Benefits of Snow

People in the northeast are sick of snow. I think people in the northeast need to be reminded that they need to not take the white stuff for granted. In today’s day and age we seem to forget to look beyond our backyards and look at the whole picture. We also tend to forget to look into the future.

Of all the natural ‘disasters,’ snow is probably the most benign. It doesn’t really hurt anyone. It’s kind of like a venomous snake. If you don’t provoke it (drive like an idiot in it, ski/snowboard in an avalanche area, etc.), it won’t hurt you. In fact, unlike the other natural disasters, snow has numerous benefits. We should be praising snow, dancing as each and every snowflake falls from the sky. Snow is a blessing.

* Pest Control: Thanks to snow there should be less of those annoying bugs around this summer. This is everything from ticks, mosquitos, and other insects that have been out of control like the emerald ash borer. Thanks to snow, there will be fewer ticks. As long as the snow sticks around and it stays cold, the ticks can’t survive. The later we have snow, the better. Mosquito season will be later and shorter. Aren’t those reasons to celebrate? Thanks to snow. The emerald ash borer has been devastating trees in states all across America – not just ash. Their numbers used to be kept in check because it used to snow a normal amount (you know, like we’re getting now). Because of the fact that we have not had a real winter in a long time, their numbers have been out of control and spreading, killing off entire forests and increasing wildfires. Thanks to the snow, their numbers will take a huge dent and we may be able to save iconic forests such as the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

* Snow Insulation: Now, this might sound counter-productive, but snow insulates our gardens and lawns. Any gardener or farmer will tell you a good “blanket of snow” is desirable for a garden. It keeps your plants warm (yes, warm) and happy throughout the winter season. It is WAY much better than having them exposed during the winter, especially when there’s extreme temperature fluctuations. If soil is frozen, without snow, plants can die of thirst. Snow keeps that from happening. Even when plants are dormant, they still need moisture and snow provides that.

* Poor Man’s Fertilizer: Snow has been shown to give a nitrogen boost to gardens and soil. Any gardener/farmer will tell you that nitrogen is a vital nutrient for the soil and people with spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquids, powders and techniques to get nitrogen into their soil. But here comes snow, a free way to get nitrogen into your soil. It delivers an estimated 5 pounds nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. This helps plants grow lusher, produce more fruit (as evident by my fig tree, which always produces more figs whenever we get more snow), and generally just be happier whenever we get snow. You know what they call snow? Poor man’s fertilizer. You know what the Old Farmer’s Almanac says? “Year of Snow, Crops Will Grow” – be thankful for snow. There’s a good foot and a half of snow on my yard and gardens right now – I can’t wait to get out there and garden. I bet I am going to get some great crop this year! So bring on the snow!

* Snow is Water: There’s really not enough news or pictures of the drought in California right now. Even if rained (or snowed) for every day for the rest of the winter, they still would not replenish their water supply. There’s towns that have completely run out of water. Maybe it will hit us here in the east when cost for our food goes up since California grows a lot of our food. Anyway – we’re LUCKY here in the east to have so much SNOW because snow is WATER. Our reservoirs will be full, our wells will be filled. Our pastures will be green. Our seeds will be sown and will grow. Stop being selfish and whining about snow.

Which would you rather have?
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So, next time you moan about the snow, think twice. If you have a farm, be thankful. If you’re a gardener, be thankful. If you in any way depend on water, be thankful. There’s people having to recycle their bath and shower water for drinking water – in the UNITED STATES. There’s people in Africa and India drinking water that is polluted with feces, dead animals and trash. We have clean, pristine, beautiful snow. Be thankful.

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Olympics – An Open Call to Boycott

On the news and social media lately you’ve heard countless things going wrong with this year’s Winter Olympics at Sochi. Most of these things have to do with human rights – which in itself is a great reason to boycott the Olympics. So is Russia’s attempt to slaughter free-roaming dogs. They’ve known the Olympics were coming for a while, why this last-minute massacre? However this is an environmental blog, hence I want to focus on the overwhelming ecological damage these Olympics are costing the environment, despite Russia’s promise that they’d be green.

  • Steamrolled Wetlands: Sochi used to be home to beautiful wetlands that were home to vulnerable birds and plants. It was a paradise for over 60 birds that used to overwinter here. Now, thanks to the Olympics, this sanctuary lies under 7ft of crushed gravel and has been paved over for the Olympic Park. Where are these birds going to go now? And what about all these plants? Wetlands provide a valuable service of long-term carbon sequestration. Now these are gone. Thanks, Olympics.
  • Razed Forests: Not just the wetlands have suffered from the construction from the Sochi Olympics, but the entire mountain region has – 5,000 acres of pristine forest have been annihilated. The new railroad built to the remote region has disrupted migration and hibernation patterns of all animals. They have built a good portion of the Olympic Park in the National Park – displacing hundreds of trees and animals. What’s going to happen after the Olympics are gone? No one was rushing to go to Sochi before the Olympics. It was a quiet little village on the Black Sea, not a bustling city like previous locations. Odds are this will become a ghost town – at the cost of the loss of biodiversity.
  • Toxic Dumps: The hasty building of this new Olympic City has another price – waste. Where is it going to go? In Russia there is surprisingly stringent dumping laws, but all of these are being ignored for the Olympics. Residents have been complaining about an illegal landfill that has polluted the air and contaminated their water – this was evident by a photo tweeted by a reporter in Sochi a couple days ago. The river that runs by Sochi used to be a picturesque, clean, white-water river. Now it runs brown, infected with chemicals, pollutants, and debris thanks to runoff by a wounded environment.
  •  Make it Snow: Let’s talk about the carbon footprint of trying to create snow in a coastal environment. You walk out of the airport in Sochi and you see palm trees, not snow or ski slopes. Temperature there is in the low 50s in the winter and in the 70s in the summer. Hmm…not quite the obvious place for WINTER Olympics, huh? There has long since been a concern that Sochi wouldn’t have enough snow for the winter sports. In fact they DON’T have enough snow. They have to CREATE snow for the winter sports. A good chunk of the budget for these Olympics have gone to create the snow. And if they don’t have enough snow to create with their snow 400 cannons, they’re falling back on snow they’ve been “stockpiling” in the valleys and canyons in the mountains.
  • Blackfish, Revisited: However one of the most offensive and frivolous acts of these winter Olympics is the capture of wild orcas for the sole purpose of entertainment. It has been well documented that orcas are capable of higher emotions and thinking. To rip these animals away from their tight-knit family groups is devastating. To put them in a tank that is equivalent to putting a human in a closet and ask them to perform tricks is equally demoralizing. These animals were caught for the sole purpose to bring in money and people to the games. They will live a lifetime of depression and abuse. All in the name of entertainment.

This all really is only scraping the surface of the environmental impact of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Sochi. Russian officials refuse to allow reporters or environmental activists near dumping sites or construction zones – nor have they released any information on full environmental impact. Undoubtedly they have something to hide.

Tomorrow night the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Games start. Dancers will be stomping and twirling flags over the bones and mud of a marshland that had to sacrifice itself for the cause. People will chug in by railroad, built specifically for the occasion. As they come in, they will not see a pristine white river. They will not see brown bears happily roaming the mountains. For dinner people will not eat local salmon – they’ve all but disappeared now from the construction and pollutants. This is the price of the Olympics.

Will you watch?  
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