CVIndependent

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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Community Voices

22 Nov 2017
When I stopped standing in school for the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, no one noticed. Not only was I not famous; I wasn’t even popular. But it was already clear to me—almost 50 years ago—that I was primarily a citizen of a planet, not of a nation, especially not a nation that used young people as fodder in a baffling war, and a nation that diminished women and demonized people of color, although I would not have used that language then. Still, I knew enough to be disturbed by the images of war and the Civil Rights Movement that I saw on television and Life magazine. Maybe the knowledge that I was basically invisible gave me the courage to resist the flag-waving agenda. Perhaps I was slightly odder than other 16- or 17-year-olds. I’d grown up a little wild and a little dreamy, by a lake in the…
15 Nov 2017
In 2015, Kathryn Schulz, a writer at The New Yorker, published “The Really Big One,” a meticulous evocation of the oceanic earthquake that will someday drown the Pacific Northwest beneath a tsunami. I lived in Seattle then, and the quake was all anyone talked about: at coffee shops, in elevators, on buses. Many articles and books had been written about the coming 9.0, but Schulz’s Pulitzer-winning story was the first to grab the slumbering Northwest by the shoulders and shake it awake—until, that is, the news cycle shifted; people got on with their lives; and earthquakes receded again in society’s consciousness. Earthquakes, writes another Kathryn—Kathryn Miles—in her new book, Quakeland, are our most confounding natural disaster. We can watch hurricanes spinning in the Atlantic weeks before they land; we usually detect the rumbling of volcanoes months pre-eruption. Earthquakes, though, often provide no warning at all. Our grasp of what triggers…
09 Nov 2017
As the West’s elected officials wrestle with how to protect us from gun violence in the aftermath of the Las Vegas nightmare and the Texas church shooting, a truth comes to mind: These leaders are not actually wrestling with the issue of how to protect us from gun violence. If they were, the solution would be as clear as a mountain stream: Treat people more like fish. Here in the West, fish get far more protection than people. If you’re an adult, you need a license to fish. In Colorado and other states, that license limits you to two fishing rods at a time. Keeping fish is often forbidden, and barbless hooks are often required to boost the odds that your catch-and-release gem lives to see another day. Live bait is frequently illegal, and hook size and the fishing season itself are often limited. There are restrictions on the size…
12 Oct 2017
It has happened again. Near Española, N.M., the monumental statue of Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate has been attacked. Though Oñate rides his horse behind a tall metal fence, someone painted his booted right foot blood red and spray-painted “Remember 1680” on a nearby wall. In the culturally diverse Southwest, schisms over history and heritage live on. The statue is part of the Oñate Monument Center in Rio Arriba County. While many longtime New Mexicans want to commemorate Onate’s bold leadership in establishing the Spanish presence in the region, most Native Americans from the pueblo villages along the Rio Grande River—and specifically Acoma—hold a different opinion. Across the American South, the public is embroiled in controversy over statues of Confederate war heroes. For some white Southerners, statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis represent states’ rights, chivalry and valor. For others, including most African Americans, Confederate leaders symbolize…
07 Sep 2017
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of the Forest Service as well as several agricultural and food-related research agencies, recently told its staffers to avoid using the term “climate change.” The business-as-usual term “weather extremes” was recommended instead. While dropping the word “climate” may seem like a defeat for those of us who remain convinced that human influences are harming the global environment, this federal directive made in the spirit of changing the narrative might be good advice. Could it be that the term itself has failed us? Suppose, for a moment, you are in a restaurant, and someone yells, “Help, she’s having a heart attack!” Being a good person, you would no doubt spring into action, call 9-1-1, look for aspirin or a defibrillator, and so on. Suppose that same person had instead yelled, “Help, she’s having a myocardial infarction!” You would probably react the same…
19 Apr 2017
As a teenager caddying at a restricted country club, I resented the bigotry, but accepted the tips. I learned to play golf myself and eventually got fairly good at it—but now I hate the game. Let me tell you why. The ecological and aesthetic harm caused by most of the world’s 34,000 golf courses—45 percent of them here in the United States—is widely acknowledged today. Natural habitats have been disfigured and destroyed to create highly organized, artificially watered and unarguably fake nature. Some people find golf courses calming and beautiful, but that beauty comes at a price. Since 1982, the United States Golf Association has funded efforts to conserve water through improving irrigation technologies, planting grasses that require less irrigation, and using recycled water from sewage-treatment facilities. Despite these commendable efforts, precious water is still being squandered—including a lot of it right here in the Coachella Valley, where, despite a…
12 Apr 2017
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Gov. Jerry Brown made international news when he vowed to fight President Donald Trump’s attempts to cut America’s climate-change research and rescind the nation’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. Brown’s commitment to fighting climate change seems real, and under his leadership, his state has engaged in numerous greenhouse-gas-reduction plans. But there are caveats to his commitment, including the continued growth in fossil fuel extraction in California, and the state’s near-explosive population growth—both of which drive emissions up, not down. There’s another issue that California needs to address: methane emissions from hydropower, particularly at Hoover Dam, the source of a significant portion of Los Angeles’ electricity. About 25 years ago, a small team of scientists in Brazil started measuring the methane produced at hydropower dams and reservoirs. Led by Philip Fearnside, the scientists found surprising results, indicating that hydropower dams and reservoirs in tropical countries like Brazil emit high levels of…
08 Mar 2017
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The president and his supporters say they want to solve illegal immigration by building an immense wall along our southern border, turning local police into immigration agents, and applying “severe vetting” to immigrants from certain countries—all of which are predominantly Muslim. Opponents say these proposals suffer from over-simplification and racism. But there’s an even bigger problem: These “fixes” fail to understand that we can’t address immigration if we continue to deny the science of climate change, because increasingly, climate change is driving global human migration. Let’s first acknowledge that our border with Mexico is a place of hardship, violence and injustice. Let’s also recognize the wrenching reality that many of those pressed against our border are children. In fiscal year 2016, nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at our southern border. Even as the president and his supporters lump them together with “murderers and rapists,” the U.S. Border Patrol reports…
11 Jan 2017
Many Californians woke up the night after the presidential election thinking they were living in a different country. A few felt so alienated that they publicly raised the possibility of seceding from the United States. There is no constitutional way, however, to do this. But there is a less radical step that would amount to a limited secession and would require only an act of Congress. Forty-five percent of the land in California is administered by the federal government—including 20 percent of the state in national forests and 15 percent under the Bureau of Land Management. Rather than outright secession, California could try to assert full state sovereignty over all this land. Until Nov. 8, California wouldn’t have cared about this, but with the prospect of a Donald Trump administration soon managing almost half the land in the state, Californians may want to rethink their traditional stance. Otherwise, they are…
16 Nov 2016
On the day after Election Day, the biggest newspaper in the oil and gas patch in northwestern New Mexico ran a story headlined: “Trump win has energy industry leaders hopeful.” Most of the local industry folks quoted by the Farmington Daily Times said that President-elect Donald Trump would relax regulations on drilling on public land. Meanwhile, over on Facebook, energy workers were ecstatic, convinced that a President Trump would put them back to work almost immediately. They should know better. The San Juan Basin’s energy-reliant communities have been hit especially hard in recent years. The first blow came in 2008, after horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing opened up huge shale formations in the East. Shortly thereafter, oil prices skyrocketed to as high as $150 per barrel, prompting drill rigs to pop up again all over North Dakota’s Bakken formation and, a little later, in the San Juan Basin’s Gallup…

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