Southern California environment news and trends

For Carmageddon, a song of the week: "Why'd you want to live here?"

In honor of Carmageddon, and the existential crises it threatens to cause, this week Pacific Swell is reclaiming Death Cab for Cutie's "Why'd you want to live here?".

I'm in Los Angeles today...

It smells like an airport runway.

Jet fuel stenches in the cabin

And lights flickering at random.

I'm in Los Angeles today...

Garbage cans comprise the medians of freeways always creeping

Even when the population's sleeping.

And I can't see why you'd want to live here.

I'm in Los Angeles today...

Asked a gas station employee

if he ever had trouble breathing

And he said "It varies from season to season, kid."

The lights flickering at random are probably the blackouts and brownouts; this song came out on Death Cab's 2001 album, The Photo Album. It works for Carmageddon because of the "garbage cans comprising the medians of freeways always creeping/even when the population's sleeping" (as seen above). And the rest of the lyrics as the song opens reference bad air and fossil fuels: environmental problems that Angelenos share, somewhat unequally, certainly universally (unless you're living in a Michael-Jackson-like oxygen chamber). 


Song of the Week: "St. Francis Dam Disaster"

This week's song honors the complexity of history, the tragedy of an engineering failure, the power of nature, and the duality of man. I chose it in honor of historian Catherine Mulholland, who died yesterday at the age of 88

She was born into a great Los Angeles family, the granddaughter of William Mulholland, about whom she wrote an acclaimed historical account: William Mulholland & the Rise of Los Angeles. In it she tried to understand the work of a man who was atop his creations when she was born in 1923 - and who, by the time she could remember him well, saw his career ended by the St. Francis Dam disaster. 

I'm really haunted by the idea that William Mulholland ushered in an era of men believing they could control nature - and almost as quickly, ushered it out (except, lets face it, other men probably won't ever let that era leave). So's Frank Black, who with his band the Catholics sings about this: 


New feature: Pacific Swell's Thursday Song of the Week

This week I'm bringing over to Pacific Swell proper a weekly tradition I started on Twitter (as @KPCCMolly): a Thursday song of the week. 

The idea going forward is not (necessarily) earnest songs about the environment - though I'm gonna go on record and admit there may well be some. (Maybe not.) The idea is:

  1. I like music.
  2. Let's just pick a song that signifies something that happened in our beat that week - in California, usually, or anywhere else we can make an argument matters to you, our devoted Pacific Swell readers. 

This week we saw the second of two Santa Monica-based environmental groups' worth of beach pollution reports. (I explained earlier why it is that these reports may all sound the same.) According to the NRDC, Avalon, Cabrillo and Doheny beaches are among the nastiest in the nation