Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Sonoma County high school students organize to demand action on climate change

Nashelly Chavez & Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

High school students from across Sonoma County walked out of classes Friday and converged in Petaluma, Sebastopol and Santa Rosa to join youth-led demonstrations worldwide demanding action in what activists call a global climate crisis.

Tens of thousands of students across the country are expected to participate in the coordinated March 15, grassroots rallies, NPR reported.

In Santa Rosa, about 150 students from across the North Bay and supporters waived homemade signs during a noon march from Old Courthouse Square to City Hall. An open mic session preceded the short, chant-filled walk, where organizers and others skipping school sang songs, read poems and gave environmentally-charged speeches to encourage protecting the earth and accepting the science behind climate change.

“It’s ridiculous, we’ve got to face the facts,” said Lea Fabian-Davies, 17, a senior at Petaluma High School. “We need to save the bees. We need clean oceans. Every small step counts.”

Four local teens, all part of a fellowship program run by the Bay Area chapter of 350, a global environmental group that supports reducing carbon dioxide emissions and investing in clean energy, organized Sebastopol’s rally planned for the town’s Central Park at 12:30 p.m., said Eleanor Jaffe, 17, one of the organizers.

“We need to act fast and have huge action to ensure a future for generations to come,” said Jaffe, a senior at Analy High School. “I think Sebastopol has long been a hub for environmental change and people in our community are excited and engaged about what’s happening environmentally.”

Momentum for today’s protests began last summer with Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who during a speech at the United Nations climate change summit in December told a group of world leaders that they were not doing enough to stop climate change.

Another driver of the youth rallies in the United States is garnering support for the New Green Deal, legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, in February that aims to combat climate change by transitioning to sustainable energy.

Source: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9394979-181/sonoma-county-high-school-students?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

The climate change generation wants to be heard

Rebecca Leber, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

In 2040, Haven Coleman will be 33 years old. Having grown up in Colorado, she may have left the state to attend college or start her career, but wherever she goes will be a stunningly different world from the one she inhabits today.

The planet will have already warmed past one scary threshold — 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial averages — and will be fast approaching the even more frightening mark of 2 degrees Celsius, long considered a catastrophic marker by the global community. Even at 1.5 degrees, there will likely be tens of millions of climate refugees from regions that have become uninhabitable because of heat, flooding, or extreme weather; fragile coral reefs may be nearly decimated; while recurrent flooding, excessive heat, and a constant risk of wildfires will pose an everyday threat to stability in some of the world’s biggest cities.

Not quite yet 13 years old, Coleman is painfully aware of what awaits her generation should there be continued government and social inaction in addressing the perils of a warming planet. “I’ve grown up with climate change,” Coleman told me. “I’ve grown up listening and hearing about climate change. I’m fighting for my future.”

She is one of the school-age protesters who will be skipping classes Friday to join in protests in more than 1,600 school strikes across 100 countries. Students are joining in, inspired by the example of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, who has been striking most Fridays since 2018 to demand political leaders’ attention. The hashtag, #FridaysForFuture has caught on in other countries, like Australia where 200 young people demonstrated in November.

In the U.S., the movement, which is made up of mostly teenage girls, has expanded from a few lone protesters missing school on some Fridays to a nationwide, all-day Youth Climate Strike. Coleman teamed up with 16-year-old Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Minnesota Rep. Imar Oman, and 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor of New York City. Their demands are for the U.S. to embrace the principles underlying the Green New Deal, provide better education on climate change, and connect all government decisions to scientific research.

Read more at https://www.hcn.org/articles/climate-desk-the-climate-change-generation-wants-to-be-heard?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

Posted on Categories Habitats, Sonoma CoastTags , ,

Ocean heat wave brought 67 rare, warm-water species to North Coast

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An extended ocean heat wave that spurred a series of ecological anomalies off the Northern California coast — including toxic algae, mass sea lion strandings and the collapse of the bull kelp forest — also promoted the northward migration of an unprecedented number of southern, warm-water species.

Sixty-seven rare, warm-water creatures, including 37 whose presence has never been documented so far north, were found in the region and points poleward, according to a UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory study published Tuesday in “Scientific Reports.” Everything from bottlenose dolphins to two kinds of sea turtles to barnacles and small sea snails were present during the study period between 2014 and early 2017.

One colorless, tiny snail cousin, the striated sea butterfly, hadn’t previously been seen north of the tip of Baja California. It turned up in sampling nets collecting whatever critters might be floating past the Bodega Bay lab, said lead author Eric Sanford, a UC Davis professor of ecology and evolution.

Similarly, pelagic red crabs — four still alive at the lab — that came ashore at Salmon Creek Beach in January 2017 normally would have been closer to Baja, he said. Also found in the bay was the molted shell of a spiny lobster more commonplace in Baja.

With the planet and the ocean warming, the recent, extended marine heat wave “provides a glimpse of what the Northern California coast might look like in the future,” as species move toward cooler environments to survive, Sanford said.

“We’re basically seeing these communities change before our eyes as more southern species become part of these communities,” he said. “That’s pretty dramatic.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9376990-181/ocean-heat-wave-brought-67

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

How federal disaster money favors the rich

Rebecca Hersher & Robert Benincasa, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO

The federal government spends billions of dollars annually helping communities rebuild and prevent future damage. But an NPR investigation has found that across the country, white Americans and those with more wealth often receive more federal dollars after a disaster than do minorities and those with less wealth. Federal aid isn’t necessarily allocated to those who need it most; it’s allocated according to cost-benefit calculations meant to minimize taxpayer risk.

If they had known, they never would have bought the house on Bayou Glen Road. Sure, it was a beautiful lot, tucked in a bend of the creek, backyard woodsy and wild, the neighbors friendly and the street quiet. A little piece of nature just 20 minutes from downtown Houston. It was exactly what John and Heather Papadopoulos — recently married, hoping to start a family — were looking for in 2007. They didn’t think much about the creek that ran along their yard, aside from appreciating the birds it attracted to the neighborhood.

Across town, the Evans family was similarly indifferent to the wooded bayous that cut through their neighborhood. Janice Perry-Evans chose the house she rented because it was conveniently located near the local high school, which made it easy for her two boys to get to class and home from football practice. Her commute to the post office wasn’t far either. Plus, at $800 per month, the rent was affordable. By 2017, the family had lived there for four years, and didn’t have any plans to move.

And then, in August of that year, both homes were destroyed. Both families had to start over from nothing. But today, one family is financially stable. The other is facing bankruptcy.

Read more at https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , ,

Santa Rosa proclaims flood emergency after 250 million gallons of treated sewage released into streams

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa officials said Tuesday that managers at the city’s wastewater plant have been forced to release at least 250 million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa amid record inflow to the facility that began in last week’s storm.

The three-day deluge pushed more than five times the normal flow of wastewater and runoff into the city’s Laguna de Santa Rosa plant, City Manager Sean McGlynn told the City Council on Tuesday. It was the highest inflow ever recorded at the site, according to the city.

To avoid overwhelming the Llano Road facility, managers began last Wednesday releasing fully treated sewage into Santa Rosa and Colgan creeks and the rain-swollen Laguna, which overtook city blocks on the eastern edge of Sebastopol, including the upscale Barlow shopping and business district.

The emergency release is ongoing, city officials said Tuesday. All three waterways drain into the Russian River.

McGlynn’s report came as the City Council affirmed a local emergency declaration he made last week at the end of the storm. The move is meant to ensure the city has both the flexibility and legal protection to alter operations at its wastewater plant, where flows have abated but remain higher than normal.

Partially treated waste also was diverted last week into storage basins, with plans now underway to fully treat that sewage. That diversion took place from late Tuesday to Thursday afternoon and has not impacted nearby waterways, according to the city.

The plant has enough remaining storage space to handle the extra volume from this week’s rain, Santa Rosa Water officials said. They have yet to discover any damage at the plant stemming from the past storm, which dumped a one-day record of 5.66 inches of rain on Santa Rosa.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9353682-181/santa-rosa-city-council-proclaims

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Sonoma CoastTags , , , , ,

Heatwaves sweeping oceans ‘like wildfires’, scientists reveal

Damian Carrington, THE GUARDIAN

Extreme temperatures destroy kelp, seagrass and corals – with alarming impacts for humanity

The number of heatwaves affecting the planet’s oceans has increased sharply, scientists have revealed, killing swathes of sea-life like “wildfires that take out huge areas of forest”.

The damage caused in these hotspots is also harmful for humanity, which relies on the oceans for oxygen, food, storm protection and the removal of climate-warming carbon dioxide the atmosphere, they say.

Global warming is gradually increasing the average temperature of the oceans, but the new research is the first systematic global analysis of ocean heatwaves, when temperatures reach extremes for five days or more.

The research found heatwaves are becoming more frequent, prolonged and severe, with the number of heatwave days tripling in the last couple of years studied. In the longer term, the number of heatwave days jumped by more than 50% in the 30 years to 2016, compared with the period of 1925 to 1954.

As heatwaves have increased, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs have been lost. These foundation species are critical to life in the ocean. They provide shelter and food to many others, but have been hit on coasts from California to Australia to Spain.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/04/heatwaves-sweeping-oceans-like-wildfires-scientists-reveal

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , ,

SMART’s review of ticket prices could come next month — or next year

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

“We need to look at how we’re going to make our train public transit for everybody, because I think it is not affordable for some people,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who has served on the SMART board for nine years. “We’re seeing that our numbers are still primarily white men working at good paying jobs who can afford the fares. I do want to talk about diversity in terms of ridership and what we’re doing to achieve that.”

The North Bay’s commuter rail service has been in operation for a year and a half, with a stable ridership, slightly higher-than-expected fare revenues, and work continuing on extension of the line to its southern terminus in Larkspur.

But a key dilemma remains unaddressed: How to diversify its passenger base beyond the current set of predominantly white, well-off riders?

Some board members of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency last year publicly speculated on whether system’s pricing structure was impacting the makeup of riders, serving as a detractor for low-income commuters.

The SMART board had previously committed to re-evaluating the fare structure after the first year of operations. But now 18 months since it began service, the agency has yet to bring the matter forward for a public discussion.

Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, has been noncommittal this year and last on when exactly that step would come.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9326457-181/smarts-review-of-ticket-prices

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , , ,

Flooding in Sonoma County causes estimated $155 million in damage

Nashelly Chavez, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The powerful storm that swept over Sonoma County last week caused an estimated $155 million in damage to homes, businesses, roads and other public infrastructure, county officials announced Saturday.

The updated assessment came at the end of a week marked by the largest flood on the lower Russian River in nearly a quarter century. Guernville and other riverside communities took the heaviest blow, but flooding elsewhere — in Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Geyserville — led to widespread damage countywide, said Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma, the county’s planning and building agency.

Approximately 1,900 homes were affected, with major damage reported at 1,760, according to the county.

Flooding impacted 578 commercial buildings and businesses, including restaurants, pubs, resorts, stores and theaters.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9342974-181/flooding-causes-estimated-155-million?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Forests, Sustainable LivingTags ,

Wiped out: America’s love of luxury toilet paper is destroying Canadian forests

Sam Wolfson, THE GUARDIAN

Link to report and sustainability scorecard for paper products

We’re all becoming more aware about the damage single-use plastics and fast fashion has on the environment. Yet there is one product we all throw away every single day that, so far, has not been a major part of conversations about sustainability: toilet paper.

But America’s heavy use of toilet paper – particularly the pillowy soft kind – is worsening climate change and taking “a dramatic and irreversible toll” on forests, especially the Canadian boreal forest, according to a new report by two major environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Stand.earth.

The boreal forest covers almost 60% of Canada and is home to 600 indigenous communities. Its huge size means it can absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the equivalent to the annual emissions of 24m cars each year.

The report found that major brands’ refusal to switch to sustainable materials in toilet paper is having a devastating impact on forests and climate. About 28m acres of Canadian boreal forest have been cut down since 1996, an area the size of Pennsylvania. Virgin pulp, the key ingredient in toilet paper, accounted for 23% of Canada’s forest product exports.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/01/canada-boreal-forest-toilet-paper-us-climate-change-impact-report

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , ,

Santa Rosa wastewater plant releases treated sewage following deluge

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Overwhelmed by record rainfall this week, Santa Rosa’s regional wastewater treatment plant has released about 22 million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the Laguna de Santa Rosa since Wednesday, and the discharge will continue indefinitely with another storm on the way, officials said Friday.

All three waterways drain into the Russian River.

It was further evidence that the deluge, which swamped Russian River communities and displaced thousands of residents this week, had far-reaching impact.

The releases began Wednesday, a day after Santa Rosa received 5.66 inches of rain, a record for one-day precipitation dating back to 1902.

It took about a day for the added volume of sewage mixed with runoff to reach the plant on Llano Road, which treats wastewater from about 230,000 customers in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Cotati and Rohnert Park.

The record-breaking rain from an atmospheric river that stalled over Sonoma County “put a total strain on the system,” said Emma Walton, interim director of Santa Rosa Water.

Santa Rosa’s was at least the second municipal treatment plant overwhelmed or knocked out by this week’s storm. Healdsburg earlier this week declared an emergency stemming from problems at its own flooded facility.

Rainwater seeping into Santa Rosa’s far-flung sewage collection system boosted the flow arriving at the plant to as much as 105 million gallons a day this week, the largest flow ever recorded.

Normal wintertime inflow is 19 million gallons per day, city spokeswoman Adriane Mertens said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9339767-181/santa-rosa-wastewater-plant-releases