Reptiles

May 09, 2022

This morning I resurfaced an article from two weeks ago about the possible extinction of over one-fifth of the reptile species in the world.  The study examined 10,196 reptile species including turtles, crocodilians, lizards, snakes, and the tuatara (pig nosed turtle), the only surviving species of a line dating back more than 200 million years.  Researchers found 21% of species are either critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  The study also identified 31 species that are already extinct.  Previous IUCN status reports found about 41% of amphibian species, 25% of mammal species, and 14% of bird species are threatened with extinction.  Reptiles face the same threats as other species, namely agricultural deforestation, logging and development, urban encroachment, and hunting by people.  Climate change and invasive species exacerbate the risk.

When I looked online, I found reptiles (class Reptilia) are a paraphyletic grouping comprising all sauropsid (lizard-faced) amniotes except Aves (birds), who are considered a separate class.  The earliest proto reptiles originated around 312 million years ago during the Carboniferous period and increasingly adapted to life on dry land.  In addition to the living reptiles, there are many diverse groups that are now extinct, in some cases due to mass extinction events.  Modern non-bird reptiles inhabit all the continents except Antarctica.  Reptiles either have four limbs or are descended from four-limbed ancestors (like snakes).  Most reptiles lay eggs, but several species are viviparous, meaning the fetus develops in the mother but in a non-mammalian placenta rather than being contained in a shell.  The key difference between reptiles and amphibians is their association with water for reproduction.  Reptile eggs are surrounded by membranes for both protection and transport, which adapt them to reproduction on dry land.  

I always found dinosaurs to be one of the most fascinating of reptiles.  Cultural depictions of dinosaurs have occurred since the word was coined in 1842 and range from realistic to the fantastic (monster movies).  There has been a Dinosaur Renaissance since the mid-twentieth century as science radically changed depictions of dinosaurs.  Cultural depictions have been used to reinforced misconceptions about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals as a “prehistoric world” that portrays different periods of extinct animals (from the Dimetrodon to mammoths to cavemen) living together.  Other misconceptions that were once scientific consensus have also been overturned, such as dinosaurs being slow and unintelligent. 

THOUGHTS:  I grew up as the age of dinosaurs exploded in the last half of the 20th century.  I collected nearly 40 different types of plastic dinosaurs and could recite the length, weight, and period when each of them lived.  Other cultures have been fascinated with reptiles and have woven them into their creation stories.  My favorite is the World Turtle who carries the earth on its back or supports the heavens and is portrayed in several cultures.  When we take the time to research both living and extinct forms of reptiles, we find how fascinating and diverse they are, and we see the intricate role of reptiles is in our lives and the environment.  Both would be less without a fifth of these living species.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Market

May 07, 2022

Melissa signed up this year for a stall at our local farmers’ market.  The market is open in the town center on the first Saturday of the month throughout the summer.  While several stores in the area sell individual succulents, they are rarely offered in an arraignment of different types.  Melissa thought this might provide an appealing niche.  Over the last month we have worked on gathering the necessary equipment to be a vendor at the market.  That meant the tent, table and chairs, and display stands, not to mention the succulent arraignments themselves.  The mayor of the city used some of the covid relief money provided the city to cover the vendor fees for the market (thank you!).  There were 20 different vendors, including three food trucks, crafts, fresh eggs, vegetable plants, and flowers, along with Melissa’s succulents.  As summer continues fresh fruit and vegetables will also be featured.

When I looked online, I found the USDA defines a farmer’s market as: “a multi-stall market at which farmer-producers sell agricultural products directly to the general public at a central or fixed location, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables.”  Vendors also sell prepared foods, plants, flowers, baked goods, and craft items. While there may be a requirement that all products sold must be “local”, the term is subject to interpretation.  Food is the most important commodity sold at a farmer’s market, and the idea behind the markets is to cut the middleperson (grocery store) out of the supply chain.  You can buy fresh produce directly from the growers.  The vendors for our market were all from within several miles of town.

The first recorded farmers’ markets date back over 5,000 years to Egypt when farmers along the Nile would come together to sell their produce.  The first market in the US opened in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1634.  Other markets soon followed in larger New English cities like Hartford (1643), New York City (1686), and Philadelphia (1693).  The popularity of farmers’ markets grew over the next 200 years, but interest began to wane in the early 1900’s with the rise of the local grocery store.  It was not until the health consciousness of the 1970’s that the farmers’ markets returned to popularity.  The appeal of farmers’ markets took another boost between 1994 and 2008, when the number of markets rose 300% in 14 years.  Farmers markets have continued to expand in numbers, although they were curtailed sharply by restrictions during 2020 and 2021.

THOUGHTS:  Today’s farmers’ markets are as numerous as the community grocery store.  They can range in size from three or four vendors to hundreds of farmers.  Tokyo boasts the largest farmers market in the world with over 1,700 stalls.  Food deserts, or areas where residents find it difficult to find healthy, affordable foods, are a problem in many urban areas.  Farmers’ markets have emerged as one approach to improve food accessibility in these areas.  The food available in the deserts is often “fast” or highly processed food with little focus on nutrition.  The markets provide accessibility to a local population that would otherwise have none.  Availability of food should be a right, not a privilege.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Clicker

May 06, 2022

Yellow Labrador retriever being trained by a man outdoors in a field.

Melissa had signed Zena up for a six-week puppy training course and the first session was today.  The circuitous route the GPS took us to get to the trainer’s house was only made more difficult when I missed one of the turns and was routed through back streets to arrive at our destination.  We had been asked to stop in the drive and call when we arrived.  The trainer said his larger dog was “aggressive” and needed to be in the house.  When we arrived, we saw the small dachshund liked to dig searching for moles in the yard.  When we called, he put his dogs in the house to give Zena full access to the back yard.  My first thought was these were traits that might need to be trained for his own pets, but I held my tongue.  As we entered the garage converted into a training studio, he explained he used the clicker approach to train dogs.

When I looked online, I found Clicker training (or mark and reward) is the same as positive reinforcement training, with the added benefit of a clicker, with the clicker being a small noisemaker.  The technique is based on the findings that rewarded behaviors are more likely to be repeated later.  Rather than focusing on what your dog is doing wrong, clicker training concentrates on what your dog is doing right. When you reinforce positive results, you can have a significant effect on how your dog decides to behave.  Dogs repeat behaviors that get them what they want and positive reinforcement training rewards the dog for behaviors you desire.  The clicker then tells your dog exactly which behavior you are rewarding.  When you click at the right time you “mark” the moment your dog did what you wanted.  That means the dog does not have to guess which behavior they are being rewarded for and will learn faster.

The trainer went on to explain the clicker is merely a way to mark a moment.  There is nothing magical about the specific noise, except you likely never make it around your dog outside of training.  That means you can substitute anything as a marker if it is distinct from other ways you communicate with your dog.  Although he had a clicker, the trainer used the marker word “Yes” as a marker to reinforce Zena’s response.  It was amazing to see how fast Zena caught on to the trainer.  In the hour she learned hand signals for sit, lay down, and come (with a lot of treats).  Most of the time was spent on training Melissa and I to be good puppy parents.

THOUGHTS:  After leaving the trainer’s house Melissa thought she knew where we were.  Rather than winding back through the neighborhood we turned left and came to a main road that led to the highway.  Three blocks later and we were on the Interstate.  I chose to follow the GPS on the way over to take the quickest route, but we got lost.  On the way back Melissa used her memory to find a more direct route.  We did not even have a clicker.  Both puppies and humans learn faster and retain more information using positive reinforcement.  Corporal punishment will eventually train children to behave, but willingness to learn comes from positive reinforcement.  You just need to find the right clicker.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Cinco

May 05, 2022

I received a text from my sister that her family are making tacos to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  Smithsonian magazine wrote on the origin of the taco in a 2012 issue.  The taco crossed the US border along with the silver miners immigrating from Mexico.  “Taco” was the word the 18th century miners used to describe the small charges they used to extricate ore.  Tacos apparently began in the homes of working-class communities as inexpensive ways to feed their families.  Their popularity spread to the US along with Mexican migrants working in mines and railroads at the turn of the 20th century.  The first mention taco in a US newspaper was in early 1905.  Taco popularity increased when it began to use American ingredients and is now firmly in place as a staple of Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the US.

When I looked online, I found Cinco de Mayo (Spanish “Fifth of May”) is a yearly celebration held on May 5.  The festival commemorates the anniversary of Mexico’s General Ignacio Zaragoza’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 which provided a needed morale boost for the Mexicans.  President Juárez declared the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla as a national holiday on May 9, 1862, called the “Battle of Cinco de Mayo”.  On the downside, Zaragoza died from an illness several months after the battle, and a larger French force ultimately defeated the Mexican army at the Second Battle of Puebla the following year.  The commemoration is no longer observed as a national holiday in Mexico, but public schools are closed on May 5.  The day is still an official holiday in the State of Puebla, where the Battle took place, and in the neighboring State of Veracruz.

Cinco de Mayo is now associated with the celebration of Mexican American culture in the US.  Celebrations began in (Mexican) California in 1863 and have been observed annually since.  The day gained nationwide popularity in the 1980’s with the advertising campaigns by beer, wine, and tequila companies, and now generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl.  Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken by non-Mexican Americans for Mexico’s Independence Day.  Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16, and commemorates the Cry of Dolores in 1810, which initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain.  Cinco de Mayo is featured in the entertainment media and has become a global celebration of Mexican culture, cuisine, and heritage.  Nothing like tacos and a good party.

THOUGHTS:  The popularity of the taco in the US can be attributed to Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell.  Bell popularized the u-shape, hard shelled taco made in advance to provide an inexpensive “fast” food.  As Taco Bell grew in popularity among non-Mexican Americans so did the taco, and the popularity of the taco sparked campaigns for the general (unofficial) celebration of Cinco de Mayo.  Tex-Mex is just one examples of the many ethnic foods enjoyed in the US that are nothing like the original.  When we explore the original versions, we are brought closer to the culture from which they sprang.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Nest

May 04, 2022

Melissa’s mom had set up a bird house for the blue birds that frequented our patio to nest.  When we arrived, the blue birds continued to nest in the house.  The birds would come in the spring and reestablish their nest, then leave after the hatchings were gone.  Other birds began to take an interest in the house at the end of last year, along with a squirrel.  This spring we saw several contests as various species tried to gain control of the house.  This became a daily battle between the blue jays, mockingbirds, blue birds, and house sparrows.  Eventually the sparrows seemed to win and established their nest, but the battle for space continued.  After last night’s storms Zena was taking particular interest in snuffling my new tomato plants.  I saw the nest material had been partially pulled out of the entrance hole to the house and I knew something was wrong.

When I looked online, I found that northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos), blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), and red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are all known to attack and eat bird eggs, nestlings, and occasionally kill adult birds.  Mockingbirds can be very aggressive and will attack and even kill other birds if they feel their nests or babies are threatened.  Mockingbirds will kill other birds in defense, but they are not likely to kill birds to eat them.  Blue Jays are very territorial and will chase other birds from a feeder for an easier meal.  They may raid other birds’ nests, stealing eggs, chicks, and nests, but this is not common.  Squirrels go as far as raiding a bird’s nest for food, and the red squirrels are the most carnivorous.  They can climb into the nest or birdhouse holes and get to the eggs and chicks.  Nesting birds under attack by a squirrel often abandon their nests, leaving their eggs and chicks at the mercy of the squirrel.  If they do not flee, the adults are occasionally killed.  All three were possible suspects.

Zena continued to snuffle the tomatoes beneath the bird house despite my calls, so I went over to see what had caught her interest.  One of the adult house sparrows (Passer domesticus) was lying dead in the container.  Zena did not try to eat the bird, but she was interested in this motionless animal.  I thought it best to remove the carcass to keep Zena from further exploration in the tomatoes.  While I was at it, I decided to clean the nest material from the bird house.  The amount of nest pulled through the hole suggested the interior was filled with nesting material.  You need to use gloves to do this and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards to avoid diseases.  When I opened the nest box, I found I was right.  It was full of old nest.   

THOUGHTS:  I have read you should clean your bird house at least once a year, and preferably twice.  This allows potential occupants to start with clean fill for their nest.  I have been lax in this, and that may be why the blue birds chose not to nest this year.  Unlike the aeries built by eagles over years, smaller birds generally build a new nest and the old ones tend not to survive the winter.  During the pandemic many things have been allowed to accumulate.  Perhaps we should clean out the old nest (ways) and make a fresh start.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Caterpillar

May 03, 2022

I mentioned Zena’s predatory behavior when she had encountered a large caterpillar on the patio deck last week.  I felt bad as she first stomped it with her front paws and then ended up chewing it.  It must not have tasted very good as Zena spit it out almost immediately.  While this did not do much for the caterpillar she ate, it may help other caterpillars Zena finds if she remembers the first encounter.  When I went outside with Zena yesterday afternoon, I noticed the same type of caterpillar slowly working its way along the chain link fence that surrounds the patio.

When I looked online, I found the eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is a species of moth in the family Lasiocampidae, the tent caterpillars or lappet moths.  It is univoltine, which means it produces one generation per year.  The tent caterpillar is a social species that forms communal nests in the branches of trees.  It is sometimes confused with the gypsy moth and the fall webworm, and may be erroneously referred to as a bagworm, which is the common name applied to unrelated caterpillars in the family Psychidae.  The caterpillars are hairy with areas of blue, white, black, and orange.  Tent caterpillars are among the most social of larvae.  The adult moth lays 200 to 300 eggs in a single batch in late spring or early summer and fully formed caterpillars are found in the eggs by three weeks.  The small caterpillars lie dormant until the following spring, when they emerge from their eggs just as the buds of the tree begin to develop.

Several of the trees at our house developed tents last fall indicative of the caterpillars.  When they hatch the small caterpillars stay with the tent until they finally venture out into the world to form cocoons and hatch into tent moths.  The tent caterpillars will vigorously thrash the anterior part of their bodies when they detect predators and parasitoids.  These bouts of thrashing can be initiated by a single caterpillar but move rapidly through the colony resulting in group displays of dozens of caterpillars.  The displays create a moving target for predators or species that would lay eggs on or in the body of the caterpillar.  The cherry leaves they chew are cyanogenic and the caterpillars will regurgitate cyanide-laden juices when disturbed.  We do not have any cherry trees in the patio area.  Perhaps the caterpillars on our deck are looking for some.

THOUGHTS:  The eastern tent caterpillar is toxic to horses and has been linked to mare reproductive loss syndrome.  Experimental studies have shown that when pregnant mares are fed eastern tent caterpillars, they abort, but it is unclear if this is from the caterpillar’s toxicity or for other reasons.  Zena is not a mare or old enough to be pregnant, so I am not worried.  All plants and animals have found ways to ensure their survival.  For some it is sheer numbers, for others camouflage, and then there are the bright colors often associated with toxicity.  Humans adapted similar ways to ensure our early survival but have since risen to the top of the food chain.  Now we use these mechanisms to protect us from each other.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Potawatomi

May 02, 2022

I was forwarded an article posted by KOSU (91.7 FM) about the newly formed Potawatomi Fire basketball team.  Like any new team, the players were confident they would win a championship this year.  Afterall, as player Mustapha Traore said, “Out here there’s nothing but land and basketball.”  The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s new minor league basketball team kicked off its inaugural season March 4 in The Basketball League (TBL) after being unveiled last September.  The team logo and name were selected at a time when sports mascots and logos are drawing national attention, but brand recognition is still important.  The Potawatomi were originally called Bodewadmi, or the People of the Place of the Fire, and the tribal seal features a pipe and tomahawk over a log fire.  The Potawatomi Fire are looking to bringing the fire to the TBL.

When I looked online, I found the Potawatomi Fire is the first tribally owned sports team in Oklahoma, and one of only a handful of professional teams owned by tribal nations in the US.  The Citizen Potawatomi Nation already operates two casinos, gas stations and grocery stores, and several small businesses, but the Fire are part of a growing number of “casino adjacent” businesses growing across Oklahoma.  The Tribe’s investment serves as a lure for business partnerships from surrounding communities and to keep money circulating at home rather than being spent elsewhere.  Tribal Chairman John Barrett said “We have a huge payroll.  We have 2,200 employees.  And whenever you’re putting out that kind of money in a payroll, and another $450 million or $400 million in vendor purchases, you want those dollars . . . to turn at least four times before they leave the tribe’s economy.”  This is buying local at its heart.

The Potawatomi Nation installed a new basketball court, updated the scoreboard, and remodeled the changing and locker rooms to accommodate the TBL team.  Investments have been heavy with the team as well.  Players receive housing, a bus to get to the games, a per diem stipend, and other things not available with other TBL teams.  The players in turn are adding value to the community.  Player Deon Lyle knows he and the other players can be assets to the Tribe and the Shawnee area.  “We’re not here to just shut up and dribble.” said Lyle, “They’re taking care of us very well, and they’re not just having us here to entertain.  We’re here to, you know, be a part of the community and do more than just be a basketball player.”  The Fire are currently in fourth place at 12-4 in the Central, one of six TBL Divisions.

THOUGHTS:  Chairman Barrett likes to think of the tribe’s investments as in line with their view of the world and their vision for the future, the “Seven Fires” prophecy.  The prophecy describes a turbulent time in Potawatomi history when the tribe was visited by seven prophets, and its telling has helped the Potawatomi people understand who they were, are and will be in the future.  The Tribe looks at investments in terms of 50 years, not just 10.  While a willingness to invest in the local future may not produce immediate corporate gains, it is the way to create a stable local economy.  Jacob Marley viewed of the world as a hard and cruel place where you must learn to fend for yourself and died to regret it.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Bramble

April 30, 2022

We have a spiny plant with arched canes that has been taking hold in the side patio bed for the last two years.  Two years ago, I made my disastrous attempt to grow onion sets in this bed.  I cleared everything out of the bed and kept it weeded, but the gutter spout was not draining right.  The water from the roof cascaded onto the bed, washing away most of the sets and causing the others to not produce.  I moved my onions last year and abandoned the bed.  When the roof and gutters were replaced last year it stopped the drainage problem, but I never got around to doing anything with the bed.  The bramble began to grow in the bed, but I ignored it.  I did find it interesting that the bush retained its leaves throughout the winter, and this year has begun to flower.  The bramble has finally gotten my attention.

When I looked online, I found bramble is the general term for any rough, tangled, prickly shrub, usually in the genus Rubus.  This generally refers to blackberries (Rubus fruticosus), raspberries (Rubus idaeus), or dewberries (ursinus), but is also used to describe other prickly shrubs such as roses (Rosa species).  Bramble bushes have long, thorny, arching shoots and root easily, sending up long, arching canes that typically do not flower or set fruit until the second year of growth.  Bramble fruits are aggregate fruits with each small unit called a drupelet.  The thorny varieties are sometimes grown for game cover and occasionally for protection.  Most bramble species are important for their conservation and wildlife value in their native range.

The bramble that has taken hold in my bed is the Rubus trifidus.  This is a Japanese species of bramble related to blackberries and raspberries.  This bramble is an evergreen shrub that grows to 6 feet 7 inches (2 m) in height.  It stays in leaf all year and flowers in May.  The trifidus is a hermaphrodite (both male and female organs) species and is pollinated by insects.  It can grow in semi-shade or no shade, and mine seems to like the north facing side of the house which has shade early and sun later in the day.  It prefers a damp, well-drained soil which it has not had because of the leaking gutter spout.  Now in the second season since the spout has been repaired the bramble appears to have taken off and is full flower.

THOUGHTS:  The bramble is often considered a nuisance as it invades unkept areas and is hard to get rid of.  The intertwining canes and prickly stems can be hazardous to humans but allow the plants to be used as fences in the field and for protection beneath windowsills.  The bramble flowers attract nectar-feeding butterflies (Lepidoptera) and hoverflies (Syrphinae) and are important food plants for butterfly larvae.  The common blackbird and small mammals feed on the nutritious fruits in autumn.  The brambles in the front of my bed are a nuisance and will be removed, but the brambles along the wall will serve as a wild food source for the birds and butterflies.  Many of the plants and animals we consider a nuisance play critical roles in the ecosystems they inhabited prior to humans.  Rather than removing the nuisance, we need to create innovative ways to incorporate these elements into the new human/nature environment.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Stick

April 29, 2022

Few things match the pride felt by a parent when they provide the toy your child has begged for over the last year as a present.  These are usually expensive and just beyond the amount budgeted for either a birthday or Christmas.  Still, since there have been incessantly requests for this toy, your empathy breaks you down and you figure a way to make the buy.  The big day comes, and the box is opened with squeals of delight.  Your child begins to play, and after watching for several minutes, you go to the next room with a sense of smug satisfaction.  When you return to check on them you find they have abandoned the treasured toy, and are playing with the box it came in.  That is what happened today with the puppies and a stick.

When I looked online, I found like human babies, puppies explore the world by putting things in their mouth (Zena).  Unlike babies, puppies keep on chewing and seem to go through a super chewing stage as they approach one year old (Eddie).  The other difference is puppies are very effective at chewing.  There are many products offered to divert your puppy’s attention from the furniture, leather, and shoes they seem to prefer.  Real bones should be avoided as they can fracture teeth and the fragments can damage the mouth, stomach, and intestines.  Three chew alternatives were suggested.  Interactive toys can be filled with soft cheese, dog treats or peanut butter (if you freeze them, they last longer).  Some chews can be soaked in water and frozen, which provides relief for teething puppies.  Chew bones are designed to promote dental wellness.  We have purchased several types of chews for Zena, some of which were expensive, and found like a child with a box, Zena’s favorite chew is a stick.

I have been sitting on the back patio to watch the puppies play during Melissa’s morning work call, and this morning watched the dynamic of their relationship.  While both puppies have chew toys, they tend to ignore them.  When they are outside, they find a stick which seems to suffice.  Since this is raw wood and not mulch, I have given up and just watch them chew.  This morning Eddie found a small stick they have both been chewing and began to gnaw.  Zena then decided to investigate.  When she could not wrestle the stick from Eddie, Zena went and got a bigger stick and sat close to Eddie to gnaw.  That caused Eddie to get up and try to take the big stick away.  They ran back and forth along the patio as first one and then the other carried the stick.  Finally, they both dropped the big stick and began a tug of war with the small stick.  This tussle went on for 15 minutes until they both happily sat down with a different stick to chew.

THOUGHTS:  While Zena and Eddie were playing with the stick, they inched close to tension several times.  Zena uses her size and weight to back into Eddie and push him around.  Eddie uses his knowledge and speed to either get away or around Zena’s push.  Like humans, Eddie’s willingness to be pushed is shorter than Zena’s desire to play.  What might begin as play can become irritating when the constant teasing does not stop and can become bullying.  Statistics for 2020 indicate 49% of children in grades 4-12 have been bullied at school at least once, 23% of college students have been bullied two or more times in the past month, and 20% of US students grades 9-12 reported being bullied.  It is no longer fun when someone say stop.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Pumped

April 28, 2022

Sitting on the front page next to the lead story detailing the Garth Brooks concert at Razorback Stadium breaking the previous attendance record, our local newspaper carried an AP reprint of the “world’s largest batteries’.  One concern with transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is where to get power if the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.  Pumped storage has been used in the US since 1930, but most systems were built later to hold electricity from nuclear plants.  These are called “the world’s largest batteries” since they hold large amounts of energy.  The US has 43 pumped storage facilities that hold about 22 gigawatts, but only one has been added since 1995.  There are more than 90 planned facilities, but it is unclear if they will prevail over the legal, economic, and practical issues faced.  Three projects have been permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but none are being built.  More than 60 are being built worldwide, mostly in Europe, India, China, and Japan.

When I looked online, I found pumped storage hydropower (PSH) is a type of hydroelectric energy storage where water is sent from a lower reservoir to an upper one.  The configuration of two water reservoirs at different elevations can generate power as water moves down from above while passing through a turbine.  The system requires power to pump water back into the upper reservoir to recharge the system.  PSH acts like a giant battery and can store power and release it when needed.  There are two different types of PSH systems.  An open-loop PSH has an ongoing hydrologic connection to a natural body of water, while the closed-loop PSH reservoirs are not connected to an outside body of water.

During a January hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Malcolm Woolf, president of the National Hydropower Association, complained the process for approval involves too many agencies.  Although FERC permits new facilities and relicenses existing ones, other federal, state, and tribal offices have roles, and every project has case-specific issues.  The industry would like an investment tax credit like solar and wind receive.  The Administration’s plan calls for the tax break but is stuck in Congress.  The Australian National University used computer mapping to identify more than 600,000 “potentially feasible” pumped storage sites worldwide, including 32,000 in the US.  These sites could store 100 times the energy needed to support a global renewable electricity network.  The study did not check whether these sites would meet environmental or cultural protection standards or be commercially viable.  

THOUGHTS:  Opponents say pumped storage hydropower systems can have negative impacts on land and wildlife, such as disruption of fish spawning routes or creation of large reservoirs that fill canyons.  In geographically flat places, PSH may be difficult to use.  Constructing the PSH systems involves destruction of trees and green land to build reservoirs, and the reservoirs change the local ecological system which can create environmental consequences.  PSH projects raise hard questions and unpleasant tradeoffs.  Unless we reduce the amount of power (unlikely) used we are forced to decide what will we give up achieving decarbonization.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.