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Photo: Sierra Mar via Forbes.
A California restaurant has initiated impressive air-quality controls post-pandemic.

In the beginning, we were wiping everything down with bleach. I know I kept sharing a video from a doctor who’d worked with Ebola protocols. And for quite a while, I was treating all my groceries as if they could kill me.

Then we learned Covid was contracted mainly through the air, in invisible droplets from people breathing. So now that it’s possible once more to eat indoors in restaurants, the wary among us are asking how well restaurants are doing on ventilation.

At the Washington Post, Chris MooneyAaron Steckelberg and Jake Crump report on a few restaurants in California.

“When California’s Monterey County allowed restaurants to reopen in March, indoor dining returned to the cliff-perched Sierra Mar, known for its spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

“The Big Sur restaurant now featured some new pandemic touches: 18 tabletop mini-purifiers, 10 precisely distributed HEPA air purifiers, an upgraded heating and air conditioning system, and four sensors measuring the air quality in real time.

“The bar was closed, and at a table in the back sat someone new: an engineering professor whose specialty is air quality.

‘If this is going to work right, the ventilation keeps up with the head count,’ explained the expert, Mark Hernandez of the University of Colorado.

“Every 15 minutes, he would walk to the front desk to check how many people were now seated indoors. Then he would compare that number to the air’s current levels of carbon dioxide and particulate matter, to see how much exhaled breath lingered in the air and what expelled aerosols it could contain.

“Indoor dining remains risky, as the pandemic rages on, propelled by highly transmissible new coronavirus variants that threaten gains from widespread vaccination. The virus has been brutal for the restaurant industry. … Thousands of restaurants already have shut down permanently.

“Those struggling to hold on are considering a broad range of air ventilation and filtration techniques to keep customers and staff safe. Sierra Mar’s new air-quality experiment, partly funded by a regional foundation, cost about $30,000. That’s a hefty expenditure that might be out of reach for many restaurants running on thin profit margins.

“Mike Freed considers it a worthy investment. He’s the managing partner of the Post Ranch Inn, the exclusive resort that contains Sierra Mar and caters to an affluent eco-conscious traveler. Since the setup, if successful, could potentially be utilized in other restaurants and indoor spaces, the Washington Post asked several experts on indoor air to review the restaurant layout and strategy. They agreed it should work to make the dining experience considerably safer, while noting 100 percent safety is unattainable.

“These experiments in the restaurant industry may usher in a new data-driven relationship with indoor air, with people able to judge where they dine, vacation and work based on the quality and transparency of real-time readings. …

“[One] interior air circulation has been designed, says Hernandez, as a ‘seat belt in a place where you can’t control your peers … This is long overdue for public places.’

“At a time when its vista is clouded by recurrent wildfires, the Post Ranch Inn now displays the restaurant’s air quality updates on its website, so diners can time their escape around what they want to eat — and breathe.”

Check the Post, here, for a variety of new air-quality gizmos. For example: “An air purifier about the size of a water bottle [that] sits on each table. It can’t clean a lot of air quickly, but it can direct filtered air in a small area. And it runs on batteries.

“While the portable air purifier can be tilted toward a person’s face, Hernandez positioned it straight up, to reduce the risk of unmasked diners infecting others by breathing across the table. Instead, the device, made by Wynd and marketed as a personal air purifier, should push any shared or unfiltered air aloft”!

I keep thinking how the the pandemic has created new opportunities for obscure products like that and has also made rock stars out of certain kinds of engineering professors. Those are among the changes we’ll keep.

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Photo: Ann Hermes/CSM.
Najari Smith, who founded the bike shop co-op and nonprofit Rich City Rides, stands in front of a mural depicting him on April 9, 2021, in Richmond, California, a town across the bay from San Francisco.

There’s something liberating about riding a bike, as my youngest grandchild learned after taking an REI class in Cranston. She used to be afraid of falling. Now she’s a biking dervish. Today’s post is about another biking enthusiast, who’s been liberating a poor city and making it rich.

Erika Page writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Najari Smith was down in the dumps the night he first heard the bicycles below his window. He was new to California, lonely, and felt he lacked purpose. On the street below, a costumed parade of cyclists rolled by blasting music. By the time Mr. Smith rushed downstairs to join the party, they were gone.

“Mr. Smith’s journey, though, was just beginning. After that night in 2010, he began riding his bike everywhere and joined every community biking event around. Slowly, his spirits lifted.

‘Shoot, bicycles kind of saved my life,’ he says. He became part of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee of Richmond, California, which improves bicycle infrastructure in the city. During a routine committee meeting, he got his big idea.

“ ‘I thought to myself, “We’re building this infrastructure, but, you know, who are we building it for? Who’s going to use it?” ‘ he recalls. How would he get his community – the Black community – excited about using the bike lanes he was advocating for? And how would he break down the stereotype that Black people don’t bike? He started small – fixing up bikes at the park with local mechanics and giving them out to anyone who wanted one.

“Today, Mr. Smith runs Rich City Rides: a worker-owned cooperative bike shop as well as a bicycle advocacy nonprofit. These two spokes of the organization are distinct, but both serve Mr. Smith’s vision of using bicycles to ‘bring people together for healthy civic change’ in Richmond. Just like the bikes he fixes at the shop, Mr. Smith believes that no one, no matter what they’ve been through, is ever broken beyond repair.

“ ‘He’s the type of leader that seeks out the strength that an individual may have, rather than identifying their weaknesses. … He’ll sit down with folks and try to figure out how to get them involved, no matter what,’ says Robin D. López, who volunteers as a photographer for Rich City Rides and thinks of Richmond as ‘a community of untapped potential.’

“Roshni McGee, the program manager at Rich City Rides and co-founder of the bike shop, agrees. ‘He always tries to, you know, put a little bit of extra pressure on people and make them really be that diamond in the rough,’ he says.

“Rich City Rides is situated on a busy corner of Macdonald Avenue in a neighborhood that locals call the Iron Triangle, notorious for high crime rates and gun violence. Even though they live just across the bay from tony gentrified neighborhoods of San Francisco, many residents struggle to make ends meet. …

“ ‘He leads with love. … He shows that this is what we can do as Black people. We can revitalize our downtown, and we don’t have to be afraid of each other,’ says Jovanka Beckles, a mental health specialist who served on Richmond’s City Council from 2010 to 2018. She says Rich City Rides’ success has inspired other small businesses to open too, helping put the neighborhood on a long-awaited upswing. …

“[The nonprofit arm] plans social and wellness rides, youth programs, and community outreach. Since the nonprofit began in 2012, it has given away more than 1,000 bikes, led hundreds of social bike rides with thousands of participants, and conducted countless youth bicycle workshops. And during the pandemic, Rich City Rides has been distributing grab-and-go meals to families in need – an idea suggested by one of the high schoolers who works at the shop.

“In fact, Mr. Smith says other members of the team, and especially young people, make most of the important decisions. ‘I’m just a connector,’ he says.

“Cameren Howard-Simons is one of those young people who has found purpose through the organization. When he first met the crew at Rich City Rides, he was in middle school, and his mother didn’t want him hanging out in the area because of its reputation.

“Now Cam, a junior in high school, spends most of his free time working at the shop. ‘It’s hard to keep me away from people like this,’ he says with a wide smile, as he tries to get a derailleur to behave on the pink bike that’s hanging from his repair stand. Rich City Rides has kept him out of trouble, he says, adding that it’s one of the few places where kids can be completely themselves, without judgment.

“ ‘You’re wheelieing next to somebody, and they’re clapping, they’re recording you [on their phones], and they’re showing you love – showing you that they actually care about what you do,’ he says. …

“The notion that Richmond is not poor – but rich – guides Rich City Rides. ‘We’re a community that’s really rich in creativity and capacity and ingenuity,’ says Mr. Smith.”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: ThePhotoImpression at Etsy.
Bighorn sheep.

Earle sent a cool article about capturing bighorn sheep by helicopter and suggested that it might be something for the blog. It comes from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

“Wildlife biologist Paige Prentice grew up surrounded by trees in Nevada City, California, and knew she had selected the right college when she saw all the redwoods on the campus of UC Santa Cruz. But it was a seasonal job after college in Death Valley National Park that spawned her love of the desert, and today she is a Desert Bighorn Sheep Biologist with CDFW, based in Inyo County. …

“CDFW: Do you remember when you first became so interested in science you realized it might become your career?

“When I was a little kid, I used to tell people that I wanted to study elephants and gorillas. After college I had the opportunity to spend six months studying orangutans on the Island of Borneo in Indonesia. And while that was an awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience, I learned that I wanted to focus on species a little closer to home. Growing up, my folks were the type of people that would drive through deserts and say, ‘It’s just hot and dry and there’s nothing here.’ I believed them, until I was 24 and I got a job in Death Valley as an AmeriCorps intern with the Park Service. It was then that fell in love with the desert. I was mesmerized by the expansive landscapes and amazed by how much life the desert supported. …

“Why does CDFW dedicate staff to Desert Bighorn Sheep specifically?

“Well, first, you have to understand that in California we have three separately managed bighorn populations. Two populations are endangered and managed under their own recovery programs — the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and the peninsular bighorn sheep (San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties). Then, there is the broad grouping of desert bighorn sheep which are not endangered — these are the ones I focus on. Because … we’re interested in questions at both the population and metapopulation level, it makes sense to have a desert bighorn sheep specific program.

“As a bighorn sheep biologist, what are you studying? What are you looking at when trying to manage that population?

“Great question. There is a lot to study, given that we are looking at over 50 distinct populations across a large geographic area that is fragmented by major interstates. On a broad scale, we’re looking at which mountain ranges have bighorn in them, how many animals are in each population and how the populations are connected to one another. We conduct ground, camera, and helicopter surveys to document age and sex ratios and recruitment (lambs surviving to adulthood). We capture and collar animals to track movements, monitor survival and to test for disease. We are interested in what type of diseases are present and what the short- and long-term impacts are. We also have artificial and natural water sources in the desert, and we work with NGOs, like the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, to makes sure these sources are maintained and stay full of water. …

“Aren’t there times we capture sheep as well, shooting nets on them from helicopters?

“Yes, we generally capture bighorn using a helicopter with a netgun. Thankfully, we’re not the ones that are flying for captures– we hire professionals for that. We conduct captures in the fall and this past November we captured and collared 100 animals across eight populations. It is a team effort and certainly a lot of work. I think some folks hear about the captures and think, ‘Why capture wild animals?’ But in fact, the work we do with captures provides the majority of the data we have to help protect these magnificent creatures.

“What is it you like about bighorn sheep?

“They completely captivate me. I am aware of very few species that are experts of such extreme environments. Within California, there are desert bighorn that live above 14,000 feet and navigate snow in the wintertime. A hundred miles to the south, there are animals in Death Valley that are living below sea level and are experiencing temperatures of over 125 degrees in the summer. When you track these animals and spend time in the landscapes in which they flourish, you can’t help but respect them. They are also one of the most graceful animals I have ever seen — watching them move with ease, at top speed up mountain sides is stunningly impressive.”

More here.

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Too Many Urchins

Photo: Talia Herman/Guardian.
A purple sea urchin with roe inside.

In her graphic memoir of her childhood in 1970s China, Na Liu recalls a time that comrades were told to kill sparrows because they were eating crops. The leaders went too far because in eliminating the birds, they let insects take over, and famine followed.

In today’s story, the public is asked to eat the invasive purple sea urchins that are damaging California’s kelp forests. If we are wise, we’ll learn from others’ experience and stop before we have eaten them all. Right now, that’s a long time ahead.

Vivian Ho writes at the Guardian that purple sea urchins “have become a major headache for the Pacific west coast. Their population has exploded by 10,000% since 2014, with scientists blaming the decline of sea otter and starfish populations – two of the urchin’s natural predators.

“Hundreds of millions of purple sea urchins now blanket the coast from Baja to Alaska, where they have been devouring the region’s vital kelp forests, doing untold damage to the marine ecosystem in the process.In California, it is estimated that 95% of the kelp forests, which serve as both shelter and food to a wide range of marine life, has been decimated and replaced by so-called ‘urchin barrens‘ – vast carpets of spiked purple orbs along the ocean floor.

“That’s why marine biologists and chefs have teamed up to release a new predator into their natural environment: me. Or, to be exact, me and all of you. There’s been a push for years to get the public to eat more sea urchin as a way to help curb the population and recover the kelp forests.

“It shouldn’t have been a hard sell. Sea urchin, or uni in the sushi world, is considered a delicacy in the fine dining circles. ‘The two main descriptors I would use are sweet and briny, similar to an oyster, similar to a clam,’ said culinary scientist Ali Bouzari. … ‘The texture is very creamy. It’s very similar to room-temperature butter.’

“During the pandemic, however, fine dining has been harder to come by. And the retail costs, which range from $9 to $12 per urchin at your local fishmonger, isn’t something every home cook can justify.

“But what Bouzari, co-founder of culinary research and development company Pilot R&D, has been pushing for the last few years is that sea urchin cuisine doesn’t have to be particularly precious or expensive. You can have it served on a half shell, topped with espresso-cream whipped potatoes and caviar – as they do at Michelin-star restaurant SingleThread in Healdsburg – or you can sauté it with some onion, sausage and day-old rice and make a dirty rice, one of Bouzari’s favorite recipes. And anyone with access to the coast can have sea urchin dirty rice on a dirty rice budget. …

“[One day] I stood on the beach of Timber Cove in Jenner, California, waiting as Bouzari and his friend Justin Ang, a Pilot R&D product manager, paddled up to shore atop some surfboards. They had spent the morning spearfishing. … But you don’t need a wetsuit or fancy gear to harvest sea urchin, he explained. Anytime at low tide on the edges of a cove, urchin – an intertidal species – should become visible. …

“Sea urchins are essentially a ball of hard purple spikes containing five egg sacs, which is what we eat – in the culinary world, they’re described as the tongues, the roe, the uni. …

“The sea urchin came loose when I twisted it like a doorknob. The triumph of my first harvest overtook any lingering sensations of pain from gripping its prickly spines. Still, I’d recommend gloves.

“I had brought some salted sourdough toast from San Francisco, and Bouzari quickly scooped a fat, golden tongue out of the hardened purple spikes to lay on to the olive-oiled surface. I had enjoyed uni before at sushi restaurants, but never tasted anything quite like the briny creaminess of sea urchin fresh from the ocean, on toast warmed in the California sun. That one bite felt like a calm summer day, floating on a boat in the water. …

“Bouzari showed me a move where he cut the urchin in half elegantly so that you could use the shell as a bowl or a candle holder after removing the roe. I had not mastered that. Instead, I cut the urchin jagged down the middle, at times just using my hands to rip it apart, sending spines flying on to the floor and into my sink.”

Read more at the Guardian, here, about helping the environment by eating this delicacy.

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Photo: CNN
Sy Newson Green, center, attended a book club at California’s Soledad State Prison while he was a student at nearby Palma School. Jason Bryant, right in blue shirt, is one of the inmates who led the fundraising for Newson Green’s tuition at the Catholic school.

Just to remind you on the day after the Capitol invasion* that good people are still in the majority around these parts, I offer a recent story from California. It’s about prison inmates who received kindness from a local school and found an impressive way to give back. And since the story is about people in prison for serious crimes, it’s also about redemption.

As Lauren Kent at CNN reported in November, “It’s hard to imagine two more different places than an elite private school and California’s Soledad State Prison, which houses the state’s largest concentration of men sentenced to life behind bars.

“But for the past seven years, the two worlds have collided in an unusual way: through a book club. Palma School, a prep school for boys in Salinas, California, created a partnership with the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) at Soledad State Prison to form a reading group for inmates and high school students — bringing the two groups together to learn and develop greater understanding of one another.

“But the reading group has developed into much more than an exchange of knowledge and empathy. When one Palma student was struggling to pay the $1,200 monthly tuition after both his parents suffered medical emergencies, the inmates already had a plan to help.

‘I didn’t believe it at first,’ said English and Theology teacher Jim Michelleti, who created the reading program. ‘They said, “We value you guys coming in. We’d like to do something for your school … can you find us a student on campus who needs some money to attend Palma?” ‘

“The inmates, who the program calls ‘brothers in blue,’ raised more than $30,000 from inside the prison to create a scholarship for student Sy Green — helping him graduate this year and attend college at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.’Regardless of the poor choices that people make, most people want to take part in something good,’ said Jason Bryant, a former inmate who was instrumental in launching the scholarship. ‘Guys were eager to do it.’

“Bryant served 20 years for armed robberies in which one victim was fatally shot by an accomplice. But while inside Soledad State Prison, he made a daily effort to turn his life around, earning his bachelor’s degree and two masters and running leadership training programs for inmates. ‘I’m never far from the reality that I committed a crime in 1999 that devastated a family — several families — and irreparably harmed my community,’ Bryant said. ‘I keep that close to my heart, and I would hope that people can identify the power of forgiveness and the probability of restoration when people put belief in each other.’

“Bryant’s sentence was commuted in March due to his contributions in restorative work while he was in prison. He now works as the Director for Restorative Work at an organization called Creating Restorative Opportunities and Programs (CROP), which helps equip formerly incarcerated people with tools like skills training and stable housing in order to succeed in their communities. …

“Hundreds of incarcerated men jumped at the opportunity to make a heavy, meaningful investment in someone else’s life. Considering that minimum wage in prison can be as low as 8 cents an hour, raising $30,000 is an astonishing feat. It can take a full day of hard labor to make a dollar inside prison. … Some brothers in blue who had no money to donate even hustled to sell possessions or food so they could be a part of the campaign. …

“Sy and his family started making visits to the prison in addition to taking part in the Palma reading group. He and his family have embraced building relationships with many of the bothers in blue, and four former inmates even attended his high school graduation. …

“The inmates also plan to continue the scholarship program for another student in need. With the help of inmate leadership groups and the CROP organization, they want to keep paying it forward. … Said Bryant. ‘If more people just decided to do good things, this world would be a better palace.’ “

More at CNN, here.

* In the first version of this post, I said the Capitol invasion Wednesday was a first in American history. I stand corrected.

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041219-West-Side-Community-Garden

A community garden in New York City.

I’ve been thinking lately how nice it would be if we could get most of our produce from the garden. My husband has provided lettuce this summer and blueberries and tomatoes. Potatoes are coming along. But I do envy people who don’t have to shop for produce at all.

Earle sent this piece from a California organization called LandPaths about how community gardens have gained importance during the pandemic.

“When LandPaths broke ground at Bayer Farm in 2007 and kids from the neighborhood began planting seeds on a neglected plot of land in Roseland, we knew something special was happening. It was obvious in the potlucks that sprung up, followed by cactus, sunflowers, greens, and chickens. It was obvious from the smiles on children’s faces as they traipsed through the garden learning about beneficial insects and compost during IOOBY [In Our Own Back Yard] field trips. It was obvious from the joy and belonging on the faces of neighbors who soon claimed their very own community garden plots, where they were able to grow fresh, culturally relevant, chemical-free food.

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact Sonoma County (particularly the Latinx community, which has suffered high rates of the virus due to inequality and dependence on their labor as essential/frontline workers), the value of our community teaching gardens to the physical and mental health of the communities surrounding Bayer Farm and Andy’s Unity Park (AUP) in southwest Santa Rosa has never been more apparent. …

“When County Health Officials first announced orders to close parklands, our staff struggled to figure out a way to allow access to the gardens without compromising safety protocols. New Audiences Manager Omar Gallardo worked with officials from the City of Santa Rosa and County of Sonoma Regional Parks to come up with a plan that would allow the gardeners at Bayer Farm and AUP community garden to continue accessing their plots.

At both locations, this looks like allowing only a specific amount of people to work in the gardens at any given time. Masks and six-feet of social distancing, outside of family groups, were required at all times. …

“The collaboration and ongoing communication with city and county officials and resulting distancing restrictions similar to those in place at grocery stores allowed the gardens to reopen on a limited basis during the second week of shelter-in-place orders. Financial support for on-site staff through funding from the City of Santa Rosa’s Measure O also made this possible.

“The response from the community shows us that this was the right move. On any given day during the pandemic, 17 to 40 people have come to the garden to harvest food throughout the day. …

“LandPaths has also worked throughout the summer with Redwood Empire Food Bank, the City of Santa Rosa, and Sonoma County Regional Parks to continue our free summer lunch program at both gardens. The free summer lunch program is a chance for parents and guardians to pick up free lunches for any kids under the age of 18. …

“In mid-June, at a time when Sonoma County residents that identify as Latinx or Hispanic accounted for 75 percent of the Covid-19 cases, LandPaths hosted residents from UCSF/Sutter Hospital at Bayer Farm. Led by Dr. Michael Valdovinos, the residents and staff from St Joseph health provided information with Spanish translation on the coronavirus, answered questions, and left resources for participants from Roseland. The North Bay Organizing Project provided free masks. …

“Says Omar, ‘Aside from food access, it is a place of healing and mental well-being. People speak of their connection to the land and their connection to what is grown here. A whole generation of youth [have] grown-up in the garden. These cross-generational interactions give the youth a sense of meaning, especially now that they see their parents depending on the garden in another time of community crisis.’ ”

More at LandPaths, here.

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5eafcde1-2bda-48dc-8168-08c7813ab232-mining_lead_in_santa_ana_riverbed_3

Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun.
A large net at the Redlands Shooting Park is designed to stop lead shot from getting into the adjacent Santa Ana River, but shot often gets through.

Today I’m sharing an interesting article that Earle Cummings sent back in March, right before I began focusing on Covid stories. It’s about lead pollution at a firing range in the desert. We know about lead pollution in pre-1978 house paint and in the water of Flint, Michigan, where some children from poor families suffer from permanent damage.

But there’s also lead pollution from bullets, which can be especially dangerous near a river. Mark Olalde reported on the issue for the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

“Shrapnel from ricocheting bullets hits Kenny Graham about four times a day. At this point, he just accepts it as part of his job.

“As he rolled a cigarette and talked, a piece of flying metal banged viciously off a mechanical contraption with holes in it used to separate sand and rocks, not two feet from Graham’s unprotected hands. ‘There goes a pellet right there,’ he said deadpan, seated in the dry, sandy Santa Ana River in Redlands. …

“Graham — who said he is experiencing homelessness, working through a divorce and otherwise unemployed — makes money by mining and recycling lead buckshot and bullet fragments that escape from the adjacent Redlands Shooting Park. …

“The park has hosted sport shooters since the mid-1960s, but the business did little to stop lead, which is toxic to humans and wildlife, from entering the ephemeral waterway until 2013. Even now, pieces of bullets appear to find their way into this dry portion of the river where they can flow downstream when it rains.

“For much of its history, the site fell through the cracks among various regulatory bodies tasked with guarding the environment and public health. In their absence, a small-scale mining economy has sprung up in the legally protected river.

“While many people in need of steady work scour garbage bins for recyclable aluminum cans, glass bottles or plastic containers, Graham and a small cadre of compatriots spend their days pulling bullet fragments from the ground. They sell the lead at a nearby recycling center for 40 cents a pound. …

Graham said, ‘It’s not much money, but I get a sense of peace knowing that I possibly can help somebody.’

“Graham said he can’t afford personal protective equipment but knows that lead is a heavy metal that’s toxic to humans. Although lead’s health consequences are more dire in children, the metal can cause cardiovascular and kidney problems, damage to cognitive functions and reproductive issues in adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. …

“Documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that decades of errant bullets had contaminated 42 acres of the waterway, including habitat for several federally listed endangered species. … The business no longer tries to recover lead from the riverbed. …

” ‘It’s the sporting of the rich man, but it’s the poor cleaning up,’ observed Tommy Lu, who runs an efficient-looking operation just downstream of Graham. …

“Against the backdrop of the regular report of gunfire, he laid a tarp down, scraped his shovel against the wall in his pit and watched sand, rocks and metal shower down. Next, he poured the mixture over a perforated metal sheet on a contraption he built to separate out rock. An orange extension cord attached to it snaked out of the hole and under the hood of his dusty Lexus SUV parked nearby to provide electricity.

“Lu turned on the machine, and it began to rattle noisily, sifting out pebbles. The final step, he said, would be to set up a fan and pour the remaining mixture across the stream of air, blowing away the lighter sand while collecting the lead.

“It’s not a place to get rich, but the labor does bring a consistent payday. If he works long hours, Lu said he can sometimes make more than $100 in a day. ..

“Every so often, a sound like the crackle of dying fireworks signaled material showering against the netting. Lu, like Graham, said he gets hit several times a day, comparing the feeling to a rubber band unexpectedly snapping on the back of his neck.

“Most of the miners’ holes dug in the riverbed are covered by tarps and fabric held up by mismatched tent poles. The lean-tos are meant to protect them against the hot sun and stinging pellets.

“Lu joked that he would mine into someone else’s pit if they didn’t move fast enough, but he said the group digging in the river is otherwise peaceful. …

“Carl Baker, a spokesperson for the city of Redlands, said via email that the Redlands Police Department does not usually arrest anyone for mining lead there, but the department is aware that ‘illegal scavenging’ is ongoing. …

“But if Graham and Lu are breaking the law, whose job is it to force them to stop, let alone to clean up the river, to protect community health and to ensure that Redlands Shooting Park keeps its shot curtain in good condition? …

“Calls and emails to the EPA, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, the county’s public works department, the California Natural Resources Agency, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Redlands Fire Department, the county fire department and the Department of Toxic Substances Control did not turn up a lead agency checking on the situation. …

” ‘I’ve never seen anyone take a mineral sample,’ said Graham, who said he lives at the site and has worked there nearly a year. …

“Robert Wise, an EPA employee assigned to act as the on-scene coordinator, called off further reclamation [September 2013], saying that it would do more damage than good to the important habitat. … ‘Wise made the determination that no further cleanup of the lead in the River/Preserve is warranted. Over time, the illegal scavenging operations will remove the lead currently present in the River/Preserve,’ according to an EPA report on the matter. …

“Even though [Graham is] saving up to buy Lu’s old car, he’s adamant that his main rationale for scavenging is to protect public health and the environment.

” ‘It’s not fair for people to get unknowingly sick because of someone else’s extracurricular carelessness,’ he said.” More at the Desert Sun, here.

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cali_wwfus

Photo: Julia Kurnik, World Wildlife Fund
WWFUS hopes that a research-based pilot project could identify the best crops to grow in the mid-delta Mississippi region as climate change forces California to reconsider what it should grow
.

As changes in weather patterns damage agriculture in California, scientists are wondering if the Mississippi Delta could pick up the slack. The potential benefits of moving some farming to Mississippi include employment, better distribution systems, and less waste.

Radio show Living on Earth says,”Droughts and extreme weather are already taking a toll on the produce grown in the Central Valley of California. Now researchers from the World Wildlife Fund have found that the mid-Delta region of the Mississippi River, where rich soils currently mostly grow commodity crops like rice, corn, and soybeans, is ripe for growing more specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables.

“Jason Clay of WWF spoke with Host Steve Curwood about how the types of crops now grown in California could also be grown in the Mississippi mid-Delta region to enhance climate resilience and address poverty, food waste and food insecurity in America’s Heartland.

“CURWOOD: When you take a juicy bite out of a honeydew melon or chomp down on a handful of almonds, chances are that food came from the central valley of California. This region has perhaps the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, with abundant sunlight and no winter snow. But as the climate has changed, the flow of water from the Sierra Mountains has become less reliable. There have also been more heat waves and choking smoke from wildfires. So scientists and economists from the World Wildlife fund [say] the Mid-Mississippi river delta region is ripe for a switch from commodity crops such as cotton, rice and soy, to more high value specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables. …

“So how did you get into this study of farming and food?

“CLAY: I actually grew up on a farm, a very small farm in northern Missouri. And we lived on less than $1 a day. And so, as you might imagine, I couldn’t get away from farming fast enough. But everything I’ve done in my life has kind of led me back to farming. And about 20 years ago or so I started to work with WWF and convince them that, in fact, the biggest threat to the planet to biodiversity to ecosystem services is where and how we produce food. And from that point on, we begin to develop a program around agriculture, around livestock, around aquaculture, seafood. …

“CURWOOD: So Jason, what’s the importance of California to our food systems?

“CLAY: For the last hundred years or so California has become the major source of the fresh food that we eat. About a third of all vegetables about two thirds of the fruits and nuts all come from California. So, almonds and pistachios and things like that, but also cling peaches and olives and Kiwi and honeydew. California is just very important to the food system. 100 years ago it wasn’t, but it is today. …

“CURWOOD: What are some of the risks to this system? Looking ahead?

“CLAY: Well, it’s actually not even looking ahead. We’re already seeing that California is being affected by droughts, by fires, by freezes late in the spring, [also] by winters that are too warm to actually allow the fruit trees to bloom well and [we’re seeing] below normal snowfall in the mountains. And then in the summer, the snow melts too fast so that we don’t have enough water all year round to irrigate the crops. We’re losing at least the last of four crops and maybe the last two, depending on where you are. …

“CURWOOD: So I understand that you and your colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund have just released a report that identifies the potential of the Mississippi River mid-Delta region, that’s near Memphis, as I understand it, as perhaps an agricultural engine for fruits and vegetables. You’re calling it the Next California plan. …

“CLAY: Could we actually begin to shift production in a logical, organized way into this region without major disruptions in the food system? Because if we can anticipate this change, we can can make it happen much more smoothly, much more efficiently and a lot cheaper. …

“Fruit trees, for example, which require cold winters, are perfect for this area. In fact, they’re better than in California. There’s also the fact that in this region, there’s a lot of poverty, a lot of unemployment. …

“We’re probably going to get back to a much more distributed food system with the impacts of climate change. [One] of the things that struck me about farming in the Midwest is that most of the farming areas are actually food deserts. …

“They don’t have access to fresh food all year round. And this is no exception. In fact, people in the mid-Delta region are like number 49 or 50, in terms of [eating] fresh fruits and fresh vegetables.

“CURWOOD: Jason, some folks point out that we waste about 1/3 of our food. …

“CLAY: What the Next California does is reduce the transportation involved in food. It increases the quality of food on the shelf by having it more local. [We] can really take advantage of how close this region is to Chicago and St. Louis and Kansas City and New Orleans and [through] the intercoastal canal up to the East Coast. And so those things all should reduce food waste.”

More here.

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Photo: Tony Avelar/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
The secret pop-up food bank for indigenous farmworkers in Santa Cruz County is promoted by word of mouth. A typical farmworker here lives under the poverty line and has few protections from unjust practices.

As we were saying, a living wage is preferable to charity. But for some people, charity is the only hope. Consider the farmworkers in this story.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “The early winter storms gathering in the Pacific bring welcome rains to California’s tinder-dry landscape. But for farmworkers picking strawberries for less than minimum wage, the rains signal the end of the harvest season and regular work, and deliver a downpour of hunger and worry.

“That’s why about 170 indigenous Mexican women from Oaxaca line up for hours in an alley to obtain sacks of produce, diapers, and other essentials from a secret food bank once a month. For those who spend grueling days harvesting America’s bounty, this surreptitious pop-up – organized solely by word of mouth – provides a safe place for accessing free, nutritious food and supplies without fear of deportation. …

“[Watsonville] is home to some of the country’s most vulnerable – the thousands of indigenous farmworkers in California, an unknown number of unauthorized residents, who live in severely substandard conditions and speak a variety of pre-Columbian languages rather than English or Spanish.

“The stealth food operation … is organized by Ann López, in conjunction with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. An emerita professor, ‘Dr. Ann’ as she is known, started a nonprofit called the Center for Farmworker Families after interviewing numerous agricultural laborers for her Ph.D. dissertation.

‘There was a family with four little girls crying for food,’ she recalls. ‘I opened the refrigerator and they had a head of lettuce, one third of a gallon of milk, and two Jell-O cups. That was it. What I found was a population inordinately poor and suffering.’

“Ernestina Solorio, who has legal status to work in the U.S., spends 10 hours a day, six days a week in the fields during the season. Strawberries are among the most labor-intensive crops, known as la fruta del diablo, or the devil’s fruit, for the hours it takes hunched over low-to-the-ground berries to pluck them without bruising.

“Ms. Solorio earns $20,000 in a good year, well above average for a farmworker but also well under the federal poverty rate for Ms. Solorio’s family of four children. … The math is grim: about $200 a month after rent to pay for everything else.

” ‘The work won’t pick up again until mid-April, depending on the weather,’ Ms. Solorio explains. ‘That’s why so many of us are stressed.’

“From a makeshift staging area in a garage, her compatriots file past tables piled high with diapers, laundry detergent, and toilet tissue, all while juggling toddlers in pajamas and babies nestled in blankets or shawl rebozos (traditional baby carriers).

“Some dig through piles of donated clothes before moving on to the main event – repurposed onion bags heavy with sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, kale, and other fresh vegetables and smaller white plastic bags filled with rice, lentils, and canned goods from the USDA. Strollers double as grocery carts. …

“ ‘You would never see this concentration of Oaxacans,’ says Ms. López, dressed for the season in a bright red sweater and snowman earrings. ‘They are always hiding in the fields or their apartments.’  …

“A monthly phone tree alerts people to the food bank’s hidden locale. ‘I never dreamed it would expand to the whole community,’ says Dominga, who is an unauthorized resident and fears for her family’s safety. …

“Her landlord refuses to provide a rent receipt, and a friend who was recently evicted similarly had no paper trail. Dominga worries the same thing could happen to her own family. [And according to Gretchen Regenhardt, regional directing attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance,] wage theft – not paying overtime, making people work beyond the clock, or under-recording hours worked – is common. …

“The underground food bank joins 30 established food distribution sites scattered around Watsonville at churches, health clinics, and charities. A hefty portion of the vegetables come from local farms and packing houses, much of it privately donated, says Willy Elliott-McCrea, CEO of Second Harvest Watsonville. …

“For the holidays, a local church [gathered] up coats and shoes while the Friends of Farmworker Families, which depends largely on private donations, supplies the toys. But for those patiently waiting, the most important gift is having enough food to tide the family over.” More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

If anyone knows of a way to ensure that the fruits and vegetables I buy are picked by farmworkers who are being treated fairly, I’d sure like to know what it is. Is there some kind of label farms can earn? Send it along.

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Photo: Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District
Some California dairy farmers, concerned about their farms’ effect on global warming,
are working on long-term carbon sequestration.

My recent post “Farmers Turning Waste to Energy” described an effort to combine food waste with cow manure and convert methane gas to electricity. But as Earle noted in Comments, burning methane ultimately means more global warming. He recommended helping farmers put carbon back in the ground in ways that also improve the farm’s bottom line. It’s happening in California.

I went online and found this report at the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD) website.

“As much as one-third of the surplus CO2 in the atmosphere driving climate change has resulted from land management practices on agricultural lands.

Carbon farming, an array of strategies designed to promote long-term carbon sequestration, holds the potential to significantly reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases by capturing carbon in the soil and plant material, while enhancing soil health and productivity.

“The RCD and its LandSmart partners are working to develop a carbon planning component to the comprehensive conservation plans developed through the LandSmart program, identifying practices that would … provide multiple benefits for climate change resiliency, by reducing atmospheric CO2 levels while improving soil health, water holding capacity, and crop and forage production. …

“Practices such as hedgerows and windbreaks [also] work to both sequester CO2 while enhancing on-farm wildlife and pollinator habitat. …

“With the use of a wide variety of beneficial practices, Sonoma County farmers have the ability to reach our County’s goal for greenhouse gas reductions. … In the words of our Executive Director, Brittany Jensen, carbon farming is a regional tactic to address a global problem.

“ ‘By helping farmers make carbon farming a part of their daily operations, we have the opportunity to work on a global problem – climate change – and make a local difference.’ …

“The Ocean Breeze Dairy has been operated by the producer Jarrid Bordessa, a fifth-generation dairy operator, since 2003. In those last 16 years, his business model has shifted to grass-fed, certified organic milk production, and he is the right place to do just that. The Valley Ford dairy covers 310 acres of coastal grassland and over 4,500 feet of perennial stream.

“In the 2018 annual newsletter, we shared an article about Ocean Breeze Dairy, their distributor, Organic Valley, the Carbon Cycle Institute and the RCD developed a Carbon Farm Plan for the property, identifying opportunities to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, the RCD was successful in securing a California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program Demonstration Project to implement two of the practices identified in the plan and to engage with local farmers and ranchers through public workshops.

“The two practices being implemented are the application of compost and the restoration of riparian habitat along lower Ebabias Creek, the primary tributary of Americano Creek, whose watershed estuary, the Estero Americano, drains into Bodega Bay and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Considered one of California’s most unique coastal wetland types, the Estero Americano contains a diverse assemblage of wetland communities and estuarine habitats.”

Read more here.

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Goats to the Rescue

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Photo: Phil Klein
Goat farmer Bob Blanchard tends to his flock above Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Avila Beach, California.

Can you take another story about goats as lawnmowers? (Click for an example.) Today’s update shows how goats are not only a good way to cut your grass but are an important wildfire-fighting tool.

Susie Cagle writes at the Guardian, “As the western US braces for another wildfire season, following its most devastating on record, public officials and private landowners are turning to an unlikely, rustic tool to manage increasingly incendiary lands. Goats.

“They’re currently munching away at summer-dried, fire-ready grasses in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada and across California. In some places that outlaw livestock within city limits, officials have even changed local ordinances. …

“In California, where wildfires have long been a threat, goats have worked for decades to protect coastal communities from creeping conflagrations. But worsening, deadly fire seasons across western US have inspired more communities to try managing their lands not with machines and chemicals, but with hungry animals.

“More extreme, climate-changed weather cycles could make fuel management a more important part of wildfire mitigation, as more intense rainy seasons lead to huge spring sprouts in grasslands, that are in turn dried out in the hotter, drier summer sun. …

“ ‘There’s a lot more awareness just because of the horrific fires we’ve had lately,’ said [Mike] Canaday, who runs a company called Living Systems Land Management. ‘If people want goats, the sooner they can get on somebody’s waiting list, the better.’

“He believes goats are a superior form of fuel management, more sustainable and less risky than herbicides or fuel-powered mowers. ‘And they’re a lot more fun to watch than people with weed eaters.’

“Grazing goats are far from the newest wildfire prevention tool, but they have a comparably tiny footprint. They’re efficient, clean eaters, nibbling away at weeds and grasses and leaving far less damage than an herbicide. They’re nimble climbers, able to scamper up steep flammable hillsides and into narrow canyons that humans would struggle to reach. They’re impervious to poison oak, and they don’t disrupt natural ecosystems or scare away indigenous animals. Where conspicuously carved fire breaks on verdant hillsides might upset homeowners, goats are welcome seasonal cuteness.

“In its 2019 wildfire safety report, released in July, [Laguna Beach] officials estimated a human crew costs roughly $28,000 to clear an acre, while a goat crew costs an average of $500. …

“The west cannot survive on goats alone, in part because of the limited labor pool, and in part because fuel management isn’t enough to abate wildfire impacts. Goats are effective, but they can’t do anything about flammable wood shingle roofs or cedar siding on ageing buildings that are not subject to new fire safety codes.

“ ‘We have a lot of tools in the toolbox,’ said [fire marshall Jim] Brown. And when it comes to clearing the fuel that could send flames rushing toward those old, flammable homes, ‘the goats are just the best tool we have in the toolbox to do that – there’s just nothing better.’ ”

More here.

Speaking of goats, I happened to run into one today at the library. The young lady with the leash told me that the goat’s name is Hermione.

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Photo: John Francis Peters/The Guardian
The super bloom of wildflowers in tiny Borrego Springs, California, is wonderful to behold. Good planning is ensuring that the chaos of 200,000 visitors in March 2017 is not being repeated.

My friend Kristina is headed off to a family reunion in the Southwest, and she’s excited that she’ll be there when the desert is in bloom. Have you ever seen that amazing phenomenon? It doesn’t happen every year. You need just the right amount of rain at just the right time.

Katharine Gammon writes at the Guardian, “It’s lunchtime at Kesling’s Kitchen in Borrego Springs, and the line is out the door and down the block. It takes about 20 minutes to get inside to order food. The rush isn’t surprising: Borrego Springs is a small town that swells in size when people flock to see wildflowers around Anza-Borrego, California’s largest state park.

“Plentiful winter rain and precise conditions have led to a bonanza of spring wildflowers this season. And while that can be a great thing, it also raised fears that Borrego Springs could once again face what locals have dubbed ‘flowergeddon.’ …

“The last time the region experienced a wildflower bloom was March 2017, when some 200,000 visitors flocked to the super bloom. … Borrego Springs (population 3,000) was unprepared for the avalanche of visitors coming from nearby Los Angeles, San Diego and even farther afield. The town ran out of food, hotel rooms, gas, and money in the ATMs. Traffic backed up for 20 miles; restaurant employees quit on the spot. When bathrooms filled up, visitors began using the fields to relieve themselves. …

“This year, the town wanted to be prepared. [An] all-community committee has been meeting regularly for months, since the winter rains foretold a bountiful flower year. They established a website with downloadable maps, manned information booths, and set up port-a-potties in Borrego Springs and near the flower areas. ‘This year, we are prepared and our restaurants stocked up – as are the gas stations and ATMs,’ [says Betsy Knaak, the executive director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association].’ …

“The early rains made it easier to predict that the bloom was coming, and it looks set to last over a longer period, meaning that even busy weekends don’t feel as packed with people. On a recent Sunday cars lined the road but there was no crush of people on the trails or in the flowers. Still, hotel rooms in Borrego Springs and nearby Julian were fully booked for two weekends straight. …

“This year, an extraordinary proliferation of painted lady butterflies and sphinx moth caterpillars are part of the natural spectacle too. The butterflies are the result of a phenomenon known as an ‘irruption’ – the strong rains brought a population explosion, a billion strong, in northern Mexico.” Read more at the Guardian, here.

In Massachusetts, we are feeling spring in the air, but the huge snow piles in the supermarket parking lots tell us we have a way to go before seeing an array wildflowers like those in California.

 

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Photo: Thomas Turner/Reuters
This hoodwinker sunfish, a species discovered only in 2017, has washed up on a California beach. Scientists believe it belongs in the Southern Hemisphere.

As much as I love learning about new species like this giant sunfish from the Southern Hemisphere, I can’t help feeling concerned that it ended up on a beach where it doesn’t belong. Is this another sign of global warming? Not likely. This fish likes temperate water and would have had to pass the hot Equator. A mystery.

Christina Zdanowicz has the story at CNN. “This is the extraordinary tale of how a massive, strange-looking fish wound up on a beach on the other side of the world from where it lives. The seven-foot fish washed up at UC Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point Reserve in Southern California [in February]. Researchers first thought it was a similar and more common species of sunfish — until someone posted photos on a nature site and experts weighed in. …

“It turned out to be a species never seen before in North America. It’s called the hoodwinker sunfish.

‘When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt. This is totally a hoodwinker,’ said Marianne Nyegaard, a marine scientist who discovered the species in 2017. ‘I couldn’t believe it. I nearly fell out of my chair.’

“Nyegaard … works in the marine division at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand. … ‘We know it has the temperate distribution around here and off the coast of Chile, but then how did it cross the equator and turn up by you guys?’ …

“An intern at Coal Oil Point Reserve alerted conservation specialist Jessica Nielsen to the dead beached sunfish on February 19. When Nielsen first saw it, the unusual features of the fish caught her eye.

” ‘This is certainly the most remarkable organism I have seen wash up on the beach in my four years at the reserve,’ Nielsen said in a UC Santa Barbara press release. She posted some photos of the fish on the reserve’s Facebook page. When colleague Thomas Turner saw the photos later that day, he rushed to the beach with his wife and young son. …

“He snapped some photos of what he thought was an ocean sunfish, a rare sight up-close, he said.

” ‘It’s the most unusual fish you’ve ever seen,’ said the UC Santa Barbara associate professor.

‘It has no tail. All of its teeth are fused, so it doesn’t have any teeth. It’s just got this big round opening for a mouth.’

“Turner posted his photos on iNaturalist, a site where people post photos and sightings of plants and animals. A fish biologist commented and alerted Ralph Foster, a fish scientist and the fish curator at the South Australian Museum.

“It was Foster who first said this may be a hoodwinker sunfish and not an ocean sunfish in the comments on iNaturalist. …

“Foster excitedly emailed Nyegaard, the woman who discovered the species, and told her what he was thinking. …

“It had been two days since Nielsen had first seen the fish. When Turner and Nielsen went back to the beach [to get sharper photos], the creature was no longer there.

“They started two miles apart from each other on the beach and kept looking, walking toward each other until they found the missing fish. It had refloated on the tide and washed up a few hundred yards away, Turner said. …

“All of the features in the photos matched up with the hoodwinker. When Nyegaard saw the photos, she knew she had a hoodwinker case on her hands. …

“Both Nyegaard and Turner marveled at how social media and the iNaturalist site can help bring researchers closer to an answer. …

“Turner said it was exciting for him to help identify the first recorded sighting of a hoodwinker sunfish in North America — and only the second in the Northern Hemisphere.

” ‘I’m a professor, I’m a biologist but I didn’t actually know what was special about this fish,’ Turner said. ‘I just posted a picture and that connected me with the world’s expert and the discoverer of the species.’ ”

Super photos at CNN, here.

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Photo: Monica LeRossignol
After a devastating wildfire, Bob Wilson, a Southern California real estate developer, gave $1,000 to each of Paradise High School’s 982 students and 105 employees. He is pictured here with student Trevor
LeRossignol.

Compassionate people pop up everywhere. I try to keep my attention focused on that as much as possible. In this example, a wealthy developer was moved to put money behind his compassion after the devastation of the 2018 wildfires in Paradise, California.

In November, Brianna Sacks wrote at BuzzFeed News, “Monica LeRossignol and her son are still stunned by the freshly printed $1,000 check, a gesture that’s brightened the difficult, surreal reality of rebuilding their lives after losing their home and most of their community in Paradise, California.

“On Tuesday night, her 17-year-old son, Trevor LeRossignol, and hundreds of other students, parents, and faculty members from Paradise High School gathered at Chico High School, as they have every week since the Camp fire leveled their town, to catch up, give hugs, rifle through donations, and eat some warm food. But this gathering had a major bonus.

“Bob Wilson, a Southern California real estate developer, was there giving out $1,000 to each of Paradise High School’s 982 students and 105 employees, totaling about $1.1 million in donations.

” ‘I gave him a hug,’ LeRossignol said. … Like thousands of others, the 46-year-old lost everything in the catastrophic wildfire, which has killed 88 people, torched more than 153,000 acres, and destroyed 14,000 homes. The mother, her son, fiancé, two nephews, and six other family members fled for their lives and are now crammed into two bedrooms at a friend’s house in the nearby city of Chico. …

“A few weeks earlier, as the Camp fire continued to burn around Paradise, Wilson came across a story in the Los Angeles Times about the students of Paradise, most of whom lost their homes. It delved into the uncertainty facing Paradise Unified School District and its class of seniors who were readying to graduate.

“The 89-year-old told BuzzFeed News that Paradise High School’s plight stuck with him, reminding him of his own ‘carefree’ days as a teenager. …

‘I made up my mind in five minutes,’ the businessman said Wednesday morning from Chico. ‘I had some of the most profound experiences in my life in high school because I was still able to be a kid, and it broke my heart to think of the experiences these kids were missing.’ …

“About two weeks later, Wilson was flitting between about 10 tables set up inside Chico High’s hallways, handing out envelopes containing a letter and personal check addressed to each student, teacher, and custodian, which he had personally stuffed from one of his offices in Los Angeles. …

” ‘It was a really unique, cool way to give,’ [Paradise High Principal Loren] Lighthall said of Wilson’s donation. ‘It’s been rough, especially for high schoolers who need their friends and there’s no way to get together.’ …

“Two days after the fire tore through their close-knit, rural California town, Lighthall, who has been principal for two years, started a GoFundMe for Paradise High, a ‘high-poverty”‘ school where 67% of students qualified for free lunch last year. Almost every one of the nearly 1,000 students lost their home and ‘everything they own,’ he said. …

“For now, Lighthall explained that their main goal is getting the kids their credits however they can. More at BuzzFeed, here.

By the way, it’s sad that BuzzFeed and other news outlets have had to lay off so many reporters lately, people who come up with good local stories like this one. The news model is changing nationwide and we need to pay for journalism in new ways. My husband and I pay to read the Boston Globe online, the New York Times, and the Guardian. I also have a membership in the investigative news site Talking Points Memo. Online ads are not enough to keep these vital services going.

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Photo: Moximox

After a year of waiting impatiently for summer, we always wanted to squeeze in every memorable summer activity we had ever done: crabbing, seining with a net, riding waves, building sand castles, walking to the Sunken Forest, digging for mole crabs, painting shells and selling them outside the house (what my father called teasingly “gypping the public”), roasting marshmallows at night. We did not want to miss one thing because we knew we’d have to wait a whole year for another chance. And in those days, a year seemed like an eternity.

One of the more iconic things I associate with summer is sea glass, and I recently was intrigued to learn from @chasonw on instagram that there was a place you could have the sea-glass experience any time of year. It’s called Glass Beach, and it’s at Fort Bragg, California. As pretty as sea glass is, you will not be surprised to learn that the abundance at Glass Beach is the result of years of dumping garbage.

From Wikipedia: “In 1906, Fort Bragg residents established an official water dump site behind the Union Lumber Company. … When [a second dump was] filled in 1949, the dump was moved north to what is now known as ‘Glass Beach,’ which remained an active dump site until 1967. …

“Over the next several decades, what was biodegradable in the dump sites simply degraded and all the metal and other items were eventually removed and sold as scrap or used in art. The pounding waves broke down the glass and pottery and tumbled those pieces into the small, smooth, colored pieces that often become jewelry quality and that cover Glass Beach and the other two glass beaches. …

erysimummenziesiieurekPhoto: Gordon Leppig & Andrea J. Pickart
Menzie’s Wallflower, an endangered species that grows at Glass Beach in California.

“About 1,000 to 1,200 tourists visit Fort Bragg’s glass beaches each day in the summer. Most collect some glass. Because of this and also because of natural factors (wave action is constantly grinding down the glass), the glass is slowly diminishing. There is currently a movement by Captain J.H. (Cass) Forrington to replenish the beaches with discarded glass.”

If you saw yesterday’s post, you know that replenishing the beach would be hard. There is a shortage of glass everywhere. Sea glass is moving into a category closer to semiprecious stones than its embryonic form as trash.

More at Wikipedia, here.

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