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Jan 28th
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Environment

News - Environment

Growing The Genome Project

Growing The Genome Project

UCSC releases a more readable version of the human genome

“It’s funny, biology is such a mass discipline,” says Jim Kent. “What we focus on is often as much of a reflection on ourselves as it is on anything.” As director of the UC Santa Cruz Genome Browser Project and head of the ENCODE Data Coordination Center, Kent sets quite an example for channeling cultural fascination with science into real-world application.

“Back in the 1960s, when the focus was on energy and physics, people figured out the energy centers of the cell,” says Kent. But in 2012—a time of immense, international collaboration between biologists and computer engineers—the “culture of the age” culminated in September with a much more accessible and informative translation of the entire human genome than was previously available.

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News - Environment

Desalination And You

Desalination And You

How prepared are locals to vote on the city’s most contentious issue?

This Nov. 6, Santa Cruzans will not only cast their votes for a new president or an incumbent one, but also for local city council candidates and ballot measures. Citizens may dedicate much of their political consternation to the presidential election, but there are important decisions to be made at home, too.

The implications run deep and the controversy runs high when it comes to one issue being raised in the local election, in particular: desalination. Because of a potentially dire water shortage in times of drought, the city is looking in the coming years to move forward with—or nix—the building of a $115 million desalination plant, says Bill Kocher, the city’s water director. The plant would be built in the City of Santa Cruz, and would hopefully be finished by 2016, says Mike Rotkin, former city councilmember and co-founder of the Sustainable Water Coalition, which advocates for conservation, water storage and water augmentation measures in Santa Cruz.

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News - Environment

Pedaling A New Path

Pedaling A New Path

A change in leadership pumps new energy into People Power

Ten years later, Micah Posner has called it quits.

After more than a decade at the helm, and 20 years of being involved, the former People Power director has stepped down from the role to run for a seat on the Santa Cruz City Council.

Taking his place is 26-year-old Amelia Conlen, who has now been working as the fourth director of People Power for a little more than two weeks. Although Posner plans to remain on the steering committee of the organization, which pegs itself as “Santa Cruz County's advocate for human-powered transportation,” he says he is counting on Conlen to revitalize the group.

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News - Environment

A Forest Of Regeneration

A Forest Of Regeneration

A hike through Nisene Marks with the history dude

Sandy Lydon, known around Santa Cruz County as “the History Dude,” sits on the back of his white pickup truck in The Forest of Nisene Marks visitor parking lot, a map of the state park spread out beside him. He is explaining some of the earlier history of the land—a thing he knows quite a bit about, having studied, written and taught about the subject over the past 40 years.

“I’ve been kind of the history guy here, officially and not,” he says. Among other things, Lydon is also Emeritus Historian of Cabrillo College, a former KCBA television weather anchor, and a crusader against “hooey history”—a battle first taken up by a mid-20th century Santa Cruz Sentinel history columnist.  I rendezvous with Lydon for a preview of the history walk he will lead at the park’s Saturday, Aug. 4 50th anniversary celebration.

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News - Environment

Battleground State

Battleground State

California is ground zero for the GMO debate as the Prop. 37 campaign ramps up

Taking the temperature of an issue that has been bubbling since inception is difficult to do—but it’s safe to say this one is about to tip into a rapid boil.

As part of a statewide campaign to question genetically modified (GMO) food safety, the “Truth about GMOs” tour will present speakers Jeffrey Smith and Ocean Robbins at the Louden Nelson Community Center on Wednesday, Aug. 1. The speaking tour is timed to highlight the issue as voters prepare to decide on Prop. 37, a measure on the November ballot that, if passed, would put the words “Genetically Engineered” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” on the packaging of food that contains GMOs come July 2014. 

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News - Environment

From Fukushima To California

From Fukushima To California

Film about the nuclear disaster in Japan to screen in Santa Cruz

Picture this: a white mushroom cloud rises into the sky as orange flames flicker beneath. Fukushima, Never Again, a documentary by filmmaker/activist Steve Zeltzer, begins with this harrowing image of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant explosion last year in Japan, which followed a massive earthquake and tsunami. The nuclear accident released radiation into the air, soil and the Pacific Ocean.

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News - Environment

Splitting Green Hairs

Splitting Green Hairs

Local Sierra Club chapter struggles to redefine goals after contentious election

What is the definition of “environmentalism?” This question is at the heart of the debate currently at play within the Sierra Club Santa Cruz County Group executive committee, which has been experiencing a growing division over the last two years.

For many years, the group has concentrated on preservation of greenbelts and forests in order to maintain the natural beauty and ecological heath of the county. This is still a top priority. However, four of the nine seats on the executive committee are now held by new members who see alternative transportation as key to the green movement. Former chairperson Kevin Collins believes this is simply an invitation for further development on greenbelts and a detour from what he sees as the mission of the group.

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News - Environment

Dry Spell

Dry Spell

Lack of volunteer firefighters, equipment and rainfall may mean a harsh fire year for Bonny Doon

A fire season in California is never good news, inevitable as it is. But the outlook is even worse if an all-volunteer fire department is understaffed and under-geared, and also if the state has been suffering from low rainfall.

This is the situation Bonny Doon currently finds itself in. Located just northwest of Santa Cruz, the isolated census-designated place of about 2,700 people isn’t served by any local fire departments (though it is served by CAL FIRE, a statewide agency that tackles wildfire issues), so it has managed on its own with a team of professional firefighters and EMTs. All of them are volunteers, and their ranks have been thinning lately.

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News - Environment

Eco-Friendly Firefighting

Eco-Friendly Firefighting

Local surfer creates environmentally friendly fire extinguisher startup

Jeff Denholm never stops moving. Originally from the coast of Southern Maine, the Capitola-based professional surfer is like the human equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. From his time in the Marines to professional surfing to his environmental endeavors with his new company Atira Systems, Denholm makes things happen.

And he does it all with one arm.

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News - Environment

An Unprecedented Measure

An Unprecedented Measure

Potential Twin Lakes closure leaves residents uneasy

It’s a foggy Monday morning as Laura Kasa surveys the scene at Twin Lakes State Beach. There is no trace left of the crowds that dotted the shoreline over the weekend—except, that is, for the piles of trash waiting to be hauled away.

The Save Our Shores executive director peers into a garbage can, muttering about the plastic containers that poke out from the pile and the small number of trash and recycling receptacles at the entrance.

“When I drove by Seabright Beach yesterday, it was packed,” Kasa says. “What’s it going to be like in July?”

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Throwing It All Away

Everybody’s for recycling, right? So why are we all doing it wrong? Our reporter gets down and dirty to uncover 10 secrets that will finally make the recycling process make sense

 

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

The magical time of Mercury’s retrograde cycle is here once again, until Feb. 11, and then some. The Mercury retro cycle actually lasts eight weeks when we consider its retrograde shadow, giving us six months a year for review. We know the rules of Mercury retro: Be careful with everything; cars, driving, money, resources, friends, friendships, groups, interactions, thinking, talking, communications. Avoid big purchases, important meetings and important repairs. Mercury retrograde times are for review, reassessment and rest. Our minds are overloaded from the last Mercury retro. Our minds need to assess what we’ve done since October—eliminating what is not needed, keeping what’s important, preparing for new information in the next three months (till mid-May). Mercury in Aquarius retrograde … we reinvent ourselves, seek the unusual, we don’t hide, we’re just careful. We live in two worlds; outer appearances and inner reckonings, with both sides of our brain activated. Yet, like the light of the Gemini twins, one light waxes (inner world), the other (outer realities) wanes. Like Virgo, we see what’s been overlooked—assessing, ordering and organizing information. It’s an entirely inner process. When speaking we may utter only half of the sentence. We’re in the underworld, closer to Spirit, eyes unseeing, senses alerted, re-doing things over and over till we sometimes collapse. Because we’re in other realms, we’re wobbly, make mistakes, and don’t really know what we want. It’s not a time for decisions. Not yet. It’s a time of review. And completing things. Mercury retro: integration, slowing down, resolution, rapprochement.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of January 23

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Striking Gold

A taste of Soquel Vineyards’ five gold medal-winning Pinots

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Scanning the shelves of Deluxe Foods of Aptos, which carries an impressive selection of local and imported wines, I picked up a bottle of Trout Gulch Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, described as “a local favorite” by the busy market.

 

Bye Bye Benten!

Benten closing, plus Award-winning gin, a massive burrito and chocolate review

 

How are you going to make a tangible difference in your community this year?

Spread more kindness and compassion.