The Alamo The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club
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The Alamo Sierran e-Newsletter - August, 2014

newsletter (pdf)


* General Meetings *

Tuesday, August 19th: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland plus Svalbard Archipelago (Norway)

Alan Montemayor and Cheryl Hamilton, will provide wonderful exploration of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, and the Svalbard Archipelago, including the Northernmost Point, just 540 nautical miles from the North Pole, land of the polar bear, beluga, walrus and reindeer. This expedition will be on Spitsbergen Explorer.

Tuesday, September 16th: Chief Sustainability Officer for San Antonio's Office of Sustainability

Doug Melnick comes to San Antonio from Albany, NY.  Under his leadership, Albany was recognized recently by Governor Cuomo as one of six cities in New York to have participated in the Climate Smart Communities Certification Program, which you can read about here. Mr. Melnick's bio can be found here.

Times, maps and speaker bios are on our Events page.

A Word from the Alamo Group Chair

The Alamo Group is very concerned that SAWS’ board approved moving forward on negotiations for a 30 year contract with Vista Ridge Consortium to pipe in 50,000 acre feet per year of Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer water, from Burleson County, 142 miles away.

Unfortunately the discussions have not been inclusive enough nor challenged questionable assumptions. Water at four times current costs? Higher energy and resource demands? A doubled population by 2070? Encouraging build out over the Edwards Aquifer? This is not sustainable. San Antonio’s leaders act blind to the profound changes occurring across the earth, urgent conservation needs, and the limits to growth. Instead we are still locked in a passé paradigm of unlimited growth in service to economic interests that are not balanced with equity or the environment.

Some concerns are that SAWS decisions, under City rules, permit most new developments over sensitive areas threatening our Edwards Aquifer water, extend utilities even further into adjacent counties, foster and subsidize sprawl, and discourage conservation.

Also, Vista Ridge water is projected to cost four times more than the most expensive Edward’s Aquifer water and about twice that of SAWS’ new large-scale desalinated water. This cost is an unfair burden, because San Antonio has one of the greatest income disparities in the nation.  Costs of almost everything are rising here, but incomes have lagged behind. All the way down the income scale these costs destabilize San Antonio families. The increased price of desalinated and piped water is, in large part, due to more resources required, including energy, which also competes with other needs for those resources, further driving up prices and Green House Gas (GHGs) releases.

Limiting GHGs that are known climate disruptors is a national and global priority. San Antonio and surrounding communities have yet to develop comprehensive plans for lowering current levels, and that helps explain why intense, inefficient resource activities continue so uncritically. Without better plans and rules, Vista Ridge water will spur undesirable population growth and development that will increase environmental and social disruption.

by Margaret Day, Executive Committee Chair

Lion's Field Events
Monthly films and presentations for your edification and enjoyment

Wednesday, August 27th: Learn about the Fundamentals of Streetcars

Lyndon Henry and Dave Dobbs of Austin's Light Rail Now website will discuss the fundamentals of streetcars. Both are very knowledgeable about all aspects of multimodal transit, of which the streetcar is a part, plus transit oriented development, across the country.

Wednesday, September 24th: The Cove

The Cove examines dolphin hunting practices in Japan and was awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010.

Our Lion's Field events are free and open to the public. They occur on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Lion's Field Adult Center, 2809 Broadway @ Mulberry. Programs begin at 6:30 p.m..

Visit our Lion's Field Events page for a map and additional information.

Press Conference Statement on Request for a Moratorium on SAWS Utility Service Agreements

On July 21, members of the Alamo Sierra Club joined forces with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and other partners at a press conference in support of GEAA’s call for the San Antonio Water System to adopt a moratorium on the utility service agreements for service to any new developments that would threaten the quality and quantity of water from San Antonio’s aquifer. The Vista Ridge project or other massive acquisitions of water should not even be considered until an effective and enforceable set of regulations and restrictions to protect all parts of the aquifer system is put in place.

We are not at all convinced that the extremely expensive Vista Verde project is necessary. As recently as last January, SAWS staff determined that, with the addition of the desalination plant, the City would have adequate and flexible sources of supply. What accounts for the turnabout?

The Sierra Club believes that the best interests of the people of San Antonio will be served by dramatically increasing the protection of the Edwards aquifer and by stepping up water conservation measures among all residents and businesses, alike.

by Meredith McGuire, Conservation Committee Co-Chair

Sierrans at Social Event

Social Events
meet and greet your Sierra Club friends

Friday, August 22nd, 6-8 PM: Blue Star Brewing Co.

Good choice of cold, micro-brewed beers along with great salads, sandwiches & soups. 1414 S. Alamo St.

Friday, September 26th, 6-8 PM: Fratello’s Deli

Good selection of sandwiches and pizza. 2503 Broadway St.

If you're not busy on these days, then get out of the house and join us for a meal and a chance to "meet and greet" some of your fellow members. If you would like to be reminded about our upcoming Socials, email Loyd Cortez. Then one week before the next Social, you will receive an email notice.

Visit our Social Events page for maps, times and more information about these gatherings.

Moving Forward in the Transportation Sector

San Antonio is on the map as a progressive city with its moves in the direction of solar and wind energy to reduce emissions. VIA is moving us forward to reduce emissions in the transportation sector. VIA's plans include a seamless multimodal transportation system based on the idea of making connections reliably and quickly in the future. The streetcar is a part of this multimodal plan. 

With new transportation options, the downtown has the potential to become a lively center of shopping, arts and crafts shows, art galleries, music venues, and more. Imaginative events are already occurring.  Artpace's Rooftop Jazz on several Friday's come to mind. Read about that here.

To encourage and support VIA's exciting plans to reduce emissions in the transportation sector is the new advocacy group called Move SA Forward. Robert Rivard of The Rivard Report has an interesting article on Move SA Forward.

by Barb McMillin, Transportation Chair

What Really Are Greenhouse Gases?

This article is the second in a series about global climate change: the real science, the actual mechanisms, summarized. This one is about greenhouse gases: what they are and how they work. An article in the July issue talked about global warming.

The global warming trend is the key factor in global climate change. And the key factor in the current global warming trend is greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are increasingly acting like an actual greenhouse and trapping Earth's radiated heat within the atmosphere.

Which gases?

Greenhouse gases are the components of our atmosphere that absorb much more of the Earth's infra-red radiation than the others. See the July article for a discussion about Earth's radiation. There is a good Wikipedia article on greenhouse gases, which is the source of the table below.

Key Greenhouse Gases
Gas Current concentration Greenhouse effect contribution
Water vapor, H20 0-4% 36-72%
Carbon dioxide, CO2 400 ppm (0.04%) 9-26%
Methane, CH4 2 ppm (0.0002%) 4-9%

The atmosphere exclusive of water vapor is 99% oxygen and nitrogen, 02 and N2. These are simple diatomic molecules and absorb very little of the Earth's radiation.

In comparison, greenhouse gases are more complex molecules with several modes of vibration and so can absorb much more of Earth's radiation. The chart above lists the key greenhouse gases.

Food for thought
Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray, where nature heals and gives strength to body and soul alike.
- John Muir

Water vapor is the biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect, but its concentration is mostly only dependent upon location, pressure and temperature. So the effect of water vapor hasn't changed since the beginning of the industrial revolution, around 200 years ago.

What has changed in the last 200 years are the concentrations of the other greenhouse gases, largely due to the burning of carbon-based fuels and deforestation. The concentrations of all of them have about doubled.

Additional greenhouse gases that have increased due to our activities are ozone, nitrous oxide and the chlorofluorocarbon compounds like Freon. The latter have no natural sources at all.

The worst: carbon dioxide

We hear a lot about the carbon footprint of our activities; for example how many pounds of CO2 result from the creation of a hamburger or driving a car for a mile. So let's look at the real data about our total cumulative carbon footprint.

The charts below show how much the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased with time. The sharpest increase has been in the last 40 years and there is no sign of this slowing down.

graph showing increase in atmospheric CO2graph showing 800,000 years of atmospheric CO2 fluctuations
Source: Scripps Inst. of Oceanography, UCSD

It is startling to realize that the entire time scale of the upper graph is compressed into the thin vertical line at the far right of the lower graph. This shows that the concentration of CO2 is now nearly 60% higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years.

A quote that comes to mind, by astronaut Ulf Merbold, Federal Republic of Germany: “For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light  our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance.”

Next month's article: coal versus natural gas as fuel.

by Kevin Hartley, Newsletter Editor

Our Poetry Potluck Event

Our July 15 poetry pot luck was a well-attended and moving event. Many thanks to our emcee and program organizer Mobi Warren and to the poets (photo below). We would also like to thank members of the Chef’s Cooperative Tyler Horstmann, Kathy Pullen, and Chris Cook for the creative and tasty dishes they contributed and promotion of the Farm to Market Movement.

(L-R) Poets: Lahab Assef Al-Jundi, Carol Reposa, Kamala Platt,
Bryce Milligan, Mobi Warren, and Jim LaVilla-Havelin

by Margaret Day, Executive Committee Chair

Sign Up for Action Alerts

The Sierra Club is all about citizen action on critical issues. Quick citizen input often spells the difference between victory and defeat for important measures at the local and state levels. Sign up now to receive our local e-mail Conservation Action Alerts and let your voice be heard. Call (674-9489) or email Loyd Cortez and we'll add your name to our growing list of environmental activists.

Hike the Canyon at Government Canyon State Natural Area — August 10, 2013

Outings: Beautiful Central Texas Weather Beckons

Visit the Alamo Sierra Club Outings page on Meetup for detailed information about all of our upcoming Sierra Club Outings.

Throwaway batteries

Bring Your Used Batteries to the General Membership Meeting

Don’t throw those small batteries in the trash bin where they will end up in our landfills. Bring them to the monthly general meetings where we will have a container for you to place them in. Thanks to Gay Wright for coordinating this recycling effort.