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BLOGGING OUR WAY TO A HEALTHIER FUTURE
January, 2017 - Maureen Decombe

A Watershed Approach to California Landscapes: Bringing home the benefits of habitat-based, water-sponging, pollution-fighting, carbon-sequestering gardens—in the Wildcat Creek Watershed and beyond.
See the full story >>

December 6, 2016 - Michael J. Fitzgerald
That bad smell could be history next week
Representatives of Republic Services - operators of the Parr Road transfer station and composting facility along Richmond Parkway - promised Tuesday night that within a week the odor that has been fouling the air in Point Richmond and environs should be gone.
Doug Brewer, an environmental manager with the company told a crowd of 30 people at Kaleidoscope Coffee that the company had trucked out nearly all of the sour (and bad-smelling) compost that was responsible for the gagging stench that prompted many dozens of complaints since October. "We are committed to being good neighbors," Brewer said - .See the full story >>
October 27, 2016 - Christine Volker
It’s hard to be optimistic today about what kind of world we are leaving our children. Figures just released, show humans’ impact on our planet home. Our appetites and numbers are unsustainable, we’re using about 1.6 earth’s worth of resources. Between 1970 and 2012, animal populations have collapsed by 58%. The latest estimates are that by 2020, 67% will have vanished. Extinctions are in full swing. Instead of bringing enlightenment, we’re bringing devastation. Link to the full report, is below.
Question:
Besides hiding under the bed covers, living for today, or sticking our heads in the sand, what can we do?
Answer:
Being concerned, getting educated about the issues. Factoring sustainability into our personal life choices and habits, our voting decisions, and local land use decisions. We need to share the earth instead of taking it all for ourselves.
https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2016?autologin=true&utm_campaign=wildlife&utm_medium=email&utm_source=advocacy-alert&utm_content=161027-ae
October 26, 2016 - Christine Volker
Boo!
Halloween is almost here, giving rise to thoughts of candy, costumes and bats. Yes, there are bats in Richmond, too! In celebration of Bat Week, and the wonders of bats, you can take the Bat Quiz on our website. You can also check out Bat Conservation International’s videos posted online for kids by their young and enthusiastic bat squad. These are enlightening, even for adult viewers and show the benefits of bats. They’re at the foot of the page found at: http://www.batweek.org/
October 23, 2016 - Christine Volker
Are you hearing more bird song?
The fall migrants (some winging their way down from Alaska), are here. The golden crowned sparrow sings a lovely but mournful tune. You can find the bird, its song, and those of thousands of birds at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s superb online encyclopedia. Under “Search” just type the common name of the bird and it’ll bring you to its page with photos, sound recordings and video. Below is the link: https://search.macaulaylibrary.org/catalog
October 20, 2016 - Christine Volker

Otters in Richmond?
Yup, and here is the proof: a mother otter and her two pups swimming a few hundred feet offshore, after the young ones cavorted on a neighborhood deck (not kidding). The Marine Mammal Center indicated that these are river otters, like others around San Francisco Bay. They’re smaller than the sea otters which are down in Monterey, for example.Cleaner water, less plastic refuse and more fresh water flowing into our bay will guarantee even more exciting critters to come.

September 9, 2016 - Christine Volker
Bad News on Monarchs:
There’s bad news on the Eastern migrating monarchs which overwinter in Mexico: winter storms killed 6.2 million in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City. Storms also caused the loss of 133 acres of trees in this area which is becoming deforested due to illegal logging. To survive, the monarchs need thick, intact forests. Current “salvage” logging operations threaten them further. A ray of hope has emerged from reforestation efforts and the formation of a national police squad to fight environmental crimes. More milkweed plantings in the U.S. are also necessary.
August 30, 2016 - Christine Volker
So you think you’re a water miser? See how you compare!
Ebmud is offering a confidential “report card” on how your water use compares to similar nearby homes. The report also contains links to rebates. Check out the program via this link:
http://www.ebmud.com/water-and-drought/conservation-and-rebates/residential/services-tools/my-water-report-program/
Water Saving and Money-Saving Programs:
Old toilets are big water users. EBMUD has a rebate program of $50 when you replace an older toilet with a high efficiency one if you do this by 12/31/16. The EBMUD website has the qualifying details:
http://www.ebmud.com/water-and-drought/conservation-and-rebates/residential/rebates/toilet-rebates/
In addition there is a state rebate program, while funds last:
http://www.saveourwaterrebates.com/toilet-rebates.html
August 28, 2016 - Christine Volker
Organic Gardening Problems? Check Herbicide Use
If you have had problems with vegetables which are not growing, or are deformed, check your compost, among other things. Residue from farm herbicides used to treat and control weeds can be in compost you are using in your garden. Experts recommend making your own compost, of possible.
80% of seeds used in agriculture are treated with neonics. So be careful out there.
July 28, 2016 - Christine Volker
The City of Richmond has just completed the Public Review Draft of its Climate Action Plan. Comments are due online or via regular mail by August 22, 2016. We encourage you to take a look at it and submit comments and suggestions. The document details the City’s analysis and plans as to how it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, along with plans to increase our resilience to the local impacts of climate change. The wide-ranging implementation appendix contains many specific steps, including water conservation, more public transit, additional tree planting, with some due dates as soon as 2020. The plan and appendices can be found at: http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/3313/Climate-Action-Plan
July 23, 2016 - Christine Volker
Taking Away the Stars
Light pollution is severely impacting the planet. One-third of earthlings are no longer able to see the Milky Way at night, due to light pollution. Cut off from the wonder of nature and the universe, perhaps some will just view it in their hand held devices, or not at all. The Grand Canyon, for example, receives light glows from Phoenix and Las Vegas. Light pollution severs not just our own connection to nature, but it negatively impacts the migration of birds and other animals. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the outcomes if we employ light damping techniques in our buildings and street lights.
July 21, 2016 - Christine Volker
How Nature Heals
It’s no surprise that walking in nature soothes and de-stresses the body. “Shinrin-yoku”, the Japanese call it, or “forest bathing.” What’s new is that recent evidence shows this activity is more than just a “feel good” exercise. Measurable positive changes occur in the human body’s cortisol level, heart health, immune function and mental outlook. How does this occur? “Physiologic relaxation” experienced in nature diminishes stress. The natural fragrance of trees is a form of aromatherapy, and inhaling aromatic compounds in the air, called phytonicides, revs up our killer white blood cells. Studies have shown that people with ADHD and depression respond better after spending time in nature. Cities with urban parks scored higher on community well-being surveys. This information is just in time. Frighteningly, one-third of California’s 11th graders are feeling sad and hopeless, as detailed in the California Healthy Kids Survey. Do our parks and green spaces hold part of the answer?
June 26, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
Bad news on birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology issued an in-depth report, “State of North America’s Birds 2016” showing that roughly 1/3 of all North American birds are in trouble. With respect to coastal habitat, 40% of the 100 pertinent species are on the Watch List, meaning that they are most at risk of extinction. They state that, “Species that breed in mangroves, saltmarshes, and sandy beaches are of highest concern due to pressures from sea-level rise, coastal development, disturbance from human recreational activities, and the threat of oil spills. Many coastal species have small population sizes and a restricted distribution, making them especially vulnerable to habitat loss and other threats.
The migratory shorebirds that travel the farthest are showing the greatest declines. Habitat loss and degradation at key coastal stopover sites, as well as climate change impacts on northern breeding grounds, may all be affecting their populations.”
The full report can be found at: http://www.stateofthebirds.org/2016/
A focus on sites for shorebirds by Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network shows San Francisco Bay’s critical importance for their continued existence. http://www.whsrn.org/site-profile/san-francisco-bay .
June 25, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
Gardeners to the Rescue!
The Xerces Society just came out with a new book, Gardening for Butterflies, which provides suggestions about plants, garden designs and practices. How gardeners can help butterfly populations should be a familiar theme to anyone who has read our Sustainability section. Their book is available at:
http://www.xerces.org/books-butterfly-gardening/
June 23, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
This is National Pollinator Week, a special time, when we can contemplate where we’d be without pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies (answer: not very far), plus, we can ask ourselves what we have done for them lately.
Some of you are doing quite a lot and have the caterpillars to prove it! Many, having planted a pollinator-friendly garden, are enjoying pollinator visits as they sip nectar and gather pollen. Others of you may be considering what you can grow in a yard or a planter, to bring your patch of garden even more alive.
The report below highlights how gardeners can help bees.
http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Animals/Archives/2016/Bees.aspx
Something we all can do is to continue our education about these fascinating creatures. Check out the 20 minute movie about the rusty-patched bumble bee in serious decline, on the path to extinction and one man’s mission to capture its story. The movie, shown at 2016 festivals is at: http://www.rustypatched.com/
April 11 , 2016 ~ Christine Volker
Who says that bees and wine don’t mix? Garden expert Kate Frey will be signing her new book, The Bee- Friendly Garden on Friday, April 22 at the UC Botanical Garden (200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley), from 4-6 PM. Kate is a Master Gardener who has dedicated herself to habitat gardens. Learn about bees and enjoy wine tasting after the book talk. ($20, $15 for Garden members.)
March 30, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
Remember to dispose of unused/expired medicines properly. This means not tossing them into the toilet. Sewage treatment plants cannot correct their effects. The Richmond Police Department and the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office are offering safe disposal, at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center (901 Nevin Avenue) and the Bay Station West County Detention Facility Front Lobby at 5555 Giant Highway, respectively. This will take place on Saturday, April 26 from 10 AM to 2 PM.
In Washington State many medicines are making their way into Puget Sound and impacting fish. Please keep our Bay safe. See article >>
March 23, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
Trying to find alternatives to some video games? How about having fun and learning about nature at the same time? Get the kids/family to play up to 26 educational games about the oceans, estuaries and marine life. Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
March 22, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
Parents or guardians of fourth graders –you’re in luck! Through the “Every Kid in a Park” federal program, fourth graders and their family can gain entrance to a national park for free this year (up until the end of August). Check out the website for full information at: https://everykidinapark.gov/about/ A few details: If you visit a site that charges entrance fees per person the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free. If your group visits a site that charges vehicle fees - The pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle. Commercial vehicles can't use a pass to get in.
March 15, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
The Canadian subsidiary of General Mills, the food company, is so concerned about bee deaths, that they have announced a program to plant 35 million wildflowers in Canada (one for every Canadian).
“There is a range of threats to Canada’s bees, but among the biggest threats is the elimination of plants and groundcover in urban and suburban areas alike,” said Marla Spivak, Professor of Entomology at the University of Minnesota.
This is the same situation in the United States. Richmond residents, that’s where you can make a difference just by planting flowers and avoiding pesticides/herbicides/neonics.
The General Mills Canada moving video is at: https://www.bringbackthebees.ca/ (Caution: watching and listening to the beautiful song may be habit forming.)
(In case you are wondering, the free wildflower packets they offer in the Canadian campaign would be oriented to the Canadian climate and not ours.)
An inspiring TED talk by Professor Marla Spivak distills the work of bees, the threats against them and simple, positive steps we can take to save them. View Ted Talk >>
March 14, 2016 ~ Christine Volker
A UN Study on pollinators around the globe has just been released. With populations of humans soaring, and that of pollinators dwindling, 75% of the global food supply is in danger. Specifically, 40% of invertebrate pollinators (like bees, butterflies, moths, etc.) are headed toward extinction and 16% of vertebrate pollinators (like bats and hummingbirds) are similarly headed. 25% of bumble bees face extinction. No time like the present to help them.
February 26 , 2016 ~ Christine Volker
Study on pollinators around the globe has just been released. With populations of humans
soaring, and that of pollinators dwindling, 75% of the global food supply is in danger. Specifically, 40% of invertebrate pollinators (like bees, butterflies, moths, etc.) are headed toward extinction and 16% of vertebrate pollinators (like bats and hummingbirds) are similarly headed.25% of bumble bees face extinction.
No time like the present to help them.
We’re happy to report some good news!
Populations of (Eastern) Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico are up. They now occupy 10 acres, vs. a disastrous 1.66 acres. But this is still down from 20 years ago, when they covered 44 acres. Over the past year the U.S. government unveiled its pollinator strategy, pushed its pollinator programs and partnerships which have managed to restore 250,000 acres of milkweed. This large scale reorientation, shows us what we are capable of doing if we put our minds, actions and resources into saving species.

Our success on the local front is up to you.
More info is found:
On native bees: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5306468.pdf
Pollinator task force – US Government
https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/Pollinator%20Health%20Strategy%202015.pdf
 
© Christine Volker. © Photo of Bumble Bee by Stephan Volker,
© Photo of Nutall’s Woodpecker by Christine Volker. Photos taken in Richmond, California.
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Alan Chou
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