Youth Radio: Daughter of Coal Country Speaks to the Silence

April 12, 2010 · Filed Under commentary, environment, family, news, Uncategorized · Comments Off 

The death of 29 coal miners in a West Virginia mine explosion has left many outside of the coal mining community struggling to understand its dangers and culture. One of the most moving pieces I have heard on the topic came from Youth Radio‘s Willa Johnson. She shared her struggle to fight the coal mining industry while simultaneously trying to maintain relationships with friends and family members who work in the mines.

Here’s a short sample:

“My grandfather has black lung and my dad has slipped a disk in his back. I have an older brother who I can’t talk to anymore; he still drives a coal truck and believes I have made him the enemy. Truthfully I can’t decide if he is the unsung victim or the unsung hero here in the mountains.”

Johnson’s piece aired on All Things Considered today, but you can hear the whole piece at YouthRadio.org or by clicking on the link below.

Click here to hear Willa Johnson’s commentary.

Another worthwhile piece is “Why We Still Mine Coal,” which aired on NPR last week. According to the report, the United States produced about 1 billion tons of coal last year and half of the country’s electricity is produced using coal.

Visit NPR.org to hear “Why We Still Mine Coal.”

California’s Budget: Not A River in Egypt

January 8, 2010 · Filed Under California, economy, education, environment, news, politics · Comments Off 
Justin Short, Office of the Governor

Photo: Justin Short, Office of the Governor

By Molly Samuel

In a nutshell, here’s how California’s budget gets passed: Every year, the governor presents his budget to both houses of the state legislature by January 10. The State Assembly and the State Senate each pass a version of the budget by a two-thirds majority, then a committee works out the differences between the two versions. A final version goes back to the Assembly and Senate, which passes it by two-thirds again and sends it back to the governor, who signs it and voila, a new budget is born.

What I left out of that summary is political grandstanding, difficult if not downright impossible goals, disagreements that will never be resolved, and the current financial crisis. When you factor all of that in, you end up with budgets that pass weeks later than they were supposed to (the 2008-2009 budget, for instance), budgets that are impossible to balance (see 2009-2010), budgets with some really tough options (see this year’s budget), and political humor (State Senate President Darrell Steinberg’s  response to this morning’s proposed budget: “You’ve got to be kidding.” And Assembly Speaker Karen Bass : it’s “a big pile of denial.” Republicans were less sarcastic.)

All hilarity aside, Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2010-2011 budget is likely to draw controversy and may lead to lawsuits. Nothing here is final; this is the initial version of the budget that heads to the legislature. But there are a few proposals that are worth watching:

Eliminate the state sales tax on gas: The idea here is to eliminate the sales tax and replace it with an excise tax. This would lower prices at the pump, which sounds pretty good. But right now the money from that sales tax goes to public transportation, and is also linked to K-12 and community college funding. Without that sales tax, public rail and bus systems could lose a billion dollars, and Democrats are projecting that schools could lose up to two billion dollars.

Fund state parks with revenue from offshore drilling: Last year the Governor proposed allowing oil drilling in a state-owned area called Tranquillion Ridge off the coast of Santa Barbara. That idea was defeated in the legislature. Last year Schwarzenegger also suggested not funding state parks. That idea also didn’t make it very far. This year he’s linked them. Cynical or genius? Could be both.

End state worker furloughs: Last year, to save money, Schwarzenegger began requiring that state employees take three unpaid days a month off of work. Starting in July, the furloughs will end, but everyone will get a pay cut. So, basically, they’ll work more, but not get increased wages. Lawsuits from the unions will probably follow.

Right now the state is short about 20 billion dollars, which is why there are so many cuts in this year’s budget. The Governor is asking the Federal government to give California more than $6 billion that he says is owed to the state. If that doesn’t happen, there could be even more cuts down the line.

Stay tuned for more hilarity.

To learn more:

The California Department of Finance’s explanation of the budget process

The California Department of Finance’s official  summary of the proposed budget

KQED Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers’ Capitol Notes blog

Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers explaining the budget on The California Report

COP 15: What Just Happened?

December 22, 2009 · Filed Under environment, international news, news, politics, Uncategorized · Comments Off 

87638111By Molly Samuel

Christmas is looming, New Years’ plans are starting to take shape, and the best song, movie, and book of the decade lists are too numerous to count. Not to mention the fact that the Senate seems to be on its way to passing its version of the health care bill. It all makes the climate talks in Copenhagen seem like they happened so long ago. But the talks went on into weekend. World leaders stayed up all night Friday night trying to reach an agreement, and everyone else is still trying to sort out what it all means.

The hope was that the climate conference in Copenhagen would result in a legally binding agreement on the global response to climate change. That didn’t happen. There’s no legally binding agreement. President Obama worked with other world leaders to create a document, now being called the Copenhagen Accord, and other countries, officially, will “take note” of it. There are some good things in the document: developed nations will give $100 billion dollars to poor nations to help them weather the effects of climate change. Countries will work together to try to keep the world from warming more than two degrees Celsius. Money will go to countries that have historically profited from deforestation to help them preserve their forests. Countries will monitor their emissions.
Read more

Word of the Week: Copenhagen

December 16, 2009 · Filed Under environment, international news, news, politics, science, word of the week · Comments Off 

KQED’s staff and interns return this week to break down another buzz word. This week’s choice was a natural: Copenhagen. Watch the video below to find out what the fuss is all about.

And we aren’t the only ones trying to explain what the heck is happening over there. It looks like Copenhagen, or more specifically COP 15, have been the topics of many explainers the past few weeks. Explainers are what we call features that break down a complex topic in an easy-to-understand and hopefully, entertaining, way. Here are a few we thought worthy of sharing: first, check out the New York Time’s Copenhagen 101 video and Time Magazine’s nice little animated number below:

We also liked the humor that online environmental magazine Grist brought to its coverage and its 15 People to Watch in Copenhagen slide show.

And a final nod to NPR’s Planet Money for the most appropriate use of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.”

Tell us, where do you get information on topics you want to learn more about? Do you prefer text, video, or podcasts? And should we keep trying to be funny or just stick to what we do best?

Students Fight For Human Rights at COP15

December 14, 2009 · Filed Under Bay Area, environment, international news, news, science, Uncategorized · Comments Off 

IMG_Zoe.Caitrin.BerkLaw2By Molly Samuel

While hundreds of protesters were arrested in Copenhagen last weekend, thousands of other people representing countries, research institutions, businesses, and non-government organizations (NGOs) went on talking and negotiating at the
United Nations climate conference. Delegates to the fifteenth Conference of Parties, or COP15 (it’s not an abbreviation for Copenhagen even though it looks like it could be) are trying to work out an international agreement on reducing and adapting to climate change. Balance is tough to find: many nations have not been able to meet the goals they signed on for with the Kyoto Protocol, which was the previous treaty signed in 1997.

So the negotiators are inside negotiating and the protesters are outside protesting, and there’s a lot of room in between for everyone else to get together and talk about tech innovations, new scientific findings, human rights, animal life, and just about anything else you can imagine. There are side events, kiosks, tents, panels, discussions, debates, and press conferences. And in the midst of Nobel laureates and seasoned professionals, there are young people presenting their views and their research.
Read more

The Newest Game Show Craze: Rot or Not

September 30, 2009 · Filed Under California, environment, science · Comments Off 

By Caitlin Grey

On June 23, 2009, Mayor Gavin Newsom passed a mandatory composting law for the city of San Francisco. This ultra-green legislation sets a goal of 75% diversion (only 25% of waste would go to landfills) by 2010 and zero waste by 2020. But how does the mayor make a law that requires a skill? How can he enforce people to change their lifestyles?

Composting isn’t easy. What rots and what doesn’t requires the eye of an environmentalist, and some education as well. There are a few programs underway that help people learn the ropes of composting:

Garden for the Environment

San Francisco Environment

Fines are delayed until 2011 when people will have “acclimated” to the new rules, but I still wonder how much the average Californian really knows about composting and waste.

Youth Radio put their composting knowledge to the test. Would we be able to survive in San Francisco’s cut-throat environmentalist world? Find out on Youth Radio’s newest game show, Rot or Not!

Van Jones: You Didn’t Let ME Down

September 18, 2009 · Filed Under economy, environment, news, politics, Uncategorized · Comments Off 

By Ahmina James

This week former White House advisor Van Jones explained in a letter to his supporters what they can do to further the cause of developing green jobs in the wake of his resignation from the Obama administration under pressure from conservatives like Glenn Beck. In the letter Jones called upon his supporters to “Spread the green jobs gospel. The ideas and ideals of the green jobs movement are grounded in fundamental American values – innovation, entrepreneurship and equal opportunity.”

One of his supporters is our own Ahmina James…

When I turned to channel seven to watch the eleven o’clock news I got the worst news in my life. Van Jones was resigning from the White House as the green jobs coordinator. I wanted to cry, but at the same time I couldn’t believe that this was happening. This was so important to me because Van Jones has always been my hero and has inspired me to be an environmentalist. I even wrote a KQED Perspective on how much he inspires me.

I admire his work and dedication to solving America’s problems: creating jobs, boosting the economy, and protecting the environment. He explains all of these things in his book. I had the thrill of reading about the green collar economy and his work with the Ella Baker Center. I think what frustrated me most is the reason why he is resigning. I think that it is stupid that he can’t do his job because of distractions from what other people say. I just hope that Jones will continue his work advocating for green jobs at the grassroots level and that he will succeed.

Ahmina’s Original Perspective On Van Jones:

Junking the Clunk

August 5, 2009 · Filed Under environment, politics · Comments Off 

By King Anyi Howell

Now that the Senate has approved an extra $2 billion for the Cash For Clunkers program, it seems like a good time to add my voice of dissent to the fray.

I live in LA where driving is a necessity, and I not only can't afford to buy a new car (even with an extra $5,000 in my pocket as credit), but I am also in the school of thought that certain clunkers under the age of 25 are classics. Cars like the 1985 Ford Mustang, 1986 Mercury Cougar, and 1986 Cadillac Fleetwood are eligible for trade-ins, but if I owned any of these vehicles, you'd have to pry my cold dead fingers off their steering wheels.

As we've heard from a variety of experts, from environmentalists to economists, there’s a serious downside to destroying all of these auto parts. Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University, said on KQED's Forum program, “That’s an absolute resource cost. That’s a loss to all society that those resources are just being destroyed.” Since the most clunked-out gas-guzzling cars are over 25, their exclusion from the program means this effort ends up being more about boosting auto sales and less about saving the ecosystem.

The good news for those of us who can't afford to just get a brand new car, even with $3k-$4k knocked off the price, is that wrecking yards have 180 days from the day they receive these "clunkers" to demolish them. Yards, like Aadlen Bros., in Sun Valley, take advantage of this time window by allowing customers "pick and pull" all non-engine & drive-shaft parts. If you drive a Cadillac, like me, this is especially good information, because while a new part might cost and arm and a leg, used parts pulled from another car usually cost around a pinky nail.

It's nearly impossible to find incentives for consumers who want to be more fuel efficient. Unless you were $3,500-$4,500 short of purchasing your new dream car, participating in the program doesn't make much sense and could possibly drive you into debt. So I say, don't sell your 8-cylinder soul to the devil! Keep your Clunker!

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