Author Archives: Matthew Green

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.

Why California’s Drought is America’s Problem

Despite a few recent downpours, California remains stuck in one of the most severe statewide droughts on record.

But it’s far from just California’s problem. The state produces a huge percentage of the nation’s agriculture — nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts, by some estimates. And that requires a massive amount of water: farms here use about 80 percent of the state’s developed water supply.

Much is riding on the upcoming rainy season. Because if not enough water remains valuable for farmers to adequately irrigate their land, the impact will likely be felt far beyond the state’s borders.

In this audio slideshow, part of a photo essay project in the New Yorker, photographer Matt Black captures powerful images from the thirsty Central Valley, California’s breadbasket, and the farmers struggling to keep their crops alive. The excellent infographics below that, by Alex Park and Julia Lurie of Mother Jones (and reposted with permission), give a glimpse of just how much agriculture is produced here and the amount of water required to grow it.

Continue reading

Is Immigration Reform on the Horizon? [Animated Explainer]

Remember when U.S. immigration reform seemed like it was finally in the cards?

That was so 2013.

The brief burst of fanfare following passage of the Senate’s comprehensive bill last year faded quickly when the debate hit the bitterly divided House, where prospects for getting anything done have now been all but extinguished. Continue reading

On the Rise: How Minimum Wage Hikes Won Big with Voters [Interactive]

(View mobile version here)

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which has wallowed at $7.25 since 2007. But Congress didn’t budge, sidestepping the issue that has long been staunchly opposed by the Republican leadership.

It may have seemed surprising, then, that voters in four unabashedly conservative states — Alaska, Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas — decisively supported minimum wage hikes in Tuesday’s general election. In fact, despite ongoing conservative opposition to the raising the federal minimum wage, recent initiatives in individual states, both blue and red, have had overwhelmingly success. As of Aug. 1, 2014, 23 states and Washington D.C. have minimum wages above the federal level, many of which have resulted from successful ballot measures over the last15 years. And some cities have taken the effort even farther: voters in San Francisco overwhelmingly supported an incremental increase to $15 an hour by 2018 — tying Seattle for highest in the nation — while Oakland voters approved a bump from $9 to $12.25 by March 2015. 

We dig into the debate over dollars and cents in this interactive explainer, produced by Newsbound. Scroll through the whole presentation at once, or choose specific chapters by selecting the table of contents button on the bottom left of the screen. Sources for each slide are also included at the bottom.

Common Core Connections

Relevant ELA and Social Studies CCSS Anchor Standards

• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7: Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Social Studies Integration

Integrate this topic into the following high school social studies units:

US History
(based on:The American Vision, CA Edition (McGraw Hill/Glencoe, 2006)
• Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1933-1939
• The New Frontier and the Great Society, 1961-1968
• The Politics of Protest, 1960-1980
• Politics and Economics, 1971-1980
• Resurgence of Conservatism, 1980-1992
US Government
(based on: American Government, Prentice Hall, 2006, CA Edition)
• Unit 2 – Political Behavior: Government by the People
• Unit 3 – The Legislative Branch
• Unit 4 – The Executive Branch
• Unit 6 – Comparative Political and Economic Systems
Economics
(based on: Econ Alive! TCI, 2010)
• Unit 4 – Economics of the Public Sector
• Unit 5 – Measuring and Managing the Economy

How Felon Voting Laws Could Impact Today’s Election [Map and Infographic]

The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the states that deny voting rights to some felons who have completed the entirety of their sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime.

[See article and infographic below map]

Continue reading

Bay Area Ballot Measures Relevant to Young Folks: A Youth Radio Prop Guide

Includes interactive youth voter guide

youthVoting for the first time can be exciting, empowering and — if you head to the polls without doing your homework — downright daunting. That’s especially true in California, where voters are typically asked to weigh in on a litany of issues and candidates for both statewide and local races.

Next week’s midterm election on November 4 is no exception: the ballot is thick and dense, with lots of contests that can seem pretty obscure or just plain irrelevant, particularly for young voters. Continue reading

How Republicans and Democrats Differ on 11 Key National Issues

Includes PDF and interactive chart

Ah, election season. How I love thee.

In the tsunami of allegations and attack ads marking the run-up to November’s hotly contested midterm races, it’s easy to lose track (and interest) of what the candidates and their political parties actually stand for, and just how much is at stake. Midterm elections generally garner far less attention than presidential contests, leaving a huge segment of eligible voters in America largely uniformed and disinterested about outcomes. Perhaps most consequential in this election is the fate of the U.S. Senate, which Democrats stand to lose to control of.

The question, then, is so what? Are America’s two ruling political parties really all that different from each other?

Short answer: yes.

Browse through the official platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties (adopted in 2012), and you’ll notice some pretty extreme contrasts in philosophy on everything from taxes to abortion. In these documents, both parties have laid out a set of fundamentally different visions for America and the role government should play in our lives.

Continue reading

Map: America’s Confusing Patchwork of Voting Laws

Includes maps and video

votingThink you know your state’s voting rules? Better check again before heading to the polls next month.

Depending on where you live, those rules might have changed since the last time you voted. And those changes could affect outcomes in a number of tightly contested congressional races that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Continue reading

Pennant Fever: The MLB Playoffs Explained (for the Fair Weather Fan)

Includes videos and map

Oh Oakland, why must you break my heart … all over again.

It took 12 wrenching innings — a nearly five-hour battle of attrition — for the Kansas City Royals to oust the A’s with a 9-8 victory in Tuesday’s sudden-death wild card face off in Kansas City.

Oakland headed into the eighth inning with a comfortable 7-to-3 lead (thanks in large part to Brandon Moss’s two homers), Victory seemed imminent.

But alas … things fall apart. Continue reading

Visualizing the Inequities of Climate Change

This Carbon Map was created by Duncan Clark and Robin Houston from the design firm KILN as an entry in the World Bank’s Apps for Climate competition. Recently updated and featured on The Guardian, the map resizes the world’s geography so as to reflect the nations that are most responsible for climate change and those most vulnerable to its impacts. Click the PLAY button to see a demo. Listed below the map is a collection of additional interactive climate change resources.


Continue reading