In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


1.   Stop Industrial Solar in Alameda County - hearing TONIGHT
2.   Fostering butterflies in your garden, Thurs March 1/Great Sunflower Project program rescheduled
2a. Heron's Head Park construction impacts on parking
3.   Thoughtful LTE on attempt to remove Fish & Game Commission president
4.   LTE on Central Subway
5.   More Hetch Hetchy:  The Curse of Chief Tenaya in E-format
6.   Water heaters,  stoves, etc - useful website
7.   Lying to obtain climate documents/$ short for forest fires/national forest no-fee
8.   Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time March 8
9.   Meeting notes from Bernal Heights Trail community meeting
10. New Sustainable Certification Program: Business Leadership course
11.  Letter of Retainer, by Diane Ackerman
12.  Today's Word:  Promethean
13.  Santa Clara Valley Water District tours of stream-improvement projects
14.  Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-made Material

As freely as the firmament embraces the world,
or the sun pours forth impartially his beams,
so mercy must encircle both friend and foe.
  -Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, poet and dramatist (1759-1805)

1.  Stop Industrial Solar in Eastern Alameda County - hearing Tuesday 28 February

We think widespread solar power is a great idea, as long as the infrastructure for renewable energy is sensibly and appropriately sited. However, Alameda County seems to be on a misguided path to allow massive scale industrial solar projects on wildlife habitat and productive farmland in rural Alameda County, without first looking at the potential for urban solar on rooftops or placing panels on existing paved and developed locations.

The Alameda County Planning Department will hold a community meeting tomorrow night in Dublin to discuss proposed amendments to the County General Plan to allow and encourage massive solar developments in the East County.

Unfortunately, the Planning Department seems to be ignoring concerns from conservation and agriculture groups about poorly-sited facilities that cause habitat destruction and loss of farmland, and appears to be headed toward recommending to the Board of Supervisors sacrificing open space for industrial energy facilities rather than encouraging development of rooftop solar.

Please attend the hearing tomorrow night and support our call for a five year moratorium on industrial solar in Alameda County until the proper level of environmental review is done for proposed large-scale solar facilities. The hearing is Tuesday, February 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Alameda County Public Works Building, 4825 Gleason Drive, in Dublin.

Read the Alameda Creek Alliance’s web page on industrial solar for more information:


2.  From the California Native Plant Society Yerba Buena Chapter:  CHANGE OF PROGRAM

We regret that due to scheduling error, Gretchen LeBuhn is unable to speak to our chapter on The Great Sunflower Project: Pollinator Conservation by the Public  this Thursday, March 1.  We are exceedingly fortunate to have been able to get Jeff Caldwell, who we were planning to have do a program later this year, fill in on short notice.  The subjects of the two talks are related but are sufficiently different to be complementary rather than duplicative.

California Native Plant Society Yerba Buena Chapter members meeting - free and open to the public
Fostering Butterflies and Other Pollinators in Your Native Garden
Speaker:  Jeff Caldwell
Thursday 1 March 2012, 7.30 pm
San Francisco County Fair Bldg
9th Avenue & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park

With a better understanding of the needs of desired organisms, gardens and landscapes can be managed to better support them. Jeff will share what he's learned about the potential for native plants and landscapes to support more robust populations of Lepidoptera.

Jeffrey Caldwell, B.A., Biology, Pomona College, 1971.  Jeff's career includes commercial and private landscape maintenance and design as well as environmental impact studies and revegetation plans, implementation and monitoring for major flood control and roadwork mitigation projects.  He gave his first butterfly gardening lecture in 1975. Hoping to find a way to help make butterflies flourish in the landscape, over the last three years he has intensively studied specific Lepidoptera - plant interactions of Californian plants.

How many insects/arthropods can you see in this picture?


Jeff supplies additional information:

Truth be told, I am more focused on the pollinators than the pollination, important though pollination may be. The bees are the major workhorses of pollination -- practically by definition the group that is all about pollen (their prime food). Butterflies are effective pollinators of relatively few plants (and non-pollinating, or barely pollinating, visitors to many flowers), but it just so happens that most of the plants of greatest usefulness to butterflies are also of great value to the bees (who do most of the work). (Unlike bees, butterflies are not designed specifically to carry pollen for most plants).

Pollination will get done if the pollinators live and thrive. That the pollinators should live is my interest.  In fields of crops or wildflowers it is glorious thing to have multitudes of pollinators, and ruin to have a dearth of them.

Very few butterflies eat pollen. Other plant parts of their "larval hosts" are the prime source of calories for butterflies and moths.  What I've been getting at is a better understanding of prime larval hosts and favorite nectar plants for our Lepidoptera on a species-by-species basis. Combinations that are mostly lacking in
gardens, even in native plant gardening as it is usually practiced, or even in 'mitigation revegetation' as it is usually practiced -- thus a dearth of Lepidoptera.


2a.  Literacy for Environmental Justice - construction information for Heron's Head Park

There’s been much talk and planning about the Heron’s Head Park parking lot reconstruction and it’s finally starting! In efforts to work in harmony with the construction and access into the park, signs have been placed for parking relocation and foot/bike traffic access. Your safety is our main concern.

Please be aware of this signage when coming to the Park; vehicle parking will temporarily be on Jennings St. and foot/bike traffic into the park is designated by a fenced-off walkway running parallel to the neighboring PG&E fence.

Main Pathway Within The Park
An added renovation to the Park is also occurring simultaneous to the parking lot renovation. The main pathway welcoming you into the Park and leading you out to the tip will also go through a major renovation. This means a portion of the Park will be closed for an approximate time of 4 weeks, starting in the next few days. We anticipate this restricted access to begin at the picnic area behind the EcoCenter and ending at the tip.

IMPORTANT: Please also anticipate a 3 week full closure of the ParkAFTER the first phase of the pathway. The second phase will repair the pathway from the entrance of the Park to the picnic area.

Please contact LEJ staff at if you have any questions or concerns about the parking lot construction or pathway renovation. We highly value our community and park visitors at large. We will do our best in bringing you the most up to date information about the construction.
(I ask readers to pay heed to Eric Mills' LTE.  As readers should know by now, Eric has been tireless in his quest to get fair and humane treatment for animals, both wild and domestic.  Environmental organizations, endeavoring to keep the troops fired up and the contributions rolling in, often simplify complex issues.  That is often counter-productive, and doesn't acknowledge the complexities of the political process.  Eric is experienced, and when his opinion differs from statements you get from organizations, go with Eric.  JS)

Letter to the Editor
The San Francisco Chronicle

All the sanctimonious hand-wringing over Fish & Game Commissioner Dan Richards' Idaho mountain lion hunt is inappropriate and irresponsible.  I, too, deplore trophy hunting, but that hunt was perfectly legal.  Let's move on.

The efforts to remove Mr. Richards (a registered Republican), led by a gang of legislators (Democrats all) and a bunch of my fellow animal/environmental activists who should know better, are both misguided and counter-productive.  Nor should we forget two other highly-qualified commissioners who were forced to resign recently for political reasons, Cindy Gustafson and Judd Hanna.  They should be re-appointed.

I've been attending commission meetings for 20+ years.  Though I don't always agree with Mr. Richards, I've invariably found him to be thoughtful, honest, fair, articulate, and willing to speak his mind.  Would that all commissioners shared those traits.  Richards' term expires in January 2013.  He should be allowed to finish it without the sniping.

Here's an idea:  All five commissioners are appointed by the Governor.  The terms of two current commissioners, Jim Kellogg and Richard Rogers, expired months ago.  Mr. Kellogg recently declared the invasive striped bass to be a "California native species."  Not!  Kellogg also insists that lead shot is not a problem for either condors or other wildlife.  The mind boggles.  He's had 10 years--time to go.

Petition the Governor to appoint two new and well-qualified members to the commission.  Now's the time.

Governor Jerry Brown and all state legislators may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA  95814.

Eric Mills, coordinator
P.O Box 20184
Oakland, CA  94620
  tel. 510/652-5603


4.  LTE, San Francisco Examiner

Central Subway not a done deal

I think most San Franciscans regard the Central Subway as a done deal.  I certainly would, if I depended on your newspaper and other local press outlets for transit news.  The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and some city power brokers probably want me to think it is.

I won't write to Congress; I'll give up.  But it's not a done deal.  After receiving a recommendation from the FTA, Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to give the go-ahead.

There's every reason to doubt they will.  The letters and phone calls of San Franciscans like me probably could still have an impact, perhaps a big one.  If San Franciscans knew that they could still make a difference on this issue, because the matter hasn't been decided, because their opinions still count.  I think Central Subway supporters and detractors alike deserve an update.

Tim Adams
San Francisco


5.  Hetch Hetchy

Hi Jake:

Plenty of hullabaloo recently concerning the restore hetch hetchy movemen with editorials in the NY Times and Sacramentio Bee and Dan Lundgren jumping into the fray and saying that the City of San Francisco is reneging on the original deal with the Federal Government by not more efficiently using its local sources of water before stealing from the Sierra snowpack etc., etc., ad nauseam. Whee.

So anyway, in the hope of adding fuel to the fire, I recently signed a republishing deal with Oasis Productions of Chowchilla/Fresno to make "The Curse of Chief Tenaya" available in E-format through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, etc. So for those with Kindles, Nooks, I-Pads and all those other gadgets, "The Curse" is available for less that the price of a Double Latte at Starbucks or a Happy Hour beer at your local pub. The Amazon link is below:

This re-creation of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in all its original glory in an action/adventure context will hopefully increase public awareness of this hidden gem and rescue it from its watery grave. Really hoping it will happen in our lifetime but absolutely know that this restoration is an inevitability.  Sooner rather than later.

Craig Carrozzi


6.  John Barry:
I found this video by searching for  A.O.Smith Pro-Max water heaters on the internet..

Every maker of stuff like water heaters,  stoves, etc...has its own web site,....and at the site..they have a 1-800 number to call for Customer Service..  I did this and got a person who told me to go to

Scientific American
CLIMATEWIRE: Scientist Says He Lied to Obtain Documents from Climate Skeptic Group
The latest twist in a political drama around climate science involves an admission of soliciting Heartland Institute material under a false name

Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics
9th Circuit Court rules visitors to national forest don't have to pay a fee –Pasadena Star-News
In the unanimous ruling in favor of four hikers who objected to paying a fee to visit the forest, Judge Robert Gettleman wrote: "Everyone is entitled to enter national forests without paying a cent."

Forest Service requests $24 million for large firefighting planes – KPPC
The head of the U.S. Forest Service is asking Congress for more money to beef up its fleet of firefighting aircraft. Even if Congress approves the cash, there could still be a shortage of planes come fire season.


8.  San Francisco Naturalist Society meeting - open to the public

Film Screening of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time

Thursday, March 8, 7.30 pm at the Randall Museum
A film exploring one man’s contribution to the conservation movement in the 20th century

Suggested donation $5-$100 sliding scale - goes to support the conservation efforts of SaveNature.Org.
415-225-3830 or for more information

Join a special showing of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time. Influential naturalist and professor, Leopold developed the first comprehensive management plan for the Grand Canyon, wrote the Forest Service's first fish and game management handbook and Sand County Almanac. He fought hard for the protection of wilderness, asking, "of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?" This film explores how Leopold shaped the conservation movement in the 20th century.

Join us on Thursday, March 8 for a special showing of the film "Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time." This documentary examines the life and legacy of the great early 20th century American conservationist Aldo Leopold. We are showing the film in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

The local filmmakers, Steven and Ann Dunsky, were just interviewed in the Bay Guardian:

You can see a trailer and read more about the film at

I hope you will join us!

Patrick Schlemmer
San Francisco Naturalist Society President

Thursday, March 8
Film showing: "Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time."
Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco CA 94114. 7:30-9:30 pm. For more information, contact Patrick Schlemmer at or (415) 225-3830. Sliding scale suggested donation of $5-$100 goes to support the conservation efforts at SaveNature.Org.


9.  Hello Bernal Heights Trail neighbors & trail enthusiasts,

The presentation and meeting notes from the Bernal Heights Trail community meeting #2 are now posted on the project website under “Key Links & Docs”.  I have attached the link for easy access:

Community Meeting #3 will be held on from 6:00-7:30pm on Wednesday, April 4 at the Bernal Heights Library meeting room at 500 Courtland.  At this meeting we will be further discussing potential trail design options and getting your feedback for a final concept plan.

Please feel free to pass along the meeting information to anyone you think may be interested in the trail project.  Thank you.

Meghan Tiernan
Project Manager

San Francisco Recreation and Park Department  | City & County of San Francisco
Capital Improvement Division | 30 Van Ness Ave, 5th Floor | San Francisco, CA | 94102
(415) 581-2557  |

UC Santa Cruz Extension/Silicon Valley
New Sustainable Certification Program:
Business Leadership: Creating a Sustainable Enterprise

Acterra is teaming up with UC Santa Cruz Extension/Silicon Valley to offer a certificate program in Executive Leadership: "Creating a Sustainable Enterprise."

Starting from the premise that successful executives in the 21st Century need to know how to operate in an era of resource limits, this course will integrate traditional themes about leadership training with a thorough understanding of the principles of sustainability (people, planet and prosperity).

Focused on the needs of business executives, this 11-week course will help business leaders navigate the challenges of resource constraints (limited energy, water and supply chain materials) -- and learn to create new value from previously "wasted" resources. While covering essential topics such as motivating employees, building successful teams, and directing an agile organization, the classes will also analyze how to apply the principles of sustainability to create economic value in today's changing world. Case studies, guest lecturers and three field trips will provide a variety of learning experiences.

The course will start Thursday, March 29 and run weekly until June 7, 2012. Classes meet in Santa Clara at the UCSC Extension building from 1:00 until 8:00 pm, dinner included.

For details on the content, please read the course description PDF. For schedule information, course fees and a registration form, please view the registration PDF.


Letter of Retainer

for Morton Janklow


The heart was made to stammer.
How I wish it weren't so.
By moonlight, even the stars
have a grammar.  Before we are
deleted from these paragraphs of snow,
I'd hold you

harmless from and against all losses

if I could,
but Earth is unforgiving.

In the samovars of night,
where all love's litanies repeat,
when grounds settle
and the time is right
we brew hope
like a small fluid contract.
So, if you wish,
we'll set forth upon an understanding,

that far rich wild trip
so dangerous to complete
which, in the suburbs of a glance,
on any avenue, beings in risk,
where all best journeys start,
with the half-lit hieroglyphics
of the heart.

~ Diane Ackerman ~

(Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems)


12.  A Word A Day
Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up well when he said, "The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next." At one time there were magnificent temples of Apollo and Zeus, people prayed to them, made offerings to them.
Today no one believes that those gods and goddesses were anything but figments of ancient people's imagination. Today we learn about these gods as part of myths.

All these ancient deities are history now, but they have left their mark on the language. This week we'll look at five words that are derived from the names of gods and goddesses.

Waiter, there's a god in my language!
I'll be speaking on god and language at the Northwest Freethought Conference in Seattle this March. Come say hello and you'll get to hear Richard Dawkins among other speakers. See details.


adjective: Boldly creative; defiant; audacious.
noun: A person who is boldly creative or defiantly original.

After Prometheus, a demigod in Greek mythology. He made man from clay, stole fire from Zeus by trickery, and gave it to humans. For his crime he was chained to a rock and an eagle devoured his liver to have it grow again to be eaten again the next day. The name means forethinker, from Greek pro- (before) + manthanein (to learn). Earliest documented use: 1594.

"A Promethean impulse lives on in the financial markets, where quantitative investors hubristically strive to invent and speculate beyond their capacity to understand."  Ben Wright; Fear, Frankenstein and the Rise of the Machines; Financial News (London, UK); Oct 10, 2011.


13.  The Santa Clara Valley Water District is offering an opportunity for a close-up tour of the stream improvement projects at Jacques Gulch and Calabazas Creek.  Tour is March 23, 10 am - 3 pm.

The tour starts with a presentation in the headquarters visit two recent projects that fulfill the water district’s flood management, water quality and environmental objectives.

Van tours are limited to 25 people, but the presentation at the headquarters building is open to all. To RSVP, contact Eva Sans at or 408-265-2607, ext. 2885


14.  BOOK REVIEW: Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-made Material
By Robert Courland

Concrete is everywhere, especially if you live in a city. It’s used for buildings, bridges, roads, dams, sidewalks, airport runways, even burial vaults. There are already about 40 tons of concrete on the planet for every person alive, with another ton added each year.

In this wide-reaching book, Courland reviews the saga of what many may view as a mundane material, from its discovery during the Neolithic (the later part of the Stone Age) to its rediscovery in the late 1700s — made necessary after the secrets of its manufacture were largely lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.

A world without concrete simply wouldn’t look the same: Skyscrapers wouldn’t be as tall and most other buildings would be smaller; all dams would be bulky, earth-filled structures; and roads would certainly have more potholes. In short, Courland suggests, the world would look much as it did in the 1800s.

While iconic Roman-era buildings made of concrete such as the Colosseum and Pantheon have stood for nearly two millennia, Courland notes that few of today’s concrete structures will last one-tenth as long, largely because the iron and steel used to reinforce them begins to deteriorate at a rapid rate after just a few decades.

Millions of years in the future, the geologic record of today’s era will be an odd layer of rust-tainted sediment — crumbled concrete peppered with flakes of corroded rebar. In the shorter term, the manufacture of concrete is the third-largest source of planet-warming carbon dioxide, right behind fossil fuel–burning power plants and transportation. Whether looking at the past or the future, Courland makes a compelling case for concrete’s importance to humankind.

Science News


Why megacities pose big problems
How will India and China's new city states support their citizens? (excerpts)

(In Chengdu)...will be the world's largest stand-alone building...a leisure complex that will house two 1,000-room five-star hotels, an ice rink, a luxury Imax cinema, vast shopping malls and a 20,000-capacity indoor swimming pool with 400 metres of "coastline" and a fake beach the size of 10 football pitches complete with its own seaside village.  Alongside will be another massive and futuristic structure, a contemporary arts centre.

The scale of the centre is a sign not just of the ambition of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, but a potential vision of the future.  Last month, Chinese authorities announced that for the first time more than half of the country's population were living in cities...The new urban-rural balance was a benchmark attained by the UK in the late 19th century and the US in the first decades of the last century - in 1800, only 3% of the world's people lived in cities.  But the scale and speed of urbanisation across the developing world today are unprecedented - throwing up a string of megacities, from Jakarta to Istanbul, Sao Paulo to Cairo.  Poor rural families flooding into the world's urban population centres bring challenges that have never before been seen - nor met.

...few in the west have paid much attention to the astonishing rise of Chengdu, despite a population of more than 14 million and its evident economic power.  Few have heard much either of cities such as Ghaziabad, Surat or Faridabad in India, or of Toluca in Mexico, Palembang in Indonesia or Chittagong, the Bangladeshi port.  Or of Beihai, another Chinese city on the northern coast.  But this is likely to change.  Each of these cities is among the fastest-growing settlements in the world.  Their cumulative growth is set to usher in a new era of city living, changing the face of the planet.  Beihai, which already has 1.3 million inhabitants, is set to double its population in seven years.  The municipality of Chengdu will reach 20 million.

...Predicting what the new era will bring is taxing economists, senior businessmen, security experts and strategists across the world.  Optimists see a new network of powerful, stable and prosperous city states, each bigger than many small countries, where the benefits of urban living, the relative ease of delivering basic services compared to rural zones and new civic identities combine to raise living standards for billions. Pessimists see the opposite: a dystopic future where huge numbers of people fight over scarce resources in sprawling, divided, anarchic "non-communities" ravaged by disease and violence.

Nowhere is this more evident than in India, where years of underinvestment, chaotic development and rapid population growth have combined with poor governance and outdated financial systems to threaten an urban disaster.

...Even if the demands for power, sanitation and security can be met, however, the new cities present a cultural challenge: how to establish a sense of community in huge and complex societies.  In one recent book, The Spirit of Cities, two political theorists argued that the distinctive spirit of the city states of ancient Greece should be rediscovered...(Two professors) argue that "civicism", or attachment to a city and the assertion of its local identity, brings numerous benefits.

Guardian Weekly 24.02.12

(JS:  I was both amused and appalled at the last paragraph.  People like that give academics a bad name.  In the dawn of democracy, the citizens of Athens (all male) comprised <30,000.  Ironically, direct democracy depended on slavery, because participating in government was so demanding.  Men would spend all day, almost every day debating issues or serving on juries.  It was exhausting.  I wonder what these two academics were thinking, if they were thinking at all.)

“In an ideal state, all citizens could be summoned by the cry of a herald.”  Aristotle)

U. of Denver geographer Paul Sutton, talking about the appeal of life in "Exurbia":
"I like to pee off my deck.  It's like Edward Abbey said:  If you can't pee of your porch, you live too close to town."

In my two trips to China in 1983 and 1986 I visited Chengdu, whose population at that time was given as 4 million.  JS

JS:  I juxtaposed this article with the book review that precedes it.  Here's the nub:
"Colosseum and Pantheon have stood for nearly two millennia, Courland notes that few of today’s concrete structures will last one-tenth as long, largely because the iron and steel used to reinforce them begins to deteriorate at a rapid rate after just a few decades."

Hello?  Is this information accurate?  Do all the high-rise buildings of the world need replacing after several decades?  If so, do the ramifications register with anyone?