently.

The Artificial Leaf Is Here. Again.—Like nuclear fusion that does not obliterate cities, the artificial leaf is one of those holy grails of next generation power production. Maybe this time we are on the cusp of a revolution.

13 Unexpected Sources of Energy that Could Save the World—If you thought an artificial leaf was out there, just wait until you check out this list. What, no giant hamster wheels? Damn.

EVs, Plug-Ins Already Saving 45 Million Gallons of Fuel per Year in the U.S.—Even with a small fleet currently deployed there is a measurable impact. Think about what the numbers will look like as the technologies mature and proliferate.

Koch Brothers Quietly Seek To Ban New Mass Transit In Tennessee—It would not be a week without an article about the ass clown Kochs getting involved in a local issue. Do these guys like anything other than money and oil? Maybe chemicals and cutting down trees, but that is about it.

Plastic Soup Of Ocean Garbage Obscures Search For Malaysia Plane Debris—Basically, there is so much junk in the ocean that it impedes the ability of sensors to determine what is debris from a missing airplane and what is just crap. Great job human race.

Program Looks to Give Bees a Leg (or Six) Up—We need to do everything that we can to help pollinators because these little guys are so vital to our food production.

10 Edible Spring Weeds—Weeds get a bad rap because we have been conditioned by the chemical industry to view them as interlopers. Sorry, but these little plants can be a nutritious addition to your diet. Foraging anyone?

Selling Out Organic to Protect Five Factory Farms—Is anyone surprised that the USDA has the best interests of factory farms and industrial agriculture in mind when it operates? No one should be since this has been standard operating procedure for decades.

Behind the Scenes at Greens & Gills’ Aquaponic Farm in Chicago—Aquaponics is an interesting concept. I would love to see someone do a lifecycle analysis to determine how sustainable the model really is.

Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods—This may be one of life’s most important questions:


Thank you Washington Post.

These Sad Photos Show NYC Gentrification where Chain Stores replace Local Businesses—Really, does the world need another Subway or Verizon store?

The Hydrangeas were Positively Buzzing

With all of the bad news about the fate of bees in our modern world, it’s nice to see some pollinators just getting a chance to enjoy themselves for once without having to bear the weight of our food system on their shoulders:

Hydrangea Bees

In the front yard of my home I have three “White Diamonds” hydrangea bushes planted that seem to be like magnets for pollinators of all kinds.  I take great care to not treat any of the plants in my yard with pesticides or other chemicals that may make their way into the food chain of the pollinators because these little buzzers do not need any additional impediments.

The three bushes were almost buzzing with all of the activity the other day.  Dozens of bees, by my count, were flitting from bloom to bloom doing their thing.  It was a nice respite from the constant drumbeat of bad news.

Speaking of bad news about bees, I hope that the recent cover story in Time will bring some much needed national attention to the plight of pollinators.  For years I have watched as progressive publications and websites have talked about colony collapse disorder and neonicotinoid compounds with almost no audience at the national mainstream level.  It’s a mean scene.

It got me thinking about ways to help outside of making my yard and gardens a hospitable place for pollinators.  In the article in Time, it states some numbers about the decline of hives in the U.S. that are startling.  In 1946 there were an estimated 5.8 million bee colonies.  The estimated number of bee colonies in the U.S. is approximately 2.5 million at present.  This decline is generally attributed to the threat of foreign competition rather than any systemic health issue in the bee community.

So, if part of the problem is that the market for domestic honey is being impinged by cheap foreign honey it seems like a solution would be to support local honey suppliers.  I am not a big user of honey, but I think that I could work up a beer recipe that would utilize local honey.  Anything to help the bees.

Friday Linkage 3/29/2013

It finally feels like spring with the mercury tickling 50 degrees and the sun coming out for long stretches at a time.  It’s the perfect weather to put a vest on and chase the kids around outside for a change.

On to the links…

How The EPA Could Help Cut Carbon Emissions 17% By 2020—There seems to be so much room for the government to affect climate change without resorting to the swamp that is Congress it makes you wonder how much of a stomach the President has for this kind of action.  It’s not like he is running for office again.

Life After Oil and Gas—This opinion article got a lot of play over the last week and it should have because it gets at the central fallacy of fossil fuels.  Is the use of fossil fuels a need or a choice?  When the question is asked, the argument is on.

Rising Solar Power Production In U.S. Likely To Make It Second-Largest New Source In 2013—For anyone who does not believe that solar photovoltaic is a real and viable technology, just look at the stats.  The part of the story that often does not get told about solar is that it is generally generated near the point of consumption, so no costly infrastructure is needed for deployment.

Chasing Green: Going Solar by Paying Your Utility Bill—All of these different financing vehicles for deploying renewables are fascinating.  I saw a project in Breckenridge where individuals could purchase “plots” in a solar PV “garden” instead of deploying panels on their own homes.  It’s getting real folks.

Agriculture Giants Use Emergency Budget Bill To Sneak In Big Gifts For Themselves—Surprise, surprise that big companies would use their lobbying power to sneak “gifts” into emergency budgets meant to avert a government shutdown.  I love how biotech firms are allowed to willy-nilly deploy unproven seeds into the marketplace without proving safety and now the government is trying to shield them further.  Shameful really.

Are Agriculture’s Most Popular Insecticides Killing Our Bees?—I always love how it is treated like a revelation when the use of chemicals by humans is found to have a detrimental effect on nature.  You mean to say that after millions of years of evolution there might be a reason why these compounds do not exist naturally?  Shocking!

The Sly Coyote Becomes a Hunter’s Target in Utah—We always want to blame nature’s predators for things when the problem really lies within our own actions as humans.  Just look at what the state of Oregon is doing to sea lions in the name of salmon.  Never mind that human interference is leaps and bounds more damaging to salmon populations than sea lions ever could be.

SS Badger and EPA Reach an Agreement—I find this agreement to be pathetic.  Allowing the dumping of any waste into Lake Michigan is deplorable and allowing it to continue is nothing short of weakness.

Grasping at Straw—I saw this article and another similar story on Root Simple.  I fell in love with the concept and ordered the book by Joel Karsten right away.  So cool.

Heating Homes With Switchgrass Pellets Could Save Northeasterners Billions And Cut Their Carbon Emissions—I am fascinated with pellet stoves and switchgrass.  Combine the two and I think I might be in love.

Kraft Mac & Cheese Is Nutritionally Equivalent to Cheez-Its—The good old standby in the blue box is having a tough go of it lately.  First, the online world is abuzz that the dyes used in American Mac & Cheese are not used globally because of concerns about long term safety.  Now, it’s being compared to the symbol of nutritional absence—the cheese cracker.