Thu, Dec


Want to be Green? Forget Mass Transit, Work at Home

BE GREEN--Expanding mass-transit systems is a pillar of green and “new urbanist” thinking, but with few exceptions, the idea of ever-larger numbers of people commuting into an urban core ignores a major shift in the labor economy: More people are working from home.

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Who Needs Anti-Climate Change Trump … Lead by LA Mayor, ‘Climate Mayors’ Adopt Paris Agreement

BEGREEN— Mayor Eric Garcetti brought Climate Mayors together for the first time since affirming that hundreds of mayors would adopt, honor and uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement in cities across America. While rallying other mayors to join with the network, Mayor Garcetti was also joined in a ceremonial signing of the Climate Mayors' commitment to adopt the Paris goals in their cities.

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Impossible Goals: California’s Global Warming High-Speed Train

BE GREEN--The California High-Speed Rail Authority promises to “achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in construction” and is committed to operate the system on “100% renewable energy” by contracting for “400 to 600 megawatts of renewable power”. These promises may please environmentalists, but they cannot be kept.

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Friends of LA River Mobilizes the Largest Urban River Cleanup in America

BEGREEN--Friends of the LA River (FOLAR) is pleased to announce that it has broken its own record from last year in both number of volunteers and tonnage of trash collected for the just-completed 28th Annual Great LA River CleanUp: La Gran Limpieza (CleanUp). FOLAR’s annual CleanUp has exploded in recent years, and is the largest urban river cleanup in America. Held the past three Saturdays of April, the 2017 CleanUp attracted 10,000 volunteers—individuals and groups—who collectively removed over 100 tons of trash from 14 sites along the length of the LA River.
Focusing primarily on the soft-bottomed and green sections of the LA River which are, in themselves, incredibly diverse, the sites ranged from the bucolic Sepulveda Basin in the San Fernando Valley to the Golden Shore Marine Reserve in Long Beach, where dolphins and seals are a common sight.
After the rains this year, there was an increased need for the CleanUp as additional trash was caught in the green sections of the River.  Regularly found trash includes numerous shopping carts, plastic bags (fewer every year), snack wrappers, cups, and mattresses. Volunteers also found more exotic items ranging from car parts to bathtubs to a 6-foot giant Styrofoam head.
Volunteers included visitors from across California, but primarily Angelenos of all ages and backgrounds, including families, students, elected officials, and hipsters—many of whom participate each year.  More than 200 volunteer groups turned out, along with the 1000s of individuals, demonstrates the ubiquitous interest in and passion for the LA River.
“The CleanUp is an inspiring demonstration of the power of community and shows how far the LA River Movement has come,” states Marissa Christiansen, FOLAR’s Executive Director. “Angelenos are a powerful people and when 10,000 of us come together there is nothing we can’t accomplish.”    
Elected officials who participated in the CleanUp festivities included:  CA Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon; CA Senator Anthony Portantino; CA Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon; CA Assembelymembers Raul Bocanegra, Adrin Nazarian, and Patrick O’Donnell; Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero; Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and David Ryu; and Long Beach City Councilmembers Al Austin and Robert Uranga.
FOLAR’s Founder, Lewis MacAdams, knew that Angelenos would love their river again and become its stewards. With the creation of FOLAR 30 years ago, he took the lead in making that happen, emphasizing that “each area of the Los Angeles River is unique and requires special attention and appreciation.”
FOLAR’s stewardship of the river encourages community engagement, education and enjoying time at the river. To that end, volunteers were entertained during the events by popular local bands that came to the CleanUp to connect with the LA River community. Select sites also featured FOLAR’s 38’ mobile visitor and education center, the LA River Rover, which taught close to 800 volunteers about the LA River’s past, present, and future.  
The 2017 CleanUp was made possible through sponsorships from the City of Long Beach Clean Team, long-time partners REI Co-op, Toyota Financial Services, and Rubio’s Coastal Grill, who were joined by new sponsors Soylent and Skanska as well as many others.
(Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR): Founded in 1986, FOLAR is a 501c(3) nonprofit whose mission is to ensure a publicly accessible and ecologically sustainable Los Angeles River by inspiring River stewardship through community engagement, education, advocacy, and thought leadership. Learn more at www.folar.org.)


Earth Day, the Climate Agreement and March for Science

BEGREEN--It’s no coincidence that Earth Day, the first anniversary of the signing of the climate agreement and the March for Science are all taking place on the same day, April 22. It is the people’s day. It has been the people’s day since 1970, when Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisc.), Rep. Pete McCloskey (R-Calif.), and lead organizer Denis Hayes turned out 20 million ordinary citizens in what is still regarded as the largest-ever single social mobilization effort in world history.  

The goal—to put environmental issues dead center of the political agenda by mobilizing citizens—led directly to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and some of the most important environmental laws ever enacted including the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.  The modern environmental movement was launched and nearly half a century later, Earth Day continues to be a day of action and mobilization that engages more than 1 billion people in 192 countries. That number grows with each passing year.

"This year, Earth Day will once again serve as a vehicle for mobilization when, in addition to turning out a billion people and celebrating the First Anniversary of the Climate Agreement, the world will march for science."

At first it may not be obvious why Earth Day was the day of choice for the March, but Earth Day was the result of warnings that scientists had made for years about our environment for years. From Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring” to multiple discoveries of the human health effects of fossil fuels and other toxics, Earth Day and the laws that grew out of that huge new movement were all based on the painstaking work of dedicated scientists.

Not that it wasn’t obvious in 1970. With rivers on fire, cities experiencing dangerous levels of air pollution, genetic changes in our wildlife and children suffering from a myriad of diseases and birth defects, scientists’ warnings finally sparked a revolution. 

Last year, the importance of Earth Day was recognized when 175 countries met in New York on April 22nd to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. Scientists, global leaders, corporations and people took a collective sigh of relief that a climate agreement, although imperfect, finally moved forward.  Science was at the heart of the Climate agreement but support from all facets of civil society helped create the political climate that made it possible.  

This year, Earth Day will once again serve as a vehicle for mobilization when, in addition to turning out a billion people and celebrating the First Anniversary of the Climate Agreement, the world will march for science.

So it is not surprising that we are the lead organizer of the national march in Washington, D.C.

The partnership with the March for Science makes sense. Without science, there would be no Earth Day. Without science we would have no Climate Agreement, Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act, or any of the environmental legislation that grew out of the first Earth Day.

It is the cornerstone of our understanding of the world. We rely on scientists to ask questions, form hypotheses, test these hypotheses through rigorous experiments, and ultimately draw conclusions. We rely on scientists to tell us the truth.  

And what makes partnership with March for Science all the more meaningful is that this year’s Earth Day theme is climate and environm ental science literacy. 

Environmental literacy was once the sad stepchild of our movement. Today, countries around the world are discussing and passing laws to create a new generation of educated citizens ready for 21st century green energy jobs. Just as it was true at the dawn of the industrial revolution, the countries that teach science and prepare their work force for a new economy will get the jobs and the investments and become the leaders of the green economy.  And by the same token, those countries that fail to educate their children about the science of the future will not prosper. Earth Day Network’s goal is to support the inevitable move to the post-fossil fuel world economy by educating and preparing the next generation of students to be ready for tomorrow’s jobs.

Which brings us back to People’s Day. As in 1970, people all over the world are faced with a choice. We can rely on real science to illuminate the truth and the way toward a sustainable future, or we can turn our backs on both science and truth. 

We suspect the American people will choose the latter and that on Earth Day people will be marching for both. And not just scientists. Teachers, students, business leaders, elected officials, parents, grandparents and many others will be marching to protect the truth, protect science and protect our planet

(Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, is the lead organizer for the Earth Day March for Science rally and teach-ins on the National Mall. Posted earlier at Common Dreams.) 


LA River Needs Your Help … Make an Earth Day Commitment

BEGREEN--Earth Day 2017 is on the horizon and our environment has never needed more stewardship, awareness, and action.  The month of April and the days leading up to Earth Day give us all a moment to reflect and take action – think globally, act locally. Friends of the LA River is proud to bring Angelenos together on the River with their communities at the 28th Annual Great LA River Clean Up: La Gran Limpieza!   

28 years ago, just two years after the founding of FoLAR, Lewis MacAdams launched the first ever La Gran Limpieza with a handful of dedicated volunteers.  Now, with a little experience and a host of community partners, the Great LA River CleanUp has become the largest urban river cleanup in America, removing what would otherwise flow into our ocean. 

National leadership is a Los Angeles tradition FOLAR is proud to honor. With 9,000 volunteers clearing 70 tons of trash, the river is vital to people of all ages and backgrounds. Angelenos come out by the thousands to show their commitment not only to their River, but to the vision of Los Angeles as a leading center of ecology-focused urbanism. 

The Los Angeles River is one of Los Angeles’ last great open spaces, running 51 miles from Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach. The River connects more than 30 different cities and neighborhoods which represent an incredibly diverse range of communities. Today the River is the focus of major civic initiatives like Alternative 20, a plan to crack the concrete and restore 11 miles of LA River Habitat. 

The recent storms have swept magnitudes of trash into the River, so the 2017 Great LA River CleanUp will play a vital role in keeping the River clean and healthy.  With 14 sites across the last three Saturdays of April (4/15, 4/22, and 4/29), there’s something for everyone. Interested volunteers can find more information at FOLAR.org/cleanup. 

We encourage all Angelenos to demonstrate their commitment to the environment and celebrate the Earth with their friends and fellow River stewards.  Volunteers can sign up today at folar.org/cleanup

(Shelly Backlar is FOLAR’s Vice President of Programs, and a passionate advocate for the river. She can be often be found leading a tour, running a field trip activity with elementary school children, or meeting a community member on the Los Angeles River Rover.)


Alert! EPA Rejects Own Science, Greenlights Brain-Damaging Pesticide

BEGREEN--Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt denied a 10-year-old petition late Wednesday to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a widely-used pesticide that harms children's brains, in a decision that outraged public health advocates and environmentalists. 

In greenlighting the dangerous chemical, the EPA defied its own research—and acquiesced to Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, which has been lobbying the agency for years to allow the pesticide's continued use.

"Without the ban, farmworkers, their children, and others can't escape exposure because the poison is in [the] air they breathe, in the food they eat, the soil where children play."
—Erik Nicholson,
United Farm Workers

As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) observed: "The Trump EPA's denial of the NRDC and Pesticide Action Network 2007 petition to ban chlorpyrifos contradicts EPA's own analysis from November 2016 (just five months ago!) that found widespread risk to children from residues of the pesticide on food, in drinking water, and in the air in agricultural communities. Up until last night, EPA explained that because of these risks a ban was needed to protect children's health."

Environmental law group Earthjustice listed the risks the EPA discovered through its own research into chlorpyrifos:

  • All exposure to chlorpyrifos through food exceeds safe levels of the chemical. The most exposed population is children between one and two years of age. On average, this vulnerable group is exposed to 140 times the level of chlorpyrifos the EPA deems safe.
  • Chlorpyrifos contaminates drinking water.
  • Chlorpyrifos drifts to schools, homes, and fields in toxic amounts at more than 300 feet from the fields.
  • Workers face unacceptable risks from exposures when they mix and apply chlorpyrifos and when they enter fields to tend to crops.

There is little doubt about the science. Mother Jones' Tom Philpott reported that "Stephanie Engel, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina and a co-author of [a major study on chlorpyrifos at Mount Sinai], says the evidence that chlorpyrifos exposure causes harm is 'compelling'—and is 'much stronger' even than the case against BPA (bisphenol A), the controversial plastic additive. She says babies and fetuses are particularly susceptible to damage from chlorpyrifos because they metabolize toxic chemicals more slowly than adults do. And 'many adults' are susceptible, too, because they lack a gene that allows for metabolizing the chemical efficiently, Engel adds."

And the New York Times reported that "Jim Jones, who ran the chemical safety unit at the EPA for five years, and spent more than 20 years working there until he left the agency in January when President Trump took office, said he was disappointed by Mr. Pruitt's action. 'They are ignoring the science that is pretty solid,' Mr. Jones said."

The decision is in line with Pruitt's anti-science, pro-corporate stance. Yet advocates and researchers who have followed the years-long campaign to end the use of chlorpyrifos were still shocked by Pruitt's outrageous move.

As a result of Pruitt's decision, children and farmworkers nationwide are endangered, rights advocates and environmental groups charge.

"Without the ban, farmworkers, their children, and others can't escape exposure because the poison is in [the] air they breathe, in the food they eat, the soil where children play," observed Erik Nicholson, national vice president of United Farm Workers. "We all have a basic right to a healthy life."

Some further argued that the decision breaks the law.

"We have a law that requires the EPA to ban pesticides that it cannot determine are safe, and the EPA has repeatedly said this pesticide is not safe," Patti Goldman, managing attorney at Earthjustice, told the New York Times.

Earthjustice has vowed to fight Pruitt's decision in court, reported NPR.

(Nika Knight writes for Common Dreams  … where this report was first posted.)


Trump, GOP Moving to Restrict Info on Racial Disparity and Fair Housing

GREEN BUILDING CONFERENCE PREVIEW--I was recently a Master’s Speaker at Greenbuild 2016, the world's largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. The conference held in Los Angeles last year focused on Green building performance, health and wellness, the Greening of cities, and identifying those emerging technologies that will continue to shape the 21st century. (Photo above: Streetwyze app co-founder Aekta Shah (center) inputs data with community members.) 

I was invited to speak on science and technology and the power of local data.  The conference was mind blowing and an important reminder that a decade ago the idea of real time data on energy efficiency, Artificial intelligence (AI), the health and wellness components of green building, and augmented reality, all seemed like stuff in comic books or science fiction movies.  Not any more.  Much of this stuff is now part and parcel of our everyday reality.  

I start here because early in 2017 the new administration has begun to take dramatic steps to restrict access to public information.  More specifically, within the first 100 days members of Congress have introduced a pair of bills aimed at rolling back the Obama administration’s fair housing reforms; and hidden in the “Local Zoning Protection Act” are stipulations that seek to curtail the production and distribution of data about racial segregation. 

According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, “The bills would also prohibit federal funds from being used for the HUD database containing geospatial information regarding community racial disparities and disparities in access to affordable housing.” 

The lockdown on local data raises serious questions about how local governments and nonprofits can develop neighborhood-level early warning systems that can help city leaders and community advocates combat gentrification, displacement, growing income inequality, and the increasing suburbanization of poverty.  How can we foster two-way feedback loops between cities and communities to identify unique neighborhood characteristics if we are not being encouraged and supported to collect local data on race, space, place, and waste? How will we repurpose, visualize, and integrate the various municipal and external data sources to meet community needs if we constrict the role of local community driven data? 

These are important questions because across the U.S., communities are aspiring to become more economically robust, resilient, equitable, sustainable, and strong.  However, while there is little debate that mixed-use communities are desirable assets, few communities have found the right package of investment, suite of services, or policy interventions that can turn burned out buildings into thriving arts and commercial corridors, innovation hubs, and culturally and community responsive spaces that truly serve the needs of communities. 

But what if cities and community leaders could see inequalities in real time and had an early warning system that could help produce more equitable outcomes?  This is where the new mapping equity app called Streetwyze comes into play to help make the invisible visible.    

How Would This Work 

Streetwyze is a mobile, mapping, and SMS platform that collects local knowledge about how people are experiencing cities and turns them into actionable analytics.  The power of the app is that it makes local knowledge accessible within and outside of government by creating two-way feedback loops and data visualizations between neighborhoods and cities so that they co-produce policies that help secure shared benefits.  By integrating community-generated data with predictive analytics, cities and community leaders are empowered with forward-looking knowledge that can track equity indicators, identify hot spots and cool spots for equitable development, and predict future trajectories for vulnerable populations. 

This work is the leading edge of a new “science of cities,” “equitable cities,” and “data-driven cities” that build upon and extends the earlier “smart cities” work of john a. powell’s Opportunity Mapping project, PolicyLink’s National Equity Atlas, the EcoDistrict protocol, Enterprise Community Partner’s Opportunity Index, as well as private businesses like Neighborland, Zillow, and Redfin’s Walkscore to name a few. 

In the City of Angels, the Mapping LA project created by the LA Times in 2009, was one of the earlier attempts to include community voices by drawing boundary lines for 158 cities and unincorporated places within Los Angeles County, California, 114 neighborhoods within the City of Los Angeles and 42 unincorporated areas. The maps were then "redrawn with the help of readers who agreed or disagreed with our initial boundaries." After reviewing this collective knowledge, Times staffers adjusted more than 100 boundaries, eliminated some names and added others. 

Where Has Streetwyze Been Tried, and What Have We Learned? 

What is new about the Streetwyze Platform is that community groups, artists, advocates, and everyday people working to improve the neighborhoods where they live, learn, work, and play, rarely have had the opportunity to integrate their lived experience into big data sets, computer simulations, and advanced modeling techniques to improve urban patterns and help cities function more effectively.  

Though still in its early stages, the Ironbound Community Corporation and New Jersey EJ Alliance are already using Streetwyze to measure air quality in Newark, New Jersey, as part of Streetwyze’s beta effort there (supported by the Kresge Foundation).  Despite the fact that the initial focus of the mapping was around mapping environmental health hazards, the majority of data that has been posted by local community members is positive—over 70% of reviews are of “good stuff”.  This is powerful given the public/media perception of Newark, NJ, which tends to be rather negative.  Streetwyze has finally given the community a voice to narrate their own story of their community, and the story is largely positive.   

This type of community driven information has perked the ears of long time innovators of creative place-making, such as the Denver Housing Authority (DHA) lead by Ismael Guerrero who, with support from U.S. Bank, is launching the Streetwyze platform to help conduct health impact assessments (HIA’s) for new low-income housing development that will serve Denver’s Mariposa neighborhood in 2017.  

But the question remains: are cities ready to integrate real-time, community-generated data and predictive analytics into their decision-making and participatory planning processes?  Recently Bloomberg Philanthropies launched What Works Cities and The Rockefeller Foundation launched 100 Resilient Cities to help improve the capacity of local governments to use civic tech, data democratization, and advanced simulations to improve city services, inform decision-making, and increase community engagement. 

The Streetwyze app is one of many that are at the forefront of innovation, creative place-making, place-keeping, and local knowledge mobilization for cities and communities.  In the future we envision this real-time, crowd-sourced, early warning system becoming a critical component of participatory planning initiatives with Green Building experts in the U.S. and beyond. 

On April 20th 2017 at the 16th annual Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo (open to all), Streetwyze will bring its message of building a community driven data revolution to Los Angeles, with an explicit look at race, power, environment, gentrification, displacement, opportunity, and promoting what the Chief resiliency officer of Oakland Kiran Jain refers to as “digital resiliency.” 

“Digital resiliency” for the 21st century understands that if cities are going to have community end users at an equity table as equal partners in the planning and decision-making process, cites are going to have to learn how to use mobile, mapping, and SMS apps like Streetwyze to democratize data, democratize decision-making, and reveal hidden patterns in order to be more culturally and community responsive to, and predictive of, past, present, and future community change. 

(Dr. Antwi Akom is a Professor of Africana Studies and Founding Director of UCSF/SFSU’s Social Innovation Lab.  He is also a faculty affiliate with UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations in the Medical School. He co-founded Streetwyze, recognized by Atlantic Citylab, the Root, and Tech Crunch as one of the top new tech tools to empowering vulnerable populations.)


A Climate Action Roadmap: California Steps Up in Uncertain Times

BEGREEN-Governor Jerry Brown signs SB 32 and AB 197 into law, adopting the nation’s strongest carbon emissions reductions in the country, surrounded by SB 32 bill author state Senator Fran Pavley and AB 197 author Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and other legislators. (Photo via The Equation Blog/Union of Concerned Scientists)

The New Year ushers in a new U.S. presidential administration and a lot of uncertainty and angst for people who care about taking decisive action on climate change ( polls indicate that’s most of us.) It’s not clear whether the incoming administration is willing to fulfill U.S. commitments for the Paris Climate Accord and since the nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has sued to overturn the Clean Power Plan, which dovetails with Trump campaign promises to kill the plan, it appears the signature federal policy actions of the last decade to tackle climate change are in grave danger.

Of course, UCS will fight hard any actions to reverse progress on climate change and we will also continue to work for further progress. But unfortunately, it looks like we’re heading into an era when climate action at the federal level will be on the defensive. Does this mean the end of U.S. climate action for the foreseeable future?

No way, would be my answer.  There’s a great deal that can be and is being done by states, regions, and cities to aggressively decarbonize our economy, notably our energy and transportation systems that are the source of the majority of emissions, and these actions can be very far-reaching indeed.

As has been true for well over the last decade, some of the most comprehensive and aggressive climate action is being taken by California, currently the world’s sixth largest economy.  California is not alone, as Oregon and Washington made impressive progress to address climate change last year and are poised to do more, and the three west coast states together could well be on the verge of creating a strong, prosperous regional bulwark in the national struggle to address climate change. I will address the actions and opportunities in the Pacific Northwest in future blogs.

A New Roadmap for Deep Decarbonization

In 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown created an executive order  to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and last year the State Legislature passed a pair of bills, SB 32 (Pavley) and AB 197 (E. Garcia) that Governor Brown signed in September 2016, giving those targets the force of law.  And now, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is about to publish the roadmap to guide California on how it will achieve and enforce those reductions.

This roadmap, called the 2030 Target Scoping Plan, covers the entire economy and includes specific sectors like energy, transportation, water, agriculture, and manufacturing.  The 2030 Target Scoping Plan is enormous in its range and ambition, building on the success of California’s previous law to reduce global warming pollution emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a goal that the state is currently on track to achieve.

The 2030 Scoping Plan lays out a future where the state is powered largely by clean renewable energy, transported by electric vehicles and fueled by low-carbon and non-fossil alternatives to oil-based fuels, and where energy efficiency and sustainable water management reduce greenhouse gas emissions while saving consumers money.  It ramps up requirements for the dirtiest emitters, and recommends a price on carbon (a continuation of the state’s cap-and-trade program) to help achieve some of the most difficult and expensive reductions at lower cost.  And it seeks to ensure that frontline communities that have already suffered a disproportionate burden from pollution get cleaner air and tools they need to meet the threats posed by climate change.

Reducing Emissions and Growing the Economy

These are the kinds of big-picture approaches the entire country and the world will need in order to tackle climate change. Having California – with a very large and complex economy and diverse population – demonstrate successful climate action is both timely and sorely needed.  Since passing its first economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction law in 2006, the state has already proven climate naysayers, who frequently oppose climate action with dire predictions of economic catastrophe, completely wrong by demonstrating that emissions can be reduced while growing the economy.

The last few years have seen disturbing signs of a dangerously changing climate, including record-breaking annual temperatures, wildfires destroying millions of acres of forests, extreme drought like the one in California, and increasingly rapid melting Arctic and Antarctic ice, which could trigger dangerous rates of sea level rise and other dire consequences for the planet.  Climate change is occurring faster than some had predicted, and it is already destroying lives and property, fueling wars and civil discord, and putting severe stress on local and national economies.  So the actions that California takes– bold, ambitious, and transformative– are necessary. The lessons we learn from paving the road to a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable, economy that lowers risk from climate change will have benefits far beyond the state’s borders.

Stay Tuned for Progress and Pushback

Of course, in such a large plan the devil is in the details, and with such a vast undertaking there are always improvements that can be made.  UCS has sent our comments on the 2030 Scoping Plan draft to the Air Resources Board in December describing ways the draft version of the plan could be strengthened to ensure California reduces emissions and builds resilience. My UCS colleagues Laura Wisland and Don Anair with expertise in specific sectors are also writing blogs describing our vision for achieving California’s climate goals by 2030 through a clean electricity grid and better transportation.

And, as usual, we will also need to work hard to thwart the inevitable pushback from opponents of climate action, especially those in the fossil fuel industry who are profiting from the status quo.  UCS will keep you apprised of when and where we need to stand up to those efforts.

We Must Seize the Moment to Achieve a Better Future

California’s climate goals present an opportunity to build a low-carbon economy that supports growth and innovation, enhances our health and quality of life, and lifts up disadvantaged communities that have suffered the most from the legacy of pollution. We now have a roadmap — it’s time to get moving. And we hope this roadmap can help inspire new journeys in other states, regions, and cities all over the nation for how we can make real and significant progress, regardless of what happens in Washington, DC.

(Adrienne Alvord is the Union of Concerned Scientists’ California and western states director)


The Bay Foundation Looks to the Future with a #CAWildBeach in Santa Monica?

BEGREEN--What happens when you change something as iconic as a Santa Monica beach…even just a small part of it? That’s one of the things The Bay Foundation (TBF), an environmental non-profit, in partnership with the City of Santa Monica, is eager to study as part of the newly-launched Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project. This project aims to transform an approximately three-acre section of existing sandy beach into a healthy, beautiful coastal ecosystem—a more ‘wild’ or natural beach—to address coastal hazard risks while protecting and enhancing coastal resources, such as public beach access and recreation, natural shoreline habitat, and aesthetic values. 

The designated area is ocean-ward of the bike path near the water, parallel to the Beach Club, and about 1.5 miles north of the Santa Monica Pier. The wide beaches of Santa Monica provide a valuable environmental and economic resource, receiving 17 million visitors annually. Seventy-two million people visit the beaches throughout LA County in a given year. 

So far this month, TBF’s staff of scientists have installed a low-lying, three-foot tall sand fence, both for protection and to designate the project area; have performed baseline monitoring for the study; and were able to take advantage of last week’s impending rain, seeding the space with native vegetation sooner than anticipated. 

To transform this highly impacted beach, they seeded with native coastal strand species, such as flowering sand verbena and beach evening primrose. The project will evaluate increased protection from sea level rise and erosion for coastal infrastructure and residences, while also providing a vital refuge for locally rare coastal vegetation species, invertebrates, and birds. 

The project is also meant to offer a beach aesthetic unique to the region, an opportunity to see how people in Los Angeles interact with this type of coastal ecosystem, and bird watching opportunities for visitors. One local homeowner, after learning about the project, said, “I wish it was a bigger project ending in a ribbon of natural plants…all along the beach.” 

“The most exciting part of this project for me is the chance to show people what a different kind of beach can look like and what it can actually do,” states TBF Executive Director Tom Ford. “The multiple benefits of this project, if successful, are profound. This project may clearly demonstrate that the beach can again be a place for wildlife and people while providing protection from sea level rise in a very cost effective manner. In essence, we’re using Mother Nature to protect us from Mother Nature by providing Mother Nature with some space on our urban beach.” 

In addition to the curved, flowing, low-lying fence lines, there is a path through the restoration area, and it is open along the water’s edge. Many of the design components were created to minimize disturbance and encourage visitors’ interaction with the beach, from normal recreation to enjoying and learning about the local native plants. 

Karina Johnston, TBF’s Director of Watershed Programs, states, “We believe that the iconic beaches of Santa Monica are a beautiful and important location to test this restoration project, which uses existing sand to transform a portion of the current beach into a sustainable coastal strand and foredune habitat complex resilient to sea level rise.” 

And since timing is everything, a separate but nearby project has a tangential focus. Until early January, the City of Santa Monica has a virtual reality installation on the Santa Monica Pier revealing how sea level rise will affect the Santa Monica shoreline in the not too distant future. Will its iconic beaches be underwater in 30 years? Could projects like the Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project help protect us? Inside the viewer is an immersive virtual reality display showing panoramic views of Santa Monica Beach accurate to the vantage point on the North side of the Pier, where it is mounted. The public can see how the beach and infrastructure will flood with sea level rise and big storms by the end of the century. 

“Personally speaking I’m thrilled to be a part of all this!” adds Ford. “The City of Santa Monica, California State Parks and the folks neighboring the project have been so welcoming, it’s a very encouraging start. I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year.” 

Learn more about the Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project, see beautiful artistic renderings (by Mia Lehrer + Associates), watch for volunteer and educational outreach events at http://www.santamonicabay.org/santa-monica-beach-restoration-pilot/


(Julie Du Brow writes on behalf of The Bay Foundation. The Bay Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit environmental group founded in 1990 to restore and enhance the Santa Monica Bay (from the LA-Ventura county line to the Palos Verdes Peninsula) and local coastal waters. The Foundation is the non-profit partner of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, raising and expending funds for research, education, planning, cleanup efforts and other priorities identified in the Commission’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Plan.)

Table-to-Farm Composting = Clean Air

BEGREEN- The Bay Foundation (TBF) will launch in 2017 its new “Table-to-Farm Composting for Clean Air” program, made possible by an Environmental Champions Grant from Southern California Gas.  Engaging the community-based Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) as a partner, TBF’s pilot program will address methane generated by landfills by connecting restaurants with compost hubs, urban farms, and community gardens for a multifaceted food waste reduction program in the City of Inglewood.
This waste reduction program will tackle air quality and food security issues that impact disadvantaged communities by implementing these hands-on efforts: (a) organic waste recovery and composting partnerships with South L.A. farms and gardens, and (b) outreach about local food sourcing and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  
TBF will recover wasted food from restaurant kitchens, which will be composted in local, SJLI-managed community farms and gardens throughout South L.A.  Currently, 25% of the produce grown by SJLI is sold through their CSA, a program where people can buy directly from farmers.
TBF will use its unique connection with restaurants to ‘feed’ this program.  The Foundation’s well-established Clean Bay Certified program works with cities to inspect and certify restaurants that voluntarily implement initiatives to protect our environment.  The City of Inglewood became a participating city in 2016. 
Grace Lee, TBF’s Director of Outreach Programs, states, “Our Table-to-Farm Composting pilot program is so exciting to me.  This adds another layer to our CBC program, which focuses on responsible restaurants that are helping address the health of Santa Monica Bay and those who use it for enjoyment or subsistence.  Similarly, restaurants engaged in Table-to-Farm can help affect healthier air quality and food access in their community by minimizing food waste to landfills.”
Landfills generate a slew of environmental hazards.  They release toxic gases like methane and carbon dioxide, as well as foul­smelling compounds that adversely affect neighboring communities.  The U.S. EPA has identified landfills as one of the largest sources of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide (USEPA, 2007).  
Organic waste amounts to a third of the volume tossed into California's landfills.  Restaurants are a significant contributor: the average restaurant discards 75 tons of garbage annually, half of which is food waste.  In 2014, California's restaurant industry disposed of 3 million tons of waste.  Fifty percent of that could have been diverted from landfills, dramatically cutting methane released into the atmosphere (CalRecycle, 2015). Considering there are 30,000 eateries throughout L.A., the diversion potential in this disposal stream is deeply significant.
“The partnership with Social Justice Learning Institute is an expansion of the Clean Bay Certified program and is my favorite part of this project.  It enables restaurants to enhance the cultivation of food right here in LA.  This project demonstrates that food waste is only truly wasted when deposited in a landfill,” states TBF Executive Director Tom Ford.  “Aside from the methane offset, the reduced transport of the materials, keeping them local, also reduces emissions improving air quality and public health.  I am grateful to SoCal Gas for supporting this project and I look forward to seeing the results of this partnership.”
The Southern California Gas Environmental Champions Initiative solicits grant proposals for innovative projects or programs that address clean air, clean energy and/or water conservation with a particular emphasis on supporting underserved communities.
Adds Mike Harriel, SoCal Gas Public Affairs Manager, “SoCalGas proudly supports organizations like The Bay Foundation whose deep concern for the environment and innovative programs reflect a shared commitment to the community and environment.”

(Julie Du Brow writes on behalf of The Bay Foundation. The Bay Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit environmental group founded in 1990 to restore and enhance the Santa Monica Bay (from the LA-Ventura county line to the Palos Verdes Peninsula) and local coastal waters. The Foundation is the non-profit partner of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, raising and expending funds for research, education, planning, cleanup efforts and other priorities identified in the Commission’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Plan. )



The Bacteria On Your Skin is Safer Than the Chemicals In Your Soap

PLANET WATCH-Some people love to hate government regulations. Many believe they’re just bureaucratic barriers that waste our time. But the Food and Drug Administration just passed a new regulation that’ll actually protect us, and may save you a few bucks and an unnecessary purchase at the store.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who buys antibacterial soaps, you’ve been, at a minimum, duped. But more importantly, you’ve been exposed to harmful chemicals. 

Antibacterial soaps sound good. After all, no one wants to imagine their hands teeming with bacteria.

We are utterly covered in microorganisms. That idea grosses us out, and some of that bacteria can make us sick. Kill them all, we think.

But in reality, we couldn’t survive without beneficial bacteria, some of which help protect our immune system. And antibacterial soaps are no better at preventing disease than regular soap and water.

If you’ve ever purchased soap based on its deadliness to bacteria, you’re a victim of false advertising. But it’s not as benign as that.

You’re also a victim of the harmful chemicals used to make those soaps — triclosan and triclocarban.

In addition to the possibility of helping develop germs that are resistant to antibiotics, evidence suggests that these two chemicals may also disrupt your hormone cycles. And it’s not just your skin. Triclosan can also be found in some toothpastes.

These chemicals continue making trouble even after they’re washed down the drain. They’re released into the environment via effluent from wastewater treatment plants or sewage sludge.

While triclocarban stays intact in the environment for several years, triclosan breaks down into cancer causing dioxins.

In light of their potential harm and lack of benefits, the FDA has finally banned them in consumer products. Although, hospitals and restaurants can still use them. 

According to the regulation, corporations have a year to clean up their acts. That means that you might still find these soon-to-be banned chemicals in the store. So for the next year you should still read soap labels to avoid triclocarban and triclosan.

And when you do, keep in mind that despite evidence of their harmful effects, many companies chose not to do the right thing on their own and continued to sell products that contain both chemicals.

That’s why a government regulation acting in the public interest was necessary for us to wash our hands of these toxins.


(Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. This column was provided CityWatch by OtherWords.org.) 



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