The twelve years that were: Desertification

Utah, March 4, 2009. Source: NASA Earth Observatory. Dust blows out of the West Desert, where Las Vegas plans to pump the groundwater. Click on the image to be taken to the Earth Observatory.

Buenos Aires: experts from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) called for an immediate global response to the increasing number of sand and dust storms. — United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, September 24, 2009

As defined by the UN Convention, desertification is a process of “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.” — United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, June, 1997

The [Las Vegas] pumping project will result in likely irreversible loss of critical native vegetation covering a desert expanse equal in size to the state of Vermont. Where water diversion projects like

The Dry Garden: Autumn leaves

WHILE the urban forests of Southern California lack the autumnal glory of Eastern woodlands, fall happens here. We do have trees that shed. Moreover, the annual drop of their canopies by hackberries, sycamores and pecans (to name only a few) is still a bonanza. From these leaves, and just about any leaf that flutters to the ground, comes leaf mold.

To keep reading this week’s Dry Garden column in the Los Angeles Times, click here. Photo: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

UPDATE: To go on cyber-hikes finding fall with California Native Plant Society tour guide Jane Strong, click here. Or to sign up for an actual hike with the San Gabriel Mountains chapter of the CNPS, click here.

Gardening as art

“AT a time when more people are getting serious about responsible landscaping, James Duell’s garden is a reminder that you don’t need a lot of space — or water — to create something inspiring. His exquisite design, a strip along the path to the guest house he rents in Culver City, is evidence of a love affair with plants and an eye for color.”

To keep reading about the visit of Los Angeles Times garden writer Lisa Boone to the home of landscape designer James Duell, click here. For the photo gallery, here.

This post has been updated.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Death Valley National Park. Source: National Park Service

The first of Ken Burns’ six part series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, premieres on PBS Sunday at 8pm Eastern and Pacific time.

Bill Maher remarked not long ago on his HBO show Real Time something to the effect that most of the people seen in National Parks were foreigners. He may have said Europeans. Either way, there’s some truth to that and it attests to the good taste of those foreigners. If you haven’t been to your nearest national park, go. Foreigners will tell you what a great country you have.

Brackpool in the horse race

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES reports today that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed British-born water speculator Keith Brackpool to the state horse-racing board.

Brackpool, a horse-racing aficionado and country club owner, is better known for pursuit of a controversial groundwater project in the Mojave, which was rejected by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in 2002 as economically and environmentally unfeasible.

Since then, Brackpool has been pursuing other backers for his groundwater pumping operation in the Cadiz basin in San Bernardino County. On June 5th, 2009, Brackpool’s company, Cadiz Inc, released an endorsement by Governor Schwarzenegger for the project.

Months later, a spokesman for the governor confirmed that the endorsement was genuine, although its release

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