New rebate programs provide incentives for home energy efficiency
When talking about sectors of the economy hit hard during the recession, it’s hard to compete with construction. According to the latest job report put out by the U.S. Labor Department, construction unemployment remains around 20.1 percent, or 1.8 million people still looking for work. No matter how you spin it, that’s a lot of people.
Last week, the Green Careers Partnership held a workshop at Cabrillo College aimed at helping Santa Cruz contractors move out of that figure and into the emerging economy of energy efficiency retrofitting for homes. Around 60 contractors sat in attendance at the event, which featured presentations highlighting new rebate programs for green home retrofitting, useful credentials and software for the green home sector, and attempts to create a network of green-minded builders.
Santa Cruz nonprofit provides micro-grants for community projects
Thousand dollars and a smart idea go farther than you may think. For the last 22 years, Bread for the Journey (BFJ), a national nonprofit organization, has been operating on this principle.
BFJ has 20 chapters scattered across the country, including one in Santa Cruz, all with a simple mission: to collect funds and redirect them in the form of micro-grants of less than $3,000 to catalyze local community projects. The organization is run entirely by volunteers, often from their own homes.
“When I think of Bread for the Journey, I think of someone saying, ‘Here’s a little bread for your journey. Here’s a little bit to get you going—to get you to your next stop,’” says Jerilyn Kass, one of the four founding board members of the Santa Cruz chapter. “We give seed money for people who have these great ideas but [have] no money, and it gives them that initial push to get them to their next stop.”
Congregants from local church and synagogue to visit Israel together
In a set-up straight out of the corniest joke books, a pastor, a rabbi, and a fitfully observant Jewish journalist walk into an interview.
It’s a cold, blustery late spring morning, and Rev. Dave Grishaw-Jones, senior minister at the First Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ congregation, and Rabbi Paula Marcus, a rabbi and cantor at the Reform Jewish Temple Beth El, have both made time in their exceptionally busy schedules to sit down together. As they settle into Rev. Grishaw-Jones’ book-lined study, the two clergy members, who co-lead an interfaith Middle East dialogue group, prepare to talk about their latest—and perhaps most challenging—project. On July 14, they will lead 25 of their congregants to Israel and the West Bank for two weeks, on what they agree promises to be both an enlightening and exhausting journey. “The itinerary is rather frightening,” laughs Rabbi Marcus.
Anti-nuclear weapons activists take on Santa Cruz
Beneath a magnolia tree in the parking lot behind the Resource Center for Non-Violence, a group of five young adults pulls a makeshift puppet show out of a dust-covered white Astrovan. A puppet in a lab coat steps out in front of a meager audience—five people, including the press, sit on chairs and a tattered gray couch and watch as “Dr. Lab” learns a nightmarish lesson about the detrimental and lasting effects of his work in a nuclear laboratory. A deformed frog tells the doctor that nuclear waste has poisoned his frog family; a visitor from 30,000 years in the future informs him that the effects of nuclear radiation and waste continue to poison and frighten the world’s residents; and a pile of uranium canisters dance and chant about the cancer they will inevitably spread to surrounding residents.
The war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history, and last month was the deadliest month of the war yet. Are we getting any closer to getting out of there?
I have consistently opposed the war in Afghanistan, and my opposition remains unwavering. I never bought the proposal that occupying Afghanistan would improve our national security, and it’s clearly not in our nation’s interest to remain there.
I continue to be skeptical about what our military can accomplish in Afghanistan. I’m convinced that the sooner we withdraw our troops, the sooner we can refocus on cooperating with our allies to break down terrorist networks around the world. Taking down these networks—not occupying countries—is the best way to enhance our national security. And we can do that for a far lower cost, in both lives and dollars, than by occupying Afghanistan.
PG&E seeks $4.2 billion increase in revenue
The defeat of Proposition 16 on the June 8 ballot has been called a testament to the power of a grassroots public awareness campaign against a corporate opponent with deep pockets. It’s hard to disagree.
PG&E spent nearly $46 million dollars supporting the bill that would have effectively barred competition in its service areas by requiring a two-third vote in the given city for any new utility company to begin service. Opponents to the bill had less than $100,000 and relied instead on community activism and volunteers to educate the public about the bill. Now, with the giddiness of one victory still wearing off, consumer advocacy groups are turning their attention toward PG&E again—this time in response to a request for $4.2 billion in increased revenues over the next three years.
Coalition to Overcome Racism nabs $150,000 grant to aid racial healing in Santa Cruz
It’s always harder to fight something when most people won’t admit there’s anything to fight against. Just ask the members of the Santa Cruz County Community Coalition to Overcome Racism (SCCCCOR), who often find themselves up against the notion that racism simply doesn’t exist in Santa Cruz.
“Let’s be honest,” said Tony Madrigal, city councilmember and SCCCCOR member, at the group’s June 29 press conference. “Racism still exists and manifests itself differently throughout America. We see systemic racism everywhere—whether someone is trying to find housing, applying for a job, or receiving services.”
In April of this year, the Board of Supervisors made a significant first step in addressing an area of major environmental concern when we initiated the process to enact a county ordinance banning single-use plastic carry-out bags and reducing use of paper carry out bags. The action taken by the Board is only a first step in what will be a lengthy process.
Last year I was contacted by local environmental groups who provided information about other jurisdictions in California that have taken action to reduce the litter and pollution caused by plastic and paper single-use bags. Plastic bags are a petroleum product that not only consume enormous resources during their production, but also tend to be casually discarded, causing significant damage to the environment. Statewide, only 5 percent of these plastic bags are recycled. The production of paper bags adds to deforestation and uses large amounts of energy and water.
Blue Marble Planet lover Lea Haratani dives deep
“A lot of people attack the sea. I make love to it.” —Jacques Cousteau
Lea Haratani has had a lifelong passion for the ocean, and every day she tries to show it. Some days, it means not eating fish. Other times, it’s all about taking a walk on the beach—or diving off the coast of Belize with Jim Simon, the vice president of one of the nation's largest ocean conservation organizations, Oceana. She might also be found circulating petitions against offshore drilling with her children at Bookshop Santa Cruz, or organizing a fundraising event for Oceana at the Saint Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.