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.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought. -Matsuo Basho, poet (1644-1694)

1.   Richmond fights sugar-sweetened beverages - it needs your help
2.   Beach Chalet soccer field update:  Join appeal to CA Coastal Commission
3.   Strawberry Hill Habitat Restoration Saturday 11 August
4.   Remove the dust of custom so things shine again
5.   Feedback: astronomy, immigration
6.   Interesting information about the Hmong
7.   Cal-IPC's 21st annual symposium - register early
8.   Kezar Gardens events
9.   Not the loss alone, but what comes after.  Gregory Orr
10. Pyrethroid pesticides build up in urban creeks - lethal to aquatic life
11.  Farm subsidies contribute to wetland damage
12.  Staggering news about water in Saturn's rings
13.  Grab bag - miscellany
14.  "Captain Lakshmi", fighter for Indian independence, dies at 97

1.  Fundraising appeal:

Dear supporters of a healthier Richmond,

As you may know, the Sugar Sweetened Beverage tax is now on the November ballot in Richmond.  We are the first city in the nation to do so.

The one cent per ounce Sugar Sweetened Beverage tax has been endorsed by the American Heart  Association, The American Public Health Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, the United Nations and many others. 

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC said that the one cent per ounce Sugar Sweetened Beverage tax  could be "the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic."

Reversing the obesity and diabetes epidemics is a high priority in Richmond.   One third of our African American and Latino fifth and seventh graders are obese and an additional twenty per cent is overweight in each group.

If we don't intervene successfully many of these children suffer the ravages of diabetes and heart disease.  Without a successful intervention many will not live as long as their parents. 

The beverage industry has already made their presence known locally.

We can win this, but we need to raise $100,000 for mailings, printing, robo-calls, lawn signs, etc...

No one is getting paid for this effort.

Can you help? 

It would be a shame to fritter away this amazing opportunity for lack of a bit of cash.

If we pass the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax many others will follow suit. 

Help Richmond make history!  The dominoes will start to fall!

If one thousand of us each give a $100, we will reach our goal.  No contribution is too small.    Let's do it for our children and our grandchildren.

To donate to the campaign:
Please list your occupation, employer and address when making a donation
Checks can be made out to:
Fit for Life and sent to:
Fit For Life
1021 Macdonald Ave.
Richmond, CA 94801

or make a paypal donation by going to our website:

In partnership,
Jeff Ritterman, M.D.
Richmond City Council (for identification purposes only)
cell: 510-384-1315

1.          Join our appeal to the California Coastal Commission!  Easy, free, and fun!  Mail us your form NOW.
2.          Donate Today!   Credit Card or Check

1.          Join our Appeal to the California Coastal Commission (CCC)! 
              Our attorneys  will submit a detailed appeal for SFOE.  However, we are asking that as many of you as possible join us in an additional simplified appeal  as co-appellants-- it is free, fun, and easy! The more of our supporters who appeal, the better!

Here's how:
1.       You and/or your organization can be a co-appellant as an individual and as an organization.
2.       Appeals require an original signature.  Print out the signature page pdf, sign, date, and add your printed name and address at the bottom.  We will collate all of your forms and submit them to the CCC as co-appellants.
3.       Mail the form to us or drop it by 1243 42nd Avenue, SF. , CA  94122.
4.       We don't have the cut-off date yet for submitting the appeal.  We will have only 10 days once the City files its Final Notice.  Get your form to us today!  
5.        You may also fill in your own 4-page form completely and send it in.   To learn more about that, go to the CCC website.
6.       Note:  We will do our best to submit forms to the CCC by the due date, but we cannot guarantee delivery on time.   Stuff happens.  Appellants who are concerned about this, should submit the forms on their own.  See the California Coastal Commission website for more information on forms and due dates.

       Donate today!    Help us to protect Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach.
Click here to donate by check


3.  Strawberry Hill Habitat Restoration Volunteer Work Day with SF Parks Alliance, and the Recreation & Parks Department
Added bonus: Liam O'Brien will be our lunchtime speaker
Date: Saturday, August 11th
Time:  10 am - 2 pm
Meeting Location:  Stow Lake Boat House in Golden Gate Park
Questions and to RSVP:  contact, 415-621-3260 ext. 105

Come on out for an inspirational day of volunteering on Strawberry Hill, the highest point in Golden Gate Park.  We'll be taking out invasive plants, and doing general habitat restoration work.   No experience necessary, all instruction and tools are provided.   Lepidopterist extraordinaire Liam O'Brien will be our lunchtime speaker at 1 PM.  Please bring water and a sack lunch, and wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty!

What is to give light must endure burning. -Viktor Frankl, author, neurologist and psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor

Let's remake the world with words.
Not frivolously, nor
To hide from what we fear,
But with a purpose.

As Wordsworth said, remove
"The dust of custom" so things
Shine again, each object arrayed
In its robe of original light.

And then we'll see the world
As if for the first time.
As once we gazed at the beloved
Who was gazing at us.

~ Gregory Orr ~


5.  Feedback

On Aug 6, 2012, at 3:40 PM, Dave Goggin wrote:
Mars is beginning to appear in our skies low above the horizon in the southwest

Hi Jake, Actually, Mars has been visible in the evening sky since February.  It is actually toward the end of its clearly visible evening showing. 

If it's clear tonight i plan to have my telescope out on Van Ness to show it to people.  unfortunately Mars is most of the time a pretty boring thing to see with a telescope - just too small to see much if any detail.
Ulp.  I was caught out on that one.  What do you expect from a fog-shrouded San Franciscan who for long stretches of the year has to keep telling himself that there are stars and planets up there?

Boring?  Come on, Dave, your mind supplies the interest.  And then these rovers roving around, obeying commands from Earth....
Well as a hobbyist astronomer, of course we are often eyeing things that are of scientific interest but don't visually look all that remarkable.

But when entertaining the evening pedestrians on Van Ness it is easier when the item itself is cool.  When Saturn was well placed during recent months that always got a wow - doubly when I could point out Titan.  How many people expect to see the moon(s) of another planet with a small telescope from the sidewalk in downtown S.F. :) 

On Aug 6, 2012, at 4:43 PM, Robert Laws wrote:
Hatching artist within with bird drawing
San Francisco Chronicle
As the morning fog lifts off the bay, John Muir Laws is sitting in the dirt talking to a seagull. "The oval of your body curves back to your head," he says ...
"There is a widely held belief that drawing is a gift that some people are born with and everybody else is out of luck," he says. "But if I can get people drawing on a regular basis, they'll discover that this is just a skill that anybody can master."

Ha ha, Jack.  You don't know what you're talking about.  I'm living proof.

"He's better on the questions of his name. This John Muir is not descended from that John Muir. His mother, Beatrice Laws, was a Sierra Club lawyer, and she decided his middle name was going to be Muir regardless of sex. The John part was a family name, incidental to Muir."

There's a theory that people know what they're doing when they name their children.  My parents evidently did.  I looked up Jacob.  This from Wikipedia:

When the time came for Rebekah to give birth, the first, Esau, to come out redall over like a hairy garment, with his heel grasped by the hand of the second, Jacob, to come out. According to Genesis 25:25, Isaac and Rebekah named the first עשו, Esau (`Esav or `Esaw, meaning "hairy" or "rough", from Hebrew:עשה‎, `asah, "do" or "make";[9] or "completely developed", from Hebrew: עשוי‎,`assui[citation needed]). The second is named יעקב, Jacob (Ya`aqob or Ya`aqov, meaning "heel-catcher", "supplanter", "leg-puller", "he who follows upon the heels of one", from Hebrew: עקב‎, `aqab or `aqav, "seize by the heel", "circumvent", "restrain", a wordplay upon Hebrew: עקבה‎, `iqqebah or `iqqbah, "heel").[10]

However, my American Heritage Dictionary says it more directly:  "He who takes by the heel and overreaches himself." 

I don't know a sentence that can encapsulate my life better than that.  It's a perennial problem that has dogged me all my life, and I finally just gave up and accept that that's the way I am.  It's stressful to be always taking on more than I can accomplish, but I am unable to stop.  However, it pays dividends in other respects.  Hard to get bored.

One little overreach was to take a class in sketching and drawing.  It didn't take long for me to become disabused about any notions I had in this direction.  "Go back, you are going the wrong way" it shouted at me.

Doug Allshouse:
Jake: I just opened the 8/12 newsletter and read about "Nests with helpers." This behavior is common to species in the Corvidae family. Crows and Scrub Jays seem to be be the most common practitioners. Corvids, along with gulls (and there may be more), are members of a caste system. Senior birds eat first and are the breeders and there's hell to pay if it isn't respected. Offspring of an alpha pair will stick around and assist raising the nesting fledglings until one finds a mate, or mom or dad dies.

The next time you see a gull perched on a street lamp or a dock on the bay suddenly fly off when another gull approaches you have witnessed the gull's caste system in action.
Doug:  Thanks for the note.  The natural world gives insights into the human world.  (We're animals--duh!)

The injustices of human society are largely a reflection of how animal societies function.  I am outraged by unfairness--racism, sexism, you name it.  But I can't help musing that our attitude may be largely a result of societal conditioning, and we will continue to struggle to modify our animal natures.  Some psychologist wryly observed that society must constantly struggle to tame an invasion of savages--the young.  (S/he said it much more simply and elegantly than that, but you get the idea.  I hope that a reader will remember the proper quotation.)  What does this all mean?  Nothing, except that I constantly muse on the subject and try to understand life and its complexities.

And, speaking of complexities, I always run into them, as follows:

Linda Shaffer:
Re the cartoon and quotes accompanying item 6 in your Nature News from Aug. 6, this time you've gone too far.

Side with Californians for Population Stabilization in opposing Ammiano's bill if you like.  Be with CAPS in opposing ALL immigration to the state if you like.

But don't you dare lump all immigrants, legal and illegal, together.  Don't you dare imply all immigrants are poor, "cheap labor".   I personally have met many people who are legal immigrants into California from other countries.  Some came to the US as refugees from war; others came as economic migrants (counterparts, if you like, of the large numbers of retired Californians who are now living in Mexico, Costa Rica, and other countries because the cost of living is cheaper than in the US).  Some of these legal immigrants I've met started businesses which now employ lots of people, many in Silicon Valley.  Others are successful academics, helping to educate the next generation of Californians and Americans, and yet others work in service jobs while providing their American children with educational opportunities which will benefit not only them but eventually, all Californians.

Not only are the cartoon and the quotes off the topic of AB 1081, they are beyond unfair to these enterprising and hard-working  people.  They are cheap shots, not worthy of you.

PS  If CAPS is upset that "illegal aliens with multiple drunken driving convictions or a history of domestic violence could be released rather than deported", why not campaign to make these serious crimes felonies?  They jolly well should be!
Linda:  I hope you don't regret sending your message.  For me, it serves a useful purpose in elaborating on matters that are seldom or never mentioned in debates on this subject.

1.  One thing I pick up from your email is resentment about unfairness and consequent human suffering caused by government actions, a resentment I share.  The suffering doesn't have to be, but it will continue because we, the great United States of America, are unable to get our act together and deal with comprehensive immigration reform.  Government action is less of a problem than government inaction.  Policy is inconsistent and contradictory, as is enforcement.  So you get local actions by frustrated states like Arizona, Georgia, Alabama, et al instead of a uniform one from the federal government. 

Our two political parties are split from each other, but they are both riven internally, which guarantees nothing will be done and this very unsatisfactory situation will go on and on.  The cartoon offended you, but I have no idea why; I thought it neatly skewered the GOP, which is split between its ideological right and its business supporters who bask in the plentiful profits of cheap labor.  That is what cartoons are good at, pointing out gross inconsistencies.  I threw in the Edward Abbey quote to catch the equal hypocrisy of the Democrats.

2.  I am not opposed to all immigration.  Philosophically, I would like to agree with one of my favorite news journals, The Economist, which has since 1845 been for open markets and open borders.  Before we became such technological wizards and before we became 7 billion (and counting) I would share that view.  In today's world, there are severe problems with the model.  Further, it will be a sad day if people are not able to move around.  I am particularly concerned about political refugees fleeing oppressive regimes, which we see a lot of, and which will increase as instability increases.  I deeply value the historic role of the U.S. in being a haven for desperate people, a role that is becoming harder and harder for us to play as population swells, with attendant severe economic and environmental stress and dislocations. 

My bottom line--I've said this repeatedly--is numbers.  Overpopulation is the central problem today--climate warming is only a symptom--and it is threatening not just this country's welfare but the world's.  Likely you don't agree. 

And why do I focus so much on immigration?  Because it is one of the few areas that is susceptible to public opinion--and don't forget that in both the United States and California, births equal deaths.  Our constantly increasing population is accounted for by immigration (ignoring the temporary blip occasioned by a sluggish economy).  Our numbers threaten civilization's very existence.  It is not hyperbole to say this.  Forget that many thoughtful people consider we were overpopulated in 1950 (to grab a year out of the air--thoughtful people have been concerned about this going back not just decades but even centuries, and who is to say that they weren't right?).  We've added one billion just in the 12 years since 1988 (the year climate change came to newspapers' front pages), and yet another billion in the following 12 years.  If you're not concerned about that then we have nothing to talk about.

What I say here will be pooh-poohed, but that is because the pooh-poohers don't want to look.  Often, they are of the wrong occupation to make those judgments.  Economists, financial analysts, or government regulators are not in a position to judge, as the world they inhabit is removed from fundamental realities and they live almost entirely in the human-created world.  Listen to biologists and some other scientists, and to a person they are glum.  Biologists may switch places with economists as the dismal scientists (that's a joke), but privately all biologists I know or have heard of are unanimously in despair, although they are restrained in public pronouncements.

3.  A common analogy employed to portray this dire situation is a loaded lifeboat.  At some point its capacity is reached and it capsizes.  Do you fault those on the lifeboat who beat back attempts to take on maybe one more, when the result would be that everyone goes down?  You may think this is a stretch, or over-dramatizes the situation.  It is an abiding nightmare with me.

4.  A variation of this scenario haunts my mind, and it verges on apocalyptic.  I have no confidence in governments' (note the plural) ability to set aright this crazy world financial system and its problems.  No decision-maker understands the problem (no one does) and is incapable of proposing remedy.  What is the only proposed solution?  Get the economy moving again, put people back to work (parenthetically, making things that no one needs--but hey! it employs people, lets the good times roll and re-elects governments).  Even some of those mouthing these empty phrases don't believe it, but they have to say something or lose their jobs.  Couple that with complications of climate change (eg, the current dramatic headlines from food-growing Midwest) with consequent dislocations and starvation on a scale never witnessed before, and you will see mass migrations that pale before anything seen so far. 

5.  I will be denounced and ridiculed as a Cassandra.  People who hurl that epithet are usually unaware that Cassandra was right; Troy did fall.  Anyone who cares to dismiss my nightmare--well, I wonder if they have ever thought that most of the horrible disasters (ignoring natural disasters) which befell humans had causes, and that many of them could have been foreseen if happy-go-lucky people had been willing to think.  I used to think I would be comfortably dead before such dire things happen, but processes and events are evolving so fast that I fear I may not be spared that horror.

6.  The immigration lobby in the United States is big, powerful, and well-funded.  I don't need to tell you of the power of campaign contributions.  And maybe you've also noticed that almost no one is willing to talk about it.  Why?  It is sensitive and takes courage, sometimes quite a bit.  The immigration lobby and sympathizers are effective at silencing expression of opinion.  They have totally silenced environmental organizations--even the mighty Sierra Club--on a subject, population, that they all agree is the #1 factor destroying the natural world.  Their nightmare is being labeled elitist or racist--understandably.

Linda, I know that you have a more sanguine view of things and won't be persuaded by my pessimism.  I know that you are concerned by the suffering of those caught up in this dysfunctional system.  I do too, but I know that drastic situations need drastic actions and that the longer those actions are not taken the worse the suffering will be.  You lack my apocalyptic vision, and that is why we differ.
Jake, Much as I appreciate your long and articulate reply (in which you repeat much you have said before), I have to say you have somehow managed to address almost everything imaginable EXCEPT what I was upset about.  Obviously, I wasn't clear.  Let me try again.

But first, to forestall further lengthy polemics:  what on earth makes you think I am not concerned about overpopulation --  in the world, in the US, in California?  Of course I am.  Any sane person should be.   I also agree that immigration policy is a topic worthy of much public discussion, and wish we could find a way to have that discussion.  And yes, you and I have somewhat different positions on what degree of mobility of labor would be best for the planet, individual countries, and our state.  (I'm not with the Economist either, but I would vote for more than you.   Fine.  We're both entitled.)  Finally, I commend you for including in your Nature News pieces about access to family planning measures.  So, can we start from there?

What I was upset about was juxtaposing the Alert! from CAPS with the cartoon (which I agree is a good one if used in the right context) plus the two quotes.  The Alert has to do with a bill focused on illegal immigrants, and includes an alarmist factoid about how many crimes undeported illegal immigrants commit.   The cartoon and the quotes have to do with immigration as a totality. 

The unfortunate effect of the juxtaposition, in my opinion, is to imply that legal and illegal immigrants can be lumped together, and that all immigrants can be generally characterized as "poor", "cheap labor" ...... and likely to be criminals.  THIS is what I find offensive.  I know that it is not what you intended, but it's what I saw. 

I admire CAPS for taking on a difficult subject.  I do not admire their tactics.  What I meant when I said that wasn't worthy of you is that you fell into the trap of including their alarmist factoid, and thus inadvertently reinforced stereotypes. 
Thank you, Linda, for the clarification.  It was not clear to me; now it is.


6.  Pursuant to the previous item, Linda Shaffer sent this interesting story, "with apologies if this is all familiar to you":

    Recently, Kipp McMichael made a fascinating presentation to the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society on the subject of parasitic and mycotrophic plants of California.  One of the plants featured was dodder, a plant with which many in the audience were unfamiliar, because, as McMichael reported, it has been introduced into the landscape by Hmong refugees, to whom it has important uses.  (JS adds:  Unfortunately, it invaded the countryside, ravaging, among other plants, willows along streams, devastating the ecosystems on which so many animals and other organisms depend.

    In the question and answer period that followed, it became apparent that not only were audience members unfamiliar with dodder, they were also unfamiliar with the Hmong people.  Some information:

     The Hmong are ethnic Chinese who crossed the border into the mountainous areas of northern Laos (as well as into other mountainous parts of IndoChina) a couple hundred years ago or so.  They sided with US-backed anti-Communist forces during the Vietnam War era when fighting broke out in Laos.  The Communists won, and they fled, largely to refugee camps in Thailand.  Eventually many came to the US as refugees.  Large numbers settled in the Central Valley of California, particularly in and around Fresno.

    The Hmong faced a huge cultural challenge in the US, probably more than any other group of refugees ever.   Before they got caught up in the war, they were living as primitive hill farmers who were not only illiterate, they had no written language.  The adults who came to the US had to try to leap several centuries of technological change in one generation.  (There were reports, not all apocryphal, of some of the earliest arrivals starting cooking fires in the middle of their living room or, less damaging, in the bathtub, because they had no idea how to work a stove.)  As is so typical of refugee populations everywhere, the children of the Hmong who came to the US had a most difficult role to play, being caught between the desire to respect the culture of their parents and the equally strong desire to succeed in their new country. Not all of them were able to survive being so torn, but many who did produced an amazing success story: within one generation, young people whose parents could barely read in any language were successful enough in school to go on to college.

My response:
The story is not familiar to me, Linda, and it is fascinating, so thank you for writing it.  I want to post as a stand-alone item.  It is an interesting story by itself, and they will be part of our heritage, so people ought to know about them.  And we need to keep this kind of thing in mind for perspective in debating immigration and its consequences.

I have to confess I've had hard feelings about the Hmong because of their introduction of the parasitic Japanese dodder that struck terror into the hearts of those who understand the great dangers of loosing yet another invasive organism onto the landscape.  From their point of view it was an innocent thing, a part of their culture.  From our POV it is more like purposely introducing the West Nile Virus.  Such are the types of problems that accompany immigrants.  Those problems loom larger in my mind than in that of the general public, but only because I am more aware of this particular issue.  I haven't heard about the dodder recently, and I hope that that means it is being brought under control--which few introduced organisms are--and I am not able to keep up with these issues as I used to.


7.  California Invasive Plant Council's 21st Annual Symposium - Rohnert Park

"Bay to Basin: Coordinating Response to Invasive Plants Across California"

Thursday - Saturday, October 11-13, 2012

Registration is now open! Save Money by registering before Sept. 7th

Wednesday, October 10 - Pre-Symposium Habitat Restoration Workday
Learn stewardship techniques in the field, and get your hands dirty trying them out.

Thursday - Friday, October 11 & 12 - Symposium
at the Wine Country DoubleTree

Saturday, October 13 - Field trips from controlling broom at Mt. Tamalpais
to the the pollinators of native hedgerows at Singing Frogs Farm

Join Cal-IPC and 300 attendees at the Wine Country DoubleTree for Cal-IPC's 21st Annual Symposium. The symposium promises a great line-up of talks, posters, and activities.  Discounted room prices Wine Country DoubleTree.

Sessions address working across landscapes taxa, and time, managing grassland weeds, laws and regulations related to herbicide application, and engaging discussion groups. The Symposium program is listed on our website.

More information at


8.  Kezar Gardens



Not the loss alone,
But what comes after.
If it ended completely
At loss, the rest
Wouldn't matter.

But you go on.
And the world also.

And words, words
In a poem or song:
Aren't they a stream
On which your feelings float?

Aren't they also
The banks of that stream
And you yourself the flowing?

~ Gregory Orr ~

(Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved)


10.  Pyrethroid pesticides

Jake, you may be interested in passing on some of this. Pyrethroid pesticides are synthetic analogues of pyrethrins from daisies, boosted in various ways. They became common after diazinon and chlorpyrifos were more or less banned because of human health concerns. Pyrethroids don't harm humans, but they are lethal to aquatic life, and there is very clear evidence that they have built up particularly in urban creeks.

Kelly Moran, the consultant who wrote the release, has made pyrethroid-pesticide pollution (is that a tongue twister?) her personal crusade for years; she is no sucker.She evidently thinks these rules are likely to do some good -- however, note the cautions about what will replace these, and the fact that they are no cure.

A basic problem is that current rules don't require testing beforehand (except for human health); one has to wait to prove they are harmful. In any event, this represents some sort of help for beleaguered urban creeks.

Susan Schwartz, Friends of 5 Creeks
NPSINFO Digest for Monday, August 06, 2012.
1. California Pesticide Regulators Act to Curb Water Pollution from Pyrethroid Insecticides
-----Original Message-----
Subject: California Pesticide Regulators Act to Curb Water Pollution from Pyrethroid Insecticides
From: Kelly Moran <>
Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2012 17:48:18 -0700
New California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) requirements that become effective July 19 will modify the way that professional applicators apply pyrethroid insecticides around buildings.  In parallel, new pyrethroid product labeling being implemented voluntarily by manufacturers at DPR's request--including special labels for the most persistent pyrethroid, bifenthrin--will provide further water quality protection. Both the regulations and the labeling will reduce treatments of outdoor impervious surfaces, thus reducing the quantity of pyrethroids that can be washed directly into gutters and storm drains when it rains or when water like irrigation overflow runs across treated surfaces.  Together, the regulations and the new labeling will reduce the amount of pyrethroid insecticides in urban stormwater runoff by 80-90%. 

California DPR developed the regulations and requested manufacturers modify product labels in response to the finding that pyrethroid insecticides are causing water and sediments in California urban creeks to be toxic to sensitive aquatic organisms.   California Water Boards and the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA), using information assembled by the government-funded Urban Pesticides Pollution Prevention Project (UP3 Project), worked with DPR toward development of a solution to this water pollution problem. 

Pyrethroid-caused water pollution is more severe and widespread in California urban areas than it is in agricultural areas (sources: see Section 3 of UP3 Project science & monitoring report).  In California urban areas, nearly 90% of all pyrethroid insecticides are applied by professional applicators, primarily (>95%) for control of pests around buildings (source: see UP3 Project pesticide use report).

University of California scientific research played a key role in the characterization of the pyrethroid insecticide water pollution problem and in identification of application practices that reduce pyrethroid use while continuing to control pests.  California's professional structural pest control applicators provided DPR and other agencies invaluable information about pyrethroid application practices and the practical aspects of controlling insects around buildings.

UP3 Project analysis--based on pyrethroid monitoring data, pyrethroid use data, and urban runoff modeling by U.C. Davis-- suggests that the regulations will largely--but not completely--end widespread water and sediment toxicity from pyrethroids in California's urban watersheds.  In some watersheds, lower levels of toxicity may continue.  In a larger number of watersheds, pyrethroid concentrations will continue to exceed aquatic life protection benchmarks such as the water quality criteria developed by U.C. Davis with funding from the Central Valley Water Board. 

In coming months, some professional pest control operators are likely to switch to other insecticides, some of which may create new water pollution problems.  A recent CASQA monitoring data summary suggests that one substitute insecticide, fipronil, may already be washing into urban creeks at levels sufficient to harm sensitive aquatic organisms. 

California government agencies will be monitoring urban creeks and working together toward making further adjustments as necessary to protect water quality.

Businesses and residents can prevent pesticide-related water pollution by employing effective pest control practices that minimize the need to use pesticides. Professional applicators certified by Ecowise or Green Pro provide this type of pest control. Do-it-yourselfers can learn how to implement these practices from Our Water Our World or University of California's Integrated Pest Management Program.  

California DPR's Enforcement Branch will be working with California's Agricultural Commissioners and California professional pest control applicators to implement the new regulations. 
Kelly Moran
TDC Environmental
UP3 Project

11.  Report: Farm subsidies contribute to wetland damage

By Zack Colman - 08/06/12 02:47 PM ET 
Crop insurance subsidies from the federal government have contributed to the loss of wetlands, threatening wildlife and water quality, according to a report released Monday.

A “very, very strong correlation” exists between those payments to farmers and the erosion of wetlands, Scott Faber, vice president of governmental affairs with the Environmental Working Group, said Monday in a conference call about the group’s report, “Plowed Under.”

The nation's wetlands buffer waterways against soil erosion and nutrient pollution, and they serve as habitat for diverse wildlife, Faber said. But insurance subsidies have encouraged farmers to plant on those lands because they can get paid even if their crops fail.

“Many farmers are choosing to plow up land they frankly wouldn’t be planting if they were responding to markets,” Faber said.

Meanwhile, the future of agriculture-related conservation programs is hung up in Congress. The main five-year farm bill, pushed by House Republicans, would not require farmers to meet conservation requirements to get crop insurance subsidies. The Senate version of the bill would force farmers to meet the requirements.

House GOP leaders have delayed calling the five-year bill for a vote, which has shielded some Republican freshmen from making politically difficult votes. The Senate has passed its version of the farm bill.

Both versions of the bill would cut $6.4 billion from conservation programs.

Between 2008 and 2011, about 23.7 million acres were converted to farmland, the report says, citing Agriculture Department statistics. That is because American taxpayers back about 62 percent of crop insurance premiums, thereby incentivizing farmers to plow lands that normally would not generate a profit, Faber said.


12.  Mind bender

The spectacular rings of Saturn consist mostly of light-colored water-ice, although dark dust can shade those particles.  The ice here contains millions of times the amount of water found on Earth.  (From Astronomy magazine July 2012.  Emphases mine, JS)


13.  Grab bag

OBSERVATIONS: Free Birth Control, Reproductive Services for Women Starting August 1
Millions of women in the U.S. are going to start saving hundreds of dollars annually now that a new Affordable Care Act provision will begin removing insurance co-pays for reproductive preventive services for women

OBSERVATIONS: Senators Fiddle While Deep Ocean Temperatures Rise

VIDEO: Ocean Acidification Threatens Global Shellfish Stocks
Global shellfish populations are under increasing pressure from ocean acidification. Scientists say oysters, mussels and crabs are finding it more difficult to develop calcium carbonate shells

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14.  Lakshmi Sehgal (“Captain Lakshmi”), doctor and fighter for Indian independence, died on July 23rd, aged 97

Aug 4th 2012 | from The Economist

AS SHE moved, pert and bird-like, round her tiny rented clinic in industrial Kanpur in northern India, Lakshmi Sehgal made her patients feel completely safe in her hands. Lightly but firmly, her fingers moved across the swollen bellies of pregnant women, or felt for a pulse, or probed a wound. Her sister said she had always had the technique to reassure. Those same hands, in West Bengal in 1971, had massaged the scrawny limbs of Bangladeshi refugees, and in December 1984 had soothed the burning eyes of victims of the explosion at a chemical factory in Bhopal.

They also knew how to fire a revolver and prime a grenade, change the magazine on a Tommy gun and wield a sword. They were as skilled and ruthless as any man’s, for Dr Lakshmi had been trained beside the men to become a killing machine. From 1943 to 1945, in the jungles of Singapore and what was then Burma, she commanded a brand-new unit of the Indian National Army in the hope of overthrowing the British Raj. The Rani of Jhansi regiment, set up by the independence leader Subhas Chandra Bose (left of her, above), was for women only, the first in Asia. It was named after a heroine of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny against the British, a widowed child bride who cut her saris into trousers to ride into battle. For Dr Lakshmi, another rich tomboy who had married too young, a rider of horses and driver of cars who had eagerly thrown her foreign-made dresses on a nationalist bonfire, the rani made an irresistible model.

Bose, too, was irresistible. She had first seen “Netaji” at 14, in 1928, when she was taken to Calcutta to the assembly of the Congress party by her activist mother. He strode in uniform at the head of his party volunteers, bravely rebellious, his owlish glasses glinting in the sunrise. Fifteen years later, when she had fled to Singapore with a new lover to set up a free clinic for Indian migrant workers, they met again. Bose persuaded her to recruit Indian women from the diaspora in Malaya and Singapore to fight for the cause: to link up with the Japanese, invade India through Burma, and seize the capital. He made her a colonel, although she was always “Captain”. A fine singer, she had already recorded the army song: Chalo Dilli, “On to Delhi!”
As a native of Madras (now Chennai), whose soft voice still kept the lilt of Tamil, she was used to heat, but not to privation. Wearing the same sweat-soaked khakis for days on end was torture. Nonetheless, she cut an almost fashionable figure, and would take the salute in stylish sunglasses. The troops she commanded were mostly single teenage girls from the Malayan rubber plantations, fresh out of purdah, giggling and shy. They all trained hard, but to her intense frustration they were deployed as nurses and never went into battle. Bose’s campaign ended in the spring of 1945 with a 23-day retreat through the Burmese jungle under monsoon rains, the leader solicitously shepherding his women soldiers, and Colonel Lakshmi once more a doctor to his horribly blistered feet.

A dream of free women

Looking back on it later, she felt the whole freedom struggle had gone wrong. Partition had been a disaster, and the modern pursuit of money had ruined what was left. Blunt-spoken and practical, she denied having dreamy ideals for an independent India; but she had had many. As the only woman in the short-lived cabinet of Bose’s Provisional Government of Free India, she hoped to abolish child marriage, dowries and the ban on remarriage of widows. She wanted women to have chances like hers: to be educated, self-supporting if they cared to be, and able to make their own choices about marriage. Beyond that, she hoped for an end to all the divisions in India, between rich and poor, men and women, castes or religions. She would rush to help people, carrying clothes and medicine, whatever their tribe or creed. When Indira Gandhi was murdered by her Sikh guards in 1984, she interposed her small body to save Sikh shopkeepers in her street; when the Ayodhya mosque was destroyed in 1992, she rebuked Hindu neighbours who were dancing in celebration.

As a girl, she had got into communism by reading Edgar Snow’s “Red Star over China” and by talking through the night with some of India’s first women communists. In 1971, encouraged this time by her daughter Subhashini, she joined the party’s Marxist branch, and felt she had come home. Still moved by Netaji’s fighting spirit, and still hungry for an egalitarian India, she went into politics, getting as far as the upper house of Parliament. In 2002, at 87, she was the candidate of four far-left parties for India’s presidency, running on a single theme: the unity of the country. She was pummelled, but it didn’t matter. She had made her case and, just as important—for she was always a doctor first—she had not neglected any of her patients.

Every morning, until the day before her heart attack in July, she went to the clinic at 9am. Since she charged almost nothing, there were always many more patients than she could see. Before she opened up, she would personally sweep the street in front of the place, to clear away the litter the neighbours threw out of their windows. Someone lower-caste could have done it for her. But it was a small gesture, with her own hands, towards the sort of India she would have liked to see.

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