Rob Irion, the former head of UCSC’s Science Communication program—who when he isn’t writing cover stories for the likes of National Geographic and Science magazines, still teaches a graduate course in the program he led to national prestige—is a longtime friend of the paper’s. He’s never steered me wrong when it came to suggesting writers or pieces that might be good for the paper, and sometimes our collaborations have led to award-winning work, as in the case of Henry Houskeeper’s 2015 cover story on mercury and mountain lions, “Mercury Rising.”
So when he suggested that his SciCom students would be down to answer questions about Santa Cruz’s natural world, I didn’t hesitate to take him up on it. I polled GT readers staff members, people I ran into randomly on the street: what were the “big” questions about the Santa Cruz ecosystem that they’d always wondered about?
The students picked their favorite 10 questions and dug deep to get to the bottom of them, even reaching out to local experts to weigh in. When they turned in their answers, I learned a lot more than I expected, and was entertained, as well. I think they did a fantastic job revealing everything we wanted to know about Santa Cruz but were afraid to ask.
Letters to the Editor
Flip the Script
We went to Juneau, Alaska for a trip. The town library is on top of a parking garage! I went up to see it and the views are amazing; you can see the water, town and mountains. I talked to a librarian about how it got built, he said there was a lot of discussion until they got consensus. I really think this idea is work thinking about for Santa Cruz. I would like to see the Downtown library moved to temporary quarters, the old building torn down and a new library- garage built on the same site in a style matching city hall. I think everybody wins this way!
The lot at Cedar and Cathcart needs to be a plaza and gathering place. It works just fine for the Farmers Market, events and festivals. It can be re-done to be more functional and beautiful. This was part of the Vision Santa Cruz plan after the 1989 earthquake, but it never came about. Let’s keep the public places we have and make them better. Let’s make the library the town jewel like Juneau has!
CLIMATE ACTION, NOT CAR CULTURE
Despite all the cooked rationale for a combination new 600-space parking garage and downtown library, a simple truth remains. This would sink some $45 million in public funds into the garage portion, exactly opposite of serious action on climate change. It would reinforce our existing over-reliance on polluting, space-consuming, climate-change-causing automobiles.
The city could heed its own parking consultants’ recommendations to instead implement alternatives to yet another garage. The projected future loss of around 10 percent of downtown parking spaces as some surface lots are developed for housing, is not justification for building a garage. It’s a golden opportunity to achieve what moral action on climate change demands of us: to make the big shift from domination by car culture to the full range of life-sustaining alternatives.
JACK NELSON | SANTA CRUZ
In the past few decades, we have seen a great deal of technological advancement in society, which has induced a lot of changes in the way we live. In fact, there is a great possibility that in a couple of years we will be living futuristic life, at least in the eyes of the futurists and the telecommunication companies. With major telecommunication companies preparing to launch 5G (short for 5th generation wireless communication), in a couple of years we may see our fellow Santa Cruzans riding autonomous cars and living in a super-connected city.
On the other hand, I believe it is time to morally rethink innovations including 5G and each of us become aware of these changes that has the potential when applied to forever change the way we live. Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss analyst and one of the most respected psychoanalysts in history, wrote: “Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the content of happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before.”
I suggest that we as a society follow Jung’s advice and really stop, rethink and envision what we actually want our future to look like. Is it to ride in autonomous cars and to live in a super-connected city? We all have the privilege to consciously choose a version of the future to believe in.
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