Friday, December 09, 2016

Our damaged headwaters

From the Public Policy Institute of California:

"We’re seeing intensifying wildfires in California, especially in the headwater regions where our rivers originate. More intense fires have significantly changed the composition and structure of forest ecosystems, affecting both water quality and quantity, though not always for the worse. For example, large fires can significantly reduce the amount of vegetation covering the land, which reduces the amount of water consumed by plants. Burned areas also have much less water circulating in the soil. 

Both of these post-fire processes have a positive impact on streamflow, as more water works its way into the water table and streams. But the loss of groundcover plants from intense fires also increases surface erosion, which can cause landslides in the rainy season. Ashes and sediments flowing into streams harm water quality..." 

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Most children in SF are driven to school

S.F. Examiner

The survey found 56.5 percent of students in kindergarten through fifth grade are driven by a parent or caregiver to school. About 14 percent take public transit, like Muni and BART; 8 percent carpool with other families; 7.8 percent walk; 7.6 percent take another bus (like a yellow school bus); and only 0.1 percent take taxis, Lyft or Uber.

But what about City Hall's---and the Bicycle Coalition's---irresponsible attempt to get the city's children to ride bikes to school? Fortunately that campaign has failed to convince city parents to get their kids to ride bikes to school. It's not mentioned in the text of the story, but the graphic above tells us that only 0.7% of the city's children ride bikes to school.

Part of the problem is how schools are assigned in San Francisco:

[Supervisor]Breed lambasted the current SFUSD school assignment model, which gives priority to pick a school to families living in neighborhoods with the lowest test scores rather than families that live in the same neighborhoods as a school. The average commute distance between home and school would be curtailed by at least a mile under a neighborhood-based assignment system, according to an SFUSD analysis on K-5 school assignments presented to the Board of Education last week.

Typical that Examiner writer Rodriguez, relying on the SFMTA, provides an incomplete account of how many people in SF commute by car:

Perhaps most significantly, the study found more than half of parents surveyed drive their kids to school most days — a far cry from the commute of adults, who drive less...Those numbers show kids are far more car-reliant than adults who travel on their own — where San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency data shows 25 percent of commuters take transit, 23 percent walk, 27 percent drive alone and 21 percent carpool. When including the number of students picked up from some form of after-school program, the number of students being driven by family or a caregiver jumped to 70 percent.

According to the US Census, 44% of city commuters get to work by car, truck, or van, not exactly "a far cry" from the 56% of children who are driven to school.

The Census figures on commuting by bike are revealing: in 2009 3.2% of city commuters rode bikes to work. In 2015 that was 5.2%, a gain of a mere 2% in six years.

This shows that City Hall's redesign of city streets in anticipation of the great bike revolution is a great mistake, since the last count showed that in fact fewer people are riding bikes to work in San Francisco.

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Michael Lewis on his new book


Trump can't stop the energy revolution

National Resource Defense Council

...NRDC just released its Fourth Annual Energy Report: Accelerating Into A Clean Energy Future. The report explains the transition to clean energy is well underway, driven by a combination of market forces, state and federal policies, technological advancements, and strong public support in red and blue states alike. Renewable energy has made dramatic progress across the country in recent years. In the span of just five years, solar generation in Nevada increased more than seven-fold, and North Carolina has seen its solar generation increase five-fold in the past two years alone. Iowa and Texas, which were already leaders in wind power back in 2010, have both nearly doubled their wind generation over the past five years, and both states are expected to continue their shift to a clean energy future over the next several years...

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