June 2009 Online Update
Research for People and the Planet  
In This Issue
-New Report
-Congressional Testimony
-Farm Success Stories
-Ethical Trade

-In Brief

Gleick’s Blog


New Report Details Economic and Environmental Challenges in West Contra Costa County
Community Heath is Compromised by Current Conditions, but Practical Solutions Exist

Measuring What Matters CoverWest Contra Costa County, Calif., faces a set of preventable, interconnected environmental and economic problems that compromise residents’ health and well-being — and are both the result of and contribute to severe social inequities.

The new report from the Pacific Institute and seven local partner organizations, Measuring What Matters: Neighborhood Research for Economic and Environmental Health and Justice in Richmond, North Richmond, and San Pablo, quantifies how serious, avoidable problems have become chronic and offers solutions for a better, more equitable way of life in West County.

Among the findings of the report:

  • all of the creeks and bays in the county are polluted to the point of being impaired;
  • 50% of homes in North Richmond, Richmond, and San Pablo are at high risk for having lead paint, one of the largest environmental health hazards facing children;
  • one-in-five households are situated within 500 and 1,000 feet of freight transport areas, exposed to high levels of diesel pollution;
  • parks are in poor condition (including 40 of 52 parks missing restrooms, and only four restrooms well maintained);
  • youth programs are available for only 22% of West County 15-20-year-olds;
  • Richmond and San Pablo have 25% of Contra Costa County’s liquor stores, but less than 14% of its population, and almost 60% of West County liquor stores are within 1,000 feet of a school or park.

ForumThe report was released at a Community Forum attended by over 100 residents, including local officials. Pacific Institute authors Eli Moore and Swati Prakash and community leaders who worked on the issues presented details of these findings and how people can use the research to push for and create change in their neighborhoods.

The West County Indicators Project was launched in 2006 to work with local residents and organizations to build power to achieve a vision for healthy communities in West Contra Costa County. The individuals and groups who have worked on the issues in the resulting report have produced action plans to identify and address the concerns they feel most impact their quality of life and health. MediaThe bottom line is that a healthy community requires environmental and economic justice.

Download the report.

In the News

Cooley to Testify before Congress on Climate Change and Agriculture
U.S. Must Prepare for Water-related Impacts

On June 18, Institute Research Associate Heather Cooley will testify on the impacts of climate change on agriculture before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Cooley will discuss how precipitation and weather patterns will affect agriculture and what adaptation methods will be necessary to maintain a healthy agriculture sector in the U.S.

To read Cooley’s testimony, click here.

Institute to Showcase California Farm Success Stories

Water-Saving Practices Help Farmers Prepare for Uncertain Future

McNamaraThis month, the Pacific Institute began a project highlighting many of the water-use efficiency options California’s farms and irrigation districts are using to maintain a strong agricultural sector in times of difficult water shortages.

The Institute’s first success story interview and video clip will feature Sierra Orchards in Winters, Calif. Owned and operated for almost 30 years by Craig McNamara, this organic walnut orchard features innovative water-saving practices, including drip irrigation and tailwater recovery ponds. While many farmers lack the upfront capital necessary to implement such techniques, Sierra Orchards shows how money through government matching funds, like those provided by the Farm Bill, can help turn these crucial projects into a reality.

This first success story, which will be one of many in the larger Institute project, will be released in July, accompanying a new Pacific Institute report examining the potential for agricultural water conservation for all of California.

Video footage from our visit to Sierra Orchards will be available online for use by media outlets. Check our website throughout the summer for more farm and irrigation district video profiles.


Pacific Institute to Lead Research Project on Ethical Trade
Research Will Explore Problem of False Ethical Trade Claims

The Pacific Institute was recently selected to serve as independent expert to investigate issues around credibility and accountability of ethical trade and labeling.

The research is a part of the Ethical Trade Fact Finding Process established in 2008 in response to concerns raised by consumer organizations about inaccurate or false claims associated with ethical trade and labeling. While such concerns have led the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to consider a new international standard for ethical trade, it has become evident that more factual information is needed to determine whether moving into standardization could have significant benefits in the area of ethical trade.

The Institute’s role is to conduct independent research and clarify the nature and extent of inaccurate or false ethical trade claims and the problems such claims present for consumers. This project was awarded by Consumers International who is managing the process with other Ethical Trade Fact Finding (ETFF) Steering Group members. More information on the Ethical Trade Fact Finding Process can be found here.

In Brief

Institute Seeking Part-time Research Assistant
The Pacific Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice (CSSJ) Program is seeking a part-time research assistant to provide research support focused on environmental policy analysis, research into economic development models, and regional mapping and spatial analysis.

For the full job posting, and information on how to apply, click here.

Institute Works with Council to Improve California’s Urban Water Conservation
Senior Research Associate Heather Cooley attended the California Urban Water Conservation Council Steering Committee meeting on May 5-7 near Lake Havasu and also attended the Council’s plenary meeting held in Oakland on June 11. At this meeting, the Council voted on a GPCD (gallons per capita per day) reporting option for agencies to report their conservation successes. A longtime member of the Council, the Pacific Institute has been a member of the Steering Committee for the past year.

Restoration Alternatives for Colorado River’s Laguna Reach Discussed
On May 28, Senior Research Associate Michael Cohen participated in a Laguna Division Conservation Area meeting in Yuma, Arizona, where a large group of stakeholders reviewed and discussed three restoration alternatives for the degraded Laguna Reach of the Colorado River. The alternatives would replace large saltcedar stands with a mosaic of marsh, riparian, and upland habitats, restoring as much as 1260 acres at the uppermost extent of the former Colorado River delta. The group will meet again on July 8 to review a final draft alternative, for subsequent presentation to the MSCP Steering Committee in October. For more information, please see our Laguna Reach webpage.

Salton Sea Restoration Bill Passes Senate Committee, Heads to Assembly
On May 28, California’s Senate Appropriations Committee voted 10-2 to approve Senate Bill 51, the bill to establish a Salton Sea Restoration Council. The Salton Sea Restoration Council bill would establish a governance structure for Salton Sea restoration and revitalize the state’s moribund efforts, a move the Institute has long advocated. Last year, the committee never released a similar bill from suspense. SB 51 now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

Institute, Others Find Yuma Desalting Plant
On June 1, the Pacific Institute joined six other NGOs in submitting extensive comments on the proposed “pilot” operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant. Our comment letter notes significant deficiencies in the draft Environmental Assessment. To download the comment letter, click here.

Cooley Presents on Water and Energy Links
Senior Research Associate Heather Cooley, an expert on the links between water and energy, lectured on the connections between water, energy, and climate change at California State University, East Bay on May 18. She also brought her expertise to the annual River Network conference held in Baltimore, Maryland where she delivered a workshop on the tools available for quantifying the links between water and energy.

Morrison Attends International Standards’ Social Responsibility Group

On May 17-22 in Quebec, Canada, Jason Morrison, director of the Institute’s Globalization program, attended the 7th plenary meeting the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility. Morrison serves as the NGO representative of the six-person U.S. expert delegation for the meeting.

Morrison Presents on Alliance for Water Stewardship
On May 4 in Brussels, Jason Morrison served as a co-presenter at a master class focusing on the Alliance for Water Stewardship, a partnership of which the Pacific Institute is a member, working to define core principles and structures needed to develop an inclusive global freshwater stewardship plan. The half-day seminar served as a prelude to the Corporate Water Footprinting Reporting Conference, also organized by the European Networking Group. Read more about the Alliance for Water Stewardship.

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