Tag: Big Sur

Big Sur Slide Signals Need for Immediate Action on Climate | Soil

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 16, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Big Sur just lost a section of its famous coast-hugging highway, and it’s not the first time. The super-scenic roadway boasts magnificent views of giant Redwoods to the east and bluest of blue Pacific Ocean to the west. Drivers struggle to keep eyes on the road as the jaw-dropping views captivate their passengers. Being perilously close to the edge of the continent, though, has its dangers. Two recent catastrophic breaks in the road resulted in sections of the highway plunging into the Pacific, hundreds of yards below. Scientists and residents are finding connections between climate change and the damage done to their beloved two-lane road.

What’s the heart of the matter? The beginning of this story is the summer of 2020, when the Dolan Fire burned over 125,000 acres just east of Big Sur. Burn scars near the area can still be seen. Stripping the area of  forests, shrubs and ground cover, the fire left the area vulnerable to soil erosion. Add into the mix a fierce rainstorm which dropped 16 inches of rain in the area. The catastrophic destruction of a 150-foot section of  Highway 1, near Big Sur on January 28, 2021 was anticipated by officials. Acting out of caution and no doubt previous experience, Cal-Trans spokesperson Jim Shivers noted that 40 miles of the highway had already been closed in anticipation of mudslides near the burn scar.

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How does this impact you? We have cause for concern. A “slip-out,” the Los Angeles Times noted, happens when the soil surrounding the road is so full of water that the force of gravity wins and the road falls down the cliff. The “atmospheric river” that triggered this most recent slip-out was basically a moving column of water vapor that brought extraordinary amounts of rain to the coast. According to the Guardian, the amount of rain that dumped on the central coast last week was double the amount the area had, on average, all month.

Place the massive rain event in a burn scarred area, as this one was, and the road had no chance. In burn areas, heavy rainfall causes debris flows that rip up vegetation, choke pipes, and chase people from their homes. There are long-term consequences, as well. Post-fire landslides are a danger for years after the fire. And according to the U.S. Geological Survey, debris flows that happen over a longer period of time result in root decay and loss of soil strength. The soil has little chance of recovery between weather emergencies.

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

This recent Big Sur slip-out demonstrates the tragic but logical chain of events that resulted in the highway crashing into the sea:

  • massive wildfire 
  • dry landscape
  • ferocious rainstorm

In recent years Californians have seen more evidence of climate change. As high winds and dry vegetation become more common, firefighters can expect to be called into action in any season of the year. Aggravating the situation, some sources, such as Jay Lund writing in the “California WaterBlog,” predict a multi-year drought for the state in the near future. Any one of these events, by itself, poses serious threats. Taken together, they point to the need to act now.

What can you do to help? Climate change affects all of us. You’ve no doubt experienced surprisingly destructive wind, rain, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Snow storms in May. Rising water levels. We know the signs. With science back in fashion, one thing you can do is advocate for change. Stay informed about legislation you can support at the local, state and national levels. Communicate your support for climate change policies. And, as always, remain committed to making a difference by living and modeling a sustainable lifestyle.


Next Steps

  • If you live in a fire-prone area, remove dry brush that fuels fire 
  • Foster lush native trees, plants, and undercover to anchor the soil 
  • Connect with neighbors and friends about ways to slow climate change
  • Volunteer with a local organization working for change
Time to face the music. In order to succeed at carbon drawdown, we have to return to the Garden of Eden. Very exciting! #ActNow Take a listen.

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From Raging Wildfires to Habitat Restoration | Soil Health

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 14, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Wildfires are unpredictable, destructive, and, in recent times, more common. Among their many victims is the soil. Soil forms the foundation of our food chain, and so is of primary importance. Cristina Santin and Stefan H. Doerr conjure up a graphic image for us: Soil is the “living, breathing skin of the Earth.” It’s an image to keep in mind when considering how the land recovers from a fire.

What’s the heart of the matter? According to Santin and Doerr, fires affect soil in different ways, depending primarily on the temperature of the fire. At lower temperatures, fire reduces the microbial biomass that releases carbon dioxide and plant nutrients into the soil. It destroys seed banks and fine roots. At higher temperatures, the chemicals in the soil, like the pH, change. This impacts the stability of the soil and its ability to absorb water. All of these lead to the increased likelihood of soil erosion.

Join our free Mighty Network today and be kept informed about how you can boost carbon biosequestration in your own yard and local community ASAP, which will hasten the drawdown of carbon in our atmosphere. 

As often happens, a storm comes on the heels of a fire, dramatically increasing the danger of mudslides and debris flows. Even months after the fire, burn-scarred areas are threatened. Big Sur, experienced this recently as a portion of scenic Highway 1 near a burn-scar was washed out after a torrential rainstorm. While there are some benefits to natural soil erosion (adding essential nutrients to streams and rivers) with the advent of climate change and its extreme weather events, soil erosion has become a problem. Crops suffer as the nutrient-rich topsoil gets washed away, leaving exposed bare mineral soil that water cannot penetrate. This means less carbon for plants and less carbon stored. Fires also create the opportunity for aggressive invasive species to take root, harming native plants and causing soil damage.

How does this impact you? This issue affects our farmers more than any other population, and thus our food supply. The fields that grow our food are essential to our survival. Additionally, millions of tons of stored soil carbon are released during a wildfire. We simultaneously lose billions of trees that store carbon, creating a devastating long term effect. The path to restoring both the soil and the trees begins with soil health recovery. We need to take immediate action to prevent excessive soil erosion resulting from raging wildfires and devastating storms. Many universities and governmental agencies have joined in the effort, conducting research, reestablishing habitats, and keeping the public informed. But restoring the soil takes time, maybe even years. Throughout history, maintaining our food supply has been paramount. In modern times, we must also work to protect our resources. Restoring natural habitats strengthens the soil, allowing it to absorb and store carbon, a critical step toward meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

What can you do to help? If you’ve been affected by fires and soil erosion, there are a multitude of resources available to help you recover and restore your environment, a few are listed below. Fortunately, revegetation may occur naturally after the fire. However, it is important to protect the soil as quickly as possible after a wildfire. The Forest Service has a few tips:

  • Mulch to establish ground cover to reduce the risk of soil erosion.
  • Build back the soil structure by reseeding native grasses to hold the soil in place and add nutrients and carbon back into the soil. 
  • Create barriers with straw wattles, sandbags, silt fences, or straw bale check dams to prevent further erosion.
  • Introduce red wigglers, our eco-system engineers, to help expedite the timeline for soil recovery.
  • Avoid introducing non-native species which damage the soil and harm native plants.
Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

Continued vigilance is required to prevent aggressive invasive species from taking over after a fire. According to the National Forest Foundation, they will continue to be a threat until native plants, trees, and shrubs are established.


Next Steps

  • Take preventative steps to protect your soil from eroding.
  • Add groundcover to secure and improve the soil.
  • Plant diverse native species of plants, trees, and shrubs.
  • Work with local organizations to add native trees, plants and shrubs to public spaces.
  • Pay attention to changes being made in your area, and make your voice heard.
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