Southern California environment news and trends

Sensors seeking sites: want a seismograph in your home?

The US Geologic Survey is looking for a few good men. Or women. Or families. If you're a dog who has wifi, a concrete slab foundation and AC power, and can read the internet, I bet you qualify too. (Though maybe call us at KPCC first - we love breaking news.)

See the blue box? If you live inside that area, the Geologic Survey is looking for potential guinea pigs in there: 

The USGS is trying to achieve denser and more uniform seismograph spacing in the southern California area to provide better measurements of ground motion during earthquakes. To do this, we have developed a new type of digital seismograph called "NetQuakes" that communicates its data to the USGS via the Internet. These instruments connect to a local network using WiFi and use existing Broadband connections to transmit data after an earthquake.


L.A. students educate peers about plastic pollution

envirocharter Environment Charter

Wish you’d known as a teenager all the eco-information you’ve learned as an adult? Well, you may be surprised to know there are teenagers in Los Angeles who’ve got more green knowledge than you do now in your old no longer so young age. Students at Environment Charter High School in Lawndale know so much about plastic pollution in the oceans that they’re educating their peers across the country — so that they in turn can become eco-educators and pay it forward.

Those student-teachers are Jordan and Rudy, members of the Environmental Charter High School’s Green Ambassadors program, an academic program for 10th graders that both educates students about environmental issues and gives them opportunities to address some of these problems. And now, Jordan and Rudy are also co-hosts, with a little help from MTV’s Buried Life Crew, of educational videos about plastic pollution. Watching those videos is a prerequisite for teenagers who want a chance to go to the Plastics Are Forever International Youth Summit, a 2-day leadership and training summit in March 2011 that will bring 100 high school students and their teachers together in Long Beach.


Dog bites man; or, Greenwashing is alive and well

My intern Captain Obvious brought to my attention a Wall Street Journal article that looks at misleading claims on green labeling. An environmental marketing company called TerraChoice issues a report that found "fibbing about or having no proof of environmental claims, vague or poorly defined marketing language, such as "all-natural," and the use of fake labels designed to imply a product has third-party certification or endorsement of its claims."

Scary is the TerraChoice report seems to find the worst greenwashing comes in baby and children's stuff - "BPA-free" being an increasingly popular sales tactic:

While the overall incidence of greenwashing dipped slightly—4.5% of products were dubbed "sin free" versus only 1% in 2007 when the first study was conducted—particular concerns were raised about the huge surge over the past year of products claiming to be free of Bisphenol A, a compound used in plastics such as baby bottles and other consumer products, and phthalates, which are used to give plastics like pacifiers flexibility and durability.


David Nahai talks to Climate Watch

My good friend, and southern California's great reporter, Ilsa Setziol, interviews David Nahai for our neighbor-to-the-north's ClimateWatch blog. You can read her interview, about watering restrictions, renewable energy, and Propposition 23/AB 32, at their site.

Much of it's ground we covered back in May with an interview that you can listen to elsewhere on this site. (There's also extended interviews on that site specifically on DWP leadership and renewable energy in California.) But he did say some things we haven't heard before about watering restrictions, and he did acknowledge the challenge of enforcing water restrictions when city leaders aren't fully on board with them.

Can the city still cut consumption with a three-day regime? If everyone went to three days a week, we wouldn’t have as much savings, but it wouldn’t be negligible. But enforcing water restrictions isn’t simply a matter of enacting the law. It’s a matter of motivating Angelenos to rally to a cause, because the law cannot be enforced on a daily basis by a water conservation team that is not a platoon. What is needed is the stigma of wasting a precious commodity unnecessarily.?? My concern is some of the council members made certain statements that tended to undermine the resolve of Angelenos as far as water cutbacks, and it left only the price signal of the rate adjustment.

You’re referring to Councilman Greig Smith, who openly ignored the ordinance, and Council President Eric Garcetti who said his wife couldn’t keep her plants alive on twice weekly watering. It would help if city council members weren’t being defiant of the law. ??People think the drought and the challenge is over. I see it in restaurants where the minute you sit down water is served to you. The law still says restaurants are not supposed to serve water to people unless it’s specifically requested. To continue with business as usual is very shortsighted.??We’ll never be free of our dependence on external water. What we can do is to decrease that dependence somewhat. The other reason it is so important for Los Angeles to do this is various interests are vying for limited water resources—Northern California, Southern California, and agricultural interests. In order to have a dialogue that’s credible we have to act responsibly ourselves.  [If we conserve], nobody can accuse us of hypocrisy.


Morning greens: Green taxis, short subway, and more energy debates

lacab Morning greens: and

LA City Council moved to ‘green’ city’s taxi fleets — “at least 80 percent of the city’s taxicabs within the next five years” — as a condition of renewing the taxi franchise system. LA Times reports “several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the evidence of environmental improvement was sketchy.” We’ll have more on this at Pacific Swell later in the week.

Metro’s recommending that the Subway to the Sea only stretch to Westwood, which has made some subway supporters unhappy. In case you missed the Metro public meetings, the transit agency’s blog The Source explains why the transit agency’s recommending a shorter line than what many transit advocates desire. “The short explanation comes down to one word: ‘money’” — as in federal funding, the criteria for which are not met by a longer subway line. Whether you agree or disagree with Metro, you can voice your opinion at the Metro Board of Directors Hearing on the Westside Subway Extension tomorrow.