A gruesome secret hides in the waters off the California coast: mile-long nets that sit in the ocean like invisible walls.
Fishermen use these drift gillnets to catch swordfish and thresher sharks, but Ashley Blacow, Pacific policy and communications manager for Oceana, said they also catch other creatures that either drown or are tossed overboard.
"They're a non-selective type of fishing gear that end up entangling many different species of marine life that travel through the open ocean like blue shark, striped marlin, dolphin, ocean sunfish, and even large whales," Blacow said.
It's one of my favorite plants in Southern California, but I'm never sure what to call it in polite company. I'm an atheist, so the common name "our Lord's candle" just doesn't sit well with me. "Spanish bayonet" is confusing: other plants share that name. If I'm talking to avid outdoor people, they'll know exactly what I mean if I call it Yucca whipplei, but there's a problem: it's not a yucca. At least not anymore.
On May 6, early in the morning, a mated pair of Gambel's quail brought their new brood of four absurdly tiny chicks into my yard. For the next two days I watched as the family explored the yard, scratched near our patio for bird seed and insects, and ran for cover whenever anything startled them. On May 8 I took a last few blurry photos of the chicks. I haven't seen them since.
In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
- John Muir
Los Angeles' Griffith Park is many things to many people: An observatory to gaze at the stars; An amphitheater where one can enjoy music under the stars; Riding horses, both real and wooden; Riding miniature-sized trains and climbing on actual-sized ones; Perusing giraffes in the zoo or playing a few rounds of golf. All of which comprises what the park's late 19th-century namesake benefactor, Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith, intended when he donated over 3,000 acres to the city of Los Angeles for recreation purposes.
Having grown up just a few miles away, the park has been part of my life since I was an infant. I had pretty much done all of the activities listed above. I thought I knew Griffith Park, yet there was much more left to discover.
Is it tilting at windmills to raise serious questions about the environmental deficits and social consequences of hydraulic fracturing in California (or anywhere)?
An out-of-state reader of my anti-frack column last week argued that I had raised my Don Quixote-like lance against a rock-solid technology that will solve more problems than it has (or will) create.
Given that his email arrived the same day that NOAA announced the Earth's atmosphere now contained 400ppm of carbon dioxide, a haunting boundary line that portends some significant changes in the planet's current flora and fauna, it struck me as a reasonable exercise to respond to his counters.
In good lawyer fashion, my interlocutor laid out three interrelated challenges, to wit:
California condors are famously in trouble. Though a successful captive breeding program has boosted condor numbers 20-fold from their low point in 1987, the future of the largest North American bird is still very much in doubt. Condors are threatened by many factors, but the greatest long-term threat would seem to be a lack of large dead mammals for the scavenging birds to eat safely.
I have a way we might fix that.
There's nothing mysterious about the appeal of hydraulic fracturing, the earth-shaking technique that cracks open deep, tight shale formations to release trapped oil and gas. It makes a lot of money -- for the companies who are involved in the production processes, for those lucky enough to own the mineral rights that lie beneath their property. Anecdotes abound of immense profits being wrung from this facet of the energy business and of instant multi-millionaires in formerly cash-strapped parts of south Texas, central Pennsylvania, and North Dakota.
These narratives of Capitalism Triumphant make for good copy. No less compelling is the inverse: that this boom will crash (as is already beginning to occur in some places), and that when the bust comes the very communities that seem to be benefiting the most from the Eagle Ford Play in the Lone Star State, the Marcellus in the Keystone State, or the Baaken Formation in the Peace Garden State will be in serious trouble. This narration comes with an accompanying I-told-you-so proverb, especially relevant to those living in these once-hardscrabble agricultural regions: you reap what you sow.
Slauson Avenue, for a good portion of its run, is a gritty, dusty industrial corridor, framed by the little-used BNSF Railway track that runs along its north side. Factories, warehouses, and fast-food establishments are prevalent through this stretch of South Los Angeles.
But even a place that many deride as "The Hood" or "The Ghetto" can still yield the most pleasant surprises.
On the northeast corner of Slauson and Compton avenues lies a dense, green oasis known as Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park, an 8.5-acre open space designed to bring the chaparral to the concrete in every way possible.
One early March morning a lifetime ago, as the rising sun purpled the desert sky, I peered over the walls of my pickup truck's bed and blinked sleepily at the Mojave landscape near Boron. The khaki West Mojave bore a color I hadn't seen there before: a bright sparse orange scattered across the desert, almost as if someone had planted a few hundred thousand California poppies out among the paper bag bush and creosote. I rubbed my eyes to make sure the bright sparks weren't artifacts of the previous day's long drive. They were still there when I looked again.
The act of breathing is pretty straightforward, and, when everything is functioning properly, is an unconscious musculatory response.
Yet the chemical composition of the air we are breathing is not so clear-cut, which means we need to be intensely aware of what we are inhaling (and at what time of day we are drawing this essential oxygen into our lungs).
Angelenos have been sensitive to this dilemma for some time. In the 1920s, when more than 430,000 cars were registered in L.A. (one for every three people; today the ratio is closer to one-to-one), the region's residents began to recognize that their Ford Model Ts, Pierce-Arrow Runabouts, and Cadillac Coupes were befouling the air.
No one could have any doubt about this toxic consequence by the 1940s: a thick dark layer of smog blanketed the basin. Yes, there were deniers, which Detroit auto manufacturers paid well to cloud the issue, but in retrospect we know they were dead wrong. The sky didn't lie.