Archive for the ‘California’ Category

The Rising Oceans

Friday, March 16th, 2007

   I am sitting in an internet cafe in Punta Arenas, Chile, right now, doing web searches to figure out just how big of a problem sea level rise will be. The sea level has already risen over the past century, although only about one inch. As more glacial ice melts, what will it do from here on?

Monterey Bay and Research Station
Malibu, CA
La Paz Shoreline

   The most likely result is not that bad – maybe a foot and a half this century. This could be very bad for many places I have visited – especially along the Caribbean coast—and also make storms much worse, not to mention erode some nice beaches. But I might not call it a disaster.

Mazatlan Coast
Beach at Placencia
Coast at Omoa
Panama City
The San Blas Islands

   The problem, though, is that it takes a long time for ice sheets to melt, and we don’t really know how long that is. In the ‘long run,’ which could be centuries or millennium, with a likely 3 degree C warming, the ocean could rise 80 feet. We don’t know if it is centuries or millennium, because computer models for ice sheets are very inaccurate. If it is centuries, as some argue, the oceans could rise much faster than we would like – maybe a foot a decade. And, again, we don’t know, but, well, do we want to find out?

Cartagena sits barely above sea level
Santa Fe Coastline

   As I have said before, I am in Punta Arenas right now. Punta Arenas sits on the shore of the Straight of Magellan on the southern tip of South America, and is just one of the many cities on the coast that I have visited. Throughout this entry I have interspersed photos of the coastlines I have visited on this trip – take a look at them and envision what a 1 foot, 10 foot, or 80 foot sea level rise would look like.

Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales Shore
Punta Arenas Shoreline

** Monthly Update ** California

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

   Below is my first monthlty update. If you sign up for the email list, you will get an email like this once a month. Some of it is repeated material from the rest of the journals.

   Welcome to the first official mass email of A Ride for the Climate. These once-a-month updates are for your enjoyment. I provide all-caps headers below for a number of different topics. Feel free to read only the parts that interest you!


   I have biked over 800 miles now, arriving in San Diego via the cities of Monterey, Fresno, Ventura, and Los Angeles. I took a week off for Thanksgiving to be with family, and I have taken another week off in San Diego replacing a stolen passport See a map of my route at
   From the redwoods in the bay area to Monterey Bay to the dry hills between the ocean and the central valley to the friendly tractor drivers in the central valley (all of whom wave to cyclists) to the 6,000 ft mountains near Ventura to the Pacific coast from L.A. to San Diego, California continues to amaze me. For a slide show of this adventure-by-bike, click here . (You can increase the picture resolution with the button just above the pictures.)

   I biked to Fresno to make a statement – climate change is going to be bad for California’s central valley.
   The central valley grows a majority of the United States’ fruits and nuts, and I enjoyed biking through seemingly endless fields of vineyards, orchards and other crops.
   The strangest part of biking the central valley was the language – should I talk to people in Spanish or English? Mexican immigrants make up (I think) a majority of the population, and conversations were a mixture of Spanish and English, especially with the many friendly farm works I talked to while biking across the valley.

   No, we are not all going to die (this is a common response from students). The biggest problems are going to be with our water system. The Sierra Nevada mountains store an incredible amount of water as snowpack during the winter, and then release the water as snow melt during the spring and summer. We are going to lose this snow pack, and water, which is so essential to the cities and agriculture of California, will be scarcer.
   It is also likely going to get much warmer in the summer – between 4 and 15 degrees F. The lower estimate assumes we are good about reducing carbon dioxide emissions this century. The higher estimate assumes that we keep doing what we are doing. It is not hard to see that 15 degrees warmer in the central valley during the summer will be bad – it is already hot, and agriculture will likely suffer. Heat waves will be a problem, as well as increases in heat-related diseases. To read more about these findings, go to .

   I have asked many people what they know about global warming. It is interesting that a large portion of the those I have talked to say ‘it is happening and it is bad.’ I think less then a quarter of the people I talked to said ‘I haven’t made up my mind yet,’ and a smaller percentage (notably a farmer I talked to in the Central Valley) told me it was all made up.
   While people are aware of the problem, they don’t always equate their actions with the problem. The bus driver who talked for 5 minutes about global warming screwing up the world then talked about buying a large RV and driving it around the country. We need to better equate the problems of climate change with our individual actions.


Cars in California

   There are a lot of them. The short story: L.A. is the least bike friendly city I have ridden in. I have put together a photo essay of cars. To read about biking L.A. go here.
   It is sad to see so many large cars on the road – SUVs and trucks use far more gas than sedans, and the single easiest way to reduce your global warming impact is to drive a smaller car. If you are looking to get a new car, I encourage you to try to get a more efficient one.
   I understand why people want bigger cars – more space, higher off the ground, and, given the design of these cities, you will spend a lot of time in your car. These large cars, though, are not safer and also cost much more. If you want to drive a large car, I encourage you to consider buying carbon credits.

   Please consider signing the following on-line petitions:
   If you are a student, I encourage you to consider joining the urally pledge:
   I also encourage you to consider ways you can use energy more efficiently- whether it is turning off the lights or taking the smaller car to the grocery store instead of the bigger one. It will save you money as well as help the Earth’s climate.


Schools - USA

   I have visited 17 different schools now, talking to almost 1,000 students.. These visits have been immensely enjoyable, and I hope those of you students on this list learned something about the world from the visits. There are pictures of every school I visited here.

   Thanks to Kirsten and Tom, Luke and Heather for helping me out with meals, showers, and morale. Thanks to Heather (other Heather) for riding to Monterey with me, the Telles family for housing and feeding me, Anne Morningstar for housing and feeding me, Julia Goodnough for storing my bike and letting me crash at her place, and Sheila Walsh and her housemates Lauren and Milenia for letting me stay at their place an entire week (!) while I got a new passport. This support is the greatest way to be sponsored, and a trip like this reaffirms your belief in people.

   Well, not all people. I left my wallet on top of my bicycle for 5 minutes at a convenience store in Camp Pendleton Naval Base just north of San Diego. My wallet, with passport inside, was stolen, forcing me to spend this week in San Diego, waiting to get a new passport.

   Yes! And now, I will now make a run for the border armed with a bicycle, four panniers, and my Spanish-English dictionary. Stay tuned!

   This trip has barely begun, and there are so many more stories down the road. You will likely get an update of travels another 1,500 miles down the road, as I pass Mexico City.


A week in San Diego

Thursday, December 8th, 2005
I had to stay at the party house
Loren, Sheila, and Milenia

   I have spent the past week in San Deigo, waiting for my parents to mail me necessary documents (birth certificate, various identification forms), filling out forms, and then waiting for my new passport to arrive. The week was enjoyably spent with a friend from college, Sheila Walsh, and her two housemates, Milania and Loren. They had an extra room for me to stay in, which was great, except when I wanted to sleep after biking far and there was a party (no, that picture on the right is not staged).
   While in San Diego, I visited Scripps Institute of Oceanography, a world class research institute. This is the home of Dr. Keeling, who first measured how carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere, producing the now famous “Keeling curve“.
   At Scripps, I attended a student-led environmental seminar, where an international relations graduate student talked about the global politics of oil. Oil plays a huge role in global politics, usually for the worse. I will revisit this topic when I visit Venezuela, a poor country where oil is one third of the economy.

David Pierce
John and Aerosol Measuring Device (Mass Spectrometer)

   I also talked with a few scientists about their research. John Holecek, a graduate student studying aerosols, showed me around his lab. Aerosols are small particles suspended in the air, and humans are increasing their abundance. Most aerosols have a slight cooling effect on the planet, although some do contribute to warming. The effect of aerosols on the climate, although significantly less than carbon dioxide, is fairly uncertain, and a lot of current research is directed to understanding aerosols.
   I also visited David Perice, a climate modeler and programmer. He shared with me a study he recently published in the journal Science showing that the Earth’s oceans have warmed significantly in the past few decades. He remarked, “People don’t think there is a problem because we can’t see carbon dioxide. If you could see carbon dioxide, you would see the atmosphere slowly getting darker as we burn more and more fossil fuels.”

View from Sheila's office

   After these discussions, I decided to explore the ocean myself. My friend Sheila and I took two surfboards, and enjoyed the waves just a few hundred yards from her office, which overlooks the ocean.

Los Angeles to San Diego – 3 Days, 135 miles

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

   Summary: Cars are scary, my passport was stolen, and I’m stuck in San Diego till I get a new one.
   Full account: After visiting Environmental Charter school Monday morning (see next entry), I found the closest bike store and asked for dirctions to highway one. They did not know any good ways to bike there, and I followed a busy street with no bike lane.

This is a 'bike route'
L.A. Hotel

   At highway one, which has green signs reading ‘bike route,’ I found myself comfortable biking only on the sidewalk as rush hour traffic filled the three lanes. Traveling slowly, I stopped many miles short of a campground and was forced to stay at a cheap hotel near the intersection of two highways. (Watch the movie on the left if you have a high speed connection).
   I departed at little after 5 the next morning to avoid rush hour, and soon biked in the dark through steaming oil refineries and petroleum-smelling air. As the dawn came, I made it to Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, and found a bike lane and shoulder along the roadside.

This is a 'bike route'
Ocean between L.A. and San Diego

   A tailwind blew, and other than a few busy towns, the riding was easy. In Camp Pendleton marine base, I stopped at a small convenience store, and, as usual, brought my bike into the store and left it within sight of the cash register. While talking with a marine outside, I must have left my wallet, with passport and drivers license, at the bicycle. In a few minutes, it was gone.
   Perhaps my guard was too low because I was still in the U.S., or my blood sugar wasn’t high enough to keep track of my stuff. My anger is mixed with feelings of frustration and ineptitude, and I hope I can use this as a lesson to keep better track of my stuff as I travel south. I am about to buy a better bike lock.

Gregg and Brooks

   Soon, two other cyclists with loaded bicycles pulled up to the store. The two friends, Gregg and Brooks, started in July in Alaska and are also riding to southern Argentina. They are raising money for diabetes research, and have a great website. We rode the last 15 miles to a campground in Encinitas, and talked about the road behind and ahead: What did you hear about that dirt road in Baja? (great but hard) Are you biking Colombia? (maybe) How will you get through the rest of Mexico? (go inland) When will you finish? (November 2006) What has broken on your bike so far? (frame, wheel rim) Have you run into others on this route? (Yes, at least one other group.)
   After sharing a campsite, I said goodbye to Gregg and Brooks the next morning. They will ride far ahead of me in Baja while I get a new passport, but I am sure our paths will cross again. I then biked 15 miles to San Diego, where I will stay with my friend Sheila Walsh until I get a new passport.

Carbon Offsets for a Trip to ?!Florida!?

Monday, November 28th, 2005
Four Generations of the Kroodsma Family

    You may be wondering why the line on the map hasn’t moved in the past week. I’ve been in Florida, spending Thanksgiving with four (!) different generations of my family. I will be missing the next two Christmases, and I figured I could justify flying across the country for Thanksgiving.
    Unfortunately, flying across the country uses a lot of fuel. Even though airplaine efficiency has improved in recent years, flying still gives off almost as much carbon dioxide as driving. It is almost as if I drove across the country.
    So I have purchased carbon offsets. This means that I am paying someone else to not pollute, or I am paying someone to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. This is similar to how the Kyoto treaty works – if you emit too much carbon dioxide, you have to pay someone else not to emit it.

A flight.

    Flying to Florida, I was responsible for about 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere. I have paid $12 to to offset these emissions through their various projects.
   Anyway, I’m back in L.A. now, about to try to take public transit from this Starbucks to the other side of town (It takes three different busses to get from the Ontario airport to the metro station. And the first bus? It was to the rental car parking lot and I had to ask the driver to make a special stop so that I could take the second bus).
   Back to the bike tomorrow!