Southern California environment news and trends

New Yorker takes on new climate stakes for US, California

Ryan Lizza's article about how climate and energy legislation, despite having support across the aisle and from environmentalists and from polluters, still managed to die an ignominious death in Congress is a fascinating read. I recommend you take the time to read the whole thing. Period. I mean, heck, it's the weekend, you've got time.

Now that I've got that out of the way, let's take a closer look at how incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer gets characterized in the story. Describing Joe Lieberman's involvement with climate legislation, Lizza's narrative finds Boxer at the side of the action, not the center:

By late January, 2009, the details of the Lieberman-McCain bill had been almost entirely worked out, and Lieberman began showing it to other Senate offices in anticipation of a February press conference. The goal was to be the centrist alternative to a separate effort, initiated by Barbara Boxer, a liberal from California and the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee.


Beyond CicLAvia: Is L.A. ready for permanent street parks?

Los Angeles is abuzz with excitement for Sunday’s CicLAvia — a one-day event that already has everyone from environmentalists to park-space advocates hoping for more frequent — or even permanent — CicLAvia-type events in the future. If you’re having a tough time imagining what L.A.’s streets would look like sans cars, here’s a short video that’ll spark your imagination!

See how a street in Queens, New York got transformed into a temporary urban park of sorts when cars were turned away to make room for people to play. The StreetsFilms video shows how the weekly pop up park got so popular that it became a daily park, open 24-7 to kids and community members to play, bike, and laze in during July and August. (via Treehugger)

Think we could have something similar in Los Angeles? As many KPCC fans know, L.A.’s an especially park-poor city. According to The Trust for Public Land’s report City Park Facts 2010, Los Angeles devotes a meager 7.9 percent of its city area to park space — far lower than the 10.2 percent average for high density cities. Calculated by population, L.A. dedicates 6.2 acres of parkland per 1000 residents — again, lower than the 6.9 percent average for high density cities.


Morning greens: Solar panels for Calif. parks and schools

solarpanels sustworks

An East L.A. park goes greener. Eugene A. Obregon Park‘s new solar roofing project was unveiled yesterday afternoon. The solar panels are expected to save the facility $17,000 a year in energy bills.

The Antelope Valley Union High School District’s getting a gigantic solar power installation — the largest school installation to date in California, according to the Los Angeles-based contractor PsomasFMG behind the project.

California’s “off-road” diesel regulation laws will be weakened, if the changes California Air Resources Board proposed yesterday are adopted. Why? SF Chronicle reports that according to the Air Board, the pollution estimates used to set the original laws were overestimated by 340 percent. (via Climate Watch)

In national news: Honda’s the greenest automaker, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Reports the L.A. Times: “The nonprofit scientists group ranked the automakers based on average per-mile smog pollution and global-warming emissions of the entire fleet of vehicles sold.”


Runoff rules the Bay Area: another California region makes runoff rules

As a former frequent kayaker of the San Francisco Bay, I was surprised to read that maybe agriculture from the Delta isn't primarily to blame for elevated levels of mercury and other pollutants in those waters. But as someone who's been paying attention to low impact development efforts in southern California lately, the fact that a decade's worth of data points to urban runoff as a culprit as large or larger than ag made me nod my head.

I'm talking about work from the San Francisco Estuary Institute: SFEI released its Pulse of the Estuary report a few days ago. It shows the depth of knowledge for the SF bay's runoff problem has grown in nearly-staggering fashion.

Ten years ago scientists thought about a quarter of pollution in the bay came from sediments and urban runoff. Now they believe that it's double that - more than 50 percent. Correspondingly, farms now are getting blamed for far less of the pollution in the bay - even though the Central Valley itself is an enormous watershed, and almost all the freshwater coming into the bay comes from there.


Free 6-week green living workshop begins next week

Want to walk the environmentalist’s walk — but don’t know how? If you live on the westside — or are willing to take long weekly rides on the bus or bike — sign up to take a Green Living Workshop with Santa Monica’s environmental nonprofit Sustainable Works. The 6-week crash course offers eco-education, green camaraderie, and free money-saving gadgets — all at no cost to you.

The Green Living Workshop brings together a few dozen would-be environmentalists into one room in Santa Monica once a week for six weeks, tackling a topic like “water” or “transportation” at each meeting. Workshop participants are then encouraged to apply what they’ve learned in the room out in the real world — armed with a free WorksBook with up-to-date environmental information and free eco-gadgets like low flow showerheads, CFL bulbs, and even worms for the compost bin. And the dedicated environmentalists who finish the 6-week course with perfect attendance even get a gift bag at the end filled with yet more green goodies.