Category Archives: General
What’s your coffee shop name?
As a person whose first name always gets butchered (but not being bothered by it), this NPR story was quite an amusing listen (and struck a cord). I have answered to so many many variations of my first name (Tseming), including Jeremy and Tasmin, that I have lost track. Some years ago, I adopted the coffee shop name of “Chuck.” It seemed simple and familiar to anybody. First time my daughter heard me being greeted as Chuck by a Starbucks barista, her eyes turned as big as dinner plates. And then there was the time when I used it in response to a workshop facilitator asking for my name, leaving most of my colleagues in confused silence.
What’s your coffee shop name?
New research links harder-to-pronounce names with hiring discrimination : The Indicator from Planet Money – https://www.npr.org/2022/10/27/1132023889/whats-in-a-name-maybe-a-job
Congratulations To The Lawyers Who Found Out This Weekend That They Passed The California Bar Exam!
This weekend, the California State Bar announced the results of the July 2021 bar exams. Unfortunately not everybody passes; the California bar exam is the the toughest in the country. But for me, as a teacher, finding out who did pass and will be able to join the legal profession, makes this one of the best times of the year (next to commencement). I always check the public list and send out notes to the former students for whom I have contact info. I also saw some videos of individuals finding out that they past and celebrating – what a joy! Congratulations to all of my former students (and everybody else who passed)! Welcome to the profession.
Position (updated Oct. 11, 2021 with upgraded position): Santa Clara Law School, Center for Global Law and Policy, Senior Program Manager (Santa Clara, CA)
As I posted previously, the Center for Global Law and Policy was looking for a program manager for our Center programs. We recently received approval to upgrade the position to Senior Program Manager (compensation commensurate with qualifications) and thus have re-posted the job position to reflect that change. The link to Santa Clara University’s Workday listing (the University’s human resources job listings website) remains the same (but now shows the updated position title). For reference, here it is again:
In a nutshell, the Senior Program Manager for the Center for Global Law and Policy is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Center, which includes both planning and providing operational support for the Center’s nine summer study-abroad programs in Asia and Australia, Europe, and Latin America, administering the Center’s International Law Certificates options and student exchange programs, and supporting all other aspects of the Center’s activities. For additional information for the Center for Global Law and Policy, please see CGLP’s website.
We will take resumes until the position is filled. However, for priority consideration, please submit application materials (cover letter, resume or CV, and references) by October 24, 2021. The materials should be submitted directly via the Workday job listing (which can be reached via the provided link).
Please share this job opportunity with anybody who might be interested.
Position: Santa Clara Law School, Center for Global Law and Policy, Program Manager (Santa Clara, CA)
Please note the October 11, 2021 update on this position.
Oh no! The Center for Global Law and Policy’s current program manager Hallie Bodey is leaving us for another opportunity (that comes with a promotion) at Santa Clara University. So we are looking for a person to fill her big shoes. (We’ll take resumes until the position is filled, but please submit soon since we are starting to review job applications right away.) Here is a link to the Santa Clara University’s Workday posting for this position, which also includes a detailed description of the job responsibilities:
(And yes, this position would report to me.)
Lake Shasta water levels
Passed by Lake Shasta over the weekend and saw this dramatic evidence of the severe drought conditions in California. Several San Francisco Bay area water districts have already announced measures to reduce water usage.
United States Must Prepare for Impending Climate Refugee Crisis
Climate change has and will continue to force people all over the world to leave their homes. Climate stressors such as rising sea levels, flooding and changing rainfall patterns are increasingly making different areas of the world inhabitable. The World Bank predicts that Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America could have more than 140 million people displaced by 2050. Many of the people currently being displaced are migrating within their own countries; however, as more people are forced to leave their homes, there will be far more international movement.
The United States is not immune from the effects of climate refugees. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans were forced to flee the island, most of which came to the U.S. mainland. The United States cannot pretend this problem is not imminent. However, the United States has done little to prepare for the influx of asylum-seekers.
Under current United States law, the definition of a refugee is extremely limited. In order to be a refugee, one must be “unable or unwilling to return to […] that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” This definition of refugee completely ignores the growing levels of displacement due to environmental factors. The term “persecution” only applies to those who are forced to leave their country due to violence by other people; and does not include the possibility of their homes becoming inhabitable because of the climate conditions.
The U.S. must be a leader in preparing the world for handling the large numbers of people who will be forced to find a new home. The first step in that process is changing how we define the term “refugee” in U.S. law to include those who cannot return to their countries of origin due to the impacts of climate change. If we do not make this change, we will have an increase in illegal immigration and, more importantly, we will be contributing to the devastation that faces people who are already forced to leave everything behind.
A California Water Crisis, Again
On October 30, 2020, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the State Water Resources Control Board hosted a joint workshop for water utilities and assorted consumer advocacy groups to address water affordability and operational challenges aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. (The workshop was held pursuant to Rulemaking 17-06-024: Water Affordability During COVID-19.) Since January 2020, the number of customers behind on their water bills has steadily risen in the following months up until the time of this workshop. This has not been a surprise due to the massive unemployment caused by COVID-19.
Unfortunately, demand and competition for water has remained undiminished, even as California continues to face rising water shortage challenges. People still need to water their lawns, flush their toilets, and grow their food. Cultural differences between northern and southern California, priority disagreements between urban and agricultural interests, and an increasingly lopsided curve of demand and supply from a growing population in an area greatly affected by climate change have exacerbated the problems. And the icing on the cake in solving these water use tensions is Article X, section 2 of the California Constitution which declares that all Californians have a constitutional right to water.
As a result, consumers using the water system without the ability to pay for it have aggravated a financially strained system. As of 2014, California was ranked as the number 1 state in need of water infrastructure repair. With customers unable to pay their bills, how can we tackle this problem? How can a system without the ability to repair itself continue to deliver safe drinking water? As an additional layer to this quandary, there are over 100 investor-owned water utilities in the CPUC’s jurisdiction, as compared to just a handful of gas or electric utilities. With each water utility bringing its own unique and complex problems to the table, ensuring the supply of safe and affordable drinking water presents a problem far more complex than electric power distribution.
As a short-term measure, the CPUC has imposed emergency protection for consumers to avoid disconnection due to unpaid bills. Unfortunately for many, the CPUC only oversees investor-owned utilities, and thus the CPUC measure only applies to a limited number of people in the state. Others will need to find alternative means of keeping their water on. More importantly, neither water shut-offs for delinquent customers nor emergency measures preventing disconnection due to unpaid bills address the long-terms financial challenges for water utilities with respect to maintaining an aging water infrastructure, which continues to depreciate. At this point, we must put a Band-Aid on the system and float it forward, so to speak, as we continue to discuss what equitable solutions we can offer to enforce this constitutional right for California residents.
Composting, Worms, and the Climate Crisis
Reducing food waste is one of the most important things we can do as individuals to fight the release of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the environment. The food supply chain accounts for nearly a third of worldwide GHG emissions. These gases contribute to climate change, which disproportionately burdens developing countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that, if the world’s food waste was a country, it would be the third-highest emitter of GHGs, behind only the U.S. and China. While the majority of food waste is the result of food rejected for imperfections even before it reaches consumers, consumer-generated food waste in the U.S. contributes 2% of yearly GHG emissions nationally. Reducing such consumer food waste can make a meaningful contribution toward the reduction of GHG emissions, including through simple measures such as buying only what is needed, using every bit of it, and accepting imperfect fruits and vegetables. However, one measure that remains underutilized is composting of food waste. Empowering consumers to engage in composting can help mitigate GHG emissions as well as produce valuable environmental co-benefits.
It is estimated that a worldwide effort to implement composting could reduce GHG emissions by 2.3 billion tons over the next 30 years. Composting converts organic waste into soil carbon, reducing the methane produced by decomposing food waste in landfills. Compost made from food waste can be put back into the agricultural system, improving soil quality and increasing productivity. Adding compost to the soil also aids in long-term carbon sequestration, because composted material provides the carbon and nutrients necessary for the soil microbes that create stabilized forms of carbon in soil. On a large scale, composting provides the interconnected benefits of increased soil health, reduction of GHGs, and improved agricultural productivity. On a smaller scale, composting makes it easier to produce food at home. Sourcing food locally can help reduce the GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the agricultural supply chain.
Vermiculture, or composting with worms, provides an efficient, odorless, and space-conscious alternative to bin composting. Worm bins can easily be kept in small spaces, such as under the sink, or outdoors (with sufficient insulation). While many species of worms can be used in vermiculture, red wigglers (Eisenia foetida) and European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) are the most commonly used. These worms can eat a combination of food waste and paper products. Red wigglers eat about half their weight in food waste every day—that means 1,000 worms (the most common number to start with) can eat about half a pound of food per day. European nightcrawlers are commonly used in combination with red wigglers because they grow much larger and feed in the lower layers of the bin. As they eat, composting worms excrete castings, a nutrient-rich humus that can be used as a safe, organic fertilizer. Worm casting fertilizer is especially valuable because it contains beneficial soil microbes, has a neutral pH, and, unlike other fertilizers, will not burn plants because its nitrogen is released slowly. Vermicompost has also been shown to reduce plant disease—beneficial microbes from worm castings can colonize the surface of a seed, protecting it from infection. Using compost and worm castings as natural fertilizers also provides an opportunity to reduce water pollution and greenhouse gas production. Excess fertilizer pollutes waterways and can be converted by microbes to nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Bin composting can be time-consuming, and takes up more space and effort than many can dedicate to it. However, vermicomposting is a concrete step that individuals can use to take on climate change, especially if they feel helpless in the face of the climate crisis and would like to take responsibility for their food waste. It is easy, fun, and can be done almost anywhere. I began worm farming in July, and already have a colony that consumes the weekly waste of a family that shops in bulk at Costco. While the benefits worm castings have provided to my garden are hard to measure, my anecdotal evidence is that there was an explosion of growth in the weeks following the first introduction of vermicompost. My worms keep pounds of food scraps and paper products from landfills monthly, and, as the colony grows, they will eat more.
As the climate crisis worsens, contributing to droughts and food shortages, we should take advantage of every opportunity to reduce GHGs and increase agricultural efficiency. Municipal governments should reduce GHG emissions from food waste by incorporating vermicompost into waste removal. Governments should also provide vermicompost education to citizens, like this instructional video from the City of Sydney. Governments could also encourage vermicomposting with tax incentives for restaurants and grocery stores, which are perfect candidates for vermicomposting because of their high volume of organic waste. Vermicomposting is just one of the ways in which we can reduce waste, increase the availability of locally grown food, and take responsibility for our emissions in high-income countries.
The Climate Crisis and Opportunities for Inmate Firefighters
The fire season for 2020 so far, has been the worst on record in California’s history. Unfortunately, as climate change is expected to enhance the duration, frequency, and severity of heatwaves, it is unlikely to remain an exception in regard to wildfires. This year alone, Cal Fire estimates that 4,197,628 acres have already burned. Five of the six largest fires in California history started in August and September of 2020.
California faced an added difficulty entering this fire season due to a shortage of inmate firefighters after prisons released many individuals early due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The Conservation Camp Program has operated since 1915, allowing inmate volunteers with sustained good behavior and without violent records to support government agencies as they respond to fires. When not actively fighting fires, these inmates perform crucial conservation and community service projects, such as clearing dead brush and fire fuel, maintaining parks, and reforestation.
Until recently, many of these volunteer inmates were unable to secure employment as firefighters after release. However, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB-2147 into law on September 11, 2020, allowing prisoners who received “valuable training and [placed] themselves in danger assisting firefighters to defend the life and property of Californians” to petition courts to dismiss their convictions after release. A clean record will enable them to receive an EMT certification, which most municipal fire departments require. Although Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, and hotshot crews do not require EMT certifications and already employ many former prisoners, this new law will increase the competitiveness of former inmates for jobs in those organizations and increase their opportunities for promotion.
This is precisely the type of program needed to truly rehabilitate nonviolent offenders: allowing them to have their records expunged upon release as appreciation of their discipline and courage to fight dangerous fires and providing them valuable, marketable skills so that they can achieve success after release. However, more is necessary to help reintegrate these individuals into society as productive citizens.
Fortunately, the emerging clean energy economy and the ongoing transition from non-renewable energy sources provide just such opportunity for job training in a new and essential industry sector. The Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank, considers a push for workforce development efforts to be essential to the success of any federal or state efforts to transition to clean energy. The shift to renewable energy will demand a sizeable workforce as the market for clean designs, tech, and other advanced industries expands. Offering specialized training to inmates in skilled trade positions would help establish the U.S. as competitive and capable in the green energy infrastructure sector. Most important for inmates who have served their time, it would ensure competitive wages and provide an opportunity for them to gain valuable skills. Whether the transition to clean energy is accomplished through the Green New Deal or other programs, rising demand for clean infrastructure and energy jobs presents an opportunity to create a more equitable future for all, including those who have served their time.