Monday, November 6, 2017

New article in EHP: Developing the Science of Nature as a Public Health Resource

Two years ago I wrote a full-length feature for Environmental Health Perspectives on the connection between parks, nature, and human health. As the story showed, we know there's a link, but we can't say much conclusively about why or how, exactly, parks, nature, and other outdoor experiences (or their analogues) benefit health.

My latest Science Selection for EHP takes on the topic again, reporting on a new multidisciplinary commentary out of the University of Washington (led by accomplished environmental-health expert Howard Frumkin) assessing what we know and what we don't while proposing an exhaustive research agenda to guide the field as it matures.

Read the new story here.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Unwell: The Public Health Implications of Unregulated Drinking Water

Roughly one in seven U.S. residents relies on a private well for drinking water. Unlike the rest of the population served by the nation’s many public water systems, these 44.5 million Americans are not protected by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which regulates 87 biological and chemical contaminants. This has significant implications for public health, according to the authors of a new review in Environmental Health Perspectives, and although solutions exist for ensuring that well water is safe to drink, it is unclear how and whether they can be implemented.

Continue reading my latest for EHP.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Announcing AcclimateWest and my story on sea-level rise and the flood-prone, low-income San Rafael Canal district

Proud to announce the official launch (albeit still in pilot form) of a new multimedia journalism initiative I'm involved in along with some colleagues from Estuary News magazine, called AcclimateWest. This is a storytelling hub for sea-level rise adaptation around San Francisco Bay that will develop a series of iterative place-based profiles of waterways and creek mouths ringing the bay. 
In particular it has a strong environmental justice component and seeks to highlight impacts on vulnerable populations while using simple language designed to reach these very communities, rather than simply the usual audience of planners, politicians, scientists, and environmentalists. We built this simple, friendly, independent site to help local readers and residents connect with and understand how they may be affected by a rising bay and increased flooding, and what many local agencies and nonprofits are doing to prepare for it. Our stories revolve around specific places and assume our readers know little about the advancing ocean. 
The project is seeking additional funding to expand to other waterways, but my initial story on looming flooding impacts throughout the San Rafael Canal district, home to Latino immigrants and one of Marin's poorest and densest neighborhoods, is available now. Read "Canal Communities, Rich and Poor, Prep for Wetter Feet" here
My San Rafael story is a "baseline anchor story” for the Canal district. We need additional help to spread the word, create similar anchor stories for other waterways (including finding $3,000 in funding for each), and develop local advisory committees to ground our stories in local views and priorities. See the AcclimateWest website for more. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

New in Estuary News: Choice Mountain Parcels Help Preserve the Bay

How is the bay connected with the hills and the mountains that surround it? Through creeks and streams, most of which begin as rainfall in the upper watershed. While these flows are heavily managed today, with reservoirs, weirs, flood-control channels, and other elements of modern infrastructure intervening, in some key ways they still perform much as they always have, delivering freshwater to the bay's estuaries while providing valuable aquatic and riparian habitat along the way. as they twist and tumble downstream.
All of which is to day that upper-watershed lands ringing the bay are valuable not only in and of themselves, but also because of their broader function in regional ecosystems -- which explains why they represent a key target for conservation groups throughout the greater Bay Area.
Read more in my latest article for Estuary News.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Who was Georg Steller and why are that jay and sea lion named after him?

In the Oct-Dec issue of Bay Nature: 
That crested camp-robber eyeing your pretzels, all squawk and blue feathers, is known as a Steller’s jay. And the Steller sea lion, quite vocal in its own right, is a larger, rarer cousin of Pier 39’s infamous California sea lion. Both the bird and the sea lion are native to the West Coast and named for Georg Wilhelm Steller, an 18th-century German botanist, zoologist, physician, and explorer.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Three news articles in the September issue of Environmental Health Perspectives

Well then! Been waiting a while for a number of my Environmental Health Perspectives articles on recent/upcoming studies to run (timing is related to publication of the actual study, which is often hard to pin down) and today I learn that THREE just hit the 'net ALL AT ONCE.
I'm proud of them all, and of my continued reporting on research in this critical and often poorly understood field.
They are:
1) "Inequality of Noise Exposures: A Portrait of the United States," on a study offering evidence that environmental noise exposure, associated with a host of potential health effects, is unevenly distributed across cities and landscapes and—like many environmental hazards—tends to disproportionately affect lower-income and nonwhite individuals.
2) "From Ambient to Personal Temperature: Capturing the Experience of Heat Exposure," on a commentary proposing and outlining new approaches in heat-exposure research.
3) "Estimated Deficiencies Resulting from Reduced Protein Content of Staple Foods: Taking the Cream out of the Crop?," on a study quantifying how much rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are likely to reduce the protein content of a large number of staple crops worldwide (based on rates observed in previous experimental studies), and how that would affect global nutrition more holistically.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Waste equals energy ... or, from poop to fuel: a Q&A with Cal alum Ashley Muspratt

Ashley Muspratt has devoted her career to something most of us would rather not think about; something that, across much of the Western world, we truly don’t consider. Like our soda cans, toothpaste tubes and heaps of plastic wrap, it just disappears. But management of human waste, also called wastewater or fecal sludge, is a constant concern in many developing nations lacking the costly sewer networks and treatment plants that have contributed to massive public health gains across Europe and the United States over the last century.

Read the rest of the Berkeley Engineer article here.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Follow Your Bliss, and This Guy: Michael Ellis profile in Sonoma Magazine

Have you ever heard Bay Area naturalist Michael Ellis deliver one of his engaging "Perspectives" pieces on KQED radio? Have you ever read his long-running column in Bay Nature? Perhaps you're aware of his weekly hikes or annual trips to destinations as diverse and exotic as the Farallon Islands, Death Valley, East Africa, Brazil, and Bhutan -- maybe you've even been so lucky as to attend. Or maybe, just maybe, you're hearing about him for the very first time today! In any case, I've already given away half of my short profile of Ellis, which appeared in the May issue of Sonoma magazine. (Their website is giving me problems, so below is a jpg of a funky web version of the story....)

Monday, July 31, 2017

The passing of Elizabeth Grossman

So sad to hear the news about Lizzie. I never met her, but we did sort of cross paths at a couple Society of Environmental Journalists conferences, including me hearing her discuss environmental health issues as a panelist on two or three occasions. Just knowing about her and her work was enough to guide me toward environmental health as a beat. I sort of considered her the expert on environmental health in SEJ.
Her absence only reinforces my commitment to covering environmental health. But turns out she also wrote books about adventuring along the Lewis and Clark Trail, encountering mountain lions in the wild, removing dams -- public lands, conservation and restoration, outdoors recreation, biodiversity, human health...they're all connected, a fact I aim to demonstrate through my writing as well. 
RIP Elizabeth Grossman, and thank you immensely for your work. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cullinan Ranch restoration in the March issue of Estuary News: "Hosing a Load Off"

Finally getting around to posting my article in the March issue of Estuary News on a new dredging offloader at Cullinan Ranch. I'll leave the rest to the PDF. Find the complete issue here, with my article on page 13 -- lots of good info, I promise. In fact, the entire issue is a good read. :)