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May 23rd
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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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Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
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Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival