Bite sized wisdom: ET, an alien concept of connectivity

Take a seed, drop it in soil, water it consistently and watch the plant grow. This simple breakdown of a very complex interaction between soil and plant does not take into account some vital factors, which year by year affect our global food supply.

While the above process sounds simple, nature is not simple or straightforward. There are many factors that determine whether or not a plant receives enough water to produce crops, some visible and not so visible to the eye. The combined effect of all factors is known as the ‘evapotranspiration process’- ET.

saynotofoodwaste.sustainability.evapotranspiration.food.planet.water.1The biggest factors to impact ET are: solar radiation, air temperature, air humidity and wind speed. Each of these factors impacts the balance by which water transfers from soil to plant and to the atmosphere.

At the early stages of a plant’s growth much of the water is lost to evaporation from soil. At this stage the plant is small, has almost no leaves to provide shade for the soil, and has undeveloped roots, which don’t absorb a lot of water. During this development stage using drip irrigation (where water is distributed directly to the area where the seed is, or where the stem is starting to sprout), insures that water is not wasted and that the right amount is given directly to the plant.

As the crop matures it requires more water for development. Its roots multiply, it stem grows in height, and its foliage provides shade to the soil below, helping to minimize or lower the rate of water evaporation. In fact, “at the sowing stage of the plant, 100% of ET comes from evaporation, while at full crop cover more than 90% of ET comes from transpiration”

So what is transpiration then? It’s the transfer of water from plant to atmosphere.  A plant ‘breathes’ through its leaves. It takes in water with nutrients from the roots and transports it up throughout the system. At the end of this transfer gases and water vapor escape from the leaf through openings called ‘stomata’.

Due to climate change, temperature rise has put more stress on ET, increasing the rate at which water leaves the soil. Dry soil is unable to retain enough moisture and maintain a high nutrient level to feed the crop. Without enough water and proper soil conditions, crops don’t sprout evenly and yields are significantly cut down.

The ET concept might sound alien to most (pun intended), especially its technical aspects, but the idea in a nutshell is fairly simple. We live in a bubble where each system is connected and influenced by the other. The success of a crop doesn’t just stop at soil and water, it includes, wind, solar radiation, temperature, air humidity and much more.

In our own lives, the success of our development doesn’t stop at education and family status. Much of how we grow depends on our environment, the friends we’re exposed to, the role models we have, and the type of love we get from people that matter. Sometimes, when love is missing within a family we can find it in a teacher or friend who can guide us and steer us to enriching environments.

When faced with a problem, or dealing with individuals who are fighting their own battles, it is easy to jump to conclusions over basic aspects such as – economic, academic and other physical factors. The reality is usually more intricate and some factors are just not visible or comprehensible to us.

saynotofoodwaste.sustainability.evapotranspiration.food.planet.water.3Remembering ET can help us be more understanding of individuals and crops that don’t live up to their full potential. It reminds us that just because it’s the case now, it doesn’t mean that there is something intrinsically wrong with the object, but more often it’s the environment in which it grows.

A recent study showed that we learn best from direct examples, rather than arguments or reasoning (90% to 10%). And if we are not getting the most from what we’re trying to grow, crops or relationships, then it’s time for us to change the atmosphere in which we are developing them, not the plant or person itself. Here’s a quote to summarize the idea: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

And look at that – I just took a complex reality and simplified it to a quote. I guess certain cycles are difficult to change, but as long as we understand them we can have a more wholesome picture of our life on Earth and how everything is truly connected.

Here’s to connecting with the world and each other.
Hokuma

California’s Drought Teaches Valuable Lessons about Water Use

Dining out in an Italian restaurant in California, you can probably expect to have a basket of fresh bread brought to your table within 15 minutes of being seated, as in most of the United States. If you’re waiting for a glass of water, though, you’re out of luck. In light of the state’s ongoing water shortage, California has passed a new series of water conservation measures which include a rule that prohibits restaurants from automatically serving drinking water. Patrons must now order a glass of water just as they would any other beverage, although they still get to enjoy the fact that it is free of charge.

Serve chilled.

Frankly, I find this directive a lot more sensible than the custom of immediately bringing water to people who might not even want it. I’ve long been frustrated by the way water gets treated as dispensable in dining establishments (as much as anywhere else). Just in January, I was at brunch with a friend in a restaurant that leaves water pitchers on the table to allow diners to refill their glasses at their leisure. When the waiter came to take our check after our meal, however, he instinctively grabbed my glass and filled it to the brim! I was shocked by the absurdity of it. Did he think I wanted to gulp down another 8 ounces just as I was preparing to leave? I doubt so. Rather, he just wanted to do his job: providing me with food and drink.

Restaurants train waiters to constantly refill glasses that have barely been sipped so as to impress their customers. Providing patrons with something before they even ask for it is supposed to demonstrate that the staff care about their clientele, know what it wants, and have means to supply it. However, there are plenty of eateries that don’t instantly offer water, and that’s probably because most of the appreciation on the customer’s part is subconscious. No rational person would criticize a restaurant for not providing water upon arrival. In other words, the practice is wholly unwarranted. It is a prime example of instant gratification at the hand of abundance – well, perceived abundance, considering that less than 1% of the Earth’s freshwater is actually available.

cawater3

While most Americans don’t pay much attention to their freshwater use, severe water shortages have forced states like California and Colorado to face the finiteness of their water supplies. California’s other water-conservation measures include limiting outdoor watering to twice a week and requiring hotel guests to ask to have their linens and towels washed, and farmers are even expecting to have to leave up to a million acres unplanted this year. My hope is that learning about these extremes will make Americans a little more mindful about their daily water use.

Next time a waiter tries to top off your glass, feel free to decline!

Eva

No Honey. No Money.

honeybee.saynotofoodwaste.sustainable.agriculture.food.foodsecurity.hunger.happy.share.donate.giveThe state of California is facing blows from all imaginable sides. It’s experiencing a historic drought. It even created a new ‘water police’ force to fine residents up to $500 for excessively washing lawns or washing cars without a shut off nozzle. The increased need for water conservation caught the eye of Lady Gaga. She recently filmed a public service announcement (PSA) to promote the Save Our Water campaign, which informs locals of the state’s emergency situation.

Unfortunately, declining water leads to declining crops. In fact, the Wall Street Journal estimates that this year’s drought will lead to a $2.2 billion profit loss in California’s agriculture industry and cut 3.8% of its farm jobs. Since farming requires a lot of water, the supplies of which are drying up, farmers are planting less crops. This means they also need fewer honeybees to pollinate their fields.

beesHoneybees are the heart of agriculture. They pollinate 30% of the world’s crops and help 90% of wild plants thrive. But 1/3 of the USA honeybee population vanished due to increased use of pesticides, habitat loss, climate change and parasites. The terrible news is that decreased pollination leads to decreased food production. Bees pollinate 70 of the top 100 most consumed food crops, which provides nutrition to about 90% of the globe. And as bee populations decline, so does the production of honey, leaving many bee keepers without much money.

The troubles in California serve as an example of what awaits other states as fresh water reserves decline and food production costs rise.

Written by
Hokuma

IceBucket Fun or Insanity?

ice water challenge.als.bucket.icewaterbucketchallenge.saynotofoodwaste.foodwaste.sustainable.water.ice.nature.preserve.conserve.IceBucket, one word and you know what I mean. Big names, small names, almost all of us know someone who has done it or been nominated. Maybe you yourself just completed the challenge, plan to do it soon or are waiting eagerly to be called on. Either way, today’s blog is worth a read.

If you’re still not familiar with what’s going on then let me explain. The internet is buzzing with the word ALS, and the hashtag #icebucketchallenge is popping up everywhere. If you get nominated to do this challenge you have two choices: either get a bucket of ice water dumped on your head or donate $100 (more if you wish) to the ALS fund.

inafrica.als.icewaterbucketchallenge.icewater.saynotofoodwaste.sustainable.environment.health.helpALS is a motor neuron disease that affects your ability to control your muscles and eventually leaves you paralyzed. The most famous individual with this disease is most likely Stephen Hawking, a genius who explored and explained the existence of black holes in the universe.

If you ask whether the challenge has been successful you might receive two responses: yes and no. Those who answer YES will tell you that the challenge has increased awareness and helped donate $31.5 million to the fund. Those who say NO sight the psychological phenomenon (moral licensing) which explains why after donating money to one charity individuals are less likely to donate to another. Also, they say that while the challenge looks fun, it really wastes a lot of water! One image that usually accompanies this can be found above.

The fact of the matter is, without accurately calculating the amount of water used by each individual in this challenge, we are not able to give the exact amount of water wasted. Yet, one person on reddit.com estimates that it’s about 15 million liters of water.

Screen shot 2014-08-20 at 10.16.09 AMMy point is, whether you consider a bucket of ice water dumped on someone’s head as a waste or not, the truth of the matter is that we use water on a daily basis. Whether washing our teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, or even wearing clothes, we need water. Heck, even our bodies are made of 70% water! So, water is technically us, and wasting it means wasting a part of us.

Since you can’t manage what you can’t measure, then I suggest you download this awesome new app that allows you to calculate how much water you use on a daily basis. The idea is brilliant and completely innovative! There are no other apps on the market that let you calculate your daily water footprint! And since only 1% (or less) of fresh drinking water is available for our consumption, maybe this precious resource should be left alone? What do you think?

Look forward to hearing from you!
Hokuma