Episode 308. Droughts, Hydro Power and Food 

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 5th of September 2022.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

First off, a big thank you to jeaylove for buying me a coffee through the Buy Me A Coffee link on the website and in the show notes. It is most gratefully received and was happily consumed. 

Now to matters. 

Varroa Mite Update 4 September 2022

Quote:

Varroa mite emergency response daily update

No new detections

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So that’s a thing going well.

From the website SnowBrains comes an article entitled: “When You See Me, Weep” | ‘Hunger Stones’ Resurfacing in Europe Due To Record Drought

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Reminders of a long-forgotten past are resurfacing all over Europe. The recent record droughts in Europe have brought to the surface some old reminders that, while we are experiencing an extreme summer with record heat waves and droughts, these extreme events are not unprecedented.

In the rivers Elbe and Rhein, which flow across central Europe into the North Sea, carved stones have resurfaced as the drought has brought their water levels to record lows.

These stones are the so-called “Hunger Stones,” reminders of droughts centuries ago, left as a warning for future generations.

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Messages from the past, carved in stone. More to come on this.

From the RTE site comes an article from the 1st of September entitled: ‘Flagstone of fire’ lit on River Suir in rare sighting.

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A tradition which goes back generations but is rarely given the opportunity to be fulfilled was followed this evening at the river Suir.

Kenny’s Rock is a flat stone lying on the bed of the river in Carrick-on-Suir and which can only be seen when the water is at a sufficiently low level.

Low tide this evening was one of those times and, in line with local custom, a fire was lit on the stone when it made its appearance.

It is believed that visibility of the stone this year was the first time in living memory that it has been seen and was caused by a long, largely dry spell during July and August which meant low levels of water in the Suir.

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These two traditions mark past events as well as the current long dry spell in Europe but wait, there’s more!

From Bloomberg come a piece dated 16 August 2022 and entitled: China Facing Power Supply Threat From Drought in Sichuan

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A heat wave in Sichuan is curbing hydropower generation in a growing threat to electricity supply and economic growth in one of China’s most-populous provinces. 

Some factories in the manufacturing hub in southwestern China are curbing production, and the extreme weather may also cut supplies of materials like polysilicon and lithium that are vital to the energy transition. 

High temperatures and drought are the worst on record, with the heat expected to continue for another week, according to the Sichuan Provincial Economic and Information Department. Water flows into hydropower reservoirs have dropped by 50% since the start of the month from average historical levels, just as the hot weather boosted power demand, it said on a government website.  

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And from CNN on 16 August 2022: The West’s historic drought is threatening hydropower at Hoover Dam

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Standing atop the Hoover Dam today, the millions of tourists who visit each year can get a real sense of the climate crisis in the West: In addition to extreme heat, the sight of so-called “bathtub rings” that envelop Lake Mead has become an unsettling reminder of where the water level once was before the region’s historic drought began.

The changes are “stunning to see,” Kristen Averyst, senior climate advisor for Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, told CNN. “If people don’t think that climate change is impacting them here and now, just go to Lake Mead and have a look around, because that paints a pretty clear picture of what we’re up against when it comes to climate change.”

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So not just Europe. Here in the antipodes, drought is a thing we know all too well. The Millenium Drought as it’s known here ran from 1997 to 2009. I well remember when that drought started to break. I was on a community transport bus going to pick a client up from rehab when an old man going to the same hospital in 2010 mentioned, as the rain tumbled down, the drought wouldn’t be over until Warragamba Dam, the main water storage for Sydney, had overflowed. That didn’t happen until 2 March 2012. That’s how dry the landscape was. Two and half years to resoak the soils. We then swung back to drought from 2017 to 2020 when the dam again overflowed. There’s a poem Australian school children learn that has the lines:

I love a sunburnt country

A land of droughts and flooding rains.

So as I say it’s a thing we live with. Years ago just into the millennium drought I was watching a tv show on water conservation measures by australian irrigators. The introduction of drip waterers for horticulture and so on. The changes were impressive yet the lack of rain saw those irrigation entitlements reduced to zero within years due to drought. Immediately following that program was one on the almond industry in Californian. The differences were spectacular. From drip fed individual trees, grape vines and so on in Australia’s irrigation areas to scenes of thousands of acres of almonds trees being flood irrigated. We know from history that the salt marshes of southern Iraq are the result of too many flood irrigation events. A little salt is left behind every year through evaporation before the water percolates into the soil. That aside, the huge waste of water in a climate as dry as ours was, almost, incomprehensible. The difference between the two systems was the price of the irrigation water. Almost free to the almond growers, considerably more expensive on this wide brown land.

So things are in flux. From Europe across Asia to the US things are dryer, sometimes the drier they have been in half a millennium, and with the third La Nina, reported back in episode 306, declared by everyone other than our own Bureau of Meteorology which has the La Nina status as “watch” rather than “active”. The interconnectedness of everything could see these northern hemisphere droughts rumble on. Toss in a belligerent use of gas supply by the “surprised at the reaction to invading another country” Russians and the dropping water levels in dams and watersheds will rule out hydro as a replacement electricity supply for that gas.

All this before we get to people unable to grow food due to droughts across Africa and Asia and we toss in the Ukraine’s strangled grain exports and the sum of human suffering appears to be on an upward exponential trajectory.

Store some water where you are, use it to grow food. I’m not sure if anyone has done any modelling, I couldn’t find any, on how widespread the food supply downturn is likely to be through this third La Nina event. It certainly looks to be affecting power generation as well as paving the way for more wildfires in places that haven’t seen them in a considerable number of decades, if not centuries. It is a truly terrifying prospect. And there’s a kind of cognitive dissonance in preparing for both excessive rainfall and drought over the coming season. It’s unlikely to be both but it could be. Shorten your supply lines, find resources closer to home that don’t rely upon long supply chains or sufficient water to power industries in far away countries. Start by checking the labels in supermarkets, know where your food originates and then start making more rational decisions. Somehow, cheap shipping and vile labour conditions obviously, Californian oranges are cheaper than the Australian ones in Australia.

Remember as gardeners we have some cards up our sleeves. We can create microclimates or make use of the ones around us. A goodly use of these will allow us to grow much of our food needs if push comes to shove. I’m not a doomsday prepper type. The last few years has shown that Black Swan events can and do pop up with some regularity. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to have a safety net or a fall back position on hand. 

Soooo, as I’ve said before, growing a multi species food garden may well be the most revolutionary thing we can do, right now that actually makes the world a better place. 

Certainly a world with better flavour. So let’s all grow some food.

If you’d like help, the discount is still on for the No-Dig garden Course now over at the ChangeUnderground Academy. There’s a new link in the show notes. Still currently selling for $17 dollars. Please tell your friends! 

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS

No Dig Quick Start Course

https://changeunderground.net/the-no-dig-gardening-course/

buymeacoffee.com/changeug

email: jon@worldorganicnews.com

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1546564598887681

 

Varroa mite emergency response

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/emergencies/biosecurity/current-situation/varroa-mite-emergency-response#:~:text=Varroa%20mite%20tracing%20and%20surveillance%20work%20has%20confirmed%20three%20new,fall%20within%20existing%20red%20zones

“When You See Me, Weep” | ‘Hunger Stones’ Resurfacing in Europe Due To Record Drought

https://snowbrains.com/when-you-see-me-weep-hunger-stones-resurfacing-in-europe-due-to-record-drought/

‘Flagstone of fire’ lit on River Suir in rare sighting

https://www.rte.ie/news/regional/2022/0901/1320127-kennys-rock/

China Facing Power Supply Threat From Drought in Sichuan

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-08-16/china-joins-europe-in-facing-threats-from-worsening-drought

The West’s historic drought is threatening hydropower at Hoover Dam

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/08/16/us/hoover-dam-hydropower-drought-climate/index.html

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