On the 49th anniversary of Earth Day, guest speakers Dana Nuccitelli and Jerry Hinkle,  experts on Climate Policy and Economics will being their “Climate Roadshow” to Fresno City College.  They present non partisan, peer  reviewed science on the relationship between climate change and wildfires.  Effective solutions that will benefit the Central Valley climate and economy are presented.

Co-sponsored by: Citizens’ Climate Lobby Fresno, Fresno City College Students for Sustainable Action Club, Central California Asthma Collaborative, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Fresno Metro Ministry, the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club and the WILPF Fresno, Earth Democracy Issues Group.

Dana Nuccitelli is an environmental scientist, writer, and author of ‘Climatology versus Pseudoscience,’ published in 2015. Dana received a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in physics from UC Davis before becoming an environmental scientist, based in the Sacramento area.  Dana has been researching climate science, economics, and solutions since 2006 . He has published 10 peer-reviewed studies related to climate change, most notably on the 97 percent expert consensus among climate scientists that humans are primarily responsible for the observed global warming since 1950.

Dana has been writing about the subject since 2010 for outlets including Skeptical Science and The Guardian.  He also writes for Yale Climate Solutions (YCC), a nonpartisan, multimedia service providing daily broadcast radio programming and original web-based reporting, commentary, and analysis on the issue of climate change.   

Jerry Hinkle  had a 35 year career as an economist in the banking industry. He holds master’s degrees in Economy and Climate Policy and advocates pricing carbon to use the market to adequately address climate change.  Jerry has given more than 100 public presentations on the risks of climate change since 2001. He began lobbying Congress for strong climate policy in 2006 and is currently the Northern California Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.   In addition, he serves on CCL’s Board of Directors.

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SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY PORTUGUESE FESTIVAL 2019

The Carlos Vieira Foundation is proud to host the San Joaquin Valley Portuguese Festival! The celebration is open to ALL people to come discover the culture and heritage of the Portuguese people and honor their contributions to the San Joaquin Valley and the state of California. The Festival will be held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock, CA on Saturday April 13, 2019 from 9:00 am to midnight.

This family-friendly event will showcase traditional Portuguese dancing, music, and cuisine.  The Festival will be kicked off by a traditional Portuguese Parade followed by plenty of activities including folklore performances, bloodless bullfight demonstrations, philharmonic performances, Chamarita (Portuguese traditional dance) lessons, a Portuguese bazaar, traditional Portuguese games, a cultural exhibit, carnival rides, and plenty of Portuguese food and craft vendors. Other activities will include a wine and cheese tasting area and a Portuguese Beans cooking contest! The festival will also include performances by the Portuguese Kids Comedy Show and Eratoxica (Portuguese rock band).  The highlight of the festival will be the live performance of Portugal’s very own, Roberto Leal!  We hope to see you there!

We are currently looking for parade entries, philharmonic bands, folklore groups, Portuguese food and craft vendors, cultural exhibit items, and contestants for the Portuguese Beans cooking contest. If you, or anyone you know, are interested in participating in this festival, please contact us as soon as possible to secure your spot! For more information and to purchase tickets, visit SJVportuguesefestival.com. For questions, contact us at (209) 394-1444 or info@carlosvieirafoundation.org. Like and follow us on Instagram (@carlosvieirafoundation) and Facebook (@CVFoundation) for updates. Visit our website at www.carlosvieirafoundation.org to learn more about the Carlos Vieira Foundation. Proceeds benefit the Carlos Vieira Foundation’s Race for Autism campaign.

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A wall along the southern border of the United States will disturb critical wildlife habitats, block migration routes for animals already stressed by climate change and could possibly lead to extinction for some rare and endangered species, according to environmental experts.

A federal appeals court in California recently ruled that the Trump administration is within its rights to disregard dozens of environmental laws in order to fast-track the wall, and the Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge from environmental groups, so preventing the wall’s predicted impacts will be difficult.

Related: US states sue Trump administration in showdown over border wall funds

“Nature has no borders. … All of the plants and animals and places exist in this region regardless of the borders, regardless of the political boundaries and straight lines that humans like to set.”

Sergio Avila, biologist and outdoors coordinator, Sierra Club

For Sergio Avila, a biologist and outdoors coordinator for the Sierra Club, this is a tragic situation.

“Nature has no borders,” he said. “All of the plants and animals and places exist in this region regardless of the borders, regardless of the political boundaries and straight lines that humans like to set.”

The wall would block the migration path of many species, including the jaguar, the animal Avila studies most closely. Jaguars are the third-largest species of cat in the world, after Siberian tigers and African lions. They live not only in the jungles of the Amazon, but also in the borderlands of Arizona and New Mexico. Blocking their migration prevents them from living their normal life cycle, Avila says.

“It doesn’t matter if these jaguars are north or south of the border. They are still blocked. They cannot reach food, they cannot reach water and they cannot reach mates [to create] future generations.”

Sergio Avila, biologist and outdoors coordinator, Sierra Club

“This is part of their territory. This is part of their distribution range,” Avila said. “It doesn’t matter if these jaguars are north or south of the border. They are still blocked. They cannot reach food, they cannot reach water and they cannot reach mates [to create] future generations.”

The jaguar and other animals along the southern border are also trying to move as a way to adapt to climate change. “Some of these animals might be moving from warmer areas to cooler areas, either by going from the south to the north or from a lower elevation to higher elevation areas,” he said. “So, it’s very important that we acknowledge that the border barriers are compounding the impacts of climate change by not allowing animals to move freely and to adapt and reach water or food or cooler places where they can survive.”

The list of species Avila worries about is long: The bighorn sheep in the mountains of California; the pronghorn antelope in the deserts of Arizona; the ancient herd of bison that travels back and forth between New Mexico and Chihuahua; the butterflies at the National Butterfly Center that migrate between Canada and Mexico and will no longer be able to find their usual resting place. The list goes on.

Related: If Trump wants a wall, eminent domain is the final frontier

And, of course, Avila worries about the wall’s impact on the human population that enjoys the public lands and national parks and can learn about connections to nature.

Even some fish are being affected. In the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, a small area of public land has been set aside to protect the last numbers of a couple of species of desert fish. These fish are an endemic species, meaning they live only in one place. The Fish and Wildlife Service created the refuge to protect the water, the water quality and the habitat that these fish enjoy in that area.

The Department of Homeland Security diverted a small section of the creek where these fish live. By blocking the water, the Department of Homeland Security created flooding that has contaminated their habitat. They also contaminated the fish habitat by pouring concrete inside the creek.

“It is crazy, not only for the life of these fish, but for the efforts that government and nongovernment agencies have put into a region that is so rich, biologically,” Avila said. “It is damaging to the habitat of the fish, but it’s also damaging to the local work and the years of outreach and education that a lot of these public officials have conducted down here.”

Avila fears that some endangered species might go extinct as a result of a proposed border wall. “I think it’s likely, and I think it’s very sad because we’re seeing it with our own eyes,” he said. “The solution is in our hands, and yet humans are not stepping up to do enough about it.”

Related: Trump signed an order for the wall 2 years ago. The US just ended the longest shutdown ever over it.

Despite all the political, social and environmental challenges, Avila wants people to remain positive.

“People need to know that the Mexican gray wolves, the jaguars and the ocelots exist out there, that they are prevailing in spite of all this infrastructure; that animals are adapting to climate change; that water is still running in these rivers; that saguaros are still standing in the Sonoran desert. If we keep those images alive and we know that those species are there, let’s grab that hope and that energy to share our voices and speak on behalf of them,” he said.

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Living on Earth with Steve Curwood.

Next: The ‘real’ border crisis: The US immigration system isn’t built for kids and families

From Living on Earth ©2017 World Media Foundation

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Heather Altman looks through old health insurance bills in her Long Beach home office, Jan. 16, 2019 (David Wagner/KPCC)
Heather Altman looks through old health insurance bills in her Long Beach home office, Jan. 16, 2019 (David Wagner/KPCC) David Wagner/KPCC

California’s middle class is reaching a breaking point. Especially when it comes to the high cost of housing. So says the state’s new governor, Gavin Newsom.

“Housing. This is the issue,” Newsom said at a press conference earlier this month, unveiling his first budget proposal as governor. “Unless we get serious about it, this state will continue to lose its middle class, and the dream will be limited to fewer and fewer people.”

Middle-class Californians could find some relief under Newsom’s $209 billion budget, which includes new spending aimed at getting cities to approve more housing. Other proposals could bring down the cost of health care and higher education for Californians who currently make too much to qualify for state help.

But middle-class California families won’t find much help shouldering other expenses, like the looming cost of caring for aging family members.

What does “middle-class” even mean in California?

In a state where families of four earning up to $117,400 meet the federal government’s definition of “low-income” in certain regions, there may be no definitive answer on what qualifies as “middle-class.”

But according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of government wage data, families of four in California can be considered middle class if they make anywhere between $59,702 and $179,105 per year.

Direct subsidies in the governor’s budget tend to go toward Californians making less. Newsom noted that no state has a higher poverty rate than California. He wants to try to lower it by giving higher tax refunds to full-time workers earning up to $15 an hour through an expanded version of the state’s earned income tax credit.

He’s also proposing a large boost in spending to subsidize the development of affordable housing for low-income residents. His budget calls for increasing the state’s low-income housing tax credit from $80 million to $500 million per year.

The budget also includes a $500-million bump to the California Housing Finance Agency’s mixed‑income loan program, which finances developments that include units for moderate-income residents.

Housing

The governor’s budget doesn’t propose similar housing subsidies for most middle-class Californians. Matthew Lewis, director of communications for the pro-housing group California YIMBY, said that approach makes sense.

“As a matter of policy, you don’t provide subsidies to people who are making over $80,000 a year,” said Lewis. “But in California, that’s the middle class.”

Lewis doesn’t think Newsom can subsidize his way toward a solution to the state’s housing crisis. Instead, he and other housing advocates like what Newsom’s budget does to push local governments to approve more housing in general.

“It appears that Governor Newsom is himself a YIMBY,” said Lewis.

Under Newsom’s budget, cities that meet housing goals set by the state would be rewarded with money from a $500 million state fund, and they could use that money for whatever they want.

“In other words, he’s starting to build funds that would actually financially encourage cities to build more housing,” said Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics. He said that should help address California’s housing supply problems. “That’s really helpful for California’s middle class.”

Newsom has also discussed punishing cities that fail to meet their housing goals by withholding transit funding. It’s an idea that has not gone over well with local governments.

In a statement on the governor’s budget, League of California Cities executive director Carolyn Coleman said her organization was concerned about proposals “that would raid local transportation funds that voters have repeatedly dedicated to local communities.”

Health care

The words “middle-class” only appear once in Newsom’s 280-page budget proposal. They show up under his plan to expand health care subsidies.

One Californian encouraged by that move is Heather Altman. She works as an environmental consultant out of her home in Long Beach. She gets to be her own boss, and she makes decent money.

“I guess I do consider myself middle class,” Altman said.

She would not have started her business back in 2014 without Obamacare. It meant she could finally afford her own health insurance. She no longer needed to get it through an employer. She has asthma, a pre-existing condition that made individual coverage unaffordable in the past.

Back in 2014, “My premium was $356 for a platinum plan,” Altman said. “I thought that was super affordable.”

Premiums for the same plan have more than doubled, to $761 per month. Altman has switched to a plan with a lower premium. But add in the routine costs of treating her asthma, and she’s spending more than $800 a month.

“That’s very difficult to budget,” Altman said. “And it certainly isn’t sustainable.”

Currently, individuals who earn up to $48,560 a year are eligible for subsidized premiums through Covered California. Altman makes too much to qualify. But Newsom’s budget calls for raising annual income limits for individuals to $72,840 and for families of four to $150,600.

“Had that subsidy bracket been in place when I started my business, there would have been years that I would have qualified,” Altman said. “I’m hopeful that some of these changes may make a meaningful difference in my financial bottom line.”

Altman has shared her story with the advocacy organization Health Access California. Executive director Anthony Wright said Newsom’s budget is promising for Californians like her.

“Current law has cliffs where the assistance runs out,” Wright said. “The extra help will allow some families to get coverage that otherwise couldn’t afford it.”

Newsom plans to pay for the expanded subsidies by creating a state version of the Affordable Care Act’s federal mandate to either buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty (which has gone to $0 under the Trump administration).

In a report on the governor’s budget, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office notes that this approach could create a funding conflict. If the state tax penalty works, it should drive more people to buy insurance. But then, “less funding would be available for premium subsidies.”

College

Higher education is another big drain on middle-class budgets. Newsom’s budget calls for a tuition freeze at state universities, earmarking $300 million for the California State University system and $240 million for the University of California system each year.

University of Southern California professor of sociology Manuel Pastor said middle-class families could also get a break under Newsom’s $40 million plan to make a second year of community college tuition-free.

“If you can make the first and second year free, you’re lowering the cost for a lot of middle class parents of a four-year education,” Pastor said.

The cost of caring for family members, young and old

Universal preschool and six months of paid family leave for parents are still on Newsom’s agenda. But this budget won’t pay for those goals.

Stanford University assistant professor of health research and policy Maya Rossin-Slater said California’s existing paid family leave law could be strengthened. Right now, many parents don’t use it.

Her research shows California workers at smaller, lower-paying companies are less likely to take paid family leave than higher-paid workers. That could be, in part, because workers fear that under existing law, their jobs won’t be protected while they’re out.

“Job protection, I think, is crucial,” Rossin-Slater said, “Especially for middle-class families that might worry about not having a job to return to after the leave.”

Longer paid family leave could help alleviate some of the high cost of child care, which often costs middle-class parents more than college tuition.

California’s population is aging. With more and more baby boomers retiring, the cost of caring for elderly parents will also start to stack up for more middle class families.

The governor’s budget includes a 15.2 percent increase in general fund spending for in-home supportive services. But USC gerontology professor Donna Benton said most Californians don’t qualify for the low-income program. So they’re stuck spending thousands of dollars a year on caregiving.

Out-of-pocket costs eat up 20 percent of caregivers’ income, on average. Some caregivers have to quit their jobs.

“Family members in general sacrifice a lot,” said Benton. “And then when they go to look for services for themselves, usually they’re not going to qualify.”

Benton was part of a state task force that issued a number of recommendations to help ease the cost. Among their ideas was a tax credit for caregiving expenses, as well as more funding for resource centers throughout the state that serve caregivers regardless of income level.

When Benton looked through Newsom’s budget, she said, “I didn’t see anything that, I would say, touched on any of the recommendations.”

Long Beach environmental consultant Heather Altman lives near her parents, who are now in their 70s. She said they’re in a good financial position right now. But she wonders if they’ll end up needing her help in the future.

“Should it come to that time, then yeah, that responsibility falls to me,” she said.

The same will be true for millions of middle-class Californians.

The California Dream series is a statewide media collaboration of CALmatters, KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the James Irvine Foundation.

David Wagner

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