The Accelerating Garbage-Waste Conundrum

American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and smothered with rubbish. I wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness – chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk in the sea. When an Indian village became too deep in its own filth, the inhabitants moved. We have no place to move.

– John Steinbeck
Travels with Charley: In Search of America

A Bad Omen for California’s Future? Drought Declaration Suspends State’s Foremost Environmental Law

As an environmental planner in California, I prepared many Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), Initial Studies and Negative Declarations on flood control, road and park projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). I knew that CEQA was the backbone of the state’s environmental conservation and management framework. It had, after all, been modeled after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, which has been called the Magna Carta of America’s modern environmental laws.

A Tale of Three States

Half a century ago, California’s movers and shakers were giddy that the Golden State was about to surpass the Empire State – New York – as the most populous in the land.

At that time, California’s population was less than half of what it is today. And man, oh man, have we ever reaped the “rewards” for the honor of Most Overpopulated State:

California Drought Signals Limits on Growth

California now faces what Gov. Jerry Brown describes as perhaps the state’s worst drought since record-keeping began a century ago. Water shortages threaten household use and agriculture. To meet this challenge, Brown has asked residents to cut water consumption by 20 percent. Mandatory conservation may be ahead.

The impact of the drought could be substantial on farming in the state’s highly productive San Joaquin Valley. If present conditions continue there, growers may have to forego planting between 600,000 and 700,000 acres.

Less a Water Shortage than a People ‘Longage’

A January 19, 2014 article in the San Francisco Chronicle – “California Drought: Water officials look to rules of '70s”– raises the specter of the most severe water shortages in the state in decades.

It’s the Bottom of the Ninth – Now it’s Nature’s Turn to Bat

“Nature is no longer merely the inert stage on which the human drama plays out. Nature…has its own grand narrative…that says you can no longer take me for granted ….”

Wagering on the World’s Future

In 1981, two flamboyant American college professors with diametrically different worldviews made an unfortunate bet that we population and environmental activists have been living down ever since.

One was a pessimistic ecologist and the other an optimistic economist. How could it have been otherwise? When was the last time you heard of optimistic ecologists and pessimistic economists?

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

A fascinating article in an alternative Canadian newspaper hit on something important recently when it claimed that “it’s not cool to be pessimistic.”

As the article’s headline observed: “Optimism abounds despite grim data on climate change, overpopulation, oil depletion, and economy.”

Paper or Plastic?

Significant Plastic Problems Still Remain in a California without Plastic Bags

Golden, Grizzly or Brown Bear

By whatever name, Ursus arctos survives and thrives only in areas with few humans

As a kid, I was fascinated with the wooly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius). It was tough to accept that I would never actually get to see one alive, since they went extinct about 10,000 years before I was even born, as the Ice Age slowly released North America from its frozen embrace.