Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dump the Lion Killer

“I’m glad it’s legal in Idaho,” says Daniel Richards 
California Fish and Game Commission President Daniel Richards spent $7,000 to track down and shoot a mountain lion in a canned "hunt" in Idaho. 

He should be hung up by his particulars in a cage with a mountain lion, slathered with fish oil and left to the lion's pleasure.

California Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom has called for his removal from the F&G Commission. 

Contact Governor Brown at 916-445-2841 or by email at http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

Tell him Daniel Richards does not represent the people of California and we don't want him on the F&G Commission.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dogs on Leash or Running Free - Who Decides?

There's nothing like a quiet walk on the beach to settle nerves jangled by the daily commute, office politics, disturbing news of far-off political intrigue. The rhythmic swoosh of the waves, the cries of seagulls, the gentle ocean breezes. 

           But wait. What's that smell? Eeeeeew!

All too often, idyllic walks along our local beaches are disrupted by loud barking, the threatening rush of bright teeth and furry bodies, the unexpected presence of smelly dog droppings underfoot. Our beaches have become playgrounds and toilets for unleashed dogs, turning a treasure for all into an exclusive domain for the few.

Santa Cruz County Animal Services has recently started enforcing County leash laws, much to the consternation of local residents who have grown used to letting their dogs run free on local beaches, in the absence of County enforcement. This has resulted in a lobbying campaign by dog owners to encourage Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to provide off-leash hours at the Live Oak beach between 20th Avenue and Moran Lagoon. Proponents claim that their animals need freedom to run unfettered and that limited off-leash hours would not infringe on others' enjoyment of the beach.

Santa Cruz County has strict leash laws, Section 6.12 of County Code, directing residents to keep all dogs on leash on public property and facilities at all times, and prohibiting animal defecation on any public property or improved private property, other than that of the owner. These laws would have to be amended in order to allow off-leash hours at local beaches. 

But County leash laws are not the only consideration.

Dogs running free not only pose a threat to people but also drive off shorebirds and other wildlife on local beaches, which are governed by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Harassment of "any marine mammal, sea turtle, or bird within or above the Sanctuary" is prohibited by United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 15, Part 92.132 - Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities. MBNMS works in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to assist with enforcement.

At a recent constituent meeting by Supervisor John Leopold, opponents and proponents of off-leash hours at County beaches presented their cases. In response to a suggestion that the County provide off-leash dog parks where dog-owners can let their dogs run free in fenced enclosures, Supervisor Leopold pointed out that a dog park has been built at the new Chanticleer Avenue Park, on the West side of Chanticleer Avenue, about 1/4 mile north of Capitola Road in Live Oak. However, the signs at the Chanticleer Park indicate that dogs are required to be on leash at all times in the Pet Exercise Area, as the split rail fence is inadequate to keep off-leash dogs contained within the park.

Rather than flouting existing leash laws and lobbying for special consideration by federal, state and County officials, local dog owners would do well to organize and help the County upgrade the Chanticleer Park facility to allow off-leash dogs, and to build and maintain additional dedicated off-leash facilities on County parks away from sensitive beaches. These areas would provide needed exercise and socialization for dogs and an opportunity for dog owners to gather and socialize, without threatening sensitive species or infringing on others who prefer their recreational opportunities dog-free.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why Things That Can't Go On Forever, Don't

A recent blog post on Gary Patton's excellent Two Worlds blog cites The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, a study proposed to help create “a society that recognizes, measures, manages and economically rewards responsible stewardship of its natural capital,” sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO).

The study's mission statement demonstrates quite clearly that the IEEE proposes to maintain the status quo, not usher in an economic revolution. Any society that proposes to "steward" "its" natural capital is a society dominated by ownership and use of the natural world for human profit. We would be shocked to discover the IEEE proposing any other program, since the purpose of engineering in any form is to make over the Earth for human profit. 

Development is development, even environmentally "sensitive" development is development. Development is the problem, not the solution.

Attempting to assign monetary value to the natural world and natural processes is just one more attempt to subvert what little is left to human service. Natural processes do not exist for human use and benefit. They exist for themselves.

The statement: "In order to create truly sustainable relationships with natural resources, we may need to reconsider the way we acknowledge importance and the underlying beliefs that shape our systems." illustrates the depth of the problem. "Resources" refers to use by humans, be they natural or ... unnatural. The one underlying belief that shapes our system is ownership and use for human benefit. Until we can drop that particular bit of hubris, we cannot make any headway in living sustainably on this Earth.

There is only one sustainable "use" of the non-human world, to never use resources faster than they are naturally replenished and never produce wastes faster than they are naturally dispersed. Any other form of use is by definition unsustainable.

Further, the pamphlet states: "In the meantime, an economic shift in perception of natural sources can help to preserve those sources while more complex shifts in perception occur." This flies in the face of human history. Perceiving natural sources in economic terms merely hastens their depletion. The economy is at the mercy of whomsoever controls it, and those in control cannot turn their backs on the economic and political systems that maintain their access to power.

Therefore, anyone who views the natural world as anything other than free sources of raw materials, space and profit is automatically opted out of the control system.

The only possible path through to a sustainable human economy is to change from production for profit to production for use, the same economic system employed by all life forms on Earth, save Homo sapiens, accompanied by a realistic reduction in human population. No other species lives beyond its means as humans do. Therefore, until humans come back to the fold, living within natural cycles of resource availability, human society will continue to be unsustainable.

None of this is new. These principles were clearly articulated in 1977 in Progress as if Survival Mattered,  published by Friends of the Earth. The message is simple:

Things that cannot go on forever, don't.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

3 Reasons why I'm not happy AMGEN is coming to Santa Cruz

Gather up the women and children, lock the cats and dogs in the house, put away your three-speeds and cruisers. AMGEN's a-comin' to town.

Hearts are gay in Our Fair City, or at least some of them are, with the announcement that Amgen is coming back to town on a congested and traffic-restricted street near you.

A Truth In Advertising moment: Amgen is not a bicycle race. Amgen is a biotech transnational corporation, aka pharmaceutical company, aka Big Pharma. You've heard of Big Pharma. Most Progressive folx in Santa Cruz know what Big Pharma does. In this case, they sponsor the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) with budget dust left over from their unimaginable profits gained by selling expensive drugs to people all over the world. 

Amgen is joined in sponsorship of ATOC by UnitedHealthcare, "an operating division of UnitedHealth Group, the largest single health carrier in the United States." According to Wikipedia, "in 2010, UnitedHealth Group spent more than $1.8 million on lobbying activities to work to achieve favorable legislation, and hired seven different lobbying firms to work on its behalf. In addition, its corporate political action committee or PAC, called 'United for Health,' spent an additional $1 million on lobbying activities in 2010." 

What's a Cruzin' Progressive to do?

That's reason #1.

ATOC is owned by The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), a sporting and music entertainment presenter, the world's largest owner of sports teams and sports events, and the world’s most profitable sports and entertainment venues.

From the ATOC website: "AEG remains committed…to the local communities that host the race as a means of increasing tourism and economic development throughout the state of California."

This "commitment to local communities" comes in the form of $200,000 in cash and contributed services that must be raised by locals to pay for accommodations for the gaunt and panting bicyclists and their overwhelming retinue. In the last Santa Cruz Amgen appearance, local hotels and businesses barely noticed any increased custom. Consequently, the City of Santa Cruz declined to sponsor the race last year at all. 

So much for economic development.

That's reason #2.

Finally, AEG promises they are "dedicated to promoting the great sport of road cycling, healthy living and bicycle safety."

This is the "most unkindest cut of all."  As soon as the "Amgen's coming to town" call goes out across the land, and for months after the whizz of derailleurs fades from our streets and highways, bicycling madness descends on Santa Cruz. Cadres of Lance Armstrong wannabes don their brilliant plumage, dust off their dazzlingly equipped lightweight bicycles and dash madly in every direction through our streets and highways. 

One can easily tell when Amgen is imminent merely by counting the increasing number of lycra-clad bicyclists streaking through red lights and stop signs at at any local intersection. Peloton packs of panting participants clog the narrow shoulders of local highways, envisioning the final glorious moment of victory at the finish line.

How does this promote "bicycle safety?"

That's reason #3.

So we have, coming to Our Fair City, an entertainment spectacle, owned by a transnational entertainment conglomerate, sponsored by Big Pharma and Big Health Insurance, sucking money and resource out of our community, and filling our streets and highways with whizzing steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and lycra to the detriment of bicycle safety education for the rest of the year.

Remind me again why we're so happy Amgen is coming to town?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Who Wants High Speed Rail?

The state of California is planning a High Speed Rail (HSR) system from the capital in Sacramento to and from San Francisco and the Bay Area, and south to the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas. The plan calls for a fleet of 1200-passenger trains traveling at speeds up to 220 miles per hour between these major population centers as an alternative to automobiles, buses, airplanes and existing rail service. Projected costs for the system have ranged from US$43 billion initially, now up to US$100 billion or more.

The avowed justification for this immense project is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and pollution production from increased automobile and airplane travel in the future, as California's population increases from the present 38 million to over 50 million in the next 20 years.

High-SpeedTrainTalk: High-Speed Rail: Why are we doing this? reveals the hollow truth behind the myth of high speed rail. Rather than a solution for a documented need for rapid ground level transportation between two large metropolitan areas, High Speed Rail is a political solution in search of a real world problem. There is, in fact, no demand for high speed rail in California, and more important, there is no documented ridership to feed such a system. Proponents of the system project ridership of over 14,000 riders per day at the Merced station, a level that exceeds the total AMTRAK ridership in New York City, an impossible accomplishment for the dispersed population of central California.

The case for High Speed Rail is couched in terms of environmental benefit, claiming that the system would reduce future Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions through the use of an electrically powered rail system, even proclaiming that energy needs could be provided by alternative sources such as wind and solar. This claim is unsupported, in that the majority of California's electricity is supplied by fossil fuels, with alternatives sources providing less than 12% of the state's energy.

Furthermore, in a study of "life cycle assessment" of high speed rail, the authors, Horvath and Chester, conclude: "high-speed rail has the potential to be the lowest energy consumer and greenhouse gas emitter only if it consistently travels at high occupancy [~75%] or uses a low-emission electricity source." The authors also conclude that sulpher dioxide emission levels for high speed rail would be higher than for conventional alternatives and would not be less at any measure of ridership.

Therefore, in any realistic scenario, high speed rail fails in two respects to live up to the promises of its proponents.

As if this were not enough, the construction, operation and maintenance of a high speed rail system through the heart of California would create immediate and on-going environmental damage to critical habitats along the route. Construction of the system would require immense amounts of concrete, which is the greatest source of GHG emissions of any construction activity.

"The proposed HST Alternative alignment options would have the potential to affect wildlife movement/migration corridors in this region, primarily for terrestrial mammals, depending on the selection of a final alignment." (Horvath and Chester, 2010) Imagine a 1200-passenger train passing through natural migration corridors several times a day at over 200 mph. 

With all of the negative effects of high speed rail, and an evident lack of demand for such a complex and expensive service, who is it that wants High Speed Rail?

The answer, as always, is "Follow the money."

Proponents of the High Speed Rail project are primarily real estate professionals, including the new Chair of the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA), and others who would benefit economically from the project. The gerrymandered route proposed by the HSRA just happens to pass through countryside where development would benefit key proponents of the project, including state and federal legislators with property interests.

This comes as no surprise with billions of dollars of "free" federal money available for High Speed Rail, promising that, even if the project is never built, someone will fill their pockets to overflowing with the proceeds.

Rather than the promised energy and pollution savings boon to California commuters, High Speed Rail serves most effectively to railroad public money into private pockets.