Traffic in LA Not So Bad

I know it is hard to believe, but yes, we do have the worst traffic congestion in the US (not so bad, it’s the worst) and it is only going to get more sucky as the economy picks back up again according to a recent report covered in USA today.  When I am sitting in traffic I often think about the other fools stuck in more horrible gridlock in other cities like New York or San Francisco, but it turns out that we are the biggest fools of all.  Here is more of the story:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-03-08-1Acongestion08_ST_N.htm

So this traffic beast isn’t going to magically go away so we have to start doing something about it. Cycling, bike commuting, is definitely part of the solution. The good folks at the LA Bicycle Coalition have been working on cycling issues for many years. Learn more about them at:

http://la-bike.org/

If it Can Happen in New Zealand

It can and will happen here.  LA will have another major earthquake, but sadly we are woefully unprepared for it again.  What you do now, before the earthquake, will determine what your life will be like after.  People are often injured and killed by sort of silly things – flying stereo speakers – during earthquakes.  Start with the following to prepare you and those you love for an earthquake:

Do a hazard hunt for items that might fall in your home during earthquakes and secure them.

Create a disaster preparedness plan and practice it.

Own a fire extinguisher and know how to use it.

Determine how you will establish and maintain contact with people in a cellphone dead world. 

Have an emergency supply stash that will be accessible:

  • Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day, for 3 days and ideally for 2 weeks.
  • What else would you need to be on your own for up to 2 weeks?
  • What would you need if you are in your car or office when the earthquake strikes?

Know and practice Drop, Cover and Hold.

Canadians Do the Right Thing, Eh

Congrats to Dave Fort and crew for raising the profile of the LA River and the need for us to more quickly move toward a cogent plan to use it.  I will be posting the numerous internet comments about this trip as they reflect the need for leadership here:

“The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”
-Lao Tzu
*They probably didn’t know that when it rains in the Southwestern US (which is rare) flash floods are very possible. This is even more likely when the river is made of concrete. People have been rescued from the LA River before and rescue personnel are put in an incredibly dangerous position doing so.
*Maybe so, but you don’t know the Los Angeles River. It’s really not a river. It’s a wash with a small creek in it. When it rains, the water rises and moves very fast – definitely not canoe territory.
*I’m an experienced white water rafter and I wouldn’t go down it when the water is high simply because of the fact that it is also full of all kinds of discarded junk and debris and because it is really polluted.
*The Los Angeles River is a misnomer. Most of it is a huge flood control channel which every year flushes taxpayer money out to sea while authorities attempt to rescue people attempting to use it as some form of entertainment.

*It wasn’t a real rescue like four stupid Americans form OC in a yacht off of Somolia that will cost millions and possibly American lives. Though it did take police away from the usual LA drive by shootings, baby killings, sex abuse and celeb drug use .

*What a great adventure … traveling down the LA River, stopping at out-of-the-way villages and trading posts, treating the locals to the entertainment they’re unable to get to or hear on those newly invented radios and television.  I wished they’d stopped in my little village of Los Angeles so I could hear them.
*Everyone outside of L.A. knows this is not a river, it is a cesspool heading to the beach.
*Very liberal application of the word “river.” If somebody wants to self eradicate from gene pool, that is their business. Who is to say they don’t know what they are doing? Given their choice of vessel, I doubt it. Whatever floats their boat.

Does LA Need a Little Vitamin G?

LA has a serious shortage of green space and green people. Several studies have indicated that access to green space has many health benefits. With greenspace comes stress reduction, physical activity and social cohesion, and,…gardens, and sometimes even urban farms. What? Farms in LA? How unnatural.

A recent Dutch study looked at 250,000 people and their proximity to green spaces and tabulated their perceived health status. The key finding was a steady decline in the percentage of people perceiving their health to be less than good as the percentage of green space within 3 km of where they lived rose, and that was after controlling statistically for demographic and socioeconomic factors and population density itself (urbanity). The researchers conclude that their study shows that green space should be considered to be more than just a luxury. Darn tootin’. It is essential to life…or at least healthy living.

Euros are of course way out ahead of us on this. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (http://www.cabe.org.uk) estimates that Hyde Park in central London contributes 10% to the physical activity of 100,000 people living nearby and that such activity probably saves the British economy £3 million (about $4.2 million) in a year and the National Health Service £600,000.

The LA River is a natural for green space development. Attend a LA River Revitalization Corp meeting and have a say in the future green of your LA River. For more info go to:  http://larivercorp.com/

You Can’t Fake Plastic – Recycling the Truth

We have been trained to feel good about putting our plastic discards in the Blue Bin – “I am doing my part, so back off!”  Some people believe that their plastic bottles go off to magic land, get cleaned, and get reused.  Nice.  Most recycled plastic at best becomes new secondary products such as textiles, parking lot bumpers, or plastic lumber – can’t recycle those things – not new plastic bottles.  So all this recycling we are doing is not recycling per se and it does not reduce the use of virgin materials in plastic packaging.
Unfortunately, curbside plastic collection programs, intended to reduce municipal plastic waste, sometimes actually lead to more plastic going to landfills as people purchase more plastic items falsely believing that everything is being recycled – many studies have shown this.  The sad truth is that plastic manufacturers are not required to used recycled plastic resins for new bottles and bags, so they just keep cranking out more plastic.  A lot of time and energy has been spent on developing and implementing a recycling number system for consumer plastics – so hard to remember those damn numbers – but the only number we ever needed was zero,…cuz that’s about what all of this stuff adds up to.
Plastic packaging creates a variety of problems including: consumption of fossil resources; pollution; high energy use in manufacturing; accumulation of wasted plastic in the environment; and migration of polymers and additives into foods.  We can curb our plastic consumption by using refillable containers, buying in bulk, buying things that don’t need much packaging, and buying things in recyclable and recycled packages – glass, paper, etc.

We have enough plastic in LA already – not talking implants, here.  You can do your part – and feel good about it – by saying no to plastic and challenging our current system of faux recycling.

Making Sense of the Blue Bin

Recycling.  Great.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.  Got it.  Makes perfect sense.  Instead of throwing everything into a landfill let’s try to use some of it.  Okay.  Can we do this?  Is everything recyclable?  Where are these things recycled?  Does somebody have a magic wand that turns all that stuff in the blue bin into new bottles,…or new boxes,…or new magic wands?  The last magic wand I bought was thrown into the recycling bin because it didn’t work.  I am sorry, but recycling plastic, for the most part, does not work.

I was recently almost hit by a LA City sanitation recycling truck and it got me thinking about this whole recycling business.  We used to have one truck pick up everything, but now we have three.  Hmmmmm.  What is that doing to the environment?  What is the cost of all this recycling – the sorting, transportation, and storage?  Maybe we should be using that money for some other environmental good? Unfortunately, a lot of what we put in the blue bin does not get a new life.  Much of the plastic takes a long boat to China and does not make it back to our sunny shores.
Certain requirements must be met for recycling to be economically feasible and environmentally effective.  These include an adequate source of recyclates, a system to extract those recyclates from the waste stream, a nearby factory capable of reprocessing the recyclates, and a potential demand for the recycled products.  Sending plastic discards to China to be discarded there makes close to zero sense and I think we are smarter than that.  We need to stop buying, when possible, items wrapped in plastic.  More details to follow in my next post.

I Just Called to Say You’re Stupid

There are few things in LA that are more dangerous than people working their cell phones while driving – not as dangerous as Lindsay on a bender, but close.  There are over two hundred million cell phone subscribers in the U.S. and it is estimated that 85% of cell phone owners use their phone while driving and that 60% of cell phone owner’s usage occurs while driving. In California, you are required to use handsfree if you want to drive and cell and it is against the law to text while driving…you also can’t drive with your feet and juggle…sorry circus folk. The ticket plus court costs for this cell phone blunder runs around 160 dollars. The cost of running into another car and killing someone would be considerably more…on a lot of levels.

It is clearly dangerous to drive with one hand on the wheel and one hand on your mobile, however, the distracting effects of the phone conversation on driving are also considerable. David Strayer, a University of Utah psychologist, has done a lot of cell phone research and has found that participants who engage in cell phone conversations are more likely to miss traffic signals and react to the signals more slowly than when they are not engaged in cell phone conversations. The equivalent deficits in driving performance were obtained for both users of handheld and hands-free cell phones. His research showed that listening to radio broadcasts or books on tape, by contrast, did not impair driving performance. Other research has found impairments in the ability of participants to detect changes in real-world traffic scenes when they were conversing on a hands-free device; however, no such performance decrements were observed when participants listened to prerecorded conversations from other participants. These findings demonstrate that listening to verbal material, by itself, is not sufficient to produce the dual-task interference associated with using a cell phone while driving. It seems that no matter how inane the conversations are there is a significant risk of talking while driving and such activity is responsible for a significant amount of automobile related injury.

The bottom line here is that driving is a very serious task and it requires one’s full attention…sorry, easily distracted circus folk.  So the next time someone calls while you are driving, be smart and and let it go: you could be saving your life and the lives of others.

Save Your Teeth and Save the World

The average American consumes approximately 50 gallons of  soda a year and Americans spend 56 billion a year on the stuff.  30 percent of all calories consumed daily are from sweetened beverages.  Okay, a Coke or a Dr. Pepper does hit the spot once and a while, but every day?!  Or a few times a day?! C’mon people..there is another way…

Our world is now drowning in a sea of plastic; we have an obesity epidemic; and your local dentist is in cavity heaven because of our sugar soda addiction.  You can make your own soda to your own liking if you so desire…dear madams and sirs…and saveth thine self and the world.   Here is how you do it:

http://www.sodastreamusa.com/

Visualize A Better World

Most great things begin with a vision.  LA is at the forefront of world evolution because we are the world and we are indeed blessed with many…worldly artists.  Society of Cinema and Arts or SoCiArts is a production company and online community dedicated to promoting positive social change through the arts and media. SoCiArts’ mission is to create a vibrant environment for creative visionaries to come together and focus on conscious creativity and positive activism to intersect world’s cultures in a constructive manner. Membership with SoCiArts is free and open to anyone and everyone. For more information visit:

www.sociarts.com

C’est La Vie Plastique

AB 1998 heads for vote to the California Senate this week and when it passes -it still needs your pressure to pass – it will forever change how us Californian’s retail.  After July 1, 2011 stores will be prohibited from providing a plastic carryout bag to a customer.  The bill would require a store, on and after July 1, 2011 to either make reusable bags available for purchase by the customer or provide a paper carryout bag that is subject to the green bag fee that would be imposed by the bill.
The bill would require a store to charge a green bag fee of not
less than $0.25 for each paper carryout bag distributed at the point
of sale.  The bill would establish the Paper Bag Pollution Cleanup
Fund in the State Treasury and would require a store to remit these
fees, less a specified amount, to the State Board of Equalization for
deposit in that fund.
The bill would…wait a second…this is getting too boring…
Here’s the bottom line: If you want to help make single use bags and their inherent problems go away then go to the Heal the Bay website and follow their lead:

http://www.healthebay.org/actionalerts/ab1998/default.asp

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