Southern California environment news and trends

Google designs self-driving cars for California

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It’s not exactly public transportation, but developers at Google, Inc. are designing technology that allows cars to drive themselves. Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla is so enamored with the plans that he let a Google-designed self-driving Toyota Prius give him a lift to Sacramento to hold a news conference about it.

As reported by the Environment News Service, the reason for the occasion was Padilla’s announcement of his legislation, Senate Bill 1298, which would instruct the California Highway Patrol to start “developing guidelines” around testing and ultimately unleashing self-driving vehicles on California roads.

The Google system utilizes a “laser range finder” on the car's roof, and no less than four radars mounted on the front and back bumpers. A camera keeps an eye on traffic lights.


It’s official: The air in Los Angeles can kill you

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David McNew/Getty Images

The Los Angeles downtown skyline is enveloped in smog shortly before sunset

Most citizens of Los Angeles don’t need a survey to tell them that it’s the most stressful city of America. Still, when Forbes crunched a bunch of numbers including quality of life data, unemployment rates, housing affordability, etc, good old L.A. clocked in at #1.

While we know that stress can lead to a myriad of health issues and according to some, even death. Not exactly the feel-good statistic of the week, but hey, this is Los Angeles. Deal with it.

If that statistic is grim, it’s about to get even worse. According to a new study by the Environmental Protection Agency, just living in Los Angeles can kill you. To be more specific, the rampant air pollution that blankets Southern California is what can actually get you in the end.

Published in the journal Risk Analysis, the study (based on 2005 air quality) estimates that anywhere from 130,000 to 360,000 premature adult deaths in SoCal going forward. They’ve linked the poor air quality to everything from asthma, bronchitis and trips to the ER. In L.A. County, city of Los Angeles led the pack with 10 percent of deaths directly linked to air pollution.


Greencore: L.A. hardcore band It’s Casual rock out for the MTA’s Red Line

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David McNew/Getty Images

Passengers wait to board a North Hollywood-bound Red Line MTA train.

If there’s one thing all L.A. residents know intimately, it’s traffic. Our fair city is legendary for it, but the harsh reality of getting around Los Angeles behind the wheel is often the very definition of stress. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

Thankfully, L.A. does have a working public transportation system, the Metropolitan Transportation. Before you go in with the snarky comments about it working, trust me: it does. Try getting across town in my beloved home city of Detroit publically, and then come talk to me.

For Boyle Heights hardcore band It’s Casual, living and working in Los Angeles on the MTA is not only a way of life, but the inspiration behind the band’s new album, The New Los Angeles Part I: Through The Eyes Of A Bus Rider, scheduled for release on March 13. Adamant about sending “a green, pro-public transportation message across the globe,” the album’s first single is an aggressive anthem “The Red Line,” which eschews the virtues of hopping the bus and reminding us that indeed, “the freeways are not so nice.”


Sustainable L.A. after dark: Eco-barhopping with Riding Green

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There’s a famous scene in the movie Swingers where Vince Vaughn and his entourage head out for a night of partying. The punch line comes when each guy hops in a different car to caravan towards the evening’s debauchery.

16 years after the release of Swingers, and L.A. is still notorious for congestion (among the worst in the country) and too many cars with just one passenger. It’s environmentally crushing, and becomes deadly on the roads when alcoho factors into the situation (which it does far too often).

Thankfully, the progressive party people of grassroots L.A. organization Riding Green are on the case. With a mission of encouraging more people to utilize public transportation when barhopping around town, they partner with different bars to create incentives. Specifically, discounts with proof of public transportation. Less stress on the environment and your wallet – everybody wins!


Christmas tree recycling alternative: Inland Empire fish habitats


We’ve already covered the basics of Christmas tree recycling in the greater Los Angeles area. But for those with an affinity for marine life will be interested in what Riverside County Waste Management and California’s Department of Fish and Game are working on.

To keep tree from ending up in even more landfills, they’re using them to create natural protective habitats in area lakes to protect certain fish from larger, more predatory species. Trees taken to the Lamb Canyon and Badlands landfills will be used specifically to the Department of Fish and Game for this marine-based program.