Southern California environment news and trends

California boater rescued after collision with whale

File this under close encounters of the aquatic kind. As reported by the Associated Press, a California man had to be rescued after a whale struck his 50-foot sailboat 40 miles off the shore of Mexico.

Max Young, 67, of Sacramento, was forced to activate an emergency beacon to alert the Coast Guard when the whale collision disabled his boat’s steering system and caused the vessel to take on water. He used a mattress to plug a hole caused by the crash and four bilge pumps to bail water while waiting to be rescued.

"He was steering the boat and trying to get it back on course," Young's wife Debra Young told the Associated Press about the initial moments of the ordeal. "It took him a while to realize he didn't have any steerage at all. It took him a bit longer to realize he was taking on water."


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.


Positive education: Sacramento high school goes solar

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Ah, high school. Those were the days. Well, not really. I couldn’t wait to get out of that place. Then again, my high school was the kind of place that turns up in horror movies. But hey, it’s Friday night. I’d rather imagine that I went to high school in Dillon, Texas, and Tami Taylor was my sympathetic counselor. But I digress.

I’d like to think that the students of St. Francis High School in Sacramento will go on to have much happier memories of the best years of their lives. They’ll certainly have good stories to tell their kids, like how they remember when most schools were powered by expensive electricity, and not primarily powered by the sun.

St. Francis recently installed a 253-kilowatt solar energy system to seven buildings on campus, which is expected to generate up to 31 percent of the school’s electricity, and save them a whopping $1 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.