On Deer, Trains and…

Here’s a little mildly contemplative midweek piece based around a few of my photos that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Trains

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Trains – the only way for most people to get around in the past – are supposed to save our futures. But…no one will ride them!

Here’s my coach, downtown, Saturday morning, taking me out to Folsom. It did get a bit fuller than this. But this is Regional Transit’s problem in this area: Everyone prefers to drive. Almost everyone. Most people who don’t have cars and are forced to use the train (or the bus) are the marginalized poor. This only changes during weekday rush hours and for certain downtown events on the weekend. You can drive to a parking lot in the suburbs, where parking is free, then ride in to the city, where parking is expensive. Costs about $5 round trip.

And what about climate change?

I’ve been exposed to a lot of data about the “climate change” problem recently, too. Same situation. Too much technology is based on gasoline, other petroleum fuels, oil and natural gas (methane). And no one wants to give it up, or convert to something else before they are sure the game is up.

On the one hand, there is the argument that if it takes as much energy (equivalent energy) to extract petroleum from the ground than that extract contains as potential energy, then why mine it? This makes sense to me.

On the other hand, you have people saying that if we weren’t supplying CO2 from burning carbon-based fuels, atmospheric CO2 would eventually fall so low that plants would start dying. This ex-Greenpeace guy, Patrick Moore, has a graph that shows the long-term atmospheric CO2 levels long into the past. In recent years the level has been around 400 parts per million, way up from recent earlier periods. But we are still in a glacial period where lots of CO2 is locked up in ice and sea water.

As sea water warms, its ability to store CO2 goes way down. This leads Moore to suggest that the climate cycles have much more effect on CO2 levels in the atmosphere than we could ever have. 100 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 was probably around 1,000 ppm, and it has seldom been below that level for the last 500 million years.

Another important way that carbon gets sequestered (locked up in solid forms) is in sea shells and coral, which are made of calcium carbonate. In geologic time, the oceans have produced massive amounts of limestone (all made from shells – the only way it can be made naturally) which continues to sequester massive amounts of carbon to this day. So the oceans seem to be a major player in carbon sequestration that no one ever talks about.

Forests

Forests also store carbon in the form of trees. One of the largest forest systems on Earth today is the boreal – the northern forests. While we worry mostly about the equatorial forests in South America, the boreal forests are also being encroached upon by tar sand mining operations. Of course, some companies also want to log these forests, and have been chipping away at them for years now. The only thing that saves them, apparently, is that they are so remote.

Redwoods

In a recent documentary I saw about the work of Diana Beresford-Kroeger (a Canadian botanist), the shrinking of the California redwood forests was shown on a map. A huge amount of logging occurred before we put any protections in place, and redwood is still valued as lumber. Those trees provide a great service to the inland valleys in aiding to recharge the aquifers and keep the climate moister and cooler. But those benefits are long gone in most regions of California today.

Closer to home…

Though some redwoods stand in Sacramento County, most that exist today were planted. This river bottomland is not their native habitat. They apparently originally grew in two belts, one coastal and one near the mountains.

But just upstream of Sacramento, there are plenty of pines along the river, and the parkway forests harbor many plants and animals, including deer.

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These deer don’t particularly like to show themselves, but the younger does and their fawns have a tendency to be a bit incautious. Thus I caught these views in a recent trip down through the parkway.

Though I used zoom for these shots (you can tell from the foreground twigs out of focus) these animals were not far off the bike trail, or I would not have even seen them. The fawn is particularly cute, but has learned (I think) to take its cues from its mother. It stood still for the longest time before deciding it would be OK to walk forward a bit, closer to where she was. For deer to stand in one place this long is a little unusual.

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It is quite dry in this area at this time of year. We have already had one small brush fire close to downtown, but across the river. And I saw goats being used in Fair Oaks to help control underbrush up there.

In this climate, underbrush does not mat down and decay over winter. The average stand of underbrush in the fields and forests here is probably at least five years old. It eventually decays, but you really need either grazing or fire to get rid of it. We have been choosing fire. But perhaps we will get more into grazing. The goats seem to be very cooperative.

 

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