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Jul 31st
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Environment

News - Environment

The Secret Life of Plastic

The Secret Life of Plastic

One GT reporter tracks the journey of plastic bottles through the recycling system
Forty-one Earth Days after the recycling movement of 1970 birthed the three R’s—“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”—Good Times set out to trace the journey of a metaphorical bottle as it makes its way through the modern recycling process.

The pursuit of this symbolic plastic bottle uncovers the challenges and goals of the recycling system, and what role the City of Santa Cruz’s roughly 60,000 residents, and their 949 pounds of waster per person, per year (according to the 2010 Community Assessment Project Report), play in the process.

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News - Environment

Desal Deliberations

Desal Deliberations

With desalination on the horizon, the debate deepens
When it comes to the debate over desalination, there isn’t much of a middle ground.


While opponents to the plan for a 2.5 million gallon per day desalination plant stand by the idea of increasing conservation and cutbacks and exploring other alternatives (like maximizing use of existing water sources), city and water department officials unfailingly revert back to their matter-of-fact claim that “conservation and curtailment simply isn’t enough,” and that desalination has proven to be the only feasible route to augment the water supply. Representatives from scwd2, the joint agency formed by the Santa Cruz Water Department and the Soquel Creek Water District to pursue the project, claim there are no significant marine impacts. Opponents say there are. Scwd2 says the resulting water won’t be any different than normal drinking water; critics agreee it will be safe, but point out inherent differences.

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News - Environment

When It Rains, It Pours

When It Rains, It Pours

How ready are you for a flood?
Marilee French’s family has owned a vacation home in Capitola for 67 years. During that time, the house never flooded. But the downpour of torrential rain on Saturday, March 26, caused a pipe in Noble Gulch Creek to burst and a flash flood sent French frantically arranging for the transportation of her immobile 92-year-old mother, Eleanor, away from a rapidly flooding house.

“My mom and I came down for a nice quiet weekend at the beach to get away from the snow and we end up in a flood,” French says with an ironic laugh, noting thankfully that, despite property damages, all turned out well in the greater scheme of things. “This isn’t New Orleans for crying out loud—and it’s not Haiti, and it’s not Japan—so we’re grateful in a lot of ways, but sad for those who have had losses.”

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News - Environment

Will Hunters Have to Bite the Bullet?

Will Hunters Have to Bite the Bullet?

New findings out of UCSC shed light on lead poisoning among condors

Almost all of the 100 free-flying condors in California have suffered from severe lead poisoning at least once. Treatment is expensive and stressful for the birds, as they must be removed from the wild and sent to zoos and veterinary hospitals. After re-release, many get sick again and find themselves back in captivity.

Now, researchers from UC Santa Cruz have confirmed that lead ammunition is the most plausible source of exposure, and demonstrated that lead causes chronic, long-term effects as well as acute poisonings. The findings were presented at the March 6 – 10 annual Society of Toxicology meeting in Washington D.C., and may help spark conversation about a more stringent lead bullet ban.

Myra Finkelstein and her colleagues from UCSC analyzed 70 blood samples taken from 49 condors. Using a technique called lead isotopic composition analysis, the researchers identified the chemical fingerprint of the lead found in condor blood. They compared this to the lead signatures of 71 different ammunition samples—most collected in the field.

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News - Environment

An Opportunity to Give

An Opportunity to Give

Ways for locals to help the people of Japan
The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan has left thousands of Japanese citizens dead while tens of thousands are still missing. Although the problems caused by the damaged infrastructure and the unfolding nuclear crisis have made recovery difficult, there are many ways local residents can help Japan recover.
The United Way, which operates a chapter in Santa Cruz, has set up a website where people can donate. Funds will be given to the Central Community Chest of Japan, which is helping to address the immediate needs of those affected by the disaster. Donate at liveunited.org/japan.

The American Red Cross is also accepting donations for the victims of the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami. Donate at redcross.org.
Several local businesses are helping out as well. Many local wineries, including Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, and Silver Mountain Vineyards have committed to donating tasting fees collected this weekend to the Red Cross.

Students at UC Santa Cruz can support the Japanese Student Association, which will be selling T-shirts at the beginning of next quarter as part of its fundraising effort.
Please leave any other ideas in the comment section below.

News - Environment

Water to Share

Water to Share

Desalination is in the spotlight, but whatever happened to a regional water exchange?
Jan Bentley worked for the City of Santa Cruz Water Department for 15 years. For 14 of those years, from 1994 until he retired in 2008, Bentley served as the city’s Water Production Manager. Among his duties, Bentley was responsible for monitoring water intake, treatment and distribution. As such, he came to know the ins and outs of the Santa Cruz water supply—how much was available, from which sources, and how much was used.

The city relies solely on surface water and is heavily dependent on rainfall. But in the winters, Bentley says he would watch as millions of gallons went unused each day. “They [the city] do maximize summer use, but they don’t maximize winter use,” he says. “There’s a lot of excess water to be had in the winter.”

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News - Environment

A Natural Step

A Natural Step

GT chats with John Laird about his new post as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency
From his 23 years experience as an elected official, beginning with the Santa Cruz City Council in 1981, John Laird has earned a statewide reputation as a progressive yet pragmatic politician, with a mastery of both process and details of legislative compromise.

Before arriving in Sacramento, Laird was a UC Santa Cruz graduate (1972) and former Santa Cruz City Council member (1981-90) with two stints as the city’s mayor.  He went on to serve the maximum three terms as State Assembly Member (D-27th District, 2002-2008), during which time he was appointed chair of the Assembly’s Budget Committee (2006).

Over the summer of 2010, in a hotly contested, off-cycle special election, Laird lost the race for the 15th District State Senate seat, vacated by Abel Maldonado’s appointment as lieutenant governor, by a slim margin to Republican Sam Blakeslee. But, as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens: On Jan. 5, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Laird’s appointment as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency.

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News - Environment

Bag Lag

Bag Lag

The Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance pressures local government to adopt a single-use plastic bag ban
Nature photographer Terry McCormac recently had a typical day photographing a mother and baby sea otter near Moss Landing take a turn for the worse when the playful otter pup found itself trapped inside a plastic shopping bag.

“The baby got all panicky and started screaming,” McCormac remembers. “Then the mom started screaming. The mom went over there and got [the baby] on its chest and was trying to pull it off. Neither of them knew what to do. It was very heart wrenching.”

Helpless, McCormac continued to snap photos. The distressed mother and baby disappeared behind a boat, and then reappeared without the plastic bag. McCormac was relieved the otter pup’s misadventure had a happy ending, but he was determined to use the photo to help fight against plastic bag pollution in the ocean.

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News - Environment

Green to the Grave

Green to the Grave

Will there be a greater demand for ‘green’ burial practices?
For those who spend their life dedicated to reducing their environmental footprint, it can seem contradictory for their final act of recycling to be having their bodies pumped full of toxic chemicals and buried in a metal casket that will take longer than an SUV to biodegrade.

According to Joe Sehee, executive director of the New Mexico-based Green Burial Council, this realization is leading an increasing number of people to re-think their final footprint and seek more sustainable alternatives to standard funeral industry burial practices.

This environmentally conscious demographic, says Sehee, considers the “industrial-preservative” standards of embalming and burial in vaulted metal caskets as misguided, resource intensive overkill in trying to delay the natural processes of decomposition. In addition, they disapprove of mining, processing, and then burying hundreds of tons of metal and concrete in traditional cemeteries each year.

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News - Environment

Berry Dangerous?

Berry Dangerous?

As applications of methyl iodide begin, potential health risks of the pesticide remain unknown
Litigation, restricted materials permits, toxicity reports. These represent just some of the red tape involved in the recent registration of methyl iodide, a new pesticide approved for strawberry production by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) in December.

Just before the new year, an alliance of advocacy groups, including the United Farm Workers’ Union, filed suit to block use of the chemical and urged Gov. Jerry Brown to reverse the decision.

Despite these efforts, the potential side effects for farm workers and nearby residents—the people who spend hours every day exposed to these chemicals—remain to be seen. In agricultural hubs such as Watsonville and Salinas, which together produced a volume of nearly 90 million trays of strawberries in 2010, according to the California Strawberry Commission, the new pesticide is sure to have a large presence.

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Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

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Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Muns Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir

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