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Maybe you've heard a recent college grad or your ever adventurous friend mention in passing conversation that she has plans to WWOOF for a few months in New Zealand or Tanzania and you've wondered to yourself what the heck is WWOOFing, but you've nodded along pretending you know what she is talking about because you wanted to pretend like you were in the know.
Well, WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers of Organic Farms. The site connects farmers looking to host with would-be apprentices looking to gain hands-on experience on organic farms. In exchange for about four to six hours of work per day, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodations and opportunities to learn. Currently, there are more than 75,000 WWOOFers who travel to more than 100 countries on six continents to get a taste of farming life.
If you've always wanted to learn and live on a farm, it's a great way to do so because many WWOOF hosts will take volunteers who have little to no experience, as long as they have a positive attitude and are ready to work hard. Hosts are usually flexible on the length of your stay from a few days to a few months, though many are looking for longer term commitments.
If you have your own farm, garden, vineyard or orchard and follow organic or sustainable principles, WWOOFers might be a great way for you to get some much needed help and maybe even expand your operation. Many hosts practice permaculture or biodynamic farming. Some hosts are individuals, others are families and a few are communities or eco-villages.
The nature of the work is very site-specific, so aspiring apprentices should look at host sites' profiles to decide what kind of work they are looking to do. Generally though, volunteers can expect to complete tasks like sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread making.
The arrangement is usually a win-win because many small-scale farmers do not have the money to hire more people, but they are happy to share their knowledge with neophyte farmers, who gain skills they can use on another farm or in starting their own farm.
Most WWOOF groups require volunteers to be at least 18 years old, though some take people who are younger. There is no upper age limit. As long as the volunteer is fit and well enough to work for four to six hours a day, hosts will happily take them in. Many couples, friends and even parents with children choose to WWOOF.
The organization is structured on a national level, so volunteers need to join WWOOF in the country or countries they intend to visit in order to view the profiles of the host sites in that country. Subscription fees to access a country's WWOOF site range anywhere from $0-$72. Once they find a host they are interested in, volunteers are encouraged to contact that host to find out if his or her site will in fact be a good fit for them.
WWOOF Hawaii says the ideal WWOOFer is someone with "a positive, can-do and self-motivated attitude, who works well with others, and is passionate about doing his or her part within the organic farming movement." But be prepared. Organic farming requires a "great deal of weeding and physical labor." Luckily, the rewards of supporting regenerative, organic agriculture are numerous.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?