People Helping People

It’s the American way, something remarked on by Alexis de Tocqueville many years ago, and noted in this wonderful article from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“The most remarkable thing about the arrival of the Samaritans Purse disaster-relief organization in Central Park is that it is not seen as remarkable. A nondenominational Christian group led by the Reverend Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, “Samaritans Purse set up a field hospital of tents to treat Covid-19 patients overflowing from nearby Mount Sinai Hospital, which itself started as a Jewish communal institution and still makes special accommodations for the Orthodox.

“We should not be surprised that Samaritans Purse exists and was poised to spring into action, or by the fact that a hospital with different religious roots would be open to working with it. American civil society, diverse and self-organized, still responds to need.

“Such major initiatives are complemented by everyday occurrences of a more modest scale. New York City restaurants get together to donate surplus food to overwhelmed food banks. A 20-year-old Yale junior, Liam Elkin, and a friend, Simone Policano, have started a group called Invisible Friends. Its 1,300 volunteers have delivered groceries and medicines to the doorsteps of the elderly, some referred by the synagogue of which both young and old are members. Nationwide, the Next Door app provides a platform for neighborhood groups and residents to provide similar help.

Such initiatives reflect the capacity and habit of Americans to start and sustain local organizations outside government. Alexis de Tocqueville observed this American habit long ago in Democracy in America. The French aristocrat described what he called America’s “spirit of association.”

“When citizens can associate only in certain cases, they regard association as a rare and singular process, and they hardly think of it,” he wrote. “When you allow them to associate freely in everything, they end up seeing in association the universal and, so to speak, unique means that men can use to attain the various ends that they propose. Each new need immediately awakens the idea of association. The art of association then becomes . . . the mother science; everyone studies it and applies.” Free association is what, among other things, distinguishes America from China, where independent churches, the Falun Gong, and other groups not sanctioned by government face repression. Americans rise to the occasion of Covid-19 today because they routinely rise to less critical occasions, and they are encouraged to do so—by tradition and custom, and even by the tax code. America not only nurtures civil society but also retains what has been called our civil religion: a common set of American values that transcend denominational (and political) divides.

“Tocqueville praised the self-governing character of American communities, which provide a framework not only for governors and mayors to step up and lead but also for residents to work together and create their own initiatives. The large contributions that major corporations have made to combat the coronavirus—195,000 masks donated by Goldman Sachs, JetBlue’s free flights for medical workers, the Four Seasons luxury hotel’s donation of lodging to nurses and doctors—reflect this old story: American self-organization.”

Retrieved April 7, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/covid-19-american-civil-society

 

Posted in demographics

Looks Like a Stormy Week

According to this report from Accuweather.

An excerpt.

“A winter-like storm system will continue to bring rain, snow and cooler air to California into midweek.

“While the month of February featured nearly bone-dry conditions across the Golden State, a series of late-season storm events are helping to minimize concerns for the dry season ahead.

“Courtesy of a southern shift in the storm track beginning in March, wetter-than-normal conditions across California have brought the average snow/water equivalent statewide to more than 50 percent above the average for April 2.

“Historically, conditions across California are at their wettest during the winter months when the polar jet stream sinks southward.

“During the first three months of the year San Francisco averages 11.35 inches of rainfall, but this year they had significantly less.

“Due to a lack of jet stream intrusions, only 2.50 inches, or a mere 22 percent of the average rainfall was observed.

“Despite this, many reservoirs remain near their historical averages courtesy of a barrage of winter storms last year.

“While the storm system impacting the West Coast through early week will not erase the winter’s drought conditions, it will help to ease concerns for the upcoming dry season.”

Retrieved April 6 2020 from https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-forecasts/potent-storm-bringing-heavy-mountain-snow-flood-risk-to-california/714337

Posted in Water

Supervisor Frost’s Report on Homeless Program

Excellent report, with the sad, but expected, results; from her Facebook page.

In full.

“While I know COVID-19 is on all our minds right now, I wanted to share some news with you about a homeless program that I spearheaded that I have been writing about over the past two years.

“In March 2018 I wrote on this facebook page outlining why I thought Sacramento County was in need of a work program for people who are homeless. In March 2019 I put theory into reality and officially rolled out a one-year trial program that would not only employ people who are homeless but also work to beautify Sacramento County at the same time. I promised you that after the trial was completed, I would report back on how effective the program was.

“I am sad to report that the program ended largely in failure – but we did learn some important lessons. I want to take this opportunity to explain to you why it failed, and what we learned. But before that, I want to give you a refresher on exactly how the program functioned.

“40 homeless people were planned to be identified who were both willing to work and be clean from drugs and alcohol. Shelter would be secured for them, and they would clean the American River Parkway for minimum wage pay in the morning, and go through a job training program in the construction industry in the afternoon. After leaving the program they would then get help in finding employment by getting introduced to employers, being placed in internships, and receiving certificates that enable them to earn more than minimum wage.

“Unfortunately, we were only able to get 8 people out of a goal of 40 enrolled in the program, with even less graduated. By far the biggest reason for this failure was because the people in our program could not stay off drugs. Not only could they not stay clean, but we couldn’t even find people who wanted to try getting clean. And we aren’t talking just about drugs like marijuana, we are talking about extremely dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and crack cocaine. There were other problems with the program as well, such as showing up to work on time and a hesitance to work specifically in the construction industry. But those problems paled in comparison to the drug abuse.

“The last official homeless count done less than a year ago showed that Sacramento County has over 5,500 homeless people living within our borders. And out of those 5,500, we could only find 8 who were willing to be drug-free. This is a startling statistic and one that has caused me to learn two important lessons from this endeavor.

“The first lesson I learned is that we must solve the underlying problems that homeless people have before we can work on job training. It is a wasted effort and a drain on the taxpayers for no benefit. We have to solve their drug and alcohol dependence before we can expect them to responsibly hold down a job.

“The other lesson I learned is that the data we receive from the federally mandated point-in-time homeless survey cannot be trusted. In the most recent iteration of that survey from 2019, the data told us that only 9% of homeless people claim alcohol or drugs prevents them from keeping a job or maintaining stable housing. An article in one Sacramento paper even claimed this data proves it is a “Myth” that homeless people all use drugs. At the time I severely questioned this data, but now I know for certain that it is faulty.

“Even though this program itself was not successful, I am still glad that we did it and think there is great value to learning the lessons that we have. I also take great personal issue with new government programs that are started and turn out to be ineffective, yet get funded for eternity – so I am happy that we have quickly changed directions once we found out things weren’t working.

“I still believe that finding jobs for people who are homeless is an important piece to this overall problem that we are not looking close enough at. But I now realize with much greater clarity that there are bigger problems we have to get a handle on first.”

Retrieved April 1, 2020 from https://www.facebook.com/SupervisorFrost/posts/538975183691955?__tn__=K-R

Posted in Homelessness

Good Rain News?

Yes, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“An extended forecast for California shows an above-normal probability of precipitation during the week of April 6-10, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.

“After a disappointingly dry winter that has left most of the state with below-normal precipitation, that’s good news, although it would take a lot of rain and snow to make up for the shortfall.

“This is a decent storm system,” said senior meteorologist Todd Hall with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “It’s cold with potential for snow in the Sierra.”

“The above-average probability of precipitation continues into Easter week, and the extended outlook also calls for below-normal temperatures during the period.

“April isn’t one of the big three wettest months in California — those are January, February and March — and downtown Los Angeles normally gets less than an inch. But Hall says this storm could drop a half-inch on downtown Los Angeles.

“The effects of the dry winter are evident in many of California’s reporting stations. San Diego is a bright spot, having received 9.87 inches since July 1. The normal by March 30 is 9.33, so that puts San Diego at 106% of normal. A few other locations in Southern California are also above normal: Thermal has 175%, having received 5.42 inches to date when its normal is 3.09. Needles stands at 165% of normal, with 7.03 inches — 2.76 inches more than normal. Lancaster, with 1.58 inches more than normal, is at 123% of normal to date. A few other spots in the Southland are near or slightly above normal, but that’s pretty much where the good news ends.

“Northern California, which got some relief in March, still is far behind normal. Sacramento and San Francisco are at 48% and 49% of normal to date, respectively. In other words, both have received lass than half of the rainfall they would normally receive. The Sierra Nevada reporting stations are all hovering around half of normal — with the Northern Sierra 8-Station Index at 56% of normal. This is an area where watersheds supply the state’s biggest reservoirs.”

Retrieved April 1, 2020 from https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-31/outlook-calls-for-a-wet-start-to-april-in-california

Posted in Water

Homeless Encampments & Coronavirus

Hopefully, Sacramento leadership will become aware of the failure of encouraging homeless encampments—especially during this time—as reported by City Journal, and act accordingly.

An excerpt.

“Progressives routinely denounce economic inequality, yet the nation’s most liberal cities offer the most dramatic illustrations of it, with tech-driven wealth at the top and addiction-driven homelessness at the bottom. In the past five years, some streets in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and Seattle have started to resemble Latin American favelas, or shantytowns, with thousands sleeping in tents, shacks, and packing crates. One United Nations official recently compared West Coast encampments to the slums of New Delhi. California governor Gavin Newsom has declared homelessness a “state of emergency.”

“And yet, as the coronavirus pandemic persists, West Coast cities have legalized and provided services to these encampments, rather than enacting emergency shelter and moving people off the streets. This reckless decision follows a disturbing trend. Last year, Oakland began supplying 22 officially sanctioned homeless encampments with services, sanitation, and supplies. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “the camps, which were once largely confined to freeway underpasses and the warehouse district . . . have now become a common sight on city streets, in parks and even in residential neighborhoods.” Activists organized one homeless encampment in accordance with the principles of the Occupy Wall Street and Standing Rock protests, declaring it a radical experiment in proving that “curbside residents” have a “right to exist.” The media touted the 77th Avenue Rangers, an encampment that permits children as residents, as exemplifying compassion, safety, and self-governance.

Despite their benign rhetoric of “housing our curbside neighbors,” sanctioned encampments are proving disastrous—and some cities are now pushing back. Throughout Oakland, residents have complained about drugs, trash, violence, crime, and prostitution. The 77th Avenue Rangers’ encampment, hailed as a model, collapsed after three people died of exposure and a “criminal element” took over the camp’s governance. Mayor Libby Schaaf, who initially supported sanctioned encampments, quickly reversed course. Sanctioned encampments had “ended in fires, unhealthy conditions for residents, let alone the surrounding community,” Schaaf told reporters. “From my experience, we have tried it and it has failed.” Following this change in strategy, the city has embarked on a “homeless encampment crackdown,” bulldozing a 30-person site under the subway tracks and shutting down a 74-person camp in the parking lot of a Home Depot.

“Elsewhere, the progressive-socialist coalition shows no sign of having second thoughts. In Seattle, Socialist Alternative councilwoman Kshama Sawant recently sponsored an ordinance, since passed, to create 40 sanctioned encampments throughout the city. The legislation exempts the homeless sites from land-use permitting, allows unlimited one-year renewals, and legalizes construction of new encampments within residential neighborhoods. This means that the city could soon move up to 4,000 unsheltered homeless—75 percent of whom have substance-abuse and mental health disorders—into “low-barrier” tent encampments that allow open alcohol and drug use.

“Even by the standards of the most aggressive homeless advocates, this is a surprising move. Two years ago, when Seattle opened a “low-barrier” encampment in the Licton Springs neighborhood, it unleashed chaos and caused a 220 percent increase in crime. After months of citizen complaints, public officials finally disbanded it. If one such site didn’t work in the past, why open 40 now? Progressive political leaders have used the juxtaposition of wealthy high-rises and homeless encampments in major cities to tout a message about “capitalism’s failure.” Activist groups have secured multimillion-dollar contracts to manage sanctioned encampments, where they sometimes require residents to earn “participation credits” by protesting for favored legislation at City Hall.

“How far can this go? Evidence suggests that public tolerance is limited. Even in super-progressive California, 64 percent of voters believe that the government should “restrict sleeping and tent encampments on sidewalks, in public parks, and in other public areas,” and 56 percent believe “it’s not compassionate to enable the brutal life found in tent cities” and that “sometimes you have to force people to make a change.”

Retrieved March 27, 2020 from https://www.city-journal.org/covid-19-west-coast-homeless-encampments

 

Posted in Homelessness

Flooded Rice Fields Help Salmon

Great story from AgAlert.

An excerpt.

“Winter-flooded rice fields already provide essential habitat for migratory birds, but could they also provide benefits to help the state’s salmon populations?

“Scientists at the University of California, Davis, are finalizing their fieldwork on an experiment to find out what management practices farmers might adopt in their fields to maximize fish survival.

“At River Garden Farms in Knights Landing last week, researchers waded through a water-supply canal where young chinook salmon were being held in cages. The scientists were getting ready to implant about 1,000 of the 12,000 fish with microtransmitters for tracking.

“Since their arrival in February from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Shasta County, the then-2-week-old fish had spent most of their time in 12- to 18-inch flooded rice fields—until recent warming temperatures necessitated their move to the deeper canal, said Paul Buttner, environmental affairs manager for the California Rice Commission, a collaborator on the project.

“The end game, of course, is to release these salmon into the river,” he said.

“From the Sacramento River, researchers will monitor and study the fish as they reach adulthood and try to make their way to the Pacific Ocean. The transmitters, which cost $300 apiece, will track the fishes’ survival rate, where they go and where they spend time, said Andrew Rypel, UC Davis associate professor and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences.

“Rypel and his team want to find out if growing juvenile salmon in flooded rice fields, where there’s an abundance of food to bulk them up big and fast, would allow the fish to survive better on their journey to the ocean.

“We think that that may make a difference,” he said.

“Ultimately, they want to create standardized management practices for use on farms near Sacramento River tributaries. Farmers could then enroll in a fish conservation program, such as those under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “prepare their fields in a certain way to maximize the benefit for fish and give a helping hand for conservation,” Rypel said.

“Researchers tested four different treatments to determine what farmers could do “to make their fields the most fish-friendly” and to get “the most bang for your buck,” he added.

“In the past, it was suggested that when you take fish from a hatchery and then release them, you have a 50% mortality rate, and so we wanted to see is that true when we release them on rice fields,” said Rachelle Tallman, a UC Davis graduate student working on the study.

“Before flooding the fields, researchers created four types of experimental plots: fields with deep trenches running through them to provide cooler temperatures and fish refuge from bird predators; woody debris from discarded Christmas trees in fields also for bird refuge; trenches with woody debris; and flooded fields with no treatment.

“Though more analysis is needed, Tallman said most of the plots recorded fish survival rates between 70% and 78%, which she called encouraging because researchers initially worried that the woody-debris method would show the highest survival rate.

“When you’re thinking of a practice standard, that’s a lot to ask of a farmer to do, is to put a ton of trees out in their field,” Tallman said. “So I think it actually makes it easier in the sense that you can just process your rice and leave it, add water and hypothetically add fish, and it would show a similar survival to someone who maybe did more.”

“In addition to tagging the 1,000 fish with microtransmitters, researchers marked other fish—depending on their size—by clipping their fins or by inserting unique ID tags similar to barcodes that they could then scan. Not only do they want to track the ones making their way to the ocean, Tallman said, but they want to track how many fish are dying through time.

“This is the second year researchers have attempted to study the fish in rice fields. Last year, they placed some 30,000 fish in fields inside the Yolo Bypass, but flooding in the bypass dispersed the fish, thwarting their ability to study how well the fish survived in rice fields. This year, researchers did their fieldwork on the dry side of the levee so that it wouldn’t be flooded, though Rypel said they think the wet side holds the most benefit for fish because those fields flood naturally, allowing fish to come on and off of them by themselves.

“These latest efforts to help struggling salmon populations come after more than 15 years of cost-share programs in which rice growers changed the way they farm to benefit birds, Buttner said. Farmers recognize that salmon runs are in decline and that if they don’t do something to help them, “it could really start to affect a lot of things in terms of the ability to divert water for agriculture,” he added. This current research, he said, stems from farmers’ desire to do for fish what they did for birds.

“The study is funded through a grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, with contributions from a diverse group that includes the Almond Board of California, which also recognizes the need to help fish, with rice fields potentially providing an ideal habitat, Buttner noted.

“(Almond growers) also realize that they need to use water, and if the salmon situation doesn’t get better, that it could even affect them,” he said.

“If study results show promise, researchers could develop practice standards that would then be incorporated into an NRCS program to which growers could apply. Then organizations such as the Almond Board could potentially invest in developing fish habitat once growers figure out how to do it, Buttner added.”

Retrieved March 25, 2020 from https://www.agalert.com/story/?id=13847

Posted in Environmentalism, Hatcheries

California Dairy Farms

They are setting the standard for environmental friendliness, a very good thing, as this story from the Modesto Bee reports.

An excerpt.

“Dairy farm families and cows have long been part of the San Joaquin Valley. Farms, families, cows, and rural residents continue to co-exist and depend on each other for valuable jobs, nutritious food production, and a lifestyle that local residents cherish. Dairy farmers work overtime to ensure environmental protection and remain committed to their communities.

“California dairies are more heavily regulated for environmental performance than those operating elsewhere. They pay higher wages than other parts of the country. And they continually strive to be good neighbors and good stewards of the land.

“Unfortunately, their efforts and contributions are sometimes overlooked. Make no mistake, California’s dairy families remain dedicated to planet-smart dairy farming.

“A study was recently published in the Journal of Dairy Science that documents a dramatic reduction in the environmental footprint of the state’s family dairy farms. University of California, Davis scientists conducted a life-cycle environmental assessment (cradle to farm-gate) of California dairy production, using latest scientific models and international research standards. The report documents significant environmental improvement, including:

  • The amount of greenhouse gas emissions per each unit of milk (glass or gallon) produced has decreased more than 45%, due to increased efficiency, including improved reproductive efficiency, nutrition, comfort, and overall management.
  • Water used per unit of milk produced has decreased more than 88%, primarily due to improved feed crop production and water-use efficiency.
  • Dramatically improved feed crop production and utilization of agricultural byproducts have led to significant reductions in the amount of natural resources used to produce each unit of milk, including, land, fossil fuels, and energy.

“California’s world-leading dairy methane reduction efforts are another important case in point. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s two successful dairy methane reduction programs have already helped fund a total of 213 projects on individual farms, including 70 in Stanislaus and Merced counties alone.

“An analysis conducted by state officials shows the dairy digester program is not only providing substantial reductions in greenhouse gases but also providing substantial benefits to local communities and disadvantaged populations. The analysis shows tremendous benefits to local air quality, including substantial reductions in ammonia, reactive organic gas, particulate matter, and odor.

“Calgren Renewable Fuels and other companies are converting dairy manure methane — captured via digesters — into clean, renewable transportation fuel. With the dairy biogas projects awarded funding to date, an estimated 60 million diesel gallon equivalents of fuel will be produced each year — enough fuel to support more than 6,200 clean, natural gas trucks in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Conversion of heavy-duty trucks from diesel to cleaner alternative fuel alone will provide from 650 to 1,320 tons of reduction in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) each year, significantly cleaning the air and benefiting local communities and residents. For perspective, that is a NOx emissions reduction equivalent to taking 250,000 to 500,000 cars off valley roads each year.

“California’s dairy families are leading the world in planet-smart dairy practices. In addition to methane reduction efforts, they are working to improve water quality and further reduce water use.”

Retrieved March 24, 2020 from https://www.modbee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article241284756.html

Posted in Environmentalism