TLC's Blog

TLC's Blog (116)

Monday, 30 March 2015 00:00

The Big Three: Air, Water & Food.

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Earth flag PDIt has been a couple of years since I mentioned "The Big Three." With Earth month (April) starting on Wednesday, it seemed like a good time to refresh our collective memories!

The Big Three are the three things - in some combination - that all life needs to survive: air, water and food.

Humans live just a couple of minutes without oxygen (which is found in the air around us), we survive just a few days without water, and just a few weeks without food. Thus, the term "The Big Three."

Everything else, as much as we might like it or crave it or desire it, are things we do not physically need.

Yet, in America (and elsewhere) people, businesses and the goverenment often put those "other things" ahead of The Big Three. While I'm not against people earning a living, I do have a problem when some people make their livings at the expense of the health and well-being of other people (not to mention animals and plants).

fracking wells landscapeBecause it is in the news a lot, let's take hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as an example. States have been granting permits to mining companies to install thousands upon thousands of wells that cover landscapes in a strange grid of access roads and rectangular pads for the well and mining equipment. It is like some demented subdivision with no residents.

The mining takes place thousands of feet below the surface in a rock formation made up of shale, which is a sedimnetary rock that was formed when layers of clay particles were subjected to compaction over millenia deep within the Earth.

shale gas basins CourseraThese shale layers do not occur uniformly beneath the Earth - just as mountains are in some areas and not others. Also, the type of shale is not identical from place to place. In some places, the shale formation contains natural gas trapped in the fine cracks that occur naturally in the shale. Fracking, then is a process whereby liquids are injected into the shale formation to enlarge the cracks and release the natural gas.

(Note: In other places, the shale might contain oil, as in the Green River Formation in Utah & Wyoming. Unlike natural gas, which is, well gaseous, the petroleum in oil shale formations is not so easily extracted, as it is essentially part of the rock, not just trapped in the cracks of the rock.)

There are two ways that fracking is in conflict with The Big Three, specifically with #2, Water.

Fracking reduces the amount of water available for human use. The fracking process uses millions of gallons of water that is combined with chemicals and then injected deep into the ground to crack the shale - that water is taken out of aquifers and streams where it would otherwise be available for human use. And that water is not cleaned and eventually returned to the public water supply. The used water is disposed of by pumping it into deep rock formations (typically kilometers below the surface).

Fracking has been shown to pollute groundwater aquifers that people use for their household water. The YouTube videos of people lighting the water coming out of their kitchen faucets are not just publicity stunts. In many cases, they are actually the result of dramatically increased amounts of methane getting into individual's wells after fracking wells were installed in their communities. It is not a big leap to think that the fracking process led to the contamination of the aquifers. According to the mining industry itself, 5% of fracking wells have cracked well casings as soon as they are made. (The casing is the lining that is supposed to prevent leakage - into and out of the well.) So, if 1,000 fracking wells are drilled, 50 of those start out with a leaky well casing.

For purely selfish reasons - our lives - perhaps we should keep our priorities straight. Always put The Big Three first.

remley panther 2I admit it. I love cats. I also love songbirds. And, while my home cats are 100% indoor cats, my work cats are indoor-outdoor cats - in part because they keep the mouse and vole populations under control. (That's Remley doing his best panther imitation to the left.)

The work cats wear collars with bells, but that doesn't keep them from catching the occasional songbird. And it breaks my heart every time I see a dead goldfinch lying in the yard, because I know one of my cats killed it. So, I might as well say that I killed the bird since I let the cat outside.

Well, there is a new product available that was designed by people who love their cats, let them roam outdoors, AND also love songbirds: Birdsbesafe collars. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015 00:00

Welcome to the Neighborhood

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burning brush pile in snowChange is hard. And, every change is for better or worse, depending upon your perspective. Change is particularly hard when it happens quickly. I’m sorry, but telling me “it’s easier if you just rip the bandage off real quick” doesn’t lessen the pain.

I have no doubt the 400 acres of trees and shrubs bulldozed and left burning in giant brush piles looked “worse” to the hundreds of neighbors on the north side of Woodstock a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, 16 February 2015 00:00

Bird Migration over the years

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aristotleToday, most people know that birds migrate by flying south during winter, and then fly north again as the days grow longer and temperatures rise. We also understand that some birds fly great distances each year to move from their summer homes to their winter spots.

Did you know that our understanding of bird migration is a relatively recent development?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014 00:00

How Long is Forever?

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acoma pueblo viewA friend of mine in New Mexico is descended from a Spanish family that has been in Albuquerque since 1593. His ancestors were among the first settlers given land grants by the church when Spain first settled that area. Wow. Four hundred and twenty-one years ago. Nearly 200 years before the United States was founded.

Thursday, 06 November 2014 00:00

Save Land/Save Ourselves

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tiny frog in handOver the past 544 million years, Earth's had five major extinction events. A major extinction is one where between 70% and 90% of all species on the planet are lost – never to be seen again. Each of the five was caused by a cataclysmic event – like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs when it slammed into the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago.

Wednesday, 03 September 2014 00:00

Local Farmer/Local Food

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farm pic for webMy husband and I have subscribed to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) service since 2007. For 18-20 weeks during the growing season (typically late June to early October), we receive fresh vegetables grown at a local farm. We like knowing the farmers, and have learned to prepare some vegetables we never would have tried otherwise.

Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

Respecting property lines

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prairie ridge 2 385x291I heard a story the other day about a situation where one neighbor did not like another neighbor’s pine tree because the branches grew over part of his yard and he thought the roots were going to crack his foundation. So, the fellow cut all the branches on his side of the tree back to the property line, and then dug a trench along the property line to sever the tree’s roots.

Wednesday, 09 July 2014 00:00

Do you know the UDO?

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McHenry-CountyFlagClean2McHenry County government has been working for three and a half years to develop something called a Unified Development Ordinance, UDO for short. Essentially, it is a document that combines the zoning, sign and subdivision ordinances into one document. If done right, a UDO resolves any conflicts that may have existed between the various separate regulations and streamline the regulatory framework for development projects.

Friday, 20 June 2014 00:00

Trees and the Law

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tree limbs overhand roofsWhat is the law if a tree is on your property, but the branches hang over the neighbor's property?

Does your neighbor have the right to cut the branches that are hanging over his property?