Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Real, Live Outdoor Education

Can virtual field trips instill a real-life sense of wonder?
It doesn't seem possible. But a story in today's Sacramento Bee, "Schools substituting field trips with video links," shows schools must settle for video-conference field trips.
That's exactly why California's kids need Assembly Bill 2989. (Felipe Fuentes). Sponsored by Sierra Club California, bill would award grants for outdoor education and recreational opportunities for youth. The Outdoor Environmental Education and Recreation Program it creates would help California kids explore rivers, forests and streams in real life - not virtual reality.
Kids don't need more time in front of an electronic screen. They're already six times more likely to play a video game than to ride a bike. Fewer than 15 percent of them participate in an outdoor education and recreation program.

Young minds expand outdoors. At-risk children who participated in outdoor education programs upped their science test scores by 27 percent, improved their conflict resolution and problem-solving skills and went back to school with better self-esteem and motivation to learn, according to a 2005 California Department of Education study.
AB 2989 will open doors for children, and introduce them to California's natural wonders. Tell your Assemblymember you support this key measure.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Banding Together To Protect The Budget

Remember last year’s budget debacle?

California’s legislative Republicans held up the budget for more than a month as they tried to roll back environmental protections – and as everyday Californians rolled their eyes at the lack of leadership they exhibited.

Now, they’re at it again. They’ve already said they plan to postpone implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, roll back diesel pollution reductions and undermine the 8-hour work day. These proposals probably will become a big part of the negotiations surrounding California’s 2008-2009 budget.

So this year, Sierra Club California and its environmental, health and labor allies have taken an early, unified stand against the efforts to undermine our environmental and worker protections.
California needs solid proposals to close a budgetary gap that’s yawned to more than $15 billion.

That’s why the Republican proposals are so shaky: they actually pile on more potential costs. For example, the Republicans want the Legislature to extend deadlines for cleaning up dangerous emissions from the diesel trucks responsible for nearly 40 percent of California’s most toxic diesel pollution.

At what cost? Diesel pollution annually leads to 1,500 early deaths annually, and causes about $12 billion in costs associated with premature death, health care, lost productivity and lost school attendance each year.

There’s even more potential expense associated with a delay in the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. If we don’t immediately address the pollution that causes global warming, we won’t benefit from the measures taken to reduce that pollution: cleaner air and energy, more efficient cars and appliances and protected coastal areas.

And we might not take in as big a share of the $1.79 billion that venture capitalists poured into California’s green economy last year.

Despite the clear benefits provided by the environmental rules, Sierra Club California advocates fully expect this year’s budget negotiations to once again include a battle to protect our air and atmosphere.

As the minority party, Republicans have the most power during the budget process, since they can withhold the few Republican votes needed to reach the 2/3 super-majority required to adopt the budget. Last year, they tried (and mostly failed) to block the use of the California Environmental Quality Act to address global warming.

Even as the Republicans gear up to attack these critical protections, the state’s most important Republican, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated this month that he wants to keep the Global Warming Solutions Act safe from attack. He’s also made it easier to implement the diesel truck rule, by providing nearly $50 million to assist low-income truckers in complying with the new rules. Legislative Democrats, most notably Senator Alan Lowenthal and Assemblymember Mark DeSaulnier also stand with us. Like us, they’re taking a stand against the potential hijacking of the state’s budget.

Hopefully, when the budget negotiations begin in earnest, California’s working families won’t be rolling their eyes at another Republican tantrum. They’ll be looking forward to cleaner air, cleaner energy and a new, greener future.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Make The May Revise More Sustainable

Every May, California's governors release a "May Revise," a revamped version of the budget that reflects the latest budget projections.

This May, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget reminds us of the importance of all types of sustainability.

In his May Revise, the governor proposed several one-time fixes, including borrowing money from the Public Transit Fund.

That brand of unsustainable borrowing could keep Californians from enjoying safe, clean public transportation. Increasing public transit ridership improves air quality – and lowers commuters’ gas costs.

The May Revise offers no sustainable source of funding for AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. True solutions to our state’s global warming emissions will emerge when polluters pay for the cost of cleaning up the emissions they create.We’d also like to see the Resources Agency gain a more permanent source of funding, since it’s one of the first agencies to suffer the pinch of budget cuts.

Many bright ideas shine through the smog of today’s tight fiscal times. For example, the governor’s revised budget provides $50 million to help low-income truckers meet state diesel standards early. And our state parks will stay open, following tremendous pressure from outdoors-loving Californians.

Sierra Club California will sustain its efforts to negotiate a budget that protects our air, water, natural resources and communities.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sierra Club California Welcomes Karen Bass

Sierra Club California honors newly sworn-in Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. Her historic day also represents a great day for clean air, clean water and a healthy California.

We're pleased to see such a strong ally ascend to one of the state's most powerful positions. Assembly Speaker Bass voted with the environment on 12 out of 12 key bills last year, supporting water conservation, alternative fuels and green buildings. In 2006, she stood with environmentalists to support AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, and 10 other key measures to again score 100 percent on our environmental report card.

Assembly Speaker Bass has made addressing the state's troubled budget her top priority. We look forward to working with her to ensure Californians have access to the natural places we love and to protect our air, water and atmosphere.”

- Statement, Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern

Check out our
2006 and 2007 report cards.

Read more about Sierra Club California's budget worries

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Automakers: Don't Be "Climate Chickens"

Today, members of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as part of their campaign to thwart our state’s pioneering greenhouse gas emissions standards.

Sierra Club California thanks Governor Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Brown and Air Resources Board Chair Nichols for bravely and staunchly upholding California’s clean car rules. Sierra Club California's "Climate Chicken" made a brief appearance at the Capitol, urging the automakers to cross the road to better

Putting the brakes on California’s Clean Car Law AB 1493 (Pavley) rules won't lower the price that families pay at the pump, and it won't reduce global warming pollution. Only cleaner, more efficient cars will.

Here's why even Climate Chickens should support the Clean Car Law:

  • Climate Chickens Are Larger Than Life, and California’s plan creates even bigger reductions in greenhouse gases than the Bush Administration’s proposed fuel economy standards. If all 50 states were to take on the greenhouse gas goals, 1,323 million metric tons of greenhouse gas would be removed by 2020.
  • California’s Climate Plan Saves More Than A Little Chicken Scratch. The greenhouse gas standards may mean consumers must pay a little more up front for their cars, but they’ll get their money back within about 1-3.5 years, according to California Air Resources Board estimates. The upgrades actually will reduce these vehicles’ operating costs, resulting in savings to drivers.

  • Climate Chickens Crave The Easy Life. And the greenhouse gas standards start out easy too. In fact, the first phase can be met using technology that’s already in some of today’s cars. Not just hybrids, either – some advanced starter technology, idle-stop technology, upgrades to the electrical system and other smart moves would make cars cleaner.
  • Climate Chickens Get All The Chicks. The new rules are popular too: A 2004 Public Policy Institute of California poll found a whopping 81 percent of Californians support the vehicle greenhouse gas standards, and more than 112,000 of us sent letters supporting adoption of the rules. Climate Chickens breathe easier knowing their hatchlings will enjoy a clean atmosphere.
  • Climate Chickens Like Choices. Our climate chicken just can’t be cowed. And the greenhouse gas rules don’t tell him what kind of car he can buy, how fast he can drive it or that he has to pay a tax. Automakers say the law will limit Californians’ choices, but simple modifications such as stop-start technology, continuously variable transmission systems and even better A/C equipment will go a long way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions from every vehicle.
  • Climate Chickens Have Feather Brains, but even Chester here can see what’s coming. Sales of the hybrid, fuel-miser Toyota Prius have risen more than 50 percent since April, while SUV sales plummeted by 25 percent. And California drivers bought 4 percent less gas in January than they did the year before (see May 2 New York Times article, “As Gas Costs Soar, Buyers Flock to Small Cars”).

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger telling the automakers he'll stick to his guns on global warming

Read what Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern has to say about the hard work ahead on climate change

Your donation helps us protect our air and atmosphere

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weak Green Building "Rules" Make A Bad Foundation

Sierra Club California is seeing red over new green building “rules” currently under consideration.

The California Building Standards Commission meets Tuesday, May 6 to decide whether to adopt weak, voluntary green building standards. Sierra Club California, along with a number of key legislative leaders and environmental groups, opposes the rules.

For years, California builders and architects have led the nation in designing safe, inspiring buildings. Now we have a chance to tower over the rest of the world in sustainable design as well. We're urging commissioners to reverse their current course and begin to engage in continued discussions of meaningful, enforceable standards.

Reasons Not To Like The New Standards

  • Through their use of energy, residential and commercial buildings in California produce about 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Increased energy efficiencies in buildings could cut a minimum of 3 million metric tons of emissions by 2020 -- if the changes are done right.

  • As a sector, commercial and residential buildings account for more greenhouse gas emissions than industry or transportation, according to a report by the federal Energy Information Administration. Spiking energy use by U.S. buildings accounted for 48 percent of the nation’s total increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The standards use the term “bio-based," which isn’t reality-based. Simply because a product comes from biologically based sources doesn’t make it sustainable. For example, the Chinook salmon is “biologically based,” yet harvest of the population wouldn’t be sustainable because its numbers are so low. You won't find this term used anywhere else, including EPA's “Terminology Reference System,” the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, the Build It Green “GreenPoint Rated” system, or The Construction Specifications Institute “GreenFormat” sustainable product reporting form.

  • Widespread clear cutting, logging in endangered species habitat, conversion of forests to plantations and other harmful forest practices aren’t “green” by anyone’s definition. Wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a certification approved by the U.S. Green Building Council, cannot be harvested in those ways. But the Building Standards Commission’s voluntary rules would allow the use of wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC), or American Tree Farm – none of which have the same, strict certification standards.

  • Currently, tens of thousands of acres of FSC-certified forest in California and many hundreds of California-based distributors, manufacturers, retailers and other companies that service the building industry. Integration of FSC certification into the state’s standards could drive the industry to embrace these attainable, sustainable practices.

  • During a contentious March meeting, the BSC removed all talk of sustainable land use from even these voluntary green building standards – even though it’s universally acknowledged that infill development is “greener” because it lessens commute time. This further weakened these already watered-down voluntary “rules.”

Your Secure Donation Helps Us Build Our Resistance To Soft Standards

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Radiohead Gets Green Cred

Saving the energy and greenhouse gas emissions they would have produced flying to New York, the band Radiohead performed live via satellite for "Late Night With Conan O'Brien " fans. They also delivered an important, timely message about recycling plastic bags.