The California Legislature and the Governor recently passed the most devastating budget ever enacted during my lifetime. The budget will leave state residents less protected from illness, students less educated, and will widen the growing gap between rich and poor in California. The picture of the Big 5 smiling when they agreed in principle to the budget will forever be etched upon my mind. This is truly a budget that asks those least able to sacrifice — children, elderly and the poor — to sacrifice the most. Even though Californians will be sicker and dumber, at least there are no new taxes, right?
Our good friends at the American Chemistry Council are at it again. No, they aren’t spending a fortune fighting for babies’ rights to ingest carcinogens through leaching baby bottles and toxic toys.
This time the ACC is trying to buy an election in Seattle.
The petrochemical industry has dropped over $1million on a disinformation campaign to convince voters to oppose a 20-cent fee on plastic shopping bags when they visit the polls on August 18th. This is the most ever spent by an industry on an initiative in the city.
Inner Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro ends up getting Ds or Fs on Heal the Bay’s Annual Beach Report Card year after year. Sometimes the beach even ends up on our Beach Bummer list, which ranks the 10 most polluted beaches in all of California.
Over $10 million has been spent over the years on a wide variety of studies and projects to improve the situation. Workers found and removed old sewer lines. They plugged an old, abandoned stormdrain. Recently, the entire beach was replaced with new sand and reconfigured. A pump device designed to provide water circulation at the bath-tub like beach has been tested. This month, a rock jetty will be removed in the hopes that it will enhance water circulation. About eight years ago, the workers installed a series of bird excluder devices, and the Port of L.A. this fall will install new devices (picture fishing line strewn on top of a matrix of poles).
Despite all time, money and effort, Cabrillo continues to get Fs on the Report Card. And this spring, the Port’s inability to clean up the beach moves from a public health issue to a Clean Water Act compliance issue.
The City of Santa Monica has unveiled the green-street project on Bicknell Avenue. The one-block stretch between Barnard and Nielson now can probably infiltrate and treat the runoff generated by a Class 5 hurricane. Among the structural Best Management Practices used on the street: porous concrete, curb cuts and below-grade landscaping with climate appropriate landscaping, filters and infiltration basins.
Politicos, enviros, water nerds and local residents flocked to the ribbon-cutting (mandatory for all new public projects). The highlight of the Tuesday event was the discharge of water from a water tanker to mimic a rainstorm. Most of the water never even made it to the curb cuts and landscaped areas because of the porous concrete. I wish my front yard drained one tenth as well — maybe some of our plants would live more than a year or two.
Heal the Bay has spent years fighting the environmental scourge of marine debris. We’ve organized thousands of beach and river cleanups and we led the fight for the California Ocean Protection Council’s Marine Debris Action Plan. In addition, we’ve fought for bans on Styrofoam and plastic bags and we came up with a flotilla of bills tackling marine debris. All of this effort was in response to the environmental consequences of our addiction to single-use plastic packaging.
Now that I’ve seen the incredible roller-skating, rapping baby ad for Evian water, I’ve reconsidered Heal the Bay’s position. Clearly, flying over French water in petrochemical plastic packages makes people feel young again. Climate change be damned. Those babies are so darned cute and boy can they skate!
It is time for the public to hold the UN and the world’s nations accountable for the miserable state of the environment and their inability to effectively manage existing “green” governance programs.
An independent non-government organization like the International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Resources Institute or the International Council for Science needs to develop a credible, science-based system for grading all nations and responsible UN agencies’ compliance with environmental treaties and agreements.
More important, the report card should provide the public with a user friendly assessment of nations’ and UN agencies’ efforts to protect clean water, adequate water supply, clean air, sustainable food supply and other critical needs. Perhaps this type of communication tool could be used to embarrass nations and the UN to do more than just sign treaties and contemplate where the world went wrong.
The fathers and mothers of the international environmental movement all met in Montreux this week to reminisce and relive past exploits of green diplomacy at a conference hosted by the Global Environmental Governance Project.
The list of attendees reads like an environmental hall of fame: Maurice Strong (he of Stockholm, Rio and Earth Charter fame); the other three former heads of the UN environmental program; Achim Steiner, the current head of UNEP; William Ruckelshaus, the first and fifth EPA administrator; Ambassador John McDonald, the creator of the UN population program and revered negotiator; Mohamed El-Ashry, the former CEO of the Global Environment Facility; Ambassador Peter Mauer from Switzerland; Gus Speth, the dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, a founder of the NRDC and former director of the UN Development Group.
The group also included Jim MacDaniel; former chair of the International Institute of Sustainable Development; Julia Marton-Lefevre , the director-general of the world’s largest environmental group — the International Union for Conservation of Nature; and numerous other ambassadors, from Pakistan to Sudan.
With such a truly impressive gathering of enviro legends, I expected the debate to be provocative and hopeful. Depressingly, the discussions were like “Groundhog Day.”