Tuesday, October 23, 2007
(Photo courtesy KTTV/FOX 11)
We've been warned that this may happen. We've been warned about the blazing infernos to come if we don't change our ways. We've been told that one of the nasty effects of the climate crisis may be an increased risk of wildfires, but not enough of us were listening. But now, the warning is becoming reality. And what we're seeing out in Santiago Canyon (and Malibu, Lake Arrowhead, Santa Clarita, and North San Diego County) may just be the beginning of this new threat of megafires being fueled by our inaction in stopping the climate crisis.
Don't believe me? Well, let's talk about it some more after the flip...
OK, so you want to talk? Well, let's begin with this report published last year on Science Daily:
In the most systematic analysis to date of recent changes in forest fire activity, Anthony Westerling, Hugo Hidalgo and Dan Cayan of Scripps Oceanography, along with Tom Swetnam of the University of Arizona, compiled a database of recent large western wildfires since 1970 and compared it with climate and land-surface data from the region. The results show that large wildfire activity increased "suddenly and dramatically" in the 1980s with longer wildfire seasons and an increased number and more potent wildfires. [...]
"The increase in large wildfires appears to be another part of a chain of reactions to climate warming," said Cayan, a coauthor of the paper and director of Scripps' Climate Research Division. "The recent ramp-up is likely, in part, caused by natural fluctuations, but evidence is mounting that anthropogenic effects have been contributing to warmer winters and springs in recent decades."
Now I can already hear nay-sayers scream that this is all "natural fluctuation", and that we really have nothing to worry about. However, let's take a closer look at what the researchers at Scripps and The University of Arizona are actually trying to say. It's not as simple as just "natural fluctuation".
The researchers determined that year-to-year changes in wildfire frequency appear "to be strongly linked to annual spring and summer" temperatures with "many more wildfires burning in hotter years than in cooler years."
They established a strong association between early arrivals of the spring snowmelt in the mountainous regions and the incidence of large forest fires. An earlier snowmelt, they said, can lead to an earlier and longer dry season, which provides greater opportunities for large fires. Overall, 56 percent of the wildfires and 72 percent of the total area burned occurred in early snowmelt years. By contrast, years when snowmelt happened much later than average had only 11 percent of the wildfires and 4 percent of the total area burned.
And so far, scientific evidence is showing us that increased global temperatures are tied to increased CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Come on, how much clearer can it be? So long as we allow the climate crisis to worsen, we will be seeing more extreme weather.
Today, I noticed this story in The Toronto Globe & Mail. It amazed me that I found some good perspective behind some troubling local news in a foreign newspaper. But whatever, at least they're willing to tell it like it is.
The short answer is that while some of the contributing factors are long familiar, two closely interwoven others - climate change and a steady U.S. migration to the western states - are not. Even by its own arid standards, the Golden State and much of the Southwest has just experienced an unprecedented summer heat wave, shrivelling crops and lawns and turning always-dry terrain into a blast furnace.[...]
Even more ominous, certainly for those who live in Southern California and the Southwest, is the evolution of a hotter planet, now manifest everywhere from the Arctic to southern Europe.
Compounding the threat is the fact that despite soaring temperatures, Americans continue to head south and west.
Since 1990, an estimated eight million new homes have been built in the western U.S. states, chiefly in areas described as "the urban-wild land interface," code for uprooted city dwellers, many retired, who live in big houses or near pristine forests and deserts.
Those eight million buildings house at least 20 million new western residents.
Oh yes, how can we forget that that we're still making this problem worse?! So long as we continue to ignore the climate crisis, and so long as we ignore possible solutions that can help us grow smarter and more sustainably, we'll only be providing more fuel for more deadly infernos in the future. If we want to save our community and our planet for future generations, we must begin changing our destructive behaviors NOW.
OK, so what does that mean? It means we start rethinking "development", and we start developing "sustainable communities" that are more energy-efficient, more pedestrian and transit-friendly, and less wasteful overall. It means that we stop living such wasteful lives, and that we live more efficiently. It means that we start thinking of new ways to power our lives and our world, and that we get serious about investing in clean alternatives to fossil fuels. It means that our society become more aware of our planet and its finite resources, and that our society becomes a better steward of these finite yet magnificent resources for future generations.
Now I know that it may sound difficult, but it's really not. In fact, it can be as simple as organizing a neighborhood carpool to take the kids to school and/or changing your old light bulbs with new CFC bulbs. It can be as simple as not buying so much bottled water and/or taking the train to work instead of driving. Really, we just need to start making simple lifestyle changes in order to begin the real, moumental change that must take place in order for us to save our planet.
How many more stories like this must we see in the paper before we wake up and smell the looming disaster? How much longer do we want to remain willingly ignorant of the real problem of climate change? How many more "megafires" must we endure before we understand the big factor behind these fires? And how much longer will we wait before we start to make change and stop this crisis?
Sunday, October 21, 2007
At the end of the day, whats at stake in this election is a very simple
thing: whether we're going to live in a moral, fair and just America, where
everyone has a chance. Whether American is going to lead in a moral, fair and
To paraphrase Ghandi, you have to be the change that you believe in.
The idea that you can vote in the election and the next president, including me,
is going to solve all your problems is a fantasy. The truth is that the power in
America is not inside the beltway in Washington, D.C. The power in America is
in communities just like this.
That was Presidential Candidate John Edwards speaking at the Truman Dinner on Friday. And you know what? He's right. We must be the change that we believe in. Oh yes, and John Edwards is also correct in noting that the power in America is not just in places like Washington and Sacramento, but also in our own communities here in Orange County.
OK, so why am I talking about this? I want to talk about a commonly held misperception that we can't make change here in Orange County, and that Democrats make no difference in such "red" locales as OC. You know, there are actually ways for us to make a big difference here at home, a big difference that will ultimately not just be felt in our communities, but also felt everywhere.
Follow me after the flip for more...
Here I am at the Truman Dinner with two of my best friends, Gila and Giovanii. Of course, we all know my fellow LibOC co-blogger Gila as the Democratic Dynamo who always seems to be busy growing the Democratic party in South County. So often when folks here think of South County, they think of a region filled entirely by Republicans. However, this isn't true. And thanks to all the good work and all the organizing by South County Democrats, they're making their presence known.
Oh yes, and I shouldn't forget abolut Giovanii. He's been our fearless leader of Obama OC, the grassroots group of local people supporting Barack Obama for President. When others snickered at the thought that a Democratic Presidential Campaign could excite so many people in Orange County, the amazing folks at Obama OC organized locally and took action. And now that the Obama Campaign is ready to come in and organize throughout the county, they have something quite good to work with.
Here I am with Irvine Mayor Beth Krom. Now Mayor Krom had plenty reason to smile on Friday, as her colleague on the Irvine City Council, the legendary Larry Agran, received the Truman Award that evening. It's just mind-boggling to think that in such a supposedly "Republican" city like Irvine, the Democratic majority on the Irvine City Council (Krom and Agran, along with Suhkee Kang)
has been able to accomplish in protecting its natural resources, providing affordable housing for working families, and ensuring a safe community for everyone to enjoy. But of course, none of this could have been accomplished without a whole lot of grassroots campaigning. On Friday, Larry Agran talked about houses being turned into campaign offices, 6:00 AM literature drops, and all the rest of the hard work that led to victory on election day.
Here are two more of my best friends in the whole wide world, Paul Lucas and Mitch Star. Paul Lucas courageously ran for State Assembly when others thought that Van Tran couldn't be challenged. And while he may not have won a ticket to Sacramento last year, he gave Democrats in AD 68 a good reason to get fired up and going. Oh yes, and he also made great inroads into the various communities of West OC. He's now planning a run for Garden Grove City Council next year, and thanks to his great work last year, folks are taking him seriously.
Mitch Star recently moved back to Orange County from the Bay Area, and he's already making his mark "behind the Orange Curtain". He's now the Political Director for the Orange County Young Democrats, and he's a doing a great job in working with his fellow OCYD leaders to get more young Democrats in Orange County and get them more involved in the community. They've been awfully busy putting on terrific events, and I look forward to seeing what they will be doing in the near future.
OK, so why am I going on and on about the activist friends I saw at the Truman Dinner and all the good work they do for our Democratic Party? Well, I'd like to see more of them here! For far too long, we've been told that there are no Democrats in Orange County. And of course, this has resulted in Democrats hiding in "the political closet" out of fear of being "caught in the act of voting Democrat". Well, you know what? It's time that we all jump out of that "political closet", and start getting active in making the change that we want to see.
Believe it or not, there are brave Democrats that run for local office... AND WIN! It's been done in cities like Irvine, and it can be done in your community as well. Believe it or not, there are Democratic and progressive groups for you to join and work with! Join our local DFA. Join the local organization of your favorite Presidential Candidate. Join a local campaign for local office. Join a local Democratic Club. Oh heck, just take a look at the OC Weekly Progressive to find out what's happening in your community!
Oh yes, and there are plenty of opportunities to take action locally. On November 3, the national Democratic Party is doing a weekend of local grassroots organizing, and they're encouraging us to get out in the community, meet our neighbors, and talk to them about why we're Democrats. On the 3rd, there will be walks in Santa Ana and Irvine. And if you're not near these areas, why not create an event in your own neighborhood? OK, so you aren't too exxperienced at campaigning? No problem, just sign up for the next Precinct Captains training that will teach you how to build the Democratic Party in your own neighborhood!
Yes, we're still living in troubling times. Bush is still in office. The Republicans still seem "dominant" here in OC. However, we can put an end to these troubling times. If we ever want to see change happen here, we must be the change we believe in. :-)
Monday, October 15, 2007
On Friday evening, I had quite a unique opportunity to see
first-hand what Republicans are thinking about their own future. I
attended the Friday night dinner for the 2007 Western CPAC Conference in
Newport Beach. Yes, believe it or not, I have nice Republican friends
who invite me to events like this. And believe it or not, I wanted to
see for myself what matters to conservatives. Well, now I have seen,
and I have to wonder why so many in the Republican Party are so willing to destroy their party's own future along with the future of this planet.
As you've heard by now, State Senator Tom McClintock (R-What Is He Thinking?) gave the keynote speech. He spoke about why we shouldn't worry so much about the coming climate crisis, but rather the "rabid extremists" pushing that "man made global warming nonsense". He also tried to claim that California's new efforts to curb climate change are forcing businesses like the Wonder Bread factory to shut down, and that the effort to save our planet and ourselves from the coming climate crisis is somehow a threat to "personal liberty". It was sad, really, to witness Sen. McClintock completely miss a good opportunity the GOP has to return to sanity.
I mean, come on! The Governator is giving them a real opportunity
to become productive in solving the climate crisis. Sure, I may not agree with everything Arnold does, but at least he acknowledges reality and he's willing to do something about it. He signed AB 32 last year, and this legislation has now put California on the forefront of finding solutions to climate change. This year, he's signed into law several bills that promote better energy conservation. Basically, Arnold understands that our state will ultimately benefit from thinking ahead and taking action on the climate crisis while there is still time to solve it. Not only are we allowing for our own survival, but we are also creating new business opportunities in producing renewable energy and creating energy-efficient products.
Well, Arnold sees the light somewhat regarding climate change. Why can't the rest of his party do so? Follow me after the flip for more.
So why can't more Republicans recognize the reality of climate change? What will it take for them to wake up and smell the coming crisis? Apparently, the smoke from the wildfires isn't waking them up. And no, neither is the storm surge from the hurricanes. OK, so what will it take? A complete electoral wipe out next year?
Why can't more Republicans see what Arnold is seeing? Why are they now focusing all their energy on smearing Al Gore, when they could actually be thinking of solutions to the climate crisis? For all their talk of "conservatism", they don't see why we must conserve this planet for future generations. For all their talk of "moral values", they can't see the real moral value of caring for God's creation. And for all their talk of "free enterprise", they can't see the new opportunities for enterprise in saving the planet. What's the problem here?
No, instead they opt for denial. And the more they deny, the less the voters take them seriously. And really, why should California voters take Republicans seriously if they continue to deny scientific reality on climate change? We're looking for solutions, not fantasy.
So perhaps, I should be glad as a Democrat that the Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot. Perhaps I should be glad that Republican officials like Tom McClintock and Chuck DeVore would rather deny reality and bash the reality based community as "extremists" than work on real solutions to climate change like their fellow Republicans on the Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and Aliso Viejo have. However, I'm not. I'm actually sad to see the party of Teddy Roosevelt lose its way on conserving our natural resources.
So what will it take for Republicans here to see the light on climate change? More natural disasters? More electoral disasters (for them)? A loss of business opportunities? Or just a reevaluation of what their "conservative values" really are? I wonder.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Last Thursday night, local progressives gathered in Downtown Huntington Beach to protest King George the Clueless' decision to veto health care for poor kids. And fortunately, I was able to attend that protest. It is amazing how so many people understand the need for these kids to get the medical care they need, yet so many far-right wackos like our dear King George can not understand that healthy kids and healthy families mean a healthier nation for all. Even though over 30 OC denizens took time out of their busy Thursday night to protest in the cold Huntington night, and even though some 72% of Americans support health care for poor kids, King George just doesn't get it.
You know, all of this is making me think. It's making me think why so many far-right Republicans don't understand the value of a healthy society. It's making me think about why Republican leaders like George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger don't see the value of ensuring that everyone has quality affordable health care. It's making me think why so many of us are ready to take action, yet so little has yet been done.
Follow me after the flip for more...
When some of us are gravely ill, all of us are ill. When some in our society are sick, our whole society isn't all that well. It's really as simple as that. Businesses are not fully productive when their workers are all sick. Our schools can not prepare our kids for a successful future when they are too sick to go to school. Our hospital emergency rooms can't operate well when they overflow with patients, as many of these patients couldn't afford to take care of their health problems before they reached the point of grave emergency. Now what about this is difficult to understand?
We know we're facing a broken health care system that is leaving way too many Americans sick. But for some reason, the President vetoes health care for underprivileged kids. And for some reason, Arnold the Governator vetoes a bill that would expand health care coverage to over 3 million Californians. Why?
These Republican leaders say they don't like the idea of "socialized medicine". But for some reason, they have no problem with socialized police protection, socialized fire departments, and socialized military. There are many "socialized" services that are available for all the public to use. We all understand the value of keeping our nation and our neighborhoods safe. So why don't more Republicans understand the value of a healthy public?
We all understand that a national military is necessary to keep our nation safe. We understand that if we were to require each individual to defend oneself from all enemies foreign and domestic, that we probably wouldn't survive as a nation. That's why we pay taxes to the federal government to provide for a common defense to secure our nation. Now why is "socialized military" good, but "socialized health care" bad?
Stop and think for a moment. We allow for a common defense against foreign invading militias, but we can't get our state and national leaders to provide for a common defense against forces that are already weakening our society... Forces such as cancer, heart disease, influenza, HIV/AIDS, arthritis, and other nasty ailments. And when these forces attack those who can't afford the type of health insurance that covers all medical expenses, these people are taken out of work and out of school. And of course, all these folks out of school and out of work mean a less productive society for all of us. This is what I meant when I mentioned earlier that when some of us are gravely ill, then all of us are ill.
OK, so what can we do about our health care crisis? How can we fix this broken system? Well, we can start by telling our elected leaders that we want a working health care system that keeps our society well and functioning! If you'd like to send a message to President Bush that you won't allow for any children to go without proper health care, then you can work with MoveOn to host a rally for health care in your own community. And if you'd like to send a message to Arnold that he needs to join our legislators in taking real action to ensure health care for all Californians, then sign up with It's OUR Healthcare to find out what's happening in your community. After all, if we don't speak up and make some change, then we won't ever see the type of change we need to ensure quality, affordable health care for all.
By the way, many thanks to Miles Pendleton Images for all the great photos from last Thursday's rally in Huntington Beach!
Monday, October 01, 2007
The proposed Foothill South toll road would likely drive an endangered
mouse to extinction, wipe out vital habitat, shatter the peace of a popular
campground and even worsen global warming, according to a report by the staff of
the California Coastal Commission released today.
And now, we have the San Diego City Council going on record opposing the Toll Road to Trestles. Oh yes, and both of these events occurred just before the Coastal Commission meets next week to determine the fate of Trestles. So apparently, things aren't looking good for TCA's plan to build a toll road to Trestles.
So what can we expect at next week's Coastal Commission hearing? Will this be the final death blow to the toll road? Follow me after the flip for more...
OK, so now the Coastal Commission Staff Report is recommending that the commission reject TCA's plan for a toll road to Trestles. Why? Why exactly is the Coastal Commission Staff taking such a strong stand against extending the 241 to San Onofre? Perhaps they're actually paying attention to state enivornmental law, as opposed to TCA's complete dismissal of the law.
After all, Section 30231 of Article 5 of the Coastal Act couldn't be any clearer...
The biological productivity and the quality of coastal waters, streams, wetlands, estuaries, and lakes appropriate to maintain optimum populations of marine organisms and for the protection of human health shall be maintained and, where feasible, restored through, among other means, minimizing adverse effects of waste water discharges and entrainment, controlling runoff, preventing depletion of ground water supplies and substantial interference with surface water flow, encouraging waste water reclamation, maintaining natural vegetation buffer areas that protect riparian habitats, and minimizing alteration of natural streams.
So could that possibly be any clearer? If it hurts animal habitats and water quality, then it isn't happening. So how exactly does this apply to the proposed 241 extension through San Onofre? Well, how about those ELEVEN THREATENED OR ENDANGERED SPECIES THAT WOULD LOSE THEIR HABITAT FOREVER IF THE TOLL ROAD IS BUILT THROUGH SAN ONOFRE STATE BEACH? How about San Mateo Creek being named as one of the nation’s most imperiled waterways thanks to the threat of a noisy, dirty toll road running alongside it? This is beautiful coastal wilderness that would be destroyed forever if the toll road were to be placed in San Onofre. And judging by what the Coastal Act says, doing something like this violates California state law.
Oh, and the madness of this toll road to Trestles doesn't stop there! Not only is it illegal, but it's also impractical. After all, extending the 241 to Trestles would absolutely nothing to ease traffic congestion in South County. And if this proposed toll road to Trestles doesn't ease traffic in South County, then why build it?
And if the alignment for this toll road to nowhere is blatantly illegal, and it destroys one of the last great untouched beaches in Southern California, then why build it?
OK, so are yopu feeling outraged now? Angry? Frustrated? And would you like to do something about it?
Great, then we need YOU to attend the next Coastal Commission hearing in San Pedro! This will be our chance to speak out, and to demand that the Coastal Commision follow state law and deny TCA a chance to destroy one of the last great beaches in Southern California. See if you can make it next week, but if not PLEASE check out Save Trestles' page with a link to email the commission about Trestles. Also, go to Save San Onofre for all the latest updates on this effort to save this precious corner of the California coast for future generations to enjoy.