Posts tagged “california”

Conditional cash transfers for energy poverty... and murder reduction

Conditional cash transfers — paying people to change behavior, usually to spur positive ‘social’ outcomes — continue to be in the news. Much of the focus is on their use as poverty reduction tools (Bolsa Familia in Brazil, JSY in India) through encouraging behaviors like antenatal care visits and sending children to school.

Two recent article — one in the NYT, one in Mother Jones — highlighted the use of CCTs and other targeted cash transfer tools for dramatically different outcomes.

In the NYT, poverty and energy issues were at the fore:

The Indian government subsidizes households’ purchases of cooking gas; these subsidies amounted to about $8 billion last year. Until recently, subsidies were provided by selling cylinders to beneficiaries at below-market prices. Now, prices have been deregulated, and the subsidy is delivered by depositing cash directly into beneficiaries’ bank accounts, which are linked to cellphones, so that only eligible beneficiaries — not “ghost” intermediaries — receive transfers.

Under the previous arrangement, the large gap between subsidized and unsubsidized prices created a thriving black market, where distributors diverted subsidized gas away from households to businesses for a premium. In new research with Prabhat Barnwal, an economist at Columbia University, we find that cash transfers reduced these “leakages,” resulting in estimated fiscal savings of about $2 billion.

There’s even more “smart” targeting coming soon. My advisor and colleagues in India have been working to “[describe] how the LPG subsidy could be even more completely targeted to the poor without any actual ‘taking away’ of the subsidy from the rich and middle class, which would likely trigger heavy political push back. As a result, several hundred million additional poor Indians could have affordable access in the next decade without increasing subsidy costs to the government (indeed probably reducing them) or LPG imports — both not likely to be popular.”

In Mother Jones, CCTs were being used to reduce murders:

Richmond hired consultants to come up with ideas, and in turn, the consultants approached [Devone] Boggan. It was obvious that heavy-handed tactics like police sweeps weren’t the solution. More than anything, Boggan, who’d been working to keep teen offenders out of prison, was struck by the pettiness of it all. The things that could get someone shot in Richmond were as trivial as stepping out to buy a bag of chips at the wrong time or in the wrong place. Boggan wondered: What if we identified the most likely perpetrators and paid them to stay out of trouble?

It seems to be working.

It was a crazy idea. But since ONS was established, the city’s murder rate has plunged steadily. In 2013, it dropped to 15 homicides per 100,000 residents—a 33 year low. In 2014, it dropped again. Boggan and his staff maintained that their program was responsible for a lot of that drop-off by keeping the highest-risk young men alive—and out of prison. Now they have a study to back them up.

On Monday, researchers from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a non-profit, published a process evaluation of ONS, studying its impact seven years in. The conclusion was positive: “While a number of factors including policy changes, policing efforts, an improving economic climate, and an overall decline in crime may have helped to facilitate this shift, many individuals interviewed for this evaluation cite the work of the ONS, which began in late 2007, as a strong contributing factor in a collaborative effort to decrease violence in Richmond.”

Pictures of Lake Tahoe during the drought

August 2014:

Late May 2015:

We’re lucky enough to live near Lake Tahoe and all the surrounding glory — and fortunate enough to make it up there every now and then. Our most recent jaunt was a nice one with a great hike, good food, and all around fun times.

It was clear while roaming around town that the Lake Tahoe was very, very low. Docks had ladders and secondary structures to allow access to vessels. The walkable area extended much further than before. This was all amplified when we stood at the edge of the lake — now a few dozen meters further out than in August of 2014 — at one of our favorite public access points.

Alamere Falls redux

Beth and I took off on Saturday morning for a hike to and from Alamere Falls via the Palomarin trail. This walk is one of our favorites, meandering through a range of terrains, passing a few small lakes, and then descending down to a beautiful, secluded beach where the falls crash into the ocean. A magical place.

The drive to the trailhead was remarkably quick. When we arrived, we were greeted by a surprising sight: a line of cars stretching back around a half mile from the trailhead. Beth and I have done the hike probably a dozen times in total between us, but had never encountered that volume of traffic in the parking lot or on the trail. Made some sense: it was a beautiful, warm, even hot Saturday morning. Everyone was out.

I’ve been a bit conflicted about what I saw on the trail. Getting people outdoors is a good way to get them to think about open space preservation and may spark some environmentalism. That said, I was dismayed by the amount of trash I saw on the trail, ranging from toilet paper to Clif Bar wrappers to empty bottles. Beyond litter, there was a remarkable lack of trail etiquette - a fair amount of wandering off trail, loud music and shouting, flower picking, and a seeming lack of awareness of one’s surroundings. This all sounds a bit curmudgeonly — perhaps it is — but I think it points toward a renewed need for some “trail manners” literature, discussion, and signage. A small thing, but an important one as social media and the internet continue to highlight the outstanding outdoor opportunities in the Bay Area.

Point Reyes: Estero Trail to Drake's Head

Click image to view larger

Pretty early on Sunday morning, I hit the road to Point Reyes for a 10-ish mile trail run. I decided to explore parts of the Estero trail. Beth and I hiked Estero to Sunset Beach in April — and it was really spectacular. I decided to go a bit south of Sunset Beach to Drake’s Head.

The morning began densely fogged in. Some cows blocked the road for a few minutes. By the time I got to the parking lot, the sun was out; it was pretty warm.

I followed the trail marker through some dense grass that gave way to a sandy trail. It winds by and through one magical patch of forest — and then another. As you emerge from the forest, you can see Home Bay, where you can stand on a bridge and admire various birds in the estuary. Be sure to look down to the rocks, where you may see dozens of crabs scuttling about. The trail continues up to a pretty great view and then meanders, up and down, through some beautiful estuaries hidden amidst rocky terrain and pasture land.

Eventually (2.5ish miles in), you’ll hit a fork in the road that points to a number of destinations — including Sunset Beach and Drake’s Head. Either endpoint is well worth it. I turned towards Drake’s Head. The trail disappears a bit amongst more pasture land. Expect to see quite a few large, mainly docile cows. Arrows pop up every now and then to point you in the right direction.

Eventually you hit another trail marker pointing towards Drake’s Head. Turn down that ‘trail’, and follow the faint path to the beautiful bluff viewpoint. Despite the lack of a formal trail and the numerous bovine companions, the walk is straightforward and the endpoint is visible for much of it.

The views from Drake’s Head are incredible. You can see Limantour Spit and Estero, Drake’s Bay, and up and down the coast. I saw one person on the way to Drake’s Head and two or three on the way out; I had the bluff to myself for the half hour I spent there. A beautiful, solitary hike (or run). One of my new favorites.

Backpacking to Sword Lake

Ben, Katy, Oliver, Jessica, Beth and I set out to the Sierras on Thursday morning for a couple of nights of camping, swimming, hiking, and bumming around Sword Lake, located in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The trip came together at the last minute... and turned out spectacularly.

Beth and I made it out of the East Bay relatively easily, with no real incidents on the road and only minor traffic as we passed through Oakdale. The drive was pleasant enough. We stopped at the Summit Ranger Station near Pinecrest, CA, where we rendezvoused with the Lovehardgolds and got a camping permit. We were warned by the Ranger Station staff to expect some crowds at the lake, given its popularity and the long weekend.

After lunch a mile or so up from Pinecrest, we turned off of 108 and onto a dusty, slow county road and made our way to the trailhead. We arrived to a nearly empty parking lot -- only one other car was there. A good sign. We packed up and hit the trail. The walk to the lake was nice -- a few scenic vistas, fields full of wildflowers, and shady, interspersed groves of large trees. Ben and I scoped out campsites on both sides of the lake; Ben spotted a good one, slightly above the lake but with some shade. We set up our two-day home there. We saw a few other folks, but basically had the lake and surrounding environs to ourself. A pretty spectacular find.

From a small hill east of our campsite, the Dardanelles and Spicer Meadow Reservoir were visible. Mornings and evenings atop that hill were especially magical, with the entire landscape bathed in warm, pinkish orange hues. Our last morning at the site, I stumbled up there and had lovely views of the surroundings and an encounter with a deer unfazed by my presence.

In tow was amazing little Oliver, who (as usual) was a delight. The boy loves the outdoors and was (1) an avid swimmer in the hands of his parents and aunt; (2) a rampant mover of dirt, using any utensil available; (3) a burgeoning climber; and (4) a rockstar. He was a smiley, giggly, and sometimes weepy joy.

On the way out, the crowds streamed in. When we got back to the parking lot, it was brimming with vehicles. We were lucky to have missed the masses! A fun trip with lovely, lovely people.

Photos from the trip are at Flickr.

Divestment in San Francisco

From a 350.org press release:

This Tuesday, February 5, San Francisco District 11 Supervisor John Avalos will introduce a resolution urging the Retirement Board of the San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System (SFERS) to divest from the 200 corporations that hold the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves.

“San Francisco has aggressive goals to address climate change,” said Supervisor John Avalos. “It’s important that we apply these same values when we decide how to invest our funds, so we can limit our financial contributions to fossil fuels and instead promote renewable alternatives.”

If the resolution is approved by the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco would become the second city in the nation to pursue fossil fuel divestment. This December, the Mayor of Seattle pledged to keep city funds out of the fossil fuel industry and urged the city’s pension funds to consider divestment. Avalos is also introducing a resolution today to push SFERS to divest from arms manufacturers.

Waterfalls, the Beach, and the Ocean

Alamere Falls via Palomarin trail

This hike was outstanding. It started with a traipse through a eucalyptus grove, leading to a brief coastal stint, with amazing views, and then turned inland to pass a couple beautiful lakes [and many smaller ponds] before the turn off for alamere falls.

Ben! Katy! We miss you.

For the last few months, we've been blessed with the presence of our dear friends the Lovehardsteins. Ben and Katy are awesome, love all things outdoors, food, and beer. As such, we enjoy their company a great deal -- and hope they enjoy ours. We went on quite a few adventures with them towards the end of their time in the Bay Area -- a hike near the Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop; a hike to Tomales Point, at Point Reyes National Seashore; and various eats and drinks throughout the Bay Area.

Boonville & Anderson Valley (part I)

At the recommendation of the Lovehardsteins and the NYT, we went to Boonville last weekend with Beth's mom in tow. She escaped snowfall and bitter cold back East, and we were all fortunate to have incredible weather for our jaunt into wine country.

We left late in the morning on the seventh, had a delicious brunch at Tomate Cafe, our favorite Berkeley breakfast/spot. The ladies stuck with a traditional American breakfast {eggs, bacon, etc}; I tried a 'Cuban' breakfast with rice, plantains, beans, kale, and grilled shrimp. It was delicious.

We made quick time to Anderson Valley, as traffic was light early in the day. It was pretty foggy and a tad gloomy on the way in, but majestic nonetheless. We turned onto winding Hwy 128 that would lead us to Anderson Valley, working our way through the hills and wine country as the fog folded around, between, and through the trees. Around 1p, as we arrived in Boonville, the fog burned off completely. We checked into our studio at the Boonville Hotel, an amazing little inn and restaurant in Boonville. I can't gush enough about the hotel and staff -- it was a beautiful place, with well-designed, spacious rooms that fit the place of life in the valley.

We ate lunch at the Boonville General Store and then set off to Point Area and the coast, by way of the meandering, winding, and aptly titled 'Mountain View Rd.'

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