Government reports about climate change can be boring and laborious to read. I believe changes in our environment are important, especially at the local level so I’m making an attempt to boil the information down to important and, hopefully, interesting bullet points. I relied heavily on a recent report from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Climate Change Bullet Points:
1) In 2007, there was a 90% statistical certainty that man was responsible for the current global warming trend.
2) Today, there is a 95% statistical certainty that man is responsible for global warming.
3) By 2021, as more data is collected, statistical certainty will climb to 99% pointing to man as the cause for global warming.
4) The greenhouse gases (GHG) that warm the Earth’s surface are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons and ozone.
5) In California, emissions from transportation, electrical power generation and the industrial sector account for over 80% of GHG emissions with transportation accounting for the largest portion at 38%.
6) Atmospheric CO2 levels were first documented in 1958 at Mauna Loa, Hawaii at a concentration of 315 parts per million and in May 2013 a mean concentration of 400 was detected.
7) Since monitoring CO2 concentrations in La Jolla, CA, levels have risen from 325 in 1969 to 395 in 2012.
8) CO2 levels in the ocean rise as atmospheric CO2 levels increase, changing the chemistry of the water; this is called ocean acidification.
9) California’s coastal waters are acidifying as evidenced by seawater CO2 and pH levels measured at Monterey Bay; this negatively impacts the local ocean food chain.
10) Since 1895, annual average temperatures have increased by approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit across California.
11) Over the past century, minimum, average and maximum temperatures have all been increasing in California with the nighttime minimum increasing by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit and the daytime high increasing by 1.5 degrees.
12) Over the past 20 years, the altitude in the atmosphere where temperature drops below freezing has risen by 500 feet indicating warmer conditions at higher elevations.
13) Over the past century, spring runoff to the Sacramento River from the Sierra Nevada Mountains has decreased by 9%
14) Over the past century, surface area of glaciers in the Sierra Nevada has been decreasing with losses ranging from 20% to 70%.
15) The rise in global sea level is attributed to thermal expansion of ocean water and the melting of mountain glaciers and polar ice sheets.
16) Over the past 100 years, sea levels have risen by an average of 7 inches along the California coast with levels at the Golden Gate in San Francisco increasing by 8 inches and 6 inches at La Jolla near San Diego.
17) In Southern California, plant species in certain areas have moved upward by an average of about 213 feet over the past 30 years.
18) The lower edge of the conifer-dominated forest in the Sierra Nevada has been retreating upslope over the past 60 years.
19) Butterflies have been appearing earlier in the spring over the past four decades.
20) Many small mammal species studied in Yosemite National Park showed a movement to higher elevations when compared to earlier century observations.
Don’t get caught up in a finger pointing “who’s responsible for climate change” world, just prepare for a warmer and biologically different future.
Another city jail opens its doors to corruption. Fremont, California over build their incarceration capacity by a factor of six so now they’ve decided to lower their vacancy rate by renting out the open cells in an attempt to turn a quarter of a million dollar profit. On the surface it sounds like a good idea because the city fixes a planning mistake and they also make money to spend elsewhere. But these profit motivated jailing programs have proven corrupt and beneficial to mainly the privileged.
Obviously, these programs cater to the wealthier members of society. As an example, if someone breaks the law and is sentenced to jail time, instead of serving time in a crowded county jail they can appeal to the judge for movement to a city facility if they pay a daily rental fee. In the case of Fremont, the daily fee is $155. If you have extra money, you can buy your way into a nicer jail with fewer prisoners and a less stressful environment. So, two criminals with the same offence with different monetary standings will serve different sentences. The poorer guy gets hell while the richer one gets a more privileged stay. Sentencing for crime should not be based on a criminal’s wealth.
Another problem with for profit jails is financial corruption. Again, it’s already been proven that judges can get bought. A for profit juvenile jail in Pennsylvania kicked back $2.6 million to two judges for keeping their facility at capacity; the infamous Kids for Cash Scandal. Offences that normally resulted in suspension from school for a few days often put teenagers in juvy-jail for months. The judges hid behind a position of zero tolerance but in actuality it was payola time.
For profit incarceration is also driving the criminalization of basic human behavior. Many of the prisons built over the past twenty years are constructed and managed by companies on the stock exchange. Many facilities originally built by local governments are now being handed over to for profit companies. Do you wonder why crime reports state that violent crimes are down but then the next report says the prison population is increasing? To attract stock investors, publicly traded incarceration companies need to grow revenue quarterly and annually…that’s how Wall Street and their financial institutions work. More prisoners equal more dollars and rehabilitation is a dirty word. These huge prison companies and their large work force hire lobbyists and political marketing firms to promote the passing of new laws or rally against movements that try to do away with bad laws that criminalize normal human behavior. Again, these companies need bodies behind bars to make money.
Jailing for the purpose of profit is a corruption of justice.
Grass must grow in my blood; it inexplicably and constantly waves through my mind. To be clear, I’m talking grasses and not lawns. The appalling manicured green carpets in front of our houses are a waste of valuable water and the chemical runoff is deadly to a balanced ecosystem. But grass, real grass, is the essence of life.
Rice, corn, wheat, rye and sugar cane are just a few grasses that feed humanity. Oats, prairie, tundra and hay are varieties for the rest of us animals. We should never underestimate the importance of grass; it’s the unsung hero of nature.
In Praise of Grass, published in the Kansas Journal just after the Civil War was written by John James Ingalls, a Senator and founder father of Kansas. Below is one of my favorite paragraphs from that essay. You can plow the grass under but it still geminates in the blood.
Grass is the forgiveness of nature — her constant benediction. Fields trampled with battle, saturated with blood, torn with the ruts of cannon, grow green again with grass, and carnage is forgotten. Streets abandoned by traffic become grass-grown like rural lanes, and are obliterated. Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal. Beleaguered by the sullen hosts of winter, it withdraws into the impregnable fortress of its subterranean vitality, and emerges upon the first solicitation of spring. Sown by the winds, by wandering birds, propagated by the subtle horticulture of the elements which are its ministers and servants, it softens the rude outline of the world. Its tenacious fibres hold the earth in its place, and prevent its soluble components from washing into the wasting sea. It invades the solitude of deserts, climbs the inaccessible slopes and forbidding pinnacles of mountains, modifies climates, and determines the history, character, and destiny of nations. Unobtrusive and patient, it has immortal vigor and aggression. Banished from the thoroughfare and the field, it bides its time to return, and when vigilance is relaxed, or the dynasty has perished, it silently resumes the throne from which it has been expelled, but which it never abdicates. It bears no blazonry or bloom to charm the senses with fragrance or splendor, but its homely hue is more enchanting than the lily or the rose. It yields no fruit in earth or air, and yet should its harvest fail for a single year, famine would depopulate the world.
Many home owners in California are about to get screwed. Open your pocket books because soon you’ll need to come up with an extra $1000 to $2000 dollars per year.
The California Department of Water Resources and the US Army Corp of Engineers published a report about the state’s potential flood catastrophes. Fear sells, right? So naturally, KGO radio was blasting sound bites from someone in the above mentioned group saying we need to get prepared for the big one. The scary quote was, “it’s not a matter of if a flood will happen but a matter of when.”
One in five Californians lives in a flood zone, according to the report. The spokesperson making the scary comment above also said we need to create a budget so we can educate the people on potential floods, how to be prepared and have emergency services. This is a positively spun and coded message. What they are really saying is, “1 in 5 California home owners will be required to have federally mandated flood insurance.”
The national flood program already collects 30% of its funding from residence in California. We give much more than we take. We are financing people who live in actual flood plains and zones.
When was the last time you heard of a major flood in California? Remember the Great Mississippi and Missouri Flood of 1993 in the Midwest? Or the Great Flood of 1927 in the same area? Remember Hurricane Katrina and the flooding in New Orleans? OK, one more…do you remember Hurricane Sandy and all the east coast flooding? Only a fraction of the people who live in these REAL flood places have insurance.
It pisses me off that we California desert dwellers must finance the flood dwellers living in other states. If you live in the path of four or five hurricanes every year than you need insurance. If you live in a house or farm that is below the level of the Mississippi River than you need insurance. Don’t expect someone that lives in a desert to pay for your insurance.
I live in a 1000 year flood plain and there is no recorded history of my area ever flooding. The federal government forces me to pay $1600 per year for flood insurance. If I lived on the east coast or in the Midwest where floods occur routinely, I’d pay less. On the Federal level, California is politically weak.
Based on the recent spin language used by the California Department of Water Resources, US Army Corp of Engineers and FEMA, here’s my prediction. “It’s not a matter of if California home owners will get screwed by more federally mandated flood insurance but a matter of when!”
If you have ever had a deeply spiritual moment when you just knew that all you believed in was in fact true…If you have ever looked at someone and known with absolute clarity that they are your soul mate…If you have ever stood in the presence of a great person, and known with total confidence that they are the real thing…
Such feelings rarely happen, but I am told that when they do, they are a moment of total clarity and that this is an awesomely powerful moment.
Last week, I was in Washington DC for work. We were able to sneak in a bit of sightseeing, a couple of monuments, and they were beautiful and poignant, even if I primarily discovered I possess a woeful ignorance of American history.
But when my work schedule had finished, a colleague invited me to meet a friend who works on Capitol Hill. We would get a tour and spend a few minutes chatting with him.
Now I am no great admirer of this or any American government that I have experienced. But there was something incredibly powerful as we approached the Hill. We received a tour by a young tour guide, who was articulate and proud. He peppered his descriptions with caveats, jokes and stories. But he never strayed from the responsibility and the gravitas that he felt he was representing something sacred.
We were introduced to the new statue of Rosa Parks, which stands near a small room that contains a bathroom, library and I am not sure what else, but it is only for the women representatives. Is there a nearer, more convenient bathroom for women? Of course there is. Women have been leaders here for 97 years. A proper woman’s facility was installed in 2008.
Then we met my friend’s friend, who works for a senator. He was a real-life West Wing person, only incredibly human. But between the jokes and the explanations, it became abundantly clear that he is deeply excited and honored to be a part of something special. He feels the thrill, every morning when he leaves the train station and sees the capitol building anew. He calls his senator ‘my boss,’ but does so with genuine love and reverence.
I would not consider myself someone impressed by beautiful domes, excited by statues and paintings, and especially not intrigued by men and women (but mostly men) in suits and ties with cell phones wrapped to their ears.
But there was something very powerful in the air: a sense of purpose, a sense of duty and responsibility. I know. I know, we are all so critical of these people and for good reason, but when you stand there under the great dome, in the marble halls, where numerous statues of great men and women stare down at you daring you to take courageous steps, you cannot but feel profoundly inspired.
You feel the presence of greatness, past and present, and it gives you hope for the future.
I have lived in the US for eight years, helped in two Presidential campaigns with only a twinge of remorse that I cannot vote. I have cheered my city’s team in the Superbowl and the baseball “world” (really?) championships without really understanding the rules or what we are eating.
I have criticized and campaigned against shameful flaws in this society. I have written novels where, under the guise of fiction, I have vented my anger at certain shameful traits of this society.
I have, I know, also seen beautiful mountains, lakes, forests, and oceans, but somehow they seem an act of God or something spiritual – beyond the realm of man.
But here on the Hill I met something built by the American nation. I experienced the heart of democracy and freedom, and for an hour, I truly felt its very pulse.
And I want to feel more. My friend turned to me and said: ‘how can you not want to run for office, to be a part of this energy?’ He had felt it too and I told him on the spot that if he ran, I would write his speeches. We laughed, but a small part of me was serious (he would be – actually already is – a very good leader by the way).
I am now back in California, in the city I love. But I have undergone a transformative change. I will campaign in the next Presidential election as a citizen and I will cast my vote. This month, I will begin the long path to citizenship.
After eight critical years, I no longer want to be an outsider looking in. I want to be a part. Even if that means learning American Football rules for when the ’49ers reach the Superbowl again next year.
I want to feel that heartbeat again, the exhilarating synergy of freedom and democracy. It makes what I write about, in my novels and my blog, all the more relevant. It makes me want to belong.
Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.