The Loma Prietan - May/June 2009


by John Maybury

Wilderness Win

Congress has passed, and the president has signed, a bill to protect more than 700,000 acres of wilderness and wild rivers in California, such as: 115,000 acres of public land within Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park; 200,000 acres in Riverside County, including additions to Joshua Tree National Park and the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains National Monument; more than 500,000 acres in Inyo, Mono, and northern Los Angeles counties, including the Eastern Sierra and White Mountain ranges; and a 29,000-acre ancient bristlecone pine forest. This is the largest designation of new wilderness since 1994.

Save Paper

If you use a roll of paper towels a week, you could save more than $100 each year by switching to dishcloths and tea towels. Americans send 3,000 tons of paper towels to landfills daily. To make paper towels white, many producers use chlorine bleaching, which releases cancer-causing toxins into the environment. Cotton tea towels are thicker and can hold more moisture than paper towels. (

Birds' Nests

Sharon Beals's intricately detailed photographs of birds' nests are at Helen Crocker Russell Library at Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, April 1 to June 30. Preview Sharon's pictures online at Planet Citizen, or look up her cover story in Audubon Magazine from last year. (Let your fingers do the walking, Googlers!)

Wildflower Walks

One of the Bay Area's premier wildflower spots is Edgewood Natural Preserve (off 280 just south of 92). Free docent-led walks are every Saturday and Sunday through June 7, starting at 10 am and ending at 1 pm. Edgewood's serpentine grasslands are renowned throughout California for their lush wildflower carpets and rich biodiversity. You might see dozens of species of flowers on a single walk. Walks vary according to what's in bloom, covering about three miles at a moderate pace, with frequent stops.

Science Summer School

San Francisco State University's summer campus near Yuba Pass in the Sierra Nevada offers courses in biology (plants, birds, butterflies), geology, astronomy, illustration (with Jack Laws), and many more. Sleep in tents and eat delicious meals. For more information: or 415-338-1571. "I have taken courses in botany and astronomy there, and highly recommend them. The astronomy course includes looking through large telescopes that reveal exciting and beautiful views of objects you never knew existed. My most vivid the 'star' Albireo, the head of Cygnus the Swan. Albireo under magnification is revealed as two stars, one daffodil yellow, the other sapphire blue. The contrast was so striking and so ineffably beautiful that I gasped." (Jake Sigg, Nature News, subscribe free:

Solar Cells

New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. According to the lead researcher, "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations." (Journal of Materials Chemistry, reported on, July 7, 2008)

Don't Touch Seal Pups

The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary advises beachgoers not to try "rescuing" seal pups they may find. Every season, perfectly healthy harbor seal pups are needlessly separated from their mothers by people who mistake the pups for orphans. Harbor seal mothers may leave their pups unattended while feeding at sea, only to rejoin them later. The presence of humans or dogs near a seal pup could prevent a mother seal from reuniting with her young one. Report suspected orphaned or injured pups to the Marine Mammal Center: 415-289-7325.

Salmonella Stew

Peanut Corporation CEO Stewart Parnell went to Washington recently to answer for his company's total lack of regard for public health. Federal investigators told a Congressional panel that Parnell's peanuts were full of salmonella bacteria and his factory full of mold and rat droppings. When a Congressman held up a jar of Peanut Corp. product and asked Parnell if he would eat some, the Georgia executive took the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer. (Note: Regular store-bought peanut butter has not been implicated in the scandal, only peanut products Parnell shipped to nursing homes, school cafeterias, and food manufacturers across America.)

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