LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Three ideas for L.A.’s holiday trash problem

Trash Hints


Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles, where garbage is trashed.

Where bodies turn up at waste processing facilities.

Where fear of bodies inside garbage dumpsters prompts the dumping of their contents all over downtown streets.

Where on the coast, it’s on the land and in the sea

This is a place where trash-talking is taken literally; Kobe Bryant recently said fellow Lakers were “soft like Charmin.”

Now the Times’ David Zahniser reports about one of the less charming aspects of the holiday season: “The holidays are a time for giving, and in Los Angeles, many have the good fortune to provide generously for others. But once everybody receives their new stuff, a lot of the old stuff gets pitched onto the street. In the final days of the year, many of L.A.’s streets and sidewalks are littered with discarded furniture, mattresses, oversized televisions and other household objects.”

More than 33,000 tons of trash were removed from city streets in 2013-14.

Lest you be tempted to take solace in the fact that this statistic has remained fairly static over the last few years, give not into temptation: “The number of tons of discarded items picked up has stayed roughly the same. Sanitation officials believe that’s because the products being tossed out are being made with lighter materials. They also contend scavengers are taking a lot of the heavier stuff, like metal.”

Thank God for the scavengers. After them, the deluge.

In the spirit of the holiday season, I’d like to focus on the positive aspect of this phenomenon. Fact is, litter is a sign of prosperity. Or consumerism. Is there a difference? While traveling in Afghanistan in 2001, I was struck by how little litter there was in that war-torn country. The poverty was so deep that everything, including empty plastic bottles, got used by someone for something. Looking around at Los Angeles’ filthy streets, piling up with garbage, it logically follows that what one is witnessing is the exact opposite, the hamburger to the steak, the yin to the yang, the necessary byproduct of Rodeo Drive.

OK, probably not.

In the spirit of those Afghans 13 years ago, however, it occurs to me that there might be ways to put all that garbage to good use. Thus this week’s cartoon.

(The middle panel with the dump truck is inspired by an obscure historical event, the Paris mine collapse of 1774. After it became apparent that the expanding French capital was in danger of falling into a series of abandoned mines that had previously been on the outskirts of the city, Paris officials began filling them up with debris, garbage and even centuries-old human remains excavated from tombs.)



Pack Your Bags

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week:

Angelenos try not to think about the shifting plates beneath their feet and their wheels, but everyone knows the Big One is coming — and a bad enough one is coming sooner than that.

Short of moving somewhere where tectonics aren’t quite as disconcerting (i.e., where it snows) there isn’t much we can do about earthquakes. But we can prepare for the worst by mitigating the damage.

Toward that end, Los Angeles city building officials are creating a list of “soft story” wood-frame buildings that were built before 1978. “Soft-story structures often are built over carports and held up with slender columns, leaving the upper floors to crash into ground-floor apartments during shaking,” Rosanna Xia and Rong-Gong Lin II report in the Times.

There are probably about 6,000 of these buildings. The city says it will take at least a year to complete a list. After that, a retrofitting program will be put in place.

But what if an earthquake happens between now and then? It’s not like Mother (or, not to be sexist, Father) Nature waits for bureaucracy to work its magic.

Yeah, I’m a negative cuss.

So anyway, I began thinking about what, if anything, could be done to stave off the inevitable for at least a year — because the idea that this can wait another year is both horrible and amusing at the same time. How do these people think? Walk softly? Pray?

I know. They’re just civil servants trying to do their jobs with shrinking budgets and limited resources. But if, God or fire demon forbid, something bad happens before that retrofit project is finished, everyone is going look back and wonder why we didn’t throw money at it to get it done faster.


If God Existed

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week: After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, California began an ambitious effort to map faults across the state. Over the next two decades, officials published 534 maps of active earthquake faults. New construction was prohibited on top of these fissures because previous quakes showed that buildings could be torn apart during violent shaking. But the mapping campaign has slowed to a crawl — with many dangerous faults still undocumented. Since 1991, only 23 have been drawn. Because of budget cuts, none were completed between 2004 and 2011, according to records reviewed by The Times. State officials said there are still about 300 maps to draw and even more to revise — including some in heavily populated areas of Southern California. That represents about 2,000 miles of faults statewide.