California Needs Alaskan Water?

A proposal to ship millions of gallons of water to California was recently in the news. This idea has been brought up a few years ago, but now, Janice HahnĀ D. of California arranged an “exploratory” meeting with Alaska Bulk Water CEO, Terry Trapp, and other CA. representatives on taking water from Blue Lake in Sitka, Alaska.
Formerly known as True Alaska Bottling Company, Alaska Bulk Water has been shipping water as far back as 2002. In 2006, they acquired more extensive water rights, and in 2008 the company “split” into its current name and True Alaskan Water: their bottled water division. While it might seem like they are very ambitious, they are not alone. Canada, Japan, and some other U.S. States have purchased water rights permits in Alaska.
Considering that each permit can be for millions of dollars, it is no wonder why this particular type of export is so enticing. Pipes are being built for municipalities and to bottling facilities by private companies. Alaska Bulk Water will charge 6 cents per gallon, and they can export up to 9 billion gallons a year.
At first this drought looks like a great investment opportunity, but it is really as if we are spreading the drought around. When you look at the U.S. Drought Monitor, there are some patches in Alaska that are classified as “abnormally dry”. I guess its is OK to rob Peter to pay Paul, but Paul is really bad with money and blows it all at the gumball machine. For example, look up current pictures of mansions in California. They all have super green lawns and just on the other side of their property line, the California drought is shaking its dry, brown fist at them.
Something has to be done and everyone knows it. Desalination facilities are already being built, but that is not really as effective as it sounds:

  • First, the technology is expensive and while it is slowly getting better, it is not entirely adequate for large scale needs.
  • Second, it consumes more energy than a waste water treatment plant. They are costly to operate and maintain.
  • Third, what are they going to do with all that extra salt and brine? It cant go back into the ocean. Just ask anyone with a saltwater aquarium what would happen if they just dumped a bunch of salt into their tank.

There has to be a balance: upsetting the equilibrium in one place to compensate an imbalance in another is foolish. There is no replacement for responsibility and good stewardship. California has enough water, just look at the lawns and golf courses.

Drones to Save the Forrest

A few days ago, an article about drones saving the planet with seed pods scrolled on my Twitter feed. A startup called BioCarbon Engineering has plans to repair all the deforestation around the world with this use of drone tech! This idea seems great as long as you don’t think about it too much.

Just because you have the ability to throw money at Mother Nature and fly some fancy helicopters around her, doesn’t mean she will show a little leg. They are going to use some geography mapping software to get a lay of the land, then bomb targeted areas with a gel containing sprouted seeds. They learned from their past attempts that throwing a handful of dry seeds at barren land didn’t work very well, so covering parts of it with an unknown gel is better(?). At any rate, it takes a special person, like an ecologist, to understand how nature works and grows. I decided to look through their founders to see who these Robo-Planters are.

  • Lauren Fletcher (a dude by the way) CEO: Civil and Environmental Engineering, worked for NASA; so he is an industrial landscaper.
  • Matthew Ritchie CFO: Has lots of experience with money and accounting but no real stated environmental knowledge. I guess he doesn’t have to since he is the finance guy.
  • Susan Graham: Loads of experience in the Biomedical field and she worked for Cochlear, which is cool, but not an environmentalist.
  • Shuning Bian: Biomedical and Electrical Engineering, but no environmental studies. I suppose he and Susan will be working on the drones.
  • Martin Tegler: The “PR” guy. He comes from a background of helping companies and corporations become more green.
  • Irina Fedorenko: She has some interesting environmental sounding degrees which are only offered at Oxford. Her history of education seems to be only in research though. This is not to discredit her, but while it would seem that she is the only one who would know the most about the environment, she is not an experienced ecologist.

As you can see, there is not one who is specifically an experienced environmental researcher. There are a few who have some experience in dealing with large scale environmental factors, but building a forest is more of a balancing act. You need the person who is sitting in the woods armed with a pen and paper, observing all the little relationships around them.

When I see this group, I see good people trying to do the right thing, without the right people involved. Where is the hippie? Where is the person who sleeps in a tent for work? I want to see that in my forest recovery team, not a team of business associates treating nature like a struggling subsidy.