Southern California environment news and trends

Mudslides, earthquakes, hazard and risk

My friend and colleague Amy Walters - an NPR producer - is coming home from Haiti now; another friend and colleague, Tamara Keith, is on her way. Fellow Angeleno Carrie Kahn has been in Port-au-Prince too, sleeping on lawns and the like.

This week I've had plenty of occasion to think about environmental hazards, and peoples' sense of risk. I grew up in a land of earthquakes - they call it Menlo Park. Our understanding of seismology and predicting earthquakes is, uh, evolving. New Orleans, of course: I lived there. We know what that's about, or we think we do. Hurricane prediction is a local specialty there. Los Angeles has something in common with the Crescent City, in that way. We've got our local environmental hazards; some of them are reasonably predictable; and local news, myself included, covers the bejezus out of them.


Native plant-ing with local groups and Ilsa

Susan Valot recently did a story on a group in Orange County dedicated to the cause of native plants. I'm glad she's helping pick up the slack. When she was in this chair, Ilsa Setziol more than covered natives and native planting; Ilsa remains to this day a native planting champion, a deep ecologist, a deep encyclopedia of southern California's ecology. I live on a native named street; Ilsa grows native plants.

She took me on a walk this past weekend in Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park after which, we went to the South Pasadena Nature Park where we ran across some lovely natives in the early-mid-Sunday-sun.

Mateo, her son, was skeptical of his mom's and my enthusiasm for the Toyon. He's a mananita berry eater, which Ilsa informed me IS related to blueberries.

Ilsa regularly offers information and stories about native gardening and hiking with little critters at her site, Rambling LA.


Finally, the Crazy Heart soundtrack arrives

It took these fools long enough. The soundtrack to Crazy Heart is out today from New West records. I've been wanting it since Alex Cohen and I saw that movie. Also, T-Bone Burnett & Ryan Bingham picked up a Golden Globe the other night, so maybe they're on a roll now.

Because Alex Cohen is a fantastic addition to the KPCC family, here's her interview with Ryan Bingham. Is it weird that the songwriter has the same name as George Clooney's character in a different piece of Oscar bait?


New journal "Urban Coast" launches at LMU

The great Marantz meltdown of 2010 last week yielded technical difficulties massed to the point where I wasn't able to catch up. Now I am.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation (the non-profit arm of the State-run independent Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission) and the newly-formed Center for Santa Monica Bay Studies (a partnership of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation and Loyola Marymount University) have put out a new journal called Urban Coast: the commission's Sean Bergquist is editing it, Shelley Luce is executive editor.

They're aiming to mix it up a little in the public conversation about coastal management; in the first issue, they have contributions from Fran Pavley & Henry Waxman. It'll start off as an annual journal, but Luce thinks it may move to semi-annual down the line.


Debris basins catch my attention

Oh man, do I love infrastructure. So much of the story of southern California is about how infrastructure expresses human ambitions. How can you not find it fascinating?

The empty debris basins, like the Dunsmuir one I visited in September, aren't sitting and waiting for anything anymore. This week, they're filling up. I got to see that up close today. What was most striking was the sound, actually: when it was flowing fast, it really did sound like thunder, as more than one person has called it.

In December the county announced plans to expand 7 of these basins this year. I remembered that today, as I wandered near two of those seven - Pickens and Snover.

I'll be curious to see how they empty these things out this week. If they get to it at all - tonight would seem to be the night. For all my infrastructure curiosity, and my smidgen of common sense, I didn't know until today that they can't really scoop those basins out unless it's not raining, and therefore safe.