Monday, August 3, 2015

The Clean Power Plan–and that’s no bull!


Congratulations to President Obama for grabbing the bull by the horns on the issue of climate change! (yes, I know it’s a cow……)

The White House and EPA today announced new regulations to combat climate change called “the Clean Power Plan.”  Check out this short video introducing the plan.  The Washington Post published a great article summarizing the ins and outs of the new plan.  Be sure to read this short article by Chris Mooney to learn about the costs and benefits of this plan that’s centered around EPA enforcement.  You might be wondering what happened to the carbon tax or cap and trade?  Well, we can thank congressional gridlock for the loss of those two strategies.  As stated in the Washington Post article:

“These proposals might be more popular than an EPA-centered approach — and they might also be harder to challenge legally (everyone expects lawsuits over the final Clean Power Plan). But gridlock in Congress has prevented the passage of legislation to curb climate change.”

This plan is a welcome step in the right direction, hopefully preparing us for the climate talks in Paris this fall. It shows the world that we’re “acting locally and thinking globally.”  Many folks say the plan will be too expensive, but they’re not taking into account the cost of doing nothing – the costs of increased sea level rise (talk to folks on Smith Island, Kiribati, Miami, or Bangladesh if you think it’s not important), higher rates of infectious disease, and increased losses of biodiversity.  Renewable energy is a worthwhile and attainable goal.  Did you know that the tiny state of Bavaria in Germany has more solar energy generation capacity than the entire U.S.?  Yes, the Bavaria that’s known for the snowy Alps – if they can do it, so can we!



  The Bavarians – their  beer is better than ours and now they’re beating us when it comes to solar?!  We’ve got to catch up!

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Got zucchini? Try stuffing it!

Zucchini-palooza continues!  Here’s a great recipe I found in the June 2012 issue of Cooking Light.  This recipe isn’t for a busy weeknight – it takes a little time, but it’s well worth it!  Make extra, because your family will really like the unique flavor!
Persian Rice – Stuffed Zucchini with Pistachios and Dill

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6 medium zucchini
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tblsp olive oil
3/4 cup jasmine rice (I used brown rice)
6 cardamom pods (or the equivalent in ground cardamom)
1 cinnamon stick (I just used about 2 tsp of ground cinnamon)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (I used a little extra)
1 1/4 cups water
8 dried apricots, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup – I added more because I love dried apricots)
1/2 tsp grated orange rind
2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 tblsp fresh orange juice
1/3 cup chopped shelled dry roasted, unsalted pistachios (I used salted and didn’t chop mine, because I like lots of pistachio crunch and taste)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp, leaving about 1/2 inch thick shell.  Chop pulp.  Place zucchini halves, cut sides up on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt and pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 tblsp oil.  Add rice, cardamom, and cinnamon, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 tsp salt, cumin, red pepper, and 1 1/4 cups water (I usually use double the water as rice, so if you have 3/4 cup rice, use 1 1/2 cups water)  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.  Cover and let stand 10 minutes. 
  4. Discard cardamom (if you used pods) and cinnamon stick (if you used a stick)
  5. Spoon rice mixture into a large boil.
  6. Combine remaining 2 tblsp of oil, remaining salt and pepper, orange rind, and juices in a small bowl.  Stir with a whisk.  Add dressing, reserved zucchini pulp, pistachios, and remaining ingredients to rice mixture and mix.
  7. Preheat broiler to high (I set mine at 450 degrees)
  8. Spoon rice mixture into each zucchini shell and broil for about 6 minutes or until lightly browned.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summertime stream monitoring

Walking through the woods is always nice.  Walking through the woods next to a stream is even better – just ask any dog!  It’s nice to listen to the stream gurgling along, cool your feet in the water, and look for salamanders and other critters.
It’s also easy to find a stream – no long drive necessary.  But that proximity comes with some problems.  Runoff from roads, lawns, farms, and hard surfaces such as roofs and parking lots can really cause problems for our local waterways.  Most of us assume that our local streams are relatively clean, but that’s a bad assumption.  My family and I have learned, as stream monitors for VA Save Our Streams (VASOS), that our local waterways are badly impacted by development.  A few of the everyday pollutants that negatively affect our streams include:
  • fertilizers from lawns and gardens
  • oil from our cars, washed onto roads and then into streams
  • pollutants from our roofs and sidewalks – when it rains, they end up in our streams
  • soil from construction sites (often carrying phosphorous with it)
In the Chesapeake Bay region, the biggest source of non-point source pollution (pollution that comes from sources like fields, yards, roads, rather than from one spot. like a pipe) is agriculture.  But the fastest growing source of nonpoint source pollution is urban and suburban stormwater runoff – roads, roofs, lawns, etc.

Yesterday, our family completed our “summer” monitoring at our assigned stream – Difficult Run in Great Falls VA.  We found a bumper crop of small clams, but not too many invertebrates that require very clean water. 
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Our stream isn’t in the best of shape, even in this area which is heavily wooded with light development. 

So what does VA do with the data we collect?  Here’s the scoop from the VASOS website:
“Virginia, like all states, is required under the federal Clean Water Act to report information on water quality to Congress. This information is published in the 305(b) Report, which is issued every two years by the Department of Environmental Quality.
The report identifies impaired or polluted waterways. If waters are listed as impaired, funding and other resources become available to clean them up. Volunteers can augment the report by monitoring streams that state agency staff do not have time or resources to monitor. These volunteer efforts ensure that any stream that is impaired is documented, and resources are made available for cleanup.
When a waterway is impaired, the state is required to develop a plan for cleanup. The plan includes a pollution diet, or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that states how much of each type of pollutant is permitted in the stream on a given day. The plan then details how pollution will be reduced from each potential source to meet that pollution diet.”

Thus, volunteer stream monitors play an important role in flagging streams that might need more attention from state regulators.  Want to help?  If you live in VA, just check out the VA SOS website.  If you live in another state, just do a quick internet search.  I was able to find monitoring programs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, Michigan, Maryland, and North Carolina in just a couple minutes of searching!

Happy wading!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Got tomatoes? Fry ‘em!

[201408011826324.jpg]I’ve got WAY too many unripened tomatoes this year.  What to do?   Fry them, of course – fried green tomatoes are one of those summertime treats that you just have to enjoy NOW!  No fancy recipe; it’s pretty simple.  Set up 3 bowls – one with flour, one with beaten egg, and one with panko bread crumbs.  Slice some green tomatoes.  Roll the tomato slices in flour, dunk in egg, and roll in panko.  Heat canola oil in a frying pan and fry the tomatoes until golden brown.  Enjoy with a nice cucumber yogurt or tsatsiki!

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Endangered species, fossil fuels, and cool lizards

A repost from January 2012 – enjoy! And be sure to “like” greenmomster on Facebook!

Just this past week, the Endangered Species Coalition published a report on the 10 U.S. species most threatened by fossil fuel production and use. Included in the list are well-known species such as polar bears and whooping cranes, little known species such as tan riffleshell and Kentucky arrow darter, and some of my favorites like the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, dunes sagebrush lizard, and Wyoming pocket gopher.  Assuming that we care about these species and their roles in the ecosystem (see post "A few misconceptions about endangered species" 12/31/11), what’s a person to do?  I’m not able to make national decisions about our country’s energy sources (although in a “Desocracy” we’d concentrate heavily on renewables and conservation).  But remembering that our country makes up approximately 5% of the world’s population, but uses over 20% of the world’s oil, we each have an important role to play in protecting the listed endangered species.

Start by figuring out your contribution to global warming (produced by your use of fossil fuels) and where you might be able to cut back.  Take the Ecological Footprint quiz --you’ll find out how many Earths would be needed to sustain your lifestyle if everyone on Earth lived as you do.  Next, check out the “Low Hanging Fruit” tab.  There you’ll find tips on reducing your fossil fuel use by reducing plastics, eating less meat, driving less, conserving heat and air conditioning, using reusable bags (yes, those plastic bags are made of oil), and using your microwave.  For more tips and fun facts, check out this great list of energy saving tips.  To educate yourself more about “big picture” ideas on cutting oil use (mostly transportation) check out the suggestions from the Council on Foreign Relations and National Resources Defense Council.  It may seem a topic that is too big to deal with, but we all have to do something, big or small – even DOD is wrestling with energy security and conservation.

So let’s each pick one thing this week that will reduce use of oil.  I’m going to walk a little more this week, because I think those sagebrush lizards are worth saving.

Coconut Lime Pancakes

Time for breakfast for dinner!  This delicious recipe is the perfect tropical breakfast for dinner. Serve with a side of Morningstar farm breakfast soysage and top with mangoes and whip cream for a sweet treat!

The recipe comes from Bonnie S. Benwick in the Washington Post. Since I made no revisions to the recipe, I’m including the link to the recipe.  So tasty!  Enjoy!

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Another peek at the piping plover

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This week, we revisit an endangered species we’ve discussed before – the piping plover (Charadrius melodus).   There’s good news about these little shorebirds.  Thanks to several cooperative efforts between wildlife management agencies and organizations, the population of the piping plover has increased from 790 pairs when listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1986, to nearly 1800 pairs today (getting ever closer to the recovery goal of 2000 pairs).  One of the innovative methods of conservation includes protecting wintering grounds, rather than just focusing on breeding grounds (Pover 2013).

When I worked for the U.S. Coast Guard (CG), one of my responsibilities was to encourage protection of endangered species on CG property.  One of the most memorable animals we encountered was the Piping Plover at the CG facility in Cape May NJ.  The staff atpiping plover with chick the facility really worked hard to protect these little birds, which wasn’t always easy.  Piping plovers scratch nests into beach sand and lay their camouflaged eggs in these scrapes.  The eggs are particularly vulnerable to predators, such as gulls, foxes, raccoons, and domestic cats.  Another danger for the eggs and hatchlings is nest abandonment by the adult birds, due to disturbance.  Thus, protection of the plovers is not always popular, because some beaches must be closed during nesting season.  The folks at Cape May did a great job of public education to encourage protection of these little birds – they even held a plover 5K run!
Here are some interesting facts about piping plovers:

  • Plovers eat insects, spiders, and crustaceans
  • Piping plovers are migratory birds.  For the Atlantic coast population, adults lay eggs all along the Atlantic coast during the spring and summer.  Two other populations lay eggs on the shores of the Great Lakes area and on the shores of rivers and lakes in the northern Great Plains.  The piping plovers spend the winter on the Gulf coast or more southern regions.
  • Adults lay 4 eggs in April or May, and the eggs hatch in about 25 days.
  • The first decline in the plover population was due to excessive hunting for the millinery trade during the early 1900s.  After the population recovered to a peak population in the 1940s, beach development and human disturbance again threaten the population.
  • The little plover chicks are so cute!  As you can see from the above picture, they look like little dust balls on long legs!
As we’re in the middle of the summer beach season, what can you do to protect piping plovers?  From the U.S. FWS:
  • Respect all areas fenced or posted for protection of wildlife.
  • Do not approach or linger near piping plovers or their nests.
  • If pets are permitted on beaches used by plovers, keep your pets leashed. Keep cats indoors.
  • Don't leave or bury trash or food scraps on beaches. Garbage attracts predators which may prey upon piping plover eggs or chicks.
  • Write to your congressional representative regarding a bill reintroduced by Rep. Jones (R-NC) (H.R. 819).  The goal of this bill is to block implementation of a National Park Service plan that protects beach-nesting piping plovers and sea turtles from vehicles at Cape Hatteras. High vehicle traffic on Cape Hatteras beaches interrupts nesting and feeding patterns and can kill plovers and turtles.  (Pepper, 2013)

Pepper, Elly.  2013.  “January/February 2013 Threats to the Endangered Species Act.”  NRDC Switchboard.  Accessed 3/4/2013.

Pover, Todd. "Partnering for piping plover: a conservation success story."Endangered Species Bulletin Summer 2012. Gale Science In Context. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  2012.  “Piping Plover, Atlantic Coast Population.”  Accessed online: