Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, Water, WildlifeTags , ,

Urgency in Earth Day call to action

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It’s been almost a half-century since newly minted leaders of the U.S. environmental movement called on Americans to rise and be counted as defenders of the planet and its increasingly imperiled ecosystems.

For the first Earth Day — April 22, 1970 — organizers wanted to take mainstream what had been an emerging awareness of the planet’s fragility, a call to action launched in the decade that had just ended.

The risks were abundant: pesticides, air pollution, oil spills, toxic dumps, overpopulation and depletion of land and water resources.

Pioneering images from the U.S. space program at that time revealed Earth as the finite world it remains to this day — small and glowing in a vast universe. Early Earth Day sponsors saw “a grave crisis” on the horizon, one that demanded urgency, commitment and action by all inhabitants.

“Are we able to meet the challenge? Yes. We have the technology and the resources,” Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin, declared on that first day of mass reflection. “Are we willing? That is the unanswered question.”

His query still hangs in the air. Sustained campaigns to clean up our air and waters have seen success in the U.S., along with efforts to protect some endangered species and special places. Innovation, behavioral changes and a shared recognition of the risks to the planet all have helped.

But threats to the environment are more global than ever: Climate change and sea-level rise, mass extinctions, acidification and pollution of our oceans, disappearing bees. It’s enough to bring despair to the sunniest among us.

So The Press Democrat sought inspiration and encouragement from a few of the expert resources Sonoma County has in abundance.

Our planet, they say, can never return to what it was before the onset of the industrial era and the change it unleashed worldwide. But there is reason to hold onto hope and take heart as we confront the challenges ahead — reshaping our perspectives, banding together in collective action that conserves resources and restores the environment, and making individual choices that lesson our impact and uphold our responsibility for its health.

“If we think somehow this is going to happen without sacrifice, that’s not accurate,” said Tessa Hill, professor of earth and planetary sciences at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. “There are fundamental things about the way we live today that are not sustainable.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8230333-181/earth-day-inspiration-from-sonoma?ref=TSM

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Author says big wine money has ruined Napa and Sonoma may be next

Bill Swindell, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

James Conaway is angry.

Author and journalist, Conaway has been the foremost chronicler of Napa

Valley for more than three decades. His “Napa: The Story of an American Eden” in 1990 told of the early pioneers who turned a family farming community in the valley into the premier wine region of the United States.

He followed that book with “The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley” in 2002 that covered how new investors were changing the valley with their emerging focus on tourism and marketing higher-priced cult wines to consumers.

His new book does not hide his current feelings for Napa Valley. “Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in an Age of Calamity” takes aim at the investors and big companies, which he contends have transformed the area with crass commercialism that has overridden the quality of life and harmed the environment.

Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/8179182-181/author-says-big-wine-money

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Op-Ed: What Santa Rosa needs most right now: modular housing

Amy Appleton and Steve Birdlebough, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

High quality factory-built housing has been popular in Japan since the 1960s and has been widely used to expedite housing construction in Europe for over a decade. Unfortunately, too many of us here think of a run-down trailer park when someone mentions modular housing.

In the light of our ongoing housing shortage, worsened by the wildfires, new approaches such as assembly line construction are needed to speed the delivery of enough places for people to live here.

Factories can complete four to eight living units per day, whereas the on-site construction of a home takes close to a year.

Many fire victims now in hotels or Federam Emergency Management Agency trailers must find affordable housing elsewhere by April of 2019 — likely an impossible task for most. Factory-built living units may be the key to make timely housing available for these people.

Many fire victims have been taken in by family or friends. But life in a crowded home can be wearing. An extra factory-built room or granny unit to accommodate them could save relationships.

Also, we need to bring back the important members of our workforce who are now commuting from distant places. And how will we accommodate the construction workers needed to rebuild? More housing and shared housing are what thousands of people need.

Santa Rosa’s commendable goal is to enable speedy replacement of the 3,000 homes in the city that burned,and construction of more dwellings to restore the housing market. But with fewer than 100 building permits issued since the fires, little rebuilding is likely to finish by April 2019. Many more housing options are needed right away.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8171380-181/close-to-home-what-santa

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Organic milk market sours for Sonoma County dairy farmers

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

With gray skies drizzling upon him, Doug Beretta rode his all-terrain vehicle back to the milking barn after doctoring a downed cow.

The brown-faced Jersey had calved the day before and looked healthy that same night when Beretta checked on his animals. But the next morning the cow wouldn’t stand and showed signs of milk fever, a potentially fatal malady caused by low calcium levels in the blood. So Beretta, whose green overalls quickly became streaked with manure, slowly injected a solution of calcium and phosphorous into one of the cow’s veins. About an hour later the animal was back on its feet.

If only the third-generation farmer could find such effective medicine to turn around a struggling organic dairy industry.

Over the last 12 years, North Bay dairy farmers like Beretta have switched in droves from conventional milk production to certified organic operations. The conversions allowed them to earn a premium price for their milk and to gain more stability for their businesses as the market for conventional milk weakened.

But the U.S. today is awash in organic milk. Farmers have seen prices fall, and many worry whether their processors will keep taking their product.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/8144369-181/organic-milk-market-sours-for

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is ballooning

Livia Albeck-Ripka, THE NEW YORK TIMES

In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.

In recent years, this notorious mess has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling oceanic graveyard where everyday objects get deposited by the currents. The plastics eventually disintegrate into tiny particles that often get eaten by fish and may ultimately enter our food chain.

A study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports quantified the full extent of the so-called garbage patch: It is four to 16 times bigger than previously thought, occupying an area roughly four times the size of California and comprising an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish. While the patch was once thought to be more akin to a soup of nearly invisible microplastics, scientists now think most of the trash consists of larger pieces. And, they say, it is growing “exponentially.”

“It’s just quite alarming, because you are so far from the mainland,” said Laurent Lebreton, the lead author of the study and an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a nonprofit that is developing systems to remove ocean trash and which funded the study. “There’s no one around and you still see those common objects, like crates and bottles.”

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/climate/great-pacific-garbage-patch.html

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Recology eyes big boost in composting in Sonoma County

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Carole Carpenter always felt funny about throwing thousands of pounds of used coffee grounds into the garbage.

The manager of the popular Railroad Square café A’Roma Roasters knew the rich brown granules made a great soil fertilizer, a fact she was reminded of whenever customers asked if they could take some home to sprinkle in their gardens.

“It seems like such a waste to just throw them in the garbage,” said Carpenter, who has managed the operation for 20 years.

But with limited kitchen space, no simple way to set the coffee grounds aside for gardeners, and no green bin to dispose of them in, Carpenter just did what was easiest — she told employees to toss them in the dumpster along with all the café’s other food waste.

So Celia Furber, the waste zero manager with Recology, the city’s new garbage hauler, and John LaBarge, a Recology waste zero specialist, sat down with Carpenter last week to see if they could find ways to help the eatery keep more food waste out of the landfill.

It turns out that A’Roma Roasters should have been composting its food waste since Jan. 1, 2017. That’s when businesses that create more than 4 cubic yards of organic waste a week were required under AB 1826 to begin diverting it from landfills. Larger producers were required to start a year earlier.

But the city’s previous hauler, The Ratto Group, did not make it easy to set up the service, Furber said.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8106202-181/recology-eyes-big-boost-in

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , ,

A bold, divisive plan to wean Californians from cars

Conor Dougherty and Brad Plumer, THE NEW YORK TIMES

It’s an audacious proposal to get Californians out of their cars: a bill in the State Legislature that would allow eight-story buildings near major transit stops, even if local communities object.

The idea is to foster taller, more compact residential neighborhoods that wean people from long, gas-guzzling commutes, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

So it was surprising to see the Sierra Club among the bill’s opponents, since its policy proposals call for communities to be “revitalized or retrofitted” to achieve precisely those environmental goals. The California chapter described the bill as “heavy-handed,” saying it could cause a backlash against public transit and lead to the displacement of low-income residents from existing housing.

State Senator Scott Wiener, the bill’s sponsor, responded by accusing the group of “advocating for low-density sprawl.”

In a state where debates often involve shades of blue, it’s not uncommon for the like-minded to find themselves at odds. But the tensions over Mr. Wiener’s proposal point to a wider divide in the fight against climate change, specifically how far the law should go to reshape urban lifestyles.

Although many cities and states are embracing cleaner sources of electricity and encouraging people to buy electric vehicles, they are having a harder time getting Americans to drive less, something that may be just as important.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/business/energy-environment/climate-density.html

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags ,

The globalization of produce

David Karp, THE NEW YORK TIMES

It’s obvious to anyone who visits an American supermarket in winter — past displays brimming with Chilean grapes, Mexican berries and Vietnamese dragon fruit — that foreign farms supply much of our produce.

Imports have increased steadily for decades, but the extent of the change may be surprising: More than half of the fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy now come from other countries.

Although local, seasonal and farm-to-table are watchwords for many consumers, globalization has triumphed in the produce aisle. And despite the protectionist “America First” message coming from the Trump administration, the growth in imports appears likely to continue.

So this is an apt moment to examine how the shift happened, and what it portends — good or ill — for American consumers and farmers.

“I had no idea that more than half our fruit is imported, and it shocks me that this has happened so quickly,” said Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, whose best-selling books have analyzed the tensions between local and global food systems.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/13/dining/fruit-vegetables-imports.html

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

California looks to ban removable plastic bottle caps, restrict plastic straws

Jeff Daniels, CNBC

…some see the fight against plastic garbage as more urgent since China this year stopped accepting plastic waste. North American plastic scrap has long been shipped to China but the world’s most populous country has been overwhelmed by its own waste and environmental problem and banned not only polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) commonly used in water and soda plastic bottles, but 24 different types of solid waste.

California may ban detachable caps on plastic bottles that could potentially set a bottling standard for the rest of the nation and the state also is looking at restricting plastic straws.

The plastic bottle cap legislation is designed to reduce litter and encourage that the caps get recycled but it would force beverage companies in California — the sixth-largest economy in the world — to switch to caps tethered to plastic bottles. That said, some bottled water companies such as Crystal Geyser have already started doing so and Nestle has it on sports caps for some of its Arrowhead bottled water.

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , ,

U.S. recycling woes pile up as China escalates ban

Adam Allington, BLOOMBERG NEWS

Tens of thousands of tons of recyclables have been diverted to U.S. landfills in recent months as the reality of China’s new ban on certain types of imported waste takes hold.

The ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, covers imports of 24 types of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the difficult-to-recycle types of plastic, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), commonly used in plastic bottles.

And China’s import restrictions become even tighter March 1, increasing the sense of urgency U.S. recyclers feel to find new outlets for their products. At the same time, some industry officials say the situation could be a blessing in disguise if it eventually prods the U.S. toward processing more of its own recycling.

“What we’re seeing now is really unprecedented,” said Julie Miller, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

China has been by far the largest market for U.S scrap exports—in many cases the recyclable materials Americans put in curbside containers. China’s crackdown, now three months old, has both U.S. and global waste collectors scrambling to find new markets for their recyclables to avoid disrupting curbside collection services.

Read more at https://www.bna.com/us-recycling-woes-n57982089254/