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EcoFacts: Good Eco Cheer

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

Re: The state of the world. There is actually some news to celebrate, while chatting with friends and family over drinks and good food this holiday season….or at least inwardly one can be glad.

The race to get as much oil and gas from the ground as possible has slowed considerably, thanks to plunging energy prices, and in some cases, concerns about fracking. In New York State, Governor Cuomo has banned fracking following reports from state health officials, one of whom summed it up by saying that he would not want his family living nearby fracking operations. As for the other kind of gas, everyone who drives received a raise for the holiday season, spending less on it for their daily and holiday travels..

Could it be the first time in human history? This month, virtually all of the governments in the world came together, after 36 straight hours of negotiations, to strike a deal – the Lima Accord. The entire world is now on board to lower emissions from burning fossil fuels, in an effort to stave off the worst effects of climate change, understanding that the costs are both human and economic. (Could any costs be just one?)

Last month, the U.S. and China, the worlds’ biggest emitters, made a separate joint agreement to cut their emissions in the coming decades.

In one year – 2012-2013 – global renewable energy capacity (not including hydro) grew 17%. Countries with renewable energy policy targets grew from 48 to 144 in ten years. In the same period, annual new investment in renewables soared, from $40 billion to $214 billion.

bikesharePublic bike sharing programs have nearly doubled in the past three years, and are now in over 700 cities. The two largest are in China, pictured right.

In Paris, Mayor Ann Hidalgo is planning to clean up the air and traffic congestion by banning diesel vehicles from the city center and limiting four central districts of the city to bikes and pedestrians. Whoa! I suppose some negotiations will be in the works there.

Here’s to a changing world!

Last Minute Local Gifts: The Yes Store

A Santa Barbara treasure is back for their 47th year! Support your local artisans at the annual Yes Store, which has opened for the holidays at 629 State Street. One-stop shopping for arts, crafts, jewelry and other wonderful gift items at the co-op shop like no other.

Make a Promise, Don’t Drink and Drive

photoIt’s holiday party season in Santa Barbara, so please make a promise to yourself… don’t drink and drive. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office will be aggressively looking for drunk drivers over the next few weeks with plans in place for 7 DUI/Driver’s License Checkpoints and 15 local roving DUI Saturation Patrols.

The cost of cab fare is nothing compared to a $10,000 DUI or the cost of someone’s life, and the ‘inconvenience’ of not driving your own car home is nothing compared to the inconvenience of spending the holidays behind bars. In addition to reminding all drivers to drive sober, Sheriff Bill Brown is calling on everyone to be alert. If you see a drunk driver on the road, Report Drunk Drivers – Call 911! — you could save a life.  If someone you know is about to drive after drinking, take their keys and help them get home safely. “We’ve got to work together to make our roads safer this December and year-round,” says Sheriff Brown.

pdf-logoIf you need a ride, call or text Pete’s Preferred Taxi at (805) 403-5912.

The PDF left talks about rates and provides tips for taking a taxi in Santa Barbara, California.

New Directions: Travel Opportunities for Everyone

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Thirty years ago, when spirits were high, many members of the Adult Residential Program at Devereaux prepared to spend the holidays off-campus, where they would celebrate with family and friends.

But Dee Duncan, who worked at the facility at the time, looked around and saw something amiss. A small group of residents with mild to moderate developmental disabilities had no place to go—and would be alone at the very time of year when most people gather together.

That’s when she got into action with a bold plan that would take her life in a different direction—along with the lives of thousands of clients for decades. She decided to take that group to Disneyland.

“At the holidays, you can’t have people spending it alone,” she reflects in the calm and peaceful surroundings of the backyard garden of her lovingly restored Craftsman bungalow. That’s just the kind of person Duncan is—a kind, thoughtful and imaginative innovator who does things first-class, at home, in business and in her own enthusiasm for travel.

logo2When she first had that brainstorm—the very beginning of New Directions Travel for people with disabilities—the first group of participants hadn’t had much opportunity to experience the freedom of travel or to spend holidays in a joyful, loving environment with others who cared for them.

But Duncan was determined to change that and do something special for them. She called it the Holiday Happiness Program. Three decades, and 12,000 New Directions participants later, that initial foray to the happiest place on earth has expanded to all kinds of adventures around the world.

If Las Vegas, Hawaii, The Grand Canyon and New York City aren’t exciting enough, how about Australia, Israel, Japan and even Galapagos Islands? And these travelers aren’t content to stay on a tour bus—they enjoy adventurous activities like hot air ballooning, surfing, snorkeling and river rafting. Just like everyone else.

newdirectionsThey stay in upscale accommodations, dine in fine restaurants and enjoy shopping sprees, visiting local attractions, meeting new people and making new friendships while traveling. Just like everyone else.

Let’s face it: dealing with all the uncertainty that travel brings can be stressful for anyone. To ensure that New Directions trips go off without a hitch, Duncan relies on a well-trained, highly experienced team of tour guides that accompanies every group. They may range from a ratio of 1:1 to 1:4 participants to guide. Traveling in these small groups allows more personalized, attentive services and a low-key non-touristy experience.

But Duncan stresses that the real secret to New Directions’ success is an approach that treats participants with “total respect.” And as great as the opportunity is for enhanced self esteem and expanded horizons that travel offers participants in the program, there’s another essential benefit: The general public learns so much when they see New Directions clients living full and active lives. Just like everyone else.

For more information about New Directions, Inc. call (805) 967-2841 or visit
Originally published in the Winter 2014-15 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine,

Stop Venoco from opening up oil wells at Ellwood


Dear Editor:

There is a key meeting today that is critical to the future of Goleta.

The State Lands Commission is meeting on Wednesday, Dec 17 in Newport Beach to consider Venoco’s proposal to drill right on the beach from an aging platform between the Bacara and UCSB that has been shut down for the past 20 years. Venoco wants to restart drilling and keep drilling on the beach for the next 20 years despite rising sea levels and storm waves that increase the risk of spills. This beach is zoned and used extensively for recreation, is surrounded by sensitive beach and wetlands, near dense residential and business areas and includes significant impacts to water quality and quality of life in our city. Tell the State Lands Commission that this is unacceptable, and that they should not certify the EIR because it is based on processing the oil at the Ellwood Onshore Facility, which the City of Goleta is looking at phasing out.

Please send something to State Lands Commission even if only a few words in an email,

Stage Two Drought Update

Yesterday, the Santa Barbara City Council received an updated on the status of the current drought and related efforts. According to the Agenda:

Water Supply Outlook
Cachuma2The water supply outlook remains unchanged from the November 18, 2014 drought update presentation. The Santa Barbara area received some moderate rainfall in early December, but the area needs pro-longed wet weather to make a significant impact on water supplies. The National Weather Service is projecting a weak El Nino weather condition and equal chances of above, below, or normal rainfall for Santa Barbara over the next few months. Due to the uncertainty in projected rainfall, staff is planning for continued drought conditions. Staff continues to work on securing additional supplemental water, accelerating drought related capital projects, and sustaining a strong message for extraordinary conservation. The most recent water conservation numbers for October 2014 show an ongoing 20 percent reduction in water use. Staff is hopeful that the drought water rates that went into effect on July 1, 2014 will encourage the community to continue sustaining the 20 percent water use reduction.

Drought Response Capital Projects
Staff is moving forward with the design and construction of capital work projects to assist with water supply during the drought. This includes the acceleration of groundwater well replacement and projects that use poor quality groundwater in place of potable water for irrigation. Groundwater wells include the Corporation Yard Well, which is currently online and whose water is being treated at the Ortega Groundwater Treatment Plant; Valle Verde Well, whose water is being pumped into the City’s recycled water system; and the new Alameda Well, that was recently awarded a contract for construction.

At the direction of Council, staff is moving forward with the reactivation of the City’s Desalination Facility. On November 17, 2014, the Request For Proposal to design, build and operate the facility was sent to the three pre-qualified firms. Responses are due back on February 5, 2014. Staff is currently working on applying for a $40 million State Revolving Fund loan for the project.

Conservation Efforts
Staff has increased the Water Conservation Outreach Program through an enhanced drought media campaign: additional targeted outreach, including increased weekly messaging through social media; online news outlets and industry contacts; presentations to community and industry groups; additional printed materials with drought messaging; targeted utility bill messaging; drought signage at City facilities; and additional trainings and workshops.

Miramar Project on the Ropes?

After not getting the green light he was looking for from the Montecito Planning Commission last night, Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso issued the following statement to the press:

“For the past 18 months we have worked to redesign our Miramar project; the result is a smaller, more efficient project, with fewer impacts on the community and consistent with all of the input we’ve heard from Montecito residents.

Despite a recommendation from County staff to approve the project, a unanimous endorsement from the Montecito Association and overwhelming community support, the Montecito Planning Commission chose to delay approval of our revised Miramar hotel project.

We are obviously very disappointed with the result, in particular with the apparent interest of some commissioners to seek significant changes to the project, which would result in months of further delay.

We appreciate the support of so many in the community and are sorry their wishes were not heard.

The result of yesterday’s meeting has now delayed our planned groundbreaking in June. We will take some time to consider whether there is still a viable path for building the Miramar hotel.”


The Present of Being Present

By Cheri Rae

“Simplify, simplify,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in his classic meditation, “Walden.” Of course, he could have simplified the statement by reducing it to simply “Simplify.”

cherilogo-150x150The recent passing of my neighbor who lived in his van got me to thinking about the notion of simplifying the holiday season, of slowing down and becoming very conscious of the moment—of making a real practice of connecting with people and being conscious of places encountered during the holiday season.

Instead of rushing about and being preoccupied during every moment, I’ve tried to be deliberate about my interactions and simple blessings have come my way:

In the bank, the teller told me about how he used to play football for Dos Pueblos High School, and had hoped and planned to play at an elite level in college until he was injured, and he was glad that he had some grounding in business to fall back on.

During an appearance at the Shop Small Business Saturday at the Book Den, fellow author Chris Messner shared his interesting stories about his off-the-beaten-path travels in Cuba—as recorded in his book, “Cuba, Open from the Inside.” We found common ground in discussing Cuba—I had researched the social order in post-revolutionary Cuba as part of my Political Science studies in college. When I showed him my book, “DyslexiaLand,” he told me about his own challenges with dyslexia—something he even wrote about in the introduction of the book. The chance meeting seemed meant to be. We both expressed out gratitude to owner Eric Kelley for scheduling us at the same time.

In the post office, letting the gentleman with two canes get in line ahead of me had the effect of every other person in line letting him go ahead, and finish his transaction much more quickly, and much more comfortably. “I just can’t stand too long anymore,” he noted, expressing his thanks to the whole queue. We all felt good about that. And when the woman behind me needed a pen, I told her to keep it. Turned out the purple pen was her favorite color.

In the grocery store, the young woman ahead of me was buying a nice cake and candles to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday. The discussion continued with the boxboy who talked about his grandmothers—one who is fun and the one who isn’t, but who inherited “the longevity gene,” as he called it: good health and good teeth, even at 93. It reminded me of my own grandmother and how much I loved her, and still miss her to this day.

The city worker filling the “irricade” watering devices along Anapamu Street—which were purchased for the City by the Pearl Chase Society—who expressed his gratitude for the innovation and the generosity of members who love the trees as much as he does.

Slowing down, expressing gratitude and having the presence of mind to remain in the present has been a great gift—one that keeps on giving. You might want to give it to yourself—and the rest of the community! Happy holidays!

EcoFacts: Christmas and our National Character

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

holidays$In one sense, the Christmas season gives us another definition of “purchasing power”, as it is, after all, a season of giving and sharing, a time when we think more of others. If we get a charge buying things and spending money, the pleasure is even greater doing this for family, friends, and charity. And the big boost to our market economy can’t be ignored, the workings of which are viewed as “stores sell the products that people want to buy and, in turn, companies produce items that stores want to stock”. Sales get a huge boost in these weeks, and as we’ve been taught all along, this is very beneficial for our economy. In fact for a century or more it has been considered patriotic to spend our money as much as possible, more than to save it.

Business Week says today “Americans brimmed with confidence in early December as they shopped for holiday gifts, signaling retailers will see sales continue to accelerate heading into 2015.” Hooray! In this way we learn that brimming with confidence means buying lots of stuff. Successful people do this.

David M. Potter, an historian writing in his book People of Plenty 60 years ago, told of how the tremendous abundance of resources (seemingly limitless) in this country led to its economic abundance, and then our culture’s orientation towards consumption. This was transformed by the rise of marketing, what was then called advertising, which he ranked with education and religion as American institutions that have most shaped our national character. In order for companies to grow, society had to learn “to crave these goods or to regard them as necessities.” Producers of similar products all want to grow indefinitely and so must distinguish their goods and brands “if not on essential grounds then on trivial ones” to assure their place in the market.

Has ecofacts gone too far afield? No, because economics require resources and hence determine our connection, or lack thereof, to the planet, whether as individuals or as a society. No worries though, I’ll move on to more useful topics…. hopefully. Meanwhile, MERRY GIVING!

*Charles Wheelan – Naked Economics