Jeffrey’s Birthday Replay, “Birds of North America,” Yellowstone—America’s Super Geothermal Source? Costa Rica’s Agro-Forests!

by | Feb 17, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Jeffrey’s birthday gift: a favorites replay, “Birds of North America,”plus Yellowstone—America’s super geothermal source?  And Costa Rica’s agro-forests!



Climate change is everywhere. And so too are positive action climate change stories. You just need to be open. I found one in the Wall Street Journal recently. It was an opinion piece written by Jacob Borden. Borden is an associate professor of chemical and bioprocess engineering at Trine University in Angola, Indiana. Before that, he was a BP engineer in that company’s alternative energy unit.

Quick summary of Prof. Borden’s piece. He argues we have two choices—suffer the devastating, extinction-level event of a super volcanic eruption when the caldera beneath Yellowstone National Park blows, again—or harness the geothermal energy beneath Yellowstone to provide electricity to 20 million homes across North America for a thousand years, at about ten cents per kilowatt hour.

According to scientists, Yellowstone experienced a super-eruption three times in recent history—2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and about 631,000 years ago. Geologically speaking, people we’re in the category of “not if, but when.”

And according to a 2014 report published by the American Geophysical Union, the ash radius from a Yellowstone super-eruption event would extend from Wyoming to New York State. America’s breadbasket, as well as Canadian cropland would be destroyed for generations, twice. Once from as much as three inches of ash burying everything as far east as Lincoln, NE, and a twice from the “volcanic winter” created by the sulfate aerosols floating in the atmosphere.

Given the choice, Prof. Borden wonders why we haven’t done the obvious– siphon off some of that prodigious power and save the planet, to boot. Now before you go shaking your head and clucking, “because entrenched corporate interests,” remember that the US actually passed the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, fifty-one years ago for the purpose of generating research and development of geothermal energy production.

Okay, so Borden also stresses that the act specifically prohibits geothermal energy development in national parks…okay, now you can shake your head and cluck.

But in their defense, half a century ago, there was no such technology as horizontal drilling. Popularized by the fracking industry, horizontal drilling is a robust technology allowing access to an energy source up to miles from the well.

So what’s it gonna be America—complete annihilation of a national treasure and the resultant mass starvation of billions of people by an imminent Yellowstone super-eruption, or power almost 15% of American homes with green, carbon-free energy at a dime a kilowatt hour for a thousand years?

Join Prof. Borden’s campaign to amend the Geothermal Steam Act. Call your congress person now.

DEEPER DIVE: TRINE U., LinkedIn, Vox, American Geophysical Union, USGS,



 A dad and a daughter with differing beliefs try to connect while birding (that’s bird-watching to the uninitiated) in a suburban Maryland backyard. That’s the basis of the a new play by Anna Ouyang Moench. Birds of North America is Baltimore native and L.A.-based playwright Anna Ouyang Moench’s look at affection in one family across a decade of fraught visits plus the increasingly visible impacts of climate change.

According to the playwright, Anna Ouyang Moench, John and his daughter Caitlyn are birders. As they scan the skies over their backyard in suburban Maryland looking for elusive birds, years go by.  Relationships begin and end. Children grow up and parents age. The climate and the world change in small and vast ways.

The play is on right now at The Mosaic Theater Company in Washington, DC through November 21st. According to Mosaic, if you can’t see it live, a streaming option will become available soon. Said director Serge Seiden, managing director of Mosaic Theater, in an interview on WTOP radio, “Anna’s centering of climate change deeply attracts us to this play.”

And why does Birds of North America matter to us? While it takes a close look at the relationship of a father and daughter over the course of a decade as they struggle to understand the parts of one another that defy understanding, it’s also an allegory for our own struggle to understand climate change—something that can at times defy all comprehension.

DEEPER DIVE: Anna Ouyang Moench, Denver Post, WTOP, Mosaic Theater Company



For many NGOs, fighting climate change on a local level involves bringing the concept of agroforestry to areas where the knowledge was either lost or never known. But what does agroforestry look like? When you look at a typical agroforestry plot, it looks like a messy, disorderly hodgepodge of plants.

That’s right. So who better to go to, to help explain the concept than a country preserving more nature within it than most others on the planet—Costa Rica, recent winner of the EarthShot prize.  

Ricardo Salazar is an agroforestry professor and researcher at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology. He studies the Bribri indigenous people of that country’s  Talamanca region. In an interview with MongaBay, Salazar talked about fincas integrales, as agroforestry farms are known there.

To many, they make up a seemingly disorderly system that reminds one of the creative mess of a tropical forest. However, under closer inspection, one sees how timber trees such as laurel, cedar and mountain almond dominate these agricultural landscapes.

Under their shade grow fruit trees such as orange, lemon, star fruit, soursop and sapote. These in turn give needed shade to medicinal plants such as comfrey, goosefoot and hombre grande, which is used to heal respiratory diseases and snake bites. These plantings make the community nearly self-sufficient, as they provide food, construction materials, and medicines.

Said Prof. Salazar, “We found a complex multi-strata system with more than 30 tree species. Each tree offers different services: timber to build houses and boats, firewood, fruit for food, and crops such as cocoa and banana that could provide extra income to the families.”

Agroforestry promotes biodiversity in both flora and fauna, when done properly. For instance, The community’s agroforestry plots are also home to a variety of animals, from domestic pigs, chickens and horses, to wildlife such as the yigüirro (also known as the clay-colored thrush, Turdus grayi, the national bird of Costa Rica), toucans, red-lored parrot, stingless bees, as well as important cocoa-pollinating insects such as midges. Let’s not forget about mammals like the lowland paca, and white-lipped peccary.

DEEPER DIVE: MongaBay, AgroForestry, EarthShot Prize, Costa Rica Institute of Tech