Paper Bites Dog Story

Instead of dog beaches, the L.A. Times should focus on more far-reaching environmental issues.

The Los Angeles Times editorialized today that mutts should be given a chance at a pilot Santa Monica dog beach. Last week I spoke with editorial writer Carla Hall for 45 minutes on why the dog beach would be a bad idea for public health protection, environmental compliance, and the preservation of endangered and threatened wildlife. Unfortunately, her mind seemed clearly made up. Even suggestions for Hall to hang out at our local dog park for a few hours fell on deaf ears.

Clearly, science and credible opponents (state parks, lifeguards, NRDC and others) didn’t tip the scales for her. Idyllic visions of Fido frolicking in the surf were too compelling. 

I can’t say I was surprised by today’s piece.  But in light of all the facts, I had hoped she might support a recommendation for an enclosed dog beach away from endangered wildlife and away from the intertidal zone. But she stuck to her original position.

But there’s something more disturbing than the L.A. Times taking a position in favor of dog beaches despite environmental and public health concerns. What’s troubling is its failure to adequately cover more important environmental issues in the editorial or news sections.

Continue reading

Back-to-Back Jacks

"Modern Family" and MLB hit it out of the park Wednesday night.

Last night, I enjoyed an amazing half hour of TV after our Rosh Hashanah dinner. Yes, I’ll have something else to atone for a week from Saturday, but it was worth it.

Watching Red Sox Nation and the tomahawk-chopping, unPC  Braves complete some of the most epic tank jobs in baseball history within minutes of each other was almost more joy than I could stand. The fact that the longshot Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to win in extras (including a two-out bomb in the ninth to tie the Yanks) made the night’s drama even more incredible.

But the greatest serendipity of the night came after my wife and daughter kicked me off ESPN to feed their addiction to “Modern Family.” As usual, the writers embedded parallel and goofy plotlines in the 22-minute episode. The rewarding twist came when the starving couple of Cam and Mitchell went to a fundraiser at the Malibu beach house of Mitchell’s boss.

Continue reading

Chuck Sloan – Leaving Much to Remember

Heal the Bay burst into the public’s consciousness in early 1988, shortly after the creation of the fishbones logo and our aquarium/store in the brand new, Gehry-designed Santa Monica Place. Heal the Bay sold more t-shirts that one summer than every year since.

Shortly thereafter, Heal the Bay reached out to Venice-based advertising agency Chiat Day, to develop an advertising campaign to reach everyone in the LA region.  The multi-media campaign included billboards, television public service announcements (PSA), and movie trailer spots.  The theme of the campaign centered on how we have all been mistreating the ocean.  The dramatic juxtaposition of old Super 8 home movies with the voice of a clearly hurt ocean made us realize that the ocean provides us with so much joy that we should treat it with reverence and respect.  The outdoor campaign used the tag line, “Leave your children something to remember you by. Join Heal the Bay”.

Continue reading

“Rango” & Me

There are uncanny parallels between "Rango" and the author's life ... not to mention the Polanski classic "Chinatown."

As the father of an 11-year-old daughter, I end up going to a lot of movies that would never make my must-see list.  This weekend, I was one of the many parents that took in “Rango.” I actually enjoyed the film, and I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarities between my life and this latest animated feature from Nickelodeon.  As life goes on, the parallels between art and life are easier to find, but “Rango” hit pretty close to the mark.

Over 25 years ago, as a master’s student at UCLA, my field work focused on the behavioral ecology of lizards.  I know… kind of a shock for a water guy. The field site for my research on lizard escape behavior (a major theme of the film) was in beautiful Desert Center — a remote outpost off Interstate 10, halfway between Indio and Blythe. The connections between Desert Center and the fictional town of Dirt in the movie are eerie.

Continue reading

Actually, We Don’t Agree

Chevron's cynical ads spurred funny parody.

We’ve been bombarded with half-page Chevron ads in the Los Angeles Times for over a month and a half now. I guess with the current financial state of the Times, any ad is a good for them. At least Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s hokey-looking award announcements can’t fill up the entire front section.

The ubiquitous ads highlight common-sense advice about  energy policy with compelling stills of indigenous people, children and everyday people like you and me.  Then the “We Agree” tagline follows with signatures from Chevron’s CEO or some other corporate executive. (Who knew Karl Rove was moonlighting as a copywriter?)

The campaign spawned a brilliant parody from The Yes Men working with The Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch.  There’s even a contest for the public to come up with even funnier parody ads.

The spot featuring the little girl and the tag line “It’s time oil companies get behind the development of renewable energy” pisses me off the most.  After all, Chevron, along with Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco, bankrolled Proposition 26.  So I guess Chevron is behind the development of renewable energy as long as it is voluntary and maximizes shareholder profits.

Continue reading

Saving Surfrider

Citizens speak out for clean water at Surfrider.

The Surfrider Foundation, Malibu Surfing Assn., Santa Monica Baykeeper and Heal the Bay held a joint press event Thursday morning focused on cleaning up chronically polluted, iconic Surfrider Beach. More than 50 Surfrider locals joined the environmental and surfing groups at the rally, bringing  attention to the two decades of “F” Beach Report Card grades at California’s most famous beach. Everyone echoed the common-sense edict that a day at the beach should never make you sick.

The Battle of the Bu has been going on even before Malibu became a city 18 years ago. The history has been filled with broken promises from Malibu officials about moving forward and recycling wastewater in the Civic Center area instead of relying on septic systems and on-site wastewater treatment systems. One delay after another has occurred. The city most often cites lack of funding as an excuse for making no progress on a water recycling plant. During the decades of inaction, no beach or coastal lagoon has been the site of more studies — ranging from groundwater contamination to fate-and-transport studies to health effects analyses.

Finally, last year, the Regional Water Board passed a resolution prohibiting on-site wastewater treatment at all commercial properties in the Civic Center by 2015 and all residential properties by 2019. The residential ban, in particular, has been strongly opposed by the city and many residents.

Continue reading

Oil in Aspen

The Aspen Institute and the National Geographic Society kicked off the 2010 Aspen Environment Forum Sunday night with a lively discussion of the Gulf disaster. The timing of the forum, which always focuses on climate and renewable energy issues, has definitely cast an air of pessimism here. After all, the announcement from the U.S. Senate and the Obama administration that a climate bill will have to wait for another year at a minimum was extremely disappointing news for the environment and the green energy sector. The tragic loss of Stanford climate change icon Steven Schneider also put a damper on the evening. National Geogrpahic editor in chief Chris Johns correctly credited Schneider as the most persuasive and credible climate change scientist in the country.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, actor and New Orleans activist Wendell Pierce, journalist Joel Bourne, and Shell Oil exec vp deep water drilling John Hollowell comprised the Gulf panel. Tulane president Scott Cowen moderated deftly.

Jackson offered her unique observations from the Gulf and Washington, D.C. As a native New Orleanian, she emphasized the resiliency of her fellow Gulf residents and their incredible optimism in the face of yet another national disaster. She spoke about EPA’s efforts to monitor air, water and sediment and to work with the community on oil spill impact issues and responses. She also took pride in the Administration’s efforts to get $20 billion from BP and she was pretty candid about  her disappointment in BP’s handling and frequent mischaracterization of the crisis.

Continue reading

Media Splash

Media attention rightly places heat on the Hump's owners. Photo: chewgooder.wordpress.com

About 100 outraged protesters came out to the beleaguered Hump restaurant during lunchtime today, shouting their displeasure with the Santa Monica eatery serving endangered whale meat. The Hump didn’t even bother opening due to the buzz surrounding the protest. 

Sea Shepherd organized the rally and members of  “The Cove” production team, Pelican Rescue and PETA all turned out in force. A couple of folks came dressed in Orca costumes, amid shouting and protest signs that included “Dump the Hump,” “Free Willy,” “The Hump Blows” and “Just Sei No!”  One sign included owner Brian Vidor’s supposed phone number.

Sea Shepherd will continue holding court at The Hump all day and into the night.

Media coverage of the protest was extensive, including broadcasters from Japan. Keeping the public pressure on the restaurant encourages the strongest possible actions from the Feds, which have filed charges against the restaurant for violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Hopefully, the Feds will seek at least $200K fines and jail time.

Also, Santa Monica’s city attorney should report back to the City Council at the March 23 meeting about possible action against the Hump, which sits on city-owned land. Short of putting human body parts on the menu, there isn’t anything worse than serving whale to restaurant customers. So business license revocation or lease termination are critical potential actions that the Santa Monica City Council could take. Stay tuned for possible Santa Monica government action.

Bookmark and Share

In Credible

Melting glaciers speak for themselves. There's no need for so-called experts to embellish the truth in soundbites.

Overly zealous scientists, politicians and enviros embellish the truth in order to make a point all too frequently. The controversy over exaggerated or incorrect facts and dates on the global impacts of climate change is just the latest example. The truth twisting has to stop.  It hurts the cause.  It creates distractions and inertia in a time when degradation is the dominant direction of most ecosystems.

The environment is screwed up enough that there’s no need to stretch the truth. I first shared that thought with Heal the Bay’s founding president, Dorothy Green, following a press conference on sewage spills in the late 1980s. Dorothy overstated the impacts of sewage spills in Santa Monica Bay at the event. The Bay was a mess. Large sewage spills and beach closures were commonplace, even during the summer. Bottom-dwelling fish like white croaker and Dover sole had tumors and fin rot.  A dead zone sat in the middle of the Bay.  She didn’t have to exaggerate. The horrific facts were enough to inspire people to take action.

That advice I gave to Dorothy long ago still rings true.

Continue reading

Steamed With the L.A. Times

The Times ignores that the Scattergood power plant in El Segundo is in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The Los Angeles Times finally ran its long-awaited article on the state’s proposed rule to phase out California’s ecologically devastating once-through cooling power plants over the next 12-14 years. Not surprisingly, reporter Jill Leovy missed the point.

She omitted any discussion of the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act to use Best Available Control Technology to reduce larval entrainment and fish impingment in power plants. Federal courts all the way up to the Supreme Court have upheld the requirement, under section 316b of the act.

And once-through cooling (OTC) doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of Best Available Control Technology. Energy plants that use OTC literally suck the life out of the ocean, diverting millions of gallons of seawater via intake pipes to cool themselves. Somehow, the fact that every coastal power plant in California is in gross violation of the Clean Water Act didn’t get included in the article.

The Times piece didn’t include any information from the reporter’s interviews with the State Water Board or the energy agencies (California Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission and the California Independent System of Operators) that support the draft policy.

Continue reading