Archive for California
La Mode Verte has added it’s name to a bill in the US state of California that aims to encourage the recycling of fast-food takeout packaging, thereby reducing the amount of waste entering the environment. The Senate Bill 529 Fast Food Packaging and Marine Pollution Reduction, which has been put forward by Senator Mark Leno to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee in Sacremento, has also been supported by great organisations such as Heal The Bay, 7th Generation Advisors, Sierra Club California, and the Surfrider Foundation. LMV is proud to support the bill, which “would prohibit food providers from distributing single-use food packaging and bags unless the packaging or bag is accepted for either recycling or composting in at least 75% of households in a jurisdiction.” According to the bill, plastic pollution jeopardises California’s $40 billion ocean economy and the city of LA already spends around $1 billion on clearing waterways of trash. The bill, if passed, would be a huge step in reducing the impacts of this pollution.
www.latimes.com 24th May 2012
Los Angeles, California, became the largest city in the USA to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarket checkouts. In a city that has previously used 12 billion plastic bags a year (with only 5% of these being recycled), the decision the City Council is a huge victory for environmental campaigners trying to combat plastic pollution in the region’s landfills, waterways and ocean. The Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out bags over the next 16 months in the city’s 7,500 stores. California leads the way in the country with plastic bag bans. San Francisco was the first in 2007 and since then San Jose, Santa Monica, and Long Beach have all jumped on the wagon. The bans vary in wording with some silent on the contentious issue of paper bags (a long-held argument of plastic-bag manufacturers is that plastic bags reduce the amount of trees needed for paper bags) although the LA City Council has stipulated there should be a charge of 10c per paper bag. This, according to Jennie R. Romer of plasticbaglaws.org, has resulted in a 94% reduction of their use (a similar figure to the drop experienced in Rep. of Ireland when the country introduced a fee on plastic bags). Oakland, next to San Francisco, had less success with their ban after they were successfully sued because of it. It will however be included in Alameda County’s ban starting next year.
The Majestic Plastic Bag from Jeremy Konner on Vimeo. Narrated by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons, this “mockumentary” video, hammers home the stark reality of California’s plastic bag pollution situation.
www.latimes.com 4th August 2011
Oregon has joined Hawai’i and Washington to become the third state to pass legislation against the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed bill HB 2838 on Thursday (4th August) making California the last of the mainland Pacific coast states not to have similar legislation (it is currently being held up in the state Senate). President Obama has also made steps to tighten up a ban on shark finning in the US by signing federal legislation earlier this year. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Chinese communities and is viewed as a status symbol served particularly for weddings and banquets. Defenders of the practice claim it is a cultural tradition and banning it is tantamount to an “attack on Asian culture.” Many sharks have their fins removed while still alive and are then thrown back into the ocean to die a slow and painful death. Marine experts claim shark finning has led to the global decline in shark populations (around 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins and meat).
www.nationalgeographic.com 25th July 2011
Washington DC lawmakers will consider over the next few weeks a controversial plan to take down four dams in the state of California in order to save endangered salmon. Dams have been blamed by various environmental groups for the drastic decline in salmon runs over the past century, from millions of fish to just 100,000 or so. The plan is, surprisingly, supported by local farmers as well as PacifiCorp, the operating company for the four dams (the Iron Gate, Copco 2, Copco 1, and John C. Boyle dams) all situated on the Klamath River. PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett, has got behind the idea as it may cost more money to modify the dams with fish passages than it would to destroy them. Other major proponents of the plan are native American tribes that rely on salmon in their diet, and have done, according to archaeologists, for the past 9,000 years. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has warned that dam removal is not a ‘silver bullet’ though. Other factors such as water quality (increasingly affected by agricultural runoff) and water warming (due to climate change) also play a role and need to be kept in check if the local Chinook Salmon population is to recover. The four dams in line to be demolished were all created for hydropower and generate enough energy to power around 70,000 homes. Other dams on the river were constructed for irrigation but they are not at risk. The unlikely partnership of PacifiCorp, the Klamath Water Users Association (representing the region’s farmers) and the tribes (the Yurok, Karuk, Klamath, and Hoopa Valley), under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, benefits all: less cost for the energy company, more water for the farmers, and more salmon for the tribes.
www.latimes.com 30th May 2011
The ongoing debate on the effects of dropping millions of gallons of chemical flame retardants on US forests has led to the US Forest Service to propose reductions in their use. Currently, around 28 million gallons of fire retardants are used annually with a third of this dropped over California, where many homes back onto fire-prone wild-lands. The chemicals used in such drops have fatal effects in aquatic environments causing the deaths of marine species. The proposed reduction therefore won’t necessarily reduce the total amount of fire retardants dropped over wild-fires but will limit the area over which they can be used. In 2000, the Forest Service adopted guidelines limiting retardants to more than 300 feet from waterways. However, a pilot can still bypass this boundary if there is a risk to (human) life, property, or if there are terrain limitations. The new proposed guidelines would eliminate these exceptions except for the case of endangered life and also make national forests draw up areas further away from waterways which would be safe from retardants to protect endangered species. A final decision on the Forest Service plans is expected by the end of the year.
news.change.org 23rd May 2011
San Francisco has managed to change regulation on how the Yellow Pages are delivered to residents. Beginning in May 2012, residents of the Californian city will have to opt-in to having the phone book delivered to their home rather than opt-out, which is currently the case. The vote passed 9-1 by the city’s Board of Supervisors and is seen as an important step to San Francisco’s pledge to zero-waste by 2020. It will also save around a $1 million a year in distribution costs and many more millions in waste disposal. Although the phone directory industry lobbied heavily against the idea, a petition by change.org raised 11,000 signatures that helped pass the motion. The petition officially became part of the legislative record. A group of local residents also tried to return 1,500 unwanted phonebooks to the US phone company AT&T’s offices but it turned out the company didn’t want them. Nor did the local recycling plant. The phonebook industry is not likely to take the move lying down. Already, they have taken the city of Seattle to court for a similar opt-in court ruling. The industry has promised to sue in San Francisco as well. This may have something to do with the billion dollar profits these companies make from advertising.
www.bbc.co.uk 26th April 2011
A US government report has highlighted the growing concern of water supplies in the western United States. Climate change, according to the report, could cut water flow into the area’s largest river basins by as much as 20% this century. This coincides with the fastest demographic growth rate in the country, indicating water shortages will become a likelihood for millions of people from Texas and Arizona, to California and Nevada. The American southwest is already experiencing water problems with inadequate supplies for drinking water, irrigation, and electricity production. Texas, Arizona, and Nevada are the driest states in the country, as well as having the fastest population growth, yet they are also the ones experiencing greatest water shortages. The report, put together by the Bureau of Reclamation, also outlined some other projections about future weather patterns related to water supply. These include: ‘a temperature increase of 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8-3.9 degrees Celsius); a precipitation increase over the north-western and north-central portions of the western US and a decrease over the south-western and south-central area; a decrease for almost all of the 1 April snowpack, a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin run-off.’ The aim of the report is to create effective measures of response to these predictions.
www.latimes.com 10th April 2011
In response to the savage Californian wildfires of recent years, the US Forest Service has proposed cutting down the dry forests around Lake Tahoe, northeast California, and replanting them. However, the idea has found opposition from the environmental Earth Island Institute, which has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Sacramento. The Institute believes that burned forests are ecologically important to the area should be allowed to regenerate at their own rates. This belief does not go down well with local residents. In 2007, 250 homes were destroyed by wildfires around the lake, which is a popular tourist destination. The Forest Service believe that logging and replanting is the only way to avoid a similar disaster and re-’green’ the area quickly but the Institute insist another wildfire is not likely for a decade and greening is already happening. “We have this… cultural prejudice that goes back to Smokey Bear and Bambi,” said Chad Hanson, a fire ecology researcher at UC Davis. “We’ve been taught in our culture to think this [the burnt forest] is destroyed. But ecologically speaking, nothing could be further from the truth.”
www.guardian.co.uk 7th April 2011
The European commissioner for climate action, Connie Hedegaard, confirmed on Tuesday plans to link the world’s largest carbon trading scheme in the EU with the second largest in California (due to open next year). Ms Hedegaard met with California’s governor Jerry Brown and Mary Nicholls, who chairs the Californian Air Resources Board, in the state capital Sacramento to discuss the plan. The EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) was designed to link with other schemes but it has, as yet, failed to find a compatible one. The first possible linking would have been with the USA’s cap and trade scheme but it failed to pass into law. The EU ETS dwarves California’s predicted value with transactions amounting to £62 billion in 2010. The Californian scheme is predicted to hit £6 billion by 2016. Critics in Brussels have expressed concerns about compatibility between systems but in truth the European model is far from perfect. Problems include over-allocation of allowances allowing energy companies to secure huge profits and ‘allegedly fraudulent “missing trader” transactions worth €5bn’.
After a very productive trip to Washington state, we have made it back down to California and have stopped off one last time before we travel to Long Beach for Algalita’s International Youth Summit. Following Ocean Shores Beach Combers Fair, we drove up to a town called Forks (now widely known for its appearance in the Twilight books) to interview John Anderson. John is one of the world’s most extensive collectors of marine debris and has created a brilliant museum space within the parameters of his home. In the front yard stands a 35 foot sculpture made of discarded plastic fishing float and topped with a 4 foot wide metal buoy (this used to be plastic but it was eventually replaced with the current metal specimen after locals took to shooting it from the nearby road). Around the base, thousands of other plastic floats lie in a 20 foot square garden box. As well as this huge statue, the ‘flower’ beds around the house contain a selection of glass fishing floats (much like those we saw in the Beach Combers Fair) and metal fishing debris including anchors, boat chains, and buoys. John’s workshop (he works as a plumber) has been overrun by the creation of a indoor museum space divided into wood, lighters, shoes (including Nikes from the infamous container spill in the 90s), military flares, signs, space shuttle parts, and sake bottles.
The following day (yesterday) we left the coast and headed inland to Seattle where we met Chris Jordan at his home. Chris was one of the first to make images of plastic-ridden albatross chick corpses public. He is now being put forward for an award in Paris and for that reason we had to keep our meeting short. He kindly accepted an interview with us on LMV’s next trip to the USA in the Summer.
The Algalita Marine Research Foundation, one of the leading organisations raising awareness on the problem of plastics in the marine environment, is to launch its international youth summit in less than two weeks time. Beginning on the 11th March, the ‘Plastics are Forever’ summit hosts 30 schools from 14 countries and is due to be held in the Hotel Maya, Long Beach, California. the schools include Ringwood School from Hampshire, UK; Colegio Los Carrera, Chile; Brookehouse International School, Kenya; Mountainview International Christian School, Indonesia; George Washington High School from Guam; and many more (for the full list click here). The teams were chosen ‘on their proposals to solve plastic pollution in their communities’.
To watch the summit via livestream click here.
The banning of shark finning off the coast of California in December last year has been called ‘largely symbolic’ as most of the fins sold in the state come from outside its territorial waters. As a result, two Californian assemblymen Paul Fong (Cupertino District) and Jared Huffman (San Rafael District) have proposed a new law (AB 376) that would see the complete ban of the sale and distribution of shark fins within the State of California. Fong and Huffman have claimed public support for their bill has been overwhelming but State Senator Leland Yee has branded it “an attack in Asian culture”. Shark fin soup has been a delicacy in manly Chinese culture for millennia and it is because of this that Senator Yee believes that the law discriminates against Chinese cuisine. Despite this, he insists that he is concerned about the welfare of sharks.
LMV: if approved, the California ban on shark fins would reduce the overall global demand and have a significant effect on the industry, which sees the killing of between 26 and 73 million sharks a year. With many shark populations on the verge of collapse, shark fin prices have soared to US$500 a pound ($50 a head for the soup). Something needs to be done and the actions of assemblymen Fong and Huffman are trying to do it. It is non-sensical to reject an outright ban on the grounds that one item on the menu of a Chinese restaurant would be removed. As Senator Yee argues, there are sustainable shark finneries around the world but they are very much in the minority and their fins make up a tiny portion of the market. The practice is barbaric and commonly sees the sharks finned while still alive. California is taking an important step. Is it really worth turning down this landmark law that will help protect numerous species in favour of ‘tradition’.
www.latimes.com 7th February 2011
Quoted from source:
‘Describing seaside fireworks displays as wholesome and patriotic, an Orange County legislator wants to prevent the California Coastal Commission from snuffing them out. State Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) introduced a bill last month that would exempt municipal fireworks displays from regulation under the state Coastal Act by declaring they do not constitute “development.” The bill comes in response to increasing pressure from environmental groups to clamp down on fireworks. Environmentalists say the noise and explosive debris generated by the displays threatens wildlife and degrades water quality. In 2008, the Coastal Commission barred a fireworks show in the Mendocino County town of Gualala over concerns it was scaring away nesting seabirds. Activists challenged the decision in court, but the agency’s jurisdiction was upheld last year by a state appeals court. ”These are Fourth of July, flag-waving, apple pie American activities, and they are free for most of the public,” Harkey said. “Right now, in this economy, is not the time for a heavy bureaucracy to be reining them in”…In addition to noise, smoke, sulfur and ash, fireworks emit trace amounts of copper, zinc, sulfate, nitrate and barium, which produce bright colors when burned. Many fireworks also contain perchlorate, which can contaminate water sources.’
www.nytimes.com 6th January 2011
The new Republican governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, has scrapped two environmental laws claiming they were ‘burdensome for industry and harmful to the state’s economy’. One of these laws required 3% annual cuts to state greenhouse gas emissions and the other aimed to regulate the discharge of waste from dairies in the southern part of the state. Governor Martinez, who received thousands of dollars from oil and gas interests, does not believe that ‘science has clearly established a link between climate change and human activity’. She also dismissed most of the members of the state’s Environmental Improvement Board claiming: “Unfortunately, the majority of E.I.B. members have made it clear that they are more interested in advancing political ideology than implementing common-sense policies that balance economic growth with responsible stewardship.” Some have claimed that her actions, both in scrapping the laws and firing the EIB members, is illegal. Governor Martinez’s actions goes against the current trend in southwestern US states as governors in California and Arizona are firmly backing cleaner sources of energy.
www.latimes.com 10th December 2010
The US government’s hopes of creating a nationwide railway network have been dented following Ohio and Wisconsin’s attempts to spend state funding on the project elsewhere. The Republican governors of the two states turned down the $1.2 billion dollars to develop a high-speed railway system and instead asked the government whether the money could be spent on other proposals. Their request was denied by US Secretary of Transport Ray LaHood and the funds have been promised to remaining 11 states which still plan to go ahead with the project. California received the largest portion of this distribution bringing the total pledged for its bullet train network to $5.5 billion (of which $3.18 billion is from the national government). Work on the line is expected to begin in 2012 with the California state rail board approving the construction of the first segment between Corcoran and Borden. Trains should be able to travel up to 220mph along a 520 mile route when completed. Some observers have suggested that government funds may not make it to California though as a growing body of politicians, all Republicans, want to rein back government spending to tackle the $1.3 trillion federal deficit.
www.guardian.co.uk 18th November 2010
Quoted from source:
‘It’s very nearly a wrap for Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose career as governor of California will come sputtering to an end in January with his approval rating in the 20s, the state budget shortfall at $25bn (£16bn), and unemployment at nearly 13%. But, like the action heroes he has so often played, the man they called the governator is already working on a comeback. In what is likely his last performance on a world stage as governor, Schwarzenegger this week launched the R20 climate network, an alliance of regional leaders who have pledged to work together to fight climate change. Schwarzenegger is the “founding father” of the new venture, a self-appointed global champion in the war against climate change.’
To read more about Arnold’s decision in the Guardian, click here.
www.nytimes.com 15th November 2010
Attempts to rescue America’s largest bird, the condor, from extinction have hit yet another hurdle. The Central California Condor Recovery Program has discovered that wild pairs of the bird, which lay just one egg a year, are having trouble giving birth to healthy eggs. Studies have found that egg shells are unusually thin, much like those of pelicans and peregrine falcons when they were affected by DDT poisoning (the populations have since recovered). In fact, the condor shells were so thin that tests had to be carried out just to prove that they belonged to the condor species. In order to discover the source of the problem, specialists from Ventana Wildlife Society, who manage Central California’s condor releases, looked to the big bird’s diet. What they found was that condors of the area traditionally eat marine mammals, such as sea lions, who are known to have very high amounts of DDE in their blubber. DDE is a toxic metabolic breakdown product of DDT. Although the chemical, once called a ‘miracle pesticide’, has been banned in the USA since 1972, large amounts of untreated DDT was pumped directly into Los Angeles County Sanitation District’s sewer system by a manufacturer called Montrose Chemical Corporation in the 50s and 60s. Around 1,700 tons settled on the sea floor contaminating fish in the area. These fish are consumed by the sea lions. The theory was given support when researchers compared Central Californian condors’ eggs to those of southern Californian condors, who don’t have an aquatic diet. Eggs from further south were perfectly healthy. As a temporary solution to the problem, conservationists are secretly replacing eggs bred in captivity for thin shelled ones so the condor parents give birth to healthy, but not biologically related, chicks.
www.latimes.com 13th November 2010
The small Californian island of Alameda, linked to the city of Oakland, is in the midst of a growing problem with a small portion of its residents. Since June this year there have been nine raccoon attacks on humans. The last victim, Campos de Ivanov, was walking her dog when a gang of five raccoons attacked her. Her dog managed to fend off four but the last latched itself onto her leg. She is now undergoing a series of painful jibs to protect herself against rabies. The population of Alameda currently stands at 70,000 on 10.8 square miles of land. However, the problem is likely to be caused by people. Large amounts of waste food are attracting raccoons into more urban areas. Also, it has been suggested that all the attacks have been instigated by the dogs being walked by the victims. Many of the people who were attacked tried to intervene in a fight between their dogs and raccoons. With their natural predators (mountain lions, coyotes, and great horned owls) scarce in Alameda, the raccoons only rivals are canines. Raccoons are known to drown dogs by luring them into swimming pools and drowning them, according to Gary Beeman, a Northern California wildlife biologist who owns a pest control company. Officials are uncertain as to how to deal with the problem. State law dictates that raccoons cannot be displaced more than a couple of miles away but they are allowed to be euthanised if the problem persists.
www.latimes.com 13th October 2010
The Republican Party’s candidate for the state governorship of California, Meg Whitman, has stated that she intends to ‘fix’ the state’s 2006 Global Warming Law, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Ms. Whitman first brought up the subject during a debate with Democratic candidate Jerry Brown on Tuesday when she said she not only wanted to delay the law, known as AB32, by a year but also ‘fix’ it. Her logic behind such a statement was that currently only 3% of jobs in California are ‘green’ and the law “is going to do real damage to the rest of the jobs in the economy.” Despite her remarks, Ms. Whitman, like Mr. Brown, has rejected Proposition 23, ‘a ballot measure to suspend the law until California’s jobless rate drops to 5.5% for a year’. This bill is heavily backed by the fossil fuel companies with trade interests in the state. Ms. Whitman’s rejection of the bill followed from heavy pressure put on her by fellow Silicone Valley executives (Whitman is the former Chief Executive of EBay) who are trying to push California’s economy towards renewable energies. 7 out of 10 of the USA’s largest clean technology companies are based in California. The Republican governor of the state Arnold Schwarzenegger, who brought AB23 into existence, has ‘pointedly’ not endorsed Ms. Whitman.
www.guardian.co.uk 26th September 2010
The Malibu coastline in California has been as still is the home of some of Hollywoods most successful stars including Steven Spielberg, Danny DeVito, Robert De Nero, Sylvester Stallone, and Bill Murray. However, there is one significant problem with the famous beach and it comes directly from the homes of the very people that gave it its fame. Many of the grand residences on the beach are not connected to the local sewage system and instead rely on sceptic tanks to treat their waste. Recently, the relentless pressure of the Pacific Ocean and the high water table has caused effluent to run off into the sea causing all manners of problems to those that swim and surf there. The problem has become so acute that local officials have now stated that local residents need to start fazing out the sceptic tanks and adopt a local sewer system instead. Although this may solve the pollution crisis, there are those that worry that such a decision has sacrificed the charm of the local area. The need for the tanks is what has prevented unrestrained development along the coastline and the creation of a sewer system may prompt a wave of new neighbours in the previously exclusive locale.
Sources: news.nationalgeographic.co.uk 8th September 2010
The Sierra Nevada Red Fox was thought to have disappeared from central California as a sighting has not been recorded since the 1990s. However, a recent study by the University of California has proven that saliva left on a ‘bait bag’ of chicken scraps supported the US Forest Service’s claim that it belonged to the threatened sub-species. The Sierra Nevada Fox is so rare that biologists have no idea how many there are in California nor why the population seems to be in decline. Limited data could be due to the fact that biological surveys concentrate on lower altitudes whereas the Sierra Nevada Red Fox prefers higher terrain.
Genetic research by the Canid Diversity and Conservation Unit of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of California has determined that the rare sub-species is descended from native Alaskan and Eastern US foxes which were introduced to the region in the 20th century. There is only one other pocket of the Sierra Nevada foxes and that is further North in the Lassen Peak region.