Christensen & Gold

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Jon Christensen and Mark Gold keep an eye on the environment and environmental science, politics, and culture in Los Angeles, and how environmental stories connect us to California and the world. Christensen has been an environmental journalist and science writer for more than 30 years, writing for the New York Times, Nature, High Country News, and many other newspapers, magazines, journals, radio, and television programs. A former Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford and Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State, he is now an adjunct assistant professor, senior researcher, and journalist-in-residence at UCLA, and editor of Boom: A Journal of California, published by the University of California Press. Gold led Heal the Bay—an environmental group dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy and clean—for nearly 20 years. His research, education and activism has focused on water quality, coastal resource conservation, integrated water management, and urban sustainability. In 2012, he was appointed associate director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, where he is also an adjunct professor and director of the Coastal Center.

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Prop 1: What's in it for Los Angeles?
A long awaited state water bond will finally be decided on November 4th. LA could benefit significantly if Proposition 1 passes and the region acts as one to ensure it gets a fair share.
Columns archive
Heal the Bay's new leader has a familiar face
It's a classic mail room to corner office story. Alix Hobbs worked her way up at Heal the Bay after first volunteering at a beach cleanup in 1993.
Why I love LA and the Bay Area
In an interview with the Northern California magazine Bay Nature, Jon Christensen has the pleasure of talking about why he loves the Bay Area and LA.
Altered landscapes offer hope in the Anthropocene
Two California lakes: the Salton Sea, a festering manmade disaster in the desert, and Tulare Lake, a phantom lake, dried up by agriculture in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Not the first places one might expect to find hope in the Anthropocene.
A field guide to the future former birds of LA
This weekend the Allen's Hummingbirds sparred around our feeders in Venice as usual. It's a sight likely to become more rare and perhaps even vanish in the future. The Allen's Hummingbird is climate endangered. Something is going out of the air in LA.
The plastic bag ban epic
Our efforts have shown the world that Californians can live without plastic bags. Can we do the same for styrofoam cups, snack packaging, sporks, straws, and bottle caps? For the sake of our rivers and oceans, we need to. Now. It shouldn't take another decade.
Untrammeled thoughts on wilderness, land, water, and civil rights at 50
There are a lot of reasons to reconnect the dots between the Civil Rights Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which all turn 50 this year. The arc of the history in which these three pieces of legislation represented signal turning points is long and still unfinished.
The butterflies of Griffith Park: A tale of extinction and survival
"A Hollywood drama of butterfly extirpation and persistence over a century of urbanization," reads the headline on a recent scientific study in the Journal of Insect Conservation. The story that unfolds offers glimmers of hope for the rich biological diversity that lives amongst us in Los Angeles.
Time to say goodbye to a climate of ease in LA?
Los Angeles was designed and marketed around a climate of ease, says LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne. Is that all over? "Just Add Water: The Discussions" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County contemplated the future of a hotter, drier LA, on a lovely recent and, we dare say, easy evening.
What's trust got to do with it?
The latest session of "Just Add Water: The Discussions" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County focused on "water wars" and the people and struggles that have made our water systems cleaner, healthier, and safer for all, from Mono Lake to East LA and Santa Monica Bay. We didn't foresee the turn the conversation would take.
Enough is enough
No city of LA water main should be 90 years old. What other proof do we need that the city has to invest in its water infrastructure?
'Chinatown' revisited
Our modern water systems have made it not only possible, but virtually inevitable, that we should forget where our water comes from and the responsibilities it carries. Myth and art may be our best ways back into that understanding.
The LA River: A cabinet of wonders
Natural history museums grew out of the "Wunderkammer"--a device for cultivating wonder in the face of the amazing diversity and weirdness of the world, but also for discovery, of the new, the unknown, of patterns, and laws. The LA River has become a kind of cabinet of wonders for Los Angeles: a site for thinking about and making sense of nature and culture in the city.
LA River archive opens at historic modernist barn
Finding an unassuming historical barn in the midst of Century City's bluster is a strange enough anomaly. But when you enter the plain white building on Santa Monica Boulevard just a block from the Westfield mall, a study in even more beautiful juxtapositions opens up.
Splendor in (Ripping Out) the Grass
You will probably want to know what to do after you rip out your lawn. And that's important, said the experts at a summer series on water at the Natural History Museum of LA County. Even more important, though, is what happens when our public spaces get less water.
A good walk spoiled... by overwatering 18 holes
In which longtime environmental advocate Mark Gold confesses his soft spot for golf, while sloshing through far too many unintended water hazards at local LA links.
Just add water: Summer evening conversations at the Natural History Museum
We talk a lot about water here. This summer you can join the conversation on Thursday evenings at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Why worry about the drought when we've got the beach?
A roundup on the state of the drought and water in LA and the rest of California. There is a lot to worry about, but a lot that can be done to solve our water woes. And a silver lining to celebrate: clean beaches this summer.
Californians alive today will see unprecedented flooding from global warming
Never before seen floods are likely to occur annually within the lifetimes of Californians now under 40 years old. Northern California will be affected much more dramatically than Southern California. But policies to adapt to climate change will affect us all.
The musical destruction of Los Angeles
There is a darkness at the heart of Gabriel Kahane's lilting, lyrical, loving art songs to Los Angeles. His new concept album "The Ambassador" joins the venerable tradition that Mike Davis dubbed "the literary destruction of Los Angeles," which Davis himself relished.
Jenny Price is back at it on the LA River, Malibu beaches, and more
The author, environmental historian, advocate, and LA Urban Ranger is back in town between fellowships at Princeton and in Munich, and working on new projects on the LA River and Malibu Beach access. We caught up with her between scouting trips to ask her thoughts about the latest big news on river restoration, what she's got up her sleeve, and when she's coming back to LA.
Airport authority misses connection to clean water
We regret to inform you that we will be experiencing delays in cleaning up Santa Monica Bay. Los Angeles World Airports--the city department that owns and operates LAX--is refusing to go along with a proposal to use airport property for a publicly financed stormwater cleanup project.
Venice without the beach
New reports of ice sheets melting more rapidly than expected in Antarctica have renewed interest in what is likely to happen here as things melt down there. Take a look at Venice Beach--without the beach that is.
Parks Forward
A blue-ribbon commission studying the troubled California State Parks system is proposing a surprisingly bold vision for the future of parks in California. But it has been met with a strange silence in the media.
Street fight
We may all agree that we have an enormous transportation and pedestrian infrastructure problem here in LA. But the solution is quite contentious.
Yaroslavsky brings home a big victory for the Santa Monicas
The county supervisor caps an impressive supervisorial career as a steward of the Santa Monicas with a new land use plan approved by the California Coastal Commission that will protect the land, wildlife, and aquatic resources of the range's coastal zone for decades to come.
Two tales of a city
LA mayor Eric Garcetti has a narrative problem. The two stories he is telling about Los Angeles don't line up. Winning an Olympic bid could provide the deus ex machina the city needs in the absence of a heroic storyline.
Dear President Clinton and Mayor Garcetti: Can we make a deal?
Former President Bill Clinton brought his Clinton Global Initiative to LA for a workshop on "21st Century Infrastructure and Innovation for a Resilient Economy." Good, important stuff, but big questions remain about how to finance the investments we need urgently.
Can a Marine general transform California State Parks?
Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret) may be the perfect leader to modernize the quasi-military corps of California State Parks, but can he transform the hidebound agency into an organization focused on understanding and satisfying its customers?
A peek behind the Machado Lake restoration story
An LA Times story, about one of city's most important environmental restoration projects ever, missed the backstory. Here it is.
Bringing 'la noria' back to the LA River
Artist Lauren Bon has won approval from the LA City Council to build an enormous water wheel on the LA River near downtown. Bon will be discussing the project in a public conversation on March 22, World Water Day, in Lincoln Heights.
The reckoning after the storm
What are we doing with our dishes turned upside down when it's raining money in LA? And note to surfers: you may want to forego those awesome storm-driven waves this week if you don't want to end up with a nasty stomach bug from the crap the rain washed into the ocean.
City and river without end
The talk was billed as "L.A. Stories: Gary Snyder." And it brought a crowd to the LA Public Library late Friday afternoon to hear the grand old man of the Beat generation. But the real showstopper was our own Lewis MacAdams, the poet laureate of the LA River.
Oh, to live in Eric Garcetti's LA
The mayor and LA Times architecture and urban design critic Christopher Hawthorne shared their visions for LA in a conversation at Occidental College. It was a valentine to a city that could win our hearts in time.
Climate urbanism
Cities are where it's at for action on climate change. LA's sustainability czar just got back from a global summit of cities in Johannesburg. And an Obama task force is coming to LA this week. The message from cities? "Get out of the way." And, oh, yeah, "send money, please."
Welcoming Marcie Edwards back to the LADWP and getting back to the garden with Emily Green
Mayor Eric Garcetti makes what arguably could be his most important hire to date. And Emily Green shows us two front yards that demonstrate the choices facing LA in the face of a historic drought.
LA's sustainable city plan and a nomination for LADWP chief
The mayor's office unveiled its framework for a sustainable city plan last week to general approval from LA's environmental community. And could the mayor look to Las Vegas for a new leader at the LADWP?
On the nature of LA in 'Her' and a new 'Green room' at the bay aquarium
There's something missing from LA's future in best picture nominee "Her." And there's a new "Green room" at the Santa Monica Bay Aquarium honoring our past.
Greening the state budget and LADWP's cry for help
Governor Jerry Brown's 2014 budget proposal is good news for the environment. Meanwhile, are those cries for help we hear coming from LADWP headquarters?
A sober look at the environment in 2014
After an idyllic holiday week of beautiful beach weather at the end of December and New Year's festivities, we'd like to think that 2014 could be a great year for the environment. But after getting back to work, here's a more sober look at what we'd like to see--and what we predict will actually happen.
Dear Mayor: Have an awesome trip Down Under!
Having traveled around Australia, our columnists have some recommendations for Mayor Eric Garcetti on his end-of-year vacation. Mostly fun stuff, but a few work related green things to keep an eye on.
A crucial week for water in California
Mark the calendar. This week will go down as a crucial week in California's water history. The draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and associated Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) was filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday and the public comment period begins this week. We've got big decisions to make about our water future.
Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
"Wherever you go, there you are," says Buckaroo Banzai. Jon Christensen reads the new book "Trees in Paradise: A California History" on the long flight from LAX to Melbourne and reflects on what we can learn from history in a cosmopolitan era in which local diversity--biological and cultural--may be increasing rapidly, while the differences between places continue to shrink.
LADWP controversies put environmental reforms at risk
With public trust of the DWP at such a low point, will the public, the city council, and mayor Garcetti support the long-term rate increases that will be needed to transform LA's water system for the future?
Sustainable LA: Now there's a grand challenge
Last week, UCLA announced a grand challenge--a major research initiative throwing the full weight of the university behind an effort to wean LA completely of imported water and become fully reliant on renewable energy by 2050, while preserving biodiversity and improving the quality of life in the city. Can we get it done?
Make no little plans
True. We need big plans to guide LA toward environmental sustainability. But we need lots of little plans and action too.
"There it is. Take it." Or not?
The LA Aqueduct centennial is this week. When a peace agreement is finally signed at Owens Lake, we'll really have cause for celebration.
The next 100 years, and the next eight
The fact that the centenary of the LA Aqueduct coincides with a new mayoral administration in Los Angeles adds real politics to the symbolism.
What could Sydney teach LA?
Sydney's audacious sustainability plan provides a surprisingly pragmatic blueprint for how to achieve energy and water sustainability in other cities, such as Los Angeles.
Fire and rain
Los Angeles is home to more single-family residences exposed to wildfire risk that any city in the American West And we can't get city plan checks to let people use rain barrels the way they were intended?
These guys have water on the brain
"The guy's got water on the brain," Jake Gittes's assistant Walsh says of Hollis Mulwray in "Chinatown." And, yes, we suffer the same affliction these days.


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