Green Space

A stroll through California's natural world

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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 California’s umbrella industry.

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,”

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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.)

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The Math of Trash: A Music Video

Includes animated video

How much trash do 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

As of early August 2013, 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.

Genetically Modified What? What’s the deal with GMOs (and should we know when were eating them)?

Embedded video and radio clips

This November, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which proposes adding labels to food products containing ingredients hat have been genetically modified.

Genetically modified what?

Yeah – this is about as confusing as it gets, and there’s weird science behind the whole thing, which makes it even harder to understand for us normal folk. Continue reading

The Deal with the Delta (California’s big watering hole)

Includes: map and video


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About two-thirds of Californians drink, bathe, brush their teeth, and flush their toilets with water that comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That’s roughly 25 million people who get at least some portion of their hydration from one big triangular watering hole.

But ask most folks what the Delta is, and you’re guaranteed to get a lot of blank stares. One recent poll found that about 4 out 5 people in California had pretty much no idea about it.

 

It’s pretty easy to take for granted that water magically pours out of the tap when you turn your faucet on. But chances are, that H20 has gone through a pretty serious journey to reach you – and it’s probably worth knowing where it comes from, and how safe the supply is. Continue reading

What’s A Park Worth?

INCLUDES: ARTICLE; KQED AUDIO CLIPS

Natural-Bridges State Beach, near Santa Cruz (credit: Ca. Dept. of Parks and Recreation)

“These state parks are our cathedrals. This is what defines us as Californians to the rest of the world.  But they are not cheap to run. And so I think Californians need to decide whether it’s worth it to them to save these parks … I think it begs a much deeper question of what we value as Californians.
- Ruth Coleman, California state parks director

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A (mini) Guide to California’s Parks

INCLUDES: INTERACTIVE MAPS AND KQED MULTIMEDIA LINKS

Click on the photo to explore KQED's radio and interactive series on California's parks.

California has a lot of state parks. 278 to be exact – more than any other state in the U.S. Some are tiny specks on the map – mini historic sites that you may have driven by without even noticing. Others are vast swaths of land – thousands of preserved acres of old growth forest, sweeping vistas, pristine beaches. Size and stature aside, each has it’s own significance, and the majority were spearheaded as a result of citizen-led campaigns to make the land public and accessible to anyone who wanted to visit. Continue reading