The Conversation

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,…


How to have productive disagreements about politics and religion

In the current polarized climate, it’s easy to find yourself in the midst of a political disagreement that morphs into a religious argument. People’s religious affiliation predicts their stances on abortion, immigration and other controversial topics, and disagreements about these issues can seem intractable. The seeming futility in arguing about politics and religion may arise partly because people misunderstand the nature of these beliefs. Many…


Climate change and wildfires, is there a link?

Once again, the summer of 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere has brought us an epidemic of major wildfires. These burn forests, houses and other structures, displace thousands of people and animals, and cause major disruptions in people’s lives. The huge burden of simply firefighting has become a year-round task costing billions of dollars, let alone the cost of the destruction. The smoke veil can extend…


California’s ‘jungle primary’ sets up polarized governor’s race for November

Voters who took part in California’s innovative and anti-party “jungle” primary on June 5 delivered a typical and predictably partisan result in the governor’s race. They sent Democratic Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom as the heavy favorite into a November contest against Republican businessman John Cox, who now lists his residence as Rancho Santa Fe. With the liberal Newsom positioning himself as a Bay Area Bernie…


Golden State’s crazy, cheezy dreams

It’s World Cheese Day, don’t you know… Gold rush opportunists, hippie goat ladies, Latino newcomers: California entrepreneurs dream of cheese: The idea for Humboldt Fog goat’s milk cheese first came to Mary Keehn in a dream. She fell asleep on an airplane and awoke with a vivid picture in her mind of how the cheese looked. And then she set out to realize her vision –…


Cal court gig economy ruling not that broad

A recent California Supreme Court ruling is being hailed as a “game changer” for the gig economy. That’s because the court adopted a more streamlined test for deciding whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. Gig economy companies, like Uber and Lyft, overwhelmingly classify their workers as independent contractors. As a result, they don’t comply with basic employment laws, like minimum wage…