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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Visiting Congressman Jared Huffman
   By, Cate Guempel

      Congressman Jared Huffman was in the midst of a busy morning when our group arrived to speak with him. After glancing at the impact he had on the community with the many photos and newspaper articles pinned to the lobby walls, we were led to his personal office where the congressman had his recently broken ankle wrapped and propped up on his desk. We were warned that he was expecting a phone call and we may be interrupted at any time. Even with the many responsibilities that seemed to hang in the air of his busy office, he seemed very relaxed and down to Earth, while looking back now, his ankle was probably causing a substantial amount of pain and discomfort. From the many topics we grilled Huffman on, we all received thoughtful replies and standing here listening, I felt that he truly went into politics because he believes in something; I cant help but hope that he makes whatever that something, is a reality.
     Jared Huffman is a U.S. Congressman serving California's 2nd district. He speaks on many environmental issues and even has an upcoming bill, The Drought Relief and Resilience Act. According to Jared, a member of the democratic party, the people acknowledge the existence of global warming and the majority of the republican party are the ones rooted in oil companies. This may not be too far off as a recent poll suggests that 70% of Americans believe that Global Warming is real. So why is global warming still considered such a controversial issue? Whether the republican party is representing the people accurately or not, this could be what is holding back government action on the topic.

     Later, when I got my questions in, I asked his view on the subsidization of water, especially during Californias worst drought in recorded history. He took me back to 1900s when the Reclamation Act of 1902 was put into effect; essentially the act promoted moving West with the government paying for certain resources. This was the start of the water infrastructure we have today, Huffman explains. While this type of system may have had merit then, it is not what we need now. How we price our water is basically how we put a value on it and when only 3% of the worlds water is freshwater with only 1% of that accessible for human use, water is a  precious resource. This is true now more than ever, as California is reaching another year of its severe drought. Californias water is used mostly for agriculture, a whopping 80%, but how that water is used has not been valued according to the drought. We must revamp and re-incentivise our water, Jared concludes and mentions that he would do so by increasing water rates for farmers, who, for example, in the Central California Irrigation District paid $17 per acre-foot of water used in 2014.
     Beside his friendly and dedicated demeanor, Huffman impressed me that he has the drive that is needed to better this country and truly make a change. Huffman discussed how politicians can get into Congress for the wrong reasons, such as to become rich, wield power or assist corporate owners, and become corrupt into their work. Fortunately for our district, Huffman is clearly focused on the issues at hand, not on bettering his own personal fortune. We need Congressmen like Huffman to bring the beneficial changes that are needed.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When allocating water, wildlife matters: why we need to protect our natural heritage in times of drought

by Alexandra Lee

The Earthscope team was lucky enough to meet Congressman Jared Huffman, representing California’s 2nd District, in his Marin office and interview him about several issues concerning the environment. We covered a broad range of topics, from Huffman’s opinion on oil drilling in the Arctic to ways we can stop the toxic algae blooms that have started to occur off the California coast. I asked him about his year-old Drought Relief and Resilience Act - what it’s main goals are and why California needs it.
    Before getting into what the bill consists of, Huffman talked about how the pumping of water in the San Joaquin Delta affects the endangered salmon and other species of marine life that reside there. He also explained how in times of drought these species need water to survive. While we usually think of how water shortages affect humans, they have terrible consequences for the animals living near our water sources. The San Joaquin Delta water extraction systems are managed by large pumps, according to Huffman, and draw water out of the delta and across California, mainly for drinking water and agriculture use. In times of drought, the water pumping is limited because it will reverse the current of water necessary for salmon and other fish to make it to the bay. Although these endangered species are federally protected in the Delta, many people are advocating for increased pumping in times of drought to extract it for human use even though it could completely wipe out other species. While it’s true that farmers need this water for their crops and millions of humans rely on this water to drink, pumping at full capability during water shortages has the potential to cause the extinction of or severely reduce the population of the endangered salmon and fish populations in the San Joaquin Delta.
Image result for san jouqin delta
    Huffman then went on to explain how his bill would address this issue, as well as several other issues concerning the drought. This is a very important issue to be aware of, as salmon are crucial to the survival of several habitats and ecosystems throughout California. We don’t need to protect salmon just to save salmon, we need to protect them to preserve all of the wildlife systems that depend on them. Without these ecosystems, we will surely see a decline in the health and productivity of naturally occurring rivers and forests, which would impact humans as well as animals. Thanks to Jared Huffman for introducing this issue to Earthscope, as well as the several other environmental issues he mentioned to our team.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Congressmen Jared Huffman: A Dedicated Public Servant and Community Leader

By Maggie Alves

On July 18th, 2016, the Earthscope Media team had the privilege of interviewing Congressman Jared Huffman at his local office in San Rafael. Huffman represents over 700,000 people in California’s second district, the northwest portion of California, ranging from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. Huffman is a member of the Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Huffman is an avid community member and an outspoken environmentalist. He works tirelessly to protect the environment and advocate for new important legislation. Despite his busy schedule, he loves connecting with his community, particularly the youth, and was kind enough to devote an hour to our group.
After assembling in front of the building to review our questions, we entered through the large front doors. The waiting room was filled with flags, certificates, legal papers, and framed photos, including one of him with Obama. Once in his office, it didn’t feel like I was standing in the office of a respected political figure. The office perfectly reflected his personality; fishing and family photos covered the walls, there was a UCSB Sports Hall of Fame plaque for men’s volleyball, and official documents. Seeing a face in person that I have learned so much about in school was a surreal experience. His staff were incredibly friendly and accommodated to all nine of us being in a small space. Huffman addressed each of our questions thoroughly and made sure he clarified all his statements.

The issue I asked Huffman about regarded his own bill: The Drought Relief and Resilience Act of 2015. This was the first bill he ever asked for public input on. The “crowdsourced” bill received thousands of comments from the public, many of which were inputted in the bill. The bill has not been voted on, but would be a huge stride to combating the drought. Huffman states, “My bill provides emergency funding to stretch existing water supplies: deploying efficient irrigation technology, drilling wells, and building pipelines.” It also plans to quickly upgrade treatment facilities, repair leaking infrastructure, improve urban and agricultural water use efficiency, improve desalination technology and water recycling, recharge and clean depleted groundwater aquifers, and better manage headwater forests and watersheds. To learn more about the bill, visit

At the end of the forty-minute interview, we asked about what it was like to be in politics. Huffman explained it was the same as any other job; some things he loved, and others he did not. Everyone is politics is there because at some point they were extremely passionate about something. To me, the most remarkable part of the experience was seeing how down to earth and humble he was. He conducted himself professionally, shook all of our hands, and gave each question thorough and in-depth responses; you could tell he didn’t think of himself above anyone. Politics is not meant for people who only want their names in headlines; it’s meant for people who are passionate and will work hard to see the changes they want in government. I feel so lucky to be represented in politics by someone who cares and reflects the interests of the community.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Congressman Jared Huffman Says Now is the Time for People to Vote for Candidates that Will help Prevent and Reverse Climate Change

By Julian Brastow

Today, global climate change is a huge threat to our world’s future, and will continue to result in global disasters until we do something about it. Earthscope’s recent meeting and interview with Congressman Jared Huffman revealed what needs to happen at a political level to reduce the effects of climate change.

The visit consisted of the Earthscope Media interns crowded into Huffman’s office asking researched questions on current environmental issues. Despite having a broken ankle, Huffman had the time to thoroughly answer these questions and express his important opinions on topics ranging from water sustainability and alternative energy sources, to his concern over the toxic algae blooms occurring off the California Coast.

One thing that stood out to me during the interview was what he said about climate change and politics. While talking about climate change and what we need to do about it, he stated that because most Americans believe climate change is happening, Congress needs to start creating laws that will help fight it. But the reality is that the Republican majority in Congress is preventing these bills from taking shape, and right now the only action that’s being taken at the federal level is coming from President Obama, which is not nearly enough response that needs to happen, since the President has limited authority to make these needed changes. Huffman also indicated that an important committee comprised of Republicans and Business Leaders, that should be involved in addressing and reversing climate change, is instead meeting in order to seek ways to gain profit by taking advantage of resources that are becoming available in the Arctic due to melting ice caps.

Upon further research, I also discovered that 59% of Republican voters believe global climate change is occurring, but only 44% of Republicans in Congress believe this. This political misrepresentation must be addressed, and it is only when we have politicians willing and able to make the changes to protect the planet and our environment, will we be able to solve climate change.

Huffman’s main point was that in the end, to do something about climate change, we must elect politicians that will take action  and tip the balance of Congress to represent the opinion of the people. Only then will we be able to pass laws in order to help effectively protect our earth.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Fracking Pumps 40,000 Gallons of Chemicals into the Earth

                   By, Cate Guempel

California uses around 38 million gallons of water a year, according to the 2010 U.S. Geological Survey. So where is California finding this water in such a severe drought? With the large amount of water that we take why are we supporting the fracking industry that polluted our limited water and is not even sustainable. With the short economic booms people associate with fracking, there is always a drastic drop in jobs and the economy when all of the fracking sites have been used up. From the few temporary benefits, it will never be worth the pollution to our aquifers that can't be taken back.
     Snowpacks, aquifers, lakes, and rivers are how California and most of the country has access to water. Southern California receives 95% of their water from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which, overall, provides the state with a third of its water; the Colorado River is another large water source for California.
Fracking has become a huge industry in California since the 1990’s. It consists of using a high pressure water mixer to drill into the earth and release natural gas. During the process, sand and chemicals are injected with the water; this results in pollution of surrounding geography. The chemicals remain in the earth, killing plants, animals, and contaminating water sources. A standard fracking well produces the equivalent of 3 to 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools of contaminated wastewater, which is pumped into deep wells for disposal. It was found that around 40,000 gallons of chemicals are used per fracturing; over 600 chemicals, including lead, uranium, mercury, and hydrochloric acid, are sent and left in the ground. Per gas well, fracking companies use up to 8 million gallons of water. With the 500,000 current gas well in the U.S. and understanding that a single well can be fracked 18 times, it would take 72 trillion gallons of water to harvest or 160 billion gallons using only California’s wells. Fracking has also been found to be the source of many minor earthquakes near fracking wells.
With California in its 5th year of severe drought, it can seem surprising that such damaging industries are only growing. This could be because of the economic benefits reaped from this process. The fracking industry has saved the U.S. $103 billion a year in purchasing natural gas and has created thousands of jobs. Fracking companies have assured the public that the process is safe and beneficial but will not release the specific chemicals they are releasing into the environment on legal grounds of it being a patented trade secret. But when methane concentrations are 17 times higher in water wells near fracking sites then compared to normal wells, it seems fracking is far from safe.
Fracking is continuing to cause great damage to the Earth and California in its drought. Many countries have begun to ban fracking, including Germany, Northern Ireland, France and Bulgaria. Even though fracking has brought benefits, such as economic growth and extra jobs, in the long term future, it harms more than helps. There is enough research and factual evidence to suggest many severe side effects caused by fracking; this leaves a fracking ban in the U.S. as a very plausible and necessary solution. More research into what chemicals are being pumped into the ground, the earthquakes surrounding fracking sites, and how the overall process affects nearby ecosystems before fracking should be allowed to continue.
Less than 3% of the world’s water is freshwater. Desalinization is proven to be inefficient, harmful, and expensive leaving the world with a limited amount of water to sustainably use. The Sierra Nevadas provide most of California’s water but they are not being protected. Too much water is being taken before it is naturally replenished. Drying up one of our main water sources is an inevitable disaster. Large rivers have been showing decreasing water levels but the state’s thirst for water has remained. Even with less and less water available, water is still being taken in innappropriate amounts.
Our water is precious and vital to human life. From the 3% of freshwater on Earth, only  1% is available and accessible to humans. Lake Shasta has dropped almost 30% capacity from 2011; lakes, rivers and aquifers are only diminishing and humans are the cause. Global warming, another human caused issue, has contributed to the decreased water levels, but water sources are being polluted, destroyed, and depleted by humans everyday. The Ogallala was one of the largest aquifers in the United States, but from human influences, it has fallen drastically in depth. Aquifers gather their water from rain and runoff water seeping through porous rock layers underground. This process allows the aquifer to naturally replenish itself, but if is not sustainably sourced, and completely depleted, it is estimated to take 6,000 years to fully replenish to its natural state. Some specialists even calculate the Ogallala complete depletion by 2028. This aquifer supplies water to 82% of people in the High Plains and would drastically impact life. This aquifer is one of many decreasing water sources in the U.S. and California.

California’s record breaking drought is a sign of a much deeper issue: improper water management. Residents are being restricted to some sorts due to the drought, but there seems to be a bigger elephant in the room that's begging to be addressed. Agriculture accounts for 70% of the world’s fresh water usage and California’s agriculture industry uses 80% of the state's water but how are farmers actually being restricted? A common farming technique involves spraying water into the air and letting gravity water the crops. Using this technique, a huge majority of the water ends up evaporating into the atmosphere and being wasted. Watering more efficiently, with micro- or drip irrigation, for example, instead of flood irrigation, could reduce agricultural use by 15 or 20% but needs to be promoted and enforced by the government.

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