Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Truth that Must NOT be Told

We all know about The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy. We've seen the pictures and the viral videos of Darth Vader militarized police pepper spraying unresisting protesters. defenseless Young girls, and 85 year-old women.

Noami Wolf reveals the underlying story of why the 1% are pressuring Homeland Security to stop the popular protests that threaten to reveal the truth:

"Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams."

It's bad enough that banks too big to fail monopolize Congress and have their way with their depositors. It's bad enough that corporations now have unlimited influence on national elections.

Now we learn that our "representatives" in Congress are using insider information to amass obscene profits from Wall Street. When they leave the hollow halls, they step through the revolving door right into lucrative lobbying deals where they make their way further up the 1% power pole.

The 99% have given up on elections, aware that a corrupt government cannot be changed by a corrupted political process. Unlimited economic influence has poisoned the well of democracy in the United States.

Two quotes by Thomas Jefferson come to mind:

"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."

"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grazing Through Climate Change

Tarplant in 2007
Today's article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Coastal panel staff back Arana Gulch plan, includes the following from the California Coastal Commission (CCC) Staff Report for the upcoming hearing on the Arana Gulch Master Plan:

"The report notes that tarplants in the former dairy site have dropped from 100,000 in the 1980s to 32 this year. The report cites the end of grazing, invasive species and "unmanaged public access" that led to unauthorized trails."

Tarplant numbers were not studied in the 1980s during grazing on Arana Gulch, therefore we have no baseline on which to compare current trends. A contributing factor that has not been studied is change in the timing and amount of precipitation in the area.

Tarplant in 2011
We have just come out of a multi-year drought and we are observing a significant change in precipitation patterns, for example, earlier rains in the fall/early winter season, and extended rains into late spring and early summer, in addition to increased precipitation in our normal winter rainy season. Tarplant numbers at the airport and Tarplant Hill in Watsonville, and in Twin Lakes State Park, have fluctuated in parallel with those of Arana Gulch, yet the other sites have not had large scale grazing that ended in 1989, coincident with declines in tarplant numbers. This would argue that some factor other than cessation of grazing is responsible for the decline in tarplant numbers at all of these sites.

It is more likely that the decline has as much to do with natural local climate variation as with changes in herbivory with the removal of dairy cattle from Arana Gulch.

The recent increase in tarplant individuals suggests that changes in precipitation patterns is a possible contributing factor to tarplant success or decline and would therefore influence the success of the City's plans for industrial scale grazing on Arana Gulch..

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Yes, the season continues to change. Yesterday the weather was sunny and warm, a splendid Fall day.

A lone walker enters the fog at the south end of Arana Gulch

 Today on Arana Gulch, thin tendrils of fog slipped silently among the oak leaves most of the day. There is a remarkable absence of birds about, very calm and still, all the normal sounds of the coastal prairie terrace are muted by the encompassing fog. Even the dogs and dog walkers are unusually still, wrapped in their own bit of mystery, carrying their quiet stories with them.

Arana Creek reflects the transition from fog to blue sky.

Down in the riparian habitat, Arana Creek slips softly among willow and looming eucalyptus. The rippling waters reflect a leaden sky, with wisps of blue around the edges. The reflective surface of the creek hides a world unseen by those restricted to open air. The wee creatures, plants and squirmy things that live in the creek look out in wonder at the empty spaces on the other side of the water surface. How could anything live out there with no water to breathe?

Willows give way to eucalyptus along the banks of Arana Creek.

Occasionally, a ray of sunshine breaks through, illuminating a lone willow, shining clear and golden bright against the darker forest backdrop. The fog thins, begins to lift, to pull back beyond the beach, where it waits patiently for its return in the dark of the night.

Two 8 to 12 foot wide paved bicycle routes across this fairy landscape would change the magical scene forever from one of calm mystery to the everyday world of whizzing metal, demanding deadlines, noise and distraction, the very things we come to Arana Gulch to escape.

Click here to go the Friends of Arana Gulch website and sign the petition to remove the Broadway-Brommer Bicycle Connection project from the Arana Gulch Master Plan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seasonal Shifts on Arana Gulch

Thanks to Ma Nature, we've had gorgeous sunny weather on Arana Gulch this week, warming the soil, mixing with the great early rain we've had these past two seasons, getting those tarplant and Molina seeds ready to germinate after the winter rains.

The red-tailed hawk mother has had her children out practicing their soaring over the coastal prairie terraces, what's left of them at least. We hear their high, shrill cries every day, wafting down from the quiet, cloudless sky.

Now that the City has mowed the entire upper terrace, the wee beasties that live there have less cover to hide in, making their lives more perilous, but causing the predators to lick their lips in anticipation. Life goes on in balance.

The creatures of Arana Gulch pause briefly during this time between seasons, pulling the last whisps of warm air about their shoulders, stocking up on supplies to last through the coming rains, putting on some weight, bulking up on carbohydrates for the long wet and cold to come. The bushes are filled with golden crowned sparrows and SBJs (small brown jobbies), gobbling the ripened seeds, stocking up on warming oils from tar-weedy indigenous plants. Their chittering warbles fill the quiescent air.

Putting an industrial scale bike road through this quiet and contemplative habitat would change its character forever, slicing through this interdependent circle of life with a paved pathway for skirling skateboard noise and rushing bicycle wheels as they whiz by the interpretive displays without notice. A high speed bike road is incompatible with this designated Natural Area.

To put a stop to the City of Santa Cruz Broadway-Brommer Bicycle Pedestrian Connection project, visit Friends of Arana Gulch at and sign the petition to the California Coastal Commission to take the Broadway-Brommer project out of the Arana Gulch Master Plan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Plethora of Pathway Possibilities

It's official! We read in Street Smarts | Navigating Santa Cruz County that the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail (MBSST for acronym aficionados) will pass through Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties on the Rail Trail, now in process of negotiation by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC).

This is good news for everyone concerned with non-automotive transportation in Santa Cruz County, and good news as well for those of us concerned with preserving our natural, undeveloped sensitive habitats.

With the MBSST planned for the rail corridor just 1/4 mile from Arana Gulch, there is no longer any justification for building a paved bicycle connection through Arana Gulch from Broadway to Brommer Streets through Critical Habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant. The MBSST will add yet one more cross county bicycle-pedestrian connection to the already existing network of dedicated bike lanes criss-crossing the County and City.

Even better, the MBSST will provide a car-free route through the City and county, unlike Brommer and Broadway Streets, which are busy city streets with parking on either side. This will be truly safe bicycling and walking. The MBSST will travel through developed and undeveloped areas of the county and city, providing bicyclists and walkers of every stripe an opportunity for convenient, hassle free transportation and recreation, from one side of the county to the other, even unto Monterey County and beyond.

With cross-town traffic safely accommodated on the MBSST Rail Trail, Arana Gulch can be left in its natural area state, and the City Parks and Recreation Department can continue its good work of managing Arana Gulch for the Santa Cruz tarplant and other native species.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy Arana Gulch

While we're busy occupying the public sphere, declaring our independence from corporate and government dominance, pause and give a thought to our natural areas that cannot speak for themselves in the public, human forum.

Arana Gulch is a greenbelt, set aside by a vote of the people of Santa Cruz as a natural area surrounded by human development. Arana Gulch is a tiny fraction of what once was a prevalent coastal prairie terrace environment along the Central Coast of California.

Before European humans arrived on the scene some 250 years ago and took over the neighborhood, including the neighbors, Arana Gulch was home to a variety of interdependent species: elk, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, gophers, red-tailed hawks, Coopers hawks, turkey buzzards, swifts, golden-crowned sparrows, field mice aplenty, steelhead, tidewater gobie, several species of salmon, popcorn flower, Molina, Live Oak, willow, Himalayan blackberry, and the Santa Cruz tarplant.

Years ago the tarplant grew by the hundreds of thousands in Arana Gulch, pollinated by a variety of insect species, its seeds spread by grazers such as elk and deer, tiny birds and the winds they fly on. In recent years, land use changes have caused the tarplant to diminish severely, until recently, when discovery of less than forty living plants was a cause for celebration. As a result, the Santa Cruz tarplant was declared endangered by the State of California and threatened by the United States government. In 2002, the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared all of Arana Gulch as Critical Habitat for the Santa Cruz tarplant.

Since 1971, the City of Santa Cruz has planned and attempted to build a paved roadway across the sensitive habitat of Arana Gulch, connecting two city streets on either side of the greenbelt, first for automobiles, and, since 1991, for bicycles. The paving would be eight feet wide with two feet of gravel shoulder on either side, carving a twelve foot wide gash across the Critical Habitat for the endangered tarplant.

Friends of Arana Gulch has worked for over sixteen years to stop the city from building this project. Since much of Arana Gulch is in the California Coastal Zone, the City must apply to the California Coastal Commission for a development permit to build this cross-town bicycle connection through Arana Gulch. Friends of Arana Gulch is asking for your help in appealing to the Coastal Commission to stop this development project and produce an Arana Gulch Master Plan that sets City policy to manage the Arana Gulch Greenbelt to restore and preserve this sensitive habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant and all the species that inhabit Arana Gulch.

Go to Friends of Arana Gulch to learn more and sign up to help out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Year

This is a special Armistice Day this year, though we call it Veterans Day today.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh year of the Twenty-First Century, we celebrate the end of World War I ninety-three years ago.

What better way is there to support this celebration of the end of a war than with a renewed dedication to end the United States' prosecution of war and conflict in the Middle East, Africa, Korea, and numerous "limited conflicts" throughout the world.

Let's honor the soldiers who died in exotic places far from home by vowing that no more will so die. Let's honor the soldiers who are killing and dying on this day by bringing them home for good, where they can be with family and friends and contribute meaningful, positive work in their home communities.

Instead of a day off from work and a shopping holiday, let's make Veterans Day, once again,  a time of reflection and dedication to the cause of peace.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ode to the Edmund Fitzgerald

Lest anyone think that "EPIC" storms are a product of modern "global warming, note that the Edmund Fitzgerald sank 36 years ago, in an epic storm in its own right, a pretty common occurrence on the stormy Great Lakes.

Winter storms, even early winter storms, are the norm, not the exception. That's why we distinguish winter from other seasons, at least in most parts of the world (even though they get it backwards in the Southern Hemisphere.

Just as weather varies from year to year, climate varies from decade to decade, century to century, millennia to millennia. Variation is the norm, stability is the temporary exception.

As long as there are ships at sea, there will be shipwrecks, lost lives and widows. And as long as there is weather, there will be climate variation.

Beyond Jobs

Re-imagining Work in the Motor City is an uplifting article about a conference in post-industrial Detroit, where participants are re-examining the idea of jobs and their relationship to necessary and fulfilling work done by city residents.

Focus on jobs emphasizes work for pay rather than work for personal satisfaction and community contribution. It fosters competition, hierarchy, individualism, and, above all meaningless consumption.

Placing the emphasis on meaningful work fosters self-reliance, self-fulfillment, community involvement, responsibility and mutual aid. The entire community benefits from meaningful work, both in the products from that work and in the sense of community built by sharing the work necessary to support the community.

As we build and support local economies, meaningful work for everyone becomes a product we can all cultivate and harvest.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Epic Alaska Weather is the Norm

'Epic' storm rips off roofs in Alaska

Yes, "Epic," as if that means something.

When I was an archaeologist in Alaska, I spent three days stuck in Nome, on my way back to Fairbanks from St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Strait. I had just made the last flight off the island before the storm moved in, barely found the airport at Nome before it socked in as well.

For the next three days, the storm raged and battered at the breakwater just outside my century-old hotel room window. With each crash of the surf, the building rattled and rocked on its foundation. Phones were out, the electricity flickered ominously but never went out for more than a few seconds at a time. The street filled with snow and snow machines were the only vehicles moving. The bar and restaurant downstairs did a thriving business for those of us huddled in the hotel and a few who braved the wind and cold to join us.

It was a typical winter storm in northwest Alaska, just like the one today.

"Epic?' No more so than Alaska has always been to folks who don't live there.