Excellent story in the Journalists Resources blog on the importance of newspapers.
To put it simply: a prof at Portland State University named Lee Shaker set out to quantify the question by coming up with a measure of civic engagement and then looked at two cities with newspapers that went away (the Rocky Mountain News, in Denver) and went on-line only (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer).
The top three results, drawn from the study, which was entitled "Dead Newspapers and Citizens Civic Engagement":
"The study’s findings include: At the national and local level there is a positive relationship between newspaper readership and civic engagement as measured by contacting or visiting a public official, buying or boycotting certain products or services because of political or social values, and participating in local groups or civic organizations such as the PTA or neighborhood watch. Measures of civic engagement in Denver and Seattle declined between 2008 and 2009. In Denver, four out of the five civic-engagement indicators declined significantly between 2008 and 2009, and Seattle saw declines in two out of five engagement categories.
In the other metropolitan areas studied almost none showed a statistically significant change in civic engagement. One measure, boycotting goods and services, declined significantly in Cincinnati while four indicators in different areas increased in that city.
At a national level, civic engagement did decline between 2008 and 2009, but less so than observed in Denver and Seattle."
Which makes sense to this reporter, but it's nice to see in black and white. Hope the quantification stands up to scrutiny. Hope it gets some scrutiny!
Let me share Kimberly Rivers' thoughtful newspaper story about an event here in town I helped launch --Facing Drought Together -- which did draw a good crowd, and got a lot of conversation started I hope.
Here's an excerpt from story in the Ojai Valley News:
“I took away the realization that a lot of other people in Ojai share my concern,” said event organizer and moderator, Kit Stolz, after the event. “If we really are looking at another decade or more of drought — which is quite possible — we will have to be prepared to make changes, and to see change happen in our town and in our environment. That won’t be easy, but I feel much less alone, and that’s deeply helpful.”
Stolz is a longtime freelance reporter in Ventura County and a resident of Upper Ojai. He was inspired to plan this event when the man he called to look at his water well suggested that he “cut way back and pray for rain.”
“This is the right conversation to be having,” said Ched Myers, Ojai resident, author and theologian,“not as an extraordinary event, but as a regular event in the life of this community.”
“We are a community because we share a watershed,” said Victoria Loorz, associate pastor at Ojai Valley Community Church. Loorz, Myers and other spiritual leaders from the valley closed Sunday’s event, saying prayers for rain. “This is a spiritual issue, as much as it is a practical issue,” said Loorz.
[pic of yours truly]
JPL/NASA scientist Bill Patzert gave Ojai some hell this afternoon, as part of the Facing Drought Together event: From an excellent, may I say, story in the Ventura County Star by Anne Kallas:
“Don’t expect a quick fix. Droughts are slow in coming, and they are slow getting out of. We need to change the way we use water,” said Patzert, who cited a dramatic rise in population in Southern California, a semiarid area that is supported by water imported from the Colorado River and the northern part of the state.
Patzert said state residents must change their water habits.
“We need to change the way we manage water. It starts with how you vote. And you’ve got too many damned trees. Do you know how much water trees use?” he said to gasps from the Ojai audience.
Bill Patzert loves to provoke. It's how he keeps the audience awake as he discusses the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which he convincingly argues modulates the global warming signal, and may keep us in drought for another decade. He scoffs at the NOAA forecast of a "50-50" chance of an El Nino next year, calling it "the great WET hope."
Will bring you more on this event soon, or you can read the full story at: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2014/mar/09/panelists-discuss-drought-in-ojai/#ixzz2vXjN54Gt
This Sunday, at the Ojai Retreat, one of my favorite scientists, Bill Patzert, will I expect scare us with his talk on the history of drought in California and the Southwest, along the lines of this recent piece of his in Los Angeles magazine.
Let’s look back over the last 20 centuries: We’ve seen tremendous droughts in the American West. In the 11th century there was an 80-year drought along the Colorado. This is before global warming by anthropogenic—or man-made—sources. The 20th century, which is when we built our civilization in California, was one of the wettest in 2,000 years. It was an anomaly. We know this from tree ring records. We have built a civilization, which is the sixth- or seventh-largest economy in the world, based on imported water in a wet century. How do you like that?
Patzert's talk will be followed by a panel discussion, with Steve Bennett, of the Board of Supervisors; Russ Baggerly, of the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency, Steve Sprinkel, of The Farmer and the Cook, and Steve Wickstrum, of Casitas Municipal Water District, moderated by yours truly.
Here's an op-ed I had in Ojai Valley News on the subject of this event, below, but the basic point to be made is simple -- if in the Ojai area, come join us this Sunday, from 1:45 to 5:15. It's free with a reservation.
FACING DROUGHT TOGETHER: Concerned Citizens of Ojai Valley
According to meteorological records from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, California has been in drought for the last thirty months, and the last two months have been as dry as any winter since the 19th century. That was when Mark Twain supposedly remarked, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
Here in Ojai, where we are dependent on local sources for all our water, we need to face up to this issue. Four of us from the Ojai Valley area, all concerned citizens from very different backgrounds, think that we need to talk frankly about the drought, and more, do what we can about it. Not just for ourselves, our properties, gardens, orchards, trees, lands, and wildlife, but also for our community.
It’s not a stretch to say that a successful culture depends on fresh clean water, and not only is it as dry as it has ever been in the instrumental record in California, but paleoclimatologists suggest – working with evidence such as tree-ring records – that this may be the driest period since the year 1580, a year they say almost no precipitation hit the Sierra Nevada.
For this reason, we are hold an afternoon drought conference March 9th at The Ojai Retreat. We will begin with a “big picture” talk from Bill Patzert, a veteran overseer of a NASA satellite program, and perhaps the leading voice on the climate and meteorology of Southern California.
The governor and legislature have proposed funding for a groundwater storage lan they say will make a difference for the state, but Ojai and part of Ventura, dependent on the Ventura River watershed, have our own water management decisions to make.
Already some voices in the community have called for mandatory water conservation measures; meanwhile Ventura and Los Angeles offer assistance to homeowners who convert turf lawns to water-conserving or ocean-friendly gardens.
Probably we can agree on the need to conserve water, but which path towards that goal will we take? We are not at mandatory conservation yet, but now is the time to discuss constructive actions to keep our community together. Water in crisis has the potential to pit neighbor against neighbor – which only makes matters worse.
For this reason, as a reporter, I will ask questions of a panel of prominent government officials, (including Steve Bennett from the Board of Supervisors, Steve Wickstrum from Casitas Municipal Water District, and Russ Baggerly from the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency); Steve Prinkel, of the Farmer and the Cook, and Deborah Pendrey, of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition. We hope the ensuing discussion will clarify the issues and possible choices without rancor.
Because we believe in helping each other save water, we also are holding a workshop session, organized by civil engineer Bill O’Brien, on greywater strategies. Cinnamon McIntosh from Casis MWD will offer instruction on water saving in the home, and Renee Roth will speak on water conserving gardens.
Pastor Victoria Loorz has called on spiritual leaders from the community, and with Ched Myers, Jule Stensile-Tumamait, among others, will help us see how the watershed connects us both physically and spiritually, and how we can benefit from praying together in our different ways.
The director of the Ojai Retreat, Ulrich Brugger, wanted to host this event especially – to give us a chance, at least for one day, to be together on this issue, and to find a communality in our plight.
Please join us. This is a donation-only event, but seating is limited; make reservations at 640-1142.
Here's NOAA's drought monitor for CA...after the recent rainstorms. Here in Ventura County, we're in "extreme drought," but it could be worse -- we could be in the brown/"exceptional drought" category.
*but were afraid to ask.
On the front page of the Los Angeles Times, Melissa Healy tells a story of a huge study in Scandanavia that shows that the active ingredient in Tylenol and Excedrine and many other over-the-counter medicines is an endocrine disruptor plausibly linked to hyperactivity and other developmental disorders.
Healy makes a strong case simply by quoting the findings:
In analyzing data on more than 64,000 Danish women and their children, researchers found that kids whose mothers took the painkiller at any point during pregnancy were 29% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than were kids whose mothers took none. The risk increased the most — by 63% — when acetaminophen was taken during the second and third trimesters, and by 28% when used in the third trimester alone.
Could this explain the upsurge in developmental and behaviorial issues linked to mental disorders in recent decades? Healy doesn't speculate.
Nor does she explain why a known endocrine disruptor, acetaminophen, was allowed to be sold freely without warnings, even when it -- like many other products -- was suspected capable of harm.
She does quote plenty of experts who point out that this is just one study, first of all, and that many doctors -- even those aware of the linkage and risk -- may continue to prescribe acetominophen to reduce fever and pain.
But she closes on an ominous note:
The international team that conducted the study will next investigate their data for evidence of the neuropsychiatric and other mental health effects of a variety of medications taken during pregnancy. Among the outcomes they will be looking for is autism.
Bill O'Brien, a civil engineer, Victoria Loorz, a pastor, myself, and Ulrich Brugger, who directs The Ojai Retreat, are putting together a public conversation which we hope will help motivate people of the Ojai Valley to take a serious look at our drought and what we can do about it.
We also intend to ask for help.
In this country, scientists have been historically averse to link weather disasters -- such as flooding caused by huge storms -- to climate change.
The scientific cliche is well-known: No single meteorological event can be caused by climate change.
A leading theorist of climate communications, Naomi Oreskes of UC San Diego argues that the general public is desperate for leadership on the subject of climate change, and that by always qualifying away the linkage between climate and meteorology, scientists are undermining their own authority.
In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times last year after Typhoon Haiyan, she wrote:
When we emphasize the uncertainty, we appear to justify a course of no action on climate.
Instead, we might focus on the reality of the threat that warming poses, even though we can't say with any certainty that it caused the particular case in front of us. We might focus on the fact that we expect warming to cause exactly this type of extremely intense typhoon to occur more often — as well as a range of other harmful and irreversible consequences, some of them quite certain.
Well, In the UK this year, after the worst flooding in 248 years, Dame Julia Sligo -- the chief scientist of the Met Office -- did exactly what Oreskes counseled,and bluntly warned that climate change means more such disasters to come, and unapologetically linked climate change to the flooding.
Climate change is almost certainly to blame for the severe weather that has caused chaos across Britain in recent weeks, the Met Office's chief scientist has said.
Dame Julia Slingo said there was not yet "definitive proof" but that "all the evidence" pointed to a role for the phenomenon.
Climate change is almost certainly to blame for the severe weather that has caused chaos across Britain in recent weeks, the Met Office's chief scientist has said [to Rupert Murdoch's SkyNews network].
Dame Julia said the southerly track of the storms had been something of surprise.
She said: "They have been slamming into the southern part of Britain. We also know that the subtropical, tropical Atlantic is now quite a lot warmer than it was 50 years ago.
"The air that enters this storm system comes from that part of the Atlantic where it is obviously going to be warmer and carrying more moisture.
"This is just basic physics.'"
To an audience at the American Geophysical Union a couple of years ago, Dame Sligo said that her office was working on ways to forecast extreme events. Be interesting to find out if that system worked for the UK this year.
Here's a picture of one creature that might actually enjoy flooding -- in Worcester last week, from the Daily Mail.
In Ventura County, which lies just north of Los Angeles in the sprawl of Southern California, great wealth -- in towns such as Thousand Oaks or Ojai -- can be found not far from great desperation, in towns such as Oxnard or Santa Paula.
Some of the contrasts startle. In Santa Paula, for example, about 14 percent of married couples live in poverty. In Ojai, a comparable in size community less than twenty miles to the north, 0 percent of married couples live in poverty, according to Census Bureau numbers.
Overall the statistics -- from a report backed by the Centers of Disease Control -- show that wealthy Ventura County residents eat better, they have better access to exercise, their lives are less stressful, and they live longer – almost nine years longer on average.
And a chart -- the heart of the piece in some ways. [Click to enlarge]:
Last week The New Yorker led off with an uncharacteristically labored analogy/editorial from Adam Gopnik, who pointed out that the Titanic had a twin sister, the Olympic, which sailed unharmed through the frozen northern seas for decades and (he suggested) so could we.
"It reminds us that our imagination of disaster is dangerously more fertile than our imagination of the ordinary. You have certainly heard of the Titanic; you have probably never heard of the Olympic."
Okay, that's sweet, but doesn't it seem rather besides the point? Far more memorably last week a snarky Internet commentator not nearly as famous as Gopnik found a detail from the familiar Titanic story/metaphor that made a far bigger splash on the intertubes, because it briliantly dramatized what has become an all-too-frequent pattern among deniers. Too often the likes of James Inhofe (who wore long underwear to work at the Senate last week, to show that the evidence for global warming is "laughable") will exalt an ephemeral detail -- a cold snap -- in an attempt to wave off the facts. This new metaphor fought that mockery with its own mockery.
Take it away, Nerdy Jewish Girl!
Re: global warming and the cold weather "Liberals keep telling me the Titanic is sinking but my side of the ship is 500 feet in the air."— justine (@nerdyjewishgirl) January 4, 2014