Southern California environment news and trends

This ain't no place for the weary kind: Cohen does Crazy Heart

If you really need an environmental hook for this, I can tell you that for the new film Crazy Heart, Fox Searchlight did web-based electronic press kits (EPKs) – thereby helping cut plastic waste and, for that matter, business at the post office. Also, with KPCC’s Alex Cohen at the premiere, I noticed that Jeff Bridges had a silvery mane of hair cresting over his head that reminded me of a river. In the movie, he drives a Suburban, which was my first car, and I can testify both to the accuracy of engine’s rumble and the tank’s thirst. But otherwise: this is just a public service announcement.

Bridges plays a guy named Bad, a country singer reduced to playing bowling alleys (though, I gotta say, in at least one bowling alley I know in New Orleans, that’s a sought-after gig) who has to pull his one pair of sunglasses out of a garbage can he pukes in. But if you think it’s some obvious Heartwarming Tale Of Redemption™, or a Wrenching Portrait of An Unredeemed Alcoholic™, uh, no. It’s lovely all on its own.


Catchin' up with debris basins

Nick Roman, our editor, loves storm season. When he says "storm watch," you know he means StormWatch. Or even STORMWATCH!. I'm, as with many things I cover, awestruck by it.

A few weeks back I did a story explaining how debris basins work. It's got a short video so you can see what it looks like in dry times at the Dunsmuir debris basin. You'd have to imagine the debris flowing down the watercourse into the area. But maybe with the rain falling outside your window, you can.

Today we're also following news announcements in the run-up to Copenhagen. Mayor Villaraigosa and a posse or a passel or a flock or whatever are going to Denmark and to Germany to talk about what cities can do to combat global warming; the mayor's promise to get rid of coal by 2020 certainly draws interest there. And the Environmental Protection Agency - authorized by the Obama Administration - will announce an "endangerment" ruling - a finding by the agency that greenhouse gases are endangering peoples' health and must be regulated. That certainly could up the pressure on Congress to pass its own regulation, which has seen fire and rain this fall, and whose fate is uncertain.


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: