‘Bad Boy’ and Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. woopin it up

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Falwell with his pants unzipped, belly showing, part of his beard painted and his arm around a young woman.

The caption on the now-deleted post reads, “more vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”

 

This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water ~ The Washington Post

 

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ORCHARD CITY, Colo. — On New Year’s Day in 2018, Paul Kehmeier and his father drove up Grand Mesa until they got to the county line, 10,000 feet above sea level. Instead of the three to five feet of snow that should have been on the ground, there wasn’t enough of a dusting to even cover the grass.

The men marveled at the sight, and Kehmeier snapped a photo of his dad, “standing on the bare pavement, next to bare ground.”

Here, on Colorado’s Western Slope, no snow means no snowpack. And no snowpack means no water in an area that’s so dry it’s lucky to get 10 inches of rain a year. A few months after taking the photo, Kehmeier stared across the land his family had tilled for four generations and made a harsh calculation: He could make more money selling his ranch’s water than working his land.

Water from Colorado’s snowpack is distributed across the region through a complex network of dams, pipelines and irrigation canals.

 

 

A 20-year drought is stealing the water that sustains this region, and climate change is making it worse.

“In all my years of farming in the area, going back to about 1950, 2018 was the toughest, driest year I can remember,” said Paul’s father, Norman, who still does a fair share of the farm’s tractor work at 94.

Click any temperature underlined in the story to convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit

This cluster of counties on Colorado’s Western Slope — along with three counties just across the border in eastern Utah — has warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius, double the global average. Spanning more than 30,000 square miles, it is the largest 2C hot spot in the Lower 48, a Washington Post analysis found.

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The average flow of the Colorado River has declined nearly 20 percent over the past century, half of which is because of warming temperatures, scientists say. With the region’s snowpack shrinking and melting earlier, the ground absorbs more heat — and more of the precious water evaporates.

On the Kehmeiers’ farm, like the rest of the area, just under two inches of rain fell between Jan. 1 and July 19. Less than half an inch has fallen since the farming season began on April 1, just 25 percent of the long-term average.

“The seasons where you don’t want to see the warming are warming faster,” said Jeff Lukas, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Western Water Assessment.

In the 2015 Paris accord, international leaders agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the Earth’s overall warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution, on average. But global warming doesn’t affect the planet uniformly, and 10 percent of it is already at 2C, The Post found. These hot spots offer a window into what will happen as more of the planet warms: In New Jersey and Rhode Island, a 2C world has weakened winter’s bite; in Siberia, 10,000-year-old mammoths are being exposed by melting permafrost; and from Japan to Angola to Uruguay and Tasmania, changing ocean currents and warming water have decimated fisheries and underwater kelp forests.

 

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In Colorado, the rising temperature is forcing a reckoning in this conservative community. The Colorado River supplies water to 40 million people across the West and in Mexico. It nurtures everything from vineyards to cattle to peach trees on the Western Slope, and flows to Los Angeles’s water faucets and Arizona’s cotton fields.

Farming in America’s dry interior has always amounted to an act of defiance. Water has reinvented the landscape that Kehmeier’s ancestors began working on more than a century ago. A vast irrigation network of pipes, tunnels and dams steers melted snow into fields across the valley and has transformed this sagebrush terrain into a thriving agricultural hub.

“It would have to come about 16 miles from the top of that mountain down the creek,” he said, pointing toward Grand Mesa, “and the chance of getting it down the creek in a hot dry year when there’s not much water in the creek and a lot of thieves beside the creek, it was questionable. So, let somebody else deal with that.”

Kehmeier, who grows alfalfa and grass hay, didn’t agonize over his decision, but he didn’t like driving by his dried-up field every day. Call it a blessing or a curse, but farming is in his blood.

“And if it’s in your blood, you want to do it,” he said. “I want to go out kicking and scraping if I have to, but I don’t want to give up.”

He could always plant hay the following year, he thought. Surely, the snow would return.

 

 

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The Teenage Tinkerer Behind an E-Bike Revolution ~ NYT

After reading/riding and researching for a year, I bought a Rad Power Bike because of the quality, the ride and the price which was affordable.

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Mike Radenbaugh dreamed up Rad Power Bikes over a decade ago in his family’s garage and now sets the pace for affordable battery-propelled bicycles.

Credit…Meron Tekie Menghistab for The New York Times

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The residents of Garberville, Calif., didn’t know what to make of 15-year-old Mike Radenbaugh and the odd motorized bikes he was concocting in his family’s garage.

It was 2005, the home-brew era for electric vehicles, and there he was, a high school freshman zooming by at up to 35 miles an hour, not even pedaling. He seemed to defy gravity as he ascended the region’s steep winding roads lined with 300-foot redwoods.

As the captain of the school’s mountain-bike racing team, he had collected a heap of spare frames and parts. Mr. Radenbaugh started tricking them out with old motorcycle-starter batteries, moped motors mail-ordered from Japan and crude powertrains held together with bungee cords, pipe clamps and thick layers of electrical tape. “I needed to find a solution where I had freedom as a young person without a lot of dollars,” he said.

Before long, he was making his 16-mile school commute on his electric Frankenbike.

Wires fried and batteries died. But after six months of experimentation, Mr. Radenbaugh had a semi-reliable electric bike. “It got better and better. And it got faster,” he said. “All of a sudden, I’d be riding into town passing slow cars. I quickly became known as the kooky e-bike guy in my little hometown.”

By his junior year, he’d founded Rad Power Bikes. Now based in Seattle, his company approached $100 million in sales in 2019. It has sold over 100,000 electric bikes. Numbers aren’t well reported for this young industry, but Rad Power Bikes is widely considered the largest e-bike seller in the United States.

When he was starting out in Humboldt County — home to back-to-the-landers and backwoods pot farmers — Mr. Radenbaugh fielded requests. “They wanted high handlebars, comfortable seats, powerful motors and long range,” he said. In other words, a blend of a bicycle, moped, scooter and motorcycle. This was in contrast to the few light and low-powered European and Japanese e-bikes available a decade and a half ago.

Sixteen years later, Rad Power Bikes is sticking to its formula: comfort, power and simplicity.

And that was before a pandemic sent the whole country searching for a socially distanced way to get around. Throughout spring 2020, Rad’s sales tripled compared with the year before. Many models now have a three-month wait for delivery. What had been a niche product for Humboldt’s aging hippies heading to Burning Man has become a mainstream option for Everyman.

Guidehouse Insights, a market research firm, conservatively forecasts that electric bike sales in the United States will grow to nearly a million by 2023, up from 650,000 this year. “For years we’ve been saying that the market needs a decent, good-quality, relatively high-performing e-bike for $1,000 to $1,500. That’s the sweet spot,” said Ryan Citron, a senior research analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “Rad Power Bikes hit that mark.”

Mr. Citron cautions that Rad, which sells direct to consumers, might lose customers who want to take a test ride before buying. Brick-and-mortar stores also offer e-bikes from the likes of Specialized, Trek and Giant — although commonly selling for $2,500 to $5,000. Deluxe models climb to $15,000 and higher.

Regardless, an accessible joy ride is a welcome pandemic diversion. For the past couple of months, I ditched my car and used a Rad Power Bike as my primary mode of transportation.

The $1,199 RadRunner, one of the company’s top sellers, has extra-fat tires to absorb bumps rather than an expensive front suspension.

Credit…Meron Tekie Menghistab for The New York Times

The company sells 11 models: city, cargo, folding and all-terrain options. I went with the $1,199 RadRunner, one of the company’s top sellers. Like most Rad Power Bikes, it’s equipped with a 750-watt motor; that’s the legal limit for a Class 2 bicycle and provides electric assist up to 20 miles an hour. No permit required.

Its battery pack, about the size of a loaf of bread, is 48 volts and 672 watt-hours. It takes about six hours to fully charge from a household outlet. On a mostly flat surface, and with light pedaling, the pack provides 30 to 40 miles of range.

On my first few trips, I wasn’t so much as riding as zooming. The road manners and the ability to cut through back alleyways are like any other bicycle — except my legs had reserves of backup power. Rad equips all its e-bikes with a half-twist hand throttle. It’s irresistible to launch with the flick of the wrist. There’s always a chance to pedal, but it’s not obligatory. It took some pedaling to propel the 65-pound bike up the steepest Berkeley hills. But it’s not onerous.

“Ninety-nine percent of your riding is blissfully electric. It’s an exciting amount of power,” Mr. Radenbaugh said. For the other 1 percent, he says, “you can overcome it with pedaling or by planning your approach to a hill.”

What’s most impressive about the RadRunner is its use of smart design, wringing value from clever choices. The RadRunner has extra-fat tires to absorb bumps rather than an expensive front suspension. The rear hub motor is simpler and more cost-effective than what is known as a pedal-assist mid-drive. The LED controller mounted on the handlebars is basic, but it’s user-friendly and gets the job done. The detachable battery can be brought inside to charge.

Squeeze the hand brakes to engage the 180-millimeter Tektro disc brakes, cutting off the motor and illuminating a rear red brake light. The chunky aluminum frame comes in two colors, black or forest green, and precisely one size, with an adjustable seat post making it adaptable to riders of nearly all heights.

“It’s the Volkswagen Beetle of e-bikes,” Mr. Radenbaugh said. “When we thought up the RadRunner, it was with that sense in mind. What’s the best-selling car in history? What’s the e-bike to do it all?”

Credit…Meron Tekie Menghistab for The New York Times

 

I’ve also been test-riding the RadWagon 4, the company’s latest release. The Runner’s 67-inch length is stretched nearly a foot to 78.7 inches on the RadWagon. This is an e-bike for grown-ups with family responsibilities.

It extends the cargo-style frame to accommodate a long list of accessories: running boards, sturdy metal baskets of various sizes, sizable insulated delivery bags and a Thule child seat. Adding cushions and handgrips for passengers now allows my wife to hop on back for trips to visit friends. I also added a large basket so we can load up on produce at the farmers’ market. The company’s easy universal accessory and mounting system would make Ikea jealous.

The RadWagon has seven gears. The low gears, when combined with a high level of electric power, allow the relatively heavy cargo bike to climb harsh inclines with little effort. But the real fun comes when setting the electric motor to 5, its highest setting, thumbing the shifter to the top gear and pedaling hard. Thankfully, the RadWagon’s speedometer shows when I need to brake to conform with legal limits.

Jeff Loucks, executive director of Deloitte’s Center for Technology, Media and Telecommunications, believes there will be 130 million e-bikes sold globally between 2020 and 2023. “They make so much sense, especially in a Covid world,” he said. However, he added that the United States still needs to catch up to cities in Europe and Asia with a biking culture and proper lanes to make cyclists feel safe. Cities have accelerated that process because of the pandemic. “People are turning to cycling for transportation, exercise and just to keep sane during this time,” Mr. Loucks said.

Mr. Radenbaugh, now 30, manages a staff of 200 people. He described the current pace of change — and the myriad business challenges it poses — as “hyper-growth.” It’s not easy steering a transportation revolution. He said, “Every night, I feel like my brain was beat to pieces.”

Fortunately, Mr. Radenbaugh has a way to clear his head. Every day, rain or shine, he rides his e-bikes to commute, shop or haul things around. He often uses prototype models to dream up new features and uses. “One of my favorite things to do is e-bike camping,” he said. He has a favorite campground about 30 miles east of Seattle, within reach of the RadWagon’s battery range. That’s where he can forget about the worries of the world, glide through country roads and relive the thrill of riding an e-bike for the first time.

Donald Trump signs Great American Outdoors Act into law ~ The Colorado Sun

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Republican Cory Gardner thanked Trump for “making it happen.” Trump thanked Gardner for championing the legislation.

Many hoped the Gold King Mine spill would bring change. Five years later, they’re still waiting. ~ The Colorado Sun

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In this Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 file photo, people kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., in water colored yellow from a mine-waste spill. A crew supervised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been blamed for causing the spill while attempting to clean up the area near the abandoned Gold King Mine. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP, FILE)

 

Jesse Paul

 

It didn’t take long after the sludge settled five years ago for the calls for change to begin.

A congressional fix for abandoned mines remains elusive and clean up around Silverton has moved at a “snail’s pace.” Experts say the disaster shed light on problems, but didn’t drive change like they thought it would.

The Colorado Sun In fact, 3 million gallons of orange-gold water that poured out of the Gold King Mine on Aug. 5, 2015, was still flowing through the Colorado River watershed when discussions about the broader issue of thousands of abandoned mines in the U.S. heated up.

For the Navajo Nation, a Fight for Better Food Gains New Urgency ~ NYT

As the pandemic has brought home the importance of the global movement for food sovereignty, members are planting and sharing.

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Credit…John Burcham for The New York Times

 

THE NAVAJO NATION — When Summer Brown lived in Phoenix, she had no problem finding fresh produce. If the Sprouts supermarket near her home didn’t have what she was looking for, she would just drive somewhere else.

This winter, Ms. Brown, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, moved back to her childhood home in Cornfields, Ariz., to start a small business as a leatherworker. Now, healthy food is harder to find for her two children, Paisley, 6, and Landon, 7. The entire Nation, which stretches 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has fewer than 15 grocery stores.

“The pickings are kind of slim here,” said Ms. Brown, 31. “It’s a lot of processed foods, and I try not to feed my family that.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic dealt an exceptionally brutal blow to the Navajo — who call themselves the Diné, which means “the People” — Ms. Brown wanted to grow her own food. She spent last winter collecting seeds from Indigenous seed banks and researching Indigenous methods. Her small garden is already feeding her family, and she is looking forward to the fall harvest.

Her backyard garden isn’t meant just to replace a trip to the grocery store. Ms. Brown is part of a movement for food sovereignty, a global effort to give people control of their food supply and nutrition. It is a public health endeavor, an economic reclamation, an environmental protest and for many, a spiritual quest. Gardeners aim to grow healthy foods that are connected to their traditions, and to revive old methods of cultivation.

Credit…John Burcham for The New York Times

 

“I want to show the whole Navajo Nation, and even off the reservation, that you can live with the earth and you don’t have to rely so much on the outside to feed yourself,” Ms. Brown said. “We have all this land. We should be able to just go outside and get our food.”

The small gardens and cornfields rising across the Nation (which the Diné call the Dinétah) are attempts to correct legacies of historical wrongs. Once, the Diné were prosperous gardeners, hunters and stewards of the land. Then the United States government colonized the land and displaced the Diné in the mid-1800s, during what is now known as the Long Walk, to an internment camp at Fort Sumner, N.M. Livestock were killed off. Fields were trampled. And some orchards were lost forever.

Those and other attempts to divorce the Diné from their land and ancestral foodways have also left them vulnerable to the pandemic. Across the United States, Indigenous nations have suffered outbreaks that often appear to be more devastating than those in surrounding cities. But data gaps, population fluidity and under-testing make the scope of infections hard to quantify.

Colorado’s continuing drought ~ The Colorado Sun

HolisticRanching_COSun_03_24_2019-396-of-405.jpgNearly all of Colorado is under some drought status. A year ago, almost none of the state was parched.

Colorado’s most recent drought outlook shows some progress, but the state’s drought could persist

Rising Seas Could Menace Millions Beyond Shorelines, Study Finds ~ NYT

As climate change raises sea levels, storm surges and high tides will push farther inland, a team of researchers says.

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Credit…Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

As global warming pushes up ocean levels around the world, scientists have long warned that many low-lying coastal areas will become permanently submerged.

But a new study published Thursday finds that much of the economic harm from sea-level rise this century is likely to come from an additional threat that will arrive even faster: As oceans rise, powerful coastal storms, crashing waves and extreme high tides will be able to reach farther inland, putting tens of millions more people and trillions of dollars in assets worldwide at risk of periodic flooding.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, calculated that up to 171 million people living today face at least some risk of coastal flooding from extreme high tides or storm surges, created when strong winds from hurricanes or other storms pile up ocean water and push it onshore. While many people are currently protected by sea walls or other defenses, such as those in the Netherlands, not everyone is.

If the world’s nations keep emitting greenhouse gases, and sea levels rise just 1 to 2 more feet, the amount of coastal land at risk of flooding would increase by roughly one-third, the research said. In 2050, up to 204 million people currently living along the coasts would face flooding risks. By 2100, that rises to as many as 253 million people under a moderate emissions scenario known as RCP4.5. (The actual number of people at risk may vary, since the researchers did not try to predict future coastal population changes.)

“Even though average sea levels rise relatively slowly, we found that these other flooding risks like high tides, storm surge and breaking waves will become much more frequent and more intense,” said Ebru Kirezci, a doctoral candidate at the University of Melbourne in Australia and lead author of the study. “Those are important to consider.”

Areas at particular risk include North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in the United States, northern France and northern Germany, the southeastern coast of China, Bangladesh, and the Indian states of West Bengal and Gujarat.

This flooding could cause serious economic damage. The study found that people currently living in areas at risk from a 3-foot rise in sea levels owned $14 trillion in assets in 2011, an amount equal to 20 percent of global G.D.P. that year.

The authors acknowledge that theirs is a highly imperfect estimate of the potential costs of sea-level rise. For one, they don’t factor in the likelihood that communities will take action to protect themselves, such as elevating their homes, building sea walls or retreating inland.

The study also did not account for any valuable infrastructure, such as roads or factories, that sits in harm’s way. A fuller economic accounting would require further research, Ms. Kireczi said.

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