LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: We’ll Miss Those California Flowers

Tree Flowers

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

This week:

It looks to be the end of the plastic grocery bag as we know it.

The state assembly appears to have struck a deal in which Californians would pay at least a dime for each recycled paper or reusable plastic bag they get at the grocery store. The currently-ubiquitous single-use plastic bags that have bedeviled litter-control types and environmentalists would be prohibited. That’s a lot of bags. Californians use an estimated 12 billion single-use plastic bags each year.

Plants that manufacture single-use bags would be retooled into recycling facilities, preventing job losses.

Given how hard opponents of a ban have fought over the years, it seemed wrong to this perverse cartoonist not to consider that something (aside from growing the massive plastic trash island in the Pacific Ocean) may be lost. But what?

Following the lead of dark surrealism master director David Lynch, I drank lots and lots of coffee to get my idea juices flowing. This is what I came up with: the plastic bag as weapon.

In self-defense class, they taught me that a folded newspaper can be a surprisingly potent tool for fending off an assailant. (No word yet on whether an iPad can knock a ruffian unconscious.) So can a trash can. What appeals about these strategies is the fact that they’re ubiquitous. Like — you remember the previous use of that word in this little essay — plastic bags. They’re everywhere, hanging from trees! In Africa, people ironically nickname them “African flowers.” What if a “California flower” could be called into service by law-abiding citizens?

Yep. That’s all I got.

Lynch must have drunk more coffee than me.

Drought Declaration



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

This week:

Noting that 2013 went down as the driest year since California began keeping rainfall records, Gov. Jerry Brown has officially declared a drought emergency that asks Californians to reduce their water usage by 20%.

Times columnist George Skelton predicts: “Next comes serious flooding.” Skelton says it’s a familiar pattern: “A drought proclamation, as issued by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, changes the political climate. It focuses public attention on the need for costly new waterworks. Therefore governors and water officials are always reluctant to declare a drought over, even when rivers again leap their banks, fill reservoirs and send torrents of muddy snowmelt, uprooted trees and drowned livestock cascading into the Pacific.”

But some state pols say the guv waited too long to unleash the flow of aid to drought-stricken counties. “Today’s drought declaration is better late than never,” said Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway.

Which got me thinking about the concept of disaster declarations. Whether a hurricane destroys the Gulf Coast or an earthquake levels a city or a drought deprives farms and rivers of water, it’s obvious to everyone — the victims, the governor, headline writers — that a disaster has occurred. There’s something inherently silly about having to issue a formal proclamation. (I know, it’s a formality designed to free up state funds and perhaps federal aid as well. Still.) Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a society where everyone could look outside, see that it hasn’t rained for a long time, and say: “Lo! A drought”?

On the other hand — for a cartoonist, nuance is a major intellectual hurdle — should an event that occurs at regular intervals be considered a disaster? When you live along a fault line, for example, you can’t really be shocked shocked shocked when the earth starts moving (unless you’re a state official). As Skelton notes, major sections of California’s climate are subject to the desert’s drought-flood-drought cycle.

Finally, what of whim? Should one man, even the governor, be able to determine, Solomon-like, whether or not Drought is occurring or not? These things keep me up at night, especially when I’m only allowed to drink 80% of my previously allotted water ration. Whatever that amounts to.


Replacement of Extinct Species

The Nagoya Protocol pledges to reduce the current rate of plant or animal extinction by half. But that’s obviously not good enough.