Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Sep. 20, 2017
by AVA News Service, September 20, 2017
AFTER SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of consultants, at least four years of staff time, an expensive Sonoma County “agency” supposedly handling emergency services for Mendocino County in a professionally staffed manner, it was surprising, if not downright shocking, to watch Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting in which the Board and staff demonstrated a disturbing ignorance regarding emergency services in Mendocino County.
THREE WEEKS AGO, the Board voted 3-1 (McCowen dissenting, with Dan Gjerde absent) to put County dispatch and inland ambulance services out to bid at the same time in the next few months. The three Supervisors who voted for the combined RFP “timeline” gave absolutely no reason for outvoting Supervisor John McCowen, who tried to point out that contracting for dispatch at the same time as inland ambulance services would be too disruptive. No matter, Dan Hamburg, Carre Brown and Georgeanne Croskey voted to go ahead anyway for no other reason than that it was presented to them that way by Sonoma County’s Coastal Valley EMS pseudo-agency, an agency that has drawn criticism for high-handedness in Sonoma County as well as some circles in Mendocino County.
FORTUNATELY, when Supervisor Dan Gjerde returned from vacation he exercised his option as Supervisor to revisit the decision, pointing out that the Board may not have known that Calfire was billing the county at a discounted rate, only for personnel, but not for overhead or facilities costs.
TURNS OUT that was the least of what the Supervisors didn’t know.
THEY didn’t know that there are five separate dispatch operations in Mendocino County (two of which overlap with the inland Exclusive Operating Area: Ukiah and Willits dispatch centers)
THEY didn’t know (or didn’t realize) that privatizing dispatch would affect the entire county, not just the 101 corridor.
THEY didn’t know that there would be substantial cost savings if the Ukiah and/or Willits dispatch operations were combined with current County-wide EMS dispatcher, Calfire.
THEY didn’t know the cost of the current dispatch contracts was and what the savings might be if combined.
THEY didn’t know the call volumes by area, nor what current response times for dispatch or ambulance response are, even though CalFire’s computer aided dispatch system could easily provide that info.
THEY didn’t know the background of the conversations that had occurred between local fire agencies and Coastal Valley EMS, which had previously told the fire officials that the dispatch and ambulance had to be done together when they don’t.
THEY didn’t know what options they had for contracting out dispatch nor had any of the expensive prior consultant reports specifically addressed dispatch as an issue or a problem.
DID COASTAL VALLEY intentionally withhold this vital information for some hidden privatization agenda? Did County HHSA staff ask for it before putting it before the Board? Did the Supervisors who casually voted to go out for bid three weeks ago ask any related questions? Whatever the answers to those questions are, everyone involved should be summarily fired for failing to do proper staff work on such an important matter.
AFTER A FOUR HOUR BREAK, and after a parade of firefighters from every part of the county wanted to continue with CalFire, the Board returned to the issue late in the afternoon and voted 3-2 (Gjerde, McCowen, Croskey in favor; Brown and Hamburg against) for Gjerde’s motion to split the dispatch RFP from the ambulance RFP and to work with Calfire to incorporate any new requirements. Brown and Hamburg inexplicably said that 1) they didn’t realize the disruption problem associated with changing both dispatch and ambulance services at the same even though McCowen had made that problem quite clear three weeks ago, and 2) they didn’t want to be seen as not supporting staff — the same staff that had failed to present the full range of issues and information to the Board. Hamburg also argued that in his own exalted opinion he was quite sure Calfire would win any competitive bidding anyway, which would give Calfire some bragging rights. (!) To make such a contorted argument assumes that a private corporate contractor couldn’t out-promise and underbid Calfire with a package deal on both ambulance and dispatch.
SUPERVISOR CROSKEY was the swing vote. She obviously saw the error of her previous vote and deserves much credit for reversing her position in light of the new information and the arguments of the local fire officials who unanimously urged the Board to hold off on putting dispatch out to bid.
ANOTHER LOSS FOR BLACKBIRD
by David Severn
I don't think anybody would condemn the idea of giving inner city/at risk kids a glimpse of nature and/or an introduction to a rural/agrarian lifestyle. Doing such is not the issue with the greater Philo/Anderson Valley community in their opposition to the nonprofit Pathways in Education Blackbird Farms remake of the Highland Ranch three miles above the town of Philo.
Obviously when I write I speak for myself, but I think it is fair to say that at cause for our collective alarm is the greed based, often invisible manipulation of truth, legality and propriety that pervades the John and Joan Hall family method of operation.
While we might have grumbled some during their first three years of operation we did not kick up a real stink until it was revealed in early 2016 that they had intended from the beginning to increase their occupancy from the permitted 36 people total occupancy to 292, thereby almost doubling Philo's population - and all for for-profit enterprise. The children and the nonprofit designation only providing a colorful and charming cover for the greed.
I will say for the most part the interns they hire are delightful, idealistic young adults who take great pleasure in helping to provide the 22 school age children with a unique for them 11 day country experience.
Two Sundays ago I went with my two grand children John and Marvel to the Shenoa swimming hole where for the first time I met four Blackbird Farm "interns" enjoying the blessings of the River. It was cordial and one of them and I actually had a very pleasant conversation about education and the childhood learning experience. So pleasant that we agreed that it would be nice to meet again sometime for further discussion.
As we were wrapping up another group of Blackbirders appeared and one somewhat harshly asked "Are you David Severn?" And then proceeded to ream me for my year old article on the Fall Festival held last November where I found ridiculous, in their words, the " …activities that showcase the unique character of Blackbird Farms." Here's what I wrote:
"After signing in and being given a colorful card inscribed, 'Blackbird Farm Fall Festival - Blackbird Farm is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating students about sustainable living, agriculture and livestock.' I was invited to visit 5 stations and receive stamps that would admit me to the S'mores station. Station one was ridiculous - a white horse smeared with various color paint standing patiently waiting for me to adorn it further from the palette of pastel paint and a brush made available for the task. No thank you. (Poor horse)
Next another painting exercise but at least not on a live animal. No thanks. The third station had a young lad attempt to transplant a broccoli start from one six-pack to another. He had obviously been given some instruction but couldn't quite make it happen without a college trained intern's help, there was just too darned much dirt in the second similar sized six-pack to accommodate the dirt from both. Next was a lamb with a sign "Kiss me" attended by a pretty young gal that could have been in high school but said she was an employee. I pondered briefly the importance of kissing sheep to sustainable living but again declined. By then I'd had enough and the draw of a S'more wasn't strong enough to have me search out the fifth station.
The reader can make up her own mind but if this was to be an introduction to Blackbird Farms 'educational' curriculum, my take is that it is pathetic."
I strongly stand by this sentiment today.
The young man, that took umbrage with my views claimed I had single handedly turned "all of the Valley" against Blackbird. When I suggested that he write up his version of the public presentation he claimed he didn't have the time.
But as I said before the children are not really the issue.
If you go to CorporationWiki you will find that John and Joan Hall along with daughter Jamie Donahue own collectively maybe 75 different businesses, half non-profit and half for-profit. Their corporate enterprises are in constant flux with some going inactive and others newly created. I suspect it is the old pea under the walnut shell trick played with piles of money and to fool government and private watchdogs.
In 2006 following an Extraordinary Audit called for by five CA counties the State Dept. of Justice sued the Halls for $57 million in over charges from their publicly funded charter school operations. At the time they had over 60 charter schools in California, half for-profit, half non-profit. In brief - in court: The State won. The Halls appealed and won. The State re-charged and won. The Halls re-appealed and just two weeks ago lost. So at present it is three for the State (that's us) and one for the Halls. There is a 60 day window for the Halls to yet again appeal. They probably will.
Also just three months ago the courts proclaimed that several of the Halls' charter schools were operating in violation of the law and were required to close. The problem being that once a charter school received authorization in a given county district the Halls would then inappropriately open satellite schools in other districts throughout that county. It appears that maybe as many as a third of the Halls' Options for Youth and Opportunities for Learning charter schools have been recently closed in response. We'll look into this a bit more.
Here in Mendocino County following our community uproar when we finally learned what the Halls were up to, the County at last got around to inspecting what was going on up on the hill and found 10 ongoing code violations. To this day some of these have been dealt with and others not.
That same Anderson Valley community response that got the inspectors on the job and kicked the Planning and Building Department into gear pressured the Halls into withdrawing their original Major Use Permit Application for 292 occupancy. But like their proclivity for appeal the Halls are tenacious and have re-applied for a Major Use Permit. The problem is that we, the public, will not be able to see what they are up to now until something like two or three weeks before the issue goes for approval before the Planning Commission.
I'VE WATCHED the first installment of "Vietnam," the PBS special by Burns and Novick. The first 90 minutes are very good, and provide a good, clear, fair explication of the complicated politics of Vietnam beginning with the French colonialists. Even the Marxist in-fighting among the revolutionary nationalist Vietnamese groups was dispassionately and, from what I know of it, fairly presented. Probably like a lot of people I got a rueful laugh out of the sponsors of the series, a swinish Who's Who including some of the worst people in the country, from the Bank of America to one of the Koch Bros. I'd read that Burns had insisted that "kill" instead of "murder" be applied to the My Lai Massacre, a bad sign of things to come. But so far, so good.
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RE THE FORT BRAGG gang punks who have recently distinguished themselves by beating up a guy in the Safeway parking lot with baseball bats. What's their citizenship status?
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AS SCUMBAGGERY inexorably rises from sea to shining sea, can't the media at least spare us the photographs of murdered children? What's the point? A prose account is sufficiently unbearable. Public morale isn't helped by the Press Democrat's insensate editors running repeat photos of two children asphyxiated by their depraved father. Ditto for most other media.
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THE NFL has a problem a lot bigger than Kaepernick and Black protests by its players. Except for about four teams, the league is so unbalanced most of the games are boring as hell. And speaking of Black protests, if the mighty ava were at the helm of the sinking ship, SS America, we'd concede the obvious — that Black people are still screwed over every which way, that their history is uniquely awful and that special concessions, backed up with cash, are necessary if the mass of Black people are ever going to be fully included in whatever it is we have going here.
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WHY DOES UKIAH need another motel? A Holiday Inn Express? Really? What's an express motel, one where you get half off if you don't require clean sheets?
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SOCIAL MEDIA is alive with suggestions about what to do with the 400 oceanside acres of the Fort Bragg mill site now that it's been rezoned or is about to be rezoned. The conversation is, to say the least, premature. The Koch Bros own it. If they choose to erect a giant neon replica of Trump, that's what they'll do. The opinions of Fort Bragg, I daresay, are not high on their list of concerns.
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FORT BRAGG is likely to pay a headhunter firm a lot of money to find the town a new city manager — "the national search for excellence," as the bogus process is known in Mendocino County as, typically, his or her excellency just happens to be someone's cousin, love interest, former drug buddy, therapy pal, or the person one desk over, which in Fort Bragg's case, would be the smart and capable, Marie Jones. The prob usually turns out to be that the smart, capable person at the power lever works for a collection of, ah, inattentive elected supervisors, councilpeople, board members, so the smart person simply takes over in lieu of coherent direction, hence the reign of the departing Linda Ruffing. If the national search for excellence is turned over to an agency, Fort Braggers ought to know that the agency will be comprised of "professional city managers," mostly retired, who are likely to recommend a buddy, whether or not the buddy is right for the job. With Ms. Jones, Fort Bragg would get a known quantity, and could save a lot of money not out-sourcing the hiring task. Obviously she can do the job, so why not spare the expense of the national search for blah-blah?
FROM THE WILLITS NEWS ARCHIVES CIRCA SEPTEMBER 1989
The largest one truck load of redwood logs (one huge tree) on record, according to Clair Whitcomb who was chopping boss at the time, was hauled over a private (Burma) road from Jackson Valley to Union Lumber Co. in Fort Bragg on Sept. 10. 1957, on a Rossi and Stoddard truck equipped with 12-feet wide bunks. The truck was driven by Wes Copland. The tree was felled by George Whitcomb (Clair’s father) and Kenny Brasket. The logs contained approximately 60,000 board feet, were 40 feet long, seven, eight and nine feet in diameter, weighed about 150 tons and made enough lumber to build five small houses.
HAVE YOU SEEN JELENA?
Jelena Pajić (Nenadic), a San Jose woman, told folks she was going camping on August 14. She didn’t get specific about where she was headed but was supposed to be back in a week. Family and friends have not heard from her since. They have reported her missing and received a tip that she was seen two days ago a little north of Willits with a man who had short black hair.
Jelena is 5’8″ and weighs about 140 pounds. She has brown hair and eyes.
Her white 2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 has a California license plate of 7GYH248 is also missing. It was not seen with her when she was possibly spotted near Willits.
If you have any information about Jelena, please contact the San Jose Police Department at (408) 277-4786.
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STILL SATIRICAL AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
An Interview with Paul Krassner at 85
by Jonah Raskin
Satirist Paul Krassner made history with his raucous magazine, The Realist, the great-grandfather of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” Like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, he has had no sacred cows. I’ve known Krassner since 1970, when we were both Yippies and members of the Youth International Party. Born in Brooklyn in 1932, Krassner celebrated his 85th birthday earlier this year in Dessert Hot Spring where he lives year-round. When I emailed him ten questions and asked for short answers he emailed back with ten pithy responses.
Q: How did it feel to turn 85 this year?
A: 85 is the new 84.
Q: What’s the funniest thing you can say about Donald Trump?
A: Hillary would have him locked up.
Q: Why do you live on the edge of a desert?
A: Found a fine inexpensive home.
Q: Would you like to return to Brooklyn, New York your hometown?
A: Nope, I like California way better, from Santa Cruz to San Francisco to Venice Beach to Desert Hot Springs and to the Anderson Valley.
Q: We’ve seen everything this year, including a biography of our former whipping boy, Jerry Rubin. What’s the world coming to?
A: Insanity, cruelty, lack of compassion, stupidity, climate change, greed, dishonesty and yet optimism.
Q: Of all your buddies over the years who do you miss the most?
A: Ken Kesey, Abbie Hoffman, Phil Ochs, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.
Q: Is there good sex at 85?
Q: Is women’s liberation overrated?
A: Misogyny must be stopped.
Q: How do you feel about the alt-right? Is it neo-Nazi?
A: It sucks horribly. Still, I’m a fanatic about freedom of speech.
Q: In hindsight, how does Obama look do you?
A: I would vote for him again both times.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Skrag strolled by today and said, ‘I didn't appreciate what you told the media about my appearance.’ I told him to buzz off. Then he says, ‘Who do you think you are, Little Dog, the Clark Gable of mutts?’ Well, I'm not about to get into back and forth with deadbeat cats, but I'm the only living creature on this place with a real pedigree, and that includes the people!”
DOCTOR OF 'NEGATIVE ENERGY'
I was flipping through Superior Court records today, and noticed that Dr. Kevin Miller -- and trustee at the Fort Bragg hospital -- has been charged with domestic violence.
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Be sure to catch his presentation about all of our 'negative energy' at marker 1:43 here: https://mendocinotv.com/…/mcdh-board-of-directors-august-3…/
Scott M. Peterson
FORT BRAGG wants your opinion: The Fort Bragg City Council has re-started the process to rezone the Mill Site for reuse. The City has created a quick survey to give you an opportunity to provide input into this very important planning process that has the potential to be a game changer for Fort Bragg. Please complete our ten minute survey and let City Council know what you want, value and think.
Click the link below to start the survey.
Thank you for your participation!
ED NOTE (Mark Scaramella). Déjà vu?: Why does this subject sound so familiar? For example, this from 2005: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Fort-Bragg-sees-future-in-polluted-past-Rustic-2729965.php
REMEMBERING THE PIEDMONT HOTEL
Before the murderous crooked and still scott-free pillars of the community burned it down for fun and profit, along with a great deal of the rest of downtown Fort Bragg, the Piedmont was a lovely place to eat good Italian food and seafood for cheap. The dining hall ceiling was bordered and ringed by a vast display of abalone shells and other things aquatic and nautical, lending its luster to the spaghetti and meatballs below.
If you went in for minestrone soup, it came in a big bowl for the whole table, that you'd ladle into your own dish, and when the bowl was empty they'd bring you more and, along with it, another basket of thick-cut sourdough bread and a fresh plate of butter. To get into the dining room you went through the bar, a long dim hallway whose left-side wall was the hunched-over backs of a line of old men on bar stools.
I especially remember one of the waitresses at the Piedmont because of her astoundingly narrow waist. No corset or artificial means apparent. It looked as though you could put your hands together around her and your middle fingers would touch, and your thumbs would touch. I don't remember her name. She died very young, though. And I'm not sure if this part is a real memory or something I dreamed: but I think one time I was there and her boyfriend came in, a tall blonde boy built like a football player, and they communicated something between them without speaking, and everyone in the place waited, also quiet, and then he left and everything started moving again.
The Anderson Valley Advertiser recently reprinted its 1990's series on the Fort Bragg fires. That material is available on their website: TheAVA.com
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 20, 2017
Donaldson, Hull, Kostick, Reichardt
JASON DONALDSON, Forrest Grove, Oregon/Laytonville. Burglary tools.
JOSEPH HULL, Fort Bragg. Burglary of inhabited dwelling, receiving stolen property, false impersonation of another, probation revocation.
JEFFREY KOSTICK, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
DAMON REICHARDT, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, criminal threats.
LOOK UP MY STORY “The Miracle at Ballinspittle.” In it, a guy is shown everything he’s consumed in his life. You know, a herd of cows, sheep, and then all the booze he’s drunk. There are great, great barrels of beer and crates of whiskey. But there is just a tiny little pot of gin because he didn’t really care for gin. And I think I would go into that category. Now I think you’re asking for what booze in my youth were most vomited up by me and my friends. Well, ripple. Remember ripple? Good god. Here it was this sparkling, cheap, delicious wine. So we went out a couple of times and you get ripped on it and howl at the moon and then, of course, you vomit. I’ll put ripple in that category of cheap wines that you want to see only handed to you by Lucifer as you pass the gates of hell.
— T.C. Boyle
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Recently I asked a 90-year-old Southern Belle what had most changed in her lifetime. She replied “now anything goes,” and she said anyone living together out of marriage would have been “shunned” in the rural community where she grew up.
For my part, I am pleased that couples can live together without marriage, but I’m a gentleman enough not to upbraid a 90-something, even when she began to talk about African-Americans in ways that made segregation and worse sound like parts of the good old days. We should not go back there.
That said, we have too many folks of all backgrounds who want instant celebrity and gratification in place of working hard and saving for things that matter long-term by building individual wealth. Little in our culture inculcates those bourgeois values. Even home ownership can be seen as a way to leverage credit and pile up more debt in the form of home-equity loans.
We have to figure out a way to return to a culture of thrift over gratification, of social responsibility and self-reliance over victimhood and bail-outs. It’s not just the Academic Left who’d oppose that shift; it’s the people in various businesses who like us to remain in debt.
Burning Man 2017 #10
by Louis Bedrock
Like most families, ours has had its eccentrics. My father’s older brother, Ruby, was a street tough who, nevertheless, was a doting uncle. He would always give his nephews a dollar when he saw us. He drew the reprobation of our parents by offering us puffs on his cigarettes or swigs of beer or Scotch whisky. He would let us drive his car while he sat beside us offering encouragement.
Uncle Yonkel married a Catholic girl—my aunt Rita. She and her kids wore crucifixes and chains around their necks. Their younger daughter Beverly, who was beautiful and for whom I secretly lusted, became a born again Christian. Bev’s older brother Carl, an atheist, threw her out of his house because of her proselytizing and told her and her husband to come back when they grew up.
Uncle Fred was a favorite too. An Irish Protestant, he was a quiet steady presence at all family events. He and my Aunt Dot were loners: there was something almost exotic about them. They didn’t intermix easily with the rest of the family.
I always liked to see them. Fred talked to me as if I were an adult even when I was very young. He asked me how I was and what was going on in my life—and he really listened to my answers. When Fred reached the age of 70, he filed a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey when the NJDMV attempted to oblige him to retake his driving test. He claimed this was age discrimination.
However, the most eccentric family member was Uncle Charlie. Uncle Charlie was married to Aunt Gus—a woman no one in the family liked. When their young child was kidnapped, suspicion fell upon Gussie and her lover. The boy’s body was found bound and gagged: he had asphyxiated because of a handkerchief crammed into his mouth to keep him quiet.
Gussie and her boyfriend were exonerated because of lack of evidence. Charlie never had another kid. The experienced left him a bitter old man for the rest of his life.
Uncle Charlie hated black people, all goyim (non-Jews), lawyers, politicians, and the customers that came into his pharmacy on Hollywood Ave. in Orange, NJ. Almost all his customers were black, so there was an overlap. Curiously, his two best friends were black doctors.
For a while, I worked for Uncle Charlie on weekends. I was puzzled about his attitude toward his customers who called him “Doc” and revered him. He almost never smiled or uttered a kind word. He never addressed them by name.
Uncle Charlie was always nice to me and to the rest of the family. But he was less nice to everyone else. One cold December day, as we went to open the store early in the morning, we passed an elderly black man who greeted us and said,
—I’m jes like Santa Claus. I’m jes like Santa Claus.
Uncle Charlie responded,
—You’re just like a goddamned drunk. Get away from my store.
Another day, Uncle Charlie eyed a late model Cadillac that was parked in front of the store. He asked me to take a couple of nails and place them under the front tires explaining,
—That car belongs to some son of a bitch politician. He parked here yesterday and I put nails under the tires hoping the car would go out of control and he’d be killed, but unfortunately it didn’t work. Maybe we’ll have better luck today.
One bitter cold February day, Uncle Charlie told me to open a couple of small packages of salted peanuts from the candy section of the store and to go out and feed the pigeons that were scavenging for food on the sidewalk. I was surprised but did as he asked.
After scattering the peanuts on the sidewalk, I reentered the store and said,
—That was a kind thing to do, Uncle Charlie.
—Yeah —he responded, —that will constipate the little bastards so they can’t shit all over the sidewalk.
Charlie was a taciturn old guy. We didn’t really talk too much. I did have to listen to his diatribes on the disgusting living habits of “the niggers” and how shixas were unclean and I should only go out with Jewish girls; on how all lawyers were lying, cheating sons of bitches and politicians were too. He never talked about his ex-wife Gussie or the murder of his son.
Charlie’s bitterness was exacerbated when he was busted for giving a small quantity of codeine cough syrup to an undercover agent who didn’t have a prescription and had told Charlie it was an emergency. Pharmacists are supposed to have some flexibility in this case, but Charlie’s lack of charm didn’t help him when he went before a judge. His pharmacist’s license was suspended.
Charlie was still working in his drug store when he was in his eighties. One night, two young black men came in and robbed him at gunpoint. Police hypothesized that he resisted and was beaten over the head with a blunt instrument. The robbers, who were caught, confirmed that he had resisted and insulted them.
He died in the ICU of the local hospital a week or so later.
BEAT BACK PAMPAS GRASS
Pampas plume removal in Salmon Creek Forest
The Conservation Fund invites you to join us on the Salmon Creek Forest in Albion to help with the hand removal of invasive pampas grass plumes/flowers. Removing invasive plants, especially before they go to seed, is an important component of forest management and promotes native plant diversity which benefits wildlife. The Fund has made a commitment to focus on the hand removal of these invasive plants, rather than use herbicide on the Salmon Creek Forest. The Salmon Creek Project Team has been a dedicated partner with this restoration project since 2006. Date: Wednesday, September 20th Time: 1:00-3:00. Location: meeting location will be shared upon receipt of RSVP Bring: water, tools and gloves Please bring gloves and water and clippers, if you have them. We suggest you wear a hat, long sleeves and sturdy shoes. Many hands make fast work and more enjoyable for all! Please share this invitation with anyone who may be interested in helping.
Holly Newberger, email@example.com, PH: (707) 962-0712 FAX: (866) 426-4496
LIBRARY CARD SIGN-UP MONTH, Kindness Rocks and Banned Books coming soon!
Come and get a new card or replace one for FREE and take your photo to add to our display!
Create art on rocks inspired by Kindness Rocks Project! Rocks and art supplies provided. The Kindness Rocks Project revolves around hiding decorated rocks with a message of hope and positivity in public places.
Come and learn more and create your own!
Join at Alex Thomas Plaza for tons of fun. We will be kicking off Banned Books week with a DUNK TANK; Come and Dunk a Librarian or make a button/bookmark.
Next Week - Get ready for Banned books week. More events to come!
105 N. Main St.
Ukiah, CA 95482
UKIAH VALLEY SANITATION DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS ANNOUNCES NEW GENERAL MANAGER
Award-winning municipal utility business executive with 30+years preparing and structuring public agencies and corporations to operate at peak performance
UKIAH – September 19, 2017 – Ukiah Valley Sanitation District (District) today announced that it has retained Joe Tait as its new General Manager. In his new role, Mr. Tait will be responsible for navigating the District through its lawsuit against the City of Ukiah while restructuring the District and driving innovation and best management practices to provide the District’s ratepayers with more technologically advanced and efficient services.
“Bringing someone on with the depth of experience and industry credibility that Joe has is huge for the continued success of District,” said Jim Ronco, Chairman of the District Board. “He brings more than 30 years experience working with City Governments and Utility and Corporate Management teams and his list of accomplishments and successes are long. We are thrilled that he’s bringing this level of credibility and success to the District. This is exactly what we need right now.”
Most recently, Tait was the interim General Manager of the San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority (SLRIWA) in Pauma Valley, California. He was hired by the SLRIWA Board of Directors who represent five tribes, to bring closure to the 1988 Federal Settlement Agreement, which was signed by President Obama in December 2016 and appropriated by President Trump in April of this year. Tait was tasked with providing the foundation for acceptance of significant monies and new supplemental water from the Federal Government and establishing governance policies and operational procedures for the Water Authority to implement and follow.
“Joe’s experience with SLRIWA is very similar to what the District is experiencing with the City of Ukiah,” continued Ronco. “The District was forced to file a lawsuit in September 2013 against the City of Ukiah for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties after the City rejected the District’s offers to settle. We expect a similar restructuring once this is all over and Joe’s experience will be crucial.”
Tait served as past Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, with ultimate responsibility and day-to-day management of the largest municipal wholesale public water agency in the nation. Under Tait’s leadership, MWD garnered two prestigious national and state awards for the restructuring from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) in Washington, D.C. for Competitive Utility Excellence and from the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) for Excellence in Resources Management. In mid-2011, Mr. Tait completed a three-year service contract as City Manager and Utilities Director for the City of San Juan Capistrano. He had previously served as Chief Administrative Officer for the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City.
Working for private industry, Tait has served as Executive Vice President/Chief Strategy
Officer, Western Regional Manager of Consulting and Business Development as well as theExecutive-in-Charge for numerous, strategic, municipal and corporate projects and restructuring programs for major utilities, municipalities and multinational engineering and consulting firms throughout the country. He has served on public utility boards and committees as well as professional industry association boards. His resources pool/shared services work model through technology has led to clients winning local and national awards.
About Ukiah Valley Sanitation District
Ukiah Valley Sanitation District was founded in 1955 to provide wastewater treatment
services to ratepayers in and around the City of Ukiah. In 2008, the District's Board
of Directors changed from being comprised of two Mendocino County Supervisors and one City Council person to a five-person independent board elected by the District’s
ratepayers. The agency is located at 151 Laws Avenue, Ukiah CA, 95482. For more
information, go to www.uvsd.org or visit our Facebook page for current updates regarding pending litigation and District activities.
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Ukiah Valley Sanitation District Announces It has Received
Nearly $9M From the City of Ukiah
Result of Claim For Breach of Contract and Breach of Fiduciary Duties
UKIAH – September 12, 2017 – Ukiah Valley Sanitation District (District) today announced that it has received $8,916,296 thus far from the City of Ukiah (City) as the result of the District being forced to file a claim on September 6, 2013 for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties.
Within the Ukiah Valley, the City of Ukiah and the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District handle most of the wastewater treatment services. The District is responsible for the surrounding areas outside the Ukiah city limits and owns the collection system within its jurisdictional boundaries. The City owns the collection system within most of its jurisdictional boundaries, a part of which is within the District’s boundaries (known as the overlap area).
The City owns a three million gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) that handles the inflow and treatment from both systems. The District contracts with the City for treatment of wastewater from the District’s collection system and the City is responsible for all operation, maintenance and regulatory compliance of its WWTP and collection system.
“The City has been responsible for collecting money for sewer services from all of our customers as well as for what it considers to be our share of the cost of maintaining and operating the joint sewer system and the City-owned WWTP for over 50 years now,” said Jim Ronco, Chairman of the Board for the District. “Once we discovered our customers were being overcharged and after countless requests for data and information regarding financial and operational management of the wastewater system, with no response from the City, we were left with no choice but to file suit to protect the interests of our ratepayers and have all monies misappropriated by the City returned to the District.”
What does the District want from the lawsuit?
First and foremost, the District wants to settle the lawsuit through mediation, on terms that will benefit both the District and City ratepayers. To this end, the District has recently been working through a mediation and settlement process with the City. As stated, the District Board of Directors want monies returned to its ratepayers that were withheld from the District, as well as a refund of millions of dollars that the City overcharged the District. The District also wants a clear and formal separation from the City so the District can ethically and transparently handle its own ratepayer’s money, monthly billing, and system operations to ensure that the District customers receive consistent and factual information directly from the District.
How does the money received from the claim benefit the ratepayers?
“We know that by taking over these tasks from the City, we can streamline a new business system at a significant cost savings to our ratepayers,” continued Mr. Ronco. “Our objective for the future is to substantially reduce the initial connection fees and stabilize rates while at the same time merge areas not presently served by the sewer system into the District.”
In the upcoming weeks, District ratepayers can expect more information on the following:
- Return of Value: The District intends to provide the ratepayers with rebates and system and operating improvements.
- Monthly Charges: The District will be addressing the rate structure with the goal of reducing the monthly charges to all its ratepayers.
- Organizational Strategy: The District intends to assess the value and benefits of operating under a valley-wide cooperative with other water and wastewater agencies to fully maximize cost-saving opportunities.
- Infrastructure Upgrades: The District has identified the need for additional treatment facilities to serve those who currently have no access to an effective wastewater treatment system. This is one major strategy the District will be employing after assessing all cost-effective treatment options to return maximum returns on ratepayer investments.
- Production of Drinking Water: Any new proposed system enhancements will be based on proven technology currently utilized to produce drinking water in areas where there is no water. Partnering with other agencies in the valley will maximize cost sharing and ensure beneficial use of natural resources.
- Help solve Russian River Pollution Problem: There is currently a pollution problem in the Russian River. The objective of these system enhancements will help the pollution problem by taking some load off of the City’s wastewater treatment plant.
Press Contact Information:
B3 Communications, Inc.
Phone: (415) 332-5816
Supervisors, Community Partners, and Interested Parties:
The list of vacancies, due to term expirations and/or resignations, for County boards and commissions has been updated with new vacancies. A list of all new and existing vacancies is available on the County website: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/board-of-supervisors/boards-and-commissions.
Please contact the Executive Office at (707) 463-4441 if you have any questions regarding this message.
"WE WERE ALL frightfully unattractive individuals, embarrassingly self-conscious, hateful products of a hateful system."
— English actor Wilfrid Hyde-White on his British education, not unlike American education, it would seem.
HOW CORPORATE CAPITALISM LOOTED DEMOCRACY
UH-OH... Water district vote deals major blow to California's delta tunnel project
* * *
WESTLANDS WATER DISTRICT VOTES NO ON DELTA TUNNELS PROJECT!
by Dan Bacher
In a major victory for Delta Tunnels opponents, the Board of Directors of the Westlands Water District today voted 7 to 1 against their participation in Governor Jerry Brown’s California WaterFix project.
Growers in the massive district, located on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, cited the high cost of the state-federal proposal as their reason for rejecting the project. Politically powerful Westlands is the largest irrigation district in the country.
The district would be one of the key beneficiaries of the proposed 35-mile long twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — and their rejection of the project is a major loss for the Brown administration’s efforts to fast-track the construction of the project. It also sends a message to other water districts that the cost of the controversial plan is not worth the potential benefits.
The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California board is slated to vote on the tunnels in early October, but the Westlands vote delivers a major blow to the project.
“Westlands’ decision to not participate in the California WaterFix will make it very difficult for other agencies to participate,” Tom Birmingham, the General Manager of Westlands, told the Los Angeles Times.
Delta Tunnels opponents are very pleased with the Westlands decision.
"Today is a very good day for California,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, in a statement. “By rejecting California WaterFix, the Westlands Water District has dealt a blow to the project. There are many better solutions for creating a sustainable water supply in California.”
She noted that Metropolitan Water District's math used to justify the construction of the project is based on a “sizable contribution from Westlands,” as is the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s math.
“They now have to come up with a lot more money for the Delta Tunnels," Barrigan-Parrilla stated. “It won't pencil out for them either.”
The Westlands vote against the tunnels is not the only victory in the campaign to stop the project today. The Los Angeles City Council Energy and Environmental Committee also voted no for the Delta Tunnels project -- “until the project is fully financed and Metropolitan Water District meets all their considerations,” according to RTD.
Yesterday, over 40 ratepayers drew significant media attention by holding a No Tunnels, No Water Rate Hike rally in front of Los Angeles City Hall.
Rally and meeting participants included representatives of Food & Water Watch, Consumer Watchdog, Union de Vecinos, Restore the Delta, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Concerned Citizens of Compton, Southern California Watershed Alliance, Sierra Club Angeles Water Committee, March and Rally-LA, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), and Ground Game LA, neighborhood council leaders and faith leaders.
“The Delta Tunnels would raise water rates and property taxes in Los Angeles, costing ratepayers a total of $2.5 to $4 billion,” said Brenna Norton of Food and Water Watch. “These massive tunnels would change the way water is diverted from the Bay Delta and would send additional water to corporate agribusinesses in the Central Valley, while Southern California ratepayers pay more for no additional water.”
Norton said the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has endorsed this rate hike, which would be imposed by the Metropolitan Water District, even though it plans to reduce water imports from the Delta.
Also today, the Santa Clara Valley Water District in San Jose voted to pass a "no regrets package" planning $100 million for 9 different projects like stormwater capture, leak repair and gray water, RTD stated.
Delta Tunnels opponents are urging people to show up for their public meeting on September 26th to tell them to vote no on the project.
On Monday, the Associated Press revealed that "dozens of water agencies and millions of families and farmers would be on the hook” for building the Delta Tunnels. AP obtained new documents from Westlands — and confirmed the expanded funding demands in phone and email interviews with state and local water officials: https://apnews.com/712b5954fa3a4b4e9494cbbadefa6575/APNewsBreak:-Millions-of-Californians-on-hook-for-water-plan
Also on Monday, the California Indian Water Commission joined three environmental groups — the California Water Impact Network, AquAlliance and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance — in filing a legal challenge to the financing of the Delta Tunnels.
A recent landmark 9th Circuit ruling that federally reserved Indian water rights have precedent over all state and federal water rights puts a new twist on how much water there really will be available for the tunnels or any other project — and could put a big wrench in state and federal plants to build the massive 35 mile long tunnels under the Delta. For more information, go to www.indybay.org/...
THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH
Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.
by David Wallace-Wells
Peering beyond scientific reticence.
It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.
Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.
The Doomsday vault is fine, for now: The structure has been secured and the seeds are safe. But treating the episode as a parable of impending flooding missed the more important news. Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.
Maybe you know that already — there are alarming stories in the news every day, like those, last month, that seemed to suggest satellite data showed the globe warming since 1998 more than twice as fast as scientists had thought (in fact, the underlying story was considerably less alarming than the headlines). Or the news from Antarctica this past May, when a crack in an ice shelf grew 11 miles in six days, then kept going; the break now has just three miles to go — by the time you read this, it may already have met the open water, where it will drop into the sea one of the biggest icebergs ever, a process known poetically as “calving.”
But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.
In between scientific reticence and science fiction is science itself. This article is the result of dozens of interviews and exchanges with climatologists and researchers in related fields and reflects hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of climate change. What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action. It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency. But those scenarios, and not the present climate, are the baseline. In fact, they are our schedule.
The present tense of climate change — the destruction we’ve already baked into our future — is horrifying enough. Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade. Two degrees of warming used to be considered the threshold of catastrophe: tens of millions of climate refugees unleashed upon an unprepared world. Now two degrees is our goal, per the Paris climate accords, and experts give us only slim odds of hitting it. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues serial reports, often called the “gold standard” of climate research; the most recent one projects us to hit four degrees of warming by the beginning of the next century, should we stay the present course. But that’s just a median projection. The upper end of the probability curve runs as high as eight degrees — and the authors still haven’t figured out how to deal with that permafrost melt. The IPCC reports also don’t fully account for the albedo effect (less ice means less reflected and more absorbed sunlight, hence more warming); more cloud cover (which traps heat); or the dieback of forests and other flora (which extract carbon from the atmosphere). Each of these promises to accelerate warming, and the history of the planet shows that temperature can shift as much as five degrees Celsius within thirteen years. The last time the planet was even four degrees warmer, Peter Brannen points out in The Ends of the World, his new history of the planet’s major extinction events, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher.*
The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a slate-wiping of the evolutionary record it functioned as a resetting of the planetary clock, and many climate scientists will tell you they are the best analog for the ecological future we are diving headlong into. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high-school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic, and ended with 97 percent of all life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate; by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is accelerating. This is what Stephen Hawking had in mind when he said, this spring, that the species needs to colonize other planets in the next century to survive, and what drove Elon Musk, last month, to unveil his plans to build a Mars habitat in 40 to 100 years. These are nonspecialists, of course, and probably as inclined to irrational panic as you or I. But the many sober-minded scientists I interviewed over the past several months — the most credentialed and tenured in the field, few of them inclined to alarmism and many advisers to the IPCC who nevertheless criticize its conservatism — have quietly reached an apocalyptic conclusion, too: No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.
Over the past few decades, the term “Anthropocene” has climbed out of academic discourse and into the popular imagination — a name given to the geologic era we live in now, and a way to signal that it is a new era, defined on the wall chart of deep history by human intervention. One problem with the term is that it implies a conquest of nature (and even echoes the biblical “dominion”). And however sanguine you might be about the proposition that we have already ravaged the natural world, which we surely have, it is another thing entirely to consider the possibility that we have only provoked it, engineering first in ignorance and then in denial a climate system that will now go to war with us for many centuries, perhaps until it destroys us. That is what Wallace Smith Broecker, the avuncular oceanographer who coined the term “global warming,” means when he calls the planet an “angry beast.” You could also go with “war machine.” Each day we arm it more.
II. Heat Death
The bahraining of New York.
Humans, like all mammals, are heat engines; surviving means having to continually cool off, like panting dogs. For that, the temperature needs to be low enough for the air to act as a kind of refrigerant, drawing heat off the skin so the engine can keep pumping. At seven degrees of warming, that would become impossible for large portions of the planet’s equatorial band, and especially the tropics, where humidity adds to the problem; in the jungles of Costa Rica, for instance, where humidity routinely tops 90 percent, simply moving around outside when it’s over 105 degrees Fahrenheit would be lethal. And the effect would be fast: Within a few hours, a human body would be cooked to death from both inside and out.
Climate-change skeptics point out that the planet has warmed and cooled many times before, but the climate window that has allowed for human life is very narrow, even by the standards of planetary history. At 11 or 12 degrees of warming, more than half the world’s population, as distributed today, would die of direct heat. Things almost certainly won’t get that hot this century, though models of unabated emissions do bring us that far eventually. This century, and especially in the tropics, the pain points will pinch much more quickly even than an increase of seven degrees. The key factor is something called wet-bulb temperature, which is a term of measurement as home-laboratory-kit as it sounds: the heat registered on a thermometer wrapped in a damp sock as it’s swung around in the air (since the moisture evaporates from a sock more quickly in dry air, this single number reflects both heat and humidity). At present, most regions reach a wet-bulb maximum of 26 or 27 degrees Celsius; the true red line for habitability is 35 degrees. What is called heat stress comes much sooner.
Actually, we’re about there already. Since 1980, the planet has experienced a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat; a bigger increase is to come. The five warmest summers in Europe since 1500 have all occurred since 2002, and soon, the IPCC warns, simply being outdoors that time of year will be unhealthy for much of the globe. Even if we meet the Paris goals of two degrees warming, cities like Karachi and Kolkata will become close to uninhabitable, annually encountering deadly heat waves like those that crippled them in 2015. At four degrees, the deadly European heat wave of 2003, which killed as many as 2,000 people a day, will be a normal summer. At six, according to an assessment focused only on effects within the U.S. from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summer labor of any kind would become impossible in the lower Mississippi Valley, and everybody in the country east of the Rockies would be under more heat stress than anyone, anywhere, in the world today. As Joseph Romm has put it in his authoritative primer Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, heat stress in New York City would exceed that of present-day Bahrain, one of the planet’s hottest spots, and the temperature in Bahrain “would induce hyperthermia in even sleeping humans.” The high-end IPCC estimate, remember, is two degrees warmer still. By the end of the century, the World Bank has estimated, the coolest months in tropical South America, Africa, and the Pacific are likely to be warmer than the warmest months at the end of the 20th century. Air-conditioning can help but will ultimately only add to the carbon problem; plus, the climate-controlled malls of the Arab emirates aside, it is not remotely plausible to wholesale air-condition all the hottest parts of the world, many of them also the poorest. And indeed, the crisis will be most dramatic across the Middle East and Persian Gulf, where in 2015 the heat index registered temperatures as high as 163 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as several decades from now, the hajj will become physically impossible for the 2 million Muslims who make the pilgrimage each year.
It is not just the hajj, and it is not just Mecca; heat is already killing us. In the sugarcane region of El Salvador, as much as one-fifth of the population has chronic kidney disease, including over a quarter of the men, the presumed result of dehydration from working the fields they were able to comfortably harvest as recently as two decades ago. With dialysis, which is expensive, those with kidney failure can expect to live five years; without it, life expectancy is in the weeks. Of course, heat stress promises to pummel us in places other than our kidneys, too. As I type that sentence, in the California desert in mid-June, it is 121 degrees outside my door. It is not a record high.
III. The End of Food
Praying for cornfields in the tundra.
Climates differ and plants vary, but the basic rule for staple cereal crops grown at optimal temperature is that for every degree of warming, yields decline by 10 percent. Some estimates run as high as 15 or even 17 percent. Which means that if the planet is five degrees warmer at the end of the century, we may have as many as 50 percent more people to feed and 50 percent less grain to give them. And proteins are worse: It takes 16 calories of grain to produce just a single calorie of hamburger meat, butchered from a cow that spent its life polluting the climate with methane farts.
Pollyannaish plant physiologists will point out that the cereal-crop math applies only to those regions already at peak growing temperature, and they are right — theoretically, a warmer climate will make it easier to grow corn in Greenland. But as the pathbreaking work by Rosamond Naylor and David Battisti has shown, the tropics are already too hot to efficiently grow grain, and those places where grain is produced today are already at optimal growing temperature — which means even a small warming will push them down the slope of declining productivity. And you can’t easily move croplands north a few hundred miles, because yields in places like remote Canada and Russia are limited by the quality of soil there; it takes many centuries for the planet to produce optimally fertile dirt.
Drought might be an even bigger problem than heat, with some of the world’s most arable land turning quickly to desert. Precipitation is notoriously hard to model, yet predictions for later this century are basically unanimous: unprecedented droughts nearly everywhere food is today produced. By 2080, without dramatic reductions in emissions, southern Europe will be in permanent extreme drought, much worse than the American dust bowl ever was. The same will be true in Iraq and Syria and much of the rest of the Middle East; some of the most densely populated parts of Australia, Africa, and South America; and the breadbasket regions of China. None of these places, which today supply much of the world’s food, will be reliable sources of any. As for the original dust bowl: The droughts in the American plains and Southwest would not just be worse than in the 1930s, a 2015 NASA study predicted, but worse than any droughts in a thousand years — and that includes those that struck between 1100 and 1300, which “dried up all the rivers East of the Sierra Nevada mountains” and may have been responsible for the death of the Anasazi civilization.
Remember, we do not live in a world without hunger as it is. Far from it: Most estimates put the number of undernourished at 800 million globally. In case you haven’t heard, this spring has already brought an unprecedented quadruple famine to Africa and the Middle East; the U.N. has warned that separate starvation events in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen could kill 20 million this year alone.
IV. Climate Plagues
What happens when the bubonic ice melts?
Rock, in the right spot, is a record of planetary history, eras as long as millions of years flattened by the forces of geological time into strata with amplitudes of just inches, or just an inch, or even less. Ice works that way, too, as a climate ledger, but it is also frozen history, some of which can be reanimated when unfrozen. There are now, trapped in Arctic ice, diseases that have not circulated in the air for millions of years — in some cases, since before humans were around to encounter them. Which means our immune systems would have no idea how to fight back when those prehistoric plagues emerge from the ice.
The Arctic also stores terrifying bugs from more recent times. In Alaska, already, researchers have discovered remnants of the 1918 flu that infected as many as 500 million and killed as many as 100 million — about 5 percent of the world’s population and almost six times as many as had died in the world war for which the pandemic served as a kind of gruesome capstone. As the BBC reported in May, scientists suspect smallpox and the bubonic plague are trapped in Siberian ice, too — an abridged history of devastating human sickness, left out like egg salad in the Arctic sun.
Experts caution that many of these organisms won’t actually survive the thaw and point to the fastidious lab conditions under which they have already reanimated several of them — the 32,000-year-old “extremophile” bacteria revived in 2005, an 8 million-year-old bug brought back to life in 2007, the 3.5 million–year–old one a Russian scientist self-injected just out of curiosity — to suggest that those are necessary conditions for the return of such ancient plagues. But already last year, a boy was killed and 20 others infected by anthrax released when retreating permafrost exposed the frozen carcass of a reindeer killed by the bacteria at least 75 years earlier; 2,000 present-day reindeer were infected, too, carrying and spreading the disease beyond the tundra.
What concerns epidemiologists more than ancient diseases are existing scourges relocated, rewired, or even re-evolved by warming. The first effect is geographical. Before the early-modern period, when adventuring sailboats accelerated the mixing of peoples and their bugs, human provinciality was a guard against pandemic. Today, even with globalization and the enormous intermingling of human populations, our ecosystems are mostly stable, and this functions as another limit, but global warming will scramble those ecosystems and help disease trespass those limits as surely as Cortés did. You don’t worry much about dengue or malaria if you are living in Maine or France. But as the tropics creep northward and mosquitoes migrate with them, you will. You didn’t much worry about Zika a couple of years ago, either.
As it happens, Zika may also be a good model of the second worrying effect — disease mutation. One reason you hadn’t heard about Zika until recently is that it had been trapped in Uganda; another is that it did not, until recently, appear to cause birth defects. Scientists still don’t entirely understand what happened, or what they missed. But there are things we do know for sure about how climate affects some diseases: Malaria, for instance, thrives in hotter regions not just because the mosquitoes that carry it do, too, but because for every degree increase in temperature, the parasite reproduces ten times faster. Which is one reason that the World Bank estimates that by 2050, 5.2 billion people will be reckoning with it.
V. Unbreathable Air
A rolling death smog that suffocates millions.
Our lungs need oxygen, but that is only a fraction of what we breathe. The fraction of carbon dioxide is growing: It just crossed 400 parts per million, and high-end estimates extrapolating from current trends suggest it will hit 1,000 ppm by 2100. At that concentration, compared to the air we breathe now, human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent.
Other stuff in the hotter air is even scarier, with small increases in pollution capable of shortening life spans by ten years. The warmer the planet gets, the more ozone forms, and by mid-century, Americans will likely suffer a 70 percent increase in unhealthy ozone smog, the National Center for Atmospheric Research has projected. By 2090, as many as 2 billion people globally will be breathing air above the WHO “safe” level; one paper last month showed that, among other effects, a pregnant mother’s exposure to ozone raises the child’s risk of autism (as much as tenfold, combined with other environmental factors). Which does make you think again about the autism epidemic in West Hollywood.
Already, more than 10,000 people die each day from the small particles emitted from fossil-fuel burning; each year, 339,000 people die from wildfire smoke, in part because climate change has extended forest-fire season (in the U.S., it’s increased by 78 days since 1970). By 2050, according to the U.S. Forest Service, wildfires will be twice as destructive as they are today; in some places, the area burned could grow fivefold. What worries people even more is the effect that would have on emissions, especially when the fires ravage forests arising out of peat. Peatland fires in Indonesia in 1997, for instance, added to the global CO2 release by up to 40 percent, and more burning only means more warming only means more burning. There is also the terrifying possibility that rain forests like the Amazon, which in 2010 suffered its second “hundred-year drought” in the space of five years, could dry out enough to become vulnerable to these kinds of devastating, rolling forest fires — which would not only expel enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere but also shrink the size of the forest. That is especially bad because the Amazon alone provides 20 percent of our oxygen.
Then there are the more familiar forms of pollution. In 2013, melting Arctic ice remodeled Asian weather patterns, depriving industrial China of the natural ventilation systems it had come to depend on, which blanketed much of the country’s north in an unbreathable smog. Literally unbreathable. A metric called the Air Quality Index categorizes the risks and tops out at the 301-to-500 range, warning of “serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly” and, for all others, “serious risk of respiratory effects”; at that level, “everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion.” The Chinese “airpocalypse” of 2013 peaked at what would have been an Air Quality Index of over 800. That year, smog was responsible for a third of all deaths in the country.
VI. Perpetual War
The violence baked into heat.
Climatologists are very careful when talking about Syria. They want you to know that while climate change did produce a drought that contributed to civil war, it is not exactly fair to saythat the conflict is the result of warming; next door, for instance, Lebanon suffered the same crop failures. But researchers like Marshall Burke and Solomon Hsiang have managed to quantify some of the non-obvious relationships between temperature and violence: For every half-degree of warming, they say, societies will see between a 10 and 20 percent increase in the likelihood of armed conflict. In climate science, nothing is simple, but the arithmetic is harrowing: A planet five degrees warmer would have at least half again as many wars as we do today. Overall, social conflict could more than double this century.
This is one reason that, as nearly every climate scientist I spoke to pointed out, the U.S. military is obsessed with climate change: The drowning of all American Navy bases by sea-level rise is trouble enough, but being the world’s policeman is quite a bit harder when the crime rate doubles. Of course, it’s not just Syria where climate has contributed to conflict. Some speculate that the elevated level of strife across the Middle East over the past generation reflects the pressures of global warming — a hypothesis all the more cruel considering that warming began accelerating when the industrialized world extracted and then burned the region’s oil.
What accounts for the relationship between climate and conflict? Some of it comes down to agriculture and economics; a lot has to do with forced migration, already at a record high, with at least 65 million displaced people wandering the planet right now. But there is also the simple fact of individual irritability. Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation. And the arrival of air-conditioning in the developed world, in the middle of the past century, did little to solve the problem of the summer crime wave.
VII. Permanent Economic Collapse
Dismal capitalism in a half-poorer world.
The murmuring mantra of global neoliberalism, which prevailed between the end of the Cold War and the onset of the Great Recession, is that economic growth would save us from anything and everything.
But in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, a growing number of historians studying what they call “fossil capitalism” have begun to suggest that the entire history of swift economic growth, which began somewhat suddenly in the 18th century, is not the result of innovation or trade or the dynamics of global capitalism but simply our discovery of fossil fuels and all their raw power — a onetime injection of new “value” into a system that had previously been characterized by global subsistence living. Before fossil fuels, nobody lived better than their parents or grandparents or ancestors from 500 years before, except in the immediate aftermath of a great plague like the Black Death, which allowed the lucky survivors to gobble up the resources liberated by mass graves. After we’ve burned all the fossil fuels, these scholars suggest, perhaps we will return to a “steady state” global economy. Of course, that onetime injection has a devastating long-term cost: climate change.
The most exciting research on the economics of warming has also come from Hsiang and his colleagues, who are not historians of fossil capitalism but who offer some very bleak analysis of their own: Every degree Celsius of warming costs, on average, 1.2 percent of GDP (an enormous number, considering we count growth in the low single digits as “strong”). This is the sterling work in the field, and their median projection is for a 23 percent loss in per capita earning globally by the end of this century (resulting from changes in agriculture, crime, storms, energy, mortality, and labor).
Tracing the shape of the probability curve is even scarier: There is a 12 percent chance that climate change will reduce global output by more than 50 percent by 2100, they say, and a 51 percent chance that it lowers per capita GDP by 20 percent or more by then, unless emissions decline. By comparison, the Great Recession lowered global GDP by about 6 percent, in a onetime shock; Hsiang and his colleagues estimate a one-in-eight chance of an ongoing and irreversible effect by the end of the century that is eight times worse.
The scale of that economic devastation is hard to comprehend, but you can start by imagining what the world would look like today with an economy half as big, which would produce only half as much value, generating only half as much to offer the workers of the world. It makes the grounding of flights out of heat-stricken Phoenix last month seem like pathetically small economic potatoes. And, among other things, it makes the idea of postponing government action on reducing emissions and relying solely on growth and technology to solve the problem an absurd business calculation.
Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London, keep in mind, costs the Arctic three more square meters of ice.
VIII. Poisoned Oceans
Sulfide burps off the skeleton coast.
That the sea will become a killer is a given. Barring a radical reduction of emissions, we will see at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century. A third of the world’s major cities are on the coast, not to mention its power plants, ports, navy bases, farmlands, fisheries, river deltas, marshlands, and rice-paddy empires, and even those above ten feet will flood much more easily, and much more regularly, if the water gets that high. At least 600 million people live within ten meters of sea level today.
But the drowning of those homelands is just the start. At present, more than a third of the world’s carbon is sucked up by the oceans — thank God, or else we’d have that much more warming already. But the result is what’s called “ocean acidification,” which, on its own, may add a half a degree to warming this century. It is also already burning through the planet’s water basins — you may remember these as the place where life arose in the first place. You have probably heard of “coral bleaching” — that is, coral dying — which is very bad news, because reefs support as much as a quarter of all marine life and supply food for half a billion people. Ocean acidification will fry fish populations directly, too, though scientists aren’t yet sure how to predict the effects on the stuff we haul out of the ocean to eat; they do know that in acid waters, oysters and mussels will struggle to grow their shells, and that when the pH of human blood drops as much as the oceans’ pH has over the past generation, it induces seizures, comas, and sudden death.
That isn’t all that ocean acidification can do. Carbon absorption can initiate a feedback loop in which underoxygenated waters breed different kinds of microbes that turn the water still more “anoxic,” first in deep ocean “dead zones,” then gradually up toward the surface. There, the small fish die out, unable to breathe, which means oxygen-eating bacteria thrive, and the feedback loop doubles back. This process, in which dead zones grow like cancers, choking off marine life and wiping out fisheries, is already quite advanced in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and just off Namibia, where hydrogen sulfide is bubbling out of the sea along a thousand-mile stretch of land known as the “Skeleton Coast.” The name originally referred to the detritus of the whaling industry, but today it’s more apt than ever. Hydrogen sulfide is so toxic that evolution has trained us to recognize the tiniest, safest traces of it, which is why our noses are so exquisitely skilled at registering flatulence. Hydrogen sulfide is also the thing that finally did us in that time 97 percent of all life on Earth died, once all the feedback loops had been triggered and the circulating jet streams of a warmed ocean ground to a halt — it’s the planet’s preferred gas for a natural holocaust. Gradually, the ocean’s dead zones spread, killing off marine species that had dominated the oceans for hundreds of millions of years, and the gas the inert waters gave off into the atmosphere poisoned everything on land. Plants, too. It was millions of years before the oceans recovered.
IX. The Great Filter
Our present eeriness cannot last.
So why can’t we see it? In his recent book-length essay The Great Derangement, the Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh wonders why global warming and natural disaster haven’t become major subjects of contemporary fiction — why we don’t seem able to imagine climate catastrophe, and why we haven’t yet had a spate of novels in the genre he basically imagines into half-existence and names “the environmental uncanny.” “Consider, for example, the stories that congeal around questions like, ‘Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell?’ or ‘Where were you on 9/11?’ ” he writes. “Will it ever be possible to ask, in the same vein, ‘Where were you at 400 ppm?’ or ‘Where were you when the Larsen B ice shelf broke up?’ ” His answer: Probably not, because the dilemmas and dramas of climate change are simply incompatible with the kinds of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, especially in novels, which tend to emphasize the journey of an individual conscience rather than the poisonous miasma of social fate.
Surely this blindness will not last — the world we are about to inhabit will not permit it. In a six-degree-warmer world, the Earth’s ecosystem will boil with so many natural disasters that we will just start calling them “weather”: a constant swarm of out-of-control typhoons and tornadoes and floods and droughts, the planet assaulted regularly with climate events that not so long ago destroyed whole civilizations. The strongest hurricanes will come more often, and we’ll have to invent new categories with which to describe them; tornadoes will grow longer and wider and strike much more frequently, and hail rocks will quadruple in size. Humans used to watch the weather to prophesy the future; going forward, we will see in its wrath the vengeance of the past. Early naturalists talked often about “deep time” — the perception they had, contemplating the grandeur of this valley or that rock basin, of the profound slowness of nature. What lies in store for us is more like what the Victorian anthropologists identified as “dreamtime,” or “everywhen”: the semi-mythical experience, described by Aboriginal Australians, of encountering, in the present moment, an out-of-time past, when ancestors, heroes, and demigods crowded an epic stage. You can find it already watching footage of an iceberg collapsing into the sea — a feeling of history happening all at once.
It is. Many people perceive climate change as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries — a helpful perspective, in a way, since it is the carbon-burning processes that began in 18th-century England that lit the fuse of everything that followed. But more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades; since the end of World War II, the figure is 85 percent. Which means that, in the length of a single generation, global warming has brought us to the brink of planetary catastrophe, and that the story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is also the story of a single lifetime. My father’s, for instance: born in 1938, among his first memories the news of Pearl Harbor and the mythic Air Force of the propaganda films that followed, films that doubled as advertisements for imperial-American industrial might; and among his last memories the coverage of the desperate signing of the Paris climate accords on cable news, ten weeks before he died of lung cancer last July. Or my mother’s: born in 1945, to German Jews fleeing the smokestacks through which their relatives were incinerated, now enjoying her 72nd year in an American commodity paradise, a paradise supported by the supply chains of an industrialized developing world. She has been smoking for 57 of those years, unfiltered.
Or the scientists’. Some of the men who first identified a changing climate (and given the generation, those who became famous were men) are still alive; a few are even still working. Wally Broecker is 84 years old and drives to work at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory across the Hudson every day from the Upper West Side. Like most of those who first raised the alarm, he believes that no amount of emissions reduction alone can meaningfully help avoid disaster. Instead, he puts his faith in carbon capture — untested technology to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which Broecker estimates will cost at least several trillion dollars — and various forms of “geoengineering,” the catchall name for a variety of moon-shot technologies far-fetched enough that many climate scientists prefer to regard them as dreams, or nightmares, from science fiction. He is especially focused on what’s called the aerosol approach — dispersing so much sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere that when it converts to sulfuric acid, it will cloud a fifth of the horizon and reflect back 2 percent of the sun’s rays, buying the planet at least a little wiggle room, heat-wise. “Of course, that would make our sunsets very red, would bleach the sky, would make more acid rain,” he says. “But you have to look at the magnitude of the problem. You got to watch that you don’t say the giant problem shouldn’t be solved because the solution causes some smaller problems.” He won’t be around to see that, he told me. “But in your lifetime …”
Jim Hansen is another member of this godfather generation. Born in 1941, he became a climatologist at the University of Iowa, developed the groundbreaking “Zero Model” for projecting climate change, and later became the head of climate research at NASA, only to leave under pressure when, while still a federal employee, he filed a lawsuit against the federal government charging inaction on warming (along the way he got arrested a few times for protesting, too). The lawsuit, which is brought by a collective called Our Children’s Trust and is often described as “kids versus climate change,” is built on an appeal to the equal-protection clause, namely, that in failing to take action on warming, the government is violating it by imposing massive costs on future generations; it is scheduled to be heard this winter in Oregon district court. Hansen has recently given up on solving the climate problem with a carbon tax alone, which had been his preferred approach, and has set about calculating the total cost of the additional measure of extracting carbon from the atmosphere.
Hansen began his career studying Venus, which was once a very Earth-like planet with plenty of life-supporting water before runaway climate change rapidly transformed it into an arid and uninhabitable sphere enveloped in an unbreathable gas; he switched to studying our planet by 30, wondering why he should be squinting across the solar system to explore rapid environmental change when he could see it all around him on the planet he was standing on. “When we wrote our first paper on this, in 1981,” he told me, “I remember saying to one of my co-authors, ‘This is going to be very interesting. Sometime during our careers, we’re going to see these things beginning to happen.’ ”
Several of the scientists I spoke with proposed global warming as the solution to Fermi’s famous paradox, which asks, If the universe is so big, then why haven’t we encountered any other intelligent life in it? The answer, they suggested, is that the natural life span of a civilization may be only several thousand years, and the life span of an industrial civilization perhaps only several hundred. In a universe that is many billions of years old, with star systems separated as much by time as by space, civilizations might emerge and develop and burn themselves up simply too fast to ever find one another. Peter Ward, a charismatic paleontologist among those responsible for discovering that the planet’s mass extinctions were caused by greenhouse gas, calls this the “Great Filter”: “Civilizations rise, but there’s an environmental filter that causes them to die off again and disappear fairly quickly,” he told me. “If you look at planet Earth, the filtering we’ve had in the past has been in these mass extinctions.” The mass extinction we are now living through has only just begun; so much more dying is coming.
And yet, improbably, Ward is an optimist. So are Broecker and Hansen and many of the other scientists I spoke to. We have not developed much of a religion of meaning around climate change that might comfort us, or give us purpose, in the face of possible annihilation. But climate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.
It is not easy to know how much to be reassured by that bleak certainty, and how much to wonder whether it is another form of delusion; for global warming to work as parable, of course, someone needs to survive to tell the story. The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do. Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the 1980s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we’ve found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet. But when we do truly see the world we’ve made, they say, we will also find a way to make it livable. For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable.
(This article appears in the July 10, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.)