California’s Climate Battle Heats Up

As temperatures reached a record-breaking 113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday — it was so hot, a National Weather Service thermometer stopped working — the fight for California’s climate future is also heating up. Come election day, California voters are in danger of undoing “one of the most progressive pieces of environmental legislation ever enacted,” thanks to a ballot measure pushed by handful of big out-of-state oil companies to kill California’s landmark global warming law. Passed by bipartisan majorities and with strong support from businesses and environmentalists alike, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, commonly known as AB 32, will guide the state’s emissions back down to 1990 levels by 2020, resulting in hundreds of fewer premature deaths each year. Since it passed, the law has catalyzed billions of dollars in private sector investment in clean energy in the state, helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Meanwhile, as the Los Angeles Times noted, California has already “begun to feel the effects [of global warming], with rising sea levels, the disruption of habitats for plants and animals, and diminishing mountain snowpacks that are critical to the state’s water supply.” However, Proposition 23 — placed on the ballot and promoted almost exclusively by three big out-of-state oil companies — would essentially kill this hugely successful piece of legislation. In an attempt to confuse voters, the referendum says it will merely “suspend” the law until California’s unemployment rate drops to the unrealistically low level of 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. The state’s current unemployment rate is 12.2 percent, and has dropped below 5.5 percent only three times since 1970, so the initiative’s passage would effectively kill the law. Moreover, suspending the law would actually hamper economic growth, according to economists, further jeopardizing the law’s eventual implementation. Recent polling offers mixed forecasts of Prop. 23’s prospects, but the data suggests that voters are unclear about what the measure will actually do, thanks to its deceptive wording. Once respondents were read a short explanation of the measure, the numbers shifted with a majority disproving of Prop. 23, suggesting that voters need to be better educated.

YES MEANS NO:
The climate law is largely popular in California, with 67 percent of the residents supporting it. But a handful of out-of-state oil companies, interested in profits above all else, have exploited California’s elections laws, which allow almost any organization with sufficient resources to place a referendum on the ballot to hijack the political process. Two huge Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, have led the charge against the landmark climate law, along with Koch Industries, the giant oil conglomerate owned by right-wing mega-funders Charles and David Koch. Koch recently donated $1 million dollars to the effort and has been supporting front groups involved in the campaign. As of earlier this month, the Yes on 23 campaign has raised $8 million — 97 percent of which comes from oil, and 89 percent of which comes from out of state. Valero, Tesoro, and Koch alone are responsible for 80 percent of total contributions to the Yes on 23 campaign. A recent study by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland found that “Valero and Tesoro have repeatedly violated pollution laws in California by releasing chemicals into the air.” The study found that both corporations have numerous outstanding violations with state regulators, and are attempting to settle them, instead of paying them in full. As the New York Times editorialized, “The Kochs and their allies are disastrously wrong about the science,” and are promoting Prop. 23 merely “because they worry about damage to the bottom line.” Meanwhile, the Yes on 23 campaign has turned to tobacco lobbyists for help, the same ones who engineered Philip Morris’ fight against efforts to tax cigarettes and stop childhood as well as indoor smoking. The groups supporting Prop. 23 has disguised it as a jobs bill, dubbing it the “California Jobs Initiative” — despite the fact that repealing the law would actually destroy existing green jobs in California, whose numbers are growing 10 times faster than the statewide average. The studies used to push the Yes on 23 campaign’s phony economic claims have been widely discredited, with California’s non-partisan Legislative Analysis Office calling one “essentially useless.” Unfortunately, the state’s GOP candidates for governor and Senate have both endorsed this flawed argument. Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman dubbed parts of the climate law “job killing,” but has tried to hedge. While saying she will vote “no” on Prop. 23, she wants to delay implementation of AB 32 until the supposedly pernicious parts can be fixed. For her part, GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina said the law is “undoubtedly a job killer” — this, despite having once been a supporter of cap-and-trade legislation. Fiorina even attended a high-dollar fundraiser last week that included Koch Industries PAC.

FIGHTING BACK: Ironically, the company Whitman founded, eBay, has been one of the most outspoken supporters of California’s climate law, with the company’s vice president saying, “The goals of AB32 — job creation, innovation, and business opportunity — are at the core of the way we run our business at eBay.” Indeed, a wide coalition of businesses, environmentalists, and social justice advocates have begun to fight back. Over the past two weeks, the No on 23 campaign has collected more than $1.8 million in contributions, while the Yes campaign has taken in only $6,500. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the climate legislation into law and regards it as a “key part of his legacy,” recently tore into the Yes on 23 campaign in a speech, audio of which was obtained by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. “Oil companies like Valero and Tesoro and Frontier and Koch Industries are blatantly trying to manipulate the will of the people and the public good,” Schwarzenegger said. “Does anyone really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts, are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs?” In July, over 100 economists signed a letter in support of the state’s climate law, saying it will “stimulate innovation and efficiency,” “help the state become a technological leader in the global marketplace,” “create new business opportunities and more jobs,” and “provide immediate benefits to the health and welfare of residents by reducing local pollutants.” On Monday, leaders unveiled Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Prop, a coalition of more than 80 Latino, African American, and Asian groups have come together to fight Prop. 23. An August study from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights found, “the people who bear the biggest health burdens from these facilities are disproportionately people of color: three of the four refineries these companies operate in California are sited in low-income areas with large populations of people of color.” Polling data also indicates that minorities may end up being the “deciding factor” at the polls.

BEYOND CALIFORNIA: The outcome of the Prop. 23 vote holds major significance not just for Californians, but for the entire country, and the world. California is the eighth largest economy in the world and contributes 1.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, meaning the dismantling of its global warming law will have serious ripple effects across the globe. And as the Center for American Progress’ Araceli Ruano and Sean Pool wrote, California’s climate law is a critical “model for federal action,” and “gives us concrete evidence that a price for carbon pollution can effectively create jobs by spurring new markets for energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.” Other states have followed California’s lead as well. Since the climate law passed in 2006, nine states have enacted comprehensive climate change legislation, while eight more have established greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Three major regional climate initiatives are underway as well. Meanwhile, as Pool notes, “California has been a leader in clean energy and energy efficiency for decades. Over the past 35 years California’s model energy efficiency policies have saved consumers over $56 billion, creating 1.5 million full-time jobs.” In 2007 alone, the state was responsible for over 1,400 clean-tech patents — roughly a fifth of the nation’s total. All this innovation and critical experience will be greatly jeopardized, if not destroyed, if Prop. 23 passes. After a major setback nationally with the Senate failing to pass comprehensive climate legislation, California offers the best hope today to combat global warming in the U.S. But with the momentum on their side, oil companies are hoping to kill the clean energy movement for good with Prop. 23.

VOTER FEVER!

November 2nd is the most important day of 2010. This is the day Californians will elect a new governor and decide on multiple propositions. It’s important every Californian votes in this election. The future of education, immigration, sustainability and even our states nearly impossible two thirds majority rule to pass a budget will all be affected by this election.

LA City College Associated Students Organization in partnership with the campus club Education Connection have registered over 150 voters in the last two weeks. This is a big accomplishment on a campus that has a large immigrant student population who cannot vote. We have tabled for two weeks: playing music, asking students to share their dance or song at the mic, holding drawings daily for I heart LACC t-shirts and giving out red eco bags, flags and fruit. We have been doing class raps every day; this isn’t producing as many registration forms but it is spreading the word and there are voter registration forms for them to take home. We have made VOTER FEVER fans to hand out to the students (the air conditioners at our school don’t always work and LA gets hot with so much asphalt). The students can also pick up an I HEART GUYS or GIRLS WHO VOTE sticker at the table or from one of the students walking around with clipboards registering people. There are flyers hanging all over campus with the October 18th registration postmark deadline and the Election date Nov. 2nd. Finally we made some cardboard thermometers; each week we post them up at our table so students, faculty, staff and administrators can see how many people we have registered.

In the coming weeks we hope to have the League of Women Voters and a few other voter awareness non-profits to our campus to help get the word out to students. One of our Associated Students Organization goals for this year is to partner with local non-profits to make a stronger impact on our campus community. Last year the League of Women Voters came out for 3 days and registered people in our main quad and it was a big success. We are looking to repeat that and build on it.

Gesselly Maroquin and myself came up with a game called Whose Vote is it Anyway? The purpose of this game is to educate students on the basic details in each proposition. We have found most of our students are unaware of anything other than our favorite anti-hero “blondie” Meg Whitman. We hope to change this on our campus by the time the election comes. Since UCSB is so close this year we are trying to get a whole group of students to go to the Convergence. This will be very important because every student from our district that has attended a CSSC Convergence has come back changed. WE NEED THEIR VOICES!

Please if you are not registered-DO IT TODAY! It can be done online. If you are registered educate your yourself on the propositions. A good place to go is www.powervote.org. Be sure you talk to everyone you know about voting. Really we should be encouraging everyone to vote! Neighbors, classmates, family, friends, club members and even people we see on the street. Voting is a privilege and we have taken it for granted.

Let’s take our government back this November!

Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to bullets. -Abraham Lincoln

PEACE!

Scott Clapson

Senator Environmental Affairs LA City College
CSSC LA Regional Connector and Facebook Outreach

Save the Date: Governors’ Global Climate Summit 3

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other subnational leaders, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Environment Programme, is hosting the Governors’ Global Climate Summit 3. This summit will take place November 15-16, 2010 at the Mondavi Center on the campus of the University of California, Davis.

Join global experts from government, business, non-profits, and academia as we continue to grow our green economy and launch an exciting organization to usher in a new era of climate change solutions: R20-Regions of Climate Action.

Please direct all questions to the GGCS3 Coordination team at ggcs@calepa.ca.gov.

Background information, agenda and pricing information for the summit is forthcoming at www.ggcs3.org.

Report Unveils Greater Threat to Drinking Water from Coal Ash

Now nearly 140 coal ash sites have proven water pollution problems

Knowledge is king, and now we know more about the extent of damage coal ash sites across the country are causing to our drinking water. A new report issued today by Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club offers data that documents water contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals at 39 coal ash dumps in 21 states. The report released today builds on a similar report released in February by Earthjustice and EIP that found an additional 31 coal ash dump sites. Combined with the 67 sites the EPA already knows have contaminated water supplies, the total number of documented coal ash dumps that have contaminated water supplies climbs to 137 sites in 34 states.

The timing couldn’t be better. Next Monday kicks off the first of seven public hearings the EPA is holding through September across the country on its proposal to regulate coal ash. The report released today sends a clear message: coal ash sites contaminate water supplies with arsenic and other dangerous heavy metals and we need federally enforceable safeguards to protect against this toxic threat.

The report authors dug through gigabytes of water quality monitoring data from state agencies across the country to pull together today’s findings. The findings are unnerving:

  • As many as 27 of the 39 sites where groundwater is contaminated may be illegal dumps according to federal law;
  • Most damaged sites are still active and virtually all show recent evidence of contamination;
  • In several cases, coal ash dump sites are leaking their toxic cargo into rivers just upstream from the intakes for public water systems;
  • At least 18 of the 39 contaminated sites are located within five miles of a public groundwater well that could potentially be affected by toxic pollutants from these dump sites;
  • Many states require no groundwater monitoring at all;
  • State agencies have not required polluters to clean up even as contamination increases.

Check out the report for yourself (but be careful, this PDF is a 6Mb file), and take a few moments to tell EPA to set federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash.

Jared Saylor, contributor to unEARTHED, a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice’s work.

Full article url: http://unearthed.earthjustice.org/blog/2010-august/report-unveils-greater-threat-drinking-water-coal-ash

‘The Majestic Plastic Bag’ A Nature Mockumentary

With the California Senate preparing to vote on AB 1998 — a bill that would ban plastic bags statewide — Heal the Bay has released a hilarious mockumentary in the vein of a BBC nature film, following the travels of “one of the most clever and illustrious creatures: the plastic bag.”

Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons, the short video details the journey of a single-use plastic bag through “the open plains of the asphalt jungle,” facing many foes on the way, including park services and a teacup Yorkie, “one of nature’s most deadly killers.” Will the plastic bag ultimately survive the perilous travails, and complete its journey to the sea where it can join millions of tons of other plastic to live indefinitely in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Heal the Bay created the humorous clip to bring awareness to plastic pollution, and help raise support for AB 1998, which would ban single-use plastic bags from supermarkets, convenience stores, and other similar outlets.

According to Heal the Bay, 19 billion bags are used across California every year, leading to 123,000 tons of waste and costing taxpayers $25 million a year in cleanup efforts.

GO HERE to see how you can help pass this landmark bill, making California the first state to ban plastic bags.

WATCH:

Summer Love – CSSC Leadership Retreat

One hot summer’s weekend in mid-August, I was fortunate enough to attend the CSSC leadership retreat in Napa, CA. Hailing all the way from San Diego, I crossed my fingers that the long journey up would be worth it… it was.

Immediately upon entering the room, I felt the sense of community that I have come to associate with CSSC gatherings. Some faces I knew, most I did not, but I was greeted with fifteen beautiful smiles either way.

The sessions reminded me just how inspiring every person in the room was. Hearing the accomplishments and hopes from everyone brought joy to me, and I was filled with awe that such young people could have such big hearts and be filled with so much love.

The most exciting session to me was the one in which we learned about Power Vote and Prop 23, because its time sensitive nature called us to action. Coming up with strategies and practicing class raps gave me hope that we could make a difference through the constant process of learning and educating. “We are students of life,” various people repeated throughout these sessions, and I could not agree more.

As much love as I had for the sessions, the retreat would not have been the same without the quiet in-between moments; the laughter at the dinner table, the frustration at trying to put an impossible animal puzzle together, the understanding and acceptance of every flaw and quirk that each individual had.

On our last night together, my heart felt at peace listening to everyone’s wishes and hopes for the future as we toasted each other at the dinner table. Although humbleness is important, it is also important to give respect where respect is due, and I have endless amounts for everyone I met. As we sat around a campfire afterward and shared our strengths and weaknesses, I cherished the vulnerability and honesty that was put forth; it is not an easy thing to do, and I appreciated the willingness of the group to give bits of ourselves to each other.

As diverse as we are, what I realized about all of us is that we are dreamers. As daunting as the work to remedy the world may seem, people like this remind me that it can be done by working as one and keeping heart. As John Lennon sang in one of the anthems for peace, “You may say I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one.” My wish to you all is that all of your wishes come true and that you never stop dreaming.

Floods, fire, and fiddling

Legend has it that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. These days, Congress fiddles while the world burns.

More precisely, it’s Russia that’s burning at the moment, with a record heat wave and forest fires being blamed for as many as 15,000 deaths so far. Also troubling is the drought, which prompted the Russian government to ban wheat exports this year, sending shock waves through global food markets.

And as Russia burns, Pakistan drowns, with record rainfall producing floods that have affected 20 million people. A nuclear power ever teetering on the verge of chaos, Pakistan could be pushed over the edge by a catastrophe like this one.

While we can’t blame global climate change for any specific weather event, the disasters now unfolding follow a pattern of greater extremes predicted by scientists amid rising world temperatures. A warmer atmosphere, for instance, holds more water vapor, which produces heavier rainfall. (Just ask the people of Nashville, where the stage of the Grand Ole Opry was under water earlier this year.)

If we don’t take steps to stop climate change, these freakish extremes will become the new norm in the decades to come. How many droughts, fires, and floods will it take before we act?

Despite the evident urgency of the issue, the U.S. Senate failed to consider a climate and energy bill before members of Congress returned home this month. The odds of such legislation passing this year look very slim.

Not that the proposals being considered were anything to be hopeful about.

The latest congressional measure to limit carbon dioxide emissions is aimed only at electric utilities, and it would give away most permits to emit the greenhouse gas in the initial years. When the free permits run out, the proposal would allow polluters to purchase cheap carbon offsets that would, in most instances, fail to produce net reductions in CO2.

Top it all off with a volatile trading system that fails to send a clear price signal to clean-energy investors, and you have a recipe for failure.

This is what you might expect, of course, when legislation to control climate change is dictated by the people who are causing it. Perhaps Congress should stop trying to appease the coal and oil lobbies and start listening to the folks who actually want to preserve a sustainable world for their grandchildren.

Climate scientist James Hansen is one of those folks. In the preface of his recently published Storms of My Grandchildren, Hansen writes, “I did not want my grandchildren, someday in the future, to look back and say, ‘[Grandpa] understood what was happening, but he did not make it clear.’ ”

Hansen is doing everything in his power to be clear about climate change and what needs to be done. At an Earth Day rally on the National Mall in Washington this past spring, he unveiled a proposal called “The People’s Climate Stewardship Act.”

Simple, transparent, and effective, the proposal calls for a direct fee on carbon-based fuels at the source – whether coal mine, oil well, or port of entry – that would rise each year. As a result, clean-energy sources would be cheaper than fossil fuels within a decade. Since this would increase the cost of energy, the revenue from the carbon fee would be returned to households in the form of monthly payments or reduced payroll taxes, shielding families from higher prices.

The carbon fee would level the playing field for wind, solar, and other clean-energy technologies, unleashing a flood of investments that produce millions of jobs and wean our nation off coal, oil, and natural gas.

Now that cap-and-trade climate legislation has failed in the Senate for the fourth time, we should regroup and gather support in the next Congress for the simple, fresh approach of a carbon fee and dividend. Rep. John Larson (D., Conn.) introduced such a bill last year, but it was tabled when the House passed the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

Let’s hope Larson makes another run at the proposal in January. The smoky haze hanging over Moscow and the floodwaters inundating Pakistan serve as a warning that we’re running out of time.

Marshall Saunders is the founder and president of Citizens Climate Lobby. He can be reached at ccl@citizensclimatelobby.org.

Full article url: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/101280824.html#ixzz0xYLOA78n

Strong public support for climate law, but battle brews

Despite a whole lot of brouhaha over AB 32 and the proposition to derail it, two-thirds of California residents continue to back it — a percent unchanged from last year. So says a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.

But the results don’t put the climate law in the clear in November. Pollsters asked residents whether the state should take action “right away” on its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or wait until the state’s economy and job situation improve: Respondents were evenly split.

Controversy surrounds the job-creating powers of the climate law, although most studies find a modest bump (and this analysis finds a definite boost to government jobs).

It’s important to note, though, that Prop 23 wouldn’t just put AB 32 on hold for a spell: It would wait for employment numbers so good that the state has seen them just three times in the past three decades, according to data from the California Department of Labor.

Earlier this week, Prop 23 backers — who get two-thirds of their financing from the Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro — sued the state over language to be used on the ballot. The ballot will describe the measure as one that “suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Backers deny that greenhouse gas emissions are air pollution and contend that AB 32 requires more than just “major polluters” to reduce their emissions.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/green/detail?entry_id=69072#ixzz0wyMQWQTT

Paved with Good Intentions: Fiscal Politics, Freeways and the 20th Century American City

Stuck in traffic in Washington, DC in 1959, President Eisenhower was shocked to learn that the delay was being caused by Interstate Highway construction. Surely the Interstates were being built between cities, not in them. The President demanded to know who was responsible for this state of affairs, only to be told that he was; it was the result of legislation he had signed three years earlier. Aghast, Eisenhower attempted to get the federal government out of the urban freeway business. But it was too late: the program had built up momentum that not even he could halt.

Fifty years later, many planners and urbanists are still asking Eisenhower’s question: Why did the United States, unlike every other developed country, choose to mass-produce freeways in cities? What caused the Interstate Highway program to urbanize, decisively shaping both intracity travel and American cities?

Other questions about America’s unique urban freeway systems abound. Why did the Interstate program shift control over crucial metropolitan transportation decisions from city halls to statehouses and Washington? Why are urban freeways not nimble, context-sensitive facilities but the large, ungainly ones we have today? Why did poor, predominantly minority communities in the inner city, and newer low-density communities on the suburban fringe, bear the brunt of freeway construction, while established, better-heeled neighborhoods were spared? And why did freeway-building explode onto the scene so dramatically, only to flame out just as spectacularly such a short time later?

The answers to these questions involve planning, engineering, and politics. But more importantly, they involve a force as prosaic as it is powerful: money. The development of metropolitan freeways is a powerful testament to the ways that money—the constraints caused by the lack of it, the means of raising it, the politics of dividing it, and the policies for spending it—can powerfully, even decisively, shape transportation outcomes. To a surprising—and perhaps disturbing—extent, the urban freeways’ capacity, routing, geometrics, safety provisions, and much else were significantly shaped by the internal logic of the transportation finance system. To understand the development of metropolitan freeways, and thus the American city, it is necessary to “follow the money.”

Planning for Cars In Cities

In the early years of the 20th century, urban transportation was funded at the municipal level. Property taxes and special assessments paid for street networks. Since these taxes were levied and collected locally, local officials had authority over the transportation system.

Thus it was municipalities, armed with locally-generated revenue streams, that struggled to cope with the tidal wave of automobiles that flooded city streets as the car became a mass market good. Auto registrations rose from 8,000 in 1900, to half a million in 1910, to over 8 million in 1920, to over 22 million in 1930—a more than 2,700-fold increase in just 30 years. In an effort to deal with the congestion that resulted, cities hired consultants from among a small coterie of planners and engineers to map out plans to accommodate the car. These consultants, who included planning pioneers like Harland Bartholomew, Charles Cheney, and John Nolen, usually recommended operational fixes like widening and standardizing streets, eliminating jogs and dead ends, installing traffic signals, funneling traffic onto main thoroughfares, and segregating different types of traffic (i.e. streetcars, autos, trucks, and pedestrians). For a time these measures provided congestion relief, but the ever-increasing number of autos meant that more radical approaches were soon needed.

Planners proposed one such approach: a new type of road that adapted design principles from facilities intended for recreational motoring. In the late 1800s, real estate developers discovered that access to parks could boost property values. To capitalize on this they built “parkways,” roads that scenically linked their developments to nearby open space. The builders of parkways took advantage of two crucial design features. Limited access to the roads prevented slow-moving vehicles from unpredictably entering and exiting the traffic stream. This meant less disruption to traffic, a reduced risk of collisions, and less cluttering of streets. Grade separation at intersections eliminated the need to stop at cross streets, increasing speeds on both roads and effectively doubling the parkways’ vehicular capacity.

Transportation planners incorporated these features into plans for a type of facility that, it was thought, would be the permanent solution to urban traffic woes. The relatively free movement of vehicles on these proposed roads led to their eventual name: “freeways.”

Where parkways were recreational facilities, early plans for freeways were utilitarian, designed to untangle the jams of autos, streetcars, trucks, buses, and pedestrians that cluttered American cities. They envisioned roads far different from those we know today. These freeways would have had fewer lanes (typically four), lower design speeds (usually 45 mph, though by the 1930s most new cars were capable of going much faster), and smaller, simpler interchanges. Building them would have required displacing some homes and businesses, but far fewer than were eventually displaced to accommodate the much larger freeways eventually constructed. The early freeway plans also called for dense networks of highways, with an eye towards dispersing traffic, not concentrating it on a few large facilities. And land use was integral to many of the early plans; the freeways were designed to cut with the urban grain, not against it. Proposed joint highway/real estate developments were not uncommon, and in some cases freeways were to be multi-modal, with transit vehicles traveling in the medians. Finally, some early plans called for gridiron as opposed to radial layouts to disperse traffic across rapidly decentralizing cities.

Show Me The Money: Finance Drives Planning

Most cities had the technical and financial means to widen their streets, install traffic signals, and carry out other operational fixes. But they lacked the means to shoehorn extensive freeway systems into dense urban areas. One problem was that the tax instruments available to local governments were not appropriate for the task. Local governments had the authority to levy taxes and special assessments on property and businesses, but not, for example, on fuel. The property tax is a sensible mechanism for financing local streets and roads, because these streets link individual land parcels to the world and help give them value. It is thus logical for property owners to help pay for local street construction. Freeways, however, affect the value of property across the entire metropolitan area, not just of nearby parcels. This makes it hard to justify special assessments on freeway-adjacent properties, since the majority of a freeway’s benefits accrue to travelers and landowners over much larger areas. (Indeed, being too close to a freeway can lower land values, particularly for residential property.) And in any case, property tax revenues were inadequate for building even relatively modest freeway facilities, much less networks of them.

A potential solution to these problems emerged in the 1920s with the development of the gas tax. As a way to finance freeways, gas taxes had much to recommend them: they placed the tax burden on users of the system, they were relatively easy to administer and collect, and they were robust. Property tax revenues nationwide plummeted 72 percent during the Depression years of 1930 to 1939, but fuel consumption and its associated tax revenues proved surprisingly resilient. Except for a small dip at the beginning of the Depression, fuel consumption rose every year until World War II.

But the gas tax had one key drawback for cities: the revenues were collected at the state and later the federal levels. Accepting outside funding would mean accepting outside control. City officials thus faced the Hobson’s choice of giving authority over metropolitan freeways to the states, or foregoing most of their ambitious plans. With congestion worsening, city officials had to act. So in the dozen years following the Second World War most cities ceded authority over the planning, development, and operation of urban freeways to state highway departments and the engineers who staffed them.

Transferring control from municipal to state (and later federal) authority needn’t have meant abandoning the locally-developed metropolitan freeway plans. But with state money and state authority came state ideas. State highway departments had a rural orientation; they were primarily responsible for rural roads and their engineers were disproportionately from rural areas. The state highway engineers typically focused on high-speed farm-to-market and intercity access, increasing access to remote areas, rural economic development, and reducing rural road accidents. They also sought to maximize traffic flows on new high-speed facilities; in the eyes of state highway engineers, the challenge facing rural roads was not that they attracted too much traffic but that they often attracted insufficient traffic to justify the investment.

For the most part state highway engineers lacked a holistic view of freeways’ place within the larger urban organism. Context, land use, and multi-modalism were largely absent from their plans. For example, many early freeway plans called for frequent interchanges in order to alleviate the burden of traffic spillover on nearby streets, but state highway engineers sought to minimize the number of interchanges in order to speed traffic, discourage short trips, and reduce costs. This rural-centered focus on high-speed superhighways, even in cities, was gradually etched in stone and would become—for better or worse—a hallmark of the Interstate system.

Ramping Up The Program: The Genesis Of The Interstates

Though the state departments of transportation took over most metropolitan highway planning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, during World War II and the years that followed little progress was made in building freeways either within or outside of cities. The national Interstate Highway System was adopted in 1944, but the program lay nearly dormant for over a decade. The dearth of freeway building at either the state or federal levels was largely due to a lack of funds. Only California surged ahead with state construction of metropolitan freeways, which is one reason its model of state-directed urban freeway development would later be copied nationwide. California’s pioneering role can be traced to finance: to pay for its freeways the state passed steep tax increases on fuel and trucks in 1947.

In contrast to California’s decisive action, it took a dozen years of false starts and dead ends before the financing system for the massive national network could be crafted. That schema required the cobbling together of a diverse coalition of interests to support the substantial tax increases needed to fund the system. In political terms, the creation of this coalition was a triumph. But in transportation terms the outcome was decidedly mixed. The final, landmark legislation that turned the beliefs of state highway engineers into “facts on the ground” also sounded the death knell for the vision of the early metropolitan transportation planners, and introduced financial incentives that would have important unintended consequences for urban freeway development.

In 1955, Congress soundly defeated yet another piece of legislation to fund the Interstates. A year later, similar legislation easily passed both houses and was signed into law. Why did Congress have such a sudden change of heart? First, the 1955 bill faced opposition from the rubber, petroleum, trucking, and intercity bus industries, as well as the Teamsters and the American Automobile Association. The former organizations objected to proposed tax increases on fuel and tires. The trucking industry protested that taxes on diesel fuel and other levies on heavy vehicles were too onerous; the AAA protested they were too light.

In addition, urban members of Congress were generally uninterested in what was widely perceived as a rural intercity highway bill. The original Interstate highway plan adopted in 1944 had explicitly left the urban portions of the system unplanned, with the routes to be located and designated later. While this deference represented an enormous tip of the hat to urban transportation planners, it also meant urban legislators failed to grasp the implications of the proposed freeways for their districts. In order to capture the imagination (and support) of urban congressmen, in 1956 federal highway officials hastily sketched out the urban segments of the system. In a planning process lasting only eight months, deference to local transportation planning and urban concerns was cast aside and routes were hurriedly laid out for one-size-fits-all superhighways through cities large and small around the country.

To overcome opposition to the tax increases, the congressmen, federal highway officials, and interest group members (particularly from the construction industry) who formed the core of the interstate lobby created the Highway Trust Fund. The Trust Fund guaranteed that all new revenues from fuel and other taxes would be dedicated only to highways. Dedicating the revenue secured widespread political support, even from the interests being taxed, and at the same time conjured an up avalanche of money. But it also narrowed the possibilities for freeway building. Dedication of money to the Trust Fund, for example, meant that plans including transit were jettisoned in favor of highway-only facilities.

The rules governing the financing of the system had other important effects. Prior to the Interstate program, the federal government had matched states’ expenditures on federal-aid highways on a 1:1 basis. Beginning in the early 1950s this ratio began to rise, reflecting bi-partisan enthusiasm for highway development and a fear that states might not prioritize Interstate construction. Finally, the 1956 legislation settled on a terrifically generous 9:1 match. This meant that states could best leverage their transportation dollars on Interstate spending. Predictably, to maximize the buying power of their revenues, states all but dropped plans for smaller, less invasive complementary facilities and concentrated their resources on new Interstates.

To create a limited system of superhighways, the federal legislation capped the centerline mileage of Interstate highway each state was permitted to build. While this was perhaps a sensible way to manage the extent of the system, the limit encouraged states to concentrate traffic onto sparse networks of freeways, in a sharp contrast to what was proposed by early metropolitan freeway plans. Moreover, while capping mileage, the federal government did not cap expenditures; this encouraged the building of roads with as many lanes and bells and whistles (weaving sections, elaborate interchanges) as possible. The resulting sparse networks of very high-capacity urban freeways disrupted cities more than the planners’ original vision of denser, smaller, often multi-modal networks would have.

Financial considerations also dictated that during the early years of the program the Interstates were built with terrific haste. The increases in fuel and other taxes brought in so much money in the decade after 1956 that state highway engineers literally couldn’t build planned freeways fast enough; states were forced to quicken the pace of Interstate construction for fear that unused funds might be reallocated. This decade of rushed freeway construction offered planners and engineers limited opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

Financial incentives also helped to ensure that the burden of freeway construction fell disproportionately on lower-income neighborhoods. While freeway builders had lavish funding at their disposal in the early years, their desire to quickly complete as much mileage as possible drove them to start with the inexpensive low-hanging fruit: suburban segments (which required minimal displacement of existing homes and businesses) and routes through lower-income central city neighborhoods (where land costs were lower and organized political opposition was weaker). Higher-cost routes, by contrast, were often moved down in the queue. But by the time these more expensive (and often controversial) segments were ready for construction, money had begun to run short and the freeway-building program was winding down. Thus many of these routes (like a planned freeway through Beverly Hills) were shelved and never built.

End of the Road

The rapid ascent of freeway-building was matched by an equally rapid demise. By the mid-1970s, only 20 years after the program commenced, urban freeway construction had slowed to a trickle, even though the system remained well short of completion.

In part the urban freeways were stopped due to “freeway revolts.” Spearheaded by the nascent environmental and social justice movements, agitation against freeways took place in cities like Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Reno, and San Francisco. In some cases the anti-freeway movement scored spectacular successes, using popular and political pressure to block highway projects. Environmental legislation like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was signed into law in 1970, shapes transportation planning to this day thanks in part to popular discontent with freeway-building.

But the more significant cause of the freeway program’s premature sunset was simpler: it ran out of money. Stagnant real revenues and escalating costs for labor, materials, and rights-of-way (all of which rose considerably faster than inflation) doomed the program, which was waning well before most freeway revolts began. Chronic fiscal shortfalls resulted not so much from a conscious effort to terminate the freeway program as from benign neglect and political inertia, as public officials turned their collective attention elsewhere. Moreover, freeway building ironically carried some of the seeds of its own demise. With the exception of immediately adjacent residential parcels, freeways generally increase surrounding land values, especially in new, outlying suburbs. Thus when new freeways were proposed, speculators often rushed to purchase land in the proposed corridor, thereby raising property values and driving up right-of-way costs for the departments of transportation.

By the 1970s, the fiscal shortfalls were so dramatic that dozens of locally popular routes to which there was little opposition were shelved—evidence that dollars, and not dissent, were the primary force behind the withering of the freeway-building program.

Changing Lanes

Today, we have in many ways come full circle and returned to the outlook of the early 20th century urban planners. The current highway planning process is a well-intentioned if sometimes quixotic effort to ensure that the mistakes of the Interstate-building era will never be repeated.

Cities and regions now have much more input into and control over their transportation destinies. To a large extent we have moved from embracing to tolerating autos, from circumventing stakeholder objections to facilitating stakeholder input, from fostering auto-oriented suburban expansion to encouraging less auto-dependent forms of development, from constructing major new highways to mitigating the effects of transportation facilities, and from focusing on metropolitan freeway networks to multimodal planning with an emphasis on transit in larger cities. Regional transportation plans and proposals today—like those crafted before the freeway-building era—reflect a wide array of urban concerns, including reducing congestion, preserving central business districts, improving public transit, and reviving depressed communities.

And yet it is possible the pendulum may have swung too far. An era of comprehensive, centrally-directed planning has given way to an era of piecemeal, atomized planning that often lacks coordination, direction, vision, or, importantly, a sustainable stream of revenue. The freeway era of fantastic financial largesse has given way to one of comparative penury, as cities and regions scramble to cobble together funds for popular individual projects—another way in which the modern planning paradigm resembles that of the first half of the 20th century. Instead of fuel taxes, general sales taxes and public debt increasingly fund projects, a change that abandons the user-fee logic of the past and brings a very different set of constraints and incentives.

President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package momentarily changed this calculus; once again boom replaced bust in transportation finance. In the haste with which the funds were allocated, the stimulus harkened back to the Interstate era. Thus it is wise to remember the unintended consequences this kind of spending can have. Interstate backers wanted to build freeways, and were willing to make many financial compromises to do so. Freeways were built, in spectacular fashion, but the unforeseen and sometimes harmful results of their achievements reverberate to the present day.

By Jeffrey A. Brown, Eric A. Morris, and Brian D. Taylor

Full article url: http://www.uctc.net/access/35/access35_Paved_with_Good_Intentions_Fiscal_Politics_.shtml

Ensuring Food Security Means Protecting Pavlovsk Seed Bank

Riddle me this: What’s more valuable, global food security or a batch of luxury homes? I know, seems like kind of a no-brainer. Keeping the world fed should obviously come before some new McMansions. But apparently a Russian court thinks otherwise.

SIGN THE PETITION

Yesterday, a Russian court declared that the Russian Federal Fund of Residential Real Estate could take over the land currently occupied by the Pavlovsk Experiment Station, a global seed bank. By seed bank, I don’t mean a building containing drawers full of seeds. I mean a more than 173-acre area housing tends of thousands of living, growing crops, 90 percent of which aren’t found anywhere else in the world. As USA Today recently reported, “there are apples from 35 countries, 1,000 varieties of strawberries from 40 countries, black currants from 30 countries, plums from 12 countries and multiple other crops.”

Seed banks like Pavlovsk serve a vital role in ensuring food security. For one, they prevent crop varieties from going the way of the Dodo. But perhaps more importantly, seed banks allow scientists to create new crop varieties. For example, by cross-breeding one variety with another, researchers can develop plants that can withstand drought or higher temperatures, an especially important research area considering this whole climate change thing we’ve got going on. Destroying the Pavlovsk seed bank, then, isn’t just ruining thousands of plants in an isolated area. It threatens the future of food across the globe.

In 1926, famed geneticist Nikolai Vavilov started the Pavlovsk seed bank, which is now maintained by the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry. Throughout the decades, the seed collection acquired thousands of crop varieties, which scientists fought hard to expand and cultivate. During the 900-day Siege of Leningrad during World War II, 12 scientists starved to death rather than eat the rare plants contained in Pavlovsk. It’s a shame to think that this extraordinary collection that scientists literally gave their lives for could see its demise from a few McMansions.

But it’s not too late to take action. Vavilov Institute instantly appealed the court’s decision to hand Pavlovsk over to real estate developers. The appeal buys the seed bank about one month of time before any development can happen. President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin possess the power to protect Pavlovsk seed bank. Sign this petition asking President Medvedev to conserve Pavlovsk and stop the destruction of the future of food.

Sarah Parsons is Change.org’s Sustainable Food Editor. Her work has appeared in Popular Science, OnEarth, Audubon and Plenty.

Photo credit: Noel Zia Lee via Flickr

Full article url: http://food.change.org/blog/view/ensuring_food_security_means_protecting_pavlovsk_seed_bank

Crabs provide evidence oil tainting Gulf food web

To assess how heavy a blow the BP oil spill has dealt the Gulf of Mexico, researchers are closely watching a staple of the seafood industry and primary indicator of the ecosystem’s health: the blue crab.

Weeks ago, before engineers pumped in mud and cement to plug the gusher, scientists began finding specks of oil in crab larvae plucked from waters across the Gulf coast.

The government said last week that three-quarters of the spilled oil has been removed or naturally dissipated from the water. But the crab larvae discovery was an ominous sign that crude had already infiltrated the Gulf’s vast food web and could affect it for years to come.

“It would suggest the oil has reached a position where it can start moving up the food chain instead of just hanging in the water,” said Bob Thomas, a biologist at Loyola University in New Orleans. “Something likely will eat those oiled larvae … and then that animal will be eaten by something bigger and so on.”

Tiny creatures might take in such low amounts of oil that they could survive, Thomas said. But those at the top of the chain, such as dolphins and tuna, could get fatal “megadoses.”

Marine biologists routinely gather shellfish for study. Since the spill began, many of the crab larvae collected have had the distinctive orange oil droplets, said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

“In my 42 years of studying crabs I’ve never seen this,” Perry said.

She wouldn’t estimate how much of the crab larvae are contaminated overall, but said about 40 percent of the area they are known to inhabit has been affected by oil from the spill.

While fish can metabolize dispersant and oil, crabs may accumulate the hydrocarbons, which could harm their ability to reproduce, Perry said in an earlier interview with Science magazine.

She told the magazine there are two encouraging signs for the wild larvae — they are alive when collected and may lose oil droplets when they molt.

Tulane University researchers are investigating whether the splotches also contain toxic chemical dispersants that were spread to break up the oil but have reached no conclusions, biologist Caz Taylor said.

If large numbers of blue crab larvae are tainted, their population is virtually certain to take a hit over the next year and perhaps longer, scientists say. The spawning season occurs between April and October, but the peak months are in July and August.

How large the die-off would be is unclear, Perry said. An estimated 207 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf since an April 20 drilling rig explosion triggered the spill, and thousands of gallons of dispersant chemicals have been dumped.

Scientists will be focusing on crabs because they’re a “keystone species” that play a crucial role in the food web as both predator and prey, Perry said.

Richard Condrey, a Louisiana State University oceanographer, said the crabs are “a living repository of information on the health of the environment.”

Named for the light-blue tint of their claws, the crabs have thick shells and 10 legs, allowing them to swim and scuttle across bottomlands. As adults, they live in the Gulf’s bays and estuaries amid marshes that offer protection and abundant food, including snails, tiny shellfish, plants and even smaller crabs. In turn, they provide sustenance for a variety of wildlife, from redfish to raccoons and whooping cranes.

Adults could be harmed by direct contact with oil and from eating polluted food. But scientists are particularly worried about the vulnerable larvae.

That’s because females don’t lay their eggs in sheltered places, but in areas where estuaries meet the open sea. Condrey discovered several years ago that some even deposit offspring on shoals miles offshore in the Gulf.

The larvae grow as they drift with the currents back toward the estuaries for a month or longer. Many are eaten by predators, and only a handful of the 3 million or so eggs from a single female live to adulthood.

But their survival could drop even lower if the larvae run into oil and dispersants.

“Crabs are very abundant. I don’t think we’re looking at extinction or anything close to it,” said Taylor, one of the researchers who discovered the orange spots.

Still, crabs and other estuary-dependent species such as shrimp and red snapper could feel the effects of remnants of the spill for years, Perry said.

“There could be some mortality, but how much is impossible to say at this point,” said Vince Guillory, biologist manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Perry, Taylor and Condrey will be among scientists monitoring crabs for negative effects such as population drop-offs and damage to reproductive capabilities and growth rates.

Crabs are big business in the region. In Louisiana alone, some 33 million pounds are harvested annually, generating nearly $300 million in economic activity, Guillory said.

Blue crabs are harvested year-round, but summer and early fall are peak months for harvesting, Guillory said.

Prices for live blue crab generally have gone up, partly because of the Louisiana catch scaling back due to fishing closures, said Steve Hedlund, editor of SeafoodSource.com, a website that covers the global seafood industry.

Fishermen who can make a six-figure income off crabs in a good year now are now idled — and worried about the future.

“If they’d let us go out and fish today, we’d probably catch crabs,” said Glen Despaux, 37, who sets his traps in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay. “But what’s going to happen next year, if this water is polluted and it’s killing the eggs and the larvae? I think it’s going to be a long-term problem.”

John Flesher
Full article url: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100809/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill_blue_crabs

New ocean garbage patch discovered

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a mess of trash and plastic that moves around the north Pacific Ocean and is roughly the size of Texas. It has a high concentration of plastics and chemical sludge. Photos from the patch of trapped sea turtles and tires will snare the attention of even the most stone-hearted cynic. A second plastic gyre has been discovered in the north Atlantic Ocean. And as Yahoo Green reports, another gyre was recently spotted in the Indian Ocean.

Ocean currents collect floating garbage and drop it into gyres that serve as a convergence spot. Trash has long washed up on the beaches of India, and now experts have confirmed that it may in part be due to a giant swirl of refuse making its way around the Indian Ocean.

Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen — co-founders of the 5 Gyres Institute, which is focused on plastic pollution in the oceans — report that of “the 12 water samples collected in the 3,000 miles between Perth, Australia, and Port Louis, Mauritius (an island due East of Madagascar), contain plastic.” As Cummins explained to Yahoo Green, “We now have a third accumulation zone of plastic pollution that shows compounding evidence that the trash isn’t condensed to an island. It’s spread out across the entire gyre from coast to coast.”

Often called the world’s largest dump, these oceanic gyres are comprised of anything and everything that goes into the sea. Discover Magazine refers to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch this way: “Around and around: bottles, plastic bags, fishnets, clothing, lighters, and myriad other man-made items, held until they disintegrate, make their way to distant seas, or merely bob among the waves before washing up on someone’s beach.” In the North America alone, over 14 billion pounds of trash go into the ocean each year. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that merchant ships dump 90 percent of the waste, while recreational boaters, the military, and cruise ships contribute the rest — with a 1 percent dose of sewage thrown in.

So where does this leave the Indian Ocean Garbage Patch? Eriksen emphasizes the importance of stopping the flow of trash into our bodies of water. These gyres are almost impossible to clean out because they do not form a solid base of trash. Eriksen also suggests cleaning up beaches as quickly as possible to prevent trash from entering or returning to the water. Another solution — collective reduction in individual plastic consumption — would also help create cleaner bodies of water.

In the meantime, the 5 Gyres Institute plans expeditions into the southern hemisphere to look for more trash.

Katherine Butler
Full article url: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/new-ocean-garbage-patch-discovered

Real Food Challenge Summer Leadership Training Aug. 26-29

The West Coast Summer Leadership training will be held in Atascadero, CA (near San Luis Obispo) this summer to help students share their experiences and build organizational skills. Only 25-30 students are accepted for the training, and spots are filling up! This is a great way to learn from fellow students and devise strategies to get this campaign kick started at your school. The training will include workshops, farm work, cooking and eating together, and times for meditation and reflection. Trainings are ways to empower each other and realize we have help in the work we do to change the system.

If you are interested, REGISTER TODAY.

A schedule for the training is available here.

China says ocean cleared of oil 10 days after spill

Copyrighy JIANG HEChinese officials said Monday that an oil slick in coastal waters has been cleaned up 10 days after a massive explosion sent an estimated 1,500 tons of crude into the Yellow Sea along the northeastern port city of Dalian.

But beaches along Dalian’s long shoreline remain closed indefinitely, with oil covering rocks and pebbles on the sand, and fishing has been banned until the end of the summer. Environmentalists say nearby bays are also polluted.
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“This is a victory,” the city’s mayor, Li Wancai, said Monday in an interview with the Dalian Daily News. “The slick has been completely removed, and the oil has not spread to international waters or the Bohai Sea.” Bohai is a northwestern arm of the Yellow Sea, off the coast of northern China.

Li credited thousands of fishermen and residents with cleaning up the spill, which occurred after a pipeline explosion July 16. The cleanup consisted of spraying oil-dispersant chemicals, planting oil-consuming bacteria and scooping up the thickest part of the oil spill into plastic barrels.

There were no casualties in the explosion and ensuing fire, but one firefighter drowned after being swept from a boat by a wave.

Environmentalists say that although the majority of the oil has been removed, damage remains extensive.

Han Xu, a member of Greenpeace, which has been involved in cleanup efforts in Dalian since the explosion, says some bays are still covered with oil. Some aquaculture farms are seeing their crop output drop drastically.

“More devastating are the beaches that are totally covered in oil,” Han said.

The thick, sticky black substance can still be seen in the water by the shoreline, as well as on the beach.

Han said children continued to play on the contaminated beaches, and tourists were still swimming in the water. He said some residents were even seen trying to clean up the oil from the ground with their bare hands.

Greenpeace says the environment will be adversely affected for at least 30 years. Government officials acknowledge that the cleanup campaign is not over. Li said that the focus must move “from the ocean to the land” and that efforts must be made to prevent oil onshore from seeping back into the ocean.

“The problem with cleaning up an oil spill is that it’s everywhere,” Han said.

Officials said the July 16 incident occurred when workers injected desulfurizer into a pipeline — part of the refinement process — and a fireball was ignited. The blaze raged at the harbor for 15 hours, shrouding the city in smoke. The burst pipeline eventually spewed enough oil to cover 140 square miles with about 47,600 gallons of crude.

By comparison, the U.S. oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is estimated to have spewed between 94 million and 184 million gallons of oil.

The workers who injected the chemical were employed by PetroChina, a subsidiary of the state-owned oil and gas producer China National Petroleum Corp. and the owner of the damaged pipeline.

An investigation by the State Administration of Work Safety and the Ministry of Public Security found that company employees had not verified the safety of the strongly oxidizing chemical or used standard injection procedures.

Article URL: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-china-oil-spill-20100727,0,3917306.story

Scientists Confirm Underwater Plumes Are From Spill

Credit: Katherine Bourg

Credit: Katherine Bourg

Florida researchers said Friday that they had for the first time conclusively linked vast plumes of microscopic oil droplets drifting in the Gulf of Mexico to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The scientists, from the University of South Florida, matched samples taken from the plumes with oil from the leaking well provided by BP. The findings were the first direct confirmation that the plumes were linked to the spill, although federal scientists had said there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence tying them to BP’s well.

The discovery of the plumes several weeks into the oil leak alarmed scientists, who feared that clouds of oil particles could wreak havoc on marine life far below the surface. Plumes have been detected as far as 50 miles from the wellhead, although oil concentrations at those distances are extremely low, about 750 parts per billion.

This is well below the level considered acutely toxic for fish and marine organisms, but could still affect eggs and larvae, the scientists fear.

“There are a lot of things that are potentially at risk,” said David Hollander, an oceanographer with the University of South Florida who is studying the plumes. “There’s not a lot known of the toxic effects of oil on organisms living in deeper waters.”

The announcement by the Florida researchers came as federal scientists released their own report on the oil formations. The multiagency report describes the presence of large plumes of microscopic oil droplets within several miles of the wellhead at a depth of 3,280 to 4,265 feet. Oil concentrations there are as high as 10 parts per million, or the equivalent of one tablespoon of oil in 130 gallons of water.

The plumes closest to the well may be concentrated enough to pose a threat to nearby deepwater coral reefs, which host a diversity of ocean life, said Steve Murawski, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s chief scientist for the spill response. “We know that even low concentrations can be harmful to the eggs and larvae of the deep coral,” he said.

The federal report also described a drop in dissolved oxygen levels in deep water near the well, which it said probably resulted from the rapid reproduction of oil-eating microbes. Yet the reduction did not signal conditions that could cause a die-off in sea life, the report concluded.

The ultimate impact of the oil plumes on sea life in the gulf remains open to debate. A plume has been found near DeSoto Canyon, an underwater valley south of the Florida Panhandle where ocean currents push nutrient-rich water up onto the continental shelf. Some scientists fear that oil, even in the low concentrations found in the plumes, could be driven into the shelf’s life-rich shallow waters and cause harm.

“It’s almost an express route up there,” Dr. Hollander said. “That’s what raises the concerns of the biologists.”

Yet federal scientists say they believe that the oil concentrations in the deepwater plumes are too low to have much of an effect on the gulf’s commercially valuable fisheries.

Article url: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/24/science/earth/24plume.html?_r=2&hpw

350 Goal Will Never Be Achieved With Kerry-Lieberman

The details have finally emerged on the American Power Act, the climate and energy legislation rolled out Wednesday by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). More telling than the details, however, is a number not mentioned in the bill – 350.

You remember 350, don’t you?

Environmental activist Bill McKibben and thousands of volunteers organized events last fall calling attention to this number. It represents the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — in parts per million — that leading scientists now say is safe and sustainable. We know this because we’ve already crossed that line – 390 ppm and climbing – and the Earth is telling us to go back. Most of the world’s glaciers are in retreat, ice shelves in polar regions are shrinking, and the seas are encroaching on islands and coasts.

Any legislation to address climate change needs to have the overarching goal of getting us back to 350 ppm of CO2 and keeping us there. But you’ll find no mention of this in the Kerry-Lieberman bill for one simple reason: There’s no way in hell their bill can achieve this goal. What’s really scary, however, is that most of the politicians in Washington are operating under the assumption that we don’t need to get to 350. The real eye-opener for me came last fall when a Senate aide I met with said we just need to keep CO2 under 450 ppm.

I have the greatest admiration for Sen. Kerry and the now-off-the-bus Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their tireless efforts to craft this legislation. But the flaws in this bill will prevent it from achieving its most important objective – stopping the worst effects of climate change.

In a statement issued Wednesday, several members of the Price Carbon Campaign weighed in on those flaws.

“The Kerry-Lieberman bill fails the acid test of climate legislation, which is to provide clear signals on emission prices,” said Charles Komanoff, co-founder of the Carbon Tax Center. “Investors, entrepreneurs and households all need certainty in future fuel and energy prices, but Kerry-Lieberman hides these crucial price signals behind a curtain of cap-and-trade.”

The American Power Act tries to limit the price volatility by establishing a price collar that starts with a floor of $12 and a ceiling of $25. The floor price would increase 3 percent a year while the ceiling would rise 5 percent. Even with the collar, though, there would be enough uncertainty in prices to discourage long-term investments in clean energy.

As Komanoff also points out, the pricing proposed in Kerry-Lieberman would produce meager reductions in CO2 emissions. Based on his carbon-pricing model, Komanoff estimates that by 2020 the bill would reduce CO2 by only 3 percent over 2009 emissions.

More damaging, perhaps, than the pricing mechanism, is the inclusion of carbon offsets, which could delay by decades America’s conversion to clean energy.

“Instead of making needed investments in renewable energy, utilities will have the much cheaper option of investing in third-world projects aimed at cutting carbon,” said Tom Stokes, Coordinator of the Climate Crisis Coalition, another member of the Price Carbon Campaign. “Most of these offsets do nothing to reduce current emissions, and they allow polluters in the U.S. to keep burning coal and other dirty fuels.”

In his post Wednesday, Kerry said, “Half measures won’t cut it,” but that’s precisely what’s been delivered in this bill, which was thoroughly vetted by big coal and big oil.

He also mentioned the Senate hearing he convened with Al Gore back in 1988 that first called attention to the emerging crisis of global warming. Those hearings introduced the nation and the world to climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, whose dire predictions have proven correct in the years since.

When Bill McKibben asked what the target should be for CO2 in the atmosphere, it was Hansen who said we must get back to 350 ppm. Hence, 350.org was born.

It’s time for decision-makers in Washington to listen to Hansen again. At the Climate Rally in Washington on April 25, he proposed the “People’s Climate Stewardship Act.” It’s a simple plan to put a steadily-increasing fee on carbon that will make clean energy competitive with fossil fuels within a decade. It also returns all the revenue to households so that families won’t bear the economic impact of rising energy costs.

Granted, I’m not a senator, and I don’t have to deal with Supreme Court decisions that allow corporations to play kingmaker. But if I’m trying to save the world, James Hansen is the guy I’d want to talk to, not the president of the American Petroleum Institute.

Follow Steve Valk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/citizensclimate

Article url: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-valk/350-goal-will-never-be-ac_b_574126.html

Who Killed the Climate Bill?

This is how a climate bill dies. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the bad news: “We don’t have the votes.” Without a single Republican backing the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the Senate’s version of a comprehensive energy bill, there was no point taking it to the floor, he explained. For now, there was no way to move forward.

Reid’s announcement dealt a devastating blow to those hoping the United States would lead the way in aggressively curbing the greenhouse gases that scientists say are dangerously warming the planet. With time running out before 2012, when the current global climate treaty expires, negotiating a new agreement just got much harder.

So who’s to blame? Was it just a poorly crafted bill? Was there ever a chance Republicans would sign on to cap and trade? Did Barack Obama’s administration drop the ball? Or was it environmental groups themselves, who failed to persuade the public that now was the time to act?

FP asked five experts who have closely followed the debate for their verdict. Here’s what they told us:

Find responses by Bill McKibben, Christine Todd Whitman, Bruce Babbitt, Stuart Eizenstat, Paul J. Saunders, and Michael A. Levi at the article url: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/07/23/who_killed_the_climate_bill

AB32 to face 2 challenges on November ballot

Copyright couragecampaign.orgCalifornians will vote twice in November on the state’s groundbreaking law to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming – once on an oil company-backed initiative to put the law on hold indefinitely, and once in the governor’s race, where Republican Meg Whitman has promised to suspend the rules for a year.

Governors are normally required to enforce all state laws, including those they dislike. But AB32, which requires the state to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020, has a built-in escape hatch.

The law authorizes a governor to delay some or all of its provisions for up to a year “in the event of extraordinary circumstances, catastrophic events, or threat of significant economic harm.” The governor can renew the suspension if the conditions still exist after a year.

Citing the “significant economic harm” provision, Whitman said in September that she would suspend AB32 on her first day in office.

Wrong for the times

The law “may have been well-intentioned. But it is wrong for these challenging times,” she said in a column in the San Jose Mercury News. AB32, she declared, will drive up energy costs, “will discourage job creation and could kill any recovery.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed AB32 in 2006, responded that the law would create jobs, not destroy them. “Why would we want to go back to the Stone Age?” he asked at a “green jobs” exhibit in March.

He stepped up his criticism of AB32’s opponents last week in an interview with The Chronicle that appeared to target Whitman, his fellow Republican.

“Everyone who talks about suspending (AB32) is actually trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes” and “has the intention of eliminating it,” the governor said.

Brown backs law

Attorney General Jerry Brown, Whitman’s Democratic opponent, is also a fan of AB32.

“Addressing climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, something that California has been a leader on,” said Sterling Clifford, Brown’s campaign spokesman.

He said Brown’s promotion of wind power and other alternative energy sources as governor from 1975 to 1983 showed that “economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.”

A one-year suspension in 2011 would come at a critical moment for AB32, the first law of its kind in the nation. The state Air Resources Board, whose members were appointed by Schwarzenegger, is scheduled to adopt regulations by Jan. 1, effective a year later, that would give the law its first teeth – binding emissions limits that would affect everything from motor vehicle fuels to power plants and landfills.

Post-primary stance

Whitman assailed AB32 as a job-killer during the Republican primary campaign. Asked at a debate May 2 whether humans cause climate change, she said, “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”

She has toned down her criticism of the law since winning the primary. Campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said last week that Whitman, during her one-year moratorium, would “bring accountability and strong leadership to the AB32 process so the regulations effectively reduce our emissions while strengthening our economy.”

Pompei didn’t say how Whitman would accomplish those goals, which the candidate had previously suggested were in conflict. And she left the door open to a renewed suspension after the first year, saying Whitman would invoke her authority to delay regulations “until a comprehensive review of AB32’s effects on the economy and jobs can be fully understood.”

The candidate put it more bluntly in March when asked by a reporter if AB32 should be restored once the economy improves. “My thought is no,” she said.

Any suspension is tantamount to a repeal of the law, argued its legislative sponsor, state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills (Los Angeles County), who introduced AB32 as an assemblywoman.

“People engaged in clean technology, alternate fuels and renewable energy need a signal that there’s a market for investment,” she said. “Suspension of AB32 would mean disaster.”

Lawmaker might sue

Pavley also said she would consider a lawsuit if Whitman was elected and carried out her pledge.

She said she had negotiated the escape clause with Schwarzenegger so a governor could suspend the law “in the most extraordinary circumstances … from wars to significant natural disasters.” The “significant economic harm” provision, Pavley said, was aimed at severe and long-lasting financial disruption, not at economic fluctuations.

But the text of the law contains no such limitations and appears to give the governor free rein to order a suspension. Michael Wara, a Stanford law professor who supports AB32, said a legal challenge would probably fail.

“If Whitman wants to roll this back, she can,” he said. “She has to provide a reasoned basis for doing so,” such as the unemployment rate and other signs of economic distress, Wara said.

The voters could take the issue out of the governor’s hands by passing Proposition 23, which would suspend AB32 until California’s unemployment rate, now 12.3 percent, dropped to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. The Legislative Analyst’s Office says that’s happened three times in the last 40 years.

Brown opposes Prop. 23. So does Schwarzenegger, who describes its sponsors as “greedy oil companies who want to keep polluting in our state and making profits.” Whitman has not taken a stand on the measure.

Article url: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/07/25/MN3N1EIKOC.DTL

The Story of Cosmetics

Watch the film (along with other Story of Stuff videos) at the site http://storyofstuff.org/cosmetics/

This film was inspired by major loopholes in US federal law that allow the $50 billion beauty industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products.

The seven-minute film, hosted by Annie Leonard, reveals the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlines ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives.

2010 Spring Convergence Reflections from Jared Muscat

Hello Good Friends!

It is nice to be able to talk with you once again, it has been a bit of time since the last time we spoke!  I hope all is going well in the many aspects of your lives, but most especially that the vibes from the weekend past are still running well and helping to sow seeds around our education.

Well, this time a week ago I could barely keep my eyes open as the local convergence organizing team finished clean up, heck, none of us could, however we each had a smile running from one ear straight across to the other.  And, personally, I could not have been happier – the weekend was beautiful and everyone involved added an aspect from which I found great hope and energy.

Friday Evening Arrival

The beauty of the weekend began on Friday evening as students began to arrive at UCSD, finding their way through the bonding time known as LA traffic, for an incredible dinner at the student owned Food Co-op.  We are curried black eyed peas over rice and a fresh salad, all of which was local and organic.  Voicings of “Hot darn!” “Wow this is delicious!” and “My mouth is on fire!” were the norm, and were only quieted by an incredible game of hacky sack and some beautiful Open Mic at the G-Store Co-op fun.  Of course, it was not to go without a hitch, and attendees was pulled of a glorious round of musical sleeping spaces, with everyone winning in the end.

Saturday Morning

Before anyone had the chance to cherish the evening, breakfast began bright and early on Saturday morning with a very happy buffet.  After, the Student Sustainability Collective at UCSD, the local team of volunteers, the CSSC Operating Team, and the CSSC Board of Directors introduced themselves sharing with the crowd their reason and rhyme.  I spoke a few words as well on the grand history of student activism and the fortunate opportunity we have to bring change to our state and the world, our chance to sit in and teach by passion, word, and deed.  Afterward we all split into the many different categories within sustainability to share thoughts and plans, but more importantly to share contact information and research suggestions with the Networking Notebooks made out of 100% recycled materials by the hands of the Student Sustainability Collective at UCSD.  One student ran to me during dinner and showed me her notebook, explaining that it was full thanks to a day of great discussion with the other attendees and the incredible workshops and speakers.  She then handed me the notebook and sure enough, the thing didn’t have a spot left for writing, she had even scribbled out the old manila folder.  After the networking time everyone gathered into Center Hall to connect with Ricky Ott on the injustices of corporations, learn from Dina Cervantes about efficient group organization, and discuss how to fix Fair Trade policy with Professor April Linton.  Again there was a food treat not to be unnoticed: a wrap buffet held quite a line for a long time, stocked full of freshly picked vegetables and fruits and tortilla wraps of all varieties.

By lunch it was quite obvious that abounding bonds had been made and new gatherings of students were spotted around Library Walk in the warm afternoon sun relaxing before the marathon fun of workshops – the fruit of all convergences.  And this convergence’s workshops were not to disappoint.  With some workshops indoors and some workshops outdoors, they all brought for discussion and education, all in different varieties and pertaining to different parts of the social and environmental effort.  From the fermentation of pickles and the operation of a proper home compost system to bringing a co-op to your campus and running and ESLP, the workshops grabbed everyone’s creative energy and brought the Convergence to another level of effort and passion.  The Multi-Purpose Room lit up for dinner as everyone gathered in for the feast of the day (and the magic dessert too) as well as a concert from The Skavolutionary Orchestra.  At dinner everyone did a good job of embarrassing one another as I got everyone to clap for Alexandra Villega’s efforts in the kitchen as well as Rachel Grey’s outrageous berry turnover, not to mention the cornering of the volunteers.  Ryan and Pam did well to get me and round out the effort before a spot of commercials from the attendees helped broadcast messages to all of the Convergence, capturing the true spirit of the CSSC, a network of California’s college students, coming together to share information for change.  After the beautiful applause and shows of gratitude The Skavolutionary Orchestra took stage and got everybody to cut the rug as the sung songs that echoed the students’ voices and jived the way only ska music can.  It was a spectacular end to a spectacular Saturday.

Sunday Morning

On Sunday morning everyone woke up a bit slow and tired from the day that was Saturday but as soon as they smelled another breakfast buffet delight they found their engines and made way to the Multi Purpose Room before a final workshop, group talk, and spiral hug.  The final round of workshops was as beautiful as the first, with some new art and continued discussion of leadership opportunities within the CSSC.  After the workshops everyone gathered for one last time to for a group talk led by Pam and Ryan, a talk which gave everyone a voice, something Ryan had explained to be CSSC’s intention with this Convergence.  As the talking stick was passed around there were laughs and snaps, even tears, but above all there was sustainability, there was the continuation of a discussion that started on a Friday evening into Sunday afternoon.  Furthermore, it was not a closure, it was one more topic to talk about before saying good bye for a little while, the information and the plans were in place, everyone was ready to talk again, we just needed to say some things about the weekend to think about over the car ride.

I want to personally thank everyone who worked for this Convergence and everyone who came to this Convergence, a Convergence is simply not going to be educational, fun, and worth the travel if one of the two teams doesn’t rock…and both rocked!

Have a great end to your school year, set your seeds for your efforts and enjoy the weather of spring!

Screening & Discussion of LA MISSION Tuesday 5/11

Join the San Rafael community this Tuesday, May 11th, including partners such as Marin Peace and Justice Coalition and Teens Turning Green for a special screening of the new film LA MISSION, a film which captures the essence of the struggles of humanity on a personal, social and political level. Following the film, there will be a Q&A discussion with producer and director Peter Bratt and film cast members.

Buy tickets in advance HERE, from fandango.

Movie Description: Growing up in the Mission district of San Francisco, Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) has always had to be tough to survive. He’s a powerful man respected throughout the Mission barrio for his masculinity and his strength, as well as for his hobby building beautiful lowrider cars. A reformed inmate and recovering alcoholic, Che has worked hard to redeem his life and do right by his pride and joy: his only son, Jes, whom he has raised on his own after the death of his wife. Che’s path to redemption is tested, however, when he discovers Jes is gay. To survive his neighborhood, Che has always lived with his fists. To survive as a complete man, he’ll have to embrace a side of himself he’s never shown. For more information, visit http://www.lamissionthemovie.com/

Alice Walker has praised the film, saying “It is extraordinary. A film of Now, a film for us, for the emerging consciousness of what needs to happen in the heart and conscience for humanity to evolve beyond violence.
All the stars. Not five or six or ten.”

Please join us!

Apply for the Young Activist Award today!

The Mario Savio Memorial Lecture & Young Activist Award invites you to nominate a candidate for the 13th annual Young Activist Award. The award this year carries a cash prize of $6000, divided equally between the prize-winner and his or her organization. This award is presented to a young person (or persons) with a deep commitment to human rights and social justice and a proven ability to transform this commitment into effective action.

This award honors the late Mario Savio (1942-1996), who came to national prominence as a spokesperson for the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964. His moral clarity, his eloquence, and his democratic style of leadership impelled thousands of his fellow Berkeley students to struggle for, and win, more political freedom, inspiring a generation of student activism. Savio remained a lifelong fighter for human rights and social justice.

Nominations are due by June 30, 2010. You can find more information on our website. Nomination forms and additional background information are available at www.savio.org.

Meatless Monday at UCSB

The Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board of UCSB is proud to announce its partnership with The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit organization that runs the Meatless Monday initiative with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. This national campaign aims to improve the health of both citizens and our planet by helping Americans reduce their meat consumption in a healthful and conscientious manner. During World War II, Americans went meatless on Monday to reduce pressure on the economy and to save money. Now, as our nation and world once again face difficult times, we hope to educate our fellow citizens about how foregoing meat once a week benefits public health, protects our environment, and fights climate change.

Considering that meat production is one of the worst causes of global warming, a reduction in meat consumption is the best thing you can do for the environment. Whether it is eliminating meat only on Mondays or more often, you will have a tremendous impact every time you enjoy a meat-free meal. Other groups have tried to ask students to become completely vegetarian, but we recognize that not everyone is willing to make that commitment right off the bat. We also believe that it’s more important for a lot of people to make a small change than for only a few people to cut out meat altogether.

When students “pay” for meat they are not paying for the external costs associated with its production, such as water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, pesticide pollution from feed crops, rain forest degradation and destruction, and above all health care costs. At a university where students are supposed to have a broad-based education, it seems only fair that they should learn that they aren’t paying for the true cost of meat when they pay for the dining commons, go grocery shopping, or eat out. A good lesson would be for the dining commons to go without meat every once and a while so that they can (1) *learn *about the external costs of meat and about the healthy, delicious alternatives to meat, and (2) *reduce *the external costs that they actually place on the environment and their health. We hope the dining commons considers doing this more.

What UCSB has done

So far we have worked with the Real Foods Challenge chapter here to implement a couple Meatless Mondays in our dining commons. We have also been doing campus outreach–which includes signs with facts about meat’s impact on the environment and tabling with food samples and literature. We recently worked with the residence halls to hold a film screening of the movie “Fresh” in one of the dorms. At that event we had a panel discussion about sustainable food issues and Meatless Mondays. We’ve also attracted the attention of local media and have made it into one newspaper with another pending.

Our plan for next quarter is to approach local restaurants about the possibility of offering discounts, deals, or special vegetarian items on Mondays, as an incentive for students to cut out meat on that day. We are currently working on an informational packet that we will present to the business owners.

We are also in the process of implementing a regular meatless schedule for the UCSB Dining Commons starting for the freshman in Fall 2010. We are doing this by presenting facts from local research done on campus, which revealed that reducing meat and dairy consumption one day a week reduces the same amount of greenhouse gasses as going 100% local. The benefits from supporting local farms are still very important, but this research just puts the severity of meat into perspective.

To support our chefs going local we are also inviting a vegan culinary chef to come and lead a training/ workshop for the UCSB chefs and staff to further educate us about vegan/vegetarian nutrition and the variety of foods that can be used that are not traditionally used.

Best Practices

The Dining Commons set a new precedent when they used the saved money from EAB’s trayless campaign (25% reduction in food costs from reduced waste) towards more local and sustainable food. The vast majority of the top 50 most expensive items dining services purchases are meat and cheese products (keep in mind that they still do not include the external costs). Any decrease in meat consumption has the potential to free up more money to go towards the 20% local food mandate by 2020. This would make UCSB’s dining services a model for every other UC and institutional entity as we evolve to a more sustainable and conscious world. Other UC’s such as Davis and LA have limited their beef consumption as well.

For more information contact the Environmental Affairs Board at ucsbeab (at) gmail (dot) com
or the Co-coordinators Corie Radka corieradka (at) umail.ucsb.edu, Andrew Dunn andrewdunn09 (at) gmail (dot) com

Research Program Opportunities in Copenhagen – App due April 21

Applications due April 21st for the LoCal Renewable Energy Summer Research Program. The Summer Program is four weeks long with the first week an online course. The following three weeks are on-site in Denmark and include full-time course work combined with classroom lectures and seminars as well as field trips to relevant energy sites and facilities in Denmark. These site visits will provide participating students with real-world experience and intimate knowledge of the technological and social aspects of renewable energy production and supply at the local level. The participating LoCal-RE faculty include professors and program directors from California and Denmark as well as external professionals and researchers with proven experience in the field.

In addition to lectures and site visits, participants are expected to develop a problem-oriented research project that is completed as a group project. A final report will be produced by the student groups and will include analyses of the identified problem, possible solutions and suggested recommendations.

More information at: http://www.local-re.org/

Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG) at UCSB

Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by undergraduate students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. We train and place teams of college-aged volunteers into 1st and 2nd grade classrooms for weekly lessons that spread environmental awareness to our youth. Our program features:

  • Interactive activities and experiments that foster critical thinking about the world we live in.
  • Youth-to-youth mentorship and encouragement that bring education to life and empower young people to make a positive impact on their surroundings.
  • Unique curriculum that aligns closely with California’s Education Standards, serving to enhance existing classroom activities.
  • Dynamic structure designed to meet the diverse scheduling and curricular needs of our teachers. We are happy to adjust lessons as needed, ensuring our program is as enriching as possible in any class setting.

For more information visit http://www.eengonline.org/ or join us on Facebook.

For more information contact the EENG Team at info@eengonline.org

2010 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference

Over 1500 students, staff, faculty and administrators in California higher education will gather from June 20-23, 2010 at the 9th annual California Sustainability Conference at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, to explore the ways in which we can implement social, environmental, and economic sustainability on our campuses statewide; prepare this generation for green collar jobs, and bring sustainability to campus practices, policies and contemporary culture.

We welcome you again in 2010 to present your best practices and learn about innovations in campus operations, planning, design, curriculum, and research through the peer-to-peer network that is being built within the California Community College (CCC), California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems.

Learn more about the 2010 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference

California Water Tour


The California Water Tour seeks to bring together qualified students and young professionals on a week long exploration of California’s intricate natural and artificial water systems. Participants will visit public, private, research and non-profit institutions in a peer-to-peer dialogue concerning the future of California’s water. University students, recent graduates and young professionals have the technical expertise required to mitigate declining water supplies, but are not exposed to the complex network of public, private and non-profit entities involved in the operation California’s water system. The California Water Tour will provide this invaluable experience in an intensive week long trip to 20-25 qualified young people. The tour is open to currently enrolled college students or graduates who have completed at least 60 units in any major and who are engaged or interested in the sustainability of California’s water system.

Find more information and apply to participate >>

Film Festival

Contest: Student Sustainability Film Festival – Due May 14th

Film FestivalEntries Due May, 14 – The Northwest Institute for Social Change is now encouraging and accepting entries from high school and college students across North America for its 2010 Student Sustainability Film Festival. We are inviting students to produce and submit short films about projects their communities and colleges have instigated to promote sustainability. Entries are due on Friday, May 14. Students will be awarded cash prizes for top-ranked submissions, as determined by an esteemed board of noted judges and filmmakers, including Curt Ellis (producer of “King Corn”) and Matt Martin (editor for “No Impact Man”). Each winning film is awarded a $1000 cash prize. All final selections will be screened at a public event in Portland, Oregon in late May 2010.

Complete rules and submission guidelines >>

Apply or Nominate: Brower Youth Awards – Due May 15th

Applications Due May 15th – The Brower Youth Awards has launched the 2010 prize search for outstanding grassroots environmental leaders across North America. We celebrate eco-activists, ages 13-22, leading the way to a green, just future. Six Brower Youth Award recipients will receive a $3,000 cash prize, an all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco to speak at an inspirational award ceremony, and media coverage. Our honorees continue as environmental change agents, writers, organizers, visionaries, and speakers, supported by Earth Island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative. Are YOU an eco-activist? Do you know an eco-activist? Completed applications must be received by May 15, 2010. More questions? Email bya@earthisland.org or call 510-859-9144.

Apply for or nominate a young leader for the Brower Youth Award >>

Petition: Urge the UC to Invest Responsibly

Responsible Investing is the practice of taking social and environmental concerns, not just monetary, into account when making investment decisions. Colleges and universities own stocks of companies – often millions, or even billions – in their endowments. As large institutional shareholders, universities have the power to use their investments to push for the progressive elimination of corporate practices that are detrimental to society and the environment. Voice your support for the alignment of values in investment practices by the University of California by signing the Petition. This petition will be presented to the UC Regents Committee on Investments at their next 2010 meeting. By getting the UC investment practices to change, a path may be paved for California State, California Community Colleges, and California Private Colleges to also invest responsibly. Regardless of your affiliation with the UCs, show your support because the future of institutional investing can by shaped by you!

Sign the petition to urge the UCs to invest responsibly >>

CSSC’s 2010 Winter Leadership Retreat Recap

The CSSC’s 5th biannual leadership retreat this Winter was a success! From January 16th to the 18th, twenty five students and alumni gathered at our beautiful retreat space amongst the hillsides of Arroyo Grande representing thirteen campuses to build community amongst our statewide leaders, exchange ideas, and collaborate on programs and campaigns that address the problems we face in the 21st century. The weekend resulted in new friendships, new campaigns, great ideas, and inspiration to progress forward. From endorsing campaigns to team building games and from creating a new Operating team to cooking meals together, ultimately the weekend turned out to be very successful.

After learning the CSSC was undergoing leadership transitions amongst our staff, students with overwhelming enthusiasm stepped up to create the new operating team of the CSSC, which will ensure that the daily operations of the CSSC continue forward. In addition to forming an operating team, there were many campaigns, projects, programs, and skills shared throughout the weekend. Students were excited to hear Energy Action Coalition is having another Power Shift campaign – or what is now called the “Define our Decade” Campaign. The campaign plans to engage youth in the next midterm congressional elections as well as send thousands of students to Washington DC in February 2011. All student leaders enthusiastically endorsed the campaign and are looking forward to hearing next steps.

Other exciting new opportunities arose as well: the CSSC endorsed a new program, Environmental Education for the Next Generation, where college students make weekly visits to neighboring elementary schools and teach interactive environmental lesson plan. There was also ample time to meet in working groups as well as hold open space for any other discussions, campaigns, or programs not on the agenda. Throughout the weekend group conversations were held around leadership best practices, the Education for Sustainable Living Program, The Real Foods Challenge, Responsible Investing Coalition, The Green Initiative Fund, Power Shift, and an Ultimate Civics Campaign.

Sunday morning we spent forming our new operating team, which resulted in applause as a new driven team stepped up. Shortly after, the team collectively set next steps. That afternoon we planned for our next convergence and came to a cheerful consensus that the next convergence will be held at UC San Diego from April 31st- May 2nd. The weekend came to a close with our friends Betty, Tataucho, Gene, and Freddie joining us in a closing ceremony and grounding discussion setting a broader context for the sustainability movement. And for all those who were still at the ranch that evening we celebrated the successful weekend with an evening game of football in the rain!

Our next leadership retreat will be held in August, so if you would like to attend look for more information in our newsletter as the date approaches.

Important Message From CSSC’s Executive Director

Greetings All,

I am writing to inform you of some big changes and opportunities for CSSC. After more than two years of service as Executive Director, I have decided it is time for me to move on and make space for a new era of leaders to step forward to bring their creative energies into play on behalf of CSSC.

I’m humbled by what we have accomplished together during my tenure. We have just come out of our biggest Convergence yet and have built incredible momentum. We have grown into a truly statewide organization, representing campuses in all three major public higher education systems in California, as well as private universities, and even some high schools. After years of work, we have finalized the sustainable food systems policy for the UC system – the first major policy of its kind in higher education. And the community that CSSC serves – from the students on the campuses to the alumni in innovative professional positions, from the local farmers to the green business practitioners – is becoming more powerful and resilient by the day, growing in both scope and scale. It is our ongoing success that gives me great inspiration as I reflect on my term as Executive Director.

I’m confident the future will bring forth many new leaders who will shine bright, and bring great work to bear. I believe CSSC has the potential to truly shift higher education in North America. We are influencing schools all over the country. And if we can shift higher education, we can fundamentally shift the way people think and act in every sector of society. If you’ve ever felt inspired by CSSC, someone you met through CSSC, or any of CSSC’s amazing projects or campaigns, this is the time to stand up, declare your intentions, and take your work to the next level.

The CSSC Board of Directors, staff, and I have been working together to ensure a smooth and successful leadership transition. The Board will be playing a key role in guiding this transition over the coming weeks and months, and our staff has created an Operating Team, composed mainly of student leaders, to keep the momentum of our work moving forward. If you have any inquiries, or would like to get involved, please look to the end of this message for the appropriate contact information. If you want to contact me personally, I would love to hear from you – please do not hesitate to reach out via email, cell phone, or Facebook.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve CSSC as Executive Director over the last two years. I never dreamed I would have such an incredible opportunity, which has been by far the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. I would not trade my time as CSSC’s ED for anything. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and I look forward to seeing where we can go from here.

Wishing you all the best,

Crystal Durham

(310)487-8049 cell

crystal.durham@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/onecrystal
Contact Information

For inquiries about the transition, or to get involved in fundraising, please contact CSSC’s Board of Directors Chair, Quentin Gee, or Vice Chair, Dorothy Le:

Quentin Gee

quentin.gee@gmail.com

(269)492-2235

Dorothy Le

dorothy@sustainabilitycoalition.org

(424)212-9327

For inquiries about or to get involved with the CSSC Operating Team, please contact Ryan Andersen or Pamela Tuttle:

Ryan Andersen

ryan@sustainabilitycoalition.org

(805)705-9681

Pamela Tuttle

pam@sustainabilitycoalition.org

(310)650-0376

Please direct all other inquiries to info@sustainabilitycoalition.org