Southern California environment news and trends

Heal the Bay to get a new president? Mark Gold stepping down

Tara Crow/Heal the Bay

Mark Gold (in navy windbreaker at far right) got Dodgers to clean up beaches.

Woah. Mark Gold was Heal the Bay’s first employee in the late 19-eighties, a staff scientist who went on to take an engineering doctorate from UCLA. He became executive director for 12 years, then president of the group for more than 5. Under his leadership, Heal the Bay has acted as an aggressive watchdog at regulatory hearings, pushing for lower impact coastal development, limits on how coastal power plants can use sea water, and improved water quality in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers watersheds. Gold has lobbied lawmakers aggressively too, criticizing legislators recently for failing to pass a statewide plastic bag ban. Gold will now run a coastal center at UCLA’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability. Heal the Bay’s executive director Karen Hall and assistant director Alix Hobbs will run the place while the group’s board of directors considers the next president. 

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Los Angeles City Council may move on a bag ban

jamelah/Flickr

So, a side effect of a really long feed-in tariff hearing at the Energy and Environment committee at LA city hall was that it delayed action on a possible disposable bag ban in Los Angeles.

Californians Against Waste says 16 cities and counties have banned plastic disposable bags. Los Angeles County banned ‘em in unincorporated areas; Long Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Calabasas have banned ‘em too. (Bag bans are cousins to polystyrene bans, which are about 3 times more popular. That’s a different story.) Santa Monica based Heal the Bay lobbied hard, pulling out all the stops for a statewide plastic bag ban, and got stymied. An El Lay ban would be a big victory for environmentalists.

Back in October, LA’s Board of Public Works reported to city council on a long-considered ban on single-use carryout bags. (You might recall that other cities, particularly beach ones, have gotten all up on this already.) BPW recommended that the city announce support for a ban, that the city attorney start writing up an ordinance, and that the city hire people to get a ban going in LA.

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Song(s) of the Week: "Orca," by deadmau5, "Orca," by Wintersleep

Photo via mrmritter via Flickr Creative Commons

Orcas at East Point Saturna Island, July 19, 2008, working against a strong flooding rip current, going slow.

I'm not entirely comfortable with anybody's position about the rights of animals in the lawsuit PETA has brought on behalf of 5 orcas. So I picked two songs I'm not entirely comfortable with to represent that. 

The first is deadmou5's "Orca."

The second is Wintersleep's "Orca." 

Only the Canadian band's song has words:

I'll be a killer whale, when I grow up,

I'll be a vulture

I'll be an animal, a carnivore, 

I'll be a monster

Clenching my jagged jaws over the captured

I'll be a killer whale when I grow up

I'll be a monster

deadmau5 has the sort of speed I imagine of a deadly pod of orcas. But the thing that's intriguing about the lyrics of Wintersleep's song is that they've got the menace. Dolphins are outstanding pack hunters, after all. 

Both of these songs imagine, in their way, what it's like to be an orca. But the imagining is done by people. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that. It's making for interesting law, and legal theory, and ethical discussions. There's something valuable in trying to see the world from someone else's point of view than your own; why not some other species? I guess I'm doubtful about what we're hearing straight from the orca's mouth, as it were. 

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Assassins of the Sea

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Grey days in Santa Monica Bay mean nobody else is out there except you and the dolphins.

Dolphin off of Palos Verdes, October 25, 2011.

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Two pods of dolphins kind of pushed a school of fish together so they could enjoy some Hobbit-like elevenses.

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Dolphins are the assassins of the sea, according to one aquarist from the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

Molly Peterson/KPCC

We were all going pretty fast. Sometimes I like pretending I can stand up in a dinghy going 30. Then I slam back down and consider myself lucky not to have dropped the camera.


A downside of blogs is that I now reveal what I really do in the field to the literally tens of people who read them. Hopefully today that doesn't include my editor. 

Yesterday I was out in a dinghy out of King Harbor with Seth and Jose, two aquarists from the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. (I decided it was slightly moronic that I had never checked the aquarium out the whole time I've lived here, but I have been on the Ferris wheel.) They were working: gathering kelp and algae for their exhibits, talking to me about how they do it, where they do it, and what their conservation concerns are. I think I was working. It's hard to remember. 

On our way back from P.V. we ran into a pod of dolphins and so I pulled out the fancy camera I don't know how to use yet. Jose called the dolphins "assassins of the sea" which is sort of awesome; I wish I had a job description like that.

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The stupidity of managing marine invasive species

Southern California Caulerpa Action Team

California's got nine species of Caulerpa designated enemies of the state: marine invasives likely brought into coastal waters by the aquarium trade.

I tuned in to Madeleine's show about 25 minutes in today, so I caught the tail end of the divine Miss Brand and Pat Krug talking about lionfish in the Caribbean

The conversation spun into a larger talk about marine invasive species. KPCC has covered those issues here in southern California: a few years ago, we did some stories about the mountain yellow legged frog, about controversies around fish stocking, and about ballast water-driven marine invasions

As is his way, Pat Krug called, uh, just about everybody, "incredibly stupid" in terms of their approach to marine invasive. At one point, Madeleine said, "I can't believe there aren't any rules governing that by now." 

There are...sort of. California does have an invasive species plan. It's never gotten a lot of money. Mostly, California throws what money it does have at preventative measures; telling people not to dump aquariums in lagoons and coastal waters, that sort of thing. Nationally, we're still working on turning voluntary ballast water logs into mandatory requirements. Internationally, 74 countries were present 7 years ago when someone made a plan for international ballast water standards. There's still not enough signatories to the plan for it to take effect. The United States has not ratified the plan - though different groups like the American Alliance of Port Authorities are recommending that the U.S. do. What that leaves is a bunch of voluntary accords - aspirational statements about how we mean to handle things, or what would be a good procedure for neutralizing potential harm from ballast water if it were required.  

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