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Monday, July 21, 2014


By: Genevieve Finn

Right now, California is facing one of the toughest droughts recorded in our states history. The situation is so desperate that Governor Brown declared a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions in January. This may have come as a shock for many Californians who were unaware of our waning water supplies, but in reality this situation has been brewing for years. Let’s take a walk way, way down memory lane to the days of William Mulholland.
William Mulholland emigrated to the United States in 1878 and worked as a ditch-digger in the Los Angeles area. This is where he was introduced to the hydraulics business of Los Angeles, which he soon became deeply involved in, taking on the position of superintendent at the peak of his career. It became Mulholland’s job to supply water for the ever-growing city of Los Angeles, which quickly sucked its main water source - the little Los Angeles River - dry. Mulholland looked north to the fertile Owens River Valley to quench Los Angeles’s huge thirst.

Throughout 1911-1923, Mulholland’s team quietly acquired the water rights to 95% of the Owens River and constructed a giant 233-mile aqueduct across the Mojave Desert to bring water to Los Angeles. Although Mulholland’s intentions were good, the way he went about doing this could be considered corrupt because he allowed his bureaucratic friends to purchase desert land for cheap with the knowledge that it would soon be quality farmland because the aqueduct would run across it. Many also think Mulholland “tricked” the people of the Owens River Valley and stole their water. In response, the local ranchers of the Owens River Valley seized the pipeline and dynamited it repeatedly. But they were no match for Mulholland and the city of Los Angeles, who promptly seized it back with a huge showing of armed force.
A few years later, disaster struck again. The San Francisquito Dam burst in 1928, with such horrible consequences that Mulholland resigned in shame, his real achievements forgotten. Mulholland’s predecessors continued his perpetual search for water for Los Angeles, looking east to the Colorado River and north to the Feather River. The city still proved unquenchable, but the last straw for the rest of California came when Los Angeles officials drained Mono Lake, destroying important ecosystems and causing an outcry from environmentalists and landowners alike.
Nowadays Los Angeles still struggles to provide it's burgeoning population with the water it needs, especially in our current drought. The effects of Mulholland's groundbreaking actions are still felt in the Owens River Valley and Mono Lake. We must always remember this story in the present and try to look to the past to solve our future problems.

What do we do now?

By: Geffen Hochschild

It is guaranteed that you have heard of the effect of fossil fuels on the environment, and there is a good reason for it. This problem is only expanding, as scientists say that our planet is now “beyond the point of return.” Global warming has become one of the largest crises we will face in the future. The burning of fossil fuels has doomed our Earth to environmental changes, has created wars, and has allowed business monopolies to form throughout our country for centuries. But now, we have new technology. As solar energy is becoming more cost effective and accessible, there is a way for all of us to fight the use of fossil fuels and ensure a better future for our children.
Solar energy is now an option for all of us. With a certain amount of space and energy, we can all lower our energy bill with almost no change of lifestyle. There are fewer and fewer excuses to neglect these new forms of energy, as solar panel systems are becoming increasingly advanced and easy to use. Chris Bunas, the owner of Sunterra, says that depending on how much you are willing to invest in solar (with space and money), you can accomplish an energy system completely free of charge. On top of this incredible financial situation that solar energy can provide, it affects virtually nothing. There is practically no air or noise pollution, which creates an incredibly ideal source of energy. The fact that we have this incredibly useful technology at such a low cost prompts the question: Why don’t we all simply switch?
The answer is: tradition.Traditional energy is the safe choice. We all want reliable, old-fashioned energy sources. We want the energy sources that are used by our neighbors and that are used by our neighbors’ neighbors.  If solar is out of the question for your household, that isn’t the end of the road. It is just as possible to save large amounts of energy (and money) just by being conscious. Bunas explains, “The same people who paid $500 dollars a month in a three bedroom house with an electric bill can move out...and somebody else can move in and only pay $200…It all depends on your lifestyle.” If someone is focused on saving money and saving energy, it is quite possible to achieve that. Things such as opening windows instead of using the AC and turning off lights when no one is in the room can lead to an incredible amount of conservation.

Whether you switch to solar or choose to switch to a lifestyle dedicated to conserving energy in the household, it is truly our future. Both options help our wallets, and both will help our planet and our fate.  By simply making sure that you turn off a switch, we can preserve our way of life for many generations.

The Greenest Store

Charlotte Trotter

Have you ever wanted a grocery store that contains all healthy food alternatives for your daily food products? Meanwhile, the store itself was helping the environment. Good Earth has mastered these tasks and much more.
Good Earth is owned by Al Baylacq and Mark Squire, yet there are many more helpful employees that are involved in Good Earth. Good Earth is natural foods store located in Fairfax, Marin County. Mark Squire was inspired to open a sustainable grocery store 40 years ago when he read scientist Rachel Carson's book, The Silent Spring. The book explains how artificial chemicals are used in the process of farming conventional crops. Carson proved that this is unhealthy for humans, and extremely harmful to the environment, and will ultimately lead to a “dead” planet. Because of the harmful chemicals used in conventional farming, Mark started a unique grocery store called Good Earth that provides all natural foods that don’t harm the environment.
From the beginning, Baylacq and Squire wanted to make Good Earth as green as possible. Today, Good Earth has 852 solar panels which generates 35% of the store’s daily energy use. Once Baylacq and Squire received a grant from the federal government to install solar panels, both felt confident about their decision to make Good Earth as green as possible. Therefore it was a no brainer for the owners of Good Earth to put in the 6th largest solar panel system in the county. Baylacq also explained that every grocery store uses massive amounts of energy on a daily basis, and for Good Earth to have 35% of that energy to come from a natural source is one of their favorite and best accomplishments.
Good Earth provides healthy, fresh, and sustainable lunches everyday for 14 different Marin schools. In order to meet their demand, Good Earth starts cooking from scratch at 5am. The food is then put in hot boxes in order to keep the food fresh and warm until 12pm when it is then eaten by thousands of students.  
Good Earth is changing rapidly. Al Baylacq and Mark Squire have much more in store for the future. Because of the increased demand, Good Earth is opening a new store in the fall of 2015, located in Marin County. The owners and daily customers are more than excited to have natural foods become more popular throughout Marin County. With the new store coming soon, hopes are high for sustainable and green alternatives in order to create a healthier community.  

The Kogi Have Something to Say, and We Need to Hear It

A member of the Kogi tribe.
By: Sammy Herdman

When explorers from the Old World flocked to the Americas over five centuries ago, the formerly flourishing indigenous cultures began to deteriorate due to disease, war and forceful assimilation into European societal standards.  The Kogi tribe, descendants of the Tairona civilization, dating back to 1000 AD, is the only tribe with intact traditions.  They escaped Spanish conquistadores by fleeing into the Andes mountains and found refuge on the mountain Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia.

Today, the Kogi people believe that the entire Earth is a “mother nature” figure complete with organs and limbs, and Sierra Nevada is the heart of the world.  Historical experts say that this idea may be due to the varied climates of the Sierra Nevada that come close to representing the diverse habitats of Earth. Its peaks are capped with snow while further down the mountain there’s a large tropical region. There’s a sandy coastline and regions of rocks and sparse forests. In addition, the mountain is so near the equator that the day and night are the same length all year. Sierra Nevada has isolated and protected the Kogi civilization for centuries, and in return, their culture has adapted to respect and rely on the mountain.

Hidden from the modern world’s technology and inventions, there is almost nothing that the Kogi use that they haven’t made themselves or that hasn’t been passed down from earlier generations. They depend on the land for their food, shelter and traditions.  It’s critical that they work with the land, and because of this, they notice every variation in its climate patterns. The Kogi practice the most original and basic form of science: observation.  Despite all of our advantages, such as new tools and generations of scientific knowledge, the Kogi have come to the same conclusion as us: the world is in danger, and it’s our fault.

Just decades ago, the Kogi made their first appearance in the modern world when they invited a videographer to document their culture and carry their message.  “They can’t live in isolation. So whatever is happening beyond their borders is definitely going to impact them,” said Liliana Madrifgal, who is working with an organization to conserve the Kogi’s ancestral lands.  The Kogi have observed that the climate is growing warmer, the water is becoming polluted, and the diverse range of species on Sierra Nevada is having to adapt quickly. The Kogi have started appealing to the “younger brothers” (all people not belonging to the tribe) to be kinder to our planet.  They believe that once the Heart of the World dies, so will all of Earth.

“They tell you: we’re not living in isolation, that’s why we came out.  Because we can’t just continue to go up. There is nowhere else to go; we’ve gone high enough in the mountains.  Now we’ve got to come down and be a part of the solution,” said Madrifgal. The Kogi’s sacrifice of their isolation indicates the gravity of their warning.  Maybe we should listen.

The impact nature has on your life and health: Nature-deficit disorder

Marin County Parks' open space land.

Marin County Parks is an organization working to restore and provide healthier, safer, and better natural habitats for our community. It has acquired and taken care of many of the parks known within the Marin community that are enjoyed by the public.

Marin County Parks has welcoming staff, such as park rangers that host daily fun and collaborative activities for all ages. These activities will get you off your seat by engaging in nature, even if it is your first time doing outdoors activities! “People work together towards a common goal while also getting to know each other and having friendly conversations with each other and our staff,” said volunteer coordinator Kirk Schroeder.

There are many opportunities offered by this organization that has been working for years to promote and ensure the health of our natural habitats. Schroeder emphasized, “ People need nature in their lives to be happy and healthy.” All rangers and volunteer coordinators work side by side with their community to restore natural habitats, which are important for wildlife and for people who love to be outdoors and do daily healthy activities such as biking, hiking, and walking on the Marin County Parks land.

However, to maintain our parks’ natural beauty, we need your help to restore our parks and to create a more involved community with our parks, which is vital and necessary for our health and for the sake of our precious native plants, animals and yes, us too. Schroeder works hard at protecting our parks and other natural habitats and explains the importance of plants, trees, and wildlife that our earth has granted us, saying, “It is really important to maintain a healthy ecosystem because parks, forests, creeks, and other natural areas are inhabited by many different species of wildlife that are dependent on that habitat that has a lot of natural resources they need to survive.”

Yet, we fail to show gratitude by caring and protecting earth from the many potential dangers. We are harming the planet with our rapidly growing industrial economy, which creates high levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, triggering global warming. In Addition, plants and animal life to go extinct as we become increasingly urbanized. Schroeder said, “Everything is affected by the way we manage our land, and there are many ways we can help protect our land, but there are also many things that contribute to the destruction of our land.”

But it doesn’t end there. In the near future, urbanization may also become an even more serious threat to us and our physical, mental, and emotional health. There are various cases of adults who suffer from nature-deficit disorder; it is even more common among children born in the 21st century, who have the tendency to spend less time outdoors interacting with nature than their parents did as children. By being less active and healthy, children are more vulnerable to illness and emotional disabilities. Schroeder said,  “Doctors are prescribing visits to parks and nature because it will help them [children] have not only a healthy body but a healthy frame of mind which, in the long term, means a happy life.”

To join Marin County Parks in their mission to preserve our forests while also getting outdoors, having fun, and encouraging a healthy lifestyle, visit their website at

By: Anahi Mendieta

The Controversy Behind School Lunches, and the Truth

By: Julia Hedelman

I walked into my school cafeteria, my stomach grumbling, eager to shove a hot slice of pizza into my mouth. At last I had my salad, fruit, and pizza sitting on a plate in front of me ready to be eaten. For the first nine years of my life in elementary school, I was served delicious meals from the local natural foods store called Good Earth. Thanks to Al Baylacq—co-owner of Good Earth—and his team, many kids have been as lucky as I was for the food options at school.
Every week, 7,500 lunches are delivered to fourteen different schools throughout Marin. Al started the school lunch program a few years ago, providing organic and nutritious meals to students across Marin. He states, “organic foods, school gardens, basic nutrition, curriculum and physical activity for our children are all important to me. I want every school in Marin to be involved.”
Although Al has created a unique, healthy, and cost-effective program, there is a catch. “Our considerable struggle on a daily basis is keeping the food hot and good tasting. Over the period of once it is cooked and before they [the kids] it eat. So there is many hours between those two things,” he states. The reason Al decided to create this lunch program is because he wanted to steer parents and their children away from the really cheap and unhealthy food that the schools are providing and give them a healthier option. But Al has realized that, “there is a difference between enjoying pizza 10 minutes out of the oven versus an hour out of the oven. Those are two different experiences.”
There is a decision to be made here: either fried chicken with beans that look like a sloppy mush, or a cheese pizza that tastes slightly cold made with whole grains, locally grown tomatoes and locally farmed cheese that. Personally, I would choose the pizza over the fried chicken any day.
But Al has been faced with another challenge: keeping the food menu unique. “Our ability to keep it interesting and fresh feeling, not fresh food because everything is fresh, but the feeling of what the kids are gonna eat every day, every week, to keep that changing all the time we struggle with that because of our ability to cook the volume of food that we do,” says Al.
Lastly, the preparation and effort put into these meals, may be too much for the Good Earth to handle as their lunch program expands. Al explains, “we start out at five in the morning, cook it from scratch and finish it, pack it, hold it, in hot boxes, and then transport it. Then it gets to the school and maybe sits for another half hour to forty-five minutes in the hot boxes before it gets pulled out and served at lunch time.”
With so many conflicts with delivering food, Al has realized that his program is not the solution to solving healthier, fresh, and diverse meals to kids at school. But instead, “the answer to the problem is school’s reverting back to having their own kitchens, and their own kitchen staff producing their own food for their own kids right at their own school, that is the answer right there…”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

NASA Scientist Christian Frankenburg works on a Revolutionary Technology—Measuring Chlorophyll Fluorescence from Space

By: Julia Hedelman

Our Earth is being destroyed everyday: deforestation, pollution, floods, droughts, wildfires, you name it. “The cause?” you may ask, humans. Every year humans are emitting up to 36 billion metric tons of CO2 per year into the atmosphere. Deforestation is having a bigger impact on our Earth than ever imagined. Less trees and plants means less photosynthesis, and less photosynthesis means less oxygen, and with less oxygen all living organisms are at risk for extinction. Photosynthesis has and always will be the process that makes human life sustainable, “photosynthesis is the biggest carbon uptake on the globe… and basically releases oxygen for us as humans to breathe,” says our interviewee German NASA scientist Dr. Frankenburg. He and his team want to explore this problem, and how the carbon cycle has been affected by climate change.  
Frankenburg and his team were finally successful in creating NASA’s first greenhouse gas satellite named OCO-2 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) which was launched on June 30, 2014. But how does it work? Why should it be important to me?
Well, OCO-2 has the ability to measure Photosynthetic activity from outer space. By using high resolution spectrometers and taking photos of areas with high chlorophyll fluorescence (areas with lots of plants) scientists can now “measure something that’s happening within a leaf, basically on a molecular level, and we can really see the signal from space.”
When a plant goes through photosynthesis, it absorbs photosynthetic active radiation (the energy input to the plant) and a fraction of that energy always goes into fluorescence, which is what Frankenburg is measuring. In an ideal world, the measurements of fluorescence and energy would stay constant, but when using OCO-2 Frankenburg quickly discovered that this was usually not the case. If these two measurements are not equal, it is a sign that the crop/forest is going through water stress, so in principle, the satellite can detect a water stress it actually begins. This, is many of the pros the OCO-2 brings to the table. If humans were able to see a drought or flood before it actually began, new irrigation systems could be put into system to save crops, money, lives and food before it is too late.
Frankenburg hopes that OCO-2 will be able to uncover the mystery of our carbon cycle. “We can use this atmospheric CO2 data to infer fluxes of CO2 across the land atmospherically.. So we will gain information on how the natural carbon cycle works and where the sources of CO2 are located- this is the primary mission objective of the OCO-2.”  With climate change becoming more and more of a reality, OCO-2 could be a major breakthrough for our scientific world in uncovering the many mysteries of the Carbon Cycle. To learn more about this project or Dr. Frankenburg, refer to the links below:


A Lesson from the Kogi

By: Julia Hedelman

Climate change, myth or fact? Living in our modern society, many people have been exposed to a vast amount of evidence that global warming is happening—yet many are still sceptical. An ancient tribe living in the Sierra Nevada, the Kogi, do not need scientific evidence to realize that climate change is one of the biggest problems in the world.
Liliana Madrigal, co-founder of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), has been working with the Kogi to preserve their ancient land. Liliana was inspired to begin the ACT because she felt that, “we wanted to… focus on working with indigenous people because we felt that that was a huge unserved area that was an extraordinary opportunity for working in the Amazon.” The ACT “seeks to steadily increase the number of indigenous peoples in Amazonia able to monitor, sustainably manage and protect their traditional forestlands, and by extension significantly increase the area of Amazonian rainforest enjoying considerably improved protection.”
The Kogi tribe are direct descendants of the Tairona civilization. They have survived as a culture because the Kogi have focused all of their energy on the life of the mind and spirit instead of the life of an individual. Over these last five centuries the Kogi have lived in almost total isolation with their language, traditions, and culture still intact. The Kogi believe that they are the “Elder Brothers,” the guardians of Mother Earth, and stay deeply connected with the nature around them. But over the last decade, the Kogi have begun to notice an imbalance around them. The Kogi have witnessed climate change first-hand and have begun to learn Spanish because they have realized how important it is to communicate with the outside world about the huge crisis of climate change. This is where the Amazon Conservation Team comes in, supporting the acquisition of the Kogi’s ancestral land, but more importantly, they are helping the Kogi communicate their concerns about human-caused climate change and the effect it is having and going to have on our only home.  
Liliana believes that the Kogi “are the ultimate scientists.” They are the ones actually observing the changes of weather, animal behavior, their planting ceremonies need to be changed because some sprouts are growing much earlier or later than normally, some of the pollinators are not reaching certain higher altitude areas anymore. “There are just all of these indicators that are not only purely from observation but they [the Kogi] are dealing with them on a daily basis.”
The Kogi have a lot to teach us, and I have been very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to interview someone who has extensive knowledge about this unique tribe. To learn more about the Kogi tribe, click here or to learn more about Liliana and the Amazon Conservation Team you can visit

Friday, July 18, 2014

Local organic lunch program struggles with diversity

By Danielle Chemtob

We’ve all been there: tray in hand, you move slowly through the line at your school cafeteria. When you finally reach the food, your stomach growls ravenously as you realize you are finally able to satisfy the hunger that had been gnawing at your stomach since fourth period algebra. But then, a hand shovels a scoop of unidentifiable glop onto your tray, and just like that you feel your hunger disappear. It’s taco Tuesday, but the beans look like a brown soupy mush, the shells are soggy, and the tacos are filled with questionable looking meat.
Fortunately, that mystery meat may be gone forever, as schools have recently been changing the way they serve school lunches, with federal nutrition standards passed in 2010 requiring school lunch programs to serve more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. In Marin County, however, many schools are now aiming to serve food that is organic as well as healthy. Good Earth, a natural foods store located in Fairfax, runs a school lunch program that does just that, and provides organic lunches for 14 schools in Marin.

Although Good Earth’s program is unique in that it provides organic school lunches, Good Earth co-owner Al Baylacq says it presents challenges.
“Our considerable struggle, or considerable hurdle on a daily basis is keeping food hot and good tasting, over the period of once its cooked and before the kids get to eat it,” Baylacq said. “And so there’s many hours in between those things.”
Baylacq says another challenge that the school lunch program poses is diversity.
“Our ability to keep it interesting and fresh feeling, not fresh food because everything is fresh, but the feeling of what the kids are gonna eat every day, every week, to keep that changing all the time we struggle with that because of our ability to cook the volume of food that we do,” Baylacq said.
Good Earth provides on average 1500 lunches a day, all of which are made from scratch the same morning.
“We start out at like 5am every morning, cook it from scratch, finish it, pack it, hold it in hot boxes, and then transport it,” Baylacq said. “It gets to the school and maybe sits for a half hour, sometimes 45 minutes to an hour, in the hot boxes, before it gets pulled out and served at lunch time. We know there are about 15 different recipes on a weekly basis that we can do all that really well. And where its hard for us again is to keep it unique.”
Baylacq says the solution is for schools to cook their students’ lunches in their own kitchens.
“The answer to the problem is schools reverting back to having their own kitchens and their own kitchen staff producing their own food for their own kids right there at the school,” Baylacq said. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Measuring Chlorophyll Fluorescence and CO2 Levels

By: Anahi Mendieta
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory also known as OCO-2 was successfully launched on July 2nd from the Vandenberg Air force station in California. The OCO-2 satellite is currently on its mission to measure chlorophyll fluorescence (a wavelength emitted during photosynthesis) and CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere. Dr. Frankenberg, a member of NASA who is currently working at JPL (The Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in Pasadena, said, "The Orbiting Carbon Observatory will be able to measure CO2 absorption features from plants to calculate CO2 amounts in the atmosphere." The OCO-2 is based on the original OCO-1 mission, which failed to launch after a failure with the rocket release mechanism. As a result, the OCO-1 has been replaced by the new and improved Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite, also known as OCO-2. Dr. Christian Frankenberg said, "The OCO-2 also got its name as a result of being an allegy to the CO2 molecule, which is the satellite's primary mission objective." The new innovation promises to detect and acquire measurements of the human produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth's atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which is produced by the burning of carbon by humans, is currently causing global warming, which affects vegetation that provides oxygen to our human civilization. Dr. Frankenberg believes the importance of measuring and obtaining precise measurements of photosynthetic activity is great because it is the biggest carbon uptake in the world. Dr. Frankenberg knows that, "Not all the CO2 we emit is staying in the atmosphere, but only about half of what we emit is staying in the atmosphere. The main focus of the OCO-2 is to detect where the ‘sinks’ are located."  Dr. Frankenberg and his team are determined to find the "sink" that is either on the ocean or in the land that takes up some of the extra CO2 we emit. However, mankind and its revolutionized ways emit more than what the plants may be able to take, in a not-so-distant future. Dr. Frankenberg explains,  "Mankind is emitting about 36 billion metric tons of CO2 each year into the atmosphere; this is what caused the atmospheric CO2 levels to rise since the Industrial Revolution!" What’s more, we certainly cannot rely on the fact that Nature is doing us a favor by taking up almost half of the carbon dioxide we emit because with that comes the big uncertainty of whether that will persist in the future, keeping in mind that we do not yet know how the carbon cycle will react to global warming.

The Encyclopedia of Life: The Importance of Species Being Documented

By: Anahi Mendieta

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is a free, online collaborative encyclopedia intended to document all the species known to science. The Encyclopedia of Life is based on the contributions of existing databases and also from the contribution of experts throughout the world. Species must be further researched and studied by experts because the species we know today are poorly studied. The goal of the EOL is to document the species that have some information about. This includes species we have known about for many years, as well as newly discovered species. However, one major problem still remains: as new species are discovered, ones are in danger of extinction. Dr. Marie Studor, the Learning and Education Director, of EOL says, “We are currently experiencing the sixth mass extinction, meaning we are losing species faster than we could catalog!” This is a challenge for the EOL, who are putting their efforts into documenting all the life that has ever existed and at the same, documenting life that has ever existed and at the same time documenting new species that are being discovered by the minute. “Each year there are about ten to twenty thousand new species discovered,” according to Dr. Studor. “It is really exciting to discover new species.” Although Dr. Studor’s job is a hard one, she has had many great adventures along the EOL journey. The Encyclopedia of Life welcomes the public around the world to participate in this toil to create and build up the EOL, by discovering alongside them. For example, people can take pictures of a certain creature to benefit our global community. According to Dr. Studor, “People who make observations on EOL and adding images, help to build EOL."
The Encyclopedia of Life is free and accessible to anyone in the world. The EOL provides global access to knowledge about life on Earth through pictures and detailed information. However, when will this new form of intelligent and useful source be finished? Dr. Studor said, “The Encyclopedia of Life has a long to go; therefore, the answer to that is never.” Despite that, this is also a new opportunity for many around the world to contribute with this new program being developed that will certainly be used and remembered by new and older generations. The very fact that this project is endless is captivating and intriguing. Encyclopedia of Life is making discoveries not only about animal life, but also about the multiple other important factors that make up our world, which include plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses, among many others. Dr. Studor said, “The Encyclopedia of Life is definitely the place to go if you are curious about species information and learning about the biodiversity of all life that exists today and has existed in the past.” By all means, the Encyclopedia of Life is a promising new way of learning about the different species that surround us.

Solar Power Combats Climate Change

 By: Isabelle Marmur

With the climate rapidly changing, measures need to be taken to improve not just the United States, but the entire world, according to David Kunhardt.
    Kunhardt is the CEO of SolEd, a corporation intending to bring affordable solar power as well as education on clean energy to California. “It is the overwhelming consensus of science saying climate change is real and it is anthropogenic,” said Kunhardt.
    Currently, the government is not taking much action on global warming due to doubts within the system. “I think a lot of the deniers and a lot of the members of Congress are at this point, still saying that we shouldn’t do anything.”
    According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average temperature has increased by more than 1.4°F in the past century. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the decade from 2000 to 2010 was the warmest on record.
    The EPA states that there is a consensus among scientists that climate change is an issue and that humans are a part of that issue. “There are approximately 2100 climate scientists in the world and approximately 2048 believe that climate change is real,” said Kunhardt.
    “They are no longer able to say that global warming isn’t happening. They are no longer able to say that we aren’t facing threatening storms. They are no longer able to say we don’t have droughts we don’t have horrendous record breaking droughts in some parts of the world and floods in other parts of the world. They have to acknowledge the realities of that.”  
    According to NASA, the atmosphere has never experienced more than 300 parts per million, until the 1950’s. There is clear evidence that climate change has taken place just by statistics according to Kunhardt.
    Although it would take a multitude of resources to make a difference in the environment, by people putting their time and energy into helping save the environment, the economy could benefit as well, according to Kunhardt.
    Despite the installation costs of solar panels, the energy itself is economical says Kunhardt, as the sun is a free resource. In addition to clean energy, the need for more solar power will require new jobs.
       “We can act on it now and it won’t hurt us if we are creating jobs, if we are converting to cleaner air, if we are actually doing something about water supplies and about shorelines,” said Kunhardt. According to NASA, the global sea level ascended about 17 centimeters in the past century.
    The use of coal and oil is not only detrimental to the environment, but they also come at a cost according to Kunhardt.
    If the United States attempts to use solar power as a primary source of energy, America could save about 55 million barrels of oil per year which is valued at one billion dollars, according to a report by the University of Michigan.
    Kunhardt believes that change can not only be done in the future, but right now. As solar is a growing industry, expansions can help improve the world everywhere.
    With all the proof found on solar energy, it only takes a few steps to make a difference.

Why Life Isn’t as Diverse Without Diversity of Life

By: Sammy Herdman
       Imagine a life in which biodiversity is virtually diminished.  You walk outside your home and walk down the concrete path leading to the concrete road.  At least some trees survived to produce oxygen, and your eye is attracted to a lonely pine tree every once in a while.  But they aren’t looking too good because their soil isn’t being enriched by a variety of species and waste like it formerly was.  There are no bees or butterflies as you walk along the road; those went extinct- and without their cross pollination, all the brilliant flowers and buzzing insects that depended on those plants died as well.  Your walk is fairly silent.  Maybe there’s a surviving squirrel- almost starving without the abundance of nuts it had evolved to eat.  You get to a market, and there are probably no bright fruit stands out in front, and if there are they’re exorbitantly expensive due to their rarity.  There’s no honey, no berries, no peanut butter or jelly.  There are plenty of cow products though; the cows will last as long as the grass does.  However, their methane expulsions have caused the demise of countless other creatures.  But this monotonous world isn’t the fault of the cows. It’s the fault of the creatures who inhumanely bred them as cheaply and quickly as they could.
This dystopian anecdote isn’t as far off as we may hope.  A mass extinction occurring right now is killing off species at a rate of approximately a dozen a day, and the resulting lack of biodiversity may have many more negative side effects than a drab looking world and less food options.
Biodiversity serves our species as much as it does any other organism.  It ensures natural sustainability for all life forms.  
We rely on biodiversity in plant species for chemical exchanges, including the production of oxygen and the breakdown of carbon dioxide.
Rich soil, which allows for more successful farming, is dependent on a variety of plants and animals to remove certain nutrients and to leave other ones in return.
Climate stability, protection of water sources, food, future resources, nutrient recycling, and maintenance of ecosystems are a few systems of nature that will be compromised as biodiversity continues to decrease.
Because all species have adapted to coexist and rely on one another, the extinction of one species leads to the extinction of others.  Eventually even humans will feel the menace of mass extinction.
Fortunately, efforts are being made to stop this natural crisis.  Spreading awareness and getting people to be passionate about environmental issues is one remedy.  The Encyclopedia of Life is a growing online database that aspires to collect all the information existing about all types of organisms from different resources and minds all over the globe.  It’s a free research tool that holds information from creatures as obscure as nematodes, to animals as charismatic as elephants.
“One motivation to bring all this information together is for everybody to have very good access to the latest information about the worlds biodiversity and also to begin to understand what we know, and perhaps more importantly, what we don’t know,” said Marie Studer, the director of the Encyclopedia of Life’s Learning and Education group.  “We can begin to organize that information in a way to answer important questions…about how will species be impacted by climate change, or it might also be getting people to look at the lesser known species on the planet.”
Humans are intrinsically intertwined in biodiversity and the survival of all species, so it’s important for individuals to get involved in the fate of other organisms and the Earth.  Educating yourself on biological diversity is a good place to start, and the Encyclopedia of Life is the perfect place to do it.

Link to Encyclopedia of Life:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Free Fuel!

By Charlotte Smith

David Kunhardt, CEO of the SolEd Benefit Corporation, believes that although other alternative energy sources may be more efficient, solar power has the most potential. His company has a mission. He says, “The mission is to deliver the lowest lifetime cost of energy to public clients that can be done… We live by that mission to drive to the lowest possible cost of clean energy.”
            Solar power is quickly growing because of its extensive advantages. First of all, it’s free fuel! Yes, the equipment is expensive, but the cost is quickly declining. It’s simple. It’s reliable. Kunhardt does understand that solar power isn’t the most efficient energy source, but it definitely has the most potential. He says, “I actually think that the most ubiquitous [alternative energy source] across the globe is geothermal, but it costs more to utilize geothermal in the coldest climates and also in the hottest climates… Sun obviously only works during the day, but particularly where the sun is good and where there’s not an excess amount of fog, it is very predictable, very reliable.” Thus, geothermal energy may be easier to utilize, but the growing affordability of solar power makes it a more desirable option for many.
            Additionally, according to Kunhardt, formerly a financial planner, solar power is A-rated. Why is solar A-rated? It’s proven technology. There are a lot of improvements being made in the smoothing of the output of solar energy, and it is a very quickly growing industry. Also, it’s reliable in the fact that local conditions can be predicted, so sunlight is often fairly predictable. As long as there’s equipment and sun, there will be an output. “And, it’s free!”
            So, why is solar power necessary? Climate change is fast occurring throughout the United States from the burning of fossil fuels, which could easily be avoided with the implementation of alternative energy sources. The widespread use of solar power at the moment, however, has limits, but it’s interesting to know that solar power, along with geothermal power, hydroelectric power, wind power, etc., together can turn the tide on global warming. Switching to solar power can save a house extensive carbon emission. “A lot of the deniars – a lot of members of Congress who are still saying we shouldn’t do anything – they are no longer able to say global warming isn’t happening.”
            There’s simply too much evidence at this point in time to continue denying the occurrence of global warming. The overwhelming option of the majority of scientists is that climate change is real. But even if this could not be proven, who could possibly argue against using the very best and sustainable technology we have to produce energy?

Behind the Scenes of the ABC7 Newsroom

Behind the Scenes on ABC7 News:

By: Emilie Baxter

Every day we learn so much from the vast amount of media that inhabits our lives. On every platform, information comes to us immediately and we are barraged with who, what, when, where, why, and how. But what does it take to accurately bring that information to people at lightning speed. That is what I learn every time I step into the ABC7 newsroom.

There are many pieces to this puzzle. Every person plays a role from concept to execution. They come together like a symphony, making sure every fact is checked and every detail is addressed. It's a process that happens a hundred times a day in the newsroom, and it's like second nature to every single person working there.

The drive to be first in any news organization is strong, but there is an equally important job to be right. As each day begins in the newsroom, everyone's mission is the same; bring viewers the latest information as quickly and accurately as possible, which is not always an easy task.

So where does the process begin? Each morning an editorial meeting kicks off the day of news gathering. That's when the writers, producers, assignment editors, and news director meet to discuss the latest stories happening in the Bay Area and beyond. It's incredible to hear the thought that goes into every story and the resources it takes to tell it accurately. Only then, can a reporter go out to uncover the details of the story he or she has been assigned to for the day,

Communication is key in an operation such as this. Throughout the day various reporters, writers, and producers are working in locations throughout the Bay Area covering their stories. But the lines of communication are continually open to talk to producers and directors at the station. The updates on stories are constant, including a second large editorial meeting in the afternoon to plan for the afternoon and evening newscasts. Even prior to this, the ABC7 team has produced early morning and midday newscasts, so there is a continuous effort to bring information to viewers throughout the day.

I can’t help but notice when I am in the ABC7 newsroom, the role social media plays in news gathering. It creates an even more instant relationship with viewers, and serves as a further communication tool for reporters and producers. But what I also learned from the ABC7 news team was the importance to ”vet” that information. In other words, they don’t just rely on a tweet or post that comes across social media pages. Each one goes through a fact-checking process before it goes on the air, to make sure what they are reporting is accurate. This is incredibly important because many people first hear of breaking news via social media.

Probably the most exciting part of a newscast is when it all comes together in the control room and studio. While the anchors are in the studio working with a stage manager, the director works in the control room with a computer system that automates cameras, graphics, audio, and video. Meanwhile, a team of reporters is live at various locations around the Bay Area and a team of producers works in the newsroom constantly updating and advancing the stories. It all comes together through the director who is communicating with each and every person through a headset and calling the shots. A producer sits next to the director managing the stories and making sure the newscast sticks to its allotted time. It’s a fast-paced, collaborative and exciting process that is truly remarkable to witness.

I love following news stories and being up to date on what’s happening in our world. After spending time with the ABC7 news team, I have an even greater appreciation for the work they do and their diligence to be accurate. In this world where there is information coming at us from all angles, it seems like an even more daunting task.

Moe Flannery: Environmental Mysteries Solved Through Skulls

Moe Flannery: Environmental Mysteries Solved Through Skulls

By: Emilie Baxter

I recently got the opportunity to learn more about the significance of skulls through an interview I saw with Maureen “Moe” Flannery, a collections manager in the Ornithology and Mammology Department at the California Academy of Sciences. Many people probably don’t realize that every skull reveals many stories about the way a vertebrate lived, died, and evolved. Moe Flannery has spent nearly a decade working at the California Academy of Sciences, which is a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. This gives Moe and her colleagues a license to collect scientific data from dead marine mammals that wash ashore between Bodega Bay and Ano Nuevo, and most recently Sonoma. In this interview, Moe talked about the cause of marine life deaths, what hazards exist in our waters, and what our society can do help prevent the endangerment of these species.


Moe and her colleagues begin the process of studying and researching skulls through what is called “harvesting.” One example of this comes from a recent excursion in April. Moe received a call from the Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline (415-289-SEAL) about a dead sea lion on the shores of Half Moon Bay. So she sent a field associate to investigate. The license through the stranding network allows these associates to not only determine the physical characteristics of the sea lion, but to also cut open and remove the skull for research. Once that is done, the mammal will naturally wash out to sea and become a food source for other marine animals.


Through examining the tissue around the skull, the bone health, and the mammal's teeth, Moe and her team are very often able to determine the age, sex, cause of death, as well as any potential hazards in the waters. But first, the skulls must go through a rigorous cleaning process. Very often this involves the use of flesh-eating beetles.  The dermestid beetle larvae can eat or “clean” the tissue and meat around a skull in 3 days, making it easier for researchers to examine every aspect of the skull.


Moe elaborated on how the different characteristics of a skull can tell a lot about an animal’s life. For instance, by looking at the position of the eyes, you can determine if an animal was a predator or prey. The teeth can also offer clues, such as whether the animal was a carnivore or herbivore. The size of a skull can often help determine age or sex. Finally, by looking at the bone structure and health, you can determine toxins in the environment that are usually just one step away from inflicting humans. Some of those clues include bone loss, deformation, or mutations and sometimes those can be linked back to human involved impacts. While some of these are senseless acts such as hunting or debris masses in the water, other include chemicals released in the environment, certain diseases that are caused by environmental change, or pesticides getting into the oceans. By learning more about how these marine mammals lived and died, we can make better conservation decisions on areas to protect and discover parts of an ecosystem to restore. All of this can help us make better decisions about how we preserve the environment and the animals that live in it.


So what can we do? First of all, we can pay attention to any marine life we see wash up dead on the shore. Immediately we should call the hotline so trained and licensed field associates can gather useful information that will help us preserve our environment for generations to come. We can also be careful not to litter or throw debris into our waters. Finally, we can work to protect our marine mammals from harmful human interactions.