Tag Archives: california

The people most afflicted by pollution have new champions.

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The people most afflicted by pollution have new champions.

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California makes big money from its carbon pricing program. Who gets it?

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California makes big money from its carbon pricing program. Who gets it?

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Megafire – Michael Kodas



The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame

Michael Kodas

Genre: Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: August 22, 2017

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Seller: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

A brilliant exploration of the rising phenomenon of megafires—forest fires of alarming scale, intensity, and devastation—that explains the science of what is causing them and captures the danger and heroism of those who fight them In Megafire, a world-renowned journalist and forest fire expert travels to the most dangerous and remote wildernesses, as well as to the backyards of people faced with these environmental disasters, to look at the heart of this phenomenon and witness firsthand the heroic efforts of the firefighters and scientists racing against time to stop it—or at least to tame these deadly flames. From Colorado to California, China to Canada, the narrative hopscotches the globe and takes readers to the frontlines of the battle both on the ground and in the air, and in the laboratories, universities, and federal agencies where this issue rages on. Through this prism of perspectives, Kodas zeroes in on a handful of the most terrifying and tumultuous of these environmental disasters in recent years—the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona that took the lives of nineteen elite “hotshot” firefighters, the Waldo Canyon Fire that overwhelmed the city of Colorado Springs—and more in a page-turning narrative that puts a face on the brave people at the heart of this issue. Megafire describes the profound impact of these fires around the earth and will change the way we think about the environment and the essential precariousness of our world.  

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Megafire – Michael Kodas

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California is preparing for a weekend of wintertime wildfires.

Forests in the American West are having a harder time recovering from wildfires because of (what else?) climate change, according to new research published in Ecology Letters.

Researchers measured the growth of seedlings in 1,500 wildfire-scorched areas in Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Across the board, they found “significant decreases” in tree regeneration, a benchmark for forest resilience. In one-third of the sites, researchers found zero seedlings.

The warmest, driest forests were hit especially hard.

“Seedlings are more sensitive to warm, dry conditions than mature trees, so if the right conditions don’t exist within a few years following a wildfire, tree seedlings may not establish,” said Philip Higuera, a coauthor of the study.

Earlier this month, a separate study found that ponderosa pine and pinyon forests in the West are becoming less resilient due to droughts and warmer temperatures. Researchers told the New York Times that as trees disappear, some forests could shift to entirely different ecosystems, like grasslands or shrublands.

You’d think the rapid reconfiguration of entire ecosystems would really light a fire under us to deal with climate change, wouldn’t you?

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California is preparing for a weekend of wintertime wildfires.

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The first wintertime megafire in California history is here


The first wintertime megafire in California history is here

By on Dec 8, 2017

In the hills above the Pacific Ocean, the world crossed a terrifying threshold this week.

As holiday music plays on the radio, temperatures in Southern California have soared into the 80s, and bone-dry winds have fanned a summer-like wildfire outbreak. Southern California is under siege.

As the largest of this week’s fires skipped across California’s famed coastal highway 101 toward the beach, rare snowflakes were falling in Houston, all made possible by a truly extreme weather pattern that’s locked the jet stream into a highly amplified state. It’s difficult to find the words to adequately describe how weird this is. It’s rare that the dissonance of climate change is this visceral.

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That one of California’s largest and most destructive wildfires is now burning largely out of control during what should be the peak of the state’s rainy season should shock us into lucidity. It’s December. This shouldn’t be happening.

The Thomas fire is the first wintertime megafire in California history. In a state known for its large fires, this one stands out. At 115,000 acres, it’s already bigger than the city of Atlanta. Hundreds of homes have already been destroyed, and the fire is still just 5 percent contained.

In its first several hours, the Thomas fire grew at a rate of one football field per second, expanding 30-fold, and engulfing entire neighborhoods in the dead of night. Hurricane force winds have produced harrowing conditions for firefighters. Faced with such impossible conditions, in some cases, all they could do is move people to safety, and stand and watch.

“We can’t control it,” firefighter and photographer Stuart Palley told me from a beach in Ventura. “In these situations, you can throw everything you’ve got at it, tanker planes dropping tens of thousands of gallons of flame retardant, thousands of firefighters, hundreds of engines, you can do everything man has in their mechanical toolbox to fight these fires and they’re just going to burn and do whatever the hell they want. We have to learn that.” As we spoke, another wall of flames crested a nearby ridge, reflecting its orange glow off the sea.

The Thomas fire isn’t the only one burning right now. At least six major fires threaten tens of thousands of homes and have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee in recent days. “California fires enter the heart of Los Angeles” read one New York Times headline, a statement so dire it could double as a plot synopsis in a nearby Hollywood movie studio. Million-dollar mansions in Bel Air were evacuated, and the 405 freeway, one of L.A.’s busiest, was transformed into a dystopian hellscape during the morning commute. Ralph Terrazas, the Los Angeles fire chief, called the conditions the worst he’s seen in his entire 31-year career. “There will be no ability to fight fires in these kinds of winds,” said Ken Pimlott, the state fire chief. Shortly after these statements, state officials sent an unprecedented push notification to nearly everyone in Southern California, ominously warning millions of people to “stay alert.”

For years, climate scientists have warned us that California was entering a year-round fire regime. For years, climate campaigners have been wondering what it would take to get people to wake up to the urgency of cutting fossil fuel emissions. For years, we’ve been tip-toeing as a civilization towards a point of no return.

That time is now.

The advent of uncontrollable wintertime megafires in California is a turning point in America’s struggle to contain the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Conditions that led to the Thomas fire won’t happen every year, but the fact that they’re happening at all should shock us.

As California-based scientist Faith Kearns writes in Bay Nature magazine, “The admission that our best efforts may not always be enough opens a small window to shift how we think about disasters.”

The sirens are wailing, the long-feared scenarios are coming true. The era that scientists have warned us about for decades is here. There’s no denying the facts anymore: What’s happening right now in California is a climate emergency.

Historically, the Santa Ana fire season in Southern California peaks in October, at the end of the long summer dry season, just as the first snows of the winter start to appear in the Sierras. With the right conditions, the dense, cold air further inland gets funneled toward the coast, warming and drying as it quickly descends toward the sea, waiting to transform an errant spark into a raging inferno.

These are the Santa Ana winds, and they’ve been happening here for millennia. What’s different now, of course, is there are millions of people living in the area, for all the reasons people want to live in Southern California. The seasons are changing, too. Increasingly, those two facts are becoming incompatible.

There’s a whole series of links between climate change and this week’s fires. Ten years ago, scientists warned of possible lengthening of the Santa Ana fire season, and the data bear that out. Fire season is more than a month longer now, and 13 of the state’s top 20 fires in history have happened since 2000. This year’s “rainy” season has also been suspiciously absent so far, with Los Angeles rainfall 94 percent below normal since October. Right now, the atmosphere over the West Coast is the driest in recorded history. There’s no rain in the forecast for at least the next two weeks – the current fires could last until Christmas. Combine that with more people wanting to live in harm’s way – more than a million more people live in Southern California compared to 2000 – and it’s no wonder wildfire seasons are becoming increasingly catastrophic.

This year was the most expensive wildfire season in U.S. history, but money isn’t really the issue here. It’s the daily terror that fills residents as they look up and see a blood red sky and wonder if their home will make it through the night. It’s the rush on breathing masks as air pollution values spike above the top of the scale. It’s the realization that what you thought was normal, isn’t anymore.

In Houston, Puerto Rico, and Los Angeles, Americans are feeling the urgency of climate change not in weather data and distant news reports, but in their pulse rate.

Climate change is no longer some abstract concept, some line on a graph, some strongly-worded scientific consensus statement. Climate change is terrifying. It’s families fleeing a fire with only a moment’s warning to collect their photo albums. It’s single mothers using an ax to break a hole in the roof of their house as floodwaters rise into the attic of their home in the backyard of the oil industry’s capital city. It’s an entire island destroyed and forgotten, buried in a frenetic news cycle.

A new study this week that examines the recent performance of climate models, provides a hint that the ones showing the quickest rise in global temperatures have generally been the most accurate so far. Increasingly, that rise will accelerate, say the models, unless the world institutes a sharp reduction in emissions. Should we continue on a business as usual pathway, the new findings show a 93 percent chance that global warming will exceed what was previously considered a worst-case scenario by 2100.

A baby alive today has a good chance of living to the year 2100. The people of the future are real people, you can already meet them. Their climate futures are increasingly tangible. That climate change is now a California emergency doesn’t necessarily fate the region to uninhabitability, it provides an opportunity for a radical rethink. If we bungle this opportunity, all indications are that things can definitely get a lot worse.

A version of this story originally appeared in Rolling Stone.


The first wintertime megafire in California history is here

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Inmates are risking their lives to fight California’s raging fires.

A new report by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation found economic and health disparities among those affected by Harvey.

Sixty-six percent of black residents surveyed said they are not getting the help they need to recover, compared to half of all hurricane survivors. While 34 percent of white residents said their FEMA applications had been approved, just 13 percent of black residents said the same.

And even though they are receiving less assistance, black and Hispanic respondents and those with lower incomes were more likely to have experienced property damage or loss of income as a result of the storm.

Additionally, 1 in 6 people reported that someone in their household has a health condition that is new or made worse because of Harvey. Lower-income adults and people of color who survived the storm were more likely to lack health insurance and to say they don’t know where to go for medical care.

“This survey gives an important voice to hard-hit communities that may have been forgotten, especially those with the greatest needs and fewest resources following the storm,” Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, said in a statement.

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Inmates are risking their lives to fight California’s raging fires.

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Upstream – Langdon Cook



Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table

Langdon Cook

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 30, 2017

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

From the award-winning author of The Mushroom Hunters comes the story of an iconic fish, perhaps the last great wild food: salmon. For some, a salmon evokes the distant wild, thrashing in the jaws of a hungry grizzly bear on TV. For others, it’s the catch of the day on a restaurant menu, or a deep red fillet at the market. For others still, it’s the jolt of adrenaline on a successful fishing trip. Our fascination with these superlative fish is as old as humanity itself. Long a source of sustenance among native peoples, salmon is now more popular than ever. Fish hatcheries and farms serve modern appetites with a domesticated “product”—while wild runs of salmon dwindle across the globe. How has this once-abundant resource reached this point, and what can we do to safeguard wild populations for future generations? Langdon Cook goes in search of the salmon in Upstream, his timely and in-depth look at how these beloved fish have nourished humankind through the ages and why their destiny is so closely tied to our own. Cook journeys up and down salmon country, from the glacial rivers of Alaska to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest to California’s drought-stricken Central Valley and a wealth of places in between. Reporting from remote coastlines and busy city streets, he follows today’s commercial pipeline from fisherman’s net to corporate seafood vendor to boutique marketplace. At stake is nothing less than an ancient livelihood. But salmon are more than food. They are game fish, wildlife spectacle, sacred totem, and inspiration—and their fate is largely in our hands. Cook introduces us to tribal fishermen handing down an age-old tradition, sport anglers seeking adventure and a renewed connection to the wild, and scientists and activists working tirelessly to restore salmon runs. In sharing their stories, Cook covers all sides of the debate: the legacy of overfishing and industrial development; the conflicts between fishermen, environmentalists, and Native Americans; the modern proliferation of fish hatcheries and farms; and the longstanding battle lines of science versus politics, wilderness versus civilization. This firsthand account—reminiscent of the work of John McPhee and Mark Kurlansky—is filled with the keen insights and observations of the best narrative writing. Cook offers an absorbing portrait of a remarkable fish and the many obstacles it faces, while taking readers on a fast-paced fishing trip through salmon country. Upstream is an essential look at the intersection of man, food, and nature. Praise for Upstream “Invigorating . . . Mr. Cook is a congenial and intrepid companion, happily hiking into hinterlands and snorkeling in headwaters. Along the way we learn about filleting techniques, native cooking methods and self-pollinating almond trees, and his continual curiosity ensures that the narrative unfurls gradually, like a long spey cast. . . . With a pedigree that includes Mark Kurlansky, John McPhee and Roderick Haig-Brown, Mr. Cook’s style is suitably fluent, an occasional phrase flashing like a flank in the current. . . . For all its rehearsal of the perils and vicissitudes facing Pacific salmon, Upstream remains a celebration.” — The Wall Street Journal “Passionate . . . Cook deftly conveys his love of nature, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and the delectable eating provided by fresh caught wild salmon.” — Library Journal “Insightful . . . this work is a great place to learn what needs to done—and an entertaining view on the positive and negative connections humans have with the natural environment.” — Publishers Weekly

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Upstream – Langdon Cook

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20 Ethical Gift Ideas for the Person Who Already Has Everything

It?s almost that time of year again, when holiday music resurfaces and you have to figure out what to buy for that annoying friend who already has everything. Jokes aside, most of us have pretty much everything we need, not to mention a whole lot of stuff we don?t. (Stick up your hand if you?re overwhelmed by clutter.)

This year, let?s make the gifts we give really count. By choosing to buy something that?s been ethically sourced and produced or gives back in some other way (e.g. TOMS One for One campaign) you?re going to feel a whole lot happier about parting with your hard earned greenbacks.

I?m not saying you feel resentful about spending money on Christmas gifts, but let?s face it, it?s an expensive time of year. Knowing you made a difference in some way will help when you find yourself living on ramen noodles and air come January.

Ethical Gift Ideas for?Women

Bought Beautifully boasts an extensive selection of handmade jewelry for the magpie in your life. From bold to understated, there?s lots to choose from. They also give you the option to ?shop by story? in case there?s a particular cause you?d like to support.

It?s been scientifically proven that all women love chocolate, so getting a gourmet chocolate tasting box for the lady in your life is sure to earn you some big points.

Ethical Gift Ideas for Men

For the James Bond wannabe in your life, this copper and wood mixology bar set will be well-received. Even more so if it comes with a bottle of ethically produced gin.

Give the guy in your life a Harry?s subscription and you?ll be giving him a clean shave and supporting their 1+1 giving model at the same time.

Ethical Gift Ideas for Kids

Teenagers are tricky to buy for, but who knows, the one in your life might enjoy a pair of Etiko flip-flops or sneakers.

Shopping for Change has some really sweet baby gifts that give back, such as these hand knitted snowy owl ornaments, this whale baby lovie blanket and this organic onesie set.

These school essentials are so cool, the kids in your life (the younger ones, anyway) will be super chuffed to find them under the Christmas tree. Who wouldn?t want a Dabbawalla backpack or a Diddy bag pencil case? I know I would!

For the greenie parents, Eco Toys is a win. They?ve even put together a Christmas guide, which includes some really cool stuff, like seedling modelling clay, crayon rocks and a rainstick tower.

Ethical Gift Ideas for?Foodies

Got a wine lover in your life? Ethical Edibles has you covered with their wide variety of adult grape juice. (Shiraz for me, please.)

The foodie in your life is bound to get excited by anything from?The Greenheart Shop. From bowls and cutting boards to salad servers and even mini tagine sets, there’s lots to choose from.

Ethical Gift Ideas for Arty Types

Got an old school doodler in your life? This Buy 1 Plant 1 Padfolio will rock their world for sure. Your purchase today plants a tree, ensuring a better future for our planet and future generations.

The writer in your life will be blown away by this handcrafted CAUSEGEAR Leather journal. Each purchase supports a job that pays five times the norm?and features the crafter?s name and picture on the first page.

Ethical Gift Ideas for Hippies and Eco Warriors

For the hippie workaholic in your life, a hemp briefcase or hemp laptop backpack will go down a treat. (Actually, anything made from hemp will probably light their smudge stick.)

For the minimalist in your life, World Concern gives you the option to buy a gift in someone else?s name. You also receive a card to give to them that describes what you?ve given in their honor.

Water Aid has a bunch of cool stuff in their shop for the eco-warrior in your life, including totes, t-shirts and iPhone covers. They also have an under $25 section if your family has put a spending limit on gifts.

When you?re a kid, underwear is worse than no gift at all. But for us adults, it?s the best. Give the person in your life some Me Undies and watch their face light up.

Ethical Gift Ideas for Everyone Else

Anchal has a range of unique, one-of-a-kind socially conscious gifts under $50. Choose from scarves, pouches, art slates and more. These are great stocking fillers for pretty much everyone in your life.

Got a runner in your life? Then you need to get them a pair of Brooks running shoes. According to the guys at Urban Meisters, the company has put in a lot of effort to get ahead in the green race.

I get that it?s not summer everywhere, but how awesome are these SunBear Co. eco-friendly travel beach tents? They?re made in California from recycled fishing nets.

Finally, if you?re on the hunt for something a little unusual, The Great Gift Company is probably where you?ll find it. Solar powered Einstein, anyone? How about a milkshake in 30 seconds?

A Little Added Inspiration

If you need additional inspiration, be sure to check out Ethical Superstore (UK), The Ethical Shop (Aus) and Social Enterprise Alliance (US). Not enough? The Green Hub put together a list of 18 online stores where you can shop for ethical fashion.

Right, I?m off to do some Christmas shopping.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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20 Ethical Gift Ideas for the Person Who Already Has Everything

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Earthquake Storms – John Dvorak


Earthquake Storms

An Unauthorized Biography of the San Andreas Fault

John Dvorak

Genre: Earth Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 4, 2014

Publisher: Pegasus Books

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

A geologist explores the fault line that threatens disaster for millions in this “must-read for earthquake buffs—and West Coast residents” ( Library Journal ). It’s a geological structure that spans almost the entire length of California. Dozens of major highways and interstates cross it. Scores of housing developments have been built over it. And its name has become so familiar that it’s now synonymous with the very concept of an earthquake. Yet, to many of those who are affected by it, the San Andreas Fault is practically invisible and shrouded in mystery. For decades, scientists have warned that the fault is primed for a colossal quake. According to geophysicist John Dvorak, such a sudden shift of the Earth’s crust is inevitable—and may be a geologic necessity. In Earthquake Storms , Dvorak explains the science behind the San Andreas Fault, a transient, evolving system that’s key to our understanding of worldwide seismic activity. He traces it from the redwood forests to the east edge of the Salton Sea, through two of the largest urban areas of the country: San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its network of subsidiary faults runs through Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica, and the Hayward Fault slices the football stadium at the University of California in half. As he warns of peril, Dvorak lays out the worst-case scenario, which he believes is coming: an awakening of the fault leading to years of volatile “earthquake storms.” Hailed by Booklist as “a fascinating look at what could be in store,” Dvorak’s comprehensive and accessible study will change the way you see the ground beneath your feet. “A massive earthquake is overdue at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault. Conditions are right for the Big One to hit a 100-mile segment of the fault that would be felt from San Diego to Los Angeles. But the problem is being able to pinpoint when the quake may strike . . .” —NPR Dr. John Dvorak, PhD, worked on volcanoes and earthquakes for the US Geological Survey, first at Mount St. Helens, then as a series of assignments in California, Hawaii, Italy, Indonesia, Central America, and Alaska. He has written cover stories for Scientific American , Physics Today, and Astronomy magazines, as well as a series of essays about earthquakes and volcanoes for American Scientist . Dvorak has taught at the University of Hawaii and lectured at UCLA, Washington University in St. Louis, the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, among others.

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Earthquake Storms – John Dvorak

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A judge lets pipeline protesters mount an unusual defense.

In parts of the United Kingdom Monday morning, people woke up to a blood-red sun — a phenomenon seen around the globe this year.

The color was caused by smoke that blew in from wildfires across Portugal and Spain. Hurricane Ophelia deepened the reddish hue by dragging up dust from the Sahara.

Red skies have haunted the western U.S. recently as wildfires burned in Montana and ash rained down in Seattle. This month in Northern California, 20,000 people evacuated from massive wildfires under a red-orange sky.

Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images

On the other side of the world, wildfires burned in Siberia all summer long, covering the sun with enormous clouds of smoke and ash.

REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

To understand why this happens, you need to know a bit of optics. Sun rays contain light from the whole visible spectrum. As the sun’s white light beams into the atmosphere, it collides with molecules that diffuse some of the wavelengths. On a normal day, short wavelength colors, like purple and blue, are filtered out, making the sun look yellow.

But high concentrations of light-scattering molecules in the air (like smoke particles from a wildfire) crowd out more of those short-wavelength colors, leaving behind that hellish red color.

Since climate change makes wildfires worse, we’ll be seeing a lot more of it.

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A judge lets pipeline protesters mount an unusual defense.

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