Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watersheds and a habitable planet

Dual LA and San Gabriel watershed basins - Due to pressures of urbanization both rivers have been highly modified with dams and concrete channeling resulting in a loss of habitat and human access to the rivers. Diversions of water for use in groundwater recharge, significant discharges of wastewaters including sewage treatment plant reclaimed waters, and non-point source contributions such as urban runoff have dramatically changed the natural hydrology of the rivers.

Watersheds sustain rivers and aquifers which sustain life, upon which human settlements rely. The issue is discussed at the International Rivers website, and centers on the impact of dams. The most recent resource information from them is as follows:

Track Major RIS Sites on Google Earth

Dams suspected of triggering earthquakes are strewn over all six continents. To learn about individual cases, see the website above and click on the individual pins for more info.

New Factsheet on Reservoir-Induced Seismicity

"A Faultline Runs Through It: Exposing the Hidden Dangers of Dam-Induced Earthquakes"

Besides posing a major risk to dams, scientists are increasingly certain that earthquakes can be triggered by the dams themselves. Globally, scientists believe that there are over 100 instances, strewn over six continents, of dam reservoirs inducing earthquakes. The most serious case could be the magnitude-7.9 Sichuan earthquake in China in May 2008, which some experts believe may have been induced by the Zipingpu Dam.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A re-formation

The global economic and environmental changes are swiftly altering our world in ways that we can't anticipate or plan for, so how can human society deal with these fundamental shifts? The way we inhabit our homes and cities will need to change from old patterns based on manufacture to a new pattern driven by efficient energy and denser urban core. Many ways exist for creating infrastructure that integrates multiple sustainable practices.. Atlantic author Richard Florida outlines a scenario by which the US (and the world) can reinvent its infrastructure to implement these new paradigms in urban design, capturing new opportunities for regeneration, growth and sustainability. This will have to address the issues of climate change, as well as completely change our destructive model of "growth", as pointed out by Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Thomas L. Friedman.

Patterns of energy capture follow not only urban needs, but also follow opportunities for capturing natural energy resources, such as solar power, for example, by appropriating unprotected Federal lands for use. Southern California has immense acreage of federal land, some of which is claimed by corporate entities for this purpose. Like the California water infrastructure, this creates a large footprint upon which the urban centers can draw. Like the old water rights claim system , this infrastructure is a patchwork of energy sources owned by the entities that file land claims, i.e., private profit from public lands (click on image to enlarge)

This new infrastructure interlaces with existing transportation infrastructure to create business opportunities, such as those outlined in Edison's Distribution and Logistics Profile (pdf file). Energy capture and distribution will align with existing systems while they create new nodes. In this manner, the entire system becomes more efficient and less wasteful. For this reason, it's vitally important to create more intelligent SYSTEMS that reinforce sustainable goals.