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Mollie Hogan of Nature of Wildworks with Dragon the red-tailed hawk.

A lively multispecies menagerie gathered at the infamous Mountain Mermaid Inn in Topanga Canyon recently to celebrate the publication of a new book that makes the case that wildlife is not something out there, but rather close to home: wild animals are now our neighbors.

In the garden outside the entrance to the former country club, gambling hall, and gay night spot, dozens of caterpillars chomped on milkweed and fennel, and butterflies frolicked among the flowers. …


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Faith and Hope Park was built with funding from Prop 84. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

Across the United States, voters regularly pass multi-million-dollar environmental funding measures at the state and local level. During the past three decades, voters have approved 1,703 measures providing $164 billion in funding for land conservation — including parks and recreation facilities — in 45 out of 50 states.

Yet, we rarely if ever look back at who has benefited from all that spending.

What if we did look back and learn? Could we then make smarter investments in the future?

At UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, we did a first-of-its-kind, systematic analysis of spending under the last major…


Highlights: Massive environmental bonds often aren’t spent entirely as voters intended. Analysis shows spending best matched pitch for Proposition 84 when priorities were spelled out. New parks bond heading for ballot should put explicit priorities in law, with clear data reporting.

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Prop 84 has spent $2 billion on 2,174 local projects in California communities.

In California, we often pass multibillion-dollar environmental bonds and don’t look back at who benefited from the spending. But what if we could look back and learn? And then make smarter investments in the future?

At UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, we did a systematic analysis of spending under Proposition 84, the last major environmental bond approved by California voters, which in 2006 authorized $5.4 billion to improve parks, natural resource protection, and water quality, supply and safety. Most of that money has been spent. …


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If every age produces its own distinct variety of nature lovers, and history seems to show it’s so, then Nathanael Johnson is perfectly suited for our urban century.

“Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & and Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness” is set in the Bay Area, mostly in San Francisco and Berkeley, where the author lives with his wife and young daughter Josephine, who inspired the book. But the book will resonate with urban homesteaders everywhere — young professionals making a family life in the city.

When Josephine was 1, Johnson writes, she…


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The opening of Faith and Hope Park in Los Angeles, built with Prop 84 funding administered under AB 31. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

In California and across the United States, voters regularly pass multimillion-dollar environmental funding measures at the state and local level. Over the past three decades, voters have approved 1,703 measures providing $164 billion in funding for land conservation — including parks and recreation facilities — in 45 out of 50 states. In California, voters have approved $32 billion in statewide funding and $4 billion in local funding.

Yet we rarely, if ever, look back at who has benefited from all that spending.

What if we did? What would we learn? Could we then make smarter investments in the future?

Doing…


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“Warped Sun” courtesy of Kevin Corazza.

Californians are crazy about the environment, even, and often especially, in LA. And we’re not afraid to go our own way. More than two-thirds of Californians support the state in taking our own approach to combating climate change, regardless of what the rest of the country thinks.

A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California provides a timely picture of what’s on our minds when it comes to the environment today.

What’s the most important environmental issue right now? Water and the drought. No surprise there. Followed by air pollution, water pollution, and climate change.

We’ve still got…


A new history of urban ideas offers a cautionary tale about the dreams that have shaped LA and the big new ideas we hope might shape the city of the future.

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“Putting our best efforts into reforming the built environment as the means to reform ourselves and society is a remarkably deeply held belief in our culture, as if we modern urban dwellers are a cargo cult, putting faith in things to transform our souls and spirits.” — Wade Graham, Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World.

Wade Graham’s new book, Dream Cities, is a cautionary tale. It ranges widely through time and around the world. But it’s aimed straight at Los Angeles, the author’s hometown, right at our present moment.

Big dreams promising to transform our city are…


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Photo courtesy of KCET Departures.

For too long a myth has persisted that nature and technology don’t mix well. It’s easy to understand why. Nature is the place we go to escape technology. Today, we’re plagued by “nature deficit disorder” and technology is blamed for commanding too much of our attention.

We all need to get out in nature more, especially kids. All kinds of studies show that getting outdoors is good for us on many different levels. It makes us healthier, less stressed out, and smarter.

But we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that technology is part of the problem. This idea risks keeping…


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Photo by Tristram Biggs.

The other day I got a call from a national magazine wanting to fact-check a writer’s claim that progress on confronting climate change is “irresistible and irreversible” in the wake of the Paris climate summit. I wish I could have said, “Indeed!”

Alas, the last couple of months have brought plenty of signs that progress is, unfortunately, all too reversible and resistible — locally, statewide, nationally, and globally.

Even before the Paris summit, VW’s cheating on tailpipe emission tests showed that there are all kinds of ways to resist the changes we need to stem global warming. …


What makes a city resilient in one era many not serve it well at all in another

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Image of atmospheric river driven by El Niño aimed at Los Angeles on 5 January 2016 courtesy of NOAA.

If ever a city was built to be resilient to heavy rains, it is Los Angeles. And yet, El Niño is about to test just how resilient the city is in the short term to flooding, and even more importantly, how resilient it can be to water shortages over the long haul. And thereby hangs a tale about one of the central conundrums of urban resilience in the face of climate change, with implications far beyond the City of Angels.

Los Angeles has been preparing for El Niño in earnest since 1938, when a huge flood tore through the city…

Jon Christensen

Teaches at UCLA, is a partner at Stamen Design, and edits LENS Magazine at lensmagazine.org.

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