Category Archives: Environmental Education

Green Living: Our Debt to Trees, Steve Waller

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Summer rises slowly from the northern forest floor. Buds burst into bouquets, injecting their sweet smell into our sterile yards and homes. Last year’s leaves slowly decompose and feed the fruits, nuts, and spices that we harvest and stock on store shelves. We feed our families tree parts.

Pancakes are covered in tree sugar. Dates, figs, olives, palm oil, cinnamon, allspice, pimento, nutmeg, and cloves all come from trees. Cocoa trees are used to make cocoa and chocolate. The berries of coffee trees yield our blessed coffee beans. Our homes are made of wood—walls, cabinets, flooring. Wood warmed our ancestors for thousands of years. Burning coals generated enough heat to extract precious metals from rock. The paper this article is printed on was a tree.

Tree seeds, apple pips, and plum stones have delicious edible tissue.

Animals including mammals (us) and birds eat the fruits and discard the seeds. Pine cones are hoarded by red squirrels. Bears help disperse seed by raiding squirrel caches. Trees feed an entire army of insects who spend their summer gnawing away at the leaves and stems.

Most showy flowering trees are insect-pollinated. Wind-pollinated trees, like evergreens, take advantage of increased wind speeds high above the ground. That is why so many pine cones are near the tree tops.

green living, importance of trees, U.P. holistic magazine, U.P. wellness publication

Many trees are interconnected through their root system, forming a colony. Interconnections are made by a kind of natural grafting or welding of vegetal tissues. The networking was discovered by injecting chemicals, sometimes radioactive, into a tree, and then checking for its presence in neighboring trees. They are networked. They share resources and communicate with each other. Read The Hidden Life of Trees (Peter Wohlleben) for amazing details.

We plant trees for beauty and shade from the hot sun. Trees form wind breaks, hold moisture and soil after heavy rains. They cool the air like air conditioners, and are homes to birds and mammals. New subdivisions look bare and sterile until young trees invade the neighborhood.

green living, importance of trees, U.P. holistic magazine, U.P. wellness publication

In the cold winters of the north, trees must grow rapidly in the short summer season when the temperature rises and the days are long. Light is limited under their dense cover and there may be little plant life on the forest floor, although fungi may abound.

The tiniest tree is a dwarf willow (Salix herbacea) found in arctic regions, maxing out at only three inches tall. A coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), named Hyperion after a person in Greek mythology, is no less than 380 feet tall.

I was recently on a road trip, cruising through the dry treeless southwestern states. The lack of trees amplified the heat and wind, keeping the land dry and barren. Animals, even birds, were rare. I felt relieved and most at home when I re-entered the land of trees, where the streams could flow, plants grow, and the wind is broken.

There are an estimated 3.04 trillion trees—

half in the tropics, a quarter in the temperate zones and the rest in the northern evergreen forests. About 15 billion trees are cut down annually, and about 5 billion are planted. In the 12,000 years since the start of human agriculture, the number of trees worldwide has decreased by 46%.

green living, importance of trees, U.P. holistic magazine, U.P. wellness publication

Many butterflies, moths and all other critters that feed mostly on trees are actually made of trees! We are what we eat. We eat trees. We too are rearranged tree stuff!

We should love our trees. We depend on them. Our lives would be miserable without them. We need to understand and support trees better. We owe them appreciation and respect.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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More Info. from Steve Waller on “Wind Energy – Hot Air?”

Here’s the formula for relating turbines to trees:

A 2-megawatt turbine X 35% load factor outputs 700 kw X 8,760 hrs per year = 6,132,000 kWh per year X 650 g/kWh average intensity = 4,394 tons of CO2 / 2 tons CO2 absorbed per acre of trees = 2,196 equivalent acres of forest per 2-megawatt turbine

A single 2-megawatt turbine has the CO2 reducing effect of 2,196 acres of forest while generating $367,920 (@ $0.06 wholesale per kWh) of electricity per year.

One megawatt of turbine = roughly 1,000 equivalent forest acres. 

A higher turbine “load factor” (percent of maximum possible output actually generated) increases the forest equivalent. The newest turbines have higher load factors.

50 turbines in a wind farm (50 X 2,196) have the CO2 reducing effect of 109,840 acres of forest

Example:

Summit Lake wind farm’s 50 turbines utilize a footprint of only 560 acres (2%) of the 28,000 acres of wind farm forest. 98% of the forest remains forested.

219,700 turbine tons of CO2 + 54,880 unmodified forest tons of CO2 ((28,000 original acres – 560 turbine acres) X 2 tons CO2 per acre) = 274,580 tons of CO2 kept out of the air per year.

The wind farm increases the CO2 reduction of the original 28,000 acre Summit Lake forest from 56,000 tons of CO2 absorbed per year without the wind farm to the equivalent of 274,580 tons of CO2 absorbed per year with the wind farm.

Looks like we should REALLY encourage the Summit Wind Farm!

$ value of turbine power:

6,132,000 kWh X $0.06 wholesale (AKA “offset” price) price per kWh =

$367,920 annual wholesale value of electricity per turbine.

$367,920 X 50 turbines = $18,396,000 annual wholesale value of wind farm power.

6,132,000 kWh X $0.14 retail price per kWh = $858,480 annual retail value of electricity per turbine.

$858,480 X 50 turbines = $42,924,000 annual retail value of wind farm power.

Here are just a few of the sources I used for Wind Energy – Hot Air in the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.

https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/21/wind-power-results-bird-deaths-overall/

https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.php

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-9290.2012.00464.x

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/arjun-krishnaswami/renewable-energy-brings-economic-boost-rural-communities

https://www.factcheck.org/2018/03/wind-energys-carbon-footprint/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616093317.htm

https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind/environmental-benefits

https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind

https://www.awea.org/Awea/media/Resources/StateFactSheets/Michigan.pdf

https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/life-cycle-analysis-of-the-embodied-carbon-emissions-from-14-wind-turbines-with-rated-powers-between-50-kw-and-34-mw-2090-4541-1000211.php?aid=74577

https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind/economic-development

https://www.aweablog.org/the-truth-about-wind-power/

https://www.aweablog.org/fact-check-really-causes-electricity-prices-rise/

http://www.windustry.org/how_much_do_farmers_get_paid_to_host_wind_turbines

https://www.landmarkdividend.com/wind-turbine-lease-rates/

https://cleantechnica.com/2014/05/07/wind-power/

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/arjun-krishnaswami/new-report-clean-energy-sweeps-across-rural-midwest

https://www.awea.org/Awea/media/Resources/StateFactSheets/Michigan.pdf

 

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What Is . . . . Marquette Growth?

More and more we hear about the lack of understanding of the connection between our food and where it comes from, but how many of us are actually doing something about it?

In 2012, a group of friends asked each other what they’d do for our community if they had a million dollars, and realized they all wanted to empower the community’s ability to grow food. This led to the creation of Marquette Growth. Marquette Growth is a non-profit community garden initiative aimed at providing access to free, healthy, organic, growing sites and education for the community, with a focus on getting food from farm to school.

As Vice President Scott Lawrence describes, “We heard the same reasons over and over for why people don’t take responsibility for a portion of their food—no time, space, money, or education. We realized a free educational community garden group was the answer, where people can donate time for fresh produce.”

It took months of sustained effort for group members Tyler Phillips, Jess Zerbel, Miriah Redmond and Scott Lawrence to find a place to start the program. Thankfully, Marquette Alternative High School Principal Andrew Crunkleton believed in their vision and work began on the hoop house at Graveraet, where the school was located at the time.

Lawrence also began a Kickstarter Fund in 2013, which raised $2500 to start a food forest of fruit trees and other perennials, plus annual garden beds at Vandenboom Alternative High School. Marquette Growth facilitated a full day of gardening workshops leading up to the actual planting of the trees and other perennials, which was accompanied by live music. Annual gardens were also planted, which the students help maintain.

Since then smaller sites have also been established, including at Cherry Creek Senior Living, behind the Wild Rover, Ore Dock Brewery, Sandy Knoll Elementary, Black Rocks Brewery, Teaching Family Homes and Sweet Water Café, with items such as sunflowers, a mint garden or fruit tree.

Lawrence explains, “The hoop house is open to all community members, young or old. We like the way that gardening connects all walks of life. We all eat. Why not eat the best quality food? We are happiest seeing young working next to old, poor working next to wealthy. We want to bridge the gaps of our community through growing high quality food. And get kids excited about growing their own food, or at least give them the knowledge of where their food comes from.”

At Gravaeret Elementary, students have access to hands-on agricultural education through the school garden from seed to fork. They help as much as possible in the hoop house, which is watered, planted and maintained solely by volunteers, and their garden produce is implemented in school lunch options. “Last year’s 4th graders even sold seeds and seedlings to raise funds for a field trip to MSU North Farm as part of an educational unit Marquette Growth ran in partnership with MSU Extension, Marquette Food Co-op, Transition Marquette, and the school district. Students toured the farm, seeing how the transplants used in the school garden were started, and saving seeds from these and other plants,” describes member Miriah Redmond.

Marquette Growth would like to help establish hoop houses at all of Marquette’s public schools. Once approval is obtained, the group will seek funding. Already, “hundreds of pounds of food, lots of enlightened/educated community members, and tons of new relationships have been created,” describes Lawrence. He’s passionate about the need for this initiative, explaining, “We are at the end of the food delivery routes. Major grocery stores only have enough food to support our community for two to three days. If fossil fuels seize to exist, so will our food. We need to work together to build a food sovereign community. Younger generations need to be educated on these matters to encourage them to take responsibility for a portion of their own food. Together, we can build a more resilient community. Spread the word of Marquette Growth, get people excited about growing food and bridge any gap in existence to get us all working together.”

New helpers are welcome to join Wednesday work nights at Gravaeret Elementary, as well as additional open hoop house hours, various workshops, and Facebook.com/groups/marquettegrowth. The initiative can also be supported by financial contributions through Paypal by contacting mqtgrowth@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2016 issue.

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Green Living Links, Winter 2012 – 13

Check out these great links recommended by Health & Happiness’s Green Living column writer Steve Waller, pertaining to his article in the Winter 2012 – 2013 issue,   A New World Record! (But shhh!… Pretend you don’t know).

The 2012 record recorded on YouTube (30 sec.):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaKqhRTqSlg&feature=youtu.be

The hilarious “Rogue Weathergirl” (MUST WATCH! 2.5 min.):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmfcJP_0eMc&feature=related

The arctic ice monitoring experts:
http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2012/09/

THE FABULOUS FREE PHONE APP (available on the website):
http://www.skepticalscience.com/

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Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary

by Joan Chadde

Some of us have a favorite song, a favorite rock, a favorite book, or perhaps a favorite place. The Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County, (owned by the Michigan Nature Association), is one of my favorite places in the Upper Peninsula.

The Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary straddles M-26 adjacent to the Esrey Park roadside picnic area, about 8 miles east of Eagle Harbor and 6 miles west of Copper Harbor. A short three-quarter mile trail begins across from Esrey Park, passing through four distinct plant communities and over several rocky ridges of Copper Harbor conglomerate—a sedimentary rock formation consisting of individual rock fragments within a finer-grained matrix that have become cemented together.

At the start of the trail, the hiker enters a northern boreal forest of white spruce, balsam fir, aspen, and white birch. Look for heart-leaved arnica growing on the rocky, dry soil, and Usnea  lichen, (Old Man’s Beard), draped over the balsam fir and white spruce trees, creating an eerie atmosphere. Light green Usnea covers tree bark and branches with a profuse, beardlike growth that can reach a foot in length!  Many bird species, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, boreal chickadees, American redstarts, and white-winged crossbills pad their nests with these soft lichens.

The Usnea lichen is particularly effective at absorbing minerals from the air, making it sensitive to airborne pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide, so it’s a useful bio-indicator of air quality. Under poor air quality conditions, Usnea lichens may grow no larger than a few millimeters, if they  survive at all. Where the air is not polluted, Usnea lichens can grow ten to twenty centimeters long.

The second plant community along the trail is a cedar swamp. Look for white cedar, balsam fir, alder and a dense ground cover of sedges.  

Next, the hiker enters a small sampler of a northern conifer bog, complete with sphagnum moss as ground cover, along with bog laurel, pitcher plants, leatherleaf shrubs, black spruce, and Labrador tea.

Lastly, the trail climbs over a rocky ridge and enters a dry hardwood-conifer forest before   descending to Brockway Mountain Drive. Plants common to this forest plant community are white pine, arnica, bracken fern, aster and thimbleberry.  White pine needles carpet the dry rocky soil. 

The geology is special here, too. Some of the rocks are more than one billion years old! The trail traverses a series of rocky ridges interspersed with low-lying wet areas. Look for the rounded gravel deposited along one of many shorelines associated with periods of glacial retreat, which occurred only a few thousand years ago.

Driving Directions

From Eagle Harbor, follow M-26 northeast about six miles, (or follow M-26 eight miles west of Copper Harbor), to the Esrey Park roadside picnic area along Lake Superior, less than a mile from Brockway Mountain Drive’s west entrance. Visitors may park at Esrey Park or along the south side of M-26 near the Michigan Nature Association sanctuary trailhead sign. 

Trail Description

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Terrain: Flat to rolling

Distance: 0.75 mile trail from M-26 to Brockway Mountain Drive; 1.5 miles roundtrip

Size: 36 acres

Ownership: Michigan Nature Association

Contact: (517) 655-5655, www.michigannature.org

Joan Chadde has 25+ years of environmental education experience. She authored Michigan Water Quality Curriculum (2006), Design Guidelines to Enhance Community Appearance & Protect Natural Resources (2004), and most recently compiled Walking Paths & Protected Areas of the Keweenaw (2009), from which this article is adapted.

The Michigan Nature Association, established in 1952, is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting Michigan’s exceptional natural habitats and extraordinary and endangered plants and animals. Our members have made it possible for us to preserve 165 nature sanctuaries in 56 counties throughout the state today and forever. MNA published Walking Paths & Protected Areas of the Keweenaw (2009). Copies may be purchased on their website, http://www.michigannature.org, in Marquette bookstores and twenty-two Keweenaw Peninsula locations.

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