Southern California environment news and trends

Reviewing The Big Uneasy, Revisiting Maria Garzino

I saw The Big Uneasy last weekend, Harry Shearer's film in which Maria Garzino tells her story again. Which is still unfinished. Note: I posted about The Big Easy a couple weeks ago, and who joined the debate but Harry Shearer himself!

Variety checked it out. The Economist checked it out, too and both had similar complaints that this was no Spike Lee joint. As Gary Moskowitz wrote:

Where films such as "Trouble the Water" and Spike Lee's two four-hour documentaries on the subject—the award-winning "When the Levees Broke" and "If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise"—are heavily emotional endeavours that tackle issues of race and class among New Orleans residents, Shearer's film spends more time considering the science and politics behind the mess.

I sort of think comparisons like these are patently unfair. Presenting race and class issues is inherently more emotional. I don't think that's what Shearer was after. If you always think of New Orleans as an emotional, artistic place, you're never going to pay attention to how specifically their engineering - which is our engineering, which is national - and their politics - which is our politics, which compromises our engineering - failed and killed people.

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Lewis McAdams springs a Piggyback Yard from his head

I'm really glad the New York Times noticed this crazy idea from a crazy band of dreamers about the LA River.

Here's a link to the story we did at KPCC a few months back.

Courtesy PBy Collective

McAdams acknowledged to the Times that his idea may not happen in his lifetime. To me, he mentioned that William Carlos Williams wrote, "A new world is only a new mind." The NYT story brought me to mind of the fuller quote:

Be patient that I address you in a poem,
                   there is no other
                                       fit medium.
The mind
                   lives there. It is uncertain,
                                       can trick us and leave us
agonized. But for resources
                   what can equal it?
                                       There is nothing. We
should be lost
                   without its wings to
                                       fly off upon.
The mind is the cause of our distresses
                  but of it we can build anew.
                                       Oh something more than

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Fish, flies & frogs: also, farms, Fiorina, and (California's) future

I was interested and surprised when Carly Fiorina started her discussion of issues with a reference to the Delta smelt. Water politics are astoundingly complicated in California; a shorthand reference to them can be difficult - people just don't know what you're talking about, even though the complex circulatory system that keeps water moving through this state is almost literally the heart of the state's environment AND economy. (Not to prove my own point by example.)

Her answers suggest to me that she's going to rely very heavily on Central Valley farmers - her putative base - to come out for her. But can she trust that her potential supporters in big cities - particularly in southern California - get her drift? (and that nobody else will?)

Fiorina got the first question on jobs and the economy - she was asked what regulations she would cut. She blamed the decision to cut off water to the Central Valley - made to protect the endangered Delta Smelt - on a "nameless, faceless bureaucrat." That part of California's water system is operated by the federal government, check this map of the central California part:

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Mike Taugher: fewer job losses linked to Delta, drought

Both Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina have said that Delta pumping restrictions have cost Californians jobs.

Longtime environment reporter for the Contra Costa Times Mike Taugher has talked to the economists who did some modeling that both candidates rely on.

Between 5,500 and 7,500 jobs were lost due to water shortages in the San Joaquin Valley last year, and most of the blame goes to the weather, not to environmental protection. One of the economists put the job loss attributable to environmental protections at 1,400 jobs and the other put the figure closer to 3,000 jobs.

By comparison, one of the report's authors said the housing downturn cost the region 76,000 construction-related jobs.
"Sure, the 2.5 percent decline in crop production had an impact, but the 90 percent decline in home production and the more than 50 percent decline in nonresidential construction had a much bigger impact," said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of Pacific.

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The real story about Baucus and Boxer and "we don't legislate very much"

A portion of the debate today - just a small portion - touched on Barbara Boxer's chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works committee. Patt asked whether Boxer had been effective in her leadership of the EPW committee - citing something Senator Baucus said - parahrasing him, saying it was disconcerting that the message amendments and bills kept coming through and not actual party leadership.

Plenty of valid questions about Boxer's effectiveness in EPW remain. But here's a video of what Baucus actually said:

Certainly he's speaking about his frustration with something that may be going on in the committee in which he is sitting, which is EPW. But he is careful to say phrases like - in his personal experience - on the Finance committee - and, at the end, in Congress. In the video, he seems to me to be applying his caution not only to the committee Boxer chairs - but to his Finance committee as well (he's the chair of that one). What do you think?

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