Archive for April, 2009

Potpourri Wednesday: a new pollution hotspot, atmosperic re-engineering, carbon footprints, and a fresh review for Smogtown

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009


Not the Number One status the San Joaquin Valley would seek, but one us Angelenos are at least glad to shed. Particulate pollution is a very serious matter. Here’s a brief L.A. Times story about the new rankings, and no, Southern California did not escape thanks to the port area.

Another landmark state move on greenhouse gases and fuel, in case you missed it. Here’s one article.

Modifying the atmosphere to induce cooling. From the Newsweek story – a story ever so reminiscent of early efforts to mold the weather to lower L.A.’s infamous smog.

“Over the past two decades geo-engineering began to include other ways of fixing climate, including new spins on the Pinatubo effect. Using sulfur dioxide or other materials, they aim to reflect sunlight back into outer space. One would boost a series of mirrors into orbit, shading Earth from sunlight, but at a cost that would likely bankrupt the planet. In the 1990s, the controversial inventor of the hydrogen bomb, Edward Teller, proposed floating reflective particles of metal in the atmosphere, adding a Dr. Strangelove air to the geo-engineering field.”

Calibrating your carbon. C’mon. It’s a gas. From MSNBC.

Lastly, another sterling review of our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burnng History of Pollution in Los Angeles, this time from Earth First (not to be confused with Friends of the Earth) …

” … 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” …

For full review, click here.

Chip talking smog and L.A. culture at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA

Sunday, April 26th, 2009


To watch the clip from C-SPAN’s Book TV, click here and scroll forward to 5 hours, 3 minutes and 20 seconds. The panel, devoted to Los Angeles’ unknown and forgotten history and moderated by USC history professor William Deverell, took place on Saturday, April 25 on the UCLA campus.

Here’s the Times’ coverage of the panel from the L.A. Times Jacket Copy blog.

It was astonishing event and quite the high. We had probably 300 people in a jam-packed lecture hall, and my two co-writer and our moderator were outstanding. What else would we expect?

I was also able to promote and sell my other book, Wheeling the Deal: the Outrageous Legend of Gordon Zahler, Hollywood’s Flashiest Quadriplegic, in addition to Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, which was the reason I was invited on the panel. If Smogtown has my lungs, existentially that is, Wheeling the Deal holds my heart.

Honor Earth Day, and come to the L.A. Times Festival of Books for a some green enlightenment and laughs

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009


Chip will be on a panel this Saturday (April 25) at 3:30 p.m. called “History: Unknown Los Angeles” with writers D.J. Waldie and Francis Dinkelspiel. William Deverell will moderate it. Here’s the entire lineup for Saturday’s panels.

Bill will be on a Sunday panel (April 26) at 11 a.m. called “Climate in Crisis” with writers Edward Hume, Stephan Faris and Daniel Sperling. Jon Wiener will moderate it. To see Sunday’s rundown, check here.

For general info. about this great event, click here

We’ll both be signing copies of our book, Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, after our panel talks wrap up.

Recommended reading: An L.A. Times piece on fuel from trash.

Smogtown snatches a silver at Green Book Festival

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


It was named one of the runner-ups in the evidently crowded non-fiction category by the judges on April 20. Our most obvious response is short, but certainly not curt. Thanks! Here’s the link to all the finalists and winners. It’s a pretty tantalizing crop of stories out there on the environment, particularly stories of our carbon future. All that is a far cry from the rather puny literary offerings back when L.A. smog was the metaphorical beachead of the world’s coming ecological assault.

To purchase Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles (The Overlook Press/Penguin Group USA), on, click here.

A colossal move towards greenhouse gas regulation that L.A.’s early smog generals wish they’d had in their arsenal

Friday, April 17th, 2009


From the MSNBC story:

WASHINGTON – Having received White House backing, the Environmental Protection Agency declared Friday that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a significant threat to human health and thus will be listed as pollutants under the Clean Air Act — a policy the Bush administration rejected.

“This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.

The move could allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, but it’s more likely that the Obama administration will use the action to prod Congress to pass regulations around a system to cap and then trade emissions so that they are gradually lowered.


Smogtown authors on Jon Wiener show on KFPK (90.7 FM) yesterday: beware, as he noted, the “Dutchman.”

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


You can hear the entire interview on KPFK by clicking here and then searching for Smogtown. Or you can go to the station’s podcast center here. Wiener, a noted writer and documentary maker (think The U.S. Versus John Lennon) asked piercing questions, with a particular focus on corporate-tainted science and pollution-induced illness. Bill did great. Chip, for some reason, perhaps sleep deprivation, stumbled a bit in aBushesque way.

Incidentally, Jon will be moderating a climate change panel that will include Bill at the upcoming Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 26 on the UCLA campus in West Los Angeles. Chip will be on a different panel — one devoted to Los Angeles “unknown history” — on Saturday, April 25.

For your reading pleasure, may we present these selected articles:

* Our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, made another book recommendation list, this time for Earth Day. We’re flattered. (Kauai News)

* U.S. bracing for a drop in gasoline demand. (Wall Street Journal)

* L.A. City Hall teaming up with USC, UCLA and Caltech on environmental issues. This echoes our smoggy past. (L.A. Times)

* The new way of moving around cities. Three wheels up! (New York Times)

Corruption at any atmosphere

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


In our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, we examine in pretty good depth just how Southern California went about ridding itself of sky-smudging, health-imperiling chemicals burped out by tailpipes and factories. But, as several reviews made clear, we did not stray from politics of smog or some of the dirty political deals they inspired. So, here’s a riddle for you. Can you name the legendary state politician — hint, he loved Fedora’s and Chinese food — who lined up tens of thousands of dollars for his mistress from one of the people who still the South Coast Air Quality Management District in exchange for a little legislative blockage up in Sacramento? The deal is emblematic of so many that have injected people pollution into the quest to eliminate the chemical kind. As they say, it’s all in the book.

Some mid-week links — all of them with wisps or plumes tracing back to the good, old L.A. smog crisis — for your reading pleasure:

* A sobering report on global warming’s effects on California’s water and agriculture.

* Environmental groups at a crossroads.

* How best to fight global warming: auction/credit markets to buy and sell the right to emit greenhouse gases or brute technological change. Here’s one opinion.

* The world’s coolest — and by that, we mean the most provocative and promising, thanks to our galaxy’s star — car race.