This has been an interesting week with two important news reports about the environment being published. Both are reports about a first – one bad, one good.
The First report from Hawaii could affect every living thing on the planet.
The Bad: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels Approach Record High 400ppm
For the first time in human history, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide could rise above 400 parts per million throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere as soon as May 2013.
The latest CO2 measurement was taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island, Hawaii and reported by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The primary site for the Mauna Loa Observatory and its carbon dioxide sampling equipment is located at the 11,000 ft level on the island of Hawaii. The Weather Bureau founded the observatory in 1956 to gain access to clean, particle-free air when it could not find a suitable site in the continental U.S.
The carbon dioxide data , on Mauna Loa constitute the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. They were started by C. David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in March of 1958 at a facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA started its own CO2 measurements in May of 1974, and they have run in parallel with those made by Scripps since then.
Monthly mean atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii
The Good News: Mora County the first in the country to ban drilling and fracking.
On Moday April 29th the County Commission of Mora County, located in Northeastern New Mexico, became the first county in the United States to pass an ordinance banning all oil and gas extraction. The new county ordinance also established a local Bill of Rights that confirms the county’s right to clean air and water, a healthy environment, and self governance.
The process of “fracking” starts by drilling a mile or more vertically, then outward laterally into 500-million-year-old shale formations, the remains of oceans that once flowed over parts of North America. Millions of gallons of chemical and sand-laced water are then propelled into the ground at high pressures, fracturing the shale and forcing the methane it contains out. With the release of that gas come thousands of gallons of contaminated water. This “flowback” fluid contains the original fracking chemicals, plus heavy metals and radioactive material that also lay safely buried in the shale.
Communities across the country are facing drilling and fracking. Fracking brings significant environmental impacts including the production of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater, which can affect drinking water and waterways.
“Everyone understands the drought that New Mexico is currently in,” Commission Chairman John Olivas said. “Our acequias and our irrigation canals are dry, so the whole idea is resource protection.”
Drafted with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance establishes a local Bill of Rights – including a right to clean air and water, a right to a healthy environment, and the rights of nature – while prohibiting activities which would interfere with those rights, including oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” for shale gas.
CELDF Executive Director Thomas Linzey, Esq., explained, “Existing state and federal oil and gas laws force fracking and other extraction activities into communities, overriding concerns of residents. Today’s vote in Mora County is a clear rejection of this structure of law which elevates corporate rights over community rights, which protects industry over people and the natural environment.”
County Commissioner John Olivas stated: “There are plenty of resources out there for natural gas. I don’t think it’s necessary for them to come into our community. Leave us alone. Let us enjoy what we have.”
Commissioner Alfonso Griego said “he supported the measure because he feels that federal and state laws fail to adequately protect communities from the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.” He also stated: “They just come in and do whatever is necessary for them to make profits. There is technology for them to do it right, but it’s going to cost them more money. They’re not willing to do that yet. So we don’t want any oil and gas extraction in the county of Mora. It’s beautiful here.”
The tipping point in climate change is very near at hand. The choices that you and I make now will affect generations to come. Please consider your actions carefully. Where and how you spend your dollars has tremendous influence, do it wisely. How you vote in local and national elections can insure there is a future for our children, grandchildren and all the other species that inhabit the Earth.