“Bullshit is just bullshit”

Posted on | January 22, 2014 | 7 Comments

William Mulholland portrait @LAWDP

Portrait of William Mulholland, LADWP headquarters. Photo: Emily Green

Los Angeles sprang from propaganda, enterprise and stolen water (or “inter-basin transfers”). Has it changed? An article titled Brave New LA argues that the days of villainy are behind it and “under cover of one of the worst environmental reputations on the planet, Los Angeles is becoming an unlikely model of sustainability.”

Tilting LA’s hat toward sustainability in the new edition of High Country News is Jon Christensen, a respected journalist turned policy advocate at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, where he edits the university’s quarterly journal “Boom” and promotes the institute’s various green infrastructure work. Chistensen’s been in LA for a year, he says in his essay, and — touchingly — he sounds almost giddy with a newcomer’s wonder at the region’s geography, diversity and dynamism. But boil down the essay and Brave New LA is pure politics. It’s a policy wonk delivering a flattery-laced pre-nup for a marriage between UCLA’s green team and the City of LA’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti.

Those of us who lived in Los Angeles through the Villaraigosa years might question the wisdom of writing reviews before watching the play. Or not. There’s something endearing about Christensen’s waving his wand over time and place as if to make his paradox-loving version of things true. But with Brave New LA, I think that he crossed the line from reporter to advocate and became bedeviled by his own optimism. Admire him as I do, this is a trip to the woodshed. As an editor of mine used to say, “Bullshit is just bullshit.”  Click here to keep reading

Girding the grid for 20% water savings

Posted on | January 18, 2014 | 1 Comment

LA-grid-sample-mid-city-Los-Angeles-2The Governor has issued a drought proclamation in which he has called on all Californians for a 20% reduction of their water use. This sounds almost reasonable, except as reservoirs are headed toward empty many homeowners are still under water financially. So asking the public to spend thousands on garden designers, native plants, rain harvesting systems and front-loading washing machines is untenable. Even taking advantage of soon-to-be juicy rebates may be beyond the common purse. Rebates are discounts, not giveaways.

The good news? This collision of drought and hard times may finally break LA’s insistence on year-round green lawns. The most cash-strapped householder should be able to find 20% savings if we could only adjust what we expect from urban landscaping. In that spirit, here follows a working man’s and woman’s guide to doing their part affordably to save California’s water supply. Click here to keep reading

Through a dragon brightly

Posted on | January 13, 2014 | 1 Comment

Jolino Beserra

Asked in December 2012 by the Trust for Public Land to create a children’s climbing frame for a Los Angeles park, artist Jolino Beserra decided to cover it with thousands of pieces of broken tile, crockery and glass. The Trust agreed.  Click here to keep reading

Third year in the garden

Posted on | December 17, 2013 | 8 Comments


This set of pictures captures a year in which I was away from the garden on a writing assignment for more time than I would have wished. Then, when home, I was inordinately preoccupied by the construction of new living quarters. But it is a source of tired satisfaction to report that, barring primping, the most important things in the garden were done and, for the most part, done right. Click here to keep reading

Judge decrees awards of rural water for Las Vegas “arbitrary and capricious”

Posted on | December 11, 2013 | No Comments

Natural spring in Spring Valley, Nevada

Spring Valley wetlands near the Great Basin National Park targeted by a Las Vegas pipeline. Photo: Emily Green

UPDATED 12/12: A Nevadan district judge has invalidated the largest groundwater awards in the Silver State’s history. In a decision published Tuesday, Senior District Judge Robert Estes found assurances from Nevada State Engineer Jason King that the engineer’s office could monitor impact of Las Vegas pumps proposed for rural valleys covering more than 20,000 square miles and drafting more than 27 billion gallons a year “arbitrary and capricious.” Click here to keep reading

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