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Community Voices

29 Aug 2019
Just minutes before a massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Aug. 3 left 22 people dead, a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online. In it, the author, whom authorities believe to be the alleged shooter, claims to be defending his country from white American “replacement” and an “invasion” at the U.S. border, as well as from environmental destruction and corporate power. “Some people will think this statement is hypocritical because of the nearly complete ethnic and cultural destruction brought to the Native Americans by our European ancestors, but this just reinforces my point,” reads the manifesto. “The natives didn't take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.” For decades now, warped ideas about Indigenous struggles have buoyed conservative rhetoric and white-nationalist fantasies, and have been used to justify racist violence. While members of the far and extreme right claim to…
30 Jul 2019
I’ve covered immigration as a journalist for almost 20 years, documenting the lives of families in different corners of the Western Hemisphere as they make the difficult decision to move to the U.S. to seek a better life. In the process, I’ve tried to help readers understand immigration policy, even as I personally relate to the challenge of making a new home in America, of learning a new language and cultural norms, of missing friends and family. Yet over just the past two years, I’ve watched America—which welcomed me almost three decades ago—methodically close its doors to people from other cultures while dangerously scapegoating both new and longtime immigrants. I know I’m not alone when I say how helpless it makes me feel, following the back-to-back news stories about migrant caravans, family separations and the inhumane conditions at immigrant camps and detention facilities. I sometimes feel ashamed to enjoy the…
09 Jul 2019
“Nature doesn’t care if you’re gay,” I’ll often hear in reaction to articles by myself or my outdoorsy LGBTQ peers. And it’s true: Nature doesn’t care if I’m gay. But people do. A few ago, I finished a world-record journey to all 419 National Park Service sites. For three years nonstop, I lived in a van, hiked trails everywhere from American Samoa to the Arctic Circle, and accomplished an outdoors journey no human had ever done before. But comments about the trip have included things like, “Well now I need to be careful in the bathroom at national parks,” and, “Why do you have to shove your lifestyle down our throats!” A sponsor terminated our partnership halfway through the project, saying over the phone and in writing that I was doing too much LGBTQ outreach. A camping website called The Dyrt posted an interview with me on Facebook featuring a…
28 May 2019
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I joined the Coachella Valley Independent in 2013, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The Independent has provided me with many opportunities in my journalism career. Thus, it’s bittersweet to say that as of June 19, I will be stepping down from my position as the assistant editor/staff writer here at the Independent. I have accepted the position of entertainment, culture and celebrity reporter at The Desert Sun. In the spring of 2013, when I began writing for the Independent, this was a very new publication. The first issue, a quarterly, had just hit newsstands; we would not go monthly in print for six more months. I was new to the journalism profession and didn’t know what to expect. Now, six years later, as I look back at what the Independent has accomplished, as well as my own accomplishments, it feels incredible. This publication has won three national awards…
14 Mar 2019
I split my time between living outside of Yosemite National Park and in Los Angeles. The fact that I have the chance to see mountain lions in both places provides me with unending awe, and with hope: If a mountain lion can live in the middle of Los Angeles, wildness and wild things just might have a future on this planet after all. I recently received a message about a famous cougar named P-22 that calls Los Angeles home, along with a well-known photo of the animal and the headline, “Man Says He Killed Mountain Lion After It Attacked Him on Colorado Trail.” At first, I took issue with the case of mistaken identity. In fact, P-22 is a model of co-existence, a predator that has lived in the second-largest city in the country since 2012 without threatening any of the 10 million people a year who recreate in Griffith…
14 Feb 2019
Despite the willful denunciation of proven climate science by the White House and some members of Congress, there is a hopeful awakening in the United States: Young activists are stepping forward to demand a Green New Deal that guarantees climate action, justice and economic security for all. A Green New Deal would not be a single law, but rather a collection of policies that embody many of the actions needed to expand clean energy, grow job opportunities, reduce climate pollution, improve air and water quality, and enhance the resilience of communities. In any plan to help us transition from an economy built on fossil fuels to one driven by clean energy, our public lands should feature prominently. We need a climate plan for public lands that will manage a phase-down of fossil-fuel leasing and production in line with current climate science. At the same time, we must support those communities…
07 Feb 2019
Under the direction of President Donald Trump, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services task force is working to strip Americans of their citizenship, attacking immigration through a process known as denaturalization. Denaturalization—taking away citizenship in court—allows the president to double-down on his insistence that the system is broken. His administration has increased the use of civil denaturalization, which requires a lower standard of proof than criminal denaturalization and has no statute of limitations. That means naturalized citizens are at risk of losing their citizenship and being deported forever. It’s hard not to see the move as part of an attempt to make America whiter. Even if that’s not the official reason, it’s certainly energizing those longing for mythical, whiter times. At the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the immigration files of naturalized citizens are scrutinized, and asylum applications are scoured for evidence, even unintentional errors, to justify taking away citizenship.…
23 Jan 2019
In Southern Utah, there is a patch of desert heated by infrared lamps. The lamps hang just above the plants and soil crusts commonly found in this desert surrounding Moab. These lamps help scientists study how temperature increases impact plants and soils living in this already hot desert. On any given day, science technicians can be seen reaching underneath the lamps to measure the size of each grass blade and the number of seeds on each shrub. The information gleaned helps land managers know what to expect from ecosystems as temperatures increase, allowing them to manage for both ecosystem integrity and multiple land uses as climate changes. During this partial government shutdown, however, the plants are going unmeasured, cutting off the continuous observations necessary for careful science and creating a gap in this long-term data set. When the government partially shut down on Dec. 21, sending home employees from the…
08 Nov 2018
The last two years have been like a horror movie playing out in super-slow motion. Even though progressives made some fantastic gains on Election Day, I find myself exhausted and sad. And ever since Brett Kavanaugh, it’s gotten worse. I've stopped watching the news—any news. However, I still scroll through comment sections on Facebook, and I hear conversations in bars, at the grocery store, at the office … and I am horrified, because now we are talking about rape—specifically, rape in the 1980s. Things were a lot different in the ’80s. We were taught through film, TV and books that rape was something that happened to you in a dark alley, or at a rest stop, or in a parking lot, usually late at night, by a total stranger (often black). We were taught that good girls didn’t get drunk, didn’t dress provocatively, didn’t go out alone, and never brought…
02 Oct 2018
This summer’s statistics on electricity use and generation included a significant gem: Over the last 12 months, power generation from coal has dropped to a three-decade low. That’s party-worthy news for the climate, for air quality, for folks who live near power plants and for the natural-gas industry, which is partly responsible for coal’s decline. Just days later, however, the Trump administration crashed the shindig, causing a major buzzkill. No, the president’s attempts to revive coal have not succeeded. But on Sept. 18, the Interior Department snuffed out new rules aimed at lowering the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions, just days after the Environmental Protection Agency started the process of euthanizing its own methane regulations. This is a bummer not only for the planet, but also for the natural-gas industry’s efforts to portray its product as the clean fossil fuel. Coal began its climb to dominate the electricity mix…

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