Nature Wise Columnist Bob Handfield

Nature Wise: Thoughts in parting

Bob Handfield passes Nature Wise column on

This is my last Nature Wise column.

I started writing Nature Wise in 2008 — that is about 144 monthly columns ago.

I never would have guessed that I would still be writing at the end of 2019. All in all, it has been a lot of fun.

After a guest column in January by Wendy Stewart, Dianne Bersea will be taking over Nature Wise on a full-time basis in February 2020.

Dianne is a transplanted west coast artist and writer who has written for Nature Wise a number of times over the past few years.

I enjoy her writing and I’m sure you will as well.

I would like to thank the Penticton Western for giving me the opportunity to write about nature and conservation.

I also would like to thank all those readers who offered such encouraging comments about my writings.

A few parting thoughts:

Can the environment be saved?

Maybe, but probably not by changing human attitudes.

We can’t even get people to stop putting their garbage out the night before, thus leading to needless bear deaths.

How on earth are we going to get people to change other things that are far more difficult?

If the world is to be saved I suspect it may be through science and technology.

U.S. Scientist sees new Ice Age coming! This was a headline in the July 9, 1971 edition of the Washington Post.

It went on to say that a scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration warned that within 50 years so much fossil fuel dust would be emitted into the atmosphere that the earth could cool by as much as six degrees leading to glaciers covering large areas of the earth.

Other climate scientists were in agreement with this conclusion.

Science is not a popularity contest; just because 97 per cent of some group of scientists agrees on something does not make it right.

Although Alfred Wegner proposed the theory of continental drift in 1915, in the 1960s when I was an undergraduate geology major probably less than two per cent of geologists agreed with that theory.

However, new evidence came to light in the late 60s that proved beyond all reasonable doubt that in fact, the earth’s continents are moving so much so that we can now actually measure the rate of movement (several centimetres per year).

Greenhouse gases: Two new studies by different teams at Princeton University in New Jersey (my graduate school) have concluded that the quickest way to reduce greenhouse gases is to focus on methane rather than CO2.

Methane is 85 times more effective at trapping heat than is CO2 and man-made methane emissions come from fewer sources so should be easier to control.

One of the studies in Pennsylvania found that natural gas wells leak far more methane than reported by the oil and gas industry but the good news is that nearly 80 per cent of the methane came from just 10 per cent of the wells so not every well has to be retrofitted with methane controls.

The other study found that offshore oil and gas rigs also emit more methane than reported but since these are site-specific they also should be able to be controlled.

Their conclusions were that focusing on controlling methane emissions might reduce global warming gases by as much as 25 per cent.

Not the total answer but maybe a quick way to get started.

Bob Handfield is a director of The South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club but the views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the club.

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