Earth Day in Sandoval County
GAC ‘09 Cross Country Team helps keep NM beautiful.
A celebration with millions of people
—Margaret M. Nava, Signpost
Imagine what New Mexico would be like if all the bald eagles, Mexican gray wolves, silvery minnows, and whooping cranes were gone. And what about the Tufted Sand Verbena, La Jolla Prairie Clover, and the Robust Larkspur? Even worse, what if all the ancient pueblos were destroyed by acid rain or the air was so polluted, we couldn’t see our beautiful turquoise skies? Seem impossible? Well, it isn’t. In fact, all the plants and animals mentioned are currently on the Endangered Species List, many of our cherished pueblos are threatened by erosion and weathering and the need for clean air is a cry heard around the world.
Forty years ago, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, organized a nationwide “teach-in” aimed at raising awareness about threats to the environment. On April 22, 1970, approximately twenty million people took part in coast-to-coast rallies protesting against pesticides, oil spills, toxic dumps, and the loss of wilderness. The overwhelming success of that first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts. In1990, Earth Day efforts went global with more than two hundred million people in 141 countries pulling together for a clean environment. For the New Millennium, Earth Day utilized the Internet to link activists around the world. By the time April 22, 2000, rolled around, five thousand environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. However, long before there was an Earth Day, concerned citizens were coming together to develop and promote a national cleanliness ethic.
In 1953, a group of corporate and civic leaders met in New York City to launch a campaign aimed at influencing individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their environment. Using film, print and TV ads, and numerous projects, they encouraged people to Keep America Beautiful by placing litter in trash barrels, planting wildflowers, and taking pride in the country we all call home. One of their projects, “The Great American Cleanup,” takes place annually from March 1 through May 31. In 2009, more than 32,000 communities around the nation participated in events beautifying parks and recreation areas, cleaning up seashores and waterways, handling recycling collections, picking up litter, planting trees and flowers, and conducting educational programs. One of the communities involved in that nationwide effort was Rio Rancho.
An affiliate of Keep America Beautiful since 1989, Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful began its annual cleanup efforts last month by collecting recyclable items on March 6, hazardous waste on March 13, and conducting workshops and tree seedling give-aways on March 13. The Great American Cleanup kicks off on April 3 with a registration party and free root beer floats at the Dairy Queen. On April 10, volunteers will clean up designated areas of the mesa and dispose of collected waste at the County Landfill. The big day, April 24, begins bright and early with volunteers hitting the streets, arroyos, vacant lots and playgrounds at 8:00 a.m. and ending with a “Thank You” party in Haynes Park at 11:00 a.m.
Elsewhere around the county, Coronado State Monument is holding a family-oriented Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 17, on the grounds of the reconstructed Kuaua Pueblo. Monument Ranger Scott Smith said, “We have a safe environment here where kids can learn something while spending quality time with their families. Karen Herzenberg of the Rio Grande Nature Center will lead of naturalist’s tour of the Rio Grande bosque. Along the way, she’ll talk about native and non-native species. Alex Sedillos of the Warm Spring Apache and Ed Kabotie of Santa Clara will share some Native American stories and Marlon Magdalena of Jemez Pueblo will talk about flute making. Throughout the day, they’ll have hands-on events like flint-knapping, atlatl-tossing, mudslinging, pottery-making, and kite-flying. The New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors will conduct a trail improvement project along the river, the Roadrunner Buicks of New Mexico will have a classic car show, and the Rio Rancho Astronomical Society will set up a solar observatory. All of the Earth Day events are free, but entry to the museum and ruins will be by regular admission.
Up at the Jemez State Monument, rangers will lead a strenuous hike up Church Canyon on Sunday, April 18. Dating back millions of years, rock formations in this area include the Pennsylvanian Madera Group and Permian Abo Formation. Hikers may spot the fossils of ancient brachiopods, bryozoans, and crinoids stems; minerals such as malachite and azurite; and native flora and fauna—maybe even a bald eagle or larkspur.
Earth Day is all about the amazing planet we live on. What was it like millions of years ago? What will it be like one hundred years from now? Is there anything we can do to preserve its past or protect its future? Attend some of these activities and find out.
For further information about Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful, contact Jennifer Scacco at 505-896-8389. For details and times of events at Coronado State Monument, call 505-867-5351. And to learn more about the hike at Jemez State Monument, call 575-829-3530. Until then, reduce, reuse, recycle; respect wildlife; plant a native tree or butterfly garden; take pictures, not souvenirs; and have a Happy Earth Day!
In 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that silicon dioxides—the basic elements in silicone cookware—were generally recognized as safe to use even in food-grade contexts. But the first
silicone cookware (silicone spatulas) didn't start to show up on store shelves until a decade later, and the FDA hasn't conducted any follow-up studies as to whether silicone can leach out of cookware and potentially contaminate food.
—The Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
Are there any health hazards associated with the use of the new silicone bakeware and cooking utensils? I have found information associated with the hazards/benefits of Teflon and other cookware, but nothing on the use of silicone. — Jean McCarthy, Sebastian, FL
With all the negative press about Teflon and about metals leaching out of pots and pans, consumers are on the lookout for cookware that’s easy-to-clean and doesn’t pose health concerns. Silicone, a synthetic rubber made of bonded silicon (a natural element abundant in sand and rock) and oxygen, is increasingly filling this niche. The flexible yet strong material, which has proven popular in muffin pans, cupcake liners, spatulas and other utensils, can go from freezer to oven (up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit), is nonstick and stain-resistant, and, unlike conventional cookware, comes in a range of bright and cheery colors.
But some wonder if there is dark side to silicone cookware. Anecdotal reports of dyes or silicone oil oozing out of overheated silicone cookware pop up on Internet posts, as do reports of odors lingering after repeated washings. Also, silicone’s image may be forever tainted by problems associated with silicone gel breast implants—some women with earlier generations of these implants experienced capsular contracture, an abnormal immune system response to foreign materials. And while theories about silicone implants’ link to breast cancer have since been debunked, the damage to silicone’s reputation lives on.
It’s sad to say, but since the use of silicone in cookware is fairly new, there has not been much research into its safety for use with food. Back in 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that silicon dioxides—the basic elements in silicone cookware—were generally recognized as safe to use even in food-grade contexts. But the first silicone cookware (silicone spatulas) didn’t start to show up on store shelves until a decade later, and the FDA hasn’t conducted any follow-up studies to determine whether silicone can leach out of cookware and potentially contaminate food. For its part, Canada’s health agency, Health Canada, maintains that food-grade silicone does not react with food or beverages or produce any hazardous fumes, and as such is safe to use up to recommended temperatures.
Consumer advocate Debra Lynn Dadd, who steers clear of Teflon due to health concerns, is bullish on silicone cookware after investigating potential toxicity. “I tried to find some information on the health effects of silicone rubber, but it was not listed in any of the toxic chemical databases I use,” she reports, adding that she also sampled material safety data on several silicone rubbers manufactured by Dow Corning (which makes some 700 variations). “All descriptions I read of silicone rubber describe it as chemically inert and stable, so it is unlikely to react with or leach into food, nor outgas vapors.” She adds that silicone “is not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, it is not hazardous waste, and while it is not biodegradable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use.”
So while most of us will probably not have a problem with silicone cookware, those with chemical sensitivities might want to stay away until more definitive research has been conducted. In the meantime, cast iron and anodized aluminum cookware remain top choices for those concerned about harmful elements leaching into their cooked foods.
A devotee of a new kind of retail therapy
—Joanne Wilke, Writers on the Range
My daughter and I found the perfect sofa on the way to school today. It was just the size and color I was looking to add to the living room. Unfortunately, someone had dumped it upside down in the mud of my neighbor’s front yard. Apparently it took too much energy to have a garage sale or haul it to the Salvation Army, or even to leave it on the curb with a “FREE” sign. Apparently this person was also unaware of the unwritten code in the nearby student condos: If it is still relatively clean and usable, place it beside a Dumpster. Then anyone can take it.
On my daily walk I’ve picked up shelves, chairs, lumber, wine glasses, even mattresses and a sturdy bed-frame this way. I’ve found barely used snow pants and coats and given them to my neighbor’s granddaughters, though I don’t volunteer where I got them. I also bring aluminum cans to the man in round glasses and a faded goatee who routinely climbs inside the Dumpsters.
“I’m working on my four millionth can,” he bragged when I finally spoke to him. One year, he said, he earned $60,000 by gleaning. “The college students throw stuff out when they move in, and again when they move out,” he said.
I come by my Dumpster fascination naturally. Whenever I took my young kids to visit my parents, we always arrived to a display of stuffed toys. Mom admitted she got them from the neighborhood Dumpster.
“They’re perfectly good,” she insisted. I wasn’t happy about it, because she never washed them first, but no one ever got sick.
My mother grew up during the depression and was a country kid besides. She was handed a double-whammy of frugality from birth. But as a child, I resented feeling like a second-class citizen because my clothes were practical and my bicycle ancient. All through high school we argued about style versus cost. She couldn’t understand my desperate need for a striped surfer shirt, and I couldn’t explain it in her terms. Her biggest thrill was to run out of aluminum foil at Thanksgiving, and, with all the local stores closed, save the day with a patchwork of used foil.
After my father died, my mother began cleaning the 40-plus years of accumulation from the house. First, she made us go through everything and take anything we wanted. Then she began having garage sales of books, old clothes and generally useless things from the back of upper shelves. She was particularly pleased with her “Free Box.”
“You just never know what people will want,” she crowed. She even donated the old VW to charity, though she cried when they hauled it off. But the stuff she couldn’t give away -- and there was lots of that -- she kept.
Over time, and particularly when I became a single mom, I found myself gravitating towards secondhand stores and reveling in my own deals. After a while, even secondhand prices seemed high. That’s when I discovered the Dumpsters. It felt smart when I dove and wasn’t as smelly as it sounds -- and I never collected stuffed toys.
My children wore used clothes until they were old enough to know the difference. Then if they asked for new they got it, but they didn’t always ask. My son is not a shopper anyway, but my daughter truly is. She discovered early that she can get more stuff for the same money at the Salvation Army, and we both love the $200 dollar dollhouse we got for only $15.
She also likes going through her things and giving them to the three little girls down the street. Out with the old means in with the new, and the little neighbors always scream with glee when they see us coming. One day I saw my daughter’s beloved pink cowboy boots set neatly together near the neighbor’s tire-swing. Though I felt a little sad that they were gone, I was glad someone new could love them, too.
Recently my Mom visited us after one of these cleansings, and my daughter gave a tour of her newly organized bedroom. It featured shelves with multi-colored bins to contain her stuff, and a comfy doublewide armchair for reading and cats.
“What a nice chair,” I overheard my mother comment.
”We got it from the Dumpster,” my daughter said, without a hint of shame. My mother didn’t miss a beat. “Good,” she said.
An E-flow fish tale
“You know, I got grilled at that water conference the other day,” my friend was telling me. When she introduced herself to the woman sitting next to her as a landscape architect who helps design developments, the environmental organization representative couldn’t understand why she was interested in environmental flows. She explained that although developments do use water, the design can influence how much water is used or captured as runoff.
“That person is from out of state,” I assured my colleague. “Maybe where she lives, they do not have the tradition of inviting everyone who is a part of a problem into the same room.”
A fish biologist showed a map charting the status of fish species in the major watersheds in New Mexico. In my home basin, the Rio Grande, nine of the 24 native fish known to have been here are no longer here. Another fish is endangered. Five others are listed as “species of concern.” The major culprit to this fish disaster is lost of habitat, and for fish, water is habitat.
So this fish tale is about “environmental flows.” Some folks use the term ‘in-stream flow’ to mean keeping a base amount of water always in a river, but biologists shake their heads no. It isn’t just about keeping water in the creek, they explain. Environmental flows are about mimicking patterns of stream flow so the organisms in the environment have the amount of water they need at the different points in their life cycles. The challenge in these days of highly regulated water flow is to be aware of the critical times when the ecosystem needs a drink—a flood or increase in flows that will create a spawning ground, or water a seed bed, or recharge the root zone of a riparian forest.
Charts and graphs dominate the conference discussions. When water flow is charted over time, the resulting image is called a ‘hydrograph.’ Natural hydrographs are messy—lots of humps, highs and lows—but overall there are general patterns. Often, hydrographs from regulated rivers—where there are dams that control the release of water—have regular spikes spread far apart. Just try being a fish in that situation!
My neighbor wants to know why there isn’t water in the creek bed that runs through her property. Here the water is stored in a reservoir and only runs in the irrigation ditches. I try to provide a brief introduction of water law for our state. The water here is over-allocated: there is more demand for water than supply of water. The people who were using the water earliest have the strongest rights to the water, but only as much as their historic use. The flaw in the system is that no water rights were reserved for the environment, even though it is clear the animals and plants were here using water before the antiquated concept of water rights ever originated. Now, before the demand for water escalates way beyond supply, there is an effort to buy some water rights to judiciously provide key environmental flows.
As seen in other western states, finding a solution isn’t impossible, but it isn’t simple either. It will take us all—farmers, developers, biologists, politicians, students, teachers, everybody, including people who have lived on the land for centuries, or decades, or even just weeks. The first step though is understanding the problem, and of course, understanding that we can’t solve it unless everyone is in the same room.