Southern California environment news and trends

A Halloween Masked Ball in Venice goes batty

batcostume Love bats? Want to dress up as one for Halloween? Then get that broken black umbrella out of your closet and go green by creating your own batty upcycled costume — for a Halloween Masked Ball that benefits Bat Conservation International.

I’ll be honest — I am very scared of bats. In fact, back when I lived in the Miracle Mile area about a decade ago, I woke up one scary morning to see a clumsy bat flapping around my ceiling! Of course I hid under the covers until the bat disappeared through some exit route I couldn’t determine — at which point I called the CDC — then got a full round of rabies shots!

No actual bats will be at the Halloween Masked Ball, however. And while I hope bats never visit me in my home again, I also hope they don’t go extinct. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service (PDF), seven of the 45 kinds of bats living in the U.S. are in danger of becoming extinct — including the lesser long-nosed bat found in California.

Bat Conservation International works on bat conservation efforts, and a $10 donation to the nonprofit gets you into the Halloween Masked Ball. G2 Gallery says there will be “spine-chilling foods and drinks” — a.k.a. margaritas and tapas — as well as “hair-raising music, and blood-curdling costumes.”

Dress up, because the best costumed reveler will win a nature and wildlife photograph by Michael Forsberg. It all happens tomorrow, Oct. 30, from 7 pm to 9 pm at G2 Gallery, 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. Make sure you RSVP to

Photo by Lenore Edman/Flickr


Chemical-munching bacteria to make cleaner water in Riverside area

Bacteria already in the ground could clean drinking water in the Inland Empire. According to Janet Zimmerman at the Press-Enterprise, water districts are developing  system whereby water is pulled from well, run past these bacteria, which eat perchlorate and nitrate and VOCs, volatile organic compounds (well, digest them), producing nitrogen gas which can get released to the atmosphere with oxygen. Then they zap out the waste bacteria, chlorinate the mess and bam! Drinking water. 

Though biological treatment is more expensive up front, about $4.2 million vs. $3.8 million for ion exchange, it saves money in the long run because it can treat high levels of contaminants and treats multiple chemicals in a single process. Biological treatment is about $238 per acre-foot of water, compared to $254 for ion exchange, according to a 2009 study by the Department of Defense.


Morning greens: Terminator and 'Avatar' director fight Prop 23

Governor Schwarzenegger and James Cameron launched a PSA against Prop 23, reports Grist. The Avatar director recently contributed $1 million to fight Prop 23.

The Westside Subway Extension will run down Wilshire Blvd. to Westwood, decided the Metro board yesterday. “If all goes as planned, construction will begin in 2013 after an environmental impact review,” reports LA Times. When will it be finished? Depending on various funding scenarios, sometime between 2022 to 2036, according to Metro’s The Source.

The Metro Board also decided that the downtown Regional Connector will be fully underground. “The 1.9-mile connector would proceed underground via 2nd Street and beneath 1st and Alameda streets. It would include three stations, at 2nd and Hope streets, 2nd and Broadway, and 2nd and Central Avenue,” reports LA Times. That project’s expected to be operational by 2035.


North Cost MLPA a very different tale

I'm interested in the completion of the Marine Protected Areas process - under the state's MLPA law - so I've been reading up on that lately. Here in Southern California, we've got protected areas proposed and under final consideration at the state's Fish and Game Commission. Further up the coast - the North Coast region is still hashing out where protections might go. It's kind of interesting to check in on their process.

As in southern California, the negotiated process has achieved a measure of local consensus. Trouble is, according to a report a few days ago in the Eureka Times-Standard, state biologists aren't impressed with what they've come up with:

The proposal has unachievable goals, scientific shortcomings and unenforceable provisions, Fish and Game marine biologist Rebecca Studebaker said, and the 17 marine protected areas won't meet the requirements of state law without substantial changes.

It was the first showing of the state's position on the proposal developed by more than two dozen fishermen, environmentalists, tribes and seafood gatherers over months of meetings and work. The proposal has been nearly universally supportedlocally, despite the expected economic and social effects of the Marine Life Protection Act.

”These are unable to fulfill the intended purpose of the MLPA,” Studebaker said.


L.A. Sustainability Collaborative bridges gap between academic research and local environmental concerns

I started blogging about environmental issues back when I was in graduate school — in large part to feel more connected to the concrete and pressing real-life issues of the city I live in. Those issued seemed far removed from what I was studying in the ivory tower of academia, though granted, my choice to study obscure modernist poetry probably didn’t help.

But for today’s L.A.-area graduate students who want to intertwine their academic research with pressing real-world problems, the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative can help. This nonprofit provides research fellowships to local graduate students interested in studying local environmental issues, ranging from water efficiency, car parking policy, or bicycling opportunities.

alexislantz LA Sustainability Collaborative

“The Collaborative is funding really great projects that benefit the community,” says Alexis Lantz (above), who received a $1000 fellowship to study issues affecting Los Angeles cyclists while a graduate student in Urban Planning at UCLA. Alexis says she’s unlikely to have taken on a study of that scope without the fellowship, which gives students “a real opportunity to do something that’s not purely academic.”