Three weeks ago, NASA announced that California officially has only one year of water left.Read More
Visiting Southern California’s Salton Sea
By Isobel Whitcomb ‘17
What is the largest lake in California? Ask a Californian this question, and they will probably guess Lake Tahoe. Huge, clear, blue, majestic and surrounded by towering mountains, Lake Tahoe is an iconic symbol of California. However, this guess is actually wrong. The largest inland body of water is not in the high Sierra, but down in the desert of Southern California, just two hours east of Claremont. It is called the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea wasn’t always so unknown. In the early 20th century, the lake was formed as the result of a botched attempt to divert water from the Colorado River to desert farmland in the Imperial Valley. However, rather than viewing the accidentally flooded valley as an environmental disaster, real estate investors saw it as a blessing in disguise. Plans for lavish resorts and celebrity homes were drafted, and developments went up around the rim of the newly formed desert sea. For a short while, it was considered a vacation hotspot where people would go for sun, fishing and water sports. However, the lake’s increasing salinity combined with chemical runoff from farmland and factories has led to periodic changes in the lake’s composition, such as massive algae blooms or the cyclical extinction of the lake’s fish. Due to these changes, the lake’s economic boom was short-lived. Today, the Salton Sea draws few visitors.
However, the Salton Sea offers an incredible opportunity for scientists and artists alike to explore what an ecosystem and community turns into post-human intervention. The area around the Salton Sea has a post-apocalyptic quality. The sea rests on the San Andreas Fault, and mud volcanoes pepper the desert surrounding the lake. Derelict buildings crumble on the shores in communities with names like “Salton City” and “Bombay Beach,” suggestive of a more prosperous, hopeful era. Empty swimming pools fill with sand, and the beaches around the lake are covered with the bones of millions of dead fish. Though it may sound depressing, the Salton Sea has a poetic quality that entices artists and scientists to explore its shores. Despite its apparent desolation, the lake actually has a vibrant ecosystem. Sea birds flock around its shores, and its extreme environment fosters the development of unique and genetically resilient organisms, such as extremophiles, microorganisms that can withstand incredibly tough living conditions, including the inside of mud volcanoes.
The Salton Sea is a living paradox. It is a place where beauty meets desolation, and where the ghosts of a forgotten time meet vibrant life. For artists and scientists interested in the overlap of extinction and new life, and for anyone who appreciates an adventure in an unknown place, the Salton Sea is a little known wonder of Southern California that must be visited.
A Quick Fix for Global Warming?
What if I told you that right now, scientists are researching a solution to global warming? And no, I’m not talking about the painstaking process of cutting emissions. I’m talking about a climate fix. The fix I am talking about is called geoengineeringRead More
Curiosity and Manifest Destiny
For the past year, NASA’s latest Mars rover has been trekking steadily across Mars, taking samples and images from the landscape. The feat is eliciting a surge in excitement surrounding the possibility of ancient life on Mars. According to the New York Times, the data presented so far seems to support the idea of a Mars that once looked a lot like a prehistoric Earth. One scientist on the Curiosity team even imagines that the planet once had running water and an atmosphere with a blue sky and puffy clouds. While many scientists speculate about the possibility of ancient life, others are taking the dialogue about Mars one step further. The new question asked is this: Could Mars support human life now?Read More
Wolves, Fracking and Environmental Elitism
Environmental Columnist Isobel Whitcomb '17 discusses what she calls "environmental elitism."Read More
Climate change: our generation’s biggest injustice
In the discussion of activism, it is important to remember that we are college students. Along with fighting injustice, we have papers to write and midterms for which to study. However, as Scripps students discover and become activists for their passions, climate change is an issue that often gets left by the wayside.Read More
Calif. implements affirmative consent law
Two weeks ago, Governor Jerry Brown made an official announcement about SB-967, the State of California’s new “Affirmative Consent” policy, which seeks to address the current high prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. The law officially recognizes consent as the clear presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no.”Read More
Insight into fracking and its environmental implications
By Isobel Whitcomb '17
Current Events Columnist
Fracking, the process of using highly-pressurized water and chemicals to force tightly-held fossil fuels out of underground rock, is one of the newest and most highly-contested endeavors in our quest to obtain energy. While fracking is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately in dialogues about energy, conservation and environmentalism, it is a topic that is rarely completely understood. Ignorance is not 100 percent at fault for this lack of understanding. People do not completely understand fracking because even science doesn’t yet completely understand it. To help 5C students gain a better understanding of what information is out there on this process, here is a brief primer on the enormous effect it has on our land, climate and communities.
Why did oil companies begin fracking? As a nation powered by fossil fuels, we are on the verge of the massive realization that we are running out of our primary source of energy. Existing oil wells are drying out faster than we are discovering new ones. It is this impending shortage that spurred oil companies to begin fracking. In the words of Pomona professor Ian Hazlett during his talk at Frank dining hall last week, “Fracking is a way to pick the last fruit off of the energy tree.” Because of fracking, fossil fuels that used to be virtually impossible to obtain are now at our fingertips.
Why is this a problem? We do not fully understand the extent of fracking’s ramifications on our environment, but we do know enough to surmise that it is harmful in at least three major ways.
First, it is harmful geologically. The force fracking puts on underground rock is powerful enough to trigger earthquakes. According to Hazlett, spikes in earthquake activity have been noted near oil fields throughout the Midwest, East Coast, and Alaska.
Second, it is harmful to our health. Many oil fields where fracking takes place are located in residential areas. Water injected into the ground is filled with chemicals like formaldehyde and lubricants that get into the local drinking water — things that people should never drink. Fracking also releases large quantities of methane — a gas so noxious that we install detectors in our homes to protect ourselves from methane poisoning.
Finally, fracking hurts our climate. This final crucial consequence is surprising to many people, including those who see fracking and its products as a cleaner alternative to burning coal. However, recent research has shown that over a 20-year period, the methane released by fracking traps 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide. We are already speeding towards a tipping point in our climate; fracking is taking us there at an even faster rate.
Why does this matter? If you live on planet earth, fracking is an issue that will affect your future due to its effect on the climate. More specifically, however, it is important for all of us living in Los Angeles County. While the City of Los Angeles recently placed a moratorium on fracking, LA County has not yet been that successful. Fracking is going on right now throughout the county. Not only does it pose the risk of triggering a massive earthquake, but it has already caused residents living near Los Angeles county oil fields to report symptoms ranging from nose bleeds to heart problems.
What can I do? First, educate yourself and others. Second, get involved with one of the numerous groups mobilizing to ban fracking throughout Los Angeles County and California as a whole.
Claremont Climate Justice is working to help instate this ban and is a great place to start for anyone looking to join the movement. Third, vote. Keep an eye out for a campaign led by Claremont Climate Justice getting students registered to vote in California!
NYC Climate March holds potential for real change
By Isobel Whitcomb ‘17
Current Events Columnist
In general, I have always been skeptical of our generation’s attempts at activism. We seem too worried about stepping on others’ toes to fight for the changes we want. I know times have changed with the advent of social media. Yet social media campaigns such as #Kony2012 seem petty in comparison to the demonstrations of civil disobedience of the 60s and 70s.
At my most discouraged, I fall into the trap of criticizing my own peer group for apathy and laziness. However, this week, when a peer informed me about the People’s Climate March happening in New York City on Sept. 21st, I felt hopeful that I might have misunderstood our generation.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, an organization committed to global climate change through “online campaigns, grassroot organizing and mass public actions,” first announced plans for the People’s Climate March in May of this year. The event was to take place on the same weekend as a United Nations summit on climate crisis. It was over the summer that the march gained tremendous momentum. According to PeoplesClimate.org, the event is now expected to draw over one thousand businesses, schools, unions, environmental groups and more. Organizers of the event are calling it “the biggest climate march in history,” and estimate that over one hundred thousand people will participate.
After doing my research, I sat down and thought about why this feels like such a momentous event. Thousands of people marching will not lower the temperature of the planet several degrees. It does not even guarantee a policy change. So why is it that I feel hope and excitement, rather than skepticism? What differentiates this demonstration from countless sincere attempts to “raise awareness” via social media? The only answer I came to was community.
Social Media is a paradox. As much as it connects us to one another, it also isolates us. Even as we post about movements we are joining, campaigns we support and money we are donating, our activism is so tied into the formation of our own identities via the internet that it becomes isolating rather than community-building. And if there is any one element necessary to making momentous change, it is community. A movement against a crisis like climate change cannot afford to be fragmented.
At this point most people realize that in order to fight climate change, serious changes have to be made by everyone. But we still have to prove to ourselves and to the rest of society that as a community we are capable of making these changes. To achieve this goal, social media activism alone is not enough. A major part of showing one’s support for a movement is taking a risk and physically showing up. This is why the People’s Climate March is such a big deal.
What could be better proof of our solidarity and willingness to change than tens of thousands of people all flocking to New York City?
“This is an invitation,” Bill McKibben wrote in his piece titled A Call to Arms, published in Rolling Stone Magazine. “An invitation to come to New York City. An invitation to anyone who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced.” This invitation succinctly summarizes why The People’s Climate March could make a difference. As a society, we need to prove to ourselves that we give a damn. And next weekend, New York City might do just that.
Athlete Spotlight: Bryn McKillop
Bryn McKillop is a Scripps first year and Cross Country Runner, still in the midst of her first few weeks of training with the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Athenas. During her senior year of High School, McKillop ran an impressive 19:10 5k, placing 12th at the Oregon 5A State Meet.Read More