CVIndependent

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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Community Voices

19 Apr 2017
As a teenager caddying at a restricted country club, I resented the bigotry, but accepted the tips. I learned to play golf myself and eventually got fairly good at it—but now I hate the game. Let me tell you why. The ecological and aesthetic harm caused by most of the world’s 34,000 golf courses—45 percent of them here in the United States—is widely acknowledged today. Natural habitats have been disfigured and destroyed to create highly organized, artificially watered and unarguably fake nature. Some people find golf courses calming and beautiful, but that beauty comes at a price. Since 1982, the United States Golf Association has funded efforts to conserve water through improving irrigation technologies, planting grasses that require less irrigation, and using recycled water from sewage-treatment facilities. Despite these commendable efforts, precious water is still being squandered—including a lot of it right here in the Coachella Valley, where, despite a…
12 Apr 2017
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Gov. Jerry Brown made international news when he vowed to fight President Donald Trump’s attempts to cut America’s climate-change research and rescind the nation’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. Brown’s commitment to fighting climate change seems real, and under his leadership, his state has engaged in numerous greenhouse-gas-reduction plans. But there are caveats to his commitment, including the continued growth in fossil fuel extraction in California, and the state’s near-explosive population growth—both of which drive emissions up, not down. There’s another issue that California needs to address: methane emissions from hydropower, particularly at Hoover Dam, the source of a significant portion of Los Angeles’ electricity. About 25 years ago, a small team of scientists in Brazil started measuring the methane produced at hydropower dams and reservoirs. Led by Philip Fearnside, the scientists found surprising results, indicating that hydropower dams and reservoirs in tropical countries like Brazil emit high levels of…
08 Mar 2017
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The president and his supporters say they want to solve illegal immigration by building an immense wall along our southern border, turning local police into immigration agents, and applying “severe vetting” to immigrants from certain countries—all of which are predominantly Muslim. Opponents say these proposals suffer from over-simplification and racism. But there’s an even bigger problem: These “fixes” fail to understand that we can’t address immigration if we continue to deny the science of climate change, because increasingly, climate change is driving global human migration. Let’s first acknowledge that our border with Mexico is a place of hardship, violence and injustice. Let’s also recognize the wrenching reality that many of those pressed against our border are children. In fiscal year 2016, nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at our southern border. Even as the president and his supporters lump them together with “murderers and rapists,” the U.S. Border Patrol reports…
11 Jan 2017
Many Californians woke up the night after the presidential election thinking they were living in a different country. A few felt so alienated that they publicly raised the possibility of seceding from the United States. There is no constitutional way, however, to do this. But there is a less radical step that would amount to a limited secession and would require only an act of Congress. Forty-five percent of the land in California is administered by the federal government—including 20 percent of the state in national forests and 15 percent under the Bureau of Land Management. Rather than outright secession, California could try to assert full state sovereignty over all this land. Until Nov. 8, California wouldn’t have cared about this, but with the prospect of a Donald Trump administration soon managing almost half the land in the state, Californians may want to rethink their traditional stance. Otherwise, they are…
16 Nov 2016
On the day after Election Day, the biggest newspaper in the oil and gas patch in northwestern New Mexico ran a story headlined: “Trump win has energy industry leaders hopeful.” Most of the local industry folks quoted by the Farmington Daily Times said that President-elect Donald Trump would relax regulations on drilling on public land. Meanwhile, over on Facebook, energy workers were ecstatic, convinced that a President Trump would put them back to work almost immediately. They should know better. The San Juan Basin’s energy-reliant communities have been hit especially hard in recent years. The first blow came in 2008, after horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing opened up huge shale formations in the East. Shortly thereafter, oil prices skyrocketed to as high as $150 per barrel, prompting drill rigs to pop up again all over North Dakota’s Bakken formation and, a little later, in the San Juan Basin’s Gallup…
18 Oct 2016
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The “breaking news” TV flash disrupted a peaceful Saturday afternoon at my home in Palm Springs. Three cops had been shot while responding to a domestic disturbance just a couple of miles away. I started feeling uneasy and tense—like I used to feel in my hometown of Sarajevo. I turned the TV off. Within minutes, my editor called and left me a message, asking me if I was available to cover the shootings. I didn’t respond. I’ve done my share of violent breaking-news stories all around the globe. No more. Later, my editor texted me, saying that two of the three officers—Jose “Gil” Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27—had died. I’ve seen many senseless killings, as a war reporter in Romania and what was once Yugoslavia. When I lived and worked in Rio de Janeiro, every morning would start with the gruesome front-page murder-scene photos of butchered bodies. Rio is…
30 Sep 2016
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As we stagger through this year’s presidential campaign, it might help to look back at the election of 1856, when, for the first time, the West yielded a presidential candidate. His name was John Charles Frémont, and he was a big name in his day. He still is: From Colorado to California, we have rivers and mountains named after Fremont, as well as towns, counties, parks and streets. Besides being famous, he was daring—and not unlike today’s presidential candidates, deeply flawed. Frémont led four expeditions to the West in the 1840s. He had married well, partnering with Jessie Benton, the daughter of Missouri Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, who ballyhooed westward expansion. Boosted by his father-in-law’s influence, Frémont in 1842 launched his first expedition with mountain-man Kit Carson as a guide. It was a partnership based on ambition: Carson needed Frémont to make him famous, a favor he returned by keeping…
16 Sep 2016
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For most of us, birthdays are happy occasions, when friends and family pay fond attention, lavishing us with gifts to prove that we are loved and valued. For one day, our foibles are accepted with a smile—or at least diplomatically ignored. The National Park Service’s 100th birthday this August has been less joyful. In fact, anyone paying attention to the news might think that the proud agency, which oversees 412 units across more than 80 million acres, has had its centennial celebration ruined by a series of uncomfortable revelations. In January, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General released a report detailing two decades of sexual harassment by boatmen in the Grand Canyon’s river district and the failure of senior officials to adequately respond. In March, the agency abolished the river district and announced that it would increase sexual-harassment training and conduct an agency-wide survey to ascertain how widespread the…
09 Sep 2016
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Soldiers Organized Services, known to locals as SOS, has provided free airport transportation for more than 100,000 of America’s heroes since 2007—saving active-duty military personnel, as well as their loved ones, in excess of $15 million. The mission is funded through the generous donations of corporations, philanthropic organizations and patriotic individuals from all over the Coachella Valley. Explosive growth has created new challenges for this Palm Desert nonprofit—and its new Veterans Communications Center is playing a key role in the expansion. SOS plans to offer free transportation for area veterans to the Veterans Affairs Hospital at Loma Linda, and help with that mission came from Desert Adventures, operators of the popular Red Jeep Tours, which was about to retire a 1994 Dodge Ram minivan. It had some good years left, so with the help of local businesses and donors, it has been restored and donated to SOS. “The van needed…
29 Jul 2016
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The more things change, the more those changes echo on into the future. Today, we need to listen more carefully than ever to a voice from the mid-20th century—that of writer and Western historian Bernard DeVoto. At the recent Republican National Convention, the party faithful approved a platform that directs Congress to give “certain” public lands to the states. It’s an old strategy, trotted out like a broken-down show horse at a county fair. In the mid-1940s, Western policymakers, mainly Republicans, sought to eliminate the federal Bureau of Land Management, remove grazing areas from Forest Service control, and put public land on the path to state control and private ownership. One privatization bill passed the House in 1946, and even enjoyed the support of Interior Secretary Julius Krug, a Democrat. Sounding the alarm against these terrible proposals came DeVoto’s prescient voice from his “The Easy Chair” column in Harper’s magazine.…

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