Palos Verdes-South Bay Sierra Club

Become an Outings Leader

Before too long we’ll be able to have group hikes and other outings. Be ready. Become a leader! 

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The Foggy View is looking for writers who are Black, Indigenous or other people of color to share your perceptions of environmental justice or experience of nature. Please contact wordznpix@gmail.com. We’re also in search of volunteers who can translate our articles into languages other than English.

Due to COVID-19, for everyone’s safety, Sierra Club outings and in-person events/meetings are cancelled through Feb. 28, 2021. Click to find our virtual happy hours and other online activities. Meanwhile, we are directed to not conduct any of the outings as private.  If you’re hiking on your own, please stay at least 6 feet from anyone else. For questions on outings, please contact your outings chairs, Frank or Kevin.

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Ecocentro, un recurso del Sierra Club para la comunidad latina sobre el medio ambiente y la salud de su familia.

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PV-SB Hike Leaders.     PV-SB Officers.

Outings liability waiver

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Circling Tibet’s Forbidden Peak at Our Virtual Social Hour

Don’t worry; you don’t need to do the climbing. Relax with your favorite beverage as you watch “The Yak Guesthouse,” Sierra Club member Bob Caplan’s documentary of his wife Anita’s determination to circle Tibet’s most sacred peak, 22,000-foot Mt. Kailash, also known as Mt. Meru, the Center of the Universe and Home of the Gods in Hindu and Buddhist tradition. For 25 years Anita dreams of circling Kailash, but China forbids foreign access. But attaining permission does not mean that success is assured. Life-taking landslides, swift rivers, and fierce storms threaten to destroy the expedition. Sparkling night skies, moments of quiet and reflection, extraordinary people and scenery, and determination to reach Mt. Kailash sustain it.

Join us Sunday, May 16 to see this exciting film as part of our virtual happy hour. Arrive at 3:30 p.m. to socialize. The film starts at 4:00, followed by Q&A with both Bob and Anita Caplan, 5:00-5:30.

The event is free and open to all.

Zoom link will be sent to those who register the day before the event.

Can Ocean Farming Help Feed the Earth’s Booming Population?

Photo by yeowatzup, Wikimedia Commons

PART 1: Aquaculture in California, So Far

By Christian Paullin, Environmental Journalist

By 2050, our planet will be home to approximately 9.9 billion people, a more than 25% increase since 2020,according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The current global levels of food production are not nearly enough to support these additional two billion people. To support this expected progeny in a healthy environment, we must produce more food  without increasing land use or greenhouse gas (GHG) production.

California is at the forefront of this potential global food crisis as we produce 13% of our country’s crops and livestock and export billions of dollars of agriculture. In addition, we are located on the Pacific Ocean, which holds precious resources of shellfish, fish, and seaweed. As land availability reduces year in and year out, many scientists, farmers, and countries are turning to aquaculture as an alternative farming option.

California farm products for sale in Fresno, CA. (US Department of Agriculture)

Aquaculture, however, threatens ecosystems in several ways: destruction of habitat, introduction of foreign species, pollution, increased levels of animal waste, diseases passed to local fish populations, blockage of migration patterns, over-utilization of resources among many others. But if done correctly, aquaculture can be one of many avenues our society pursues in light of rising food demand.

The Sierra Club’s  Sustainable Marine Fisheries Policy doesn’t address aquaculture specifically, many of the principles apply. To briefly summarize, the Sierra Club encourages marine fisheries to be ecosystem-focused rather focused on single species. How will the farm affect the existing environment in all facets: local marine species, salinity, temperature, food sources, and even sunlight penetration? How will a fish from the Atlantic affect the ecosystem if it were to escape and breed in the Pacific? There are a lot of unknowns; proper research and analysis needs to be completed before any farm is opened.

Californians employed aquaculture as far back as 1850 when San Francisco residents started growing various breeds of oysters from all over the west coast in the San Francisco Bay. Though bay aquaculture and inland aquaculture are plentiful in California, almost all open-ocean aquaculture is restricted in California, including the hazardous system of farming fish in net pens or cages in the open ocean, for good reason. Net pen aquaculture involves anchoring huge nets or cages in the open-ocean. This can lead to: introduction of escaped fish into local population, pollution from waste of fish/antibiotics/chemicals, spread of disease from farmed to local populations, among other harmful factors.

However, some open-ocean farming can be done sustainably, specifically offshore farming of local shellfish and nutrient-rich local seaweed. Open ocean is vast: there are areas of low biological productivity and it’s a relatively untouched source of farmland to help feed our growing population.

Net Pens off the coast of Maine. (NOAA)

Mussels and seaweed can both provide benefits to local ecosystems such as reduced algal blooms, combat impacts of ocean acidification by removing GHG’s from the ocean and can provide habitat to some species of marine life.

Seaweed aquaculture off of South Korea. (NASA)
 

Open-ocean farming is already happening in California. Northern California has a few offshore seaweed farms. Daybreak Seaweed Co is a woman-owned seaweed farm based in the Tomales Bay north of San Francisco. Santa Barbara Mariculture has farmed mussels in the open ocean for years after discovering wild mussels growing on oil rigs in the open ocean. And Ventura Shellfish Enterprise is a multi-party initiative working to receive a permit and lease for open-ocean shellfish farming. 

Catalina Sea Ranch is the only operation located in the Los Angeles area. It was given permission to operate as a mussel farm but failed to comply with their permit obligations; did not perform inspections, ignored enforcement requests, and prematurely served product to consumers before being given the go ahead from the proper bodies. Ultimately their structure broke apart causing an accident fatal to a local recreational fisherman. Their failures have put a damper on this industry in Los Angeles, but it should not signal the end of offshore aquaculture in Los Angeles. With proper enforcement and rule-abiding operators, safe and sustainable offshore aquaculture still has a chance to thrive off our coasts.

So why aren’t there that many shellfish or seaweed farms off the coast of South Los Angeles or anywhere in Los Angeles for that matter? There are numerous reasons including some bureaucratic red tape, competitive pricing, difficulties of operating, a need for higher level of enforcement by governing heads, and others that will be touched on in the next issue of Foggy View.

Intertidal mussels growing in Bodega Bay, Calif. (NOAA)

Lies Cost Lives

Torrance Refining Company (Isabelle Jeng)

Millions living in the vicinity of two South Bay refineries are at risk from massive amounts of highly toxic hydrogen fluoride and tens of thousands could die from an accidental release ― vastly more than Covid-19 deaths in these communities.

By Isabelle Jeng, Environmental Journalist

Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is used by refineries to make high-octane gasoline. It boils at 67° F. The two refineries in California still using this volatile and highly caustic chemical store it in large quantities. Refineries sometimes explode. There have been three major near-misses in the last six years that could have caused mass casualties near refineries, one of them right here in the South Bay at the Torrance refinery. The other California refinery using HF is also in the South Bay: Valero in Wilmington. The SCAQMD (South Coast Air Quality Management District) Board’s latest failed attempt to ban HF — despite the findings of its own staff, based on masses of damning data — follows a long line of similar failed efforts at the state and local levels over the past three decades.


By failing to ban HF, the AQMD perpetuates the refineries’ lies. The refineries claim:

  • HF is safe, especially when it’s “modified” (MHF).
  • But they’re going to add “mitigation measures” anyway.
  • There are never any off-site consequences.
  • There are no alternatives to HF.
  • Conversion is too expensive.

Let’s examine those claims.

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What Is Environmental Justice, And Why Should I Care?

Top photo: Judy Herman

By Christopher Ozomgi, Environmental Journalist

2020 brought a host of long-contentious issues back to the forefront of American politics — police brutality, systemic racism, and wealth inequality come to mind — and thrust back into the spotlight was the hot-button concept of environmental justice. Originally thrust into prominence in 1994 when then-president Bill Clinton signed an executive order “directing federal agencies to include consideration of health and environmental conditions in minority, tribal, and low-income communities into agency decision-making” (Environmental Law Institute), environmental justice returned to the national dialogue this past year. Such a return, of course, is intrinsically linked to the incoming platform of President Joe Biden, who has staunchly pledged to tackle “America’s persistent racial and economic disparities,” according to The Washington Post. As any environmental justice advocate will tell you, a discussion of racial and economic disparities is incomplete without mentioning differences in the implementation of environmental standards and laws. This is because environmental justice, fundamentally, is about enforcing the fair, impartial treatment of all individuals, with regards to protection from environmental and health hazards. Such hazards, as one might guess, disproportionately encumber the poor and people of color.

Thus, any discussion of racial or economic justice is fundamentally incomplete without the introduction of environmental justice. To see this interconnectedness, look at South Los Angeles, an area long plagued by carefully planned environmental racism. Today, South L.A. is “predominantly [a] black and brown low income community,” as well as a home to “multiple sources of pollution,” according to Scope LA. As one might guess, the link between minority housing and higher rates of pollution was not established by chance; rather, it was consciously designed that way by 20th century city planners, in an effort to preserve the (white) racial homogeneity of the less-polluted and wealthier West Side. Said design was realized through the implementation of “redlining and restrictive covenants” which “limited housing options for Black, Latino, and Asian communities in Los Angeles” (Scope LA). Ultimately, Scope LA asserts that “these racist practices made it so that in the 1920s, people of color were barred from accessing about 95% of the city’s housing stock.” 

Race and ethnicity 2010: Los Angeles

By Eric Fischer – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57275754

Red is White,

Blue is Black,

Green is Asian,

Orange is Hispanic,

Yellow is Other,

and each dot is 25 residents.

Data from Census 2010. 

Furthermore, the city’s racist housing practices were not just restrictive; they also involved active seizures of Black-owned property in high-value areas under the guise of eminent domain. As widely reported recently, one of the most notorious cases of eminent domain being abused occurred in 1924 at Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach. According to Adrienne Alpert of ABC 7, “the City of Manhattan Beach used eminent domain to force Willa and Charles Bruce [among the first Black landowners in the city] off their land where they lived and ran a resort for Black families.” Clearly, there has been a historical effort to limit Black people in the Los Angeles area to certain neighborhoods, while preventing them from moving to others. Continuing racial discrimination in home sales and rising real estate prices, which also limit mobility, have conspired to ensure that Los Angeles’ people of color are disproportionately affected by toxic pollution and other environmental risks.

This is what environmental justice means: ensuring the equal protection of all peoples — regardless of socioeconomic or racial identity — from environmental hazards. Poorer people of color should not be subjected to lesser environmental conditions than the rich or white. This is not an implausible utopia, nor is it naive; it can be accomplished — both nationally and in California — through the consolidation and enforcement of a comprehensive environmental legal code. The next time you hear the term “environmental justice,” I implore you to think about South Los Angeles — and our PV-SB members and friends in communities like Gardena, Carson, Compton, Wilmington and San Pedro. Remember the interwoven nature of environmental, racial, and economic justice, and join the effort to bring them about.

Trees Please, Pt. 2: Above Ground

(Judy Herman)

Along the Path: A Young Person’s Guide to Exploring Nature

By Susan Rothrock Deo

“I don’t know if you know this, but trees are like us. They talk like us. This is why I’m very careful about cutting them down. People hurt them a lot. If I cut down a tree, the kin will ask, ‘Why did you kill my brother?'”

–Ntoni, leader of the Kīsêdjê people, an indigenous tribe of the Amazon rainforest, 2008 (Quoted in Environmental Defense Fund Special Report, Spring 2021)
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Wildlife of the Angeles National Forest Captured by Photographer Robert Martinez

Meet Robert Martinez, the photographer behind the iconic “Mother of Lions” photo that hangs in LA International Airport. This exciting behind-the-scenes tour will show you how to setup motion-activated wildlife cameras. Robert will guide us through some of the highlights of his nine years of capturing wildlife in the Angeles National Forest. Learn how motion-activated wildlife videography and photography reveal stories of foxes, rabbits, bobcats, mountain lions and black bears.

Sunday April 25, 2021, as part of the PV-SB Sierra Club Virtual Social Hour

Presentation will begin at 4pm. Join early at 3:30pm to virtually socialize with others.

Event is free and open to the public.

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Here is how to get in touch with Robert Martinez and follow his work 
Website: https://robertmartinezphotography.com Email: parliamentofowls72@gmail.com YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSzr16Cz57J5kEGlXH_rOvg Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Robert-Martinez-358323934895027 Instagram: Robert Martinez (@parliament0f0wls) • Instagram photos and videos

Christian Paullin Joins Communications Team

The PV-SB Group is excited to welcome another environmental journalist to our communications team. Christian is an avid outdoorsman and lifelong surfer born and raised in the South Bay. He says, “I have a passion for preserving California’s precious outdoor resources. I have grown up seeing first-hand the effect we can have on our surrounding environment and I want to bring these issues to the public eye.”

I hate to be the Bear of Bad News

By Cheryl Frick

Along the Path TREES PLEASE

Pt. 1: The Underground Network

By Susan Rothrock Deo

Photos by Susan Deo, except sequoia and bristlecone pine by Judy Herman

A tree sends out lateral roots that intertwine with the roots of other trees or plants around it. Trees can signal danger to each other through these adjoining roots, and an older tree can actually feed a sapling tree.

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Two South Bay Students Plant Their Roots of Commitment to Lifelong Environmental Activism

Samantha Torres and Rylee Goldfarb

By Isabelle Jeng, Environmental Journalist

South Bay high school students, Samantha Torres, 16, a junior at Mira Costa High School, and Rylee Goldfarb, 15, a sophomore at Redondo Union High School, have something unusual in common – they’ve both been environmentalists since they were kids.  

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Virtual Happy Hour: Center of Life

Paul Blieden is a photographer who loves walking in nature. At Madrona Marsh about six months ago, he used the macro function on his Canon 24-70mm lens for the first time to document insects up close. Fine. Then one day at South Coast Botanic Garden he trained the macro function on a flower. Suddenly, the intimate view revealed the center of life. He saw the sex organs of the flower, the pistil and stamen, and learned a new way to see flowers. He noticed the beauty, the uniqueness, the variety of shapes and colors at the flowers’ center. He captured so many new and intriguing images that he created a virtual gallery: “Center of Life.” https://publish.exhibbit.com/gallery/09874854/marble-gallery-33097/

Paul guides you through the gallery and shows you some of avian wildlife that visit the botanic garden.

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Will the State Budget Affect Environmental Justice for the South Bay?

By Christopher A. Ozomgi, Environmental Journalist

For all the pandemic and election-related turmoil engrossing the rest of the United States, California continues to resiliently chug along, awash in good fortune; or so it appeared on January 8th, when California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a proposed 2021-22 state budget that opened eyes across the nation, primarily owing to its $15 billion one-time surplus and $227 billion total. Despite the projected need for extreme budget cuts and other austerity measures — owing to the destructive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — Newsom’s proposed budget has demonstrated that such projections were patently mistaken; such mistakes can be attributed to a surging stock market that generally insulated the upper-class from economic struggles, thereby flushing the state with healthy tax revenue.

Thus, for the purposes of the Palos Verdes-South Bay Group, the question arises: what provisions are included within said budget to promote environmental justice in the group’s vicinity? Even more specifically, how will environmental inequities, particularly those resulting from pollution in and around the Port of L.A., be corrected?

Relating to the former question — centered around broad environmental justice initiatives in the local area — Gov. Newsom’s budget features a key provision that will help rectify previous environmental mishaps, to the benefit of disadvantaged communities. According to the budget summary the state budget will include a “$500 million one-time General Fund for infill infrastructure grants to facilitate affordable and sustainable housing development on brownfield sites. Developing these sites creates an opportunity to leverage private sector resources for the cleanup of these properties.” A brownfield site is a property that has been compromised by the presence of “a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant,” according to the EPA. There are an estimated 450,000 brownfields in the U.S., including at least 18 in Wilmington alone. As such, many of these sites waste away, unable to be redeveloped or repurposed due to the severe costs involved with removing the polluting material. Furthermore, given that low-income neighborhoods (such as Wilmington) tend to be positioned near industrial areas and other such pollutant-rich areas, the majority of brownfield sites inhibit infrastructure improvements and depress property values, contributing to community blight and increasing community health risks.  Funding to clean up these brownfield sites will make it possible to develop them for commercial or recreational use, or perhaps for housing.  Thus, carried out successfully, Newsom’s General Fund will restore a lower-income part of the South Bay while simultaneously reducing the area’s land pollution.

Finally, the proposed state budget does indeed address some of the glaring environmental injustices occurring in and around the Port of Los Angeles, with diesel-powered ships “poised to become the region’s largest source of smog-causing pollutants in coming years,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Diesel also powers trucks and trains that carry freight to and from the port by way of the 710 corridor, forcing people living in disadvantaged communities along the corridor to breathe hazardous air. Spectrum News, reporting on infrastructure investments in the budget says 50% “is targeted toward disadvantaged communities that have disproportionately experienced the effects of poor air quality resulting from gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, including along the 710 corridor that handles freight in and out of the ports of LA and Long Beach.” Specific examples of such infrastructure investments include “$500 million in funding for low-income Californians to purchase cleaner vehicles, as well as funds to support the purchase of clean trucks, buses, and [trains].” Ideally, such subsidies would facilitate the introduction of zero-emission vehicles into the poorer, more polluted communities — like those along the 710 corridor — which need them the most. Thus, although the fight for emissions regulations in and around the Port of L.A. rages on, Gov. Newsom’s proposed 2021-22 state budget takes concrete steps towards rectifying the pollution-related injustices of the past towards the disadvantaged in the form of infrastructure investments, while hopefully mitigating future injustices.

Assuming these proposals remain intact after the budget is revised in May and passed by the legislature in the summer, Palos Verdes South Bay Group members can rest assured with the comforting knowledge that California’s record-setting proposed state budget in 2021-22 will not ignore the glaring need for environmental justice in the area.

“A Great Weight is Lifted” By Cheryl Frick

Virtual Social and Talk — California Alive

California poppies cover rolling hills

How Nature (and We Humans) Influence the Character of Our State

“Along the Path” columnist and environmental educator Susan Deo takes you on a virtual tour of California’s natural regions, land and sea–from an ecological and environmental perspective. Join us to discover a sample of the living, non-living and human influences on these regions. From the view at 20,000 feet sweep down and get up close and personal. 

This event took place Feb. 21, 2021.

Garbage In, Global Warming Out: Can We Disrupt the Flow?

By Al Sattler

Did you know that when you are discarding food waste into the trash, you are contributing to global warming?  Here in Los Angeles County, our residential garbage is buried in “sanitary landfills,” a.k.a. dumps. Once it is buried, isolated from air, bacteria decompose it, producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Food waste is one component of garbage that decays most rapidly. Operators of landfills capture some of the methane by putting a dirt cap on top and pipes to suck it out, but much of the methane escapes before it can be captured, so landfills are a significant source of methane in the atmosphere, contributing about 21% of methane emissions. To address this issue, the California legislature passed a law, SB 1383, to greatly reduce the amount of organic* waste, including food waste that is dumped in landfills. Cities must divert 50% of their organic waste from landfills by 2020 (this goal will not be met), and 75% by 2025.

4,000 tons per day of food waste is produced in Los Angeles County. SB 1383 sets a goal that at least 20 percent of edible food that is currently disposed of be recovered for human consumption by 2025. SaveTheFood offers hints on food storage and other ways to reduce your personal food waste. There is also an Ugly Fruit and Vegetable campaign, to encourage people to buy less-than-perfect produce. Business Insider reviewed Imperfect Foods, one company that delivers homely produce. The Center for Food Loss and Waste Solutions at https://furtherwithfood.org/ has significant information resources. The Angeles Chapter’s newsletter “The Southern Sierran” also has an article this month by Palos Verdes-South Bay member Simone Kuhfal, “Food Waste, Food Insecurity, Climate and Equity,” that includes tips on reducing your food waste.

It is a shame that a huge amount of food waste is discarded while so many people are hungry, but much of this is spoiled and inedible. Recently, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County presented a virtual tour of their installation at the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson to process some of this food waste. The video is available to watch. Food waste from restaurants and grocery stores is collected by garbage haulers and delivered to outlying facilities where it is ground up, and the slurry pumped into tanker trucks to be delivered to Carson. Currently, 300 tons per day of slurry is delivered to Carson. (That’s less than 8 percent of the total food waste produced in the county.) The food waste slurry is pumped into existing anaerobic digesters, commingling with sewage sludge. The digestion produces digester gas “biogas” which contains methane and carbon dioxide, most of which is sent to existing gas turbines, which generate electricity to power the plant. There are plans to expand the system to take up to 600 tons per day, which will produce more gas than needed for the turbines, so they are cleaning up the gas and selling it at an existing compressed natural gas fueling station for vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, like some large trucks. I asked why they don’t build more gas turbines to generate more electricity to sell on the grid. It turns out that electricity from wind and solar is priced at 2-3 cents per kilowatt-hour, and electricity from additional gas turbines would not be cost-competitive. 

After 15-16 days in the digester, the remaining sludge is dewatered in large centrifuges (like the spin cycle of a washing machine), and transported to several distant facilities where it is composted, then used as soil amendment. Unfortunately, the food waste is mixed with the sewage sludge, so the resulting compost is not suitable to use directly on many food crops. 

The county sanitation district should be commended for taking some steps to manage the greenhouse gas emissions of food waste, but there is still a long way to go. It would certainly be preferable to compost decently clean food waste or digest it separately from sewage. Using the digester gas to fuel vehicles, perpetuating use of fossil fuels for vehicles, is a step backward. A new solution is needed to first, reduce the amount of food waste produced, and second, to scale up the recycling of the waste in a productive way.   Collecting food waste from individual homes would be much more difficult than collecting food waste from large commercial sources. For now, the food waste you put into your garbage will still go to a landfill, and will still contribute to global warming. So minimize your personal food waste, and compost if you can.

*”Organic” here means derived from living matter; it does not refer to “organic farming.”

Take Your Photography to New Heights

Carlos Cuervo, a globetrotting hiker with a passion for capturing the spectacle of nature, presents “A Hiker’s Guide to Landscape Photography” at our Sunday, January 24, 2021, online meeting. Learn how he prepares to catch nature at its peak — the hiking and camera gear, the time of the year and of the day — and how he tweaks the images to perfection on the computer. Even if you’re not a hiker or a photographer, you’ll love seeing the Sierras, Zion National Park and Norway through Carlos’s eyes. Join the Zoom meeting at 3:30 pm to chat with old and new friends. The presentation will start at 4:00.

The program is free and open to all. To register, go to http://bit.ly/380Jh9Y.

Madrona Marsh Preserve: A Refuge from the Storm

Essay and Photographs By Beth Shibata

Some places carry a timeless quality. They seem to exist simultaneously in real time and outside of time. Such places offer a sense of stability, following their own pace and rhythms with a seeming certainty and reliability. This is the feeling I have at the Madrona Marsh Preserve only a few steps inside the gate.  After several deep breaths of air fragranced by the vegetation, I feel myself relax and begin to blend into the preserve’s flow. The seeming steadfastness of the preserve does that. This 43-acre chunk of land is part of the El Segundo dune system and includes a mix of micro-habitats, notably rare vernal pools and marsh. Surrounded by the City of Torrance, the preserve sustains and supports not only the native and local fauna and flora, but visitors of all kinds and stripes, including me.

That the preserve exists is something of a miracle. But it does. The combined efforts of citizens, Friends of Madrona Marsh, and the officials of the City of Torrance kept it from becoming another developed property and helped it become a magnet and center for scientific study and environmental education. Despite its being a vanishingly small remnant of a large wetland system that once was the South Bay, the Madrona Marsh Preserve still provides a refuge, a rest stop and feeding ground for birds traveling the Pacific Flyway as well as a home for its many resident critters, and a refuge for human visitors looking to observe wildlife or just looking for a place that moves at its own pace, indifferent to the surrounding urban hubbub. 

It is a place where I have breathed in the timelessness and watched the procession of birds zip in and out of shrubs (if I’m there early enough), and wandered among leaves laced with Pacific tree frogs and the occasional grasshopper or cricket. It is a place considered an ecologically significant area because it contains more than 100 valuable, sensitive or threatened species. It is a place invested literally and figuratively with the energy of all lives lived on the land across time, from the ancient fossils that fed the now capped and covered oil wells, the wetland creatures that once populated the land–including those that still do, the native Tongva people, Spanish settlers, to the current caretakers working to restore native species. 

These days, with the pandemic overarching life as we know it, standing on the berm, the highest point on the preserve, overlooking the land is like being in the eye of a hurricane. In the eye, the sky is clear and bright, the immediate world is quiet, the calm surreal. A roiling storm surrounds everything and spits bolts of uncertainty in all directions. However, like a hurricane, the pandemic will pass, leaving its trail of destruction. It helps to know that the Madrona Marsh Preserve exists as a refuge to help heal and restore battered spirits. 

It has been a while since I’ve had time to visit, but my photographs help transport me there. From a black phoebe looking curiously at me, to a tree frog zoning out in cool morning air, a red-winged blackbird perched on the tules keeping a watchful eye, a local lizard blending into the base of a willow tree, or ladybugs marching down the grass as if on their way to work, there are many magical moments of discovery. I never know if I’ll encounter a sleeping mallard or a bee plopped on the face of a sunflower, legs fully loaded with pollen, or gaze into a vernal pond and see layers of seasons past and present, or be amazed by the clouds coming in over the Palos Verdes peninsula. And there are wheelbarrows and gloves serving as reminders of the work required to hold on to the timelessness of this precious spot. There is much at the preserve to engage the mind, delight the eye, feed the soul, and restore flagging spirits.

Our Melodic Visitors from the North

Along the Path: A Young Person’s Guide to Exploring Nature

By Susan Rothrock Deo Photo by Robin Young

I heard the sweet whistle, followed by a melodic trill. The lovely birdsong transported me to the north woods. But I was walking down my street in Southern California! I wasn’t familiar with this song, so I noted the bird’s size (medium), its vague coloring (brown) and short, somewhat stubby, bill. Maybe it’s a sparrow? One of my favorites from the spring, the white- crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia  leucophrys, had recently returned. I’d seen them foraging for seed scattered under my feeder and digging in the native plant garden at Point Vicente Interpretive Center. I looked up their song in my bird app and–bingo! I was right! Let me share some of what I learned.

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Watching and Listening to Birds—Just What the Doctor Ordered!

By Susan Rothrock Deo

Video Produced by Paul Dinning – Wildlife in Cornwall

Have you found yourself listening to the birds singing more since the pandemic started? You are not alone, and it’s not just because there are fewer human-caused sounds since we are home more. According to Mary Forgione, in her May 7 Los Angeles Times article, “Research shows that listening to birdsong relaxes the body and sharpens the mind. Watching birds sends us outdoors and into nature, which benefits humans in many ways, including keeping anxiety, anger and depression at bay.” Something we all need during these trying times. Boost your spirits with a little birdsong or bird watching. You don’t have to know which bird is singing to appreciate their beautiful music, but if you are curious, here are several ways you can learn more.

  1. The best way is if you can see the bird that is singing well enough to identify it with your field guide or app.
  2. Or, go on a hike with a birder who knows his or her stuff. They can identify birds by sound as well as by sight.
  3. Learn more yourself by downloading one of the free bird apps available on your computer, smart phone, or iPad. Merlin, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is one. (They also have a huge online database of bird songs and calls from around the world.) The Audubon Bird Guide, from the National Audubon Society is another. These apps have ways to identify birds by location, size, colors, and habits. Or, you can look through the birds in the app and listen to their songs to see if you hear familiar ones.
  4. It’s always good to have a bird field guide to study pictures and basic information about birds in your region. My current favorite is Birds of Southern California by Kimball L Garrett, Jon L. Dunn and Brian E. Small.

Get ready for your own birding adventure!

Want to learn more about the benefits to humans of birdsong and other aspects of nature? Read The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams, 2018.

Or check out this article describing scientific research on the effects of birdsong on humans conducted by the University of Surrey in England: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-listening-to-bird-song-can-transform-our-mental-health.html

Or read a local news article about this study recently conducted by a student at California Polytechnic State University in: https://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/environment/article248067225.html

Links of Interest

A pilot program to shuttle folks to the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve from RPV Civic Center will begin in March. Daily Breeze

Art, plastics and politics Southern Sierran

Biden’s plan to conserve 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030 could aid environmental justice. Inside Climate News.

Good Riddance, 2020

By Cheryl Frick

Vote! By Cheryl Frick

And don’t forget to vote in the Angeles Chapter elections: votePVSB.angsc.org
Your voter ID is in the SOCAL NOW newsletter

Sierra Club response to recent wildfires in California

By Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director

Our hearts are heavy as the losses from this year’s wildfires continue to mount. We mourn for those who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. We feel for all those suffering from dangerously smoky air, including our own Sierra Club family, whose lives have been shaken by these fires. We are continuing to work to enhance community fire defense planning, especially for our most vulnerable communities.

“Our leaders must ensure that not only are communities prepared and protected, but that firefighters and first responders have the necessary personal protective equipment to guard from the threat of COVID-19.  We must do more to protect communities now and for the future –to ensure all communities have the resources to prepare for wildfire, and to act on climate before the crisis worsens.

Zoltan Stroll

It is with great sadness that we inform our members of the passing of Zoltan Stroll, a member of the Palos Verdes-South Bay Sierra Club for more than 20 years.  He was an avid hiker with our group and became a leader in 2010. He also served on the Executive Committee and was our Treasurer for more than two years.  His hiking experiences took him far beyond the South Bay as he trekked to Patagonia, the Alps, the Canadian Rockies and Yosemite’s High Sierra camps and Sedona with his friends.  Zoltan is survived by his loving wife Halina, their two sons and three grandsons. Zoltan, we will really miss you. — Bill Lavoie

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Land Conservancy reduces fire risk in Palos Verdes Nature Preserve

Arborist crew removing acacia shrubs from the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve. Photo: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy/pvplc.org

By Adrienne Mohan, Executive Director
Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy

While some wildfires are part of nature’s natural cycle, the images of flames burning Southern California hillsides and neighboring homes is alarming.  Since its founding in 1988, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy has expended significant human and financial resources on fuel load reduction management work that benefits both the safety of residents and wildlife on the peninsula. 

Removal of invasive weed species like mustard, acacia, and pampas grass, not only impact the quality of habitat on the Peninsula, but also address a major fire danger.  An acacia removal project was funded by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes this year to augment fuel modification by the city due to larger-than-expected amount of invasive weeds around the Peninsula caused by heavy rainfall followed by warm weather.  Removal of acacia is critical because it is comprised of approximately 90% dry plant matter and volatile resins, making it highly combustible.  It also blocks out native vegetation such as species that are both more fire resistant and more needed by local wildlife to survive.

The project supported the removal of 40 acres of acacia and another 61 acres of invasive mustard. The Conservancy has also worked closely with the other surrounding cities, such as the City of Rolling Hills, to remove potential fire hazards.  As Habitat Manager of the 1,400 Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, the Land Conservancy provides guidance on vegetation and natural resource management to reduce fuel load vegetation in compliance with the Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP).  The plan requires meeting federal requirements to protect natural wildlife diversity such as monitoring, restoration planning and implementation.

A Conservancy biologist oversees the monitoring and documentation of project sites to prevent disturbing birds and other mammals.  This year, the Conservancy trained four Field Monitoring Interns from CSULB to identify plant and animal species and gather data using Geographic Information System (GIS) tools.  Data was gathered on areas where acacia had already been removed and documented any regrowth and seedling germination for retreatment.  Flora and soil samples were collected for each treated area, and monthly photo point monitored results. 

The acacia removal data collected this year are helping the Conservancy to develop a “Habitat Enhancement Plan” to identify strategic priorities for the additional removal of acacia and other combustible vegetation that will reduce the fuel load and maintain wildlife benefits for the foreseeable future.  

Lizard Love

By Susan Rothrock Deo

Walking my dog in early April, I found this pair of southern alligator lizards, Elgaria multicarinata, on a neighboring block. I watched them for several minutes and they didn’t move. I wasn’t sure what they were doing, so I did some research and learned they have a unique mating ritual. The male bites the female’s neck, mates quickly, but keeps holding on for up to forty-eight hours! If you see any interesting or unique lizard behavior, take a video and send it to the LA County Natural History Museum. They are gathering information about the behavior of Southern California lizards with citizen science—that’s YOU! The Natural History Museum calls these programs “Community Science.” Check out their website to see what types of community science interest you!

State allows power plants to continue harmful cooling method

By Melanie Cohen, Environmental Co-Chair

In 2010, after decades of complaints from environmentalists, California water regulators ordered 19 coastal power plants to phase out a cooling process that is blamed for killing billions of marine organisms every year. In “once-through cooling” (OTC) power plants pump huge amounts of water from a nearby ocean or river to cool their equipment.

By 2019, most of the plants using OTC were retired or replaced. Only four remained: one owned by the AES Corporation in Redondo Beach, a facility in Huntington Beach, San Onofre Nuclear Plant, and a plant in Ormond Beach. AES contended that California would not be able to meet peak electricity demand unless the four plants were allowed to continue using the harmful cooling method. The California State Water Board held hearings (2019-20) to determine whether power demand was sufficient to delay closure of the plants.

Because of the massive damage ocean cooling causes to coastal waters and sea life, Sierra Club Los Angeles and Sierra Club Palos Verdes-South Bay sent a letter supporting the shutdown.

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Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

By Judy Herman, Foggy View Editor

My Generation, a campaign of the California Sierra Club, is fighting for an equitable transition to a fully electrified economy powered by 100% clean, renewable energy. Volunteer leaders, especially young people, drive community mobilization across the state. The word “Generation” in the name has a double meaning: it refers both to the generation (or production) of energy and to the energetic young people who will be the next generation of environmental leaders. But the topic of a recent monthly meeting, climate justice activism training, interested this Boomer. I signed up for and was welcomed to the Zoom session led by Yassi Kavezade, Fran Yang and Angie Balderas.

Here’s some of what I learned about community activism:

It’s about listening — meeting with community groups and letting them define their needs. Schmoozing is essential. Making informal, one-to-one connections assures you are working as friends who want to be open and mutually helpful. Forging these personal connections is challenging in the time of COVID-19 when meetings are virtual. We have to be creative — maybe send a message in the chat to someone you’d like to know better and set up a virtual coffee break.

We were advised to set SMARTIE goals, ones that are:

Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, Time-bound (clear deadlines), Inclusive and Equitable.

Along the Path: Our Prickly Neighbors and Their Friends

Opuntia ficus-indica Photo: Judy Herman

By Susan Rothrock Deo

We have some prickly neighbors here in the South Bay, and I don’t mean the people down the street who play loud music at midnight or the kid who “borrows” your soccer ball and “forgets” to return it. I’m talking about the REAL prickly ones: the cacti.  Cacti have figured out how to thrive in warm dry climates like Southern California. Their stems evolved into round or oblong pads that store water and have thick waxy skins. Their leaves evolved into thin, hard pointed thorns, which also provide protection.

Opuntia littoralis. David Ferguson and Joe Shaw, Opuntiads.com
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Links of Interest

The Forest Committee of Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter launches a series of programs on wildfire

Annals of a warming planet: The West Coast wildfires are Apocalypse, Again. The New Yorker

Severe burn damage from California wildfires seen from space. Live Science

A toxic secret lurks in deep sea off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Los Angeles Times

Bankruptcy lets Exide and other companies get away with poisoning the environment. Los Angeles Times

Along the Path: The El Segundo Blue Returns

By Susan Rothrock Deo

Slideshow: 1-4 Tracy Drake, 5 Eva Cicoria, 6 Susan Deo, 7 Paul Blieden

I scanned the prolific clusters of flowers, scattered like pink tinged cotton balls, across the bushy plant. The plant was maybe three feet wide by two feet high so it took a while. The people walking by on the path must have wondered why I was staring at a plant for so long. The flowers were pretty, and there were tons of bees, but that’s not what I was looking for.

Read more and watch a slideshow

Fun Facts on Indian Wildlife

Text and photos by Susan Deo

Langur monkeys and chital deer have a symbiotic relationship. The monkeys drop leaves from the trees for the deer to eat and can see danger from their perches in the trees and warn the deer. The deer have excellent hearing and can also let the monkeys know about pending danger.

The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is a little smaller in size than African elephants. It also has a bit smaller ears.  All elephants, though, are social creatures, like us humans. They don’t like being alone, without their herd. Elephant babies can nurse from any mother in their herd. Lone elephants are rogue and angry outcasts

Can You Find the 10 Essentials? By Cheryl Frick

Links of Interest

Racist Urban Planning Left Some Neighborhoods to Swelter Black or Hispanic areas…up to 20 degrees F hotter in summer. (New York Times)

Why Does California Have So Many Wildfires? (New York Times)

What’s Your Experience with the Outdoors in Other Countries?

I’ve noticed that different countries have different ideas about what constitutes a national park. For example, in Cuba and Vietnam, the people who traditionally worked the land that was later designated a national park are allowed to stay there and continue farming. I was taken aback when I visited Cuba’s Viñales national park and saw that the stunning mogotes (karst formations), famed on tourist websites, were surrounded by tobacco fields.

If you grew up or lived in another country, what was your access to the outdoors like? What were the national parks like? Where did you go on vacations, if you did? Did you camp or hike? Write up your memories and include some pictures, if you have them. Send them to wordznpix@gmail.com and we may feature them in a future issue.

—editor

National Parks: An Intriguing Way to See the World

By Susan Rockroth Deo

How many national parks have you visited? Our family keeps a list. Some of us even have national park “passports” to stamp at every U.S. park we visit.

In Dudhwa we went on tiger hunts (of the camera kind) riding on the back of a trained elephant—the only way to go!

Each national park offers many ways to explore its nature, geology, and history. According to some sources, the world’s first national park was our Yellowstone National Park—set aside by the U.S. government in 1872, almost 150 years ago. Since then the U.S. and many other countries have preserved special regions of their countries as national parks. Though there is no internationally accepted definition of a national park, this one is close: “an area protected because of its natural, ecological or cultural value and where human presence (or at least human exploitation of resources) is limited.” There are now over 161,000 protected areas in the world, including terrestrial and marine preserves, national parks, wildlife refuges and scenic or historic areas.

Read more and see more pictures

Why is the Sierra Club Involved in Politics?

By Al Sattler

Alternate Chapter Rep

Recently, I was asked why the Sierra Club is involved in politics. Many people mainly think of the Sierra Club as doing hikes and other outings. However, it is important to remember that the Sierra Club Mission Statement begins with “To Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the wild places of the earth”. Note the word “Protect”. From its very beginnings, the Sierra Club was set up, implicitly, to do some politics. John Muir and like-minded people founded the Sierra Club “to do good things for Mountains”. John Muir believed in taking people out into nature so they would appreciate it, so they would want to keep it from being destroyed. After all, he took President Teddy Roosevelt camping in Yosemite, to show it off to him and

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Wildflowers in Your Yard

By Al Sattler, Alternate Chapter Representative

You don’t need to drive to the Poppy Preserve in Lancaster to see poppies…you can plant them in your yard. Some annual wildflowers can thrive even in a small space. These pictures are California Poppies and Elegant Clarkia in a parkway strip, with rosemary and lantana behind them. Lupine and Clarkia grow well in pots…they volunteer in ours.

July/Aug. 2020