Archive for the ‘smog’ Category

A bubbling brew of catch up news, Smogtown-style. Busy time around these parts, working on a new book and reporting, and loving every bit of it.

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

* The law of unintended geology – how the Haitain quake will reverse ecological repair. From the Newsweek story

” … Since the earthquake decimated Haiti’s capital city, much has been said about the country’s dire poverty. But Haiti is not only the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; it’s also the most environmentally degraded. Less than 1 percent of its original forest cover remains, and 6 percent of the land has virtually no soil left. Both are due to a vicious cycle of overpopulation, poverty, and natural disasters. Each increases susceptibility to the other and as time wears on, it’s evident that to be effective, all problems must be attacked at once. For what some say was the first time, scientists were trying to do just that—Levy and Fischer’s work was among the first steps toward a more integrated development program addressing both economic and environmental concerns. Now that work has been put on hold …”

* Here come the fast-talking men from L.A. again – interesting piece on turning pillaged Owens Valley into a giant solar energy farm. From the L.A. Times story:

“First it was silver ore that streamed to Los Angeles from the rim of the Owens Valley, then the water from the valley floor.

Now, L.A. has come back for the sunshine.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the agency responsible for turning Owens Lake into a dusty salt flat and snatching up nearly every acre from Lone Pine to Bishop, has its sights on transforming the Owens Valley into one of largest sources of solar power in America …”

* Erin, where art thou? An update on the legal career of activist Erin Brockovich. Los Angeles Business Journal story

* Pretty good story from the L.A. Weekly about the health effects of living near freeways. Their toxic, as if we didn’t know that. Some relatively new studies here and a rambling search for City Hall accountability. Link

* Steak AND Smog: the cows of the Central Valley and the greenhouse- methane problem. L.A. Timesstory

* A potential game changing way to produce electricity at home with a fuel cell that combiones air and different fuels without combustion. Think of the countless benefits. L.A. Times link:

Catch up time again … leading with a little video tribute and unrelated story about the astonishing animal and eco-expert Jane Goodall

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

From the L.A. Daily News piece

“Jane Goodall, the champion of chimpanzees, knelt Monday over a newly planted sticky monkey flower and kissed its leaves for good luck.

She had come to Calabasas to tour a restoration project at the headwaters of the Los Angeles River. But as luck would have it, the sticky monkey flower had yet to be planted.

So the world-renowned primatologist and conservationist knelt, grabbed a handful of soil and sunk the plant into the earth.

While she travels all over the world to talk about the importance of conservation and environmental responsibility, Goodall said it all comes down to a very simple message: One flower planted on a hillside can evolve into a global movement.

“I’ve visited these types of restoration projects all over the world, and it always amazes me how Mother Nature restores herself,” Goodall said …”

Global warming:

* The latest on President Obama’s energy bill, and the politics of cap and trade. It’s about the mighty benjamin. Washington Post story.

* A still frightening Washington Post story about how fast temperatures may rise this century.

* Aspens dying off from global warming. Sounds pretty familiar to Ponderosa Pines and smog. This time we’re smarter, right? Story link from the L.A. Times.

* EPA cracking down on coal-fired power plants. Story.

Odds and ends, green-style:

* Terrifiic piece of enviro. investigative reporting. Gosh, what a connect. From a New York Times piece of late.

* Reactive air pollutants: story

Smogtown wins the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009


Here’s a description and other details about this sweet honor, which was presented to us and other writers on Saturday, Oct. 5 by the city of Santa Monica:

The Green Prize is intended to “encourage and commend authors, illustrators, and publishers who produce quality books for adults and young people that make significant contributions to, support the ideas of, and broaden public awareness of sustainability. The City of Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Plan defines sustainability as “meeting current needs – environmental, economic, and social – without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.”

Did I mention how tickled we are to be receiving this, particularly on top of the other awards we’ve fortunate enough to collect? If not, thank you SANTA MONICA!


Latest book review from Earth First

Sunday, September 27th, 2009


“If you think the air is bad in Los Angeles right now, you probably didn’t live there for much of the past century. When the thick, view-obscuring gray haze first appeared in the city on July 26th, 1943, nobody knew quite what to think of it. Was some factory suddenly spewing tons of pollution in to the air? Was it some kind of chemical attack? Citizens of this Southern California city didn’t yet realize the cost of their own modernized lifestyle, wherein practically every single resident owned their own vehicle.

Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles” by Chip Jacobs and William Kelly tracks the smog invasion of LA from the first moment it arrived through the many efforts to combat it.  This might not sound too exciting – especially for people who aren’t hardcore environmentalists interested in every detail of our nation’s struggle with pollution – but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that Smogtown is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.

 It’s a dramatic story, playing out like it was written for the screen, with clear protagonists and villains – and humor peppered throughout. While Smogtown does an excellent job of providing the hard facts about how the pollution got so bad, the weakness of the government in controlling it and the difficulty of convincing Los Angelenos to sacrifice any part of their lifestyle to make it go away – it’s also a gripping tale that will keep you eagerly turning the pages. What with the terrified citizens crashing their cars in panic at the appearance of the smog and bewildered, ineffectual government officials bumbling about, it’s almost like Godzilla, but with pollution as “the beast”.

Of course, we all know how this story ends. Air pollution is still a major concern in Los Angeles, and despite knowing that the automobile is the source, LA is still crawling with cars and lacking a decent public transit system. But don’t let that stop you from giving this lively story a read. It’s got sex, plenty of Hollywood glamour, scandal, and murder – but never falters in its brilliant coverage of an incredibly important environmental issue …”

Review link

In preparation for coming stories, may I present a cap-and-trade morality story: Anne Sholtz, RECLAIM, the free market, and good ol’ L.A. smog

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Here’s a teaser opening from the Pasadena Weekly story about congressional interest in this case.

“A former Pasadena businesswoman convicted of engineering a fraudulent cap-and-trade pollution credit deal involving millions of dollars and one of the world’s biggest oil companies is at the heart of a congressional inquiry into the government’s latest response to global warming.

Republican Congressmen Joe Barton of Texas, a ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one of the Capitol’s leading critics of global warming, and Greg Walden of Oregon, a ranking member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, want to know more about Anne Masters Sholtz, who in the early 2000s bilked investors out of millions of dollars through her now-defunct Old Pasadena-based companies EonXchange and Automated Credit Exchange.

Sholtz — as the Pasadena Weekly’s Chip Jacobs has reported — ultimately pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court in 2005 to one count of wire fraud related to a transaction in which Sholtz represented to New York-based energy trader A.G. Clean Air that Mobil Corp. (now ExxonMobil Corp.) needed a large number of credits to operate in Southern California …”

Without being coy or glib, all I can say is stay tuned. It’s about to get much more interesting. Though this case is delved into our book, Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, details begging to come out had to wait until basically now.

Catch-up (not ketchup) Thursday: smog polls, animal cancers, freeway “congestion pricing,” climate change and moms. People, we’ve got a polluted ground to cover. Yes, even during summer.

Thursday, July 30th, 2009


Californians are less concerned about smog and global warming than they used to be. Here’s the story about the poll in the Los Angeles Times.

Why some scientists now believe climate change is worse than many imagined is the focus of this Newsweek piece. “Shock” is not a word you want to hear.

Freeways and air pollution are synonymous, especially in L.A. To save the teetering roadways and remmants of our old lifestyle, authorities will now allow solo drivers into carpool lanes on two freeways for a price. Basically, we have to try gimmicks like this to slowly kill the freeway with piecemeal deterrence wrapped up in putative innovations. My two cents, anyway. L.A. Times link

Moms and the planet – an aside from our little interview last month on KCRW’s “Which Way L.A.?” Click here.

Effects of pollution on animals. Follow the turtle. Story

SMOGTOWN book discussion — courtesy of Chip, Bill, Tom Hayden, Kevin Roderick and Martin Schlageter — coming to the L.A. Public Library’s ALOUD program this Tuesday. Should be a robust event. We can’t wait.

Thursday, June 4th, 2009


If you’re interested in making it for this panel discussion, Q&A with the audience and signing at the downtown Central Branch, click here for details. They put on a wonderful program. Ours will be in the Mark Taper Auditorium.

Here’s the promo:

Tuesday, June 9 7:00 pm

SMOGTOWN: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles How did smog help mold the modern-day culture of Los Angeles? Join this discussion about pollution, progress and the epic struggle against airborne poisons.

A panel discussion with authors Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly; Tom Hayden, author and former state legislator; and Martin Schlageter, Coalition for Clean Air. Moderated by Kevin Roderick, Editor,

CENTRAL LIBRARY • Mark Taper Auditorium
Fifth & Flower Streets, Downtown L.A.
PARKING: 524 S. Flower St. Garage. $1 until 8:45pm with LAPL Card validation which must be obtained.
FREE, RESERVATIONS: (213) 228-7025 or
Limited Seating, Reservations Recommended.

P.S. Apologies for the non-existent posting of late. Chip has been on assignment.

A South of the Border environmental victory.

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Big shocker: it’s mostly due to limiting urban traffic congestion and mandating changes in engine performance and gasoline formulations.

From the MSNBC story about Mexico City’s campaign against air pollution …

“… Not long ago, air in this throbbing capital was so bad that cyclists wore surgical masks. Birds fell dead in mid-flight, and children used brown crayons to draw the sky. Ozone exceeded safe levels on 97 percent of days in the year.

But the metropolis ranked the world’s most polluted by a 1992 U.N. report has since slashed some of its worst emissions by more than three-quarters and has become a model for improving urban air quality.

Capitals such as Beijing, Cairo, New Delhi and Lima are now more contaminated, according to the World Bank, while air in at least 30 other cities contains more toxic particles, including Barcelona and Prague.

… Learning from Los Angeles’ air cleanup, Mexico got to work changing technology and laws. Unleaded gasoline was introduced, catalytic converters were required on new cars, a major refinery was closed and power plants were pushed to switch from oil to natural gas. Factories moved away, decentralizing some of the clog.

The city began emissions tests in 1989 in a landmark program that banned old and failing cars from the road one day a week. Emulated in Beijing, Bogota, Seoul, Santiago, Sao Paulo and elsewhere, Mexico’s program now idles at least 320,000 cars a week …”

Where did many of these cleanup regimes orginate? You guessed it: Southern California. It’s one reason we wrote Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.

Intriguing clean-air/blue sky website out of D.C. If you can’t catch the latest on air pollution, at least these guys do.

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Here’s the website home page for Clean Air Watch. The non profit produces a ton of material and links a boatload more. They have one fascinating story up about who is allowed to own the skies – polluters or us citizens. Link

From the introductory statement:

“We’ve made progress in cleaning up the air. But it’s way too soon to breathe easy. Tens of thousands of Americans are still dying early from dirty air. Many others suffer from asthma attacks, bronchitis and other disease made worse by pollution. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions threaten the planet with global catastrophe. Despite these problems, many in Congress seem more interested in the views of check-writing polluters … Meanwhile, powerful corporate interests seek to make sure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency protects them, not breathers. That’s where we come in. As our name suggests, Clean Air Watch is a non-profit watchdog group that seeks to protect the public interest. We closely monitor clean-air and climate policy and seek to present a public-interest perspective – one that is grounded in fact and analysis, not just a lot of hot air. We educate the public about the value of clean air (and related developments in science regarding air and climate), and blow the whistle when miscreants attempt dirty deeds in the dark.”

Spend some time on their site and you’ll come away more educated than you began and perhaps a little ticked off. Their view of the world smog situation looks like it dovetails with the themes in our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.