The Loma Prietan - November/December 2011


by John Maybury

Trains Beat Planes

Transportation experts agree that trips between cities less than 500 miles apart should be served by rail rather than air. In China, high-speed rail links among major cities have cut travel times so dramatically that some competing air services have been suspended. China is spending billions of dollars on its network of high-speed railways, posing a challenge to airlines, which previously had profited from China’s vast size and slow roads and trains. (Thomson Reuters, Xinhua News Agency)

Downward Dogs

Do incessantly barking dogs drive you nuts? Here is good advice from Pat Engel of Co-Pilot Dog Training at the Sonoma Humane Society ( “Wolves, ancestors of the modern dog, howl to communicate their whereabouts and reassemble the pack after they’ve traveled apart. Your [dog’s] yowling is his canine way of saying he wants you to return. Since our dogs cannot spend every minute with us, we need to help them learn how to be comfortable when we’re away.”

Solar Ship

A joint effort of scientists, sailors, and investors from around the globe, Planet Solar is the world’s largest solar-powered boat. The 60-ton smart yacht just completed a trip across the seven seas, leaving nothing but waves in its wake. According to EarthJustice, “ships transport 90% of the world’s consumer goods…Ships burn tons of fuel per hour, generating 3 to 4% or more of human-generated global warming gases - more than commercial aviation.” The futuristic-looking Planet Solar demonstrates the versatility of renewable energy, and a bright hope for how the shipping industry might one day reduce its carbon footprint. (,

Condoms Save Critters

Through a network of thousands of volunteers, the Center for Biological Diversity distributes free Endangered Species Condoms in all 50 states to highlight how unsustainable human population growth drives species to extinction. (

Keep Drains Clean

Just in time for the holidays, Bay Area Clean Water Agencies ( encourage residents not to pour cooking fat, oil, and grease (FOG) down the drain. When poured down the drain, FOG clogs pipes, costing cities and sewer agencies tens of millions of dollars every year for cleanups and fines resulting from sewer overflows. The dollars add up for residents, too. Clogs in sewer lines cause backups and overflows into the home, with costly repairs to pipes and property. Many cities around the Bay Area recycle cooking oil to reduce waste and unclog sewers, and use the reclaimed oil as an alternative fuel source that powers many city vehicles. What to do with cooking fat, oil, and grease? Use food strainers in kitchen sinks to catch food particles, and scrape leftover food waste into the garbage or compost container, not the garbage disposal. Pour cooking oil into a clean, sealable container and check for free drop-off locations.

Be the Change

Want to become a more effective leader? Learn about emerging clean-tech and green opportunities. Spend a year with other dynamic people sharing similar values. Now in its seventh year, Acterra’s Be the Change environmental leadership program has grown a network of almost 200 graduates. The program begins with monthly seminar days that feature topnotch lectures from local civic leaders, professors, and journalists who are experts in their fields. Includes insider tours of a water treatment plant, a recycling center, LEED (green) certified buildings, and a local farm. (

Follow the Doe

When a doe crosses the road, her fawns will follow, so please slow down and be extra cautious in areas where deer come to drink from creeks. (Good advice from outdoorsman and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Tom Stienstra)

Jolly Green People

• Californians Against Waste ( lobbies legislators in Sacramento to strengthen California’s waste reduction policies.

• Jake Sigg’s excellent environmental newsletter:

• Architect Ann Edminster’s book Energy Free: Homes for a Small Planet

• Heal the Ocean ( works throughout California to show communities how to avoid flushing away more than a billion gallons of fresh water every day when they discharge their wastewater into the ocean, bays, rivers, and lakes.

• Tuolumne River Trust ( visits Bay Area elementary schools to teach students about water conservation and where our most precious natural resource comes from.


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