Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawkin

As the subtitle suggests, this is “The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.” The 100 scenarios analyze various strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or to sequester carbon. The upfront costs and ultimate cost savings to change behavior is also analyzed. Each strategy is based on global data. Sixty-one research scientists across the globe who have expertise in environmental issues collaborated on the solutions. The narrative on each of the scenarios is only 2-3 pages with illustrative photos in each article. All are written in layman terms.

An example of a scenario is Farmland Restoration. A study from Stanford University suggests there are approximately one billion acres of land abandoned globally. Ninety-nine percent of this desertion occurred in the last century. Restorative practice such as perma-gardening which integrates water saving, soil fertility, and companion planting, is an example of active restoration. Such approaches require funding and are labor intensive if done on a large scale. The overall effectiveness of Farmland Restoration is huge. It would increase carbon sequestration by gigatons and produce additional billion of tons of food.

Nuclear energy is ranked as 20th out of 100 as to effectiveness. The other strategies are listed as “no regrets: while nuclear is in a category of its own…regrets. This is because while there is a decrease in carbon impact there is also a risk of tritium release, abandoned uranium mines, mine tailing pollution, spent nuclear waste disposal, illicit plutonium trafficking, and the need to guard nuclear waste for thousands of years.

While our current situation is traumatic to think about, the book is hopeful. Each environmental problem is exposed but combined with solutions.

Rio Grande Compact

Jan 21, 2022 Update – Without serious actions that reduce water depletions in the Middle Rio Grande,  New Mexico will violate the Rio Grande Compact.  The situation is urgent. Middle Rio Grande total water depletions must be reined in.

New Mexico estimates its 2021 deliveries of water, for use below Elephant Butte Dam, were about -30,000 acre-feet short of meeting its 2021 delivery obligations.  The 2021 annual debit brings the cumulative debit to -127,000 acre feet.  The compact limits New Mexico’s cumulative debit to -200,000 acre-feet at which point the the US supreme Court will decide Rio Grande water users’ future. Middle Rio Grande Water Advocates

Please ask your city council member, county commissioner, members of the ABCWUA Board what their plan is to change this situation within the next two years before there is a tragic loss of control of our water.

An Overview of the Water Law in Our Watershed

New Mexican law governing the allocation of water is complex. Below are some general facts; however, many of these statements have never been adjudicated in court so they have not met a final test.

The process of adjudicating water rights to determine who has what right to use water is difficult and takes time. One of the longest running cases in U.S. Federal Court history was over water rights here in New Mexico. In 1966, the NM Office of the State Engineer (OSE) sued all claimants for water in the Pojoaque River Basin in order to determine who had what rights to use the Basin’s water. Forty-six years passed before that lawsuit was finalized in 2012. The settlement established a water system for the Pueblos of San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Tesuque, and Nambe, plus parts of Santa Fe County.

FEDERAL LEVEL

New Mexico is part of the Rio Grande Compact, which was approved in 1938. Compacts are written when water flows through more than one state. New Mexico is part of 8 compacts: Upper Colorado Basin, Rio Grande, Pecos, Colorado River, Animas-La Plata, La Plata, Canadian, and Costilla Creek. Compacts, like treaties, have to be approved by Congress. At this time, the mid Rio Grande Times does not know which compacts are in litigation.

Texas has sued New Mexico, alleging that New Mexico has failed to deliver to Texas the amount of water required by the Rio Grande Compact. The case is at the U.S. Supreme Court because all water cases between states must be filled there. A decision may come in the summer of 2022 unless Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas can negotiate a compromise. At issue is the amount of surface water being delivered to Texas by the Rio Grande. Texas has alleged that groundwater pumping in New Mexico south of Elephant Butte has limited the Rio Grande’s surface water flowing South, since groundwater and surface water are connected.

By Federal Law, Native American rights to water are prioritized over all other users. Under the Winters doctrine, Native American nations have water rights with a priority date of “time immemorial,” which is earlier than any dates issued by the OSE. The amounts of water each Nation has the right to use is calculated on the basis of how much water the members of the Nation are using for irrigation; the calculation is usually based on the amount of “practicably irrigable acreage” the Nation has. This does not mean that each Nation has to use its water rights to irrigate land; the water can be used for any purpose.

NEW MEXICO LEVEL

The New Mexican Constitution states that water may only be used for “beneficial” purposes, but does not define beneficial use.

Water rights are considered property and can be leased or sold but it is the right to use the water that is transferred, not outright ownership of the water itself. Water is owned by the public, and people and entities can only obtain the right to use the water.

Permits for use of both surface and groundwater are issued by OSE. In 1907, OSE requested all New Mexicans using surface or groundwater to fill out an affidavit of their claim to water rights. This included 1) the quantity of water, 2) the year they initiated beneficial use, 3) purpose of use, 4) description of the delivery system, 5) location of a diversion, and 6) amount of land irrigated. Since 1907, anyone wishing to use water must first obtain a permit from OSE.

In accordance with the “prior appropriation” doctrine, water rights are based on seniority: first in time is first in right. Those first granted rights by date get all the water they have permits for before junior rights receive any.

Domestic wells for household, livestock, and irrigation can use up to three acre feet/year but there are no gauges to monitor usage.

Under state law, acequia associations have legal easement after continual use for irrigation for five years. This easement includes both the mother ditch and laterals. Once an easement is established, it remains intact. The acequia association also has right-of-way access across private property in order to maintain their acequia. Most of the acequias have been in existence for hundreds of years.

The San Juan-Rio Chama Diversion was completed in 1972 to bring water from the Colorado watershed into the Rio Grande watershed. The Diversion is 26 miles long and includes a tunnel and smaller stream diversions. The City of Albuquerque relies on this diversion for between 35 and 70% of our drinking water, varying by year.

Sue Brown in collaboration with Doug Meiklejohn NM Environmental Law Center

Where Water Was

This past summer our granddaughter led us on a walk to a part of the Rio Grande quite close to where she lives in the South Valley. It was distressing. Where water once ran, we could walk out on an expanse of dry ground. The remaining thin streams of water were easy to leap across.

I share this because of the feeling that confronts me, that what it will take for the river to be restored is insurmountable. It will take, in other words, a miracle. Doing everything we can to preserve and nurture the river may not be enough, but with God, all things are possible. Scott Walker started Eco-Prayer some years ago. The idea is to pray daily for something in the earth we care about and to engage others to do the same.

So I encourage you, besides doing what you can to care for the earth, pray for something, some form of life you care about. If isn’t our Rio Grande watershed, then add your prayers to mine.                                                                                                    By Glen Kappy

Pesticides – Problems and Solutions

Pesticide is an overarching term meaning a compound which kills fungus, bacteria, insects, or weeds. Insecticides target insects while herbicides target weeds. In this article, we address two pesticides, glyphosate and neonicotinoids, that have widespread deleterious effects on humans and ecosystems. Manufacturing of these pesticides continues unabated, with profits soaring while plant, animal, and insect life are plummeting. At the end of this article, you’ll find recipes for natural pesticides you can make yourself.

Monsanto brought the herbicide glyphosate (found in Round Up and 750 other products) to market in 1974. In 2015, the World Health Organization commissioned a study of glyphosate. Scientists from eleven countries reviewed a growing body of literature and came to the conclusion that the herbicide was a probable carcinogen with a strong link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They also found evidence that it causes DNA and chromosome damage in humans. Now many countries in Europe have banned glyphosate use.

Glyphosate also may be implicated in the global drop in bee populations. Ninety percent of our food crops are pollinated by bees. Bee numbers have decreased in the U.S. by 60% and in Europe by 30%. One of the suspected causes is that glyphosate is toxic to enzymes found in the stomachs of bees. When the microbiome of the bee’s stomach is weakened, the bee becomes more susceptible to disease and premature death.

Pesticides with neonicotinoids were first marketed by Bayer in the 1990s; today, neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticides world-wide. They are also having a devastating effect on bees and other beneficial insects. When sprayed on plants, neonicotinoids are absorbed by the plant and then contaminate the pollen and nectar. Harmful levels can remain in the environment for months. Neonicotinoids cause queen bees to be infertile and also causes difficulties in flight and brain function. The European Union banned the use of three neonicotinoids and are monitoring beehive numbers and health. In the U.S., Fish and Wildlife banned their use in Wildlife Refuges, but this ban was rolled back by the previous administration. During the 2021 New Mexico legislative session, Senator Mimi Stewart introduced a bill which would have provided some protections from exposure to neonicotinoids, but the bill did not pass.

Tomato hornworm (Manduca sexta). Photo by Scot Nelson. Flikr Commons

Most insects have a beneficial role in nature, especially pollination, and most plants are beautiful or edible. We want both insects and plants; their survivals are intertwined with our needs. An example of the insect/plant relationship in our watershed is the tomato worm, the hawk moth, and the Sacred Datura plant. In one night, the big, green, juicy caterpillar can denude four or five branches of a tomato plant. This larvae stage metamorphosizes into pupae and then the hawk moth. With a nearly four-inch wingspan, this giant moth is the only pollinator for the Sacred Datura, also called Jimson or Loco Weed. The latter is used globally for medicines and purposefully cultivated in Germany, France, and parts of South America to treat various illnesses such as asthma, hallucinations, toothaches, and even dandruff. If you discover a tomato worm and there are white spikes coming out of its body, a parasitic wasp will have already laid its eggs, and soon the worm will be eaten by the wasp larvae. No need to do anything! In fact, the soon-to-hatch wasps will clear out the rest of your tomato worms. However, if the tomato worm doesn’t have white spikes, you might want to kill the caterpillar; after it finishes your tomatoes, it will move on to your eggplants and peppers.

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Bats

Photo: Clement Falize/Unsplash

Bats probably originated in North America and have lived in the mid Rio Grande watershed for millennia. Half the species of bats found in the United States make New Mexico their home either for the summer or year-round.   

Since bats are nocturnal, we humans don’t often see these mammal neighbors. They are busy sleeping the day away in caves, under the eaves of our homes, in rock crevices, and even in tree cavities. At night, thousands emerge, searching for flower nectar (especially agave) and insects. A bat can eat 3-5,000 insects each night, making them very helpful to our ecosystem.

Photo: Hans Veth/Unsplash

Evening or vesper bats are a large family of bats; the ones found here are commonly called little brown bats or simple nosed bats. As they make their way through the night sky, they use echolocation, emitting signals from their mouths to judge distance to insects or objects. Other species of bats emit the sounds through their long noses.

The movies portray bats as vicious and scary, causing people to develop chiroptophobia (fear of bats). Since bats are peculiar looking, many with big ears, teeth, and long noses, it is hard to convince the public that they are a very peaceful species of animals. Indeed, a mother bat has maternal instincts and will nurse her young for two months. While an occasional bat in New Mexico has been found to have rabies, it is rather rare considering millions of bats are estimated to live here. The population of bats however is being threatened by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome which recently showed up in caves in southern New Mexico.

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The Bees Tell Us

Photo: Kym MacKinnon/Unsplash

Bees have a special place in my heart. I have apprenticed myself to their wonder and magic for over 10 years. It’s time to hear a word from the bees who I have been sitting shiva with for many years as they have been dying in great numbers.

Around the world, bee species are in decline at the rate of 40%. This should sound the alarm for us as humans, since bees contribute to 1 in 3 bites of our favorite foods and pollinate 85% of all flowers, fruits, nuts and seeds in our eco systems. They have been called keystone species because their survival is linked to the survival of all species— including humans. 

Some have called me a bee whisperer. But, I am quite sure that it is the bees that whisper their secrets to me. So what do the bees tell me these days??

The bees tell me that they have already suffered their COVID 19 pandemic. In 2006 the honeybees mysteriously began to die. It was dubbed “colony collapse,” due to the agricultural importing of the Varroa mite. This menace clings onto the bee’s fat body, deforming and sucking out its life juices. Mites eventually destroy the hive’s immune system over time. But the bees have learned how to adapt and evolve new ways of bee-ing in a world with Varroa mites. They teach us that we need to strengthen Mother Earth’s immune system, and preserve boundaries between human and nature, if we are to survive the viruses yet to come. We must quell our need to exploit every living system. Leave the wild alone and enhance healthy zones of nature in our cities and towns and they tell me more…..

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