November 2013

Newsbites – November 2013

Danish Renewable Energy Pioneer Speaks in Santa Fe

LANL Climate Researcher Presents Dire Forecast for SW Forests

CEO of the Samsø Energy Academy in Denmark, Søren Hermansen, whom Time Magazine lauded as a Hero of the Environment in 2008, spoke in Santa Fe last month before the City Business and Quality of Life Advisory Committee and at Santa Fe Community College about implementing renewable energy on a broad scale. Samsø is an island community of about 4,000 people. It has gained international recognition for being one of the first communities in the world that is 100-percent-powered by renewable energy. Hermansen related how in 10 years his community reduced its carbon footprint by 140 percent, creating jobs and setting national and international precedents along the way.

The small Danish isle heats its buildings with cooperative biomass districts, where all the buildings receive heat from biomass centers via submerged pipes. Moreover, Samsø uses wind turbines, both on and offshore, to generate enough electricity not only to serve the needs of the entire island’s inhabitants, but with surplus to sell to the mainland. Hermansen says that communities have to be widely collaborative to pull off such a big project. “Get everyone involved, including people you might not like. Be pragmatic and look for solutions,” he said. “We need more doers and fewer political talking heads. The solutions of the future do not come from headquarters, but from the outskirts where communities govern common resources.”

Hermansen’s presentation was preceded by a dire forecast by Los Alamos National Lab’s climate researcher Dr. Cathy Wilson, who warned that if the planet maintains its current trajectory, it is highly likely that the entire Southwest will lose the vast majority of its forests by 2050, with the Pacific Northwest following closely behind. Hermansen believes in a positive approach to such daunting news. He doesn’t think the old adage of “think globally, act locally” is quite right, preferring “think locally, act locally.” Søren Hermansen’s talk at a subsequent visit to a university in Iowa was televised and can be viewed online at


Climate Change Study Predicts the Old Maximum Is the New Minimum

Get Ready for Ecosystems Never Seen Before

A new study suggests that the maximum global temperatures and levels of precipitation of the last 150 years will be the new minimum by 2047, give or take 14 years, depending on location. Lead author of the study, Camilo Mora, a biogeographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, predicts “environments like we have never seen before.”

The study seeks to pinpoint the timing of this transition in specific cities and regions across the globe. The tropics are going to be hit much sooner than the poles, while Anchorage, Alaska can expect that prophecy to come true by 2071, barring extensive efforts to mitigate climate change. Manokwari, a provincial capital in eastern Indonesia, could see the results of these impacts by 2020.

The new extremes, besides greatly impacting human communities, will place a lot of stress on wildlife unused to extremes in an otherwise relatively steady climate.

The study is based on 39 climate models that the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used for its latest climate-assessment reports. Climate records from 1860-2005 to consider natural variability were also used. Despite the study’s conclusions, scientific understanding of sea-surface temperature and air pressure patterns in the tropical pacific known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation are not fully understood. Still, Frank Lowenstein of the Nature Conservancy says that the study’s results err on the side of conservatism, rather than overstating the evidence. The study is extremely valuable for beginning to construct a reliable timeline for the changes that are beginning to engulf the planet.


White House Announces Economic Aid to Rural Areas Including NM Pueblos

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced 188 recipients for rural development loans and grants. Among these, the Santa Fe Community Foundation will receive a $100,000 Rural Business Opportunity Grant to provide development opportunities related to MoGro, the mobile grocery store that provides access to fresh produce and other healthy foods for tribal members. MoGro currently serves residents of Kewa (Santo Domingo) Pueblo, San Felipe, Laguna, Jémez and Cochiti pueblos.

The funding will underwrite leadership training to develop food co-ops and other businesses. USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner congratulated the Santa Fe Community Foundation on its initiative and stated that there is still much more to be done to assist other New Mexicans living in a “food desert.”

The announcement took place at the second convening of the White House Rural Council, where officials from economic development districts, county governments and nonprofit organizations discussed ways to replicate successful regional development strategies.


Creative Santa Fe’s Campaign Highlights SF’s Walkability

Walkability directly impacts the vibrancy, energy, health and prosperity of communities. “The walkable city is not just a nice, idealistic notion. Rather, it is a simple, practical-minded solution to a host of complex problems we face as a society,” says urban planner Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.

Creative Santa Fe (CrSF), an organization dedicated to strengthening SF’s creative economy and enhancing the quality of life for its citizens and visitors, has begun a campaign that runs through November to demonstrate simple, affordable and practical ways to increase the city’s walkability. Walk [Santa Fe] aims to show residents, business owners and visitors the impact clear signage and designated walkways can have on kindling a more vibrant and connected center of town. The project is in collaboration with the national initiative Walk [Your City], and is supported by a coalition of over 80 participating partners.

CrSF has designed and set up a web of meticulously well-signed pathways across the downtown area. Each sign has an imbedded QR code with specific directions via Google Maps, pointing the way to museums, galleries, shops, restaurants and parks. CrSF hopes to get people who wouldn’t ordinarily walk downtown to explore and embrace the opportunities there. Walk [Santa Fe] “ambassadors” will be on the streets to answer questions and discuss the project.

Vehicular traffic has come to define the layout of cities and towns. In the ‘80s, city planners began to challenge the rationale behind motor-vehicle-based urbanism and argued for a reintegration of walkability by re-imagining city and neighborhood centers, culminating in a movement called New Urbanism. Walk [Santa Fe] reflects this movement. To learn more and see a pdf map and a list of participating partners, visit


Dairy Industry Petitions to Weaken Groundwater Protections

The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) has set a March 2014 meeting to hear the dairy industry’s petition to substantially weaken groundwater discharge rules. The WQCC endorsed the New Mexico Environment Department conducting a stakeholder advisory process on the changes to the rules prior to the March hearing. The industry is proposing changes that include:

•  Cutbacks on routine water testing, disallowing early detection, prevention of pollution and implementation of cost-saving clean-up actions

•  Cutbacks on monitoring wells placed to detect pollution at dairy facilities before public-use waters are threatened

•  Eliminating the synthetic plastic liner requirement when there is evidence of leeching of large quantities of liquid animal waste into the land and groundwater

•  Making discretionary the Environment Department’s continued groundwater monitoring and potential site clean-up by dairy operators once their facilities have ceased operation

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center, with support and assistance from Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP), represents clients, the Río Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club and Amigos Bravos, who are opposed to the changes. “A full 90 percent of New Mexico residents drink water from ground sources, which can easily be contaminated with dairy manure,” said SRAP Executive Director Danielle Diamond. “Governor Martinez and the Water Quality Control Commission should be working to protect the health of our water sources, not rolling back hard-fought safeguards that could put families and the public health at risk.”


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