Archive for the 'solutions and outreach' Category

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Jenna Cavelle to Guest Lecture at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources: Nov 7th

Jenna Cavelle and Paiute Harry Williams being interviewed by NPR's The California Report

In “Water Wars: Native American Inclusion and Moving Toward Peace”, Founder, Jenna Cavelle will share her recent work with the Owens Valley Paiute community with UC Berkeley undergraduates in a course titled  ESPM 100: Environmental Problem Solving.

Lecture Summary: “In considering water wars as a global phenomenon that is expected to rise as the climate changes, inclusion of all stakeholders is critical. The solutions for resource conflict are never straightforward but working toward peace begins with healing the historical trauma of affected communities. This lecture will showcase how community service and outreach are restoring cultural landscapes and memory of the Owens Valley Paiute, and in the process, re-imagining peaceful solutions to America’s longest-lived water war.”
November 7th, at 2pm in the Life Sciences Building, Room 101
For more information email:



Fukushima radiation readings spike to highest levels

Radiation readings around tanks holding contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have spiked by more than a fifth to their highest levels, Japan’s nuclear regulator said Wednesday, heightening concerns about the cleanup of the worst atomic disaster in almost three decades.

Radiation hot spots have spread to three holding areas for hundreds of hastily built tanks storing water contaminated by being flushed over three reactors that melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011.

The rising radiation levels and leaks at the plant further inflamed international alarm, one day after the Japanese government said that it would step in with almost $500 million of funding to fix the growing levels of contaminated water at the plant.

Readings just above the ground near a set of tanks at the plant showed radiation as high as 2,200 millisieverts (mSv), Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said Wednesday. The previous high in areas holding the tanks was the 1,800 mSv recorded Saturday.

READ MORE: Al Jazeera

Film History as Urban Mystery: The Case of Chinatown

Film History as Urban Mystery: The Case of Chinatown, By John Walton


Historians and students of film are familiar with movies based upon historical events and particularly with cinematic representations of those events, which are said to distort, reinterpret, or otherwise alter history in popular memory. Seldom, however, do we find instances of the effect of film and popular culture on history. The reason, perhaps, is that the latter side of this dialectic is rare or inconsequential in the unfolding course of history. This chapter will argue, on the contrary, that sometimes life imitates art, that renditions of the past in popular culture can have a forceful impact on the making of history. This proposition is examined in the context of Los Angeles’s historical, and often controversial, efforts to acquire water for development the political movement to restrain the city’s appropriation of natural resources mounted by citizens of the Owens Valley in the 1920s, the selective reinterpretation of these events in Roman Polanski’s classic filmChinatown (1974), and the influence of the film on the subsequent and ongoing controversy over water rights and land development in the region since the mid-1970s.

These events began when the City of Los Angeles reached out 230 miles to the northeast along California’s eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain chain and appropriated water from the Owens Valley in an aqueduct constructed from 1905 to 1913. Subsequently, drought and growing groundwater exploitation by the city in the 1920s resulted in the valley’s steady desiccation.

Urged on by growing desperation and traditions of popular action, the valley rose in revolt in 1924, protesting politically and, when that failed, bombing the aqueduct. Although the community struggle of the 1920s ended in defeat, it left a growing residue of memory in accounts of the David-and-Goliath struggle produced in fiction, local history, and early films. Many of these distorted the facts of the conflict by attributing a conspiratorial design to the city’s original effort to build the aqueduct and heroic motives to local resistance. In California parlance, these events came to be known histrionically as “the rape of the Owens Valley.”Chinatown built on this myth and it too altered the facts of the case. The site of the conflict was moved 200 miles closer to the city, the events were advanced by thirty years to the depression-era LA of Raymond Chandler and the story was reconstructed as a murder mystery revolving around conspiratorial land speculation.

Meanwhile, the original controversy had evolved into a complicated legal struggle involving new environmental legislation, a strategic lawsuit mounted by Owens Valley officials, and a revitalized popular movement. By contrast to failed attempts in the 1920s, the local cause was now publicized widely, state political actors drawn into the process, and state courts persuaded that rural communities were entitled to some defense of their resources. In this new struggle of the 1980s and early 1990s, public opinion assumed that Chinatown represented the true history of the conflict—much to the advantage of a burgeoning environmental movement.[1]

In some respects, popular culture became political history and collective action proceeded from a new set of assumptions. Contemporary history unfolded with redressing results, some of which could be traced to the influence of film and popular culture.



Iraq’s Newly Protected Marshes a Huge Conservation Turnaround

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“Once the third largest wetland in the world, according to ENS,  the central marshes of Iraq were systematically drained during Saddam Hussein’s reign and nearly 100 percent of the land was usurped by development projects.

In addition to ruining an incredibly unique ecosystem, the devastation of the historical marshlands took everything and everyone along for the ride: the people, wildlife, culture, tradition, plants.

“They were a vital resource for regional fisheries, reeds, and other natural resources; the home of the indigenous Ma’dan Marsh Arab culture, which is directly linked to ancient Sumeria; and a globally important area for large numbers of migrant and wintering birds, and the native habitat of endemic birds and other valuable wildlife,” writes ENS.

Nature Iraq has worked diligently to save this magical place. One of Green Prophet’s official heroes, the group has overcome a myriad of economic, social and political speed bumps in order to achieve this landmark designation for a region that holds many secrets about a special part of Iraqi history and society.

But it wasn’t easy, and the enormous task took a toll on its founder’s personal life, director of Nature Iraq Azzam Alwash told Green Prophet in an earlier interview.”

Read more: Green Prophet


35,000 steelhead trout rescued from rapidly drying Carmel River

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“Due to drier than normal conditions, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District initiated its annual Steelhead Rescue Program in the Carmel River in April, several months early. As of July 1, the program has rescued and relocated 35,000 of the endangered trout and will continue its efforts through the season as the Carmel River has dried back from the ocean almost 6 miles, from the lagoon to Schulte Road Bridge. “The efforts or our Steelhead Rescue Team have been incredible,” said district manager Dave Stoldt. “Often working seven days a week, the current rescue tally has only been exceeded four times in the past 25 years.” Over the next few months, district staff will continue the program in the lower Carmel River, moving up stream as far as necessary. The majority of the captured fish are very small and the rescued steelhead are transported to the district’s Sleepy Hollow Steelhead Rearing Facility in Carmel Valley, where they will be raised until river flows reach adequate levels for their release in the fall or winter.”

Read more: The Californian

Powdered Water Hydrates Drought-Stricken Farms

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“Mexican farmers have been fighting drought with Solid Rain for more than a decade, but the powdered water designed by chemical engineer Sergio Jésus Rico Velasco only hit the American market last year. A highly absorbent substance with a potassium base, Solid Rain stores one liter of water in just 10 grams!

Velasco spent years developing a solution that would help Mexican farmers produce crops in drought-stricken parts of the country before he struck liquid gold with Solid Rain, according to Modern Farmer.

He was inspired by diapers, which hold a lot of moisture in a small amount of space, but it was also essential to devise a substance that would not be harmful to crops.

Once water is added to the granulated potassium polyacrylate, it turns into a thick gel that retains its moisture for up to one year.

“…it will not evaporate, run off into the soil or go anywhere until it’s consumed by a plant’s roots. Think of it like a little powdered reservoir,” writes Modern Farmer.

The Mexican government ran a season-long test pilot to ascertain the product’s efficacy, and the results were outstanding.

Oatmeal yields doubled compared to crops planted without Solid Rain, sunflower yields tripled, and bean yields increased from 450 kg per hectare to a staggering 3,000 kg.”

Read more: Green Prophet


Water Works

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“The project, called Growing Vine Street, began as a small, grassroots effort among residents and property owners to turn their stretch of a former industrial neighborhood into an urban watershed. Twenty years later, it is a big part of the answer to the largest single source of pollution fouling Puget Sound and most of the major bays and freshwater ecosystems of the United States—stormwater.

The gray shellac of a city repels more than the imagination. When rain flows along streets, parking lots, and rooftops rather than percolating into the ground, it soaks up toxic metals, oil and grease, pesticides and herbicides, feces, and every other scourge that can make its way to a gutter. This runoff impairs virtually every urban creek, stream, and river in Washington. It makes Pacific killer whales some of the most PCB-contaminated mammals on the planet. It’s driving two species of salmon extinct, and kills a high percentage of healthy coho within hours of swimming into Seattle’s creeks, before they’ve had a chance to spawn.”

Read more: Orion Magazine


A River Recovering: Australia’s Upper Snowy River

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“Originating on the slopes of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mainland peak, the magnificent Snowy River – immortalized in the 1890 poem “The Man From Snowy River” – flows through New South Wales and Victoria before emptying into the sea at Bass Strait.

But after the completion of the Jindabyne Dam in 1968, the upper Snowy, once so irrepressible and powerful, virtually dried up overnight. It succumbed, like many rivers during the dam-building age, to decisions that placed hydropower and irrigation development over river health. For the next forty years 1,200 million cubic meters of Snowy River water would be diverted inland.

Even in 1968 not all were prepared to sacrifice the river. For three decades locals along the Snowy were joined by a broader alliance of concerned citizens in a battle to return water to the river. Eventually, the Australian government and the states of New South Wales and Victoria agree, in 2000, to restore a fifth of the flow to the upper Snowy River. (See “A Groundbreaking Agreement to Save Australia’s Ailing Murray River.”)

Over the next decade $425 million was invested in irrigation water savings projects to return 220 million cubic meters of water back into the upper Snowy. The focus on distribution and on-farm water savings projects allowed water to be recovered without a substantial impact on the irrigation-dependent communities along the inland Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.”

Read more: National Geographic


Living Laboratory for Coping with Drought in Brazil

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“An “underground reservoir” made out of plastic sheets spread below ground to contain water keeps the soil moist, allowing beans to be grown on some 1,000 square metres in spite of the drought.

Various techniques for collecting and storing rainwater, including ponds, tanks, connected reservoirs and concrete surfaces, collect nearly 1.9 million litres of water in normal rainfall years on his 10-hectare property, according to Manto.

He and his wife and small daughter use 277,000 litres for drinking and cooking. The rest is used to raise small livestock and irrigate the orchards and crops. But this year the drought has reduced his water reserves and he has had to set priorities. Manto chose to save crops that require less water, such as passion fruit and watermelon.

Another surprise is the breadth of knowledge Manto displays; he calls himself a “family farmer in transition toward agroecology.” At the age of 40 he has become well-known for his inventive solutions for coping with the periodic droughts of Brazil’s semi-arid northeast.

His greatest success is the hydraulic pump he calls “Malhação” (Workout) because it is manual and requires physical effort. About 80 centimetres high, it is made of inexpensive parts, such as plastic tubes and bottles, marbles and even disposable ballpoint pens.

Each pump costs just 116 reals (53 dollars), including pipes for drip irrigation, or 70 percent more if the client prefers a metal handle to make it easier to operate. In this case it loses up to 40 percent of the flow, which in the ordinary model, the T-shaped handle pumps 1,233 litres per hour.”

Read more: IPS



Activism and the Nexus: Shaping Policy

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Activism & the Nexus: Shaping Policy

by Miles Ten Brinke

Miles, Peak Water columnist and avowed Hydrophilic energy-head, has found his way to Britain where he’s lost his California perma-tan and is studying an Energy Policy MSc at the University of Exeter on a Fulbright.

Activism is a force to be reckoned with. This simple truth is one easy to forget in the grim utilitarian realm of policy analysis. It’s a factor that depending upon your given governance structure is easy to shove off to the side as secondary. When the problems seem so big, when you’re working at a global system change the contributions of active engaged individuals can seem so small to be insignificant.

You might find yourself starting to ask brutal questions. What voice does the little guy have when the big players have such loud lobbyists? Given their diffuse and often ephemeral nature what influence can grassroots movements really have on decision makers?-So easy to do, and so damning.

Lucky for me I’ve got you folks in the Peak Water network and friends around the world constantly reminding me of this. People power can wield enormous influence, regardless of the particular creed it amplifies. In the pursuit of a truly sustainable global energy-water- climate system transition it’s these movements that give moral purpose and a groundswell of democratic legitimacy. They animate  people, engaging them in the complexities of the problem while helping them grow into change agents.

Right now across the United States there is a movement to divest public institutions from fossil fuels. In this column I’m going to highlight the efforts of the folks in the University of California pushing for such change.

As of 20 February 2013 the University of California, San Diego student government joined their fellows at the Berkeley and Santa Barbara campuses in passing a resolution to fully divest its portfolio from fossil fuel funds. Equal parts inspired by the call to action and the success of the anti-Apartheid divestments of the 80s and 90s the movement is as much about a moral revolution as climate change mitigation. The college campaign in California has largely been coordinated by the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) which coordinates environmental actions by students across the state.

At Berkeley the charge is being led by senior Katie Hoffman, her tireless efforts leading the team at Cal through their unsuccessful campaign in 2011 to divest the UC from coal companies all the way through to the current momentum of the day. That is, of UC Berkeley’s student government setting a vital new precedent by voting to divest. Katie is an old friend; we first met as transfer students to the Society & Environment B.S. programme at UC Berkeley a few years back.

I’ve watched her work, witnessed her passion and drive first hand. I have seen what she and all the other activists in the CSSC have accomplished.  I can see what they’re capable of. Expect more big things to come! To have been there at the start and to be here now is an incredible privelege, even from across the Atlantic. Katie and all the other folks on the ground across California and the whole United States pushing forward with divestment are a true and continued inspiration.

Some would scoff at the arrogant naivety of students, denying them even the pleasure of small victories. Such folks need only look at the million dollar funds at the disposal of UC student governments to see how wrong they are. This is a targeted movement, with specific and modular goals. Across the country they’re succeeding and their campaigns are growing.

All of this has profound implications for not only how we concieve of each and every sutainability nexus but the pathways we choose to realize them.  To bear witness to, even join, movements such as these opens your eyes to the possibility of a democratised and decentralised (both of technologies and governance) transition. That is, of a radical departure from the status quo and viable in a multitude of different manifestations. Yes, activism is but one complex piece but  what a vital part yet!  

The choice we face is not simply between different technical and economic structures, so too is it a resolution on how we are to conduct ourselves-a new order to things. It’s about governance, and strategic decision making. Grassroots organizing, direct action, advocacy and all the other forms must orient towards this truth. From the ground up and back down again how we choose must be reshaped. In radical, chaotic little steps we may yet solve the riddle of the sustainability nexus.

Activism is about policy, an imperfect and fragile evolution.

~ Miles on Water