Arcata Marsh climate change talk by Patrick Carr promotes awareness, simple changes

By Matthew Hable|
Flapjack staff

Located at the north end of Humboldt Bay and along the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south flight path for migratory birds that expands from Alaska to Patagonia, situates The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, a 307-acre sanctuary that includes marshes, sloughs, uplands, mudflats, roughly five miles of trails and an Interpretive Center.

Patrick Carr, a psychologist with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and lecturer for the evening’s Climate Conversations, patiently waits for the last participant to arrive at the center five minutes pass the scheduled 7 p.m. start time. The Interpretive Center operates as an exhibit, bookstore and info center pertaining to the sanctuary. Seven of the eight folding chairs are occupied in the shape of a semicircle, which are facing a wide window that overlooks a spectacular view of the marsh—the sun begins to set beyond the marsh, adding to the overall visual splendor. The last participant arrives and the lecture begins.

Carr welcomes the discussion group to the event and proceeds to describe the sustainable implementations of the Interpretive Center.

“This building is equipped with a passive solar building design, high-efficiency LED lights and skylights,” said Carr.

Collectively, the Interpretive Center qualifies as a net-zero building, meaning that the amount of annual renewable energy consumed significantly outweighs the use of non-renewable energy, resulting in less production of greenhouse gasses.

Greenhouse gasses are essential to life on earth—without them our planet would be frozen and unsustainable. However, too much emission of greenhouse gases overheats the planet that threatens humanity. Moreover, global warming has had observable effects on the planet due to human activities—a century’s worth of burning fossil fuel, overpopulation and globalization. If sustainability practices are not implemented on a global scale and industrial activities continue to emit greenhouse gases at an exponential rate, future generations will struggle with sea level rises, ocean acidification, intense heat waves, longer periods of droughts and so on.

Next, Carr offers other options to reduce our inherited carbon footprint habits: transportation, dieting and consumerism. He suggests a collective vegan diet would effectively reduce carbon footprint. The global food production and consumption, namely beef, produce more greenhouse emissions than transportation combined; however, transporting meat overlaps with production. Additionally, a decrease or complete abstinence from consuming meat could reduce the risk of heart disease and other health-related issues.

“The internet globally consumes 10% of electricity,” said Carr.

Consumerism contributes to climate change. The internet is woven into our society—businesses rely on it to survive and people depend on it as a primary source of communication in the digital age. The demand for internet is spreading at an increasing rate as globalization develops across the world; as a result, companies supply the demand with devices, especially smart phones, laptops and accessories, such as external hard drives. Ultimately, the production and use of devices are the contributor to high emissions of greenhouse gasses. Also, the cost of fuel to transport goods also impacts the climate. The world constantly operates in this vicious cycle that intensifies global warming.

Needless to say, persuading an entire planet of people to change their lifestyle is no easy feet. There are many factors that circumscribe change towards consuming energy renewably.

Opposing views of climate change is “intensely emotional,” said Carr.

To evolve requires a deep, communal understanding of climate change before taking action, first and foremost. In a fragmented society that is mostly ignorant or indifferent about climate change, achieving a collectively sustainable movement seems merely impossible—it would take a global village to influence real change. Another major setback for change involves economic prosperity. In a world dependent on fossil fuels, leaders of renewable energy need to convince the government, parliaments, corporations, politicians and other globalized leaders that the transition would be greater than profits generated by fossil fuels.

Despite the tremendous challenges supporters of renewable energy face, there is hope in the long run. Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a non-profit joint powers authority (JPA) based in Humboldt County, received state approval in January to lead a new energy program that aims to “provide lower electric rates and local control of our energy sources” by implementing renewable energy practices. Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco opted into similar programs. If programs like these succeed, this could lead a path to saving society or at least reverse the effects of global warming.

Human beings are one with nature and each of us have a certain connection to it beyond biological reasons.

“I have a spiritual connection with nature,” said Valerie Carr, biologist and wife of Patrick Carr.

Humboldt transplant and auto racing enthusiast, Bob Friedman, also participated in the discussion. He is passionate about finding ways to incorporate renewable energy to the sport without compromising speed.

“I am from the dark side,” said Friedman. “I spent years driving race cars and working in factories that produced car batteries.”

After inhaling and observing the immense amount of pollution pumping into the air over a long period of time, Friedman decided to leave Florida and head west. He has been in Humboldt since 2016 and is currently pursuing entrepreneurial ways to produce his own brand of race car batteries.

Climate Conversations concluded with a reminder that change begins with awareness and an open discussion about the issue.

Another action we can take is “sacrificing vacation for renewable energy,” said Carr. “Instead of saving money for a long vacation, take a short one and invest your money into sustainable practices around the house.”

Ride your bicycle to work, switch to energy bulbs, grow your own food—a little goes a long way.


Living off the grid in the hills of Southern Humboldt

By Cody Centeno
Flapjack staff

In order to live off the grid – without PG&E, provided water, etc. – you have to be willing to put in a lot of work to get things that come easily when you are on the grid. For instance, instead of just turning on your electric heater, you might have to build a fire with wood that you had to gather and cut yourself. This article was written to help readers better understand what life is like when you are off the grid, and to help understand why people would want to live this way.

Charles Watson live in Piercy, California, a small town about 80 miles south of Arcata, with a population under 200. Piercy is smack dab in the middle of the Emerald Triangle, where Humboldt and Mendocino counties meet on Highway 101. Watson has lived off-the-grid in the area for over 40 years. He gets his water from a natural spring.

“First, you have to find a viable spring,” Watson said. “Then, I build a small dam that still allows the stream to continue flowing, but also catches enough water for me. I fill up the area where the water will be with small gravel, which will filter the water slightly.”

Once you have this small dam in place, he says that you run your water line from there to your water tanks, but it isn’t always so simple.

“If your spring is above your tanks, you will usually be able to benefit from the gravity flow,” Watson said. “But, if your tanks are above your spring, you will have to buy a water pump to get the water to it.”

From your tanks, you run your water through a pipeline to your house. Again, Watson said that the gravity flow aspect is important. He also talked about keeping a spare water tank.

“We have a spare tank on our property, just in case the spring slows down in the summer time,” Watson said. “If it does slow down, we can use a water pump to bring in water to the house from our spare tank while the primary tanks slowly fill up again.”

Piercy resident Patrick Landergen has owned his property since 2004. He heats his home with a wood stove in the winter.

“During the summertime, I have to cut wood for burning during the winter,” Landergen said. “When I’m out looking for wood, I try to take trees that are already fallen instead of killing a healthy tree.”

He must cut each tree in to “rounds” using his chainsaw, which are 12-14 inch long sections of the log, and then split them with a maul, which is a slightly dulled axe with a head that gets thicker from front to back.

“Once you find or cut a tree, you cut it in to rounds with your saw, and split it down small enough to fit in the woodstove with a maul,” Landergen said. “If the wood is wet, I let it dry out for the rest of the summer, and once it’s dry, I take it home and stack it until the winter.”

He also made it clear that he has a favorite kind of wood to burn.

“Madrone is all the I burn,” Landergen said. “Out of tanoak, fur, and everything else that I have tried, nothing burns as evenly or clean as the madrone does. When I burn tanoak, I have to clean my chimney out once every to weeks. With madrone, it is once per month.”

When it comes to powering your home, one common option in the hills of Humboldt is a diesel generator. That’s what Dan Bittick, a Southern Humboldt resident since the 1980s by his account, uses.

“Installing and running a generator is not necessarily easy,” Bittick said. ” You have the cost of the generator, the batteries and the inverter.My current power system cost me over $12,000 and many hours of labor, but that’s still cheaper than having PG&E run power lines up here.”

Aside from the initial setup, which is a lot of work wiring things in, burying wire, and doing other things, you have to maintain the generator throughout its life as well.

“I change my oil every month, and I also have to keep an eye on things like the fuel filter, solenoids, and diodes. How often you maintain your generator usually depends on how many hours you run it for per day,” Bittick said. “I run mine for eight hours per day, and oil changes every month have kept my generator running for over 10 years now. With the right care, you can make these things last decades.”

Those who live off-the-grid agreed that it is very rewarding to be able to produce for yourself with little to no help from the outside world.

HSU students in Arcata face difficult housing hunt

By Jacob George
Flapjack staff

Crammed between a thin hallway, Alexander Hain pushes his way through a sea of wide eyed, bustling college students, in search of the master bedroom. The chaotic scene around him is similar to your average weekend rager, but far from what Hain expected when he went to check out a listing for an open house on Clover Way in Arcata. Humboldt State Freshman, 19-year-old Hain, has been searching the Arcata area for a house to live in for his sophomore year at Humboldt State since early April, with no luck.

“I tried to get a jump-start on the house, but I guess so did everybody else,” Hain said. “Every open house I’ve gone to in April was packed with people from school.”

Hain expressed his frustration with the “shot in the dark” approach he is forced to take whenever he applies as a local tenant, along with the financial burden.

“They want us to pay $20 each for an application fee, then tell us there’s over 30 people applying to the same house, so not to get our hopes up,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”

One of the best things Arcata has to offer is the small tight-knit community, but local students are running out of places to live. According to US News and World Report, 91 percent of Humboldt State students live off campus, which means roughly 7,500 students compete in the local housing market each year. Since 2010, Humboldt States total enrollment has gone up by nearly 1,500 students, a sharp increase for such a small community and housing market. This statistic is also worrisome due to the fact that the odds are often, in fact, always against the student applicant. Often with no credit, little job history, and a lack of references, students are often chosen last by property owners and realtors to sign or pick up leases. Students are usually forced to rely on a co-signer to even give them a chance for consideration.

As the end of the spring semester at Humboldt State approaches, students find themselves in a frantic frenzy between the months of April and June to secure a place to live for the following semester, before it’s too late.

Carma Day, an employee at Humboldt Property Management in Arcata, explained just how tight the window is for students who are looking to sign a lease.

“It’s good to start looking in April to be safe,” Day said. “May should be fine too but it’ll start getting more limited. June you’re cutting it close and by July everything’s locked up.”

She continued to note how things have gotten noticeably more competitive in the past few years, especially this one.

“This is the worst I’ve seen it, in terms of total availability,” she said. “At this point last year I had at least five or six houses opening up, right now I only have one in Arcata that’s over two bedrooms”

Nearby McKinleyville and Eureka’s housing situations are far from ideal as well, and require students to commute to school by car or bus, which students often either don’t have access to, or don’t have the time to spend multiple hours at the bus stop.

The city of Arcata has just under 9,500 households, to house a population of just over 21,000 residents, according to demographics listed at 62 percent of these are non-family households, while the other 38 percent belongs to families. Even when factoring the few apartment complexes into equation, the numbers clearly indicate that there is more people than the city can comfortably house. This, along with rising rent prices, has even led to a homelessness problem among students. Research done in The City of Arcata Homeless Services Plan indicates that the city of Arcata accounts for nearly 16 percent of Humboldt county’s homeless population, second only to Eureka at a Staggering 56 percent. Although it is hard to draw a direct correlation between the limited housing and the homelessness percentage, one could make a strong argument that it is a key factor.

Some are benefiting from the small, competitive housing market that Arcata offers. Property owner Randy Dodd and his wife Susan own multiple properties in across the Bay Area and Humboldt County, including in Eureka and Arcata. The two of them reside in Pleasanton, California, half way between San Francisco and San Jose, but make regular trips to Humboldt county to manage their property.

“I couldn’t have had to sit on one of the Arcata houses for more than one or two months for as long as we’ve had them,” Randy Dodd said. “Usually the hardest part is looking into and choosing the most qualified applicant for the house.”

Randy Dodd is not at all surprised by the mass number of applicants he averages on each Humboldt County house, or the competition in the small, but highly desired housing market.

“More people, especially the college students are coming in and shopping around the same number of houses as there was 10, 15, 20 years ago,” he said. “You don’t see much new construction going on, but soon maybe that will change.”

Calling 911 on a cell extends wait for emergency services in Trinity County

By Christine Ledman
Flapjack staff

Deep in the Emerald Triangle, response times for help can be anywhere from 10 minutes to seven hours or more depending on the distance between you and emergency services. Calling from a cell phone will always increase this response time adding a few additional minutes to 15 minutes or more depending on the situation.
911 services were installed in the early ’80s in California. All cell phone 911 calls are transferred to the California Highway Patrol’s Public Service Answering Points (PSAP). These PSAPs contact local dispatchers who will then dispatch police, fire, and ambulances. Landlines route directly to the closest local dispatcher. If you have a smart phone and have location services activated, the location will also be transferred to the PSAP to indicate exactly where you are calling from. The local PSAP will then call the local dispatcher and provide this information.
Trinity County does not have a PSAP. Cell phone calls from this area this area are routed to the PSAP in Redding or Sacramento. These folks hundreds of miles away will take the information from the caller and then relay this information to the Trinity County Sheriff’s dispatch, who will then page the needed assistance. Again, calling 911 from a landline will go directly to the Trinity dispatcher.
Hayfork and Weaverville have ambulance services available 24 X 7.
“We have seen delays of up to 10 minutes or more by the time we get the page,” said Ryan Howell, an employee of the Trinity County Life Support Ambulance Service.
Howell also said that 10 minutes can be the difference between life and death.
If location services is not turned on the delay can be even longer. The caller may have to describe where they are since there are not visible street addresses in most the county. Determining which county the call is originating from can be a major problem for the PSAP if the location is not forwarded with the call. It may take several minutes for the PSAP to determine which dispatcher needs to be contacted. This situation could possibly happen anywhere in California if the caller does not know what county they are in.
Trinity County has 13 small Volunteer Fire Departments. Roman Rubalcaba, a retired professional fireman became the Fire Chief in Hayfork. Rubalcaba said that the Hayfork Volunteer Fire Department of twelve people, 8 men and 4 women, receive approximately forty calls a month for fire, medical, and car accidents.
“I am working with the public to help them understand that if you call from a land line the call will go directly to the dispatcher in the Trinity County’s Sheriff Department, for the fastest response,” said Rubalcaba. “Many people here only have cells phones which just adds to our response time and sometimes makes it very difficult for us to find them, even if they are at home”.
One of the firefighters is Lisa Hammill of Hayfork.
“Sometimes we have to search for callers by location description and knowing there has already been quite a bit of time since the call came in it just adds to urgency of the situation,” said Hamill.
Hamill also spoke of the cell phone issue and how she is working with everyone she meets to make sure they understand how to set their phone up for fastest response.
Another option rather than 911 is to call directly to the Trinity County Sheriff’s office. The dispatcher said they received 7436 calls in 2016. They couldn’t provide how many of them were 911. One suggestion they had was to fill out a form to register your cell phone number with your home address and provide it to them. This would allow your home address to pop up if you do make a call to the Sheriff’s office rather than 911. It also allows them to reach out to you with urgent law enforcement or safety messages.
This number could be busy, so you might have to call back several times to speak to someone.
The Trinity Sheriff’s Department consists of the Sheriff and 7 deputies. This small crew covers 3,208 square miles and is backed up by the California Highway Patrol. A ten-minute delay in calling for help can make a big difference when the closest law enforcement may already be several hours away.
The quickest response times will always come from landlines but they are expensive. Most of Trinity County has only one provider, Verizon, so residents can’t shop around. The Federal Government has a program called Lifeline that assists low income people in getting cell phones and land lines. The Verizon representative said to qualify you have to have a valid non post office box mailing address which nobody has in Trinity County.
Trinity County Supervisor Bobbi Chadwick, a long-time Hayfork residence, was not aware of the situation with 911 calls.
“This is news to me, but sure seems like something that we should look into,” said Chadwick.
John Fenley, another Trinity County Supervisor was aware of the 911 differences.
“It is possible to ask Verizon to change this, but due to the cellular network configuration there is no guarantee that the call is originating in Trinity County,” said Fenley.
It does not look like there will be changes in the routing of 911 calls in Trinity County or anywhere in California at any time soon so it is important to have your cell phone set-up to provide your location information to assist in the fastest help possible.

Helping refugees adapt to U.S.

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By Christine Ledman
Flapjack staff

Megan Schmidt arrives at work each day to a parking lot of over 50 cars containing refugees from around the world awaiting her assistance. Schmidt, a 30-something, is the Health Education/Workforce Development Coordinator at the Refugee RISE Americorps (RISE) in Iowa City, Iowa.

“I have always had a desire to travel and help people,” said Schmidt.
The RISE program operates under the IC Compassion program which is managed by Executive Director Teresa Stecker. In the past refugees were only provided with immigration legal support by volunteer immigration lawyers like Sue Kirk. It was obvious the needs of the refugees were much greater.

“Before the RISE program many of our refugee families were lost in how to live here in the United States and scared,” said Stecker. “The addition of the RISE program has added the needed path to assimilation with language training, and basic skills training which are absolutely needed to thrive here.

“Megan is a ray of sunshine and the refugee population are very appreciative of the support she gives them,” she said.

The refugee population is growing rapidly in Iowa City with estimates of up to 10,000 or more from Sudan, Congo, Somalia, and many other countries.

Schmidt served in the Zigong China for the Peace Corp from 2007 to 2009. During her tour in China she also met her husband. After returning to the United States for two years Schmidt and her new husband moved to Cali Columbia where she led an 8th grade English Department. After four years in Columbia the Schmidt’s made the decision to return to the United States and continue their educations. Schmidt is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Public Health. Seven months ago she began her position with the AmeriCorps Vista Rise program.
“We loved living in both China and Columbia but we missed our families and felt we needed to return home,” she said.
Services that are provided to refugees via the RISE program are English as a second language classes, one on one computer training classes, classes to prepare refugees to take the citizenship test, personal finance, and general advocacy such as helping them to find housing and work and general emotional support.

“Many of our refugees are so happy to be here and very appreciative of the one on one service that we provide them and some have returned to us to be volunteers,” she said.

Schmidt explained when refugees are accepted into the United States they initially are assigned primary centers. These centers are non-profit organizations around the country that work with the refugees for ninety days. In this time, they supply temporary housing, clothing, provide classes on United States culture, and English if necessary. After this ninety day period the refugees are basically on their own. Many move to cities that have secondary centers. These centers already have refugees in the area and some type of assistance such as the RISE program.

“It is now that the refugees are struck by how hard it is to live in the United States,” said Schmidt. “There is little if any financial support and finding a job can be very difficult for them.”

Schmidt indicated that working with women and young girls presented the most emotional situations that she had to deal with.

“Many of the women and young girls who come here are victims of violent sexual assaults and finding support for them in their native language is extremely challenging,” said Schmidt.

The majority of the refugees Schmidt works with speak French, Arabic, and several other languages including Zulu. Schmidt is fortunate to have many volunteers from within the refugee community and local volunteers who speak these languages.

There are several situations where not all the family members could afford to leave or were not selected from the camps for a variety of reasons. The families that Schmidt helps are particularly concerned about females left behind, knowing the danger they are in. If the families can raise the necessary money to get them here in order to file for asylum it can speed the process up by several years. The problem is, it can cost up to $15,000 per person to make this happen.

“Unfortunately, because I work for the Federal Government I am not allowed to offer any thoughts on the recently signed executive order on travel restriction,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt also spoke of how difficult adapting to the cultural differences can be for these refugees. Some of them have been in refugee camps for over ten years. Most seem to be comfortable with basic cell phones, but the concept of using the computer for everything such as applying for jobs, taking tests, searching for resources is a daunting task for them.

“There were culture classes at my refugee camp, but once I saw my name on the list to go to the United States all I could think about was my new life and I didn’t understand the importance of what they were teaching us,” said a refugee who asked to be identified as Mally.

A more recent offering of RISE is family matching. RISE is attempting to match local Iowa City families with refugee families of a similar make-up. Mally who is a single mother with three elementary school aged children was matched with a local family. Her match family assisted Mally in getting her children registered for school, signed up for soccer, and realizing the importance of girls going to school.

Schmidt is very excited about this program. The matching families reach out to the refugee families weekly and visit them monthly. This continuity of support is something that Schmidt’s team does not have the resources to do.

“We are in the position to help anyone that comes to us, but if they don’t show up they are on their own and we can only hope that they are doing fine,” said Schmidt.

Many of the refugees are nervous about seeking help especially with needed legal assistance.

“I have noticed that clients who have worked with RISE are more confident when seeking assistance and this confidence is of real value when they are in immigration court seeking extended legal status,” said Kirk.

Schmidt said that every day, every hour brings a new and challenging situation to her desk.

“When I leave at night I am usually exhausted and have the feeling I haven’t done enough to help these people, which is what drives me to come back tomorrow to help again,” said Schmidt.