Entries categorized "Science"

Al's Curiosity Corner #2 - Open Forum on the Library Issue

While there has been a discussion on that 'other' blog, the reason I hang here is that many comments get deleted there without explanation, especially on this issue and especially comments even modestly politically right.  However, this is a sensitive issue, and I am not going to allow outright insults directed at trans people/supporters/protestors nor at persons associated with Mom's for Liberty. 

For example, for some reason that other blog allows MFL persons to be called Nazis, and that sort of useless comment isn't going to be allowed here.  On the other hand, in the Yahoo comments on the Bee article, about 153 out of 155 comments were against the library actions, despite the article leaning towards supporting the protestors.  AND . . . many if not most of those commenting there were denying the existence of trans people, insulting trans people, and/or calling trans people various derogatory terms implying mental illness just for being trans.  I'm not putting up with any of that shit here either.  I won't outright delete a comment unless it's completely empty of anything but outright hate towards either side, and I'll always explain why a comment or part of a comment was deleted.

My views on the library matter are simple:  I'm a Jew who believes the Skokie decision was the greatest triumph for the core of what makes America great:  Free speech, baby!

What are your views?   I'd like this to focus on free speech vs. hate speech; the actions/authority of the library/library-manager, the actions of those putting on the meeting and those protesting the meeting, and various takes in the media.

(Note:  I have a life, so your comments may not be posted for many hours.  Deal with it.)


CTC joins Davis in rejecting science & climate realities and funds Yolo 80

CTC's $105M highway widening grant shows it has lost the plot when it comes to following Governor Newsom’s and the Legislature’s stated climate directives.

By Carter Rueben (NRDC) and Alan Hirsch

On May 16 the California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved $105 million from the State’s Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) to widen a stretch of Interstate 80 from Davis to Sacramento. In the room and on the Zoom feed, dozens of Davis and Sacramento-area and statewide advocates called in to ask CTC to reject the funding and push Caltrans to provide real congestion relief and reduced environmental impacts.

NRDC identified TCEP in a 2023 report, "Closing the Climate Investment Gap," as the state program that most heavily invests in highway widening in contravention of our state’s climate goals.

 A study commissioned by the California State Transportation Agency came to a similar conclusion. 

By NRDC’s latest estimate, CTC has granted over $2 billion total to more than 50 highway expansion projects since the TCEP program was created in 2018, even though the program is able to fund projects that are wins for both goods movement and the environment, like truck and train electrification projects and rail grade separation projects.

We're at a pivotal time when the state’s climate laws require the state to dramatically scale up rail lines, bus routes, and active transportation corridors, while investing in electrification efforts that zero-out tailpipe pollution. Yet, the TCEP highway widening projects are doing just the opposite – collectively adding hundreds of millions of additional vehicle miles traveled (VMT) across the state per year. This is a trend we can and must reverse, as our friends at NextGen Policy detailed in their report, California at a Crossroads.

The Yolo 80 project is indicative of the systemic issues at Caltrans and CTC and retro-thinking by Yolo County and city elected officials that reject their own climate action plans drawn up by 5 local citizen climate to enable Caltrans.

What makes the Yolo 80 highway widening particularly striking?

Continue reading "CTC joins Davis in rejecting science & climate realities and funds Yolo 80" »


YES, Mayor Arnold needs to recuse himself again

Arnold80Mace

Back in June I strongly suggested that Mayor Will Arnold recuse himself from City Council discussion/support of the I-80 Managed Lanes Project - The mayor's main gig is a key role in communications at Caltrans. 

He did recuse himself.

Tonight the City Council is voting for approval for one of two variants for re-reconstruction of Mace Blvd (see my opinion on that below). 

While it's not a Caltrans project, per se, the continued problem of operators of private motor vehicles using county roads and Mace to try to bypass traffic on I-80 is in large part due to the sad negligence of Caltrans in supporting anything but nice but expensive-to-use and proportionately symbolic commuter-regional railway service (Capitol Corridor), to focus on induced travel as a healthy strategy (the aformentioned Managed Lanes project) and to seemingly ignore any serious consideration of solutions to the awful I-80/CA-113 interchange, modifications to certain on-ramps to permit entering vehicles to get up to the prevailing speed before merging or any kind of substantial long-distance bus service to complement Capitol Corridor (and more...)

The so-called "restoration" of Mace will not solve the I-80 problem, but since Caltrans won't either, and since Caltrans won't help solve the Mace problem... the discussion and vote tonight is very, very much connected with Caltrans and so the Mayor should again recuse himself. 

***

Sprayingmap8292023As an hopefully not so itchy or worse aside in my favor regarding aerial and other spraying for mosquitoes (specifically to counter the threat of West Nile Virus) in relaton to highways workers at Caltrans and private travellers - and in relation to agenda item 4 also in this evening's Council meeting. missing any attachments!  - I have repeatedly called via social media - and finally, acknowledged comments from staff for Supervisor Provenza - to ensure better outreach to workers busy on the I-80 pavement rehabilitation project and to people transitting the region by its highways who are unlikely to see or hear local (social) media announcements about the spraying. Some of this is immediately adjacent to I-80 - including tonight, during the Council meeting - and CA-113.

***

Back to the Mace Re-re-design: It's a betrayal of the Commons and of the City's symbol and oft-repeated climate change and related goals to prioritize traffic lanes above bike lanes, and to sacrifice (median, in this case) trees instead of traffic lanes for bike lanes... the latter, in other words, is putting people on bikes - or really kids on bikes riding to elementary school  - against trees, really, the Greater Arboreal World. It's a sad, sad day... There's no "restoration" -- the four lanes of Mace are no exiled monarch, and they certainly ain't democracy - automobilist entitlement is getting its way, once again. Look around: Davis is not getting better for walking and cycling. Anyone who has encouraged this motorized farce will have to face their own conscience.


Happy Darwin Day!

Darwin
Why is Darwin so often only shown as an old man with a beard?

By Roberta Millstein

Happy Darwin Day!  It’s been 211 214 years since Charles Darwin was born.

For your Darwin Day, here is a selection of some of my favorite Darwin quotes, all from On the Origin of Species, First Edition.  I hope you enjoy them!

The beginning of the book:

“WHEN on board H.M.S. 'Beagle,' as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it.”

Continue reading "Happy Darwin Day!" »


Vaitla Suggests Return to RoundUp Use in Davis Parks.

Spray picBy Nancy Price

I was stunned to read that Bapu Vaitla, who is a candidate for Davis City Council in District 1, is considering overturning the City's phase out of glyphosate (manufactured and commonly sold as RoundUp by Monsanto) instead of improving and strengthening the City's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. (see Question #2 at  https://www.davisite.org/2022/09/part-5-candidate-responses-to-the-sierra-club-yolano-group-questionnaire-for-the-2022-davis-city-cou.html#more). None of the other candidates made this audacious proposal.

Here is some background. The City decided to phase out glyphosate in 2017; finally discontinuing its use in 2020.  The process involved three City citizen-advisory commissions: Natural Resources, Recreation and Parks, and Open Space & Habitat. It took over a year and a half and involved a widely attended public citizens forum, a city-wide citizen survey, many individual Commission meetings, and a 3-way joint Commission meeting. Despite considerable stonewalling from staff, who attempted to derail and water down THIS [the] citizen-based effort, the measure was finally unanimously approved by the City Council. What passed in 2017 wasn’t perfect, but it was well-received by citizens. (For more details, see https://www.davisite.org/2018/07/bad-process-leads-to-mediocre-decision-on-pesticide-use-in-davis-and-not-without-wasted-time-and-eff.html). 

Around the same time, the city forced out its popular and highly respected IPM specialist (see https://www.davisite.org/2018/05/martin-guerenas-statement-city-of-davis-environmental-recognition-award-2018.html). Regrettably, that position still hasn’t been filled. But given the clear desire expressed by many staff to continue using non-organic pesticides over other less toxic weed management strategies, it is hard to see the ongoing long-term failure to fill the position as an unintended accident. 

Instead of advocating for hiring an IPM Specialist, Vaitla thinks we should go back to glyphosate because, he says, — “we cannot reasonably resort to mechanical weed management.

There are several problems here. One is Vaitla offering an opinion that either ignores or is ignorant of this recent controversial history of pesticide use by the City. A second problem is his complete dismissal and disregard of the work of the public and three citizen-advisory commissions which collectively devoted many hundreds of hours of work to this effort, most of which occurred prior to Mr. Vaitla's most recent move to Davis. 

A third problem is that, although Mr. Vaitla gives lip service to the Precautionary Principle, he doesn’t follow it. Notably, just this past June, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected EPA's analysis for determining that glyphosate is likely not carcinogenic to people and ordered EPA to conduct "further analysis and explanation." The science is far from settled, and since there are valid reasons to think that glyphosate is a human carcinogen supported by respected international authorities and agencies, we should avoid using it especially since we have other methods at our disposal. 

Vaitla's position is hasty, overlooks a long City history and the latest Court rulings, and lacks respect for the citizen and commissions-led process in Davis. And, most importantly, it fails to protect our health. This attitude generally does not bode well for the sort of Councilmember he would make. 


Call on City Manager to immediately BAN leaf blowing! RIGHT NOW!

AirNow080620212pm, Davis - The air is now nearly twice as bad as what requires a ban on leaf blowing. The City updates its notification as needed at 730am. This morning the air was good...

Yesterday weather forecasters predicted that the smoke from various fires to the northeast would circle counter-clockwise at high elevations and then slowly descend on the north Bay Area and our area.

YSAQMDwarning08062021
Yolo-Solano AQMD issued an alert in mid-morning.



DavisAir8620211015am
This morning the smoke was easy to see, but the AQI was still good here as the smoke had not reached lower elevations. It started to do so in the early morning in Lake County, then soon in Napa and west Yolo.

 

DavisAir8620211125am
Late this morning...
AirnowBryant0806202111am
Quite curiously the Airnow distribution of data from the same monitors showed a lower AQI by half two hours ago, and at about 2pm nearly the same, getting close to 200 AQI.on Purple Air...
CleanestAirinDavis
The consistently cleanest part of the area right now - at lower left, just south of West Village, earlier today. This is the location of the City's only official AQI monitoring station. This is what the City uses to determine a leafblowing ban.
Archerleafblowing2
It's been well over 100 AQI for at least two hours, and is the source of the image at the top. So why isn't the City issuing a ban? Click on image to read the City's explanation...

The Council and Staff would be singing us this fine song if we were making this up.... this threat to our health. But surely they realize that is extremely dangerous, a matter of equity, and of health as serious - at least temporarily - as COVID.

It's been nearly a year since the City issued conditions for a temporary ban on leaf blowing. I've asked and have never seen any data on how many warnings or fines were issued. The Natural Resources Commission's poll on leaf blowing only ended at the end of July, and they might not see what the staff has processed until late September, and might not make recommendations until late October, while we're already in the season of falling leaves... and four months into the wildfire fallout season :-(. (Oh, by the way... today is the 76th anniversary of the beginning of the first nuclear war.)

Leafblowersokay


Smoky Days Ahead!?! Leafblowers, Buses and Climate Shelters.

7.27-28_windsI just sent the following to the City Council, relevant Commissions (BTSSC, NRC and SSC), County Supervisors and Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District...

Per Weather.com the winds will shift to the north (and variants) at least part of this Tuesday and Wednesday. The prevailing south winds (from the south) have until now seem to have helped spare Davis and the immediate region (esp. to the west) from wildfire fallout from the huge fires east of Chico.

As the wind may not just shift until late Monday or early Tuesday, I hope that Staff will be prepared to put the leaf blower ban into effect. (Note that most of the combined air region has had Spare the Air days for most or all of last week, if only for ozone)

Davisinbottomleftcorner
Davis is in the lower left corner - https://fire.airnow.gov

Spare the Air means that Unitrans is free. Possible smoke and almost certain heat (esp on Wednesday through Friday) will in my understanding open our "Climate Shelters" at Vets and the Mary Stephens Library. As 14th Street is served by Unitrans buses (1 to 3 lines depending on the time of year and day of the week) it seems like a good and free way for many to get to the Climate Shelters, yes? It seems likely that Climate Shelters disproportionately serve lower income people who have less access to not only modern HVAC but also personal motor vehicles.

Unfortunately the free Unitrans service is in tiny print at best on the Share the Air notices (email or website), and as far as I recall has never been mentioned in the City's notices about the Shelters. All of these programs are happening, but the communication is not joined up, and few know about them

SparetheAir-Unitrans

Beyond this, I don't understand why Yolobus doesn't have free service during Spare the Air days. Do I understand this correctly? Can people in Davis get to Climate Shelters (or anywhere else urgent) during a smoke and/or wildfire fallout event by free public transport, but not anyone else in Yolo County?

Thanks for taking immediate action when necessary.... or preemptively!


New metaphors for new understandings of genomes

Parking-signsHow genetic modification is like a modification to the parking code

By Sarah Perrault and Meaghan O’Keefe

The city of Davis — a town of about 67,000 residents in California and the home of the University of California Davis– is considering changing its downtown parking regulations to add parking fees and limit parking hours. Debates about this proposal have been raging in city council meetings, in local news venues, and in social media. The topics of debate, however, are not about the actual proposal, but about effects on people with mobility limitations; about whether there are enough bike racks in downtown Davis; about whether businesses would be harmed by the change; about whether businesses should have to pay for their employees’ parking; about climate change; about traffic jams and traffic signal timing and public transit and more.

On the surface, none of this has anything to do with genes or genetic modification but looked at another way, the similarities are striking. At first glance, the small change to the municipal code is just that — a small change of a few sentences in a 42-chapter document — but the consequences come not from the change itself, but from how that code is used, and from effects on civic life that extend into realms not immediately related to the matter of parking.

Continue reading "New metaphors for new understandings of genomes" »


Happy Darwin Day!

Darwin
Why is Darwin so often only shown as an old man with a beard?

By Roberta Millstein

Happy Darwin Day!  It’s been 211 years since Charles Darwin was born.

For your Darwin Day, here is a selection of some of my favorite Darwin quotes, all from On the Origin of Species, First Edition.  I hope you enjoy them!

The beginning of the book:

“WHEN on board H.M.S. 'Beagle,' as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it.”

Continue reading "Happy Darwin Day!" »


UC Temporarily Suspends Glyphosate-based Herbicides

IMG-4152

By Nancy Price

On May 14th, 2019 Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California, sent a remarkable letter to the Chancellors of all UC campuses, the Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and the CEOs of all  the UC Medical centers announcing the “temporary suspension of the use of glyphosate-based herbicides.”

Napolitano cited “concerns about possible human health and ecological hazards, as well as potential legal and reputational risks associated with this category of herbicides.”

This may be a response to the mounting scientific research linking glyphosate to cancer, or it could just be that the UC system is worried about being named as a defendant in a glyphosate lawsuit like the three Monsanto/Bayer have lost over the last two years. The most recent lawsuit found Bayer responsible for damages of 2 billion dollars.

Continue reading "UC Temporarily Suspends Glyphosate-based Herbicides" »


Honoring Dr. Thomas Cahill

Cahill programA man whose outstanding science was matched by his humanity

By Roberta Millstein

On Saturday, a packed St. James Catholic Church paid their respects to one of Davis’s most esteemed and well-loved sons, Dr. Thomas Cahill, better known to his friends and family as “Tom.”

Tom’s achievements were many; they are outlined in the obituary in the Davis Enterprise.  What most impresses me about his record was his dedication to doing science that mattered.  Trained as a nuclear astrophysicist, he quickly turned to the issue of air quality in California and was one of the small team that successfully advocated for the lead- and sulfur-free gasoline in the early 1970s.  His work on air quality continued throughout his career, even after his “retirement,” working on ultra-fine aerosols (including their impact on first-responders to the 9/11 World Trade Center attack) and aerosol impacts on global climate.

A few years ago, I was visiting at another university and met another faculty member who worked on air quality.  I asked him if he had heard of Tom Cahill.  The answer?  “Of course, yes!  Tom is the person to talk to about air quality issues.”

Continue reading "Honoring Dr. Thomas Cahill" »


How will – and should – the recent Monsanto Roundup decision affect Davis?

PesticideapplicationA few weeks ago, a jury awarded $289 million in damages to a California school groundskeeper, finding that his cancer was caused by on-the-job exposure to Monsanto’s pesticide Roundup, the main active ingredient of which is glyphosate.  How will this affect Davis?  How should it?

Recall that, in a rather messy and prolonged process, the Davis City Council voted to “phase out” the use of glyphosate.  But where is the City in that process?  Do we even have an IPM specialist to replace Martin Guerena (who stepped down many months ago after being ill-treated by the City), i.e., someone who could oversee this phase out and report on it?  

And does the phase out need to be accelerated?  Or should it occur immediately?

Continue reading "How will – and should – the recent Monsanto Roundup decision affect Davis?" »


Women for Water Research swim Trans Tahoe Relay

On Saturday, July 21, I had the opportunity to join five other UC Davis-affiliated women to swim the Trans Tahoe Relay.  The Trans Tahoe Relay serves as a fundraiser for Keep Tahoe Blue, but we also swam to support the  Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) and the Center for Watershed Sciences (CWS).  The day was sunny, the water was cool, clear, and refreshing, the mountains ringing the lake were beautiful.  It was an exhilarating, fun, tiring, and fulfilling day.

Tahoe-overlook
Just to give a sense of size of the lake and its surroundings, here I am with my guard poodles at a Lake Tahoe overlook in August 2014.

The Trans Tahoe Relay is a race that crosses the northern end of Lake Tahoe from east to west at a part of the lake where it is 10 miles wide.  (The lake overall is approximately 22 miles long and 12 miles wide – it’s a very large and deep lake!).  Teams are composed of six swimmers each, with a support boat.  (We owe big thanks to TERC for providing us with a boat and to TERC’s director, Geoff Schladow, for piloting the boat).  The rules are that each swimmer swims for 30 minutes, and then takes turn swimming 10 minutes each, until the 10 miles is completed.  On our team, after our first leg each of us did two 10-minute legs, with two members of the team doing a third 10-minute leg.  So, we didn’t break any speed records, but we were happy with our result anyway!

Continue reading "Women for Water Research swim Trans Tahoe Relay" »


Martin Guerena’s Statement: City of Davis Environmental Recognition Award 2018

Martinguerena_headshotcBy Martin Guerena

I would like to thank the citizens of Davis and the Natural Resources Commission for this environmental recognition award. I would also like to thank all the citizen volunteers, some who I worked with, who have participated with the various environmental groups around town and campus. Your work is important and an integral component of the community’s sustainability effort.

I find it ironic that the institution that basically drove me and the former Integrated Pest Management program out, was now sponsoring an award for my efforts.

Continue reading "Martin Guerena’s Statement: City of Davis Environmental Recognition Award 2018" »