Disposability Works

As this excellent article from City Journal reminds us.

An excerpt.

“For half a century, it’s been a term of disdain: the “throwaway society,” uttered with disgust by the environmentally enlightened. But now that their reusable tote bags are taboo at grocery stores and Starbucks is refusing to refill their ceramic mugs, they’ve had to face some unpleasant realities. Disposable products aren’t merely more convenient than the alternative; they’re also safer, particularly during a pandemic but also at any other time. And they have other virtues: the throwaway society is healthier, cleaner, more economical, less wasteful, less environmentally damaging—and yes, more “sustainable” than the green vision of utopia.

“These are not new truths, even if it took the Covid-19 pandemic to reveal them again. The throwaway age began because of public-health campaigns a century ago to control the spread of pathogens. Disposable products were celebrated for decades for promoting hygiene and saving everyone time and money. It wasn’t until the 1970s that they became symbols of decadent excess, and then only because of economic and ecological fallacies repeated so often that they became conventional wisdom.

“In a strange turn of events, the most affluent society in history suddenly turned into a mass of neurotic hoarders. Sifting through garbage for valuables, an activity formerly associated with the most destitute inhabitants of Third World shantytowns, became a moral duty in American suburbs. Greens campaigned for “zero waste” and a “circular economy” in which disposable products would be outlawed. They confidently predicted that the throwaway society was doomed, but if they’d known anything about its history, they would have realized that it was created for very good reasons—and that it will endure long after their lamentations are forgotten.

“At the start of the twentieth century, American consumers were still living in what today’s greens would consider a state of grace. They carried their own baskets and cotton bags to the grocery store and brought home food wrapped in biodegradable paper. They didn’t use disposable towels in public bathrooms, which provided cloth towels attached to rollers. There were no Styrofoam cups for coffee and no plastic bottles of water. When people wanted water in a public place, they’d get it from the spigot of a drinking fountain by filling a tin cup chained to the fountain.

“This “common cup” was the ultimate reusable product—much to the horror of public-health experts, who blamed it for spreading tuberculosis, pneumonia, diphtheria, meningitis, and other diseases. Alvin Davison, a biologist at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, analyzed cups from public schools and reported in 1908 that a single sip from a student left a residue of 100 dead skin cells and 75,000 bacteria. He used the scrapings from one school cup to induce fatal cases of pneumonia and tuberculosis in guinea pigs.

“His article “Death in School Drinking Cups” provided support to “Ban the Cup” campaigns around the country. The first successful one was led in Kansas by Samuel Crumbine, a colorful doctor who had started his career in Dodge City (he was the model for Doc Adams in the long-running Gunsmoke television series) and went on to lead various public-hygiene crusades. The term “flyswatter” comes from a slogan he popularized, “Swat the fly” (which came to him while listening to the crowd at a baseball game urging a hitter to swat a sacrifice fly ball). After watching train passengers with tuberculosis and other diseases drinking water from a common cup, Crumbine got so upset that he threw the cup out the train’s window, and proceeded to persuade his colleagues on the state board of health to ban the common cup in trains, schools, and other public places in Kansas in 1909.

“The ban left Kansans with a new problem: What were they supposed to use at a public fountain? Fortunately, as Crumbine later recalled, “Necessity proved to be the mother of invention.” Shortly after banning the cup, Crumbine was visited by a former Kansan named Hugh Moore, who brought with him samples of a product that his brother-in-law had invented: round paper cups that could be stacked in a dispenser next to a fountain. Crumbine’s endorsement provided crucial help to Moore in selling his product, originally called Health Kups and later renamed Dixie Cups.

“It was the birth of the throwaway society, and Moore became its first great evangelist. He was an indefatigable promoter, and he wasn’t just selling cups. He had a genius for marketing fear. Later in life, he would launch another movement by publishing a pamphlet in 1954, “The Population Bomb” (a title later borrowed by Paul Ehrlich for a best-selling book) and founding the Population Crisis Committee. In 1910, Moore started a newspaper, The Cup Campaigner, filled with warnings from public-health experts and horror stories of respectable women and innocent children sickened by drinking from common cups. It was illustrated with cartoons showing unsavory-looking men sipping from metal cups and images of the Grim Reaper lurking at fountains.

“Soon, dozens of cities and states had banned the common cup, and Moore had plenty of customers, starting with the railroads. The Erie Lackawanna Railroad featured disposable cups in an advertisement that depicted a character named Phoebe Snow, dressed immaculately in white as she drank from a paper cup. The ad was a paean to disposability:

On railroad trips
No other lips
Have touched the cup
That Phoebe sips.

“Sales of disposable cups soared during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, a tragedy evoked long afterward in Dixie Cup ads with warnings like, “Now’s no time to flirt with Contagion!” The company expanded into making paper cups for ice cream and milkshakes, promoted with the slogan “Used but once and thrown away”—in hygienic contrast to the dirty glass from a soda fountain pictured in a 1930s ad with the headline “This Tainted Kiss Awaits Your Lips.”

Retrieved September 17, 2021 from Let’s Hold On to the Throwaway Society | City Journal (city-journal.org)

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Parkway Clean Up Tomorrow.

Notice from Parkway Foundation

An excerpt

“Volunteer clean up efforts are a critical component of taking care of the Parkway. In 2019 alone, our volunteer programs combined removed over 140,000 pounds of trash!

“Our largest annual clean up is the Great American River Clean Up (GARCU) event in conjunction with the California Coastal Commission. For nearly 40 years, we have invited the community to take part in this statewide movement that mobilizes tens of thousands of volunteers throughout California to clean up trash from local beaches, lakes, and waterways.

Thousands of local volunteers come out to help remove debris from multiple areas along the river, highlighting why the Parkway is the greatest civic amenity in this region.

“This year’s GARCU event will be held on September 18, 2021 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Register for one of the clean up locations below:”

To register go to Clean-Ups | American River Parkway Foundation (arpf.org)

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California’s Wildfires

Great article from City Journal about them.

An excerpt.

“If it’s Tuesday, or Wednesday, or any other day of the week, and there’s a fire gone wild, threatening someone’s home or business, then this must be California.

“Other states have wildfires, of course, but no one in the Midwest or New England wonders what in the world is going on in Washington or Oregon or struggles to understand why those states can’t do a better job of controlling wildfires. Many in California don’t understand what’s going on, either.

“More acreage burned in California this year than over the same period in 2020. The Dixie Fire alone has destroyed 920,000 acres, an area about as large as Rhode Island. Only one other California fire has been bigger: 2020’s August Complex fire. The Caldor Fire, second-largest this year and 15th-largest in state history, is a direct threat to the Lake Tahoe basin. All told, more than 2 million acres have been lost.

“Blame misplaced priorities. As state policymakers chase the latest green-energy scheme, aging utility equipment, responsible for at least 40 percent of the most destructive wildfires in California history, goes unrepaired. And the resulting fires undermine California’s climate-change policies, says Daniel Kolkey, author of a chapter in the Pacific Research Institute’s new book Saving California.

“Devastating fires not only reduce the role that California’s forests play as a ‘sink’ to sequester carbon emissions from the atmosphere, but they also neutralize the benefits of the state’s carbon emission reductions,” writes Kolkey. “For instance, the fires in 2018 released more than 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, producing more than nine times more emissions than were reduced in 2017.”

“Green myopia has also blocked efforts to remove the fuel that drives wildfires. For decades environmental activists, wielding enormous political clout in Sacramento, have obstructed forest thinning, brush removal, and controlled burns whenever possible. “These are not outlandish ideas driven by corporate greed but proven methods for containing wildfires. Native Americans had enough “ancient wisdom,” says Kolkey, to use controlled burns to manage fire risk. More recently, it was a controlled burn that “slowed the advance” of the California Rim Fire in 2013, says Kolkey, and allowed “firefighters to get ahead of the burn, saving a number of homes.”

“Other obstacles to keeping wildfires in check include the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act, which prohibits any public agency from embarking on a fuels-reduction project until it complies with the law’s thicket of regulations, and the 1973 Z’berg Nejedly Forest Practice Act, which “prohibits a person from conducting timber operations, as defined, unless a timber harvesting plan prepared by a registered professional forester has been submitted to, and is approved by, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.”

“Clearing through these legal and regulatory thickets is costly and time consuming. Kolkey suggests that Sacramento pass legislation requiring only “a single permit from a single agency for prescribed burns and other thinning methods . . . which allows for a streamlined process.” Failing to take this step while California is scorched every year is negligence.

“Federal agencies manage 19 million of the state’s 33 million acres of forest, so Washington, D.C. also needs to take action. With two senators and the largest state delegation in the House, California theoretically has the muscle to move Congress, but Senator Dianne Feinstein learned two decades ago how dangerous it can be even for a Democrat to cross the green lobby. In 2002, the Sierra Club “roasted” her for daring to insist that logging could help ease wildfire threats.”

Retrieved September 16, 2021 from  California’s Wildfire Problem | City Journal (city-journal.org)

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On Books vs EBooks

As a reader who loves both—ebooks, I’m on my 4th Kindle, for single reads and hardbacks for keepers—this is a wonderful article (and I agree with everything the author says) from the Atlantic.

An excerpt.

“Perhaps you’ve noticed that ebooks are awful. I hate them, but I don’t know why I hate them. Maybe it’s snobbery. Perhaps, despite my long career in technology and media, I’m a secret Luddite. Maybe I can’t stand the idea of looking at books as computers after a long day of looking at computers as computers. I don’t know, except for knowing that ebooks are awful.

“If you hate ebooks like I do, that loathing might attach to their dim screens, their wonky typography, their weird pagination, their unnerving ephemerality, or the prison house of a proprietary ecosystem. If you love ebooks, it might be because they are portable, and legible enough, and capable of delivering streams of words, fiction and nonfiction, into your eyes and brain with relative ease. Perhaps you like being able to carry a never-ending stack of books with you wherever you go, without having to actually lug them around. Whether you love or hate ebooks is probably a function of what books mean to you, and why.

“When discussed in the present tense, ebooks means Amazon Kindle ebooks. Competitors are out there, including tablets such as the iPad and the various software that can display books in electronic format. Precursors are also many. Ebooks appeared on Palm handhelds in the late ’90s. Microsoft made a reader for its equivalent, Windows CE. The first commercial e-ink reader was made in 2004 by Sony, not Amazon, although you’ve probably never heard of it. Barnes & Noble still makes the Nook, a Kindle competitor that seems like the Betamax of ebook readers. Before all of these, it was always possible to read on computers, portable or not. Adobe’s PDF format, first released in the early ’90s, made it easy to create and share print-formatted documents, viewable on any platform with a PDF reader. And you have been able to scroll through Word (or WordPerfect or WordStar or plain text) documents for as long as computers have existed, even if few would call such an experience reading.

“Stop and reread that last clause, because the key to understanding why you love or hate ebooks is pressurized into it. Agreeing that books are a thing you read is easy enough. But what it means to read, what the experience of reading requires and entails, and what makes it pleasurable or not, is not so easy to pin down.

“Consider, for example, the Kindle DX, a 2009 follow-up to the original, 2007 Kindle reader. The DX’s 9.7-inch screen was 50 percent bigger than the original’s six-inch display, and the newer model could also show PDFs. Seen as a potential disruptor of technical, academic, and other specialized reading uses, the DX was a failure, at least in comparison with the paperback-size original Kindle and its successful follow-ups, including the popular Paperwhite model. Students and technical readers didn’t want to consume documents on the gadget. By contrast, readers of genre fiction or business best sellers were more willing to shift their practices to a small, gray screen.

“Reading is a relatively useless term. It describes a broad array of literacy practices, ranging from casually scanning social-media posts to perusing magazine articles such as this one to poring over the most difficult technical manuals or the lithest storytelling. You read instructions on elevators, prompts in banking apps, directions on highway signs. Metaphorically, you read situations, people’s faces, the proverbial room. What any individual infers about their hopes and dreams for an e-reader derives from their understanding of reading in the first place. You can’t have books without bookiness.

“Bookiness. That’s the word Glenn Fleishman, a technology writer and longtime bookmaker, uses to describe the situation. “It’s the essence that makes someone feel like they’re using a book,” he told me. Like pornography or sandwiches, you know bookiness when you see it. Or feel it? Either way, most people can’t identify what it is in the abstract.

“Fleishman and I took a swing at defining bookiness anyway. A book, we decided, is probably composed of bound pages, rather than loose ones. Those pages are probably made from paper, or leaves akin to paper. These pages are likely numerous, and the collection of pages is coherent, forming a totality. The order of that totality matters, but also the form of bound pages allows a reader random access to any page, via flipping and fanning. Books have spreads, made of a left (verso) and right (recto) side. You can look at both at once, and an open book has the topology of a valley, creating a space that you can go inside and be surrounded by, literally and figuratively. Some books are very large, but the ordinary sort is portable and probably handheld. That held object probably has a cover made of a different material from the leaves that compose its pages. A stapled report probably isn’t a book; a coil-bound one with plastic covers might be. A greeting card is probably not a book; neither is the staple-bound manual that came with your air fryer. Are magazines and brochures books? They might be, if we didn’t have special terms for the kind of books they are.

“Whatever a book might be, all of the things that an average person might name a “book” evolved from an invention more than two millennia old, called a codex. Prior to the codex, reading and writing took place on scrolls—long, rolled sheets of paper (or vellum or papyrus)—and then on wax tablets, which a sharp stylus could imprint and its tapered end could erase. The ancient Romans sometimes connected wax tablets with leather or cords, suggesting a prototype of binding. Replacing the wax with leaves allowed many pages to be stacked atop one another, then sewn or otherwise bound together. Codices were first handwritten or copied, then made in multiples when the printing press emerged. I’m skipping over a lot more detail—a whole field, called book history, addresses this topic—but the result connects today’s best seller to hand-gilded illuminated manuscripts, the earliest records of the Gospels, and more. Two thousand years after the codex and 500 after the Gutenberg press, the book persists. If something better were to come along, you’d expect it to have done so by now. In other words, as far as technologies go, the book endures for very good reason. Books work.”

Retrieved September 15, 2021 from Why Are Ebooks So Terrible? – The Atlantic

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Nuclear Energy

It is heartening to see its value is being understood, at the state and federal level, as this story from the Washington Examiner reports.

An excerpt.

“Illinois is poised to pass a bill providing nearly $700 million in subsidies over five years to save unprofitable nuclear plants that are slated to shut down.

“The state Legislature is slated to close the deal on Monday, as Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, state legislators of both parties, environmental groups, and labor unions are motivated to preserve thousands of jobs associated with the plants and to maintain Illinois’s status as the largest producer of nuclear power — a central element of the state’s clean energy ambitions.

“The only way we can get to zero-carbon and provide good, reliable electricity to the grid in Illinois is through nuclear,” Rep. David Welter, a leader for state House Republicans, who are in the minority, told the Washington Examiner. “We don’t have the technology and capability to build wind and solar that quickly.”

“Welter is one of 11 Republicans who helped the Illinois House pass an energy policy overhaul late Thursday by a wide margin, 83-33, that includes a “carbon mitigation credit program” and provides financial support to Chicago-based utility Exelon’s Byron, Dresden, and Braidwood nuclear power plants.

“The state Senate is scheduled to vote on the measure Monday, and Pritzker said he will sign it “as soon as possible because our planet and the people of Illinois ought not wait any longer.”

“The action in Illinois comes as the Biden administration and Congress are interested in pursuing a federal program giving nuclear plants tax credits or other subsidies to keep America’s largest zero-carbon resource viable.

“The bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill creates a $6 billion four-year credit program for nuclear reactors that would provide a big boost to existing nuclear reactors, potentially including others in Illinois.

“But it would come too late for the pair of plants in Illinois at greatest risk.

“Exelon has said it plans to shut down its Byron nuclear plant in northern Illinois — one of the nation’s largest that has been operating for almost four decades — on Monday without state action.

“The plant needs to be refueled soon, a process that commits a nuclear plant to run for another two years, but Exelon won’t proceed with that investment without assurance of state subsidies. It has already ordered fuel for the plant that could be redirected to another nuclear unit in the state if the vote fails, according to Paul Adams, an Exelon spokesman.

“With so much at stake for our employees, plant communities, consumers, and the environment, we have gone to extraordinary lengths and considerable cost to establish off-ramps that will allow us to reverse the retirement of Byron up until the last moment,” Adams said.”

Retrieved 9/13/21 from https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/energy/illinois-to-rescue-nuclear-power-plants?utm_

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Homelessness, The Tough Love Approach

Might finally be worth a try, given the extreme nature of the current effort’s failure; a provocative article from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Houston is perhaps the American city that best demonstrates the power of “compassionate enforcement.” Its Harris County is a moderate district, with conservative suburban areas and a liberal urban core. Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, is a Democrat, but his rhetoric on homelessness is very different from that heard in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. “It is simply not acceptable for people to live on the streets; it is not good for them, and it is not good for the city,” Turner has declared. “We will tackle this complicated issue, and we will do it humanely with a meaningful approach that balances the needs of the homeless and the concerns of neighborhoods they impact.”

“Houston’s policy exemplifies what Turner calls a “tough love” approach. The city has built permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless, cobbled together a coalition of nonprofit partners, and lobbied the state government for more mental-health and addiction services. At the same time, Turner has enforced a strict ban on public camping and proposed a citywide campaign to discourage citizens from giving money to panhandlers. The Harris County sheriff’s homeless-outreach team attempts to connect the homeless with services but also enforces the law. The sheriff’s office acknowledges that “mental illness and substance abuse are common in [the homeless] population” and recognizes that it must maintain order in residential neighborhoods. The team shuts down tent cities and conducts regular cleanups, discouraging the permanent encampment culture seen in West Coast cities. The results have been stunning: between 2011 and 2019, Houston reduced its homeless population by 54 percent.

“These outcomes lay waste to the conventional wisdom. Houston has warmer winters than Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, and San Jose. During the same period that Houston reduced homelessness by more than half, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment rose by 54 percent. Clearly, neither the weather nor housing prices can explain the outcomes in Houston.

“Some analysts have suggested that Houston’s approach worked because the city built permanent supportive housing, created a coalition of partners, and implemented advanced data-tracking. But every major West Coast city has done these things. Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have also spent billions on permanent supportive housing and subsidized apartments, hosted conferences and working groups to increase coordination, and implemented the same Homeless Management Information System as Houston. And yet, over the same period, homelessness increased 15 percent in Los Angeles, 24 percent in San Francisco, and 25 percent in Seattle. If these interventions worked in Houston, why didn’t they work elsewhere?

“The truth is straightforward. Houston achieved different results because, in addition to these supportive policies, it also enforced the law. Unlike the West Coast cities, Houston did not enable and encourage the worst aspects of street homelessness. Where a Seattle politician opposes hosing down feces-covered sidewalks because hoses supposedly have racist connotations, Houston fights in the courts for the right to clean up encampments. Where California leaders push for supervised injection sites and decriminalizing thefts under $950, Houston pushes for tighter restrictions on aggressive panhandling, windshield washing, and other “street obstructions.”

“Political culture currently prevents West Coast cities from implementing the same policies as Houston. As social scientist Jonathan Haidt observes in a study coauthored with Jesse Graham and Brian A. Nosek, liberals and conservatives operate on different moral foundations. Liberals base their views primarily on the values of care and fairness—that is, they value compassion above other concerns. Conservatives, on the other hand, “construct moral systems more evenly upon five psychological foundations,” showing concern not only for care and fairness but also authority, purity (in the sense of cleanliness and control of impulses), and in-group loyalty (the obligations one has as a member of a group or society).

“Haidt’s theory helps illustrate why progressive cities have been unable to reduce homelessness, despite billions in public spending. Progressives, according to Haidt, have an “unconstrained vision” of the world and “an optimistic view of human nature and of human perfectibility.” They tend to believe that the homeless are victims of circumstance and inequality and simply need a helping hand to improve their lives.

“This understanding has three moral blind spots. First, because progressives discount the moral foundation of authority, they dismiss worries about crime, disorder, and violence when thinking about homelessness and generally are skeptical about the need for law enforcement. West Coast progressives have sought to decriminalize public camping, drug consumption, and property crimes because they view authority as the problem, not part of the solution. Second, because progressives discount the moral foundation of purity, they overlook and excuse the filth associated with street camping. Homeless encampments have proved to be havens for trash, needles, drugs, human waste, and infectious diseases, yet West Coast progressives have fought to “stop the sweeps” of tent cities and filed lawsuits against encampment cleanups. They prioritize “care for our curbside neighbors” over sanitation, cleanliness, and public-health concerns. Third, because progressives discount in-group loyalty, they do not see a significant homeless influx as a problem. They tend to make no distinction between the local and nonlocal homeless population and reject concerns about cities becoming magnets for homeless migrants as “xenophobic” and “homeless-hating.” Put simply, progressive cities have adopted a philosophy of all compassion and no enforcement that creates a cycle of permissiveness, enablement, and disorder.

“Critics might deny that the progressive approach is extreme, pointing to outreach teams as examples of authority, sanitation plans as examples of purity, and bus programs as examples of in-group loyalty. But at the practical level, the homeless-services apparatus has become one of the most ideologically radical sectors of West Coast government. In Seattle, the regional homelessness authority recently held its annual conference on the theme “Decolonizing Our Collective Work,” with sessions designed to “[interrogate] the current structures of power” and “examine the legacies of structural racism in our systems, and co-design a path towards liberation with black, indigenous, brown and other marginalized communities.” As part of the conference, the agency hired transgender stripper Beyoncé Black St. James to perform a drag show, give lap dances, and kiss attendees. What does any of this have to do with reducing homelessness? Nothing. It’s about repeating the nostrums of social justice, radicalizing homeless-services providers, and advancing the larger progressive political project. Of course, these agencies have failed to reduce homelessness; any entity that prioritizes “decolonizing our collective work” over actually improving things is doomed to fail.”

“Policies can change quickly, but ideologies have deeper roots. In the near term, there will likely be a continued redistribution of homelessness toward the warmest, most expensive, and most permissive cities, focused primarily on the coastal enclaves of California, Oregon, and Washington. West Coast cities have recently announced unprecedented multibillion-dollar expenditures on homelessness, but money alone cannot overcome deficient political cultures that have proved unable to cope with the dark side of homelessness: addiction, crime, violence, squalor, and disease. If the homeless-services apparatus continues to prioritize political convictions over practical plans, it will waste billions on programs that fail to address the need for both compassion and enforcement.

“The crisis presents an opportunity, however, for cities willing to try a different approach. As Houston has demonstrated, local leaders can meaningfully reduce homelessness through a strategy of tough love—leading with the provision of shelter and services but maintaining public order through outreach, cleanups, and enforcement of anti-camping laws. Some progressive leaders have complained that enforcement policies shift the burden of homelessness onto the largest cities. But Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city. And cities already compete on taxes, infrastructure, amenities, and various other policy choices—why should homeless policy not be among them? Small and medium-size cities should not lower their standards of public order; rather, it is incumbent upon neighboring cities to reduce the “magnet effect” of their own permissive policies.”

Retrieved September 13, 2021 from Compassionate Enforcement | City Journal (city-journal.org)

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Parkway Fires

Good article about them from KCRA 3.

An excerpt.

“For two consecutive days, emergency response crews responded to yet another string of fires that popped up along the American River Parkway.

“Our American River Parkway is ripe with fire activity and it’s a concern,” Sacramento Fire Captain Keith Wade said.

“Fire officials are still conducting an investigation into the exact cause, but believe someone started the fire.

“Was there a downed electrical wire? No. Did we have lightning strikes? No. Did we have someone intentionally setting these fires to cause mayhem? Possible,” Wade said. “That’s part of the investigative work.”

“Unfortunately, Wade added, it can be hard in cases like these with next to no eyewitnesses, to find the person or group responsible.

“It’s a very difficult thing for investigators to find a suspect in an arena where so many are traveling through in different parts of the day,” he said.

“Wade added there is currently no reason to believe the homeless living in the area may have set the fires this week.

“The American River Parkway is no stranger to fire. The last flare-up happened in June, when flames scorched more than 130 acres. That fire sparked at a homeless encampment and was the third fire within a week to burn along the parkway. Investigators at the time said those fires were caused by people, but no arrests were made.

“It’s the summer months, humidity has been very low, we have a lot of fuel loadout in these areas, not unlike the wilderness areas experiencing so many forest fires right now,” Wade said.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Lisa Butler, who lives nearby and is concerned that the fires could be affecting the health of her unvaccinated child. “We’ve dealt with it over a year now. When you’re trying to stay home and keep your kids safe and you can’t even go outside to get a walk and exercise, and get that mental clarity, it’s very frustrating.”

“Neighbor Donnie Stafford moved into what he thought was his dream home across from the Parkway just three months ago. Now, he’s worried he could soon be dealing with the next big fire.

“Watching it on TV, up in the mountains, it’s already disheartening,” he said. “To know it’s happening now in super populated areas, is very uncomfortable.”

“KCRA 3 reached out to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s office. While a suspect for the fire is yet to be found, the mayor said the work is happening to legally and humanely move the homeless from the area.

“We have pre-approved 21 [Safe Ground] sites and are working with the county and other partners to establish a campus for people who are the most chronically homeless,” he said. “The master site adds up to 5,000 beds … implementing that plan, as quickly as we can, is getting started within 30-60-90 days.”

“Steinberg added that an announcement would come soon on where the campus would be located.

“The initiative is part of the mayor’s Master Siting Plan to Address Homelessness, a $100 million proposal approved unanimously by city council in August. A copy of the plan can be found here.

“It will also allow us to legally, morally, and passionately say, there are other places that are now designated for safe ground or shelter, or for housing,” Steinberg said. “There are … places where you cannot live and camp outdoors. And to me that includes the American River Parkway … there is no substitute for finding safe and dignified alternatives for people camping on the Parkway.”

Retrieved September 9, 2021 from Another string of fires spark along the American River Parkway. Fire officials say someone started them. (kcra.com)

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Parks Announcement

Boat launches on American River closed temporarily, from County News.

The announcement.

“The Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks is temporarily closing three boat launches to motorized boat launching along the American River due to low water levels. The closures will only affect motorized boat launching at the Howe and Watt river access and Upper Sunrise recreation area boat launches. 

“These temporary closures begin today (Sept. 10, 2021) and will remain in place until further notice. 

“Releases from Nimbus Dam are down to 550 cubic feet per second to conserve storage in Folsom Reservoir,” said Liz Bellas, Director of Regional Parks. “The water levels are just too low for boats to safely get in and out at these access points. We will continue to monitor these boat launches and will open them when it is safe to do so.” 

“To find an open boat launch near you, visit the Department of Regional Parks’ Park Status page

Retrieved September 10, 2021 from https://www.saccounty.net/news/latest-news/Pages/Regional-Parks-Closes-Three-Boat-Launches.aspx

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EV’s and Battery Fires

The connection is worrisome, as this article from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

“Recent news about EV battery fires does not bode well for California Governor Newsom’s executive order to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

“The Bolt, the only EV that GM is selling in North America, has been “tied to at least nine fires” since early 2020, and Hyundai’s vehicles were involved in about 15 fires. Meanwhile, three Tesla’s have burst into flames over the past four months. So far, 27 EV battery fires and still counting.

“Firefighters may need 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of water to contain a Tesla electric vehicle (EV) blaze than they would normally use for a mainstream gas-powered car that was on fire.

“General Motors announced in August 2021 that they were recalling 73,000 Chevrolet Bolt EV’s in addition to the 70,000 Bolts that were made between 2017 and 2019. Fixing all 143,000 of the Bolts being recalled for fire risk to replace new battery modules could, as Morningstar analyst David Whiston told the Detroit Free Press, cost GM some $1.8 billion.

“Another “hit” on those potential EV sales projections is the German trend of banning EV’s from parking underground due to potential EV battery fires.

“In 2020, a California couple  awoke to a blaring car alarm and a burning house. The blaze had started in one of the two Tesla S vehicles in their garage and spread to the other.

“The culprit in nearly all EV fire cases is the lithium-ion batteries that power them, and which burn with extraordinary ferocity. Adding to the fire and heat danger posed by these events is the extreme toxic fluoride gas emissions generated. According to one study, these fumes may in some circumstances be a larger threat, especially in confined environments where people are present.

“Since lithium-ion fires are a chemical reaction they can only be cooled not extinguished. They end up burning for several days in some cases. In Germany, damage to a parking structure was extensive. “So, for this German parking structure, it has chosen to ban all electrified vehicles from parking underground. That includes hybrids, PHEV, and EVs, whether they contain lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride batteries.

“Most of the California EV’s are currently owned by folks with higher incomes than that of the working poor. Those wealthier owners have greater access to personal garages in their homes to charge their EV’s, or access to charging stations in new apartments that have underground parking. Caution to the wind is that parking in confined areas of garages and underground parking may not be the best place to park EV’s.”

Retrieved September 8, 2021 from EV Battery Fires Do Not Bode Well for Projected Sales | Newgeography.com

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Suburban & Urban Living

A witty and insightful article from New Geography reminding us of some core truths.

An excerpt.

“Paul Krugman needs to learn some geography. Last week, he wrote, “there’s no more room for housing” in California unless they build up. After all, he notes, “San Francisco is on a peninsula, Los Angeles is ringed by mountains.”

“Yes, San Francisco is on a peninsula. But, immediately to the south of the city is San Mateo County, which — according to census data — is 68 percent rural open space. South of San Mateo is Santa Clara County, home of San Jose, which is 74 percent rural.

“Krugman may not know that there is bridge called the Golden Gate that connects San Francisco to Marin County, which is 84 percent rural open space. Another bridge called the Bay Bridge connects San Francisco to Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which are 63 and 57 percent rural open space. Between all of these counties together, more than two-thirds of the San Francisco Bay Area is rural open space.

“In Los Angeles, a study funded by the state of California found that more than 800,000 acres of Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties are potentially developable. Over the hill, but a short drive away from Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have millions of acres of developable land.

“Krugman also needs to learn some construction economics. He thinks that, because people in Manhattan live in mid-rises and high-rises, everyone else should be able to do so. But not everyone else is a Nobel-prize winning professor and most people can’t afford to live in such expensive buildings. As California developer Nicholas Arenson testified at a meeting on housing prices, mid rises (four to seven stories) cost three to four times as much while high rises (eight stories and up) cost 5.5 to 7.5 times as much per square foot as single-family homes.

“Moreover, most people don’t want to live in apartments or condos. As an economist, Krugman should know something that is fundamental to economics: personal preferences count. Numerous surveys show that around 80 percent of Americans of all age groups prefer single-family homes over living in mid-rise or high-rise apartments.

“A Gallup poll conducted shortly before the pandemic found that 40 percent of Americans who live in big cities would rather live in smaller towns or low-density suburbs, while more Americans want to live in suburbs and exurbs than actually live there. The pandemic has heightened these desires.

“So if people would rather live in single-family homes, why are so much of the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas still rural? The answer is that, forty to fifty years ago, some people who didn’t understand geography and thought that California was running out of land drew urban-growth boundaries that put all of those rural areas off-limits to development. Under California law, once drawn such boundaries are practically impossible to move.”

Retrieved September 6, 2021 from Teach That Man Some Geography | Newgeography.com

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