Hike #8 - Pre-hike Reading

Title: Rotating Crops, Turning Profits -- How Diversified Farming Systems Can Help Farmers While Protecting Soil and Preventing Pollution (new window)
Credits: written by Kranti Mulik, senior economist in the UCS Food and Environment Program. Sponsored by Union of Concerned Scientists who puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. 
Date: May 2017 
Sustainability Discipline:  
Background: While a substantial part of my daily practices, sustainable food is not a topic I'm that familiar with. I shop at Dean's Market in San Mateo and purchase lots of local food, I think. Sinbad's (plastic) packaged meals are assembled in San Mateo, on El Camino Real I think, but I don't know their source of food. I get a Farm Fresh to You box every Friday morning of organic produce. But when I first signed on, I thought it was coast side food, only to find out it comes from west of Sacramento, Copay Valley. And some from Oregon and Washington. I learned of a coastside food delivery but they don't come to my house. So really, how does one eat sustainably around here? Food for thought!

Today’s dominant Midwest farming system produces two commodities—corn and soybeans—in abundance. But this system has grown steadily less beneficial for farmers over time. US corn and soybean growers achieved record-high harvests in 2016. But due to oversupply, prices for these crops have plummeted, and US farm incomes are expected to drop to their lowest levels since 2002.

The two-crop system falls short in the sustainability department, too. It typically leaves fields bare for much of the year and uses plowing practices that result in unsustainable levels of erosion. It relies on heavy fertilizer use, which allows excess nitrogen to escape into our air and water, costing the nation an estimated $157 billion per year in human health and environmental damages.

Rural communities suffer many of these consequences. Iowa, for example, ranks high in surface water pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, and eroded soil. And the negative effects extend far beyond the Midwest: Corn Belt watersheds are major contributors to the annual “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and emissions from agricultural soil management make up 5 percent of the US share of heat-trapping gases responsible for climate change.

See previous pre-hike reading HERE

Hike #7 - Pre-hike Video (not Reading)

(For all you visual learners, here's one for you.)
Credits: written by Annie Leonard, Louis Fox, and Jonah Sachs, directed by Louis Fox and produced by Free Range Studios. Executive Producers included Tides Foundation and the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption.
Title: The Story of Stuff (new window)
Date: December 2007 (BUT STILL RELEVANT!!)
Sustainability Discipline:  
Background: In one of the first classes of my second environmental science course, our teacher (Carla Grandy) showed this video and it immediately altered my framework on environmentalism and consumerism. I already subscribed to the problematic neo-liberalism mess the Western world has gotten ourselves into, including prioritizing GDP growth over social and environmental benefits, equality, and... well... healthy and happy living within our environmental limits. This put sustainability in context with that belief. Enjoy the video... if it doesn't make you rip your hair out.
Excerpt (from Story of Stuff website): 

We have a problem with "stuff." We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division.

The Story of Stuff video is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. It exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

The Story of Stuff project is larger than the video. It's about the way we make, use and throw away all the Stuff in our lives. A decade and millions views later, plus other videos and campaigns, the project is a Community of more than a million changemakers worldwide, working to build a more healthy and just planet. Check it out here.

LINK TO VIDEO HERE (new window)
See previous pre-hike reading HERE

Hike #6 - Pre-hike Reading

Author: Robert Kuniz
Title: Drying of the West - The American West was won by water management. What happens when there's no water left to manage?
Date: February 2008 (not surprisingly still relevant)
GCSM_icons_vF_Water.jpg Sustainability Discipline: Water (Note - disciplines for hikes 1-5 respectively: all sustainability, climate, energy, transportation, land. Check them out here.)
Background: I was fortunate to take two Environmental Science courses at Skyline College in Fall 2017 and Winter 2018, both excellent courses and highly recommended. The first was more biology focused (ENVS 100) and one more geology focused (GEOL 105). Both covered similar material but from different perspectives.
GEOL 105 was split into 3 sections - water, air, and energy. This was an impactful article about water cycles and what we can expect even without rising temperatures to the levels we now know are likely. Interesting view from Southern Nevada Water Authority's Pat Mulroy in this article. She's well known in this domain.
When provided with continuous nourishment, trees, like people, grow complacent.Tree-ring scientists use the word to describe trees like those on the floor of the Colorado River Valley, whose roots tap into thick reservoirs of moist soil. Complacent trees aren't much use for learning about climate history, because they pack on wide new rings of wood even in dry years. To find trees that feel the same climatic pulses as the river, trees whose rings widen and narrow from year to year with the river itself, scientists have to climb up the steep, rocky slopes above the valley and look for gnarled, ugly trees, the kind that loggers ignore. For some reason such "sensitive" trees seem to live longer than the complacent ones. "Maybe you can get too much of a good thing," says Dave Meko.
Meko, a scientist at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, has been studying the climate history of the western United States for decades. Tree-ring fieldwork is hardly expensive—you need a device called an increment borer to drill into the trees, you need plastic straws (available in a pinch from McDonald's) to store the pencil-thin cores you've extracted from bark to pith, and you need gas, food, and lodging. But during the relatively wet 1980s and early '90s, Meko found it difficult to raise even the modest funds needed for his work. "You don't generate interest to study drought unless you're in a drought," he says. "You really need a catastrophe to get people's attention," adds colleague Connie Woodhouse.
Then, in 2002, the third dry year in a row and the driest on record in many parts of the Southwest, the flow in the Colorado fell to a quarter of its long-term average. That got people's attention.
Navigate to the full article HERE (new window)
Author interview HERE

Hike #5 - Pre-hike Reading

Author: Converge For Impact

Title: The Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network: A Regionwide, Cross-Sector Approach to Conservation—Executive Summary

Date: March 2017

Sustainability Discipline: Land

Background: I met Dylan Skybrook, Santa Cruz Mountain Stewardship Network's (SCMSN) leader through Kellyx Nelson at San Mateo Resource Conservation District (RCD). We had a coffee at Half Moon Bay Coffee Co, down the street from the RCD. Dylan has an interesting background and currently, a very cool job. His Network is somewhat similar to what I want to do for environmental sustainability organizations in San Mateo County. 

But a network is different from a coalition, which is different than a community impact effort. In fact, a coalition is a blend of the two. And there's now good literature on all of this at the Stanford Social Innovation Network publication. Wow... lots of cool collaborate change making going on in the world. Check out the SCMSN's work... quite inspiring.


The Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network (SCMSN) is a cross-sector collaboration of nineteen organizations that began in late 2014 with a focus on improving land stewardship in the Santa Cruz Mountains region south of San Francisco. Network members represent federal agencies, state and county parks departments, land trusts, nonprofit organizations, the region’s largest timber company, research institutes, special districts, and a Native American tribal band.

When a group of individuals first convened in March 2015 to explore opportunities for collaboration, there was little consensus about what the network should accomplish, how members would work together, and how they would know if their efforts had succeeded. As of early 2017, however, the SCMSN has overcome historical tensions in the region, identified areas of shared interest, and members are collaborating to implement shared stewardship projects, producing outcomes that no one organization could accomplish alone. These successes suggest the Network’s potential to improve stewardship throughout the region, provided members sustain their commitment to communicating and working together as the Network continues to evolve.

Navigate to the full article HERE (new window)

Hike #4 - Pre-hike Reading

Author: Yoann Le Petit, Clean Vehicles and eMobility Officer, Transport & Environment

Title: Electric cars emit less CO2 over their lifetime than diesels even when powered with dirtiest electricity

Date: 10/26/2017

Sustainability Discipline: Transportation

Background: In my second semester of Environmental Science at Skyline College, I enrolled in Geology 105 as an honor student, which meant I had to write 3 papers more than others. My second was titled "The Climate Change Impact of State of California Zero Emission Vehicle Legislation." 

My premise was that Jerry Brown's state Executive Order B-16-2012 , targeting 1.5 million ZEVs on CA roads by 2025, would benefit global climate change. But what if the lifecycle of an EV, from lithium extraction to recycling, was no better than internal combustion engine cars. This paper absolved my concern.


Even in countries with the highest GHG intensity of electricity generation – Poland and Germany – the EV performs better on a lifecycle basis (including the emissions in manufacturing the battery and vehicle) than the diesel car. Using the Polish average, an electric vehicle emits 25% less CO2 over its lifetime, while in Sweden an EV emits 85% less. Meanwhile, EVs’ sustainability will improve further with battery technology advances and as more batteries are re-used for electricity storage or recycled.

Yoann Le Petit, clean Vehicles and emobility officer at T&E, said: “Today an electric vehicle driving on Polish electricity – the most carbon intensive in the EU – still has a lower impact on the climate than a new diesel car. With the rapid decarbonisation of the EU electricity mix, on average electric vehicles will emit less than half the CO2 emissions of a diesel car by 2030 including the manufacturing emissions.”

Navigate to the full article HERE (new window)

Hike #3 - Pre-Hike Reading

Author: Steve Hanley, Clean Technica

Title: New Mark Z. Jacobson Study Draws A Roadmap To 100% Renewable Energy

Date: 2/8/2018

Sustainability Discipline: Energy

Background: I heard Mark Z. Jacobson speak in March 2018 at a Climate Reality Project event in SF and was hooked. He's clearly done his research, with the support from many Stanford academics. And he practices what he preaches in his all electric NZE Palo Alto house. 

Whether every country pursues 100 clean energy, or how vigorous they try to get there, it's possible in my opinion. Neither naysayers nor supporters really know. But I'd rather we apply the world's brainpower to this challenge than engineering seawalls and sequestration blimps. Check out his work.


Last August, Mark Jacobson, a renewable energy expert and senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, was the leader of a study that identified how 139 countries around the world could obtain 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. But that study got some pushback from people who questioned its assumptions. The naysayers said the study relied too heavily on energy storage solutions such as adding turbines to existing hydroelectric dams or storing excess energy in water, ice, and underground rocks.

A Response To Critics

Those criticisms stimulated another piece of work from Jacobson and his colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley and Aalborg University in Denmark. They are now back with a new report they believe thoroughly addresses the concerns brought up by skeptics of the first report. It begins by breaking those 139 counties into 20 regions and proposing energy storage solutions uniquely suited to each region.

Navigate to the full article HERE (new window)

Hike #2 - Pre-Hike Reading

Author: Kevin Schultz, SF Chronicle

Title: Study compares carbon footprints of Bay Area communities

Date: 1/7/2016

Sustainability Discipline: Climate

Background: This article summarizes UC Berkeley's CoolClimate Network's awesome consumption based greenhouse gas inventory analysis of the SF Bay Area. In researching my SMC Coalition project, I found and quickly devoured this work, fascinated by its large variations from production based greenhouse gas inventory methods used by SMC leaders and most California geographic analysis.

I tracked down Christopher Jones, program director of the CoolClimate Network and co-author of the study, in October 2018 at a post-Climate Action Summit event in Berkeley to introduce myself and express my admiration. I told him my story and he suggested he could speak in San Mateo County sometime. I plan to take him up on that.


Stanford and Atherton are just 3 miles down the road from each other on the Peninsula, but one of them has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the Bay Area while the other grabs the title for having the region’s highest carbon footprint.

The tony town of Atherton, according to researchers at UC Berkeley and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, consumes nearly three times as many carbons per household as Stanford.

Navigate to the full article HERE (new window)

Hike #1 - Pre-Hike Reading

Author: Pooran Desai, Co-founder - Bioregional, Leader - One Planet Living

Title: GDP ignores the things that matter - like climate change

Date: 4/28/2016

Sustainability Discipline: all

Background: I learned about One Planet Living in February 2018 at a SMC Office of Education event and immediately became interested in its vision and execution. After reading all I could get ahold of, I met the event speaker that enlightened me and told her my story. Much to my surprise, she said I must share this vision with Pooran. 

In a March 2018 Burlingame-to-London Skype conference with Pooran, I shared my vision, received his feedback, and learned he was attending the September 2018 Climate Action Summit in SF. Doggedly, I tracked him down, pitched my update, and got an hour of his time. I highly admire his work and recommend learning more about his vision for One Planet Living.


Good accounting, whether it be at the company or national level, helps us make good decisions. But what happens when we don’t account properly, for example by failing to account for social and environmental impacts? We make poor decisions. This is undeniably what is happening when we use financial accounting and GDP as the key driver in our decision-making. We know we have to account properly for social and environmental capital. The question is not whether we do this, but how.

The world is not working. Climate change is accelerating. Companies are facing up to the realities of resource depletion. Wealth inequality is spreading and the world is increasingly divided into the haves and have nots. Mistrust is prevalent. Fear is palpable, both among the rich and poor.

Navigate to the full article HERE (new window)