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Aug 29th
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Environment

News - Environment

The Plot Thickens

The Plot Thickens

Some unhappy SmartMeter recipients take matters into their own hands

If there is one indisputable fact about Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)’s SmartMeters, it’s that the rollout of the new technology, which began in mid-2010, hasn’t gone smoothly—especially in Santa Cruz.

In response to mounting opposition to the wireless meters—alleged health effects are chief among the concerns—the utility provider implemented a delay list in April, soon after submitting a proposal for a SmartMeter opt-out plan to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Assemblymember Bill Monning (27th District) advocated for the opt-out plan and interim delay list with PG&E and the CPUC based on complaints he was hearing from constituents. “Although I feel the verdict is still out on whether these meters pose a threat to human health, I believe if people feel strongly [that] they do not want to have one on their homes, they should be offered an alternative,” he says.

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News - Environment

The Plastic Influence

The Plastic Influence

New state textbooks contain pro-plastic bag phrasing

California schools officials edited the new Education & the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags in textbooks and teachers’ guides. This followed pressure from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an interest group representing U.S. chemical companies, including the plastics industry.

Santa Cruz City Schools is among the 19 districts that have implemented the new EEI curriculum, according to California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA). Cal/EPA, in tandem with the Department of Education, is tasked with overseeing the EEI curriculum.

“What ended up getting into textbooks was a section on the advantage of plastic shopping bags,” says David Gamburd, who works with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) on the UC Santa Cruz campus to educate students about the harmful environmental impacts of plastics.

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News - Environment

Water in the Works

Water in the Works

Why the approval of the Urban Water Management Plan was postponed

On the evening of Oct. 3, as the first rain of the season trickled down from darkening skies, the Santa Cruz Water Commission met with community members to publicly review the Draft 2010 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP).

As a public water supplier, the City of Santa Cruz is required under California law to adopt a UWMP, which must be updated every five years.

The UWMP’s 351 pages, prepared by the Santa Cruz Water Department, outline the existing intricate water supply situation, and point to the future installation of a seawater desalination plant as the most viable way to supply the City of Santa Cruz, and partnering Soquel Creek Water District, with a stable water supply.

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News - Environment

Meters on the Mind

Meters on the Mind

SmartMeter installations raise questions about enforcement in the county

Forty-three counties in California have voted to oppose PG&E’s SmartMeters, and more than 10 counties have officially banned the installation of the meters.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors passed a one-year ordinance, 5084, on Jan. 11, 2011 banning the installation of this new wireless technology. According to Section II of Ordinance 5084, it is a potential misdemeanor to install the meters within the unincorporated portions of the county:

It reads, “No SmartMeter may be installed in or on any home, apartment, condominium or business of any type within the unincorporated area of the County of Santa Cruz, and no equipment related to SmartMeters may be installed in, on, under, or above any public street or public right of way within the unincorporated area of the County of Santa Cruz.”

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News - Environment

Berry Battles

Berry BattlesThe long-running fight to ban methyl iodide takes a new turn

Cancer, late-term miscarriages, thyroid disruption, kidney damage and destruction of the developing brains of children are what’s in store if strawberry farmers begin fumigating their fields with the pesticide methyl iodide, said a panel of experts at a public forum in Salinas on Sept. 29.

The panel included Assemblymember Bill Monning, Dr. Kathy Collins, professor of microbiology at UC Berkeley, Dr. Robert Gould, president of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Jim Cochran, president of Swanton Berry Farm, a Santa Cruz-based organic strawberry grower. It was hosted by a coalition of organizations determined to raise awareness of the public health risks presented by the pesticide, as well as what they say is the state’s negligence in correctly analyzing scientific data they argue clearly illustrates its dangers.

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News - Environment

Looking at What’s Sacred

Looking at What’s Sacred

Ohlone descendent Ann Marie Sayers opens up about ‘The Knoll’

A winding road meanders through dust-covered vineyards just before it rises into Indian Canyon, an oak-covered ravine tucked quietly into the Gavilan Mountains south of Hollister. It was here that many Ohlone resisters once ran to hide from the Spanish colonizers of San Juan Bautista and Mission San Jose.

Today, the mile-long stretch of this majestic ravine, the center of which is a trickling creek, an ancient Ohlone village and numerous ceremonial sites, is the place Ann Marie Sayers calls home.

Sayers is an Ohlone descendant who has been designated as the cultural advisor of the current housing development being constructed on “The Knoll,” a sacred Ohlone ceremonial site near Branciforte Creek in Santa Cruz, where the remains of a young native women were recently discovered. I visit Sayers at her home to learn her perspective on the debate concerning the knoll and, more specifically, about the Ohlone concept of sacredness.

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News - Environment

Raw Food Sovereignty

Raw Food Sovereignty

Raw milk farms seek to prevent crackdowns

Due to a recent government crackdown on raw goat’s milk herdshares across the state and nation, many farmers are taking action to preserve their right to freely grow and consume food for personal use.

“When [the government is] stopping herd-share farms, they’re stopping private businesses where it’s private people making their own private decisions and getting all their produce from their own animals,” says Michael Hulme, owner of Evergreen Acres Farm in San Jose.

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News - Environment

Rethinking Receipts

Rethinking Receipts

The shift toward BPA-free receipt paper continues

Last year, Daniel Feldman was working the cash register at Gateways Books & Gifts when a customer alerted him to a surprising fact: “You know,” he told Feldman, “if you’re using thermal receipts you probably have BPA in the receipts.”

Feldman, a local tai chi and qi gong teacher and vice president of the Live Oak Grange, already knew of and avoided other products, like plastic water bottles, canned food, and other food packaging, that are known to carry bisophenol A (BPA), an estrogen-mimicking synthetic compound used to make plastic products. But receipts were a new discovery for him. He inquired with the store’s manager and learned that they were, in fact, using “regular thermal receipts,” which contain BPA.

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News - Environment

The Science of SmartMeters

The Science of SmartMeters

Exactly what is known about the safety of SmartMeters?
Penelope Joaquin has been a kindergarten teacher in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District for 15 years, and, this past year, she thought the stress was finally getting to her.

“I started to get this noise in my ears,” she says. “You know, that noise you get right before you go to sleep or like champagne bubbles? It’s hard to explain. It’s not even that loud, but it’s all the time.” The sensation Joaquin noticed turned out to be tinnitus, which is usually described as a ringing noise, high-pitched whining, electric buzzing, hissing, humming, tingling or a number of other continuous or intermittent noises in the ear.

“It was the end of the school year and I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep and so forth so I thought, ‘Oh it’s probably just because I’m overworked, tired and stressed,’” Joaquin recalls. “I figured as soon as the school year ends and I start getting some sleep I’ll be fine and it’ll go away.” The school year ended and Joaquin’s tinnitus persists. Having eliminated stress as the cause of her fairly mild symptom, she started looking elsewhere. 

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News - Environment

End of an Era

End of an Era

We have entered the last year on the Mayan solar calendar. Now what?

Super volcanoes erupt as earthquakes tear the Earth’s crust apart, and meteor showers rain down on cities around the world. These are the visions of Dec. 21, 2012 promoted in the media, with the History Channel and 2012forum.com leading the way.

The prophecy, according to doomsday believers, comes from an inscription on a structure known as Monument Six at Tortuguero, an archaeological site in Tabasco, Mexico. The last eight words of the epitaph translate roughly in English to, “The deity of the end of this cycle will oversee ceremonies on the last day of this cycle.” It is considered the only known inscription referencing the end of an era in 2012.

Most Santa Cruzans, however, aren't preparing for the end of times, even as humanity moved into the last complete year of the Mayan solar calendar on July 25. The calendar is called the Haab, and has 13, 28-day months. The 365th day, a day belonging to none of the 13 months, is left as a day to reflect on hopes for the future, which the Maya called “a day out of time.”

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.