Southern California environment news and trends

Conservationists are making recession work for Baja

Where the recent recession looks to have failed numerous development investors around Baja, Calif. and the neighboring Mexican coastline, it’s been a boom for area environmentalists. According to a report in Fronteras, while unfinished constructions like a proposed marina in Santa Rosalillita idly rust away, environmental groups like WiLDCOAST have seized on discounted land prices to create conservation easements and establish new protected areas.

“So in places like San Ignacio Lagoon, Magdalena Bay, the corridor between Loreto and La Paz and in the central Pacific coast, we’ve been able to preserve some really world-class coastal biodiversity areas,” said Serge Dedina, the executive director of WiLDCOAST to Fronteras. "Areas where grey whales go, and where you see whale sharks. Real world class, Africa-style wildlife destinations. So that’s really exciting.”


Monterey County supervisors vote to reconsider strawberry fumigant

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Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Pesticide methyl iodide has been generating controversy for years. By the time the State of California approved its use on local crops, California Senator Diane Feinstein had already called the fumigant into question over findings that it causes cancer. 

Last week, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution that asks California governor Jerry Brown to take another look at the just how safe it is to use the much-debated chemical, according to the Californian.

It’s a hotly contested debate in Monterey County, as methyl iodide is used to fumigate strawberry crops, which is a $751 million industry in the county. It had been approved by the EPA as a replacement for pesticide methyl bromide in 2007, with California’s Department of Pesticides getting onboard in 2010, despite methyl iodide being on the state’s list of cancer-causing agents.


California is still America’s most solar-powered state

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You can breathe easy, Team California Solar: we’re still Number One.

According to a report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the state of California is responsible for close to half of America’s photovoltaic activity through 2010 (869 megawatts of installed capacity out of the nation’s total of 1,831 megawatts).

Within the state, San Diego reigns as California’s top solar-powered city, according to a new report from the Environment California Research & Policy Center. The city boasts more than 4500 solar-topped homes, businesses and government facilities, double the number of just two years ago.  San Diego accounts for close to 37 megawatts of the state’s sun-juiced energy.

“San Diego didn’t become the state’s Number One solar city by happenstance,” said mayor Jerry Sanders in a press release. “It was the result of local policies and programs that encourage investment in solar power.”


Plastic bag ban brings paper bag tax proposal to Millbrae

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The California plastic bag wars continue to heat up, this time in the city of Millbrae. A new city proposal would slap a 10-cent charge on paper bags provided by stores after joining cities like Long Beach, Malibu and Manhattan Beach in banning the use of plastic bags.

Like those other cities, Millbrae is looking to reduce the litter that inevitably comes from single-use plastic bags by encouraging that consumers utilize reusable shopping totes, of which there are many to choose from in the retail world. But the proposed 10-cent fee on paper bags is not sitting well with everyone, particularly the businesses that would be affected.

“We agree with the concept of reducing single-use bags from an environmental perspective,” Millbrae Chamber of Commerce President John Ford told the Millbrae Patch. “But we don’t necessarily think that charging people for paper bags is the best thing to do right now.”


First California Gray Wolf in decades inspires classic rock moniker, "Journey"

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Focusing on so much manmade environmental calamity (and the myriad ways we try to counter the madness) can take a toll after a while. Has it really all come to this? Still, it’s a balance. Living in the glorious climates of southern California goes a long way in making up for the air quality and zombie drivers.

Which is why the ceaseless wonders of nature never fail to provide some relief. Living in the relative wilds of California, we’re as used as one can be to the area’s native residents of the animal kingdom saying hello. But when one of nature’s creatures travels great distances to call California home, it’s hard not to appreciate the effort. Especially when it’s names after classic rock band Journey.

Already famous for making the trek from Oregon into California, making him the first Gray Wolf in the state since 1947, conservationists Oregon Wild marked the occasion with a naming contest. The winning entry (which was sent in by an 11-year-old in North Dakota and a 7-year-old in Idaho) was “Journey.” Cue the “Don’t Stop Believin’” puns, from the original Oregon Wild report all the way up to NBC news anchor referencing the Journey song in a national report.