Green Space

A stroll through California's natural world

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Rationing the Rain: How California Distributes Its Water in Dry Times

Includes cartoon infographic

Water_ratios_slice1Distributing enough water to everyone has never been an easy task in perennially thirsty California. But making sure that residents, farms and the environment are all sufficiently hydrated becomes a particularly difficult balancing act during prolonged periods of drought. Simply put, there’s just not enough to go around. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner — whose last piece focused on California agriculture — explains the complicated math of water distribution in the Golden State. View below as a slideshow or full graphic.  Continue reading

Parched Produce: California Agriculture in a State of Drought

Includes cartoon infographic

These are bone dry times for California. Even with the recent rains, the state is still mired in one of its worst droughts in recorded history. And that spells trouble for the vast agriculture industry here. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains. View it as a slideshow or in full-length format below.


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How Serious Is the California Drought? These Satellite Images Say It All

Includes images
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NASA satellite imagery comparing California’s snowpack in January 2013 to January 2014. GIF animation created by Rhett A. Butler_Mongabay.com.


If you live in California, snowpack is a pretty crucial part of your existence.

That’s because about a third of the state’s water supply comes from snow that accumulates in the mountains, mostly during the winter months. In fact, California receives roughly half of its entire year’s water supply between December and February alone. Continue reading

How Much Water Do Californians Use And What Does A 20 Percent Cut Look Like?

Includes interactive charts
A parched Folsom Lake,  at less than 20 percent of capacity (photo courtesy of National Weather Service).

A parched Folsom Lake, at less than 20 percent of capacity (photo courtesy of National Weather Service).


This is not a good time for umbrella merchants in California.

2013 was one of the driest years on record in the state. And January  – usually among the wettest months — has failed to provide any relief. With the precipitous drop in reservoir levels, Gov. Jerry Brown recently declared a statewide drought emergency, calling this “perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago,” Continue reading

Rot and Rubbish: The Rancid Truth About How Much Food We Waste

Includes cartoon infographic

Food-Waste_slice1

Food. It’s almost as if we like wasting it as much as we enjoy eating it. About a third of all food in the world that’s produced for human consumption (roughly 1.2 billion tons)  is lost or wasted, based on United Nations’ estimates — even as millions still suffer from chronic hunger. In the United States, nearly 40 percent of the food supply gets tossed in the garbage, much of it piled in rapidly rising mountains of trash. In his latest cartoon infographic, comic journalist Andy Warner sniffs out an alarmingly rotten issue — one that might make you think twice before tossing that pizza crust. (Click on the link below to view in individual panes.)   Continue reading

The Math of Trash: A Music Video

Includes animated video

How much trash do you think you produce in a day? How about a year?

It adds up a lot faster than you might  think — especially in the United States, which collectively generates more garbage — or municipal waste — than any other nation on earth. With only five percent of the world’s population, America creates roughly 25 percent of the planet’s waste. On average, each American produces more than seven pounds of trash a day (or 2,555 pounds a year) according to a recent Columbia University survey. That’s a big pile of garbage, and it’s the cause of some unsettling consequences. But it’s also great fodder for a catchy animated music video, composed by the folks at Explainer Music for The Lowdown.
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Animated Explainer: What’s All The Fuss About Fracking in California?

Includes animations and map

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to create California’s first set of regulations on hydraulic fracturing. The controversial extraction technique, commonly known as fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations in order to create fractures that release reserves of oil or natural gas.

While fracking operations in the Northeast generally extract natural gas, in California, oil is the big prize. Continue reading

The Flammable West: Mega-Fires in the Age of Climate Change (with real-time fire map)

Includes interactive maps and charts

Click on the fire icons in the interactive map below for updated information about each currently active fire in the U.S. Then zoom in to see the actual perimeter of the fires.

As of Friday, August 9, 36 wildfires were burning in eight western states and Alaska, including six in California and nine new large fires in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Already this year, more than 2.5 million acres have gone up in smoke — an area bigger than Yellowstone National Park. And that’s actually a lot smaller than its been at this point in some recent years (last year, almost twice as many acres had burned by early August). Continue reading

Interactive Web Aquarium: What Overfishing Looks Like

Includes interactive data visualization

Rampant overfishing in the world’s oceans has led to a dramatic decline in big “predatory” fish populations — the one’s we eat, like tuna and cod –  while creating an overabundance of small fish.

That’s according to data from a 2011 regression analysis by scientists at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, who used more than 200 marine ecosystem models to show evidence that big fish populations dropped by more than two-thirds over the last century.  More than half that decline occurred within the last 40 years.

“Overfishing has absolutely had a ‘when cats are away, the mice will play’ effect on our oceans,” said Dr Villy Christensen, who led the study. “By removing the large, predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive.”

The Nature of Overfishing, a “web aquarium” created by graphic designer Sam Slover, cleverly  visualizes this data. Slide the handle at the bottom of the graphic to see what a century of overfishing looks like beneath the surface.