Stories tagged California

Okay, California's weird enough as it is usually. But they've been finding some very weird stuff along the California coast this week, including an 18-foot oarfish and a 15-foot saber-toothed-whale.

Here is an update on my post about California's whooping cough epidemic.

A ninth baby has died in California from whooping cough, health officials said Thursday.
All nine infants were under three months of age.
As of Tuesday, the state has recorded more illnesses due to whooping cough (4,017) than in any year since 1955. CNN

What is safest for newborns? Getting vaccinated or not getting vaccinated?

Jul
15
2010

“…Welcome back, class. Please hand in your essays on the scientific fundamentals of phosphorus-driven eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico, and note that our exam covering chapter eight, the Biogeochemistry of Acid Mine Drainage, will take place next Tuesday. Today we will be covering fluid bed catalytic oxidation, hazardous waste landfill leachates, and NIMBY. But, first, let’s take attendance: Bueller?... Bueller?... Bueller??”

Say what? “Nimby?” Girl, puh-lease! He just made that up… didn’t he??

It wasn’t long into my undergraduate stint as an Environmental Science major that I came across the word, “nimby.” Actually, it’s not a word at all. It’s an acronym, N.I.M.B.Y., standing for “Not In My BackYard,” that captures an important public attitude that affects environmental policymaking.

NIMBY explains many people’s attitude towards environmental policies, capturing sentiments like,

“That’s such a cool and important idea! As long as it’s not actually happening in my community, that is.”

“Whatever. I don’t care so long as I don’t have to see it everyday.”

NIMBY: Yuck.  Who wants to look out their bedroom window and see a mountain of trash?  Not these guys.
NIMBY: Yuck. Who wants to look out their bedroom window and see a mountain of trash? Not these guys.Courtesy The Voice of Eye

Think About It

Do you like having your trash removed from your home? Most everyone does. But, would you like having a landfill in your backyard? Almost nobody does. This is the classic example of NIMBY. Nearly everyone likes having their trash collected from their property and transported out of sight and smell, yet someone, somewhere has to live beside a mountain of trash. As long as we’re not the ones living across the street from the landfill, most of us are satisfied with this method of garbage disposal. The same idea goes for wastewater treatment facilities as well.

Another classic example is nuclear power. Some people support nuclear power as an inexpensive and “clean” alternative to fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. However, the construction, maintenance, and decommissioning of a nuclear power plant poses risks and creates radioactive waste. Whether or not you think the risks and waste production are acceptable consequences depends largely on your proximity to the plant and/or ultimate disposal site for the nuclear waste.

A recent example of NIMBY is occurring in California this summer as covered in Green, a New York Times blog. In a valley near Santa Clara, Martifer Renewables canceled their plan to build a hybrid solar power plant. Set on 640 acres of agricultural land, the plant was supposed to produce electricity by solar power during the day and biomass burning by night. How sweet is that?? A 24-hour source of renewable energy! The California utility PG&E thought it was a great idea too and signed a 20-year power purchase agreement for 106.8 megawatts, which became part of their energy portfolio. PG&E must obtain 20% of its electricity from renewable resources by December of this year and another 13% (for 33% total) by 2020, as mandated by California state energy goals. Now that the project is canceled, PG&E will have to look elsewhere for sources of renewable electricity or risk missing their mandated targets.

Regarding the canceled project, Martifer executive, Miguel Lobo, wrote in a June 17th letter that,

“We were not able at this time to resolve some of our issues regarding project economics and biomass supply amongst other things.”

What Lobo was likely referring to are the complaints of local residents and regulators who contested several aspects of the project. Chief amongst the complaints was the around-the-clock operation made possible by burning biomass. What exactly were they so excited about? Noise, waste, and air pollution – all realities of energy production, yet things we’d rather not experience ourselves. In short, NIMBY.

Alright, so what?

Now that I’ve opened your eyes to the existence of NIMBY, you might be wondering how it influences environmental policymaking. The easiest answer is that environmental policymakers seek to find a balance between the conflicting desires for new technology like this power plant and local opposition and the NIMBY attitude. Often both sides make compromises and projects move forward on a slightly different path than previously proposed. However, as in the California case of Martifer Renewables, occasionally a project is completely scrapped. Other times, the project proceeds as originally planned. Which of the outcomes occurs depends largely on the organization and influence of the local opposition. In turn, this often raises issues of environmental or eco-justice.

Clearly our modern society cannot exist without landfills or wastewater treatment facilities as smelly and unsightly as they may be. Whether or not nuclear or other renewable energy power plants are equally necessary today is debatable, but it’s not hard to imagine a future in which they will be. If no one agreed to have these facilities in their community, life as we know it would be very different. This begs the question: how do you think policymakers should balance the needs of society at large against the NIMBY attitude of locals?

Babies are dying

"Whooping cough is now an epidemic in California," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, in a statement. "Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot." ABCnews

Click here to watch whooping cough video on You Tube.

Sep
01
2009
...any Bad Religion fans out there? Oh nevermind. The daily feed from NASA's MODIS Aqua satellite has some cool images of the Los Angeles wildfire. It's shocking to see how close it is to the city. You can follow the images as the fire progresses on the MODIS website for the LA area. Double click to zoom in below:
Jun
24
2009

Last January, Bryan praised Barack Obama’s inaugural address for promising to make decisions based on observation, data and statistics. Bryan also said,

We will keep a watchful eye over the next four years to make sure that science policy adheres to the agenda and principles that our new president has set out.

So, how are things going so far?

One:

Last week, the White House released a new report on climate change. Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, says the study is seriously flawed. He finds the report relies on data that is old, narrow, non-peer reviewed, second- and third-hand, and contradicted by more recent, peer-reviewed studies. He specifically objects to claims that global warming is leading to more natural disasters. Such disasters are Dr. Pielke’s specialty, and he argues there is no such trend.

Two:

Back in February, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said that global warming was going to destroy agriculture in California. Dr. Pielke (who is becoming something of a one-man band in reigning in the more outrageous claims of global warming) picked apart that one as well.

Three:

In March, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar removed gray wolves in the northern Rockies from the Endangered Species list. This action was first proposed by President George W. Bush just before he left office, but suspended by the incoming administration. Two months later, they decided that Bush was right to accept the unanimous recommendation of Fish and Wildlife scientists.

Mark hates it when I point out stuff like that…

Jun
25
2008

Northern and central California are beset by more than 800 wild fires. Last week, the state baked under four days of triple-digit heat, which dried out brushland in many areas. On Friday, severe lightning strikes set them to blaze. California brushland, called chaparral, naturally becomes very dry in the summer and burns easily. The burning is nature’s way of recycling dead plant material. It’s only when humans build houses and things that we don’t want burned that it becomes a problem.

Predictors are making some pretty bold forecasts for the risk of a massive earth in California sometime in the next 30 years. You can get all the details right here. I'm still willing to settle for Minnesota's occasional tornadoes and blizzards rather than have to worry about the ground shaking under my feet.

Nov
20
2007

Aptera Typ-1 electric vehicle
Aptera Typ-1 electric vehicleCourtesy Aptera Motors, Inc.
Aptera Motors, Inc. is now taking reservations (California only) for either its 300 mpg hybrid or its all electric vehicles. The electric version of the Aptera typ-1 is slated for delivery in 2008 with the hybrid model to follow. The all-electric model has a range of 120 miles. The plug-in series hybrid has achieved more than 300 miles per gallon with a range of more than 600 miles.

The Aptera Typ-1 is loaded with safety features.

  • Driver and passenger side airbags
  • Energy absorbing and impact deflecting passenger safety cell
  • Advanced drive computer with GPS navigation, CD/MP3/DVD player, XM
  • Large rear view camera and complete vehicle diagnostic system
  • LED interior and exterior lighting for maximum energy efficiency
  • An RFID (Radio Frequency ID) ? an automatic identification method so a driver never has to pull out their keys to enter or start their Aptera
  • USB port for powering a laptop or charging an MP3 player and other mobile devices

Aptera videos are on You Tube

Click this to see more Aptera electric vehicle You Tube videos.

Sources: Jalopnik.com/cars and Aptera.com/details