Mojave Soundscape

I've written recently about the desert's visual resources . The term itself - visual resources - seems so inadequate; as if you could actually quantify the serenity and beauty of a desert landscape.  The Mojave Desert has a soundtrack that is equally difficult to capture.  When I'm not in the desert, I can at least enjoy the photos I took of the landscapes, but my cheap camera microphone is never going to pick up all of the beautiful sounds.   I have tried using the video function on my camera to record the sound of the coyotes in the distance, but I'm left with a couple of faint yips drowned out by the breeze hitting the microphone. Luckily a pair of naturalists, Sarah Koschak and Andrew Skeoch, travel the world recording the sounds of nature, and compiled sounds from the Mojave Desert in an album available on their website.   Sarah wrote about realizing her wish to camp amongst Joshua trees under a starry sky, and listening to the yip of the coyotes.  Near the

Fighting for Local Clean Energy

I wrote earlier this week about a misguided approach to clean energy that accepts - and applauds - the unnecessary destruction of our wildlands.  Until we change the system, we will continue to be at the mercy of giant and monopolistic utility companies whose business model involves the destruction of our environment and health. Well here is an opportunity to change the system.  The Sierra Club's My Generation Campaign in California is stepping up its efforts against utility companies , and you will have an opportunity to join the fight on August 21.  Why?  Because utility companies are lobbying California legislators to prevent the expansion of rooftop solar programs, including a bill that would have brought rooftop solar and jobs to underrepresented communities.  Apparently utility companies want us to obediently pay our electric bills and let them decide where, and how to generate our electricity.  This is a new age, however, and solar allows average folks like you and I to

Yucca Mountain: Dead or Alive?

A federal court this week ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must continue its licensing review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in the Nevada desert.  However, Senator Reid and the Obama administration remain opposed to the waste site, and a "blue ribbon" panel suggested that nuclear energy plants could find other alternatives to the disposal site, including keeping waste in the states where it is generated.  Although Nevada does derive some of its electricity from nuclear sources, there are no nuclear power plants in the state.  Many Nevadans have opposed the Yucca Mountain waste site because Congress cancelled the review of two alternative sites in Washington and Texas on political grounds, essentially shouldering the Nevada desert with an unfair burden. Although prospects currently look good that nuclear energy generators will not get their way in the Nevada desert, I try to remind myself that the problem of nuclear waste is long-term, and

Demanding Sustainable Clean Energy in Nevada

Industry leaders, government officials, and environmentalists gathered today in Las Vegas at the National Clean Energy Summit to discuss policy and business developments affecting the renewable energy industry.  The Sierra Club's national office used the occasion of the Clean Energy Summit to celebrate K Road's Moapa solar project, which will destroy three square miles of intact desert habitat located over thirty miles from the energy guzzling Las Vegas strip.   In a Facebook posting earlier this evening, the Sierra Club thanked its followers for supporting the "large solar farm" outside the city, featuring a photo of Sierra Club members rallying in front of the desert lands that are destined for the bulldozer.   The Sierra Club could have celebrated plans to close the dirty Reid Gardner coal plant, and the announcement of one of the largest rooftop solar projects in the world planned for a Las Vegas resort. Mandalay Bay announced plans to build one of the large

Reforming Visual Resource Management in the Desert

America's southwestern deserts are home to some grand vistas where we can enjoy the serenity of a place mostly undisturbed by human development, and it is our obligation to protect the relatively intact landscapes that remain for the enjoyment of future generations.     However, our land management practices offer only fragmented and incomplete protection to these visual resources - pockets of mountain wilderness surrounded by unprotected valleys.  The result is that destructive projects can be permitted in remote areas that destroy not only the land on which they are built, but also spoil an otherwise intact vista of mountains and valleys that seem to stretch beyond the horizon, all in Mother Nature's domain.  We will need careful consideration of these visual resources in California's Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), and vocal community support for legislation such as the California Desert Protection Act and other conservation bills.   But from a more sy

BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Project

In the time it took BrightSource Energy to build its 377 megawatt Ivanpah Solar project on over 5 square miles of pristine desert, California added more than twice as much clean energy capacity with rooftop solar, and other companies added hundreds of megawatts to the grid from solar projects built on already-disturbed lands.  Why carpet beautiful desert landscapes with mirrors when there is a better way to generate clean energy? [click on image to expand]

Los Angeles Times Misses the Full Story on Wind

The Los Angeles Times today published an editorial sympathizing with the California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA) regarding the relative lack of development zones suitable for wind energy in California's desert.  CalWEA believes the planning process for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) - which will identify areas where land management and wildlife officials believe utility-scale renewable energy development is appropriate in the California Desert District - favors solar over wind. CalWEA and the Los Angeles Times fail to acknowledge that wind turbines already cover vast swaths of our desert.  In California's San Gorgonio Pass, 3,000 wind turbines have transformed over 20 square miles of desert and foothills into an industrial zone.   In the Tehachapi area, the industry has developed over 50 square miles into a wind energy zone hosting hundreds of wind turbines.  One of the largest wind projects in the country is located in the Mojave Desert near Teha