JAMES CARLIN WATCHED A SMALL AIRPLANE snake over the field beyond the barbed wire fence at Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison in Tracy, about 60 miles east of Berkeley. He’d seen the plane before. It came at daybreak, flying low and trailing behind it a plume of chemicals. As his years in prison passed, Carlin began to notice a pattern. Each time the plane came, red bumps blistered the skin of the men lifting weights on the yard. Carlin had read environmentalist Rachel Carson; he thought the chemicals and the rashes must be related. Then it got worse.
Among those appalled by the 2014 publication of Forcing the Spring was Martin Meeker, a historian with UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center. Subtitled Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, the book, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jo Becker, spotlighted high-profile attorneys and what proved a limited, statewide victory.
Posted on April 29, 2019 - 9:34am
The extravagantly wet winter notwithstanding, California’s water woes are far from over. But recent moves suggest Governor Gavin Newsom is leading the state into a new era of water policy. Last month, he decided to scale back his predecessor’s decades-long effort, the Twin Tunnels, to deliver water from Northern to Southern California.
“Really, the idea that two massive tunnels would be built in the Delta was always—well, a pipe dream,” says Peter Gleick.
Posted on March 12, 2019 - 5:14pm
Say goodbye to another bit of old Berkeley: Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, the oldest restaurant in town, shut its doors on October 24, joining two other landmarks: Brennan’s, which closed in September, and H’s Lordships, which shuttered in June.
Posted on November 30, 2018 - 9:56am
Older than Red State versus Blue State, older than the Montagues versus the Capulets, humankind’s primal combat is the age-old conflict between the Night Owls and the Early Birds.
Night Owls, of whom (full disclosure here) this writer is one, are sophisticated folks who believe the pleasure of staying up late is exceeded only by the pleasure of sleeping in the next morning—or the next afternoon, if it comes to that. Their hero is Elvis Presley, who famously said, “The sun’s down and the moon’s pretty; it’s time to ramble.”
Posted on November 8, 2018 - 9:58am
The 20th century was the century of the megaproject, and as usual, California pointed the way for the nation. Southern California’s freeway system and the State Water Project, both largely completed by the 1970s, were mighty testaments to the conceit that we could build our way out of any problem. That view, of course, has since been tempered by inconvenient realities.
Posted on May 7, 2018 - 4:51pm
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decreed a roll-back of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles, benefitting automakers and oil companies while predictably enraging environmentalists. In making the announcement, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt declared the CAFE (for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards set by the Obama administration were too high and “didn’t comport with reality.”
Posted on April 5, 2018 - 1:53pm
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent lawsuit against the State of California over immigration isn’t just about immigration, of course. More fundamentally, it’s about the limits of states’ rights. The move could be a harbinger of other attempts by the Trump administration to muscle obstreperous states that don’t conform to its agenda. And that begs the question: in what other areas could the feds trump, so to speak, California policies?
Posted on March 13, 2018 - 5:12pm
Good Robot, Bad Robot
MIT Technology Review says 2017 was the year robots backflipped into our hearts, with exhibit A being Atlas, Boston Dynamics’ incredibly gymnastic bot, which (resisting the urge to say ‘who’) not only sticks the landing on an honest-to-god backflip, but raises its arms afterward as if in celebration.
Posted on January 12, 2018 - 3:22pm
Feel it yet? That dire sense of déjà vu? It probably depends on your livelihood or interests. If you’re a Bay Area boulevardier or the type once described in singles ads as a lover of long walks on the beach, you’re no doubt delighted by the unceasing blue skies and unseasonably pleasant temperatures. But it’s another matter if you’re a farmer, salmon fisherman, water agency manager, skier or whitewater kayaker. Your income—or at least, your sense of well-being— is directly determined by what falls from the sky.
Posted on January 3, 2018 - 5:31pm
In 2025, California parking lots will be the new gas stations. Or so goes the vision of Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at Berkeley.
Labor Day might seem like a vestige of days when collars were bluer, but a coterie of researchers and educators at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center are using their skills to aid the labor movement as it fights to regain relevance.
Posted on September 4, 2017 - 10:57am
Daniel Kammen, UC Berkeley professor of Energy and Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab, has publicly resigned his role as State Department science envoy. The U.S. Science Envoy Program, an outreach initiative started by the Obama administration, sends top scientists abroad to promote the country’s commitment to science and technology as tools for diplomacy; envoys typically serve for one year.
Posted on August 23, 2017 - 3:49pm
Like many before him, California Governor Jerry Brown has vowed to “fix” the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, that vast and beleaguered wetland east of San Francisco Bay that is a source for much of Southern California’s water, an agricultural powerhouse, and a nursery for valuable fisheries.
Posted on August 16, 2017 - 12:15pm