Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Sustainable Organic Pesticides

Neem tree picture from Wikipedia
Organic cotton relies on plant-derived insecticides such as Neem oil.  The veggies from my CSA box also rely on Neem oil.  Farmer Glenn Tanaka of Tanaka Farms told subscribers that Neem oil needs to be applied before insects get a toe hold because it's really a pest repellent rather than a pest killer.  That means he spends a lot of money and time buying and spraying Neem oil.

Neem oil is relatively safe and breaks down quickly according to fact sheets from both the Missouri Botanic Garden and Oregon State University. (STEAM is a family business.  ;-)  One of my uncles got his PhD in Botany at MBG/Washington U.)

According to Neem Oil and Crop Protection: From Now to the Future, Neem oil has over 100 different biologically-active compounds, but one ingredient, azadirachtin, is responsible for ~90% of the action. Synthetic azadirachtin, made in a lab, is just as effective asazadirachtin from Neem tree oil.  But, if farmers use synthetic azadirachtin, they lose the organic designation and the higher prices that their cotton would obtain at market.

Additionally, Neem trees are being harvested unsustainably in the wild to meet the exploding demand.  This is so alarming that scientists at Kew gardens are trying to help organic cotton farmers in Mali learn to use Neem oil more optimally and to switch to farmed Neem trees rather than make them extinct in the wild.

It also takes water and land to grow Neem trees to obtain their oil.  Perhaps farmers have more pressing uses for their land, water and time, e.g. growing food.    This is so wrong and deeply troubling to me.

Another thing that troubles me is the extra labor required to grow organic products.  As I've written before in Embedded water: cotton, growing cotton organically requires more labor.  How do you increase labor without cutting into profits?  By using slave labor.  Children were sold into slavery to meet the west's appetite for organic cotton at prices we are willing to pay.

Much of the child labor is to haul water.  What if farmers had access to GMO cotton seeds that require half the water at a price they could afford?  Would you pay extra for that?  I would.  How would we label and certify products that are grown sustainably and equitably, but not organically?

This is just about stuff happening in west Africa.  India and west Africa are the two major sources of organic cotton.  I knew about the problems with organic cotton in California and west Texas, but, the more I researched what was happening in other parts of the world, the more alarmed I became.  It has definitely made me rethink my assumptions and consumption habits.

This is a complex issue and cognitive shortcuts like organic=good isn't the best way to go about it.  I'm thinking about inequality and climate change every day, sometimes several times a day.  What about you?  Do you talk about it with your friends and family?  Is it considered impolite?

Monday, December 03, 2018

Which is more sustainable, GMO or organic cotton?

The answer is...GMO cotton!

I was so discouraged by the number of sewing bloggers in instagrammers who equated organic cotton with sustainable sewing.  I felt like screaming into the void and started collecting data.  I collected so much data and research articles to counter the popular narrative that it won't fit in one post.

This topic is complex and will be broken down into several posts, interspersed with stories about water, because cotton and water are intimately interlinked.  GMO (genetically modified) cotton now produces twice as much fibre as organic cotton for the same water input (and grows with lower quality water and soil.)  Given the severe water shortages around the world and the land poisoning and subsidence problems caused by irrigating cotton fields around the world, I think that using organic cotton when there are better alternatives is just irresponsible.

I'm reminded of this 2015 Pew study:

The views in 2017 were similarly discouraging with white people more likely to believe conspiracies theories over scientific expertise than people of color (POC.)  I have many reservations about Roundup-ready crops, but there is a whole universe of GMO crops that are better for the environment than legacy organic crops.

As Science Moms says,
GMOs are presented in the media as inserting genes of one species into another species. But that’s only one meaning. Genetic modification also means selective breeding, cross breeding, mutagenesis, genome editing, and other techniques.
Everything is made of chemicals. They show a long list of all the scary-sounding chemicals in an all-natural blueberry. Pears naturally make formaldehyde.

The “most brilliant marketing move of the last ten years” was to convince everyone that organic is pesticide free. Copper sulfate is really bad for the environment, and it’s allowed in organic farming.

Data doesn’t support claims that organic is pesticide free, better for environment, or healthier.

On a really sad note, did you read this story about the artist that worked with mussel shells for 15 years, slowly killing herself, without realizing that natural materials can be toxic?
She’d spend up to 12 hours a day molding the shells with a dentist’s drill. While she ventilated her studio, she didn’t make any special effort to avoid the shell byproducts, assuming they were benign.

But almost immediately after starting the work, Genser started feeling ill. After years living with various autoimmune disorders, she was used to her body betraying her. But she soon realized these symptoms were different. As her limbs alternately ached and became immobile, she suffered neurological ailments as well. At her worst moments, she could barely speak, lost her short-term memory and stopped recognizing close friends.

She saw a litany of specialists in neurological health and psychiatrists who prescribed antipsychotics and antidepressants, but nothing seemed to help.

“To be fair to my doctors, they did ask me, ‘Are you working with anything toxic?’ And I’d say, ‘No no, I’m working with all natural materials, and we’d all move on,’” she said. “I was so certain that these mussels, which the government said I could eat safely and buy in the market as food, could never be bad for me.”
She dry-sanded shells for 15 years without wearing any respiratory or skin protection!  You can safely eat some parts of toxic plants and animals.  For instance, I love peaches.  But I eat only the soft flesh and leave the hard pit (and the cyanide in them) alone.  Mussel muscles can be safe to eat (in moderation,) but the shells bioaccumulate metals in the water.  You definitely should handle them with care.

It breaks my heart to see sewing bloggers fall for disinformation campaigns like when Sue quoted a natural soap "expert".  I sent her a horrified email and she posted a follow-up.  I wrote:
Scientists now have to take classes to learn the rhetorical tricks used by people who would slander us. I recognize one device in her description of Titanium Dioxide. Link it with something that is not safe to put on your skin, like house paint. Yes, TiO2 is sometimes used in house paint, but it would be very expensive house paint. It’s the safer and brighter white alternative to lead. You can also accurately call TiO2 the active ingredient in chemical-free baby-safe sunscreen.

EDTA is a perfectly safe preservative. Your soap is safer with it than without it. In fact, we eat it all the time as a food preservative rather than eat rancid food.
Ironically, the EDTA that the "expert" listed as a skin irritant and bad chemical is the chelating agent used to treat patients suffering from heavy metal poisoning like Genser.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Wildfire deja vu

If you are a new reader of this blog, you may not know that I used to work in wildfire remote sensing.  I've been blogging about Wildfire at the urban-wildlands interface for over a decade, starting with Fire is a River that Runs Uphill.  Start there and read the entire Wildfire series.

None of this is news to those that study fire.  We made stupid decisions over and over again.  I'm upset, and I don't want to blame the victims.  There is enough blame to go around.

Now that the election is over, let's get to work

Bad Dad sent along this wapost link.  We are both big admirers of Stacy Abrams.  She's right.  Our work has just begun.
The law, as it stands, says that [Kemp] received an adequate number of votes to become the governor of Georgia. And I acknowledge the law as it stands. I am a lawyer by training. And I am someone who’s taken a constitutional oath to uphold the law. But we know, sometimes, the law does not do what it should and that something being legal does not make it right. This is someone who has compromised our systems. He’s compromised our democratic systems. And that is not appropriate.

...because the words I use are very specific.

We have had systematic disenfranchisement of voters. We have seen gross mismanagement of our elections. And we have seen an erosion of faith in our democracy in our state. Those are all true facts.

But these are all solvable problems. And that’s why I’m proud to be an American. That’s why I’m proud to be a Georgian. And it’s why I’m taking up Fair Fight Georgia, because faith is not enough. We have to have action married to that faith.

And I don’t believe that you are trying to cast aspersions or cause me to say anything, but what I am being clear about is that I’m choosing my words very carefully because words have meaning. . . .
I'm currently reading Carol Anderson's One Person, No Vote and it is so upsetting, I have to take time off to read fluff to calm down. None of this is new. Disenfranchisement is a long game, starting with the senate composition enshrined in the US constitution.

Why do Wyoming and Vermont get 2 senators a piece when the District of Columbia has roughly the same number of residents and no senate votes. (A shadow senator without a vote doesn't count, literally.)

Why does Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska get two senators each (10 total!) while Puerto Rico gets none? PR has slightly more people (3.37 M) than those 5 states combined and gets no representation. The senate, through it's control of the judiciary and other high level posts, wields an inordinate amount of power.

Remember, slaves counted as 3/5 in the census for the apportionment of House of Representatives seats, but got no votes. This was designed to give slave owners more votes in setting policy for the entire country, not just the slave states.

Then there is gerrymandering, voter intimidation, logistical barriers to voting...

I grew up in California and thought that the laws I grew up with apply throughout the country.  For instance, we get 2 paid hours off to vote.  Did you know that, in many states, you can be docked pay or fired for taking time off to vote?  That's why early voting on weekends and voting by mail are so important.

Last year, I read professor Anderson's well-researched and logically explained White Rage. I highly recommend it. I'm heartened to see that she wrote a version for young adults, We Are Not Yet Equal.

Enough for now.  I'm fired up, but I must remain hopeful enough to be productive.  I finally seamed up a sweater and it's beautiful.  Pictures to follow.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Even El Ninos aren't what they used to be

Remember how things were bigger when we were younger?  How the El Niños of our youth just seemed to produce more rain in California?  How come so many El Niños of late have been La Nadas for rain?

It turns out that, like many things, the El Niños index has changed.  The NOAA El Niño blog explains Why are there so many ENSO indexes, instead of just one?

If you want to go deeper, read NCAR's Climate Data Guide entry about NINO SST INDICES (NINO 1+2, 3, 3.4, 4; ONI AND TNI).

The short answer is that the original El Niño index was based on the eastern Pacific areas where the effect was first noticed and named.  You may have grown up hearing TV weathercasters talking about El Niño index 2 or 3 (depending on your age.)  Today, they are probably talking about El Niño index 3.4.
Boxes denote various regions used to calculate El Niño indices.  The eastern Pacific ones (1-3) are closer to California and have a bigger impact on our rainfall patterns.  The western Pacific El Niño index is a better predictor of monsoon patterns in Asia.  El Niño index 3.4 gives the best overall diagnostic for global weather changes.
Each El Niño index is useful for someone. If you are interested in the global scale impact, the El Niño index 3.4 is the best compromise. This is the area used in official NOAA use. (However, they calculate and report all of them.)
It looks like we could have a mild El Niño in California this season. I'm cautiously optimistic for a wetter than normal winter. That may just be wishful thinking on the part of this gardener as El Niño 3 is meandering up and down in recent months.  My poor shrubs could use a good soaking to dilute the salts that have been building up from irrigation with hard water instead of rainfall.

Keep in mind that these indices are based on deviation from a departure from a 30-year mean.  The entire planet, including the oceans, has warmed in recent decades.  The temperature and pressure gradients (contrast between different areas) determine storm tracks.  But, the warmer oceans and air masses mean that storms contain more water, about 7% more water on average.

Storms are also sticking around longer due to changes in the jet stream (probably related to the melting polar ice.)  Some models suggest storms will generate 50% more rainfall in places where they land!  So, for those of us in California, rainfall will be more rare but more intense.  We need to re-engineer our cities for the new reality.  That's going to take money and cooperation because it is in everyone's best interest.  Are you with me?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Chick Lit/Rom Com Aspirations

Our family is looking forward to the opening of Crazy Rich Asians tomorrow.  Have you read the books?  They are really fun and funny, but in no way describe the lives of typical Singaporeans.

Even the house of the non-crazy rich college roommate is very atypical.

Movie promo pix from official site

As a math major and former volunteer math tutor at public schools, I was asked often about the merits of Singapore math. My stock response is that I'm sure our kids would do better in math (and reading) if we had Singapore housing (and health care.) Once kids are adequately housed and cared for, I'm sure they will do better in math.

Did you know that the majority (82%) of Singaporeans live in public housing? Read more about Singapore Housing from their Housing Development Board (HDB) and an article describing its strengths and shortcomings from the Economist.

Contrary to conservative arguments that public welfare projects make people soft and lose their drive, public housing usage has gone down from a high of 87% in 1988-1990 to 82% today.  Give people clean, safe, and conveniently-located--albeit small--housing, and they may work a bit harder to get bigger digs on the open market.

Anyway, single family homes (never mind palatial estates on huge park-like grounds) are exceptionally rare. Most people live in mid and high-rise condos of modest size. You can see sample floor plans of HBD condos by scrolling down to Housing Types on the HBD intro page.  I found the virtual flat tours entertaining and informative, though slow to load.

5.8 million Singaporeans live on island at an average density of 8157.61/km² or 21,573.9/mi2.  That's slightly less than NYC's 26,403/mi2. It's important to note that Singapore is a sponge city, with roughly half of its land surface area left open for park land and water capture. Thus, their effective population density is doubled. Check out the 3D maps of Singapore on Google Maps. It's so green. There is so much park land. The buildings are so tall.

I found the ending of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy hugely disappointing from an urban planning perspective.  "Saving" the family home means leaving it incredibly low density for a lucky few, while the rest of the population is squeezed into small condos.

Despite the ending, I highly recommend the trilogy, especially book 3, Rich People Problems.  It deals with the darker side of inequality in Singapore.  I don't know what it means when a bride is given two teen-aged "ladies in waiting" for life. I think I know what it means, but I want Crazy Rich Asians to do well at the box office so that I can see how book 3 is represented on screen.

If you want to read a really good book about racism and inequality in modern day Singapore, try Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan's Sarong Party Girls. Don't believe the mediocre ratings on Goodreads by people who were disappointed that the content did not match the upbeat chick lit cover.
“Through the insouciant voice of her heroine, Tan delivers a stinging and deliciously subversive critique of Singapore’s patriarchal social system. You’ll be so busy laughing at Jazzy’s outrageous cheek, you won’t notice until it’s too late that your heart has been broken.” - Hillary Jordan, author of When She Woke
I totally agree!

[One of my friends moved to Singapore to work on their push for water independence from Malaysia.  I'll write more about that in my water series, starting with the water recycling plant near my home.  Yes, Los Angeles/Orange County has joined the ranks of advanced water recyclers like Israel and Singapore.  SoCal just needs to expand our capacity and work on improving our landscape permeability.

I feel torn between sticking to "my lane" and blogging  about science and water, or pointing out that homelessness is virtually eradicated in Singapore while SoCal has tent cities of homeless people everywhere.]

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

How sticky is it?

I don't want to hear about how it is not that bad compared to Miami.  I didn't move to Miami for a reason.

My bedroom when I woke up this morning (generally the coolest part of the day.)

76F and over 80% relative humidity, ick.
Upstairs in the afternoon:

Almost 90F
What about the cooling sea breeze every afternoon? Nonexistent. The land-sea breeze is driven by the temperature contrast between the ocean and land. Check out this animation.
If the ocean is warmer than usual, the sea breeze weakens.

Right now, the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly (difference from average temperature over many years for the same date) is about 3 C or 5 F warmer than usual.

SST anomaly from NOAA

The ocean is about 22 C or about 71 F.
NOAA CA coast SST analysis
In fact, the SST at the Scripts Institute of Oceanography in San Diego is the highest in their recorded history.

I used this handy dandy relative humidity-dewpoint calculator to plug in my bedroom measurement of 84% and 76 F and got a dew point temperature of 72 F. Coincidentally, that's almost the SST offshore.

I checked my measurement against the calibrated weather station at LAX airport.  Their weather station is closer to the ocean than my house, so it will be cooler and breezier.  It looks like they are less humid, too.  (Master bedrooms run more humid than other bedrooms because of the en suite bathroom.)

In conclusion, it's not as hot as it was in early July.  But the humidity is higher and my misery is just as high.  I'm going to take a cool shower and then settle back with a book (Lightning Men) and an iced drink.

PS 5 years ago, we replaced our dark asphalt composite shingle roof with a highly reflective glass composite "cool" roof.  It made a difference and we patted ourselves on the back for not installing air conditioning, which would have cooled our home down, but heated up the planet overall (pesky thermodynamics.)  But now I'm regretting that.  As long as people are driving long distances in huge vehicles and eating tons of meat (paleo diet, I hate you!) I might use AC.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Thank-you Jonathan Gold and Linda Burum

I was saddened to read of Jonathan Gold's death over the weekend. Others wrote about his importance quite eloquently. Gustavo Arellano (Ask a Mexican) explained, "His strength lay in the fact that he wrote as someone thankful that the Los Angeles of today was not the Los Angeles of his youth."

Ruth Reichl, his friend and former editor wrote:
But Jonathan didn’t want us to go out to Monterey Park simply to eat Sichuan pickles. He didn’t lure us out to El Monte or the world’s best birria burritos for their mere deliciousness. He wrote enticing prose designed to take us out of our safe little territories to mingle with other people because he knew that restaurants aren’t really about food. They’re about people.

He gave us the keys to a hidden city, introduced us to folks we’d never have known. And the city changed. It is nothing like the city I found when I first came here in 1984.
If you want to understand LA, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Gold's classic, Counter Intelligence: Where to eat in the real Los Angeles.

Gold wrote a column for the Counter Intelligence column for the LA Weekly starting in the mid-1980s.  A collection of the columns was published as this book in 2000.

When we first moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, A Guide to Ethnic Food in Los Angeles by Linda Burum (1992) was our LA food atlas.

We used to read the chapters (organized by ethnic food type) while looking at the AAA map of Metro Los Angeles (for the big picture) and the Thomas Guide for details. We planned outings to different areas of LA around food and walking around.

Until I moved to LA, I didn't understand it. It's still so vast and hard to describe. But food sociology is certainly a great way to start. Go out and explore. Eat. Look around. Listen. Talk to people.

I sat next to a food critic on a flight who knew Linda Burum. I asked why she didn't update her guide. He said that she moved to NY and was doing other stuff now. In the obituaries and tributes to the important work that Jonathan Gold and Anthony Bourdain have done in popularizing food sociology/anthropology, I see little mention of women.

I want to remind people not to overlook the women who were already there, doing the work in plain sight.  So many women have done the patient work of spending time in kitchens and explaining culture through food.   Culture has room for many heroes.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Aquifer cake

Reading the Water Wars of Arizona in the NY Times today and thinking about this aquifer cake.  Watch as she pours milk on an aquifer modeled in cake.
When I read the NYT headline, I thought they were referring to another Arizona water use controversy, ably explained by John Fleck.
Upper Colorado River Basin state leaders, in a letter Friday (April 13, 2018), said the water management approach being taken by the managers of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) “threaten the water supply for nearly 40 million people in the United States and Mexico, and threaten the interstate relationships and good will that must be maintained if we are to find and implement collaborative solutions” to the Colorado River’s problems.

[snip one paragraph]

The letter, using language that is striking in the normally staid interstate diplomacy of Colorado River interstate water management, takes issue with CAP’s practice of using more water than it might otherwise – avoiding “overconserving”, in CAP’s words – in order to ensure continue big releases from Lake Powell upstream. That has the effect of expanding water use in the Lower Colorado River Basin at the expense of draining Lake Powell, the critical reservoir for protecting Upper Colorado River Basin supplies. The managers of the Central Arizona Project are “disregard(ing) the (Colorado River) basin’s dire situation at the expense of Lake Powell and all the other basin states” by using more water than they need to, the letter said.
Many people read Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert, originally written in 1986 (revised 1992), and think that is the last word on Colorado River water.   The book is very outdated.   UC Davis professor Jay Lund summed up the lessons he learned from the book and the things that changed in Reflections on Cadillac Desert on the California Water Blog.

The upshot is that the climate has become much more challenging for providing reliable water supplies to the Colorado River Basin.  But people have a much better understanding about the challenges and what actions to take.  Water agencies serving the 40 million people who rely on CO River water* have learned to cooperate in ways unimaginable in the 1980s.

However, there are agents intent on inflaming new water wars; the more we fight amongst ourselves, the less attention we pay to larger and more serious threats.  This may take the form of 'dark money' to fund lawsuits against local water agencies trying to impose water conservation measures or misinformation campaigns (aka lies) that sow doubt about the need for water conservation in the first place.

It's time to fight misinformation with factual information.

* Both Boulder, CO and Los Angeles, CA are outside the natural topological (gravity-fed) boundaries of the Colorado River Basin.  However, both places receive and use water from it.  In fact, about half the water used in the Colorado Front Range Urban Corridor (a high desert/plains strip east of the continental divide) is moved across the divide to the Platt River (and eventually, Mississippi River) basin.  More on that later.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Banking Rain for Sunny Days

Did you get the memo? Climate change will make rain less predictable and more intense in southern California. It's not clear if the total amount of rain will decrease along the coast. Rain will decrease in the Colorado River Basin, from which we import some of our water. For the sake of our water supply, we need to change how we handle water runoff.

Gregory Rachel, a firefighter and surfer, wrote a good primer on the why and how of water harvesting, with a photo of the Los Cerritos Channel Sub Basin 4 Stormwater Capture Project.

Joe Mozingo wrote A behind-the-scenes battle to divert L.A.'s storm water from going to waste for the LA Times and illustrated it with a picture of the huge Paseo del Rio at San Gabriel Coast Basin spreading grounds.

In 2016, he reported that only 65 billion gallons of rainwater is captured and stored in aquifers. Another 164 billion gallons goes out to sea.  I'm not sure if that 65 billion includes the water captured by smaller-scale "rain gardens" in homes and parks, such as this one that captures all the water on the parcel of the North Redondo Beach Branch Library.  I wrote about it in 2016.

The "local supplies" that provides ~40% of the water used in the LA area comes from wells or reservoirs stocked by water that fell as rain in our area (instead of water imported from the Colorado River or Northern California via long canals.) It does not count the rain that fell in your garden and soaked into the ground because that isn't metered/measured.

It's pretty clear that the Colorado River Basin is drying up and climate change is a major contributor. I'll write about regional competition and cooperation of cities and states in the Colorado River Compact later.

The supply from the California State Water Project that moves water from the Sacramento Delta to central and southern California is also endangered. It's threatened in the north by sea level rise and increased diversions that increase the salinity (salt) in the water supply.  Insane over-pumping of well-water by farmers in the Central Valley have caused the ground to sink as much as a foot per year in some areas, buckling and breaking the canals.  Currently, the peak capacity of the water canals to SoCal has been decreased by 20% because of the buckling.  Add to this that the canals must cross earthquake country and were built when we had much less experience in how to engineer for earthquake safety.  The California "Water Fix" is a political football and you can get whiplash from watching it.  That sounds like another blog post.

Long story short, we need to improve the things that are completely within our control.  That means we should build our neighborhoods with the intent of soaking as much rain water in the ground as we can.  It can be as simple as putting in gravel in the lowest spot in your garden so it doesn't flow off your property.  It can be giant basins that can harvest 200 million gallons from one storm and put it in the ground.   Or it can be something in between.

I'll end with pictures of a neighborhood-scale rainwater capture project in North Redondo Beach.  Thousands of people pass it every day on Aviation Boulevard and have no idea what it is.  This aerial view does not show you how hilly this area is.  Some of the streets are 15-20% grade!

Low-lying area in 90278
Some low-lying homes used to flood repeatedly.  Rather than rebuild these flood-prone homes, the homes were purchased for alternative uses.  The plot in the red box was bought by the city of Redondo Beach and turned into a parkette.  It also functions as a spreading ground to soak up the water that flows into it from surrounding areas.  After a heavy rain, it may be too soggy, or even covered in water, for kids to play in.  In that case, the park is temporarily closed off with cones until it dries up, typically in a few days.

The blue box was mysterious until I saw a workman doing maintenance there.  We had a fantastic conversation where he taught me what they do behind the chain link fence and I explained to him our best understanding of what climate change will do to our area.

The concrete channel in the blue box collects the rainwater that comes out of the storm drains (and flows off the surrounding land like the parkette.)  The "first flush" of stormwater, about 1/4" is sent to the sewage treatment plant for cleaning.  The rest of the water is sent downstream.

[LA has separate storm drains and sewage systems, aka "sanitary sewers."  Many older cities, notably Chicago, have just one system and raw sewage can be spilled when the sewage treatment plants cannot handle the rainwater volume.]

Water capture at local minima
Rainwater after the first flush is much cleaner.  It is sent slightly further downhill to a spreading ground where the water can slowly infiltrate into the shallow aquifer.  The grounds are blocked off from street view with a tall, solid fence, but an adjacent triangular permeable garden/parkette is visible from Aviation Boulevard.

Spreading grounds for rainwater
I've written earlier about how LA is ringed by hundreds of injection wells where fresh water (often reclaimed) is sent into the shallow aquifer to block sea water intrusion into the larger aquifer that we depend on.  The more rain we can get into the ground, the less fresh water we need to pump into the ground. 

Sea level rise from climate change increases the danger of salt water intrusion.  We'll need to put more fresh water into the ground along the coast to stave it off.

If we are to survive and thrive as a city/metro region in the face of climate change, we need to do smart things at the regional, local and personal levels.  Take a look around your neighborhood.  What is your city doing?  What are you personally doing?

Monday, July 02, 2018

Sew Inspirational

Sew Becky Jo asked me to write up a post about five sewists that inspire me for the Sewcialists blog and I am happy to oblige.

I had to step back to think a little bit about what that means, or how I want to interpret this assignment. I'm exhausted from all the bad news lately, and have been reflecting deeply about how I can respond--push to make the world more in keeping with my values, while protecting my emotional core. Depending on how you see it, I am either a procrastinator or a researcher.

Several of the books I read in the last year dealt with how social media and technology is harnessed by authoritarians and liars for their own ends. Thus, I decided to focus on five sewists that are less active and "hot" (in the sense of popularity), but resonate with me. I'll also explain why.

Have you ever heard about the Weak Ties Theory? Changing Minds has a good synopsis. In short, social ties are either strong (between tight clusters of members connected mainly with others in the same group) or weak (bridges between strong networks.) 
The more weak ties we have, the more connected to the world we are and are more likely to receive important information about ideas, threats and opportunities in time to respond to them.
Strong ties are the echo/bubble chambers in which misinformation can ricochet without challenge.

Weak ties are the ways in which we expand our understanding about how others experience the world.

(If this interests you, read an academic paper by Mark Granovetter,  who first explained and gave a name to this effect.)

Sewing is a great way to add weak ties to your social media. We are all makers who encounter and solve similar problems. We can learn about sewing *and* about the greater world by following people who experience much different lived experiences than our own. In doing so, we can learn to empathize with people who don't look like us.

Blogger 1.

If I want to direct attention to less-known sewing bloggers, why am I starting my list with super-popular Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic?  She's a super-star among bloggers for good reason.  She's been putting out quality content about her sewing journey since 2006, when the sewing blogger world was much smaller.  She's so generous with her time--showing what worked, what didn't, and analyzing why.

I've learned so much non-sewing information from her, too.

Through Carolyn, I've learned how challenging it is for plus-sized women to find professional and on-trend clothing, how much it means for African Americans that one of them was our president, and how personal BLM is when a mother has to send her son or grandson out in the world when so many see them only as a threat.

I read Carolyn to be a better sewist and a better person.

IG: @diaryofasewingfanatic

I'm intrigued by what sewists call Pattern Puzzles, novel ways to cut and shape garments.  Issey Miyake designs often fall in this category. So do the garments in the Pattern Magic series of books by Tomoko Nakamichi.

I follow many sewists that sew Pattern Puzzles and document their experiences to help others.  Some are less active on social media than they were in the past, but quality content is evergreen.

Blogger 2.

I first learned about Pattern Puzzles from Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion Incubator. She's blogged about Pattern Puzzles no fewer than 251 times!

Kathleen is less active in her open access blog than in the past. She runs a (paid) member forum for clothing manufacturers working in the US. I am not a member of that forum, but I hear it is a friendly and nurturing site full of people helping each other.

I have her book and it is an encyclopedia in one volume. Sometimes, I have to read it over several times because she can pack so much information in one paragraph and a few illustrations. Browse through her tutorials and use them. Your sewing will be so much better.

In 2015, she bought a factory--or rather, she built one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can follow her and her partners on IG @abqfi.

Another reason to follow Kathleen is to learn more about neurodiversity. She writes very movingly about how many of her life experiences made sense once she learned she is on the autism spectrum. The apparel manufacturing industry has traditionally been home to immigrants and people who think differently. This is it's strength.

 Like many people who are on the spectrum, Kathleen is a slayer of bullshit.

She compiled all her wisdom about The Myth of Vanity Sizing in one place. FYI, I went into this thinking vanity sizing is a thing. She completely convinced me I was wrong. Now I am smug because I know the right answer and there is no one more evangelical than the converted. ;-)

IG: @kathleenfasanella @abqfi

Blogger 3.

Lauriana of Petit Main Sauvage has sewn many pattern puzzles, though her recent makes lean more towards activewear. She works in a wedding dress salon and is generous with her knowledge.

I also enjoy her slice of life writing and photos of rock climbing, bicycle commuting and life in general in the Netherlands.  Plus, her organized, utilitarian and beautiful apartment (in the background of many of her photos) is a life goal.

If you like pattern pieces shaped like this, then this is a blog to read.  Start at the beginning and slowly work your way forwards in time.  I don't know if she is in IG.
Is this a bat or a sleeve?  Read and learn.

Blogger 3.5

Di of Clementine's Shoes took down all of her blog posts, so you can't see any of her Pattern Magic sewing experiments.  Some of the experiments worked.  Some failed.  They were real experiments.  It was inspirational just to watch someone who was up to try anything.

 I'm quite sad that she didn't leave her old posts up when she quit blogging.

Recently, she started posting on IG as @clementinesews. She also posts her work as an architect @dijonesarch. I hope she re-posts her old blog content, because it was really, really good. Oh, she knits and makes shoes, too.

The last two deal with disability or caring for the disabled along with sewing.

Blogger 4.

Many sewing bloggers order interfacing and other notions from Pam Erny of Fashion Sewing Supply. She is now my sole supplier of interfacing. No more bubbling from shrunken fusible interfacing!

Did you know that she also posts many helpful tutorials on her Off The Cuff Shirtmaking blog?

She doesn't write much about her personal life, but she's inspirational in that she is another math/physics person who created a second career for herself and her husband.

Don't you want to learn how to sew a placket like this?

Blogger 5.

Ms. Little Hunting Creek and I were frequent commenters on each others' blogs when we were both much more active bloggers.  We bonded over the fact that we both had the same Home Ec lesson in the 1970s in California.  We both earned BAs from UC Berkeley (Cal)--she in Classics, me in Mathematics.  We also both earned our livings in software despite not formally studying computer science in school.  Hey, if you can learn ancient Latin and Greek grammar, modern software languages are a piece of cake.

Berkeley's breadth with depth requirements for BAs meant that she had to take quite a few science classes (enough to earn a minor in Biology) and I had to take quite a few history classes.  This is probably the reason why Cal grads did not go on to found and run the tech companies that took down democracy around the world.

I suggest you read Sewing as Political Protest.

Her blogging slowed down due to health challenges that you can go over there to read about.  I find it inspirational that she could continue to work (but from home) and carve some time out to make stuff and blog about it.  Oh, she also wrote essays for the Toast.

From Wearing the Pants: A Brief Western History of Pants
According to Herodotus, when Greek soldiers met the Scythians in battle, they were amazed to see Scythian women on horseback fighting alongside the men, all wearing pants and decorated armor. When they went back to Greece they immortalized those Scythian women for posterity as the legendary Amazons in their poetry and art. Painting them looking both chic and fierce, their pictures of the Amazons are some of the earliest Western artworks showing women in pants. But even though pants came to the West from the Scythians and others (along with riding horses), in the West, wearing pants was associated with warfare and restricted to men only. Perhaps, remembering those Amazons, men feared what might happen to them if women were able to wear pants and get their hands on some weapons.
This is why I overcame my initial resistance to arming school teachers. If we armed the (mostly female) school teachers, perhaps they will enjoy the same high pay and cushy pensions as policemen. Amirite?

Each of these five bloggers have taught me things and even changed my mind by giving me new information or reframing it.  Let's keep on learning and making together.