Thursday, July 13, 2017

Highways & Tunnels & Bridges Oh My!

"Landslide on California highway part of $1 billion in damage"
This is Part II of my post about the Central California Coast Highway and natural mishaps that have befallen the Big Sur area with wildfire and flooding. Part I is below.
Santa Lucia Coast Range & Big Sur California: An Environmental Wreck ???
Photo: John Madonna, Associated Press

In an ironic twist, I've had this post in draft form since December 15th 2016, yet I've spent so much time pondering how to find a way to conclude it and then suddenly this catastrophic event above took place in the very area I wanted to highlight an an example of infrastructure rethinking. This section of Pacific Coast Highway is notorious for is instability. There's really no bedrock, the soil is made up of loose soil and fractured rock on an extremely steep mountain slope. In so many ways the unstable geology here is reminsicent of the broken fractured geology of the Carrizo Gorge area of eastern San Diego County where a series of 17+ tunnels have always been in danger of total collapse as this tunnel #16 above right which was recently seen collapsed this year as seen in a January 31, 2017 YouTube video, weeds and large boulders obstruct the track. The American way of road building in the early days had many twists and turns. The roads didn't offend the landscape, but rather flowed along with it. In later years roads were straightened to increase speed and ease travel and this often meant blasting their way through mountains and other obstacles. Unfortunately many places are unstable and have a long history of bandaid fixes and patches, only to fall down again during the next storm or earthquake event. It was back in December 2016 that I saw what could be the answer to the bad stretch of roadway from the way sensitive care was taken by this article below. 
"Scientists hope a new approach to planning road infrastructure will increase crop yield in the Greater Mekong region while limiting environmental destruction, and open dialogues between developers and the conservation community"
University of Cambridge
image by Jianchu Xu & Biaoyun Huai

A new highway snakes through the mountains of the upper Mekong in the picture above & right which was needed to improve transportation infrastructure which would benefit the economy. But rather than tackling the steep unstable slopes along those hills and creating an ecological nightmare, they opted for something that would be intitially more expensive to build, but in the long run safer and easier to maintain while providing a better conservation purpose at less cost over time. The very first images that popped into my head when I read this study were the many dangerous landslide points along California's beautiful Pacific Coast Hwy 1. Had such dangerous locations been bypassed with more superior engineering at original construction, the loss of life, property and permanent damage to the environment would never have played out the way it has over the past several decades. Of course way back when it was first built, they most likely had very little money aside from technology. This mostly was a tourist scenic route as opposed to major economic transportation corridor which is east of here with Hwy 101. Not only would being a scenic route want to avoid tunnels, the geology would make it almost impossible just like San Diego's impossible railroad to Imperial Valley. Clearly there are many places along the coast highway where steep slopes should be abandoned and ocean infrastructure considered. And there is usually no consensus on how or if this should be done. Here are some of the ideological roadblock hatreds from two opposing sides as the article pointed out:
"Conservationists can to appear to oppose nearly all new infrastructure, while developers and their financial backers are often fairly mute on the environmental impact of their proposals. This can lead to a breakdown in communication." (University of Cambridge)
Maybe both environmentalists and developers should learn how to use the data to avoid building those so-called highways to hell. But I wouldn't bet on it. As it stands now, even some of the fix-it patches they have already done will always be subject to removal by Nature in one fell swoop no matter how sophisticated and technologically advanced they believe their skills are. 

Devil''s Slide area on Hwy 1 south of San Francisco
in rock fractured by faults in San Andreas zone.

image - California Department of Transportation
This construction zone at right is Pitkins Curve on State Highway 1, the California Department of Transportation is completing a bridge that juts out from the side of the cliffs, leaving the old highway to capture falling rocks which I believe is finished now. My wife and I passed through here heading south on Cabrillo Hwy 1 towards San Luis Obispo, California. Some would argue that it would ruin the scenery by putting part of the highway viaduct bridge off the shoreline into the water, but can we really say that these massive scars since the original construction are more scenic ? Below here is the finished product we drove through on our way south. 

Image - Joyce Cory (2014)

The Pitkins Curved Bridge and Rain Rocks Rock Shed Projects Video footage

I love this combination of half tunnel half bridge landslide shelter which respects that the area is slide prone and impossible to tame. This type of design allows for periodic sliding which is common feature of this geography. But it also hopefully allows no danger to befall automobile travelers along Hwy 1. This type of structure is uncommon to most of Southern California, but well known and very common in many of the northern parts of the world.
British Columbia's Hwy 1 Lanark Snow Shed is 316m long
Image - TranBC Canada
Above and Below are beautiful examples of what are termed either Snow Sheds or Avalanche Sheds.
Below is British Columbia's Great Bear Snow Shed on the Coquihalla Highway and it's interior drive
Image - CWMM  Consulting Engineers Ltd

Ultimately these types of partial tunnel shelter designs on mountain sides allow natural slides to occur rather than preventing them is what that Pitkins Curve Bridge is all about. Unfortunately such construction is rare in Southern California where weather and climate have traditionally been pleasant most of the time and allowed the State to save money by taking a shortcut approach which has allowed development to increase at a faster pace and that's ashame for both Humans and Nature.

Image - LE CHIC EN ROSE - Model Railway
I know, it's a model train, but scenes like this are common everywhere in the real world of Switzerland. The Swiss cannot afford to ruin and destroy or make mistakes on landscapes they do not have. One stupid engineering blunder could ruin a steep mountain valley and almost render it unusable forever by bringing an entire unstable mountainside down into a valley.
Image - Northwest Air News

Above here is the Golden Pass Scenic Train near Zwissimen station Switzerland. I remember traveling through many tunnels and avalanche shelters on the train back in 1976 when I first visited Europe. This photo above reminds me of that movie scene from the 1965 WWII flick, "Von Ryan's Express," where Frank Sinatra single handedly holds off all those German soldiers in that Alps avalanche tunnel while his fellow prison camp escapee comrades make it over the border from Italy into Switzerland. All through the Alps these incredible infrastructures were everywhere and many of them seemed to have been built a century ago. Even the numerous public walkways or pathways and trails are all lined with stone along terraced hillsides to prevent erosion and degredation which were meant to last for centuries. Much of this careful done by hand has lots of natural character while providing a more maintenance free infrastructure system. Nothings perfect, but this kind of thinking is as close as you get. It's a work of Art.
image -

Public Pathways in Switzerland's Lavaux Wine Region
What about Tunnels and Wildlife Corridors ???
Image -

Image - SoCal
Early traditional road building like that of the iconic American highway Route 66 often flowed with the landscape's natural geography. It rarely offended the land by blasting through formidable mountain barriers for a more straighter convenient tourist travel. The early roads hugged river canyons, had many "S" curves, some like this one on the right called 'Deadmans Curve' which is old Hwy 99 through California's Grapevine Canyon which was eventually replaced & road straightened when Interstate 5 was constructed. I can understand thier reasoning, but why not make a short tunnel through that low hillside which would allow deer, mountain lion and other large animals easy access to the riparian canyon corridor below without danger of crossing the freeway ? Large cuts in roadways are also constantly subject to slides in California either by heavy rain storms or earthquakes. 

Postcard image -
Above is an old postcard photo of an early Hwy 99 switchback roadway up the canyon. I get the reasoning for straightening out a endlessly twisting roadway infrastructure for convenience and safety. But long term maintenance and forethought should also have been considered and incorporated into many design plans for Interstate 5 and they weren't.
Image - Matt Beckstead 2011
This photo above is a wildlife ecoduct on the highway from Calgary, Alberta to Invermere, British Columbia. Over here in Sweden, while I'm not exactly keen on many things about living here, I do respect and applaud their numerous attempts at tunnels and wildlife overpasses like these two examples above and below. When we travel to Oslo Norway or Stockholm Sweden, these infrastructures are all along the route. They allow Moose and large Elk to travel from one side of the motorway to the other. It prevents automobile collisions with these large animals which also saves human life. Are they really all that complicated to design and build ? I come from Southern California which in the decades since WW II has had excessively almost unrestricted growth and doing things cheaply has been their road most taken. However in the long run many areas are ongoing maintenance nightmares.

Image - PDI
Smithsonianmag: "Worlds Coolest Animal Bridges"
Main Reasons for Highway Wildlife Over & Under Passes
Image - Inside Philanthropy

Google Earth
In Southern California there has been a movement to build more and more of these wildlife overpasses to prevent the larger animals from becoming roadkill. Yes we see roadkilled squirrels & rabbits all the time, but it's the larger animals like Deer, Bears, Cougars, Wolves and Coyotes which are not nearly as abundant as the smaller animals. Plus there is the human life safety factor. Hitting a large animal on a highway (usually at late night) is a dangerous experience. One area of controversy for roadkill is the passes between the Santa Monica Mountains, especially where Cougars of Mountains Lions attempt to traverse such passes to get from one part of their traditional territoral range to another. For me coming from San Diego County, I never understood why a tunnel was never proposed and implemented when the newer Mission Gorge Road bypass was built back in the 1960s for a wildlife gap connection between Cowles Mountain's Pyles Peak  and Kwaay Paay Peak next to the San Diego River's Mission Gorge within the Mission Trails Regional Park. 

Image from Trail to Peak's website

If you look towards the left hand side of the photograph above, you can see where Mission Gorge Road leaves west Santee headed towards San Diego's Mission Valley. It pushes upwards from  Santee through the gap between Pyles Peak and Kwaay Paay Peak. This would be the ideal location for building a tunnel to allow a wildlife corridor above and allowing a major connection between both sections of Mission Trails. The other major spot which would have provided good beneficial wildlife corridor would have been a short tunnel through the gap between North Fortuna Mountain and Miramar Military Reservation along Freeway 52 which is on the right hand side of the photo above.
From Trails to Peak's website

Again here is the entire map of Mission Trails Regional Park and you can easily see both Pyles Peak and Kwaay Paay Peak with Mission Gorge road running through the center of both. Perfect spot for wildlife corridor.

Photo credit: Dr. Yun Wang
I kid you not, if Southern California had the mega-fauna (Asian Elephant) problems common to the Simao-Xiao Mengyang expressway in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China, heads would roll if something sensable wasn't done immediately. So getting back to our California Route 1 Cabrillo Highway along the central coast, I really think that building a viaduct type of bridge over water construction would be the way to go and still be beautful and scenic. Allowing those unstable steep slopes to settle and heal with native vegetation would be much more eye pleasing than allowing the area to continue to degrade because of a belief that Nature has to be tamed and conformed or bent to our will. Somewhere Jennifer Doudna just fell off a chair. Below is another example of successful over water viaduct down in Australia.
Photo: david_wimble via Instagram

Sea Cliff Bridge in Australia
Seriously folks, picture California's Central Coast where most of the major catastrophic landslides have historically taken place and imagine a picturesque viaduct bridge like the one above to bypass the danger and allowing the land to heal with it's native coastal sage scrub.
Responsible Infrastructure References
Road planning 'trade off' could boost food production while helping protect tropical forests 
Interstate 15 and the Scenic Virgin River Gorge Bridge Project
Arthur's Pass Viaduct Highway New Zealand

Seriously folks, these people insist on doing things the hard
way- Or it just may well be it's a Union thingy

Google - Wildlife Overpass Construction Designs
Googled wildlife overpass construction
Coyotes, Wolves Cougars........Forever

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"It won’t be long before CRISPR allows us to bend Nature to our will." Jennifer Doudna

This stereotype of the Biotech Mad Scientist has some basis in fact. Knowledge without bioethics is in fact madness
Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.

Almost 150 years ago the scientific world suddenly became enlightened or so they thought. Science up to that point was mainly about discovery and wonder of our natural world around and how things in nature worked and functioned. But the so-called new ideologically driven revelations caused many among mankind to question origins of how things came into being. But in reality the consequences were even bigger than this. Because the new enlightenment also called into question traditional definitions of morality and accountability. After all, if the new secular religion was true, then all previous traditional worldviews on what was considered morally right were now wrong. Christendom's record of bad examples and conduct up to that point would seemed to have added some validity to this change of heart. Unfortunately this also opened the door to a newer worldview where previous ethics were changed. The industrial revolution in the late 1800s helped to change everything. While it did provide some measure of technological advancement, without ethics, it was also a miserable time for the average worker and city dweller. The biggest hindrance towards responsible technology through biomimicry was that the new secular religion began to teach mankind that nature was flawed, imperfect, badly designed and that Nature was a wild brutal beast that had to be tamed and bent towards mankind's will. In reality this new Scientific Dogma was in fact a smokescreen for the gross scientific ignorance on the part of it's adherents. Humans ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution have gone forth in their ambitious pursuit of economy by working against nature rather than working with it.  
Examples of bending Nature to Mankind's collective Will when it comes to Agriculture
The Wilderness Society

Down under in Australia, these bulldozers and chains are being used to clear vegetation in the northern region of Australia called Queensland. But the loss of native vegetation undermines efforts to tackle climate change since healthy vegtation moderates and drives climate mechanisms. The Global Warming  movement's main target has always been the criticism directed at Industry around the global, with deforestation getting honroable mention once in a while. This deforestation by stripping landscapes is yet another example of bending Nature towards some future Ag corporate's will. In so doing they are inadvertantly dismantling piece by piece various climate creation mechanisms and weather moderating components. Yet, the Global Warming folks rarely hit on this because demonizing industries and political ideologies they oppose are considered a goal more important than the truth of climate change. Land clearing by big Agricultural Business interests is not the only climate damaging culprit. The Smithsonian magazine online journal came out recently and reported that 84% of the world's wildfires are caused by humans, not lightning, not volcanoes, etc. Why is this significant ? Because earlier this year, NASA scientists came out and reported that Wildfires are the cause of Droughts and not the other way around as previously thought. So Wildfires are causing an increase in Droughts ??? Yeah, surprise surprise or maybe not. It's another way of saying deforestation by mechanical means causes desertification. We understand that, but wildfires on an increasing level do the same thing and no one reports on this, in particular the environmentalist gangs. One wonders why ???

India’s National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR)

Well, well, well. There's a new GMO Rice that has been developed by India’s National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) for which they insist can improve uptake of natural Phosphorus from the soil, cutting back on the use of artificial synthetic phosphorus fertilizers. This GMO Rice was created in a Lab by introducing a gene called OsPAP21b which was taken out from a traditional rice genotype called Dular. The research study was published in Plant BiotechnologyJournal demonstrated that this introduction of this gene produces an enzyme, which when secreted into the soil through the roots of the rice plant helps in absorption of organic phosphorus not otherwise readily available in the soil to the plant on it's own. And yet what they are proposing as an improvement over what settled science considers Nature's bad designs has already being accomplished for 10s of 1000s of years through mycorrhizal fungal networks colonized on plant rootsystems. Up to 85% of plants depend on this mycorrhizal fungi to survive. Plants and fungi depend on each other for nutrient cycling and water absorption.

 Image: Landeveert 2001
But why in the world would the Biotechnology companies and Academia in India not explain and educate to Indian Farmers just how this biological machinery has been doing this for countless 1000s of years for free ? Right there is the problem, the word, "Free." Industrial Agricultural Scientists do not own the patent rights to their work but are "bought out" and owned by the industries financing the research. The Biotech Geneticist's sole aim is to invent new products in order to increase the profit bottonlines of their corporate masters who pay their salaries. Bioethical problems are conveniently shelved by these scientists and totally ignored by Industrial Biotech Agriculture as a whole. Take this image on the right. This is a thin-section micrograph of a tunneled feldspar  Scale bar = 100 micrometers. Back in 2015, Scientific American, author, Jennifer Frazer, wrote about a study which was undertaken to find out exactly how mycorrhizal fungi actually mine the tiniest soil particles for nutrients which are otherwise unavailable to their plant hosts. Here are some quotes about the image above right:
"If you sift the mineral particles from conifer forest soil, wash them, and examine them under a microscope, you will discover a startling detail: tiny tunnels, three to ten micrometers across"  
"The tunnels curve and branch and sometimes more than one pierces the same particle. What could have created these microscopic boreholes?"  
"The tunnels seem like they were made by something … alive. They are the spitting image of hyphae – that is, filaments – of fungi."
(Read the rest of the study Here)
Fascinating. Apparently for countless thousands of years Nature has been sustaining itself with great efficiency. This is something the prevailing Scientific Orthodoxy has been denying during the past 150 years. Oddly enough other scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have informed us back in December 2015, that humans have been what's wrong with the environment ever since they began spreading their version of agriculture across the planet starting 6000 years ago. Seriously, 6000 years ago ? Those aren't my words folks, it's the researchers own words. They paint us a picture of how a once pristine sustainable Earth existed, but then a shift disrupted the calm pattern that they insist had been stable for 300 million years. Wow, how could that be ? Here is how Kathleen Lyons, a paleobiologist in the Smithsonian's Museum’s Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems (ETE) program put it, “This tells us that humans have been having a massive effect on the environment for a very long time.”  Lyons was the lead author of the study, which was published Dec. 2016 in the journal Nature. One can only imagine as Humans became more enlightened how much more damage resulted to the Earth's with the advent of science-based Industrial Agriculture. Now we are faced with CRISPR, whose co-inventor said those infamous words which are the title of this post. The Biotechs want to bend Nature to their collective will. Today's science has two major flaws:
Groupthink - is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. 
We could otherwise easily label this groupthink phenomena as  Scientific Consensus, Settled Science, etc. And this is where the collective's "Argument from Authority" brain washing techniques through clever marketing skills by means of media come into play in getting the majority of the population in line by means of an intensive indoctrination scheme. First, throw at an otherwise gullible ignorant public cute little animated cartoons which illustrate how inept the Earth is for home gardeners and farmers, but how giant Agro-Chemical Corporations can save the day. Second, it's important to con them into believing and accepting this belief system is what democracy is all about.
Herd Mentality or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors. Examples of the herd mentality include nationalism, stock market trends, superstition, and home décor, etc.
The Groupthink within Science and Herd Mentality by those with a vested interest in a product for profit whose approval can rain down a windfall of wealth, will often gang up on anyone or anything which threatens their little money making venture. For example, Professor Marcus Pembrey and a band of other Scientists dared to challenge such an Orthodoxy on genetic inheritance with their research work in epigenetic inheritance and for doing so they were branded heretics. They showed where certain negative actions could turn on or off specific gene switches causing a negative gene expression. Recently, a paper in the journal, New Atlas, also suggested that the CRISPR gene-editing tool caused unintended genetic mutations. Here is one paragraph from the article:
In examining the entire genome from the CRISPR-treated mice, they found that the tool had successfully corrected the specific gene they were targeting, but it also potentially caused a great deal of other genetic changes. In two CRISPR-treated animals, more than 100 large gene deletions or insertions and over 1,500 single-nucleotide mutations were identified.  
This set off a firestorm of controversial flaming on the part of Industrial Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology companies and their internet troll defenders (IFL Science Cult) who hope to gain billions of dollars off this technology. As the CRISPR cas9 co-inventer, Jennifer Doudna, proudly proclaimed about CRISPER's potential, they will be able to bring back:
“woolly mammoths, winged lizards, and unicorns. … It won’t be long before CRISPR allows us to bend nature to our will.”
Aside from the irresponsible last sentence in her quote of 'bending Nature to human will,' which is the title of my post here, you should first of all be aware that most of this resurrection of extinct creatures or bizarre unnatural creations of mythical beasts is pure fantasy that will never happen. CRISPR headlines are closely related to the same sensationalistic headlines when it comes to NASA's Astrobiology Program news reports. Such clickbait headlines are meant to create fascination and interest in funding. There are two links here you should read which provide glaring exposure on why Mammoths and other mythical beasts are nowhere near coming around the corner. First, here is something from Live Science:
"The road to bringing back the mammoth — a giant that went extinct at the end of the last ice age — is filled with barriers." 
"Even if pieces of preserved ancient DNA are uncovered, they might be contaminated with foreign DNA from fungus, bacteria, plants, animals and even from humans handling it for research purposes." 
"This DNA contamination can make it difficult for researchers to know which DNA molecule belongs to the animal, and which is from contamination, especially if the extinct animal doesn’t have a living relative whose DNA can serve as a roadmap," Shapiro wrote.
Live-Science: Mammoth Resurrection: 11 Hurdles to Bringing Back an Ice Age Beast
Second, here is another article written by Paleoanthropologist, John Hawks, who stated that all these sensationlist headlines making bold predictions of imminent herds of woolly mammoths trampling around the local sanctuary are nothing more than fake news fabricated by Harvard Geneticist, George Church, who talks about artificial wombs, elephant embryos, all backed and supported by a gullible science media:
Media outlets this week have run more than 60 stories about Church’s press announcement, with breathless headlines, like “Woolly mammoths ‘to walk the earth again in TWO YEARS’ after massive breakthrough”, or “Woolly Mammoth Could Be ‘De-Extinct’ In 2 Years, Scientist Says”. 
"Five reasons convince me that this week’s mammoth cloning story is beyond sensationalism, it is fake news. Looking at how this story went wrong says some depressing things about the state of today’s media coverage of science." How mammoth cloning became fake news
You should also be aware that Corporations which utilize industrial science use Pop Science Media outlets to distract an otherwise gullible public from all of their previous past & ongoing failures. The prevailing Scientific Orthodoxy (which has modeled itself after Christendom's medieval ecclesiastical hierarchical structure), uses these news outlets to pound "consensus science" into the human psyche to create unquestioning faith in their ambitious technologies and future consumable goods. Their tactics are so aggressive, that they remind me of the Sci-Fi World's imfamous Borg Collective:
"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated into our collective. Resistence is futile."

Source -

Here's another example. Almost immediately after the negative exposure of CRISPR cas9's potential for unintended mutational consequences, this industry's Thought Police came out with numerous articles in science journals condemning these scientists and their methods. So now the scientists mention in Nature-Methods were now guilty of a Thought Crime. Their claim was that the mice themselves used in the experiment were inbred related mice and it tainted the experiment from the start because the mutations were already there. To illustrate their accusation, the media they used to poke derogatory fun at the research paper and it's scientists,  provided an unflattering photograph of an Apalachian family. This is nothing new. For many years now the prevailing consensus science has fabricated other illustrations showing people of colour being inferior to the European white man with their March of Man Progress icon. So now they pick on a pitiful people whose culture is often demonized and made fun of by today's media elites. It's true, these people in many ways are handicapped in the sense that they have not had the advantages like proper homes, healthcare, educations etc as others in the more affluent parts of the United States. But like people of colour from the past, they are often singled out and made fun of by people with a secular minded ideology from both the east and west coasts where critics view themselves as scientifically literate progressives. Of course the real purpose of targeting these people was to provide a damage control  to smokescreen the glaring flaws of this technology so that Biotech Stocks & Shares would bounce back after the negative News.
Further attempts at killing the Truth about CRISPR cas9's potential for unintended consequences
This is not CRISPR gene editing technology. It's a strawberry-rhubarb crisp. (AP )
FORBES: "CRISPR Gene Editing Controversy: Does It Really Cause Unexpected Mutations?"
In an attempt to demonize the alarmist researchers of the damning study of unintended consequences with CRISPR, self-proclaimed, pseudoscience fighter, Steve Salzberg, Professor of Bioengineering at John Hopkins University and Forbes Magazine contributor, says he wants to set the record straight. He claims to have read the research and found what's wrong with their science. Unfortunately one of his leading paragraphs exposes the real motive behind the charges of heresy. Follow the money people, because it's never really been about the Science.

"Not surprising, the resulting news headlines were gloomy. The stock in three companies trying to commercialize gene editing–Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics and CRISPR Therapeutics–all fell sharply. (Interestingly, the stocks started falling on May 24, and bottomed out on May 31. The paper appeared online on May 30.) Scientists involved with these companies quickly responded, arguing that the study was flawed, but of course those scientists have a lot of money at stake."

A. Dudzinski/Science Source

Today the prevailing Scientific Orthodoxy demands that people everywhere globally bow down and worship the image of their religious icon known as the secular version of the Tree of Life. That's what that March for Science a couple of months ago was all about. Step out of line by expressing a preference for Biomimicry over CRISPR and you are accused of a Thought Crime. And yet out of the other corner of their collective mouths, this same secular religious Icon is also the very same tree they insist is flawed, imperfect and badly designed. Hence the image above beautifully illustrates how in every corner of life on this planet Earth, these ideologically driven Scientists are attempting to provide numerous major tweaking & alterations of all ecosystems they believe where Nature has fallen short of perfection. I would think this is quite a dilemma for most of the environmental groups out there who violently protest in the streets and demand that Nature be preserved just as it is and be left alone to it's own devices and yet all the while still believing Nature is flawed, inept and poorly designed. Is it any wonder mankind's leadership has collectively failed ??? Could this Orthodoxy's worldview take on life have caused all this present negative chaos we all view on the Nightly News each day ??? Is the flaw really with Nature or human ignorance cloaked with an air of arrogance ??? Originally, the concept of science was intended to be practiced by means using noble traditional values like objectivity, integrity, curiosity, fairness, diligence, honesty, respect, cooperation, self-sacrifice & humility. If these virtues had really been the guiding force all along, would our planet Earth today really be so degraded as we experience it now ??? 😱

"It is time to destroy those people who destroy the earth!"
Rev 11:18 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Burn Baby Burn - Fire Ecologist Celebrate Fire Season

"Life goes on though, and fires are not unnatural"
Margarethe Brummermann
Image - CNN

Annimated Graph - USA Today
The quote at the top of the post is from Margarethe Brummermann, Biologist from Dortmund Germany who resides in the Tucson area. She had written a post about Mount Lemmon which towers above Tucson to the north. I made a comment on her page about how my wife and I had driven up to Mount Lemmon last year May 2016 and how sad we were to see so much of the forest destroyed by wildfires. I made mentioned how I had first visited Mount Lemmon back in the late 1970s and there was hardly ever a scene where wildfire had damage anything. There was always the occasional snag here and there, but forests and even the high desert scrub were always able to recovery properly. That has all changed now. But her reply to me was simply, "Life goes on though, and fires are not unnatural." Her viewpoint is reflective of most all fire ecologists who champion fire as natural, yet often times have a hard time differentiating between human (especially if Native American) and lightning caused fires. Earlier this year, researchers revealed that 84% of all wildfires are human caused. So is that something natural or unnatural ??? The majority of wildfires on Mount Lemmon have had a human cause. This has also caused human introduced non-native, Buffel Grass, to invade clear up through the Saguaro Forests into the mid-elevation ranges of the Mount Lemmon. Here is that interesting finding regarding the origin of most wildfires.
Smithsonian Magazines: "Study Shows 84% of Wildfires Caused by Humans"

Aaryn Olsson, University of Arizona

Last year when we traveled up the Mount Lemmon highway, we were greeted all along the way by an overwhelming sea of Buffelgrass which blanketed all areas of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. Researchers say warming temperatures and fewer winter freezes are helping the invasive plant spread, posing a threat to saguaro cactuses and other native plants. The Tucson Sentinel even had an article with a chilling title, "Arizona without Saguaros? As climate warms, desert's future uncertain." The Saguaros are such an iconic symbol of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. But they cannot take wildfire. They have no protection against it. I can't hardly imagine them being eliminated permanently.

Grant Martin/Cronkite News Service

Bromus tectorum, an invasive species commonly called “cheatgrass,” grows in an area of the Coconino National Forest burned in a 1996 wildfire. I strongly dislike Cheatgrass. This is the invasive noxious weed whose stickers you have to pull out of your socks every so often down the trail when you go on a hike.

Grant Martin/Cronkite News Service

Researchers say this area of the Coconino National Forest, which burned in 1996, is decades away from returning to its native state, if it ever does. They say rising temperatures have weakened trees, raising the potential for devastating wildfires that will open the door to invasive species. Don't expect recovery anytime soon.

Image - Getty Images

I remember reading the fire ecology literature some time back in 2006. There was an account written by Arizona Historian Marshall Trimball of the old west in New Mexico, when a Cavalry Officer was complaining to his superiors about his men smoking cigarettes and dropping them along the trail as they all rode horseback. The problem was they were starting grass fires from their careless bad habit. Of course this was in the 1800s, when Indians still existed and practiced their ecological conservation with fire. Yet hsitorical writings from the 1800s relay that they used fires to war against their enemies. Not exactly eco-friendly. I know, it destroys the narrative. This 1800s is the time period for celebration for most fire ecologists who champion how natural the forested ecosystems all were back then because of Indians. But as I've questioned this before, if fire ecologists were looking at the world back then and telling us how natural wildfire played in ecology of all plant community systems, how did they reconcile white European Soldiers starting fires with their cigarette butts ? Was that a good thing for Nature ? How did this factor into their research of what was good for the plant community environment ? Native Americans generally get a free pass on why they started fires and they really shouldn't. See the post, Dances With Myths. But now what about the white man back then ? Today there is a movement to down grade human beings as not being so exceptional. Mankind is now being considered nothing more than animals equal to everything else. Does this now mean that the research on wildfire causes being 84% human fault provide us a new designation of the term, "Natural"   ??? 😲 Would it mean that humans carelessly throwing down a cigarette butt today should now be considered perfectly normal behaviour ??? 😟 We seem to be living in a time period of redefining everything from it's historical normalcy.
But what about all those heavy Rains 🚿 ??? Didn't things get better ??? 🌳
Image - Pismo Hotels

This year's rainy season of 2017, California experienced one of those unprecedented rainy seasons, after four years of serious intense drought. But everyone cheered Hooray 🙌 and celebrated with pom poms that all was well again in California again. The drought was now over, or is it. Indeed, heavy rains came, even to the point of major flooding events up and down the state. While there were some very clear catastrophic negatives, one of the great joys of all that rain brought out a spectacular display of wildflower blooms. Starting in early March, flowers popped up all across Southern and Central California and produced some seriously spectacular scenery. The photo opportunity didn't go unnoticed nor wasted by many of the non-profit eco-activist groups hoping to cash in on a fund raising opp by posting pics on their site's indicating that Nature seemed to have rebounded from the jaws od death. Or you know, life found a way. Except that things really were'nt all that rosey as they advertised. First, some of the people were a little too anxious about getting out there first. Then it appears that much of the water came in so furiously, that most of it raced back to the Pacific Ocean like a bullet train. Some water did fill up many of the State's reservoirs, but the surrounding landscape didn't have great percolation into the hills and mountains. I know this from viewing early on the photographs of dried dead invasive weeds not all that long after the flowers died and now look where they are over there with heat waves. Plus as indicated at the top of this post, lookie where we are now with the 2017 Wildfire stats. So have things really changed for the better ? Nope, same old same old. 😏

Look, I refuse to celebrate fire the way most fire ecologists worship it. Yes fire can be used as an excellent tool for correcting problems with any ecosystem if done properly. And I've actually done that. But mostly humans have misused and abused fire, even the so-called experts. Prior to 2006 I never read much of anything about the discipline of fire ecology, although I worked with people in the US Forest Service back in the 1980s who did prescribed burns. I've fought tooth and nail against many of their ideas which are complete failures when it comes to reforestation techniques. Take the Fire Ecologist insistence that fire is needed for the wild seed germination. For example, Tecate Cypress is one of those trees in which Fire Ecologist have insisted for decades needs fire to propagate itself. Prior to reading their literature, in all my 30+ years of outdoors exploration experience and seed collecting, I never found this to be true of Tecate Cypress. There are numerous circumstances under which the seed is spread and germinates without the need of fire within old growth chaparral which hasn't burned in a couple of hundred years. Same with Arizona Cypress. Fire is not always necessary, but you cannot tell them this. Science is not supposed to be about working in a Lab and venturing outdoors once in a while on a couple token field trips to make the research look legit. You have to live outdoors with nature. Look, I am not credentialed. I have no alphabet soup initials behind my name, nor some fancy coveted title before my name. Thank God. That allows me the freedom of not having been infected by the worldview biases and flawed presuppositions common to the Scientific Orthodoxy's industrial business model. I'm just one of 6+ billion people on Earth subjected to the negative consequences of inept decision making from a world leadership which has been weighed in the scales and found deficient. 
References I've written for seed germination, not entertainment, just practical real world application and fun:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rain Water Harvesting Infrastructure Design Concepts

Meandering Floodplains provide Real World Biomimetic Blueprints for Infrastructure Designs vrs Engineering Inspireded by Ambitious Human Business Venture Schemes
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The iconic classic movie, Chinatown, makes it abundantly clear that humans have always disrespected designs found in Nature, especially when their wouldview (based on blind faith) believes that such designs are an impedement to their economic business successes. This is certainly true with the history of Los Angeles where business development and growth hinged on aquisition of water, both it's abundance and controling it. LA’s legendary water superintendent William Mulholland was driven towards channeling this water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. But stealing water from far away north wasn't enough. Vast floodplains in Southern California had potential economic value for both agriculture and the creation of an industrial infrastructure. So the natural meandering physics of flowing water on floodplains had to be tamed and harnessed. Take for example this photograph above  with the meandering switchback pattern of the river. From a politics and businessman perspective, this impedes quick transportation of both people or goods. Logically (from a flawed human perspective) a straight channel direct line would seem to be the obvious choice. Same logic for getting rid of stormwater quickly from cities to prevent flooding, straight channeling seems the better choice. This is evident by all the straight floodcontrol channel infrastructure you can find throughout all of Southern California like the Los Angeles River below. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance hasn't always been the safest or most efficient route for moving human economic goals forward.

Photographed by Lane Barden

Industrial corridor of the Los Angeles River at the Seventh Street bridge in downtown Los Angeles, California

Image - Nature Conservancy - Stream Restoration
In my other post on Beavers and slow water movement, I had a cartoon at the top of the post of a beaver/builder constructung his dam. Other Beavers in the cartoon were on the river bank looking like eco-activists with protest signs demanding to have the dam torn down so that ALL of the river water could be used to irrigate the Pacific Ocean. But that really is no joke, because that is exactly how southern California has mandated it's floodcontrol infrastructure be designed for quick water movement supposedly to prevent flooding and endangering human beings and their businesses. But how well has that really been working for us ??? Often times channeled rivers, especially those in agricultural valleys channeled by earthen levees have been breached on many sides during high flood waters due to exceptional rainfall years. Like the photo here on the right where human modifications to the landscape strongly influences triggers to instability, accelerating the erosion potential and altering sediment transport and flow regimes of channels. Pay close attention to this picture of the Walla Walla River back in December of 1964 which defied human attempts at channelization and re-created it's former meanders, point bars, pools, and riffles. Can you click on the image and count how many right and left breaces there are ? That's just the nature of water and physical natural laws. By their very nature many people not only resent laws by humans, but also disrespect natural laws. These disastrous events are not so much the fault of nature as they are exposure of inept decision making by the elites among humans who believe they are above fault. After all, most of the scientific orthodoxy believes nature is flawed, imperfect and badly designed. (Okay, I won't go there, but you know it's true) In their worldview's paradigm the floodwaters should be managed as a waste product as something that should be gotten out of the system as quickly as possible. And so all floodcontrol infrastructure is really being considered as a greywater infrastructure with it's system of concrete pipes, culverts, channels, etc to facilitate water out of the urban environment as fast as possible to it's final destiny, the oceans. In reality, this is simply gross scientific ignorance where researchers have bought into their flawed worldview. Here's one man who battled the prevailing scientific orthodoxy in Germany & Austria while championing natural designs based on Nature most all of his life.
Institute of ecological Technology
In the early 1920s, Austrian Forester, Viktor Schauberger, also a self taught physicist and river engineer, was given the task of helping an Austrian Prince who became broke after World War I to improve his economy by finding a way to bring valuable virgin Timber down from remote mountain properties he owned which had no easy access. Timber in those days would had to have been hauled out with mule teams on less than ideal narrow roads through rugged country. Viktor Schauberger had a nature based scheme for building a unique log flume for transport which was very unconventional for the times. As with anything, logging flume design then consisted of straight walls and flat bottoms or at best flat bottoms with 'V' shaped design for the sides. But the flow dynamics were horrible. Schauberger's design was to be biomimic designs he had observed in Nature. He went with a half egg shaped design in which the flume would twist here and there like a snake in biomimicry of the meandering habit of a large river on a massive floodplain.
Very crudely designed log flume
Quebec, Canada
As the story was been told, Viktor Schauberger acquired the contract for building the flume caught the attention of the Estate Administrators and the Institute of Hydraulics at the University of Vienna. He was considered an anti-science Luddite by the science orthodoxy of his day. They hated the man. The day before it was due to be commissioned, Viktor decided to make a preliminary test of the flume's performance. An average-sized green beech log was ushered into the mouth of the flume and to his horror it stranded on the bottom after a few metres and would not budge. This wasn't supposed to happen according to he Natural designed flume calculations. Important dignataries, including his mocking critics were all going to be there at the grand celebration. After his workers were sent away to give himself some space to think, Viktor sat on a rock to ponder the situation. As he sat down he felt something scrabbling underneath his leather trousers and sprang up to his feet to find a snake. Grabbing it quickly, he flung it into the log holding basin, which supplied the flume with water and where the logs were to be assembled before being guided into the flume. As he watched it swim to the other side, he wondered how it was able to swim so fast. 

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Then he suddenly became aware of its peculiar serpentine 'S' shaped movement. It appeared like Nature had again came to his aid again. Calling his workers back, he ordered the holding basin to be drained and the log jammed up withing the flume removed. He then gave them instructions on how to attach thin wooden slats to the curved sides of the flume walls, which would act like the rifling in gun-barrels and cause the water to rotate anti-clockwise at left hand bends and clockwise at right hand bends. You can see the illustration blueprints here on the left. Working all through the night with the promise of double wages, the work was finished by early next morning ready for commissioning at the Grand Opening. The pond holding basin for the logs was refilled the next day in preparation for releasing the first logs. His critics were said to be dumbfounded by his unconventional flume design. Eventually the time came for the flume sluice-gates to be opened and the logs guided into the mouth of this half-egg-shaped channel. One particularly large beech log (which they did not want to test) managed to get itself included with the first few logs and, half way into the flume it suddenly jammed and the water began to back up behind it. While everyone there watched with anticipation, all at once with a loud gurgling sound it was sucked forwards and departed round the first bend. The other logs followed, passing easily down the flume, being kept away from the sides at the bends by those longitudinal vortices induced by the rifling slats which they installed the night before. Needless to say, it was a success, but maybe too much of a success. The Prince and his Princess got greedy and clear cut almost all the forest to increase their fortunes. Funny, nothing's changed one iota since the 1920s. Well, that's not true, it's actually worse.

Image - - Nellim Log Flume

While the early history of true biomimetics regarding hydrology is interesting, how does any of this benefit the average person today, especially in view of the further degradation of our planet's natural world that has been accelerated through the misuse and abuse of science ??? While there are some who truly believe in biomimicry of Nature, they are still greatly outnumbered by those who would trash Nature through the worldview argument of Nature being badly designed and only intelligent free-thinking humans can fix those flaws through scientific shortcuts. Okay, so change of pace here. There is an organization whose mission is to revitalize the contrete channelized L.A. River bed. who are known as the "Friends of the L.A. River". That's a tough assignment they've given themselves. Even during the lightest rainstorms, the greater L.A. infrastructure is human designed & engineered to rapidly facilitate storm water off the streets, parking areas, rooftops etc and efficiently send it rapidly on it's way down to the Pacific Ocean. This is an incredible waste of valuable freshwater resources. But believe it or not there are viable real world natural solutions to reduce runoff and redirect water into public and private landscapes and possibly percolate much of in into the subsoil layers of the ancient floodplains to be used later as well water. How much depends really on people being interested in change for the better. Below I'll provide a gallery of photos demonstrating how street rainwater harvesting techniques through biomimetics can change the present Hydraulic infrastructure and save disappearing fresh water resources from the outside of the region. Take a look, much of where this is already practiced is from areas with higher rainfall averages than Southern California like up north and back east.
Large City Street Landscaped Medians
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This is the central California city of Paso Robles, who are successfully positioning themselves at the leading edge of this municipal rainwater harvesting technology which biomimic's nature by the use of "baffles" which creates a switch back motion replicating the meandering pattern in the design & using periodic low dams called weirs (replicates beaver dams on small scale) which deliberately slows & backs up water raising the water level behind the weir in the planting bed that allows a good percentage of water to percolate deeper into deeper subsoil layers. Top photo illustrate what happens during storms and lower photo reveals an attractive look when dry. Utilizing native plants and having knowledge of how to encourage one gallon containerized seedlings to develop deeper root systems would truly help such plants make it without any further water assistence the rest of the year. There could be a minimal irrigation infrastructure of  deep irrigation designs, which would be utilized only in emergency summer situations to supplement and apply water three or four foot below the soil surface where most healthy California native plants want and prefer it. 
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Here in this picture above you can see the baffles which look to be recycled small guage railway track with a center concrete guide on top of a bed of cobblestones which allows the waters to slow down and remain clean prior to easing into the actual planting beds. Further cobblestones downstream are both functional for keeping soil intact, allowing further percolation and have a decorative purpose that biomimics a dry streambed which are common in California.
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Curb and Gutter Rainwater Harvesting for Landscapes in Business Areas and Residential Main Streets
Image - State Collage Pensylvania

Curb cut-out inlet to rain garden on west side of Allen Street near Pennsylvania State College. Just like a forest with meandering water courses and beaver dams, the goal here would not be to prevent water from reaching the oceans, but slow it way way down and make it work for the benefit of all sorts life along the way down.

Image - State Collage Pennsylvania

This rain garden is demonstrating weir flow during rain event. For those who may not understand what the word "weir" means. The term "weir" is a Dam-like barrier across the horizontal width of a landscape bed that alters the flow characteristics of the water and usually results in a change in the vertical height of the water level. There are many designs of weir, but commonly water flows freely over the top of the weir crest before cascading down to a lower level section of the landscape bed. Again, the purpose here is not to prevent water movement down stream, but rather to slow water movement down and percolation with drainage at the end for major storm runoff.

Image - State Collage Pennsylvania

Now here is the full entire length-wise view of rain garden on west side of this Allen Street. Everything here is functional and decorative all at the same time. The concrete weirs again back the water up in a small pond behind the artificially replicated beaver dam. With a series of weirs, this would also prevent erosion of planting bed materials just the way a series of beavers dams would accomplish on a real life floodplain in the wild.
Residential Neighbourhoods and other low Traffic Side Streets
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Sidewalk bioswale treats street runoff in Portland, Oregon

In cities like San Francisco California and Portland Oregon, their storm drains are connected to their sewer treatment plants, and the potential for hazard for such infrastructure design is that heavy rains cause the sewer plant to overflow with raw and partially treated sewer water into the bay or river. Other cities connect their storm drains to underground creeks, and the polluted oily water runs straight into the bay or nearby river. By cutting curbs and digging sunken basins into the “right-of way” or “parking strip” area of the sidewalk, you can turn street rainwater from a problem into an actual resource. Diverted rainwaer that falls on streets can nourish plants, protect creeks, and contribute to cleaner cities as a result of the planter bed's healthy microbial community taking care of the pollutants & turning them into safer elements.

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Preventing and reducing water pollution can be as simple as building a rain harvesting curb cut for the garden. Once again, this runoff water from streets can come in contact with various substances to pollute it like chemicals from fertilizer, oil from cars and garbage, etc. Before this polluted water makes its way into storm drains and our riparian ecosystems, we would filter it through a natural rain collecting garden with a strong healthy microbial soil community to digest & process it. Rain gardens can also add to a home’s curb appeal and allow runoff water to filter naturally and deeply down through your yard’s soil. Keep in mind also that many of these structure as also designed with outlets and/or drains into runoff water pipes to allow for those extreme weather downpour events.
Commercial Parking Lot Medians and Dividers
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What amazes me with many of the beautifully designed landscape medians in many places like these parking lots is the fact that they exist in mainly higher rainfall areas like the northern & eastern parts of the USA, Canada and Europe, like this example above in Norway. What about Southern California where it is even more needed because they lack water ? Free water that is otherwise facilitated rapidly down the drain so that they basically are forcing themselves to use public utility provided clean drinking water to irrigate their commercial and home landscapes.

Bioswale parking lot created by Lynn Capouya Landscape Architecture

This is the kind of thing that really makes sense. Love the plant selection for the area and keep in mind that mulch is an important part of this bioretention system to really work effectively. Rocks and other smaller cobblestones are perfect for the slowing down of water movement and work perfectly as a mulch to keep the ground cool and retain moisture levels in soils. This is extremely important in parking lots where they create a massive heat islands.

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These Natives plants within the planter accompanied by a species abundant microbial community within the soil system are able to filter the runoff and protect streams. They can recycle the pollutants & turn them into nutrients that the plants can use. No stream or river pollution to kill aquatic critters in the water environment. Also runoff volume is greatly reduced (not stopped) which prevents the violent scouring of the natural local creek or riverbeds which allows the system to be stable, much like it was prior to human pavement. I would love to do something like this picture (minus the parking lot) for my mother's property with street curb back in El Cajon California. Unfortunately I'd have to be living back there permanently to maintain it. However having said that, look below at this Walmart parking lot in Santee California. 

Image - Google Earth

Walmart parking lot in Santee California

Last year in May/June 2016, my wife and I went back to my home town area of San Diego California and visited my mother who lives in the El Cajon/Santee area. Ignore the 2017 dates on the Google Earth picture, I just posted this to illustrate how illustrative it is of ir's improper design when they took this parking lot photograph. When we visited this exact parking lot (May 2016), it was 100+ F (40+ C) and I waited in the car while mum and wife went shopping. Half of those trees, irrigated by inefficient bubblers in a tiny planter median were dead or dying because they stopped watering them. Why did they cut back the water ? Because prices out there are outrageous, even when people have cut way back on watering like they were asked to in order to help buffer the shortages create by drought, the Water agency went and raised the water rates big time. Hence, the management decided the landscape was not worth the effort and expense. so the parking is nothing more than functional in purpose. Too bad and every customer who visits fights for that small shady spot for their car because of the effect of direct sun in 100+ degrees pushes inside temps 160+ degrees. 

The Landscape median mechanism designs for Successful Water Harvesting

Image - Empowerhouse
These are just some simplified animated illustrations to help provide an easy way to comprehend the design of the soil system withing the planter. Water enters into the cells through curb cuts and flows to an area planted with native plants (preferably native to the region that are attractive and ornamental looking) & a microbial community system that are known to remediate heavy metals and toxins that vehicles usually leach on to the street, not to mention the totally unnecessary Agro-Chemical products used by commercial & home owner landscapers. The water is filtered through the topsoil where most of the roots are and then into a type of mixed gravel bed which will hold and store the bulk of the floodwater only then to seep slowly back into the subsoil layers and possibly as far as the moist ground water supply which helps to alleviate runoff to local waterways.  Usually this rain water runoff would enter directly into the storm system, where it could lead to an increase in combined Sewer Overflows that contribute significantly to the pollution in our rivers and streams.

(Image courtesy of GeoSyntec Consultants)

Stormwater runoff flows into this type of bioretention area like the other one above, percolates through the soil (which acts as that bio- filter) and eventually drains into the groundwater; some of the water is also absorbed by the plants. Bioretention areas are usually designed to allow ponded water and with an overflow outlet to prevent flooding during larger storm events which are becoming more common. Where soils have low permeability or where faster drainage is desired, designers may incorporate a perforated underdrain that routes to a storm drain system. If you have a soil profile like my mother's place which is built on top of an ancient alluvial floodplain, then such drains may not be necessary. But if you have a clay or adobe type soil profile, then I'd recommend the drainage. 
Nice Video Resources
This video surprisingly comes from the State of California. I say it's a surprise because you cannot see very much in the way of people practicing this water harvesting technique out there, with the exception of the Palm Springs & Coachella Valley areas.

This video below is excellent as it provides a how to for boring a hole through the curb and sidewalk to allow a inlet for stormwater to enter into the landscape strip.

This final link comes from Arizona. Actually it is a separate post I created because Arizona is much further along on this biomimicry and their climate almost mandates such a practice be done over there. And besides I thought it would have cluttered this post up with more info than it already has. 😏
Tucson Arizona: Regenerating Parks & Parkways through Biomimicry of Floodplains