Southern California environment news and trends

Adapting to a warming (political) climate

California has made a monster climate adaptation strategy. It's no small thing. In point of fact, it's a 200 page thing, covering public health, biodiversity and habitat, ocean and coastal resources, water management, agriculture, forestry, and transportation and energy infrastructure. Google released accompanying visualization with it - which means with a little of that vertiginous Google-Earth action, you can see how deep your house could be underwater along the coast. (Go figure, the kayak rental place I used to work, next to whatever they're calling my Giants' park these days, is out of luck.)

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with his Department of Resources, has timed the adaptation strategy to coincide with climate talks in Copenhagen for maximum effect. So what does it mean?

You could say it doesn't change much. California's got landmark laws that deal with human-sourced greenhouse gas production already, after all: AB 32 rests comfortably on the books as law, and has for 3 years now. It's not even the senior member of the climate change legislation club: legislators created a Climate Action Registry 8 years ago (if you really want to get into it, back in '88 the state started keeping track of GHGs, though maybe not incredibly well). The state's climate change site lists 20 pieces of legislation not to mention numerous executive orders - listed first, though the next governor could wipe them out with another stroke of the pen. California's been building a strategy; you don't need to read a 200 page report to see that.


Dr. Wellbee and the Thanksgiving visit to the CDC

Somewhat appropriately, I got sick after I visited my cousin for Thanksgiving: she works at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. I’m still catching up on California. Meanwhile, I got a look around at the CDC while I was there, including this Global Health Odyssey exhibit they have in the lobby for visitors.

Mostly, the CDC’s exhibit featured public health issues, and epidemiology. I had known a little about Legionnaire’s disease; I had, I think always assumed that it related to the French Foreign Legion, rather than the American Legion convention at which the outbreak occurred. I hadn’t ever known about the CDC’s origins in maritime health safety.

Meet Dr. Wellbee. (Oh. I just got it. Seriously.) He first encouraged polio vaccinations, and by 1964 was the national bug-doctor of the CDC. I know I'll regret saying this, but I see a hipster t-shirt here.


Cradle to grave, port to plate: the carbon footprint of fishing

I got interested in Ecotrust's study on which I report today for a seemingly unrelated reason - a book published a ways back about the way we make things.

The authors of the book argued for human designed systems that mimic natural ones, in which the materials circulate rather than get thrown away. Cradle to Cradle described the life-cycle assessments of some objects in an effort to explain what's sustainable about them. Or, you know, not sustainable. The aims of William McDonough and Michael Braungart's book and the Swedish-Canadian-American assessment the climate impact of salmon consumption are the same, too, at the most basic level: to figure out if there's a way to live on this planet for the longest possible time without destroying it.

Billions of people have not agreed that's valuable or necessary. But, hell, let's talk about it. I have to regularly overcome in this job is my knee-jerk initial response to my editor's question, born not of good journalism practice but of law school. It's complicated. It's nice to be able to tell a complicated story on the radio. Because the thing of it is, sometimes it is, in fact, not sum-uppable in 46 seconds. I am reminded of something one of my favorite writers, Julian Barnes, told someone some time ago:


Hillside Astronomy in Griffith Park

My trip to Griffith Park coincided with those of dozens more people Saturday in the late afternoon - there was a Public Star Party that night, a monthly occurrence. It's sponsored by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society. I went to see if I could get a little help with my Galileoscope. More on that another time. In the meantime, November, sunset, Los Angeles:

You know, if you like this sort of thing.

Also: Go bears!


Tom Graff, Water Guy

AN UPDATE: The New York Times gave Mr. Graff his due with a very nice obituary Sunday. I wish I had know about his free-throw scorekeeping.

All this talk this week and last and for all I know the next year or so about the state's water plans. And I'm very saddened to read that Tom Graff has died.

Unless you're somehow involved in California water, you don't know him. But I first heard of him in law school, when I studied the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. His name was all over the place in accounts of it - he helped get it passed. The act, shepherded by George Miller in Congress, required that the federal Bureau of Reclamation do a better job accounting for water in the Delta, so as to protect wildlife and fisheries. It came up with an accounting system for water used there, and Tom Graff explained that to me, patiently.