Your Week in Ocean: In Which Congressman Jared Huffman Invites You To Bring It (To the Seaside Social)

Jennifer Savage / Yesterday @ 8 a.m. / Environment , Event , Government , marijuana , Media , Ocean

Congressman Jared Huffman is serious about engaging his constituents. In particular, he would like to do so this Saturday, when his “Seaside Social” event offers a chance to “mingle with Congressman Huffman, and hear directly from him about what is happening in Congress and how it affects us here on the North Coast.”

Given that the man represents one-third of California’s coast and has an extensive history of authoring successful ocean-protecting legislation – Huffman is an official Ocean Champion! – a little YWIO preview seemed in order. 


‘Life As We Know It’ Coming To End?

Our conversation began with what Huffman called “the biggest issue nobody is talking about”: Ocean acidification.

Why isn’t anyone talking about it? “It’s overwhelming,” he said, and challenging to understand. But without the right pH balance, potential consequences threaten life as it currently exists.

“Scientists and ocean advocates – including those whose livelihood depends on it – need to start making a bigger deal about [ocean acidification].” When asked what can be done to fix the problem, Huffman noted “’fix’ is a tough word to use about something this complex.” He’s co-sponsoring the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act of 2014, a bill designed to foster new research and innovation in adaptive strategies through X-Prize-style competitions. “Every coastal community, every fisherman, ought to be helping sound the alarm,” Huffman finished.

The ‘Do-Nothing’ Congress

But can anything actually get done in the 113th Congress? It hasn’t exactly been the most productive of legislatures. The public expects little.

“The public is right,” Huffman said. “By design [Congress] isn’t getting much done.” He’s frustrated by the lack of productivity. “We’re going to have to win some elections… The current leadership in the House is happy with a part-time Congress,” he said The worst thing, he continued, is that despite the roadblocks, if allowed a majority vote, Congress could have passed a number of important bills, including comprehensive immigration reform, a minimum wage increase, the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization and extending long-term unemployment benefits – important stuff. “All sorts of legislation could have passed, even in this Congress.”

More Better Ocean Protection!

Not everything has ground to a halt. Huffman is proud of his contribution to California Coastal National Monument, the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands off the Mendocino Coast. “We also had a surprisingly good farm bill,” he noted, “and a good Violence Against Women Act that took months… We had to overcome repeated Republican opposition,” he said.

And Thus The Conversation Turns To Ladies and Their Bodies Which May or May Not Belong To Them

Wait, what? Some Republicans don’t want women to have control over their own bodies? Do tell.

It’s true, Huffman said. Some Republicans in Congress really want to restrict abortion rights and even implement anti-contraception policies. “This ‘War on Women’ we’ve been trying to expose,” he said, “it really is happening. There really are people in high places that want to take away women’s control over their own bodies. They’re as active as ever… Some parts of the country are [practically] returning to the era of back-alley abortions.”

This is a huge part of current elections, Huffman noted, pointing to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. “They handed women’s reproductive choices over to their employers. It’s a terrible precedent,” he said.

[Author’s note: Ladies, and those of you who think ladies are people, too, please, get out there and vote.]

Everyone Agrees Rodenticide and Stream Diversion is Bad For Living Things – Now What?

Women being acknowledged as autonomous human beings is good for everyone and good for the environment as well. And so with that we shift focus to another one of Huffman’s most visible issues – the harm done by pot grows on public lands. We need the resources to clean the grows up once busted, he said – “That’s huge” – and he lauded the recent collaboration of nonprofits and agencies (including the Northcoast Environmental Center) striving to remediate damaged landscapes. “We also need to work toward a decriminalization policy that works,” he continued.

Decriminalization? As opposed to legalization? “Same thing,” Huffman said. He anticipates something on the 2016 ballot. “But I want it to work,” he continued. “Not be some poorly written mockery of policy like Prop. 215.” That’s the only way to bring the growing-distribution-selling of pot “out of the shadows and into the light.” How serious is this? Huffman didn’t mince words. “Every environmentalist in the state should be working on this.” He also gave props to Humboldt County Sheriff  Mike Downey, noting his respect for the “professionalism and intelligence” showed in Downey’s stance toward the gray area pot growing currently often occupies.

Ultimately the only way to stop the damage is by providing a legal framework, Huffman stated. The state needs better legislation, and “we need current federal law to get out of the way.”

‘Another Planet’

The legalization of marijuana is only one of myriad issues straddling state and federal interests. Protecting California’s concerns while also weighing in on national affairs from the hallways of “The Hill” demands a great deal of back-and-forth – D.C. is quite a commute from the spectacular shores of Huffman’s district.

“It’s like traveling between two planets,” he joked. “And I know which planet I prefer.”

As to the idea that politicians are out of touch, Huffman noted that U.S. Representatives have to “reapply for the job” every two years – and representatives who ignore their constituents pay the price. The larger disconnect, he said, is not between politicians and the people they serve, but the gulf between individuals. Huffman cited a recent Pew study that showed Americans self-segregate when it comes to news sources. “Each side feels they are entitled to their own facts,” he said. “And can fund a news outlet that tells them what they want to hear.”

Maybe News Sources That Give You the Facts, Not the Feels?

We need established, trustworthy, accurate sources as common ground, he continued, citing the Christian Science Monitor and NPR as examples. But people also have to take personal responsibility, Huffman said. Those who watch only Fox News “are in denial or worse – but I would say the same about those who only watch MSNBC.”

He encourages constituents to look deeper, seek out news sources “who aren’t perpetually trying to alarm and anger you.”

Heady stuff. But even a congressman needs some downtime. Say, a nice coastline upon which to decompress. And which Humboldt beach does U.S. Representative Jared Huffman most enjoy?

“The whole lagoons area,” he said. “It’s just phenomenal.”

Ask Him Yourself!

Tip of the iceberg, folks! Ask your own questions this Saturday at the Wharfinger, where Huffman promises plenty of one-on-one time at a “fun and informal” opportunity to hear his constituents’ concerns – and please note, Congressman Huffman will be sitting in “on a few songs” with the band. Any requests? I hear Firesign plays a mean Crosby, Stills & Nash…

Jennifer Savage is the Coastal Programs Director for the Northcoast Environmental Center and chairs the Humboldt Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation as well as being a person in her own right despite what some Congressional Republicans think. 


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Times-Standard News: Eureka police: Violent crime down, property crime up

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Your Week in Ocean: Heroes of the Coast – Be One!

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, Oct. 8 @ 4:14 p.m. / Ocean

Please enjoy the above nudibranch photos courtesy of local Twitter marine photog extraordinaire @MSidKelly.

Enjoy more ocean beauty, North Coast and otherwise, by celebrating the success of Coastal Cleanup Day at a special Friday night Ocean Night featuring Heroes of the Coast, which tells the story of the Californians who invested their time, money and – in some cases – their careers in supporting the passage of Proposition 20, The California Coastal Protection Act.

Ocean Night happens each month at the Arcata Theatre Lounge. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., films start at 7 p.m. All-ages! October’s raffle includes the usual swag, plus Holly Yashi earrings and a Shawn Griggs “Surfing Buddha” T-shirt among other awesome stuff. (Ocean Night is sponsored by the Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt Surfrider and Humboldt Baykeeper.) We’ll also have Trouble in Paradise by visiting traveler Matt Hannon. Check out his blog to get a sense of the very cool vibe. 

Coastal Cleanup Day sponsors, site captains and volunteers are invited to attend free and bask in admiration!

The only excuse for not being at Ocean Night is because you’re attending Salmon is Everything, which also takes place on Friday, which is also Arts!Arcata. The theatrical reading happens at Northtown Books, 7 to 10 p.m.

Here’s something else cool: If you happen to be filing a late extension on your state taxes, and you care about pollution prevention, K-12 marine education, native habitats, and coastal access for all Californians, please contribute $1 or more to the Protect Our Coasts & Oceans fund. It is easy. Look for the “Voluntary Contributions” section on your extension form.

Want to get dirty? (Yes.) Volunteers are needed to help Friends of the Dunes and Arcata Sunrise Rotary clean up trash along Highway 255 in Manila on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Meet at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center, 220 Stamps Lane in Manila, for a brief safety talk before heading out to pick up trash. Gloves, trash bags and morning snacks will be provided.

Alternatively, help out the PacOut Green Team with Fernbridge cleanup round #3, Saturday, 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Have a child? Or able to borrow one? Join an experienced naturalist for Nature Story Time at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center, also on Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m. Geared for ages 3 to 6, story time will focus on local wildlife and will be followed by a simple craft project. For more information or to reserve a space, call (707) 444-1397.

Jennifer Savage is the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Coastal Programs Director and chairs the Humboldt chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Your Week in Ocean: Drought Workshop, Kayaking Nightmare, Marine Protected Areas Confab

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, Oct. 1 @ 10:53 a.m. / Activism , Coastal Currents , Ocean

Happy Sharktober! Here is a gratuitous shark vs shark video for your viewing pleasure:

Less Trash!

While sharks may still be a natural threat to other sea life, one particular unnatural ocean inhabitant won’t be – at least not as much, not off the California coast.

As you may have heard, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 270, effectively shifting Californians away from using single-use plastic bags and toward more sustainable options. The switch isn’t immediate: large stores have until July, 2015 and small business have until July, 2016. Further, produce bags, restaurant to-go bags and bags to protect newspapers from rain will all still remain available. If your local liquor store requires you to bag your booze, and you don’t have your own, you might have to pay 10 cents for a paper or reusable bag, which is the same rule you’ll eventually find at groceries stores. 

Of course, many Humboldt grocers opted out of plastic bags years ago, some offering boxes as an alternative. Regular patrons of those stores seem to be doing just fine transporting their groceries, but for those of you concerned about the change, here’s some tips:

Chico (and similar) bags are helpful for those who tend to forget to bring reusables because they fold right up and are easy to clip onto a purse or backpack. 

If you forget your bag and don’t want to pay the 10 cents per paper, just chuck everything back in the car, toss it the trunk of your car, then grab your bags or boxes to unload efficiently at home.

Wondering how you’ll line your trash cans or clean up your dog poop now? You’ll still have all the aforementioned types of bags, plus bread bags, tortilla bags, etc. – banning the standard plastic grocery bags is one effort towards reducing waste and litter, but hardly a comprehensive elimination.

Like many other policy changes, SB 270 seeks to solve what’s been a growing environmental and economic problem. Californians (and all humans) have a right to clean beaches, a healthy ocean and directing our tax dollars toward issues other than cleaning up other people’s trash. The plastic bag industry is not entitled to continue imperiling those rights. This change puts citizens first. 

Over 100 cities, counties and districts in California had already banned bags. Many other cities in the U.S. have as well. So have other countries. It’s been working out just fine. If you have a specific question not addressed here, please send me an email at

Coastal Currents: Drought Workshop, Kayak Smash Disaster

A free “DIY Drought Solutions” workshop takes place this Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Arcata Community Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsored by Coastal Ecosystems Institute of Northern California, Humboldt County RCD, City of Trinidad, City of Arcata and more, the event will address low water-use and native plants, permaculture, greywater, rainwater collection and storage, LID techniques, plus feature youth activities and general water conservation information.

Tune into Coastal Currents today at noon (KHUM 104.7 FM, for an interview with DIY Drought Solutions organizer Jill Demers, Project Manager and Humboldt Bay Initiative Coordinator, Coastal Ecosystems Institute of Northern California. Additionally, Coastal Currents will feature Daniel Fox, founder of the Wild Image Project, who is still doing a fundraiser for underprivileged kids to get outdoor education at NOLS Alaska despite his paddle to San Francisco coming to a near-disastrous sudden end

…at the last minute, just before reaching the point of no return, three massive waves appeared, breaking just 10 feet ahead of me. I looked at the clouds of white seawater rising up into the sky, the roaring of the waves crashing and suddenly it became clear to me that there was no way my feet would be touching sand this evening…

Marine Protected Areas Bring Money, Collaboration to County

The success of the 2010 unified proposal for the North Coast Marine Protected Area was proven when it was officially adopted by the California Fish & Game Commission in 2012, but that was not the end of MPA-based team efforts. The MPA Collaborative Implementation Project hosts a stakeholder meeting today at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center from 3 to 5 p.m. to review Humboldt County’s MPA resources and activities surrounding enforcement, outreach and monitoring. Ultimately the group will receive $10,000 toward initial collaborative implementation projects. 

And more…

Governor Brown also signed into law a bill – sponsored by our own Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro – banning genetically modified salmon (aka “Frankenfish”) in California waters. KMUD news has the scoop. The PacOut Green Team cleaned up around Fernbridge, finding “multiple dump sites around the parking lot, lots of trash in general; computers, clothing, grow trimmings, Styrofoam, tires, and carcasses. That’s right, carcasses. We found three deer dump sites. Pictures too graphic to share.” Full story here.

On that note, you can join them this Saturday, Oct. 4 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Just do it.

Photo courtesy PacOut Green Team

Bye, Bye, Bags

Jennifer Savage / Tuesday, Sept. 30 @ 2:08 p.m. / Nature , Ocean

Today in plastic bags #1

Finally, at long last, after years of advocacy, decades of data and a half-century of existence, single-use plastic bags are no longer welcome in California. Governor Jerry Brown made it official today.

From the Gov’s newsroom:

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” said Governor Brown. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.” Read the whole thing here,

North Coast environmental advocates celebrated. Zero Waste Humboldt President Maggie Gainer said, “In Zero Waste Humboldt’s never-ending mission to end the environmental and economic damage done by single use products and packaging, it’s nice to take a moment to celebrate.” Gainer pointed out that Arcata is among the 127 California cities and counties that had already adopted a single use plastic bag ordinance. She ended her statement with a quote by Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste (and HSU alum). “Forty years ago there were no plastic grocery bags,” Murray said. “Four years from now, we’ll forget there ever were.”

Today in plastic bags #2

The ban comes on the heels of Coastal Cleanup Day, coordinated locally by the Northcoast Environmental Center. Plastic bags are always in the “Top 10” most common types of litter collected

Representatives from Humboldt Surfrider and Humboldt Baykeeper, longtime advocates of the ban, cheered the Governor’s signing as well. Former Humboldt Surfrider Volunteer Coordinator MJ Mazurek, who worked for years to persuade people to switch to reusable bags and has since left the North Coast for the North Shore, posted on Facebook, “Way to go Jerry!!! Thanks to the thousands of people that helped make this happen – now let’s do the same on Oahu!”

California is the first state in the nation to outlaw single-use plastic bags.

More coverage in the L.A. Times and Sac Bee.

Finally, all that work paid off! The Bag Monster, Arcata Plaza, April, 2012


‘A Neofeminist Deconstruction of Female Identity in the Weed Industry as Expressed in an ‘Underground’ Hip-Hop Video,’ or, ‘Bitches Be Crazy’

Jennifer Savage / Monday, Sept. 29 @ 11:24 a.m. / Culture , Humboldt , Humor

Ryan Burns sent me a link to an animated music video (above) in which the narrator talks smack about “Nor Cal Gold Diggas.” He wanted my take on it, I assume, as A Woman Passionate About Gender Equity and Misguided Cultural Norms. So I watched it. If the video was satire, the poor animation and great-awful lines – “I’m gonna stick’er with my Fiskars” – would be brilliant. But “Hella Richtor” seems to be serious. I found myself mildly amused at the video’s existence, then remembered that I am a humorless feminist, so I decided to treat the leitmotifs more seriously, asking myself, as always, Should I be offended?

First, let’s look at the overarching storyline, in which a woman comes to town and uses her sexual wiles to seduce a sought-after rich man (in this case, a grower, natch) and incurring the wrath of the women who were there before her. This is not a new tale but one of several relationship scenarios that has been examined in art through the ages. Does it reinforce the stereotype of women as more willing to tear each other down than embrace one another as sisters? Sure. But in this context, we have the creative, artistic expression of a specific cultural experience and can examine it as such. 

What about the name-calling? “Gold digga” and “grow ho” are both used to label the miniskirted, fish-netted antagonist. Is this an example of slut-shaming? If you embrace and endorse the mentality of Hella Richtor’s narrator, then maybe yes, you are being judgmental about women who attach themselves for materialistic reasons to guys who grow pot. We can agree that it’s wrong to be judgmental – but from books and movies to reality TV shows and pop culture blogs, we’re entertained by assessing the behavior of others. 

Additionally, Hella Richtor’s throwing down of the gauntlet – “Go back to the Valley” – is an expression of the passionate outsider vs. insider mentality that exists in Humboldt County in general and this particular subculture specifically. (Ultimately we’re reminded “it’s a blessing” to be here.)

Finally, the violence. Few things upset me as much as the culture of violence that exists toward women, most of which is sexualized and all of which results in injury and death for thousands of individuals across the globe at a rate of which is unfathomable -– for every minute it takes me to write this, approximately 20 people are victimized by domestic violence, most of whom are women being hurt by men.

So how does that relate to the punching, shooting and the aforementioned threat of Fiskar-sticking by the homegrown cartoon characters against the “Nor Cal Gold Digga Cherry Picker”? I don’t think it does. This is clearly make-believe. There’s not even any cartoon blood. Are abuse and murder problems in the hills? Sure. (I say that based on news reports and word on the street – I have no immediate, personal connection to say anything definitively.) Is that fact connected to this video in any but the most spurious way? I just can’t take it any more literally than I would actions in South Park. To give the video more credit than due, we can compare it to the old-timey murder ballads, the appreciation of which does not equal endorsement for the behavior described within.