Ferocious Heat Engulfs Usually Temperate Tasmania
By Kieran Cooke
Australia has been going through one of its hottest and stormiest summers on record and usually temperate Tasmania, its island state, has taken a battering.
Climate change-related weather events have brought cyclones and raging floods to the northeast of the country, while drought and temperatures exceeding 40°C (104°F) have resulted in parched lands and rivers drying up in areas of New South Wales.
Summer on the island of Tasmania, Australia's most southerly state, with a generally temperate climate, is usually a time for BBQs and beach swimming. This summer has been very different.
A prolonged drought and record high temperatures have caused a series of devastating fires, destroying unique forests and vegetation and forcing people to leave their homes.
Critics of the Australian government say it's clear climate change is wreaking havoc; meanwhile politicians continue to pander to the interests of the country's powerful mining and fossil fuel industries.
Mike Willson is a Tasmania resident, a fire equipment specialist and a volunteer with the Tasmania Fire Service. Here he tells Climate News Network what life has been like on the island over recent weeks:
"There is menace in the air. Days full of thick brown smoke. The clouds of smoke have even been swept across 2,500 kilometres of ocean to as far away as New Zealand—itself trying to cope with its own forest fires.
A new phenomenon has arrived in Tasmania—lightning storms without rain. In one day in mid-January there were over 2,000 dry lightning strikes over the south-west and central highlands here, starting up to 70 bush fires.
Even with water bombing by planes and helicopters, the fires—which have already burned out 3% of the area of the island—are virtually impossible to control.
Dealing with these fires is like fighting a snarling dragon. Small flakes of grey ash fall everywhere. Embers can trigger spot fires several kilometres ahead of the main fire.
The fire can seem to disappear but still burns in logs and stumps. You have to always be on the lookout for tell-tale wisps of smoke. Walking across with a hose line to investigate, it's a moonscape, the soil collapsing under your feet.
It's like trudging through powder snow, sinking up to mid-calf in places, with the earth under your feet turning to hot dust. Aiming at a puff of smoke, the ground erupts and hisses like a volcano when we spray water.
It's a giant, macabre game of cat and mouse. If conditions are right, a controlled back burn can effectively starve the fire of fuel, but then the wind might whip up and the fire can jump—even across large rivers and bays—and rampage on.
Luckily, so far there have been no casualties, and few homes have been lost. At least the drought and high temperatures have not come with very high winds—a cocktail for disaster.
Firefighter and helicopter crews are being constantly rotated—it all takes a considerable physical and mental toll."
In recent days rainfall over much of Tasmania has eased the fire risk, though the authorities are warning people that there is still a danger of further fire outbreaks.
Among the areas threatened or partially destroyed by fire are the world's largest remaining forest of thousand-year-old King Billy pines.
Extreme #Rainfall in #Australia Forces Evacuations, Could Flood 20,000 Homes https://t.co/pLSxQyqMG5 @ClimateGroup @greenpeaceaustp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1549339218.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.
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