The Conversation


Reflecting on grief during the holidays

The year-end holidays are a time of social gatherings, traditions and celebrations. They can also be a time of revisiting and reflection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.8 million people die each year in the U.S. If we conservatively estimate four or five grievers per death, there are 11 to 14 million people who are experiencing their first holiday season without…


California is living America’s dystopian future

The Golden State is on fire, which means that an idea of American utopia is on fire, too. Utopias are the good places of our imagination, while dystopias are the places where everything goes terribly wrong, where evil triumphs and nature destroys her own. Frequently utopias and dystopias are the same place, because perfection may not be possible without someone suffering. Ursula LeGuin writes about…


Many people can’t afford wildfire insurance

California’s relatively quiet 2019 fire season ended in October, with serious wildfires in both Northern and Southern California. There are many things Californians can do to prepare for these blazes, but one option – taking out wildfire insurance – is out of reach for many of them. For example, after massive fires in 2018, an estimated 350,000 Californians could no longer get property and casualty…


Learning from Native American wildfire management strategies

For several months in 2019, it seemed wildfires wouldn’t rage across the West as they had in recent years. But then came the dry autumn and California’s Santa Ana and Diablo winds, which can drive the spread of wildfires. Utilities are shutting off power across the state to reduce the risk of damaged equipment or downed trees on wires causing fires. There’s no lack of…


Treating wildfires as a public health issue

Deadly fires across California over the past several years have shown how wildfire has become a serious public health and safety issue. Health effects from fires close to or in populated areas range from smoke exposure to drinking water contaminated by chemicals like benzene to limited options for the medically vulnerable. These kinds of threats are becoming major, statewide concerns. Many people still think of…


Earthquake risk is underappreciated danger

On July 4 and 5, two major earthquakes, followed by several thousand smaller ones, struck Southern California. Their size and the damage they caused captured attention around the country. What tends to get much less notice from the public is what can be done to prevent catastrophic damage from big quakes. Had the epicenter of these latest large California earthquakes been closer to downtown Los…


As climate change erodes US coastlines, an invasive plant could become an ally

Many invasive species are found along U.S. coasts, including fishes, crabs, mollusks and marsh grasses. Since the general opinion is that invasives are harmful, land managers and communities spend a lot of time and resources attempting to remove them. Often this happens before much is known about their actual effects, either good or bad. The common reed Phragmites australis is a tall perennial grass with…


Why won’t scientific evidence change the minds of Loch Ness monster true believers?

You may have noticed a curious recent announcement: An international research team plans to use state-of-the-art DNA testing to establish once and for all whether the Loch Ness monster exists. And for those locally, check out The Grapevine’s consideration of our local monster wannabe, Hodgee, the friendly Lake Hodges Moster, posted above, and here… Regardless of the results, it’s unlikely the test will change the…


Road danger ahead for cyclists, pedestrians

As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren’t all positive, especially in the short to medium term. Local bicyclists face the most risk of injury crashes in Pacific Beach,…