Skip to main content

Thousands In Dark As Wildfire Danger Looms, After Gallagher Trial, Navy Considers Military Justice Reform, Grandparents Join Fight Against Climate Change And More

Cover image for podcast episode

As the threat of wildfires continue Wednesday, 40,000 people could lose power in San Diego County because of safety shut offs. Plus, San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved turning a dilapidated property in Hillcrest into a behavioral health center that will offer a multitude of mental health services. Also, the Navy is looking at reforming its military justice programs in light of the outcome in war crimes trial of Edward Galllagher. And, NPR host Shankar Vedantam on why certain parts of the human brain remains hidden. Finally, a San Diego nonprofit is making it ‘cool’ for grandparents to join the fight against climate change.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 We are now experiencing what could be the worst Santa Ana winds to blow through Southern California this season. The Oxnard office of the national weather service issued their first ever extreme red flag warning here in San Diego County. We're fortunate in that no major fires are burning, but for cautions are being taken. SDG and E has cut power to more than 22,000 customers, mainly in the East and North counties and the utility says another 20,000 could lose power before this is all over. The red flag warning continues through Thursday night at six of course, fighting fires is very expensive for a statewide perspective on how Cal fires dealing with this. We're joined by Scott McLean who is the state spokesperson for Cal fire. Scott, welcome. Thank you for having me. You know with all of that Cal fire is expected to do these days. Is the agency getting enough funding from the legislature?

Speaker 2: 00:56 No, we are. I mean our counts are very low this year, believe it or not. Even with what we're seeing today in this last week as far as in our E fund, and that's for wild land fires, dramatic wild land fires of course. Uh, we have over $650 million in that account to address the wildfire issue. And we're probably today, and this is just a simple estimate of about 115 to 120 million spent so far to date. That's on a fiscal year,

Speaker 1: 01:22 you know, from your perspective, is fire season expanding or is it now year-round and how does the agency respond to that?

Speaker 2: 01:29 Well, last couple of years, due to what we saw of the drought drought starting in 2010 supposedly ending in 2017 early. Uh, of course then we saw the horrendous fires of 2017 and 18 pretty much what we've been stating as a wildfire season is year round. It's not really even a season anymore. Uh, there's been studies that have stated that it's, you know, now a days, 60 days plus longer than what we've seen several decades ago. So yes, it's pretty much year round. We're looking at right now, probably 170 to 200 wildfire starts a week. That folks don't realize.

Speaker 1: 02:05 Wow. So does that change the way you got? You all prepare for this? Well, you can't call it a season anymore, but you have to stay ready year round now, right?

Speaker 2: 02:14 Yeah. So yes. Staffing levels and all, I mean we're doing all these prevention projects, you know, fuel reduction projects up and down the state. So our firefighters are working on those, uh, in the, well, let's call it, it's sort of an off season as well as, you know, they're always prepared to respond to any, uh, need that arises in the state. So we're always kept busy. We've got monies allocated to us during the course of last summer of, uh, bringing, being able to bring 400 plus more firefighters on duty this, this year, which is just great. I mean, look at the equipment. We're starting to get 13 brand new fire engines for the state, and that's an addition to what we already have. And of course as he went thirties. And this of course, key helicopters.

Speaker 1: 02:56 Wow. And you know, as I mentioned earlier and has already cut power to tens of thousands of people and thousands more could lose power before this is all over. Does calcify or agree with that approach by SDG and E and other big utilities in the state?

Speaker 2: 03:11 We're not associated with that. We do not make any decisions on or get involved in that decision making. Uh, we're just like the public, we prepare for it. I made sure our stations are up and running and we will not have any lack of service whatsoever.

Speaker 1: 03:24 Hmm. Do you think it pushes people to light their grills, to cook their food

Speaker 2: 03:28 and there's a lot of safety messaging that we're doing, which brings up a great point. Thank you. You know, we have to be cognizant of what's taking place. You know, I hear people, you know, turning the oven on and opening the door, cooking, you know, putting a grill inside the house. I mean if you do briquettes you, the potential there is to lose your life. When you do things of like that you need to be cognisant and make sure you're using the appropriate measures to keep you warm, uh, you know, things of that nature. So definitely the oven door, make sure you please do not do that cause you can start a fire doing that. The per cat aspect, uh, the gas off gases will definitely cause fatalities on that type of thing. So again, you know, prepare for what's coming, uh, get extra blankets out if you will or just go to some area that, uh, to a friends or families that have the power.

Speaker 1: 04:18 Okay. And how much help is Cal fire getting from fire agencies coming in from other States?

Speaker 2: 04:23 Oh, it's great. Uh, right now we're looking at 12 States that have, you know, responded to our need up and down the state of California. We're dealing with, so probably about 350 various fire agencies within the state and including those that have come from out of state. So the reaction has been phenomenal. Uh, as far as assistance,

Speaker 1: 04:43 a computer modeling system developed at UC San Diego called wifi fire helps those in charge of fighting fires, know where the fire will grow. Is Cal fire actively engaged in uh, promoting those kinds of high tech approaches to fighting wildfires?

Speaker 2: 04:58 I know our San Diego unit is using uh, various cameras down there. Uh, we are definitely engaged in technology overall throughout the state. We are working with a, uh, a company that is working on that aspect as far as the to help promote which, you know, to us which direction those wildfires have the potential of going so we can, it helps us plan accordingly.

Speaker 1: 05:22 And you know, you, you say that a fire counts are low given that we are in such extreme weather conditions, what do you credit the low fire count to?

Speaker 2: 05:33 We're looking at the weather we've had this year. It's been very moderate, 80s, 90s, in an occasional a hundred degree here and there and minimal, minimal amount of wind, if any during the first part of the year. Of course, that all changed the first day of fall in North state, and we started seeing some significant wins and down in your neck of the woods in the Santa Ana's hood developing again as well. So that's what we're been dealing with is winds that have been promoting what fires we've been fighting right now with the low humidities, the vegetation is still very dry. It's gonna take several years of wet winters to bring that up to where we need to be in the state. Uh, so moderate weather, uh, 2017, 2018 you saw a hundred degree weather consistent for weeks with the North wind. So the vegetation was extremely dry. Campfire, that's, I live up in that area. That is the driest day I've ever seen on record in that area. And I used to work in that area. I've been speaking with Scott McLean, state spokesperson for Cal fire. Scott, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The County has taken a major step toward overhauling San Diego's mental health treatment system. On Tuesday, the County board of supervisors unanimously approved the initial funding for two new mental health hubs, plan for Hillcrest and Escondido along with moneys for two smaller mental health facilities in Oceanside and LA Mesa. The hub complex approach toward mental health treatment is the result of a year long planning and research effort, which hopes to change the county's response from crisis management to longterm patient care journey me as reporter Paul Sisson, who covers healthcare for the San Diego union Tribune. And Paul, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. Now. Critics have accused the County four years of avoiding its responsibility to provide mental health care. What sparked this new push by the County?

Speaker 2: 00:50 Uh, I think it's fair to say that, uh, there are a couple of different factors that sparked it. Uh, you have, uh, existing, uh, mental health units at a script's mercy and UCS, D, Hillcrest crest hospitals that, uh, are going to need to be closed in the, you know, mid to near future because of massive redevelopment projects that are slated for both of those medical campuses. And then, uh, more recently I think the real flashpoint was a tri city medical center up in Oceanside deciding to shutter their, uh, inpatient locked psychiatric ward and their crisis stabilization unit, uh, that they had partnered with, uh, with the County before. They said they had a lot of trouble affording to do some needed, uh, uh, upgrades that are required by federal regulations. And so that kind of got everybody thinking more, more directly about it. Oh my gosh, dude, we're, we're headed for a bed crisis here. If we, if we don't do something

Speaker 1: 01:48 now, the County approved research on what kind of system they wanted to fund, who did the research,

Speaker 2: 01:53 uh, you know, it was a real collaboration. You had the county's, uh, behavioral health services department under dr Luke Bergman. He is a just a, and kind of a recent hire about a year ago, uh, and he has worked with the department of, uh, of health services there at the County. Uh, and then they brought in a whole lot of experts from, you know, every type of specialty you can think of. Everything from law enforcement, uh, to healthcare, uh, to psychiatry, uh, you know, even, uh, education as well. Uh, you know, there's a lot of this affects, uh, know school students as well.

Speaker 1: 02:28 So then how is this hub complex approach different from what we have now?

Speaker 2: 02:33 You know, I, I think, uh, what you would say about our current system is that it is, you know, the fractured as the word a lot of people like to use. Uh, generally you will, uh, you will go on and your daily life until you have some kind of a significant symptom, uh, that will cause you to need to seek treatment. And, uh, you know, in, in the most severe cases you're talking about, uh, maybe the police being brought in. Uh, you know, if somebody believes that you're a danger to yourself or others, uh, you probably heard of the, uh, the 51 50 hold, where, where you will be kind of taking a, taken into a temporary conservatorship and, and taken to your nearest ER or, uh, or perhaps the jail lifter behavior, uh, uh, is severe enough. Uh, so, so generally that's kind of how this, uh, this entire thing, uh, rolls together is, you know, just various episodes of care and nothing really kind of linking one episode to another.

Speaker 2: 03:30 Uh, so the idea of what these, um, health healthcare hubs, as I understand them anyway, uh, you know, as a new idea, uh, but the, uh, the idea is that you will have a, a clinician or other caregiver, um, directly in contact with folks who, who need help and, um, you know, checking in with them maybe even daily, but, but quite regularly to make sure that medications are being taken and, and, uh, consultations are being gone to, you know, just to head off problems before they become severe enough to end up in an ER or, or heaven forbid, a jail cell.

Speaker 1: 04:07 And that's in addition to also providing some crisis stabilization areas and the kind of emergency response that we have now. Is that right?

Speaker 2: 04:16 That's right. I deal with what they say is they're really trying to shift, uh, from an emergency model to a kind of a chronic care model. You know, similar to what you would do for somebody with diabetes or another, uh, chronic disease like D where you know, you're checking in regularly, uh, and you're, you're kind of in a maintenance model instead of a crisis model.

Speaker 1: 04:36 Now, the first two hubs are planned for Hillcrest and Escondido are others planned?

Speaker 2: 04:43 Uh, they, they have said that the indefinitely intend to have one in South County and another one in East County. Uh, they haven't said where yet. Uh, so these first two, uh, you know, that because of the, uh, the Tri-City situation up in North County, uh, Escondido and Palomar health up there, that that has been given at something of a priority. Uh, you know, and then, uh, supervisor Nathan Fletcher's, uh, work with the third Avenue side and Hillcrest kind of elevated that one to, uh, to a first priority as well.

Speaker 1: 05:14 Now for County board of supervisors that has traditionally been very fiscally conservative, this is a pretty big commitment by the board in terms of cost. What is the price tag of this looking like?

Speaker 2: 05:25 I don't think anybody really has a firm answer to that, which is really quite striking. Uh, and they've said that these first two hubs would cost more than a hundred million dollars, uh, taken together. So that's, you know, quite a large investment, especially if you think that they also, uh, intend to build two more. Um, they've said that a lot of the more short term changes that they've proposed for chronic contracting and such, uh, we'll add something like $15 million per year to their operating costs starting, uh, not in this fiscal year, but in the next year 2020, 20, 21. Um, and, you know, the, the, uh, what they've said to me in interviews, uh, over the last six months or, or so is, you know, we think that we can be spending our money more effectively if we're spending less money paying for acute care in emergency departments, uh, and if we have less, uh, fewer people being jailed, uh, you know, we can afford to do more of this front end care where we're consulting with people, kind of what they call upstream, uh, from those, uh, chronic, uh, I mean, uh, acute situations.

Speaker 1: 06:32 And what's the timeline for getting these hubs up and running?

Speaker 2: 06:35 Uh, the, the initial timeline that they've given is five to seven years. So it's a, it's a ways out. Uh, yesterday at yesterday's, a supervisor's meeting, uh, several of the supervisors seemed a little, uh, taken aback by that timeline. Uh, I, I recall a supervisor, supervisor Fletcher saying, you know, is there any way we could sharpen that timeline and, uh, and accelerate it. Uh, so I think that's still kind of an open question. You know, this hub and, uh, and Hillcrest is, is to be a collaboration between the County, uh, UCS D and Scripps health. And they really haven't quite figured out yet. You know exactly how that would have worked. So I think the timeline would be a adjusted somewhat once they get something more from, in terms of a collaborative agreement.

Speaker 1: 07:19 Okay. I've been speaking with reporter appall citizen who covers healthcare for the San Diego union Tribune. Paul, thank you. No, my pleasure.

Speaker 3: 07:34 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The trial of Navy seal Eddie Gallagher accused of killing a wounded detainee ended in debacle for the Navy. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says the case is created an urgency to reform Naval and military justice

Speaker 2: 00:16 during the weeks long trial of seal Eddie Gallagher. This summer, the Navy's judge advocate general office took a beating, a very public one outside the courtroom. Perceived missteps were fodder for Gallagher's attorney Mark mukc.

Speaker 3: 00:29 I think today you saw what not to do if you want to have criminal investigation done with integrity. You saw sloppiness, you saw shadiness, you saw negligence

Speaker 2: 00:44 when the summer began. Six seals were set to go on trial for war crimes in San Diego. By the end of the summer, the Navy dismissed five of those cases. Gallagher, the most high profile among them was acquitted of the most serious charges. The lead prosecutor in the Gallagher trial was removed over allegations of spying on the defense. To top it all off, president Trump tweeted support for Gallagher both before and after the trial. Navy secretary Richard Spencer ordered a review of the Navy and Marine judge advocate programs. Looking at everything from how Jags are trained to how many people try cases. One key factor of military justice is it's a commander, not a prosecutor or judge who actually decides who goes to trial. That raises the potential for bias. As David [inaudible], a former army JAG officer who now teaches military law at st Mary's university,

Speaker 4: 01:36 unlawful command influence is the mortal enemy of military justice and it's difficult to root out because even the best intention commanders can unintentionally signal to subordinates that they're looking for a particular result.

Speaker 2: 01:49 President Trump was looking for a particular result when he tweeted about Eddie Gallagher that put the independence of military justice in question says Rachel van Landy, him a professor at Southwestern law school in LA. She's also a former JAG Lieutenant Colonel with the air force

Speaker 4: 02:05 tweeting publicly. I'm therefore sending signals down the ranks of his commanders of a, if you do something that's not very justice field, I don't like, I'm going to be publicly shaming you. I mean, that's really dangerous.

Speaker 2: 02:18 She says that part of the solution may be taking certain types of cases out of the Navy's hands. While the Gallagher war crimes trial was going on in San Diego a few miles away, federal prosecutors were six years into trying one of the largest scandals in Navy history. It's been quietly effective. A Malaysian contractor dubbed fat Leonard bribed high ranking Navy leaders would trips, dinners and prostitutes leading to a string of federal indictments. Congress is also debated whether to move cases involving sexual assault into federal court. Vanlandingham says using federal court may be the solution for certain types of cases like sexual assault. War crimes are different.

Speaker 1: 03:00 Most commanders realize if there, there's an individual in their unit hose, there's a credible allegation, double war crime against that. If they don't take appropriate action, there goes their entire mission.

Speaker 2: 03:11 Congress recently limited the role of commanders in military court law. Professor David schlieder says, the Navy has to restore confidence in JAG.

Speaker 4: 03:19 You have to avoid even the appearance of evil. So when I talked to young Jags, I talk with them about be sure that when they contribute to the military justice system that the world is watching and that they shouldn't cut corners. They shouldn't even think about taking actions which might later reflect poorly, not only on them, but on the system itself.

Speaker 2: 03:37 The results of the secretary of the Navy's review are expected later this year, Tuesday, the chief of Naval operations upheld Gallagher's conviction on his one remaining charge, reducing him in rank and handing out a four month sentence with time served.

Speaker 1: 03:52 Joining me is KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. Steve, welcome. Hi Maureen. The Gallagher case was a litany of errors and disasters for the prosecution. Can you run down some of the biggest gaps?

Speaker 2: 04:05 Oh, so there was medic, Corey Scott who said on the stand that it was he who actually killed him, not Gallagher. He said Gallagher stabbed him, but then walked away and then the medic closed off his breathing tube. And then there's Christopher chaplain, the lead prosecutor. He, uh, placed email trackers in emails that were sent to the defense. He had to be removed by the judge just before the trial. And then prosecutors after a Gallagher was acquitted of the most serious war crimes. Prosecutors were actually given an award which had to be rescinded when that became public

Speaker 1: 04:38 and the stakes could've been higher. I mean, as you say, Navy seal, Edward Gallagher was charged with the murder of a prisoner of war. And at first it seemed like the prosecution had an abundance of evidence against him and some of the other Navy seals were the Jags simply outlawyered.

Speaker 2: 04:56 Well, I, in a manner of speaking, they were, they had some very high profile, uh, legal help. They had the, uh, free Eddie Gallagher, which was a website set up to take donations. They were on Fox news. They had marked me, Casey, who has worked with the Trump organization before as well as Tim Parla. Tori, maybe they were out lawyer and maybe they were just overwhelmed by a very high profile case. And maybe they were a little overconfident. They had a photo keep in mind of Gallagher posing with his body, with a knife up to the, the deceased prisoner's throat. And the caption was got him with my hunting knife. So they may have been a little bit overconfident. And even though this whole review that's being ordered by the secretary of the Navy doesn't go into NCS, it seems like a lot of the issues revolved whether or not ensis you know, the, a Navy police really had enough in the way of investigative people on this case. The lead investigator was 34 years old. It really didn't seem like this team was big enough and experienced to handle this war crimes trial.

Speaker 1: 05:59 The Gallagher cases Mount the only trial that brought down criticism on the judge advocate or JAG Corps give us an idea of some of the other cases that did not go well.

Speaker 2: 06:09 Well, there was a keep in mind when the summer began, six seals were scheduled to go on trial for war crimes. Two of them related to, to the Gallagher case from 2017 up in Mozel. And, uh, but there was a separate case from 2012 in Afghanistan, uh, which looked at the treatment of detainees, um, at a fog in Afghanistan. Now, the New York times did a major article which brought this case to light. Uh, there had been some non judicial punishment back in 2012 the local Admiral though these guys were about to go to trial here again go to court marshaled, but the local Admiral in San Diego tossed out their cases within weeks after the Gallagher trial saying that the evidence had just degraded so far that they really didn't have enough evidence to try them at that point.

Speaker 1: 06:56 Why is the Gallagher trial in particular sparking this review of the Navy's justice system

Speaker 2: 07:01 and they admit that it is the Gallagher trial that really kind of touched this off. The Admiral, uh, Robert Burke, who is the vice Admiral of the Navy said recently out in Virginia that this wasn't the only reason for this review, but it was one of the reasons that it was touched off and it's just public embarrassment. You had these presidential tweets, he was tweeting about this before and after the case and the military often responds to embarrassment.

Speaker 1: 07:30 Is the Navy considering handing over some types of military justice cases to federal prosecutor?

Speaker 2: 07:35 Yeah. Well, like we said in the piece, that is one of the option. It's not so much that the military is considering that, but Congress is considering that, especially in the case of sexual assault commanders have a very poor record throughout the military in handling sexual assault cases. The experts we talked to said taking some of these cases, um, I out of military justice may, if nothing else lighten the load on the prosecutors that are in place right now

Speaker 1: 08:02 is perhaps this review in an effort to forestall something like that coming out of Congress. Yeah,

Speaker 2: 08:08 well there was a lot of talk that, um, that the Navy came up in. The military in general came up with the new rules for that went into effect this year to STEM Congress from going even farther into taking commanders out of the process. That's something that even my expert said that they, they would not like to see, especially in the case of something like war crimes, which is essentially it's a, a military, uh, charge.

Speaker 1: 08:33 Now back to Edward Gallagher, remind us of the lesser offense he was convicted of. And what was the sentence?

Speaker 2: 08:39 So he was not convicted of all the most serious crimes, but he was convicted of this one case, which was posing with a corpse on a battlefield, which is a war crime, but it only carries a four month sentence. And the Navy, uh, the Navy court convicted him, uh, gave him that maximum sentence and they also, uh, busted him down in rank one. So he was a chief petty officer. They busted him down one in rank and essentially the CFO, the head of the Navy ruled yesterday that they would uphold them military judges sentence.

Speaker 1: 09:11 So he requested Clemon say, that's what we heard in your feature. But, uh, and you're telling me that that was denied?

Speaker 2: 09:18 Indeed. So yes, he ruled yesterday that, uh, they would uphold the sentence of the military jury and it was an issue in that case, just according to military law, if you have a sentence that carries a significant amount of jail time and four months is enough that he should have been busted all the way down to the lowest rank. And by upholding the sentence of this jury in San Diego, he basically, he's allowed to retire at one rank lower than chief petty officer.

Speaker 1: 09:46 I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh. Steve, thanks a lot. Thanks, Maureen.

Speaker 5: 09:53 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's an anniversary hidden brain, NPR, science and storytelling podcast about how and why we think the way we do is celebrating four years as a podcast and two years as a radio show host. Shankar Vedantam is celebrating by talking to public radio stations across the country about what he's looking forward to exploring in the next years. Shankar Vedantam, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. Morning. Now the name of your show, hidden brain comes from the bestselling book that you wrote about 10 years ago. Is that unconscious part of our brains just as hidden now as it was then?

Speaker 2: 00:39 That's a good question and in many ways the hidden brain refers to a whole range of mental activities that lie outside of conscious awareness and, and some of those activities we can become conscious off with with effort, but there are many parts of our minds that are simply outside the realm of introspection. So certainly in terms of whether we can become more conscious of our hidden brains, there are certainly elements of our minds that we can become more mindful about, if you will. But there are also many parts of our minds that are sealed off from us permanently.

Speaker 1: 01:08 And why is that?

Speaker 2: 01:11 Well, when you think about what your brain does and think about it from an evolutionary perspective, your brain is really been designed to help you function and adapt to the world around you. And it turns out that in order to do this, there are multiple things that you should be paying attention to, but there are lots of things that you also don't need to be paying attention to. And what the brain has is basically, you know, essentially does and has evolved to be this way, is it tries to present to you the things that you should actually be worried about or you should care about while outsourcing everything that you don't have to care about, to essentially the hidden brain. Um, you know, so a simple example would be if I asked you to tell me your name, you would say your name was Maureen.

Speaker 2: 01:49 And really what you're aware of is that I've asked you the question and you've given me the answer, but we know that in order for you to have heard my question and for you to give me the answer, a number of things need to have happened. Uh, your eardrums need to have picked up the, the sound waves and the sound waves now had to be converted into electrical signals that are sent to the brain, which then decodes them into words and puts them together into sentences. And then you extract the meaning from that sentence and you understand this as a question and then you go to our memory areas of your brain and retrieve the answer. And then the motor cortex of your brain tells your mouth to form the words, my name is Maureen and you're giving me the answer. Now, all of those things have to have happen for you to answer the question, but of course all of them are sealed off from introspection. You have no idea how your brain did all those things and no amount of thinking is going to show you how I did it.

Speaker 1: 02:38 I see. Well from the wide range of subjects that you cover on your show, I have to imagine that there is a great deal of research going on into how the brain works. Can you tell us about something that you're especially interested in when it comes to brain research?

Speaker 2: 02:55 Uh, there are a number of different areas that I think are really fascinating that are on the horizon. Uh, one of the biggest areas that has a lot of implications for our lives is the role that algorithms are playing in many of our lives. So when you think about many aspects of our lives today, uh, the people making the decisions or the, uh, are not actually human beings. Uh, many times decisions are being made for us by machines that in some ways are or at least claim to be superior to human beings in terms of how well they're able to make decisions. So when you go to a doctor's office for example, and you get a scan taken, there are some, um, uh, diagnoses which are actually better made by algorithms than by human beings. Uh, anyway, this, this, this, the, the role of algorithms is only going to increase as there are many, many more areas in which machines outperform humans and machine judgment turns out to be superior to human judgment.

Speaker 2: 03:46 But there's also comes with a whole host of problems because now you have systems that essentially are nonhuman, that are making very important decisions for us and they raise really important philosophical and ethical questions. Um, let's say for example, I have an algorithm that's able to predict whether you're someone who is likely to reoffend if you're released from prison and the algorithm is actually superior to predicting your risk of reoffending compared to a human being. How would we feel if an algorithm said, you know, person a should be given parole, person B should not be given parole. How would we feel about that? There's something about that that feels off to us that a machine is basically telling us one person can go free and one person can, even when the machine is actually able to make better decisions than human beings, there are elements of those decisions that feel really problematic and really achy.

Speaker 2: 04:35 At a moral level and one of the things that we are following is this intersection of this new world of algorithms and big data and how it intersects with our intuitions, our moral, our moral emotions. You know Sean, cause sometimes science reporters get in trouble with scientists because reporters want to make things accessible and interesting and sometimes things are not accessible. Their research is not terribly interesting. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? You know, I have to say that hidden brain has afforded me a great luxury, which is that it's, it has two, it has two advantages that have actually prevented this from happening. I think most of the time the four, the first is, you know, we, we have the length and the time to explore issues in depth. I think one of the reasons I think a lot of reporters sometimes or a lot a lot of scientists feel that journalists over simplify what they're saying is because the journalists have very, very compressed windows in which to communicate complex ideas.

Speaker 2: 05:36 And when you have two minutes to explain a very complex idea, you end up simplifying it to the point where you might not be doing justice to the idea itself. Um, the other big advantage that we have I think and has prevented this from happening, prevented sort of this oversimplification from happening is that the audience for hidden brain in many ways as a self-selected audience. I mean this is especially for the podcast of course, but it's also true for the radio show, which is you're likely to tune into hidden brain if you're interested in the subjects that hidden brain, uh, talks about. And we are not a general interest program or a program that's focused primarily on people who are interested in questions related to human behavior. And again, what this means is that the audience has the patience to listen to ideas that are explored and explained at length. I've been speaking with Shankar Vedantam, host of the podcast and the NPR radio show, hidden brain. You can hear his radio show Saturdays at three Sundays at one right here on KPBS FM Shankar, thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Young people are often leading the way in forcing the national conversation on action to combat climate change. The sunrise movement and widely publicized September marches and over 200 cities worldwide were led by high school students and college students. But what about the very young toddlers in grammar school? Kids, they have the most to lose in a rapidly warming world, yet have no voice in the debate as part of coverage from the KPBS climate change desk, David Ingle and Linda Pratt of the group stay cool for grandkids. Spoke to Mark Sauer, host of the KPBS round table. Here's that interview,

Speaker 2: 00:38 David, you started stay cool for grandkids with your wife. Peg in 2013 what was the inspiration for starting the group? Oh, we had our first grandchild. It was born a file. It as she's now seven. And we were thinking about what her future was going to be like under the scenarios that we were aware of that, uh, are going to be happening or could, could happen. And then we wanted to preserve the best possible future climate future for her. So a, what would you say is your organization's mission statement?

Speaker 3: 01:10 Well, our mission is to educate and inform and engage people of our age group, whether or not they are grandparents or not, and to get them to be informed advocates for really strong climate policy because we know it's not just our generation, but it's generations to follow that are going to be suffering the most from climate change. Right. And it's an urgency for our group, middle aged and older folks, but far more reality in terms of the worst to come as we see over and over again in the science and in the studies that are done constantly on this. How do you go about getting people urgent about the future who may not be there then but their kids and grandkids will? Well, we try to put a face to the future. 2050 is the time when people continue to talk about some of the most horrific climate change impacts. While in 2050 my grandkids are going to be in their twenties and thirties and I can't let a day go by where I don't try to do something to try to make some reasonable changes in policies and actions that people are taking now. And can you give us an overview of the types of programs that the your organization puts on?

Speaker 2: 02:29 Where we started was offering programs, educational programs for grandparents and other adults and we utilized our local resource that Scripps institution of oceanography who has a lot of really world renowned scientists and we invited some of them. Charlie Cannell, the former director was one of our first speaker. Uh, Richard Somerville was one of our first speakers. Both of those guys are really well known around the world and uh, you know, most we had rom Hermano [inaudible] as a, as a speaker. We actually honored rom for all that he's done for, for grandkids and gave him like the grandkids climate hero award. Uh, so that's, that's one of the things that we do. The other, the other really important thing that we do is education for, for children climate education. And specifically or should climate education. And we've partnered again with Scripps institution of oceanography. We uh, utilize some of their grad students and we put on a two hour lecture course on ocean warming and ocean acidification I complete with, with uh, demonstrations and experiments that they do in class and it's become very popular with the teachers.

Speaker 2: 03:46 Well, I'm glad you brought that up. I have three granddaughters, ages five and younger myself and talking to them about climate change seems kind of out of the question because it's so scary in terms of, of what really is some of the dire of predictions that scientists are making. But, but you're saying you can speak to young kids about conservation and about knowledge of, of the oceans and the earth. Absolutely. You know, I've heard that theory that it's too scary for kids. We talked to sixth graders and believe me, they're plenty ready for, for hearing about this. We also emphasize the scientific part of it, so they will understand that, you know, CO2 is, is a gas and it's a heat trapping gas. And we explain how it also causes acidification of the oceans. So a good foundation of knowledge, very good, very, very strong scientific foundation so that they can understand what they're reading in the papers and actually hopefully teach their parents. All right. And Linda, you've had a career in environmental protection, large role in creating the city of San Diego climate action plan, which is a very aggressive one among American cities. I wanted to ask you, who makes up your organization? Who's joined so far?

Speaker 3: 04:56 Wow. We have such an amazing group of people. So just on our advisory council we have the amazing David angle and peg angle, you know, who understand science very well. We have, um, the previous planning director from SANDAG. Uh, we have myself who has been very active, you know, in environmental policy. We have a number of people who are in the education field who are now just wanting to continue to give back. I have to tell you, it is my favorite volunteer organization. When I retired I had to decide what I wanted to invest my time in and I am passionate about this organization because of the high caliber of folks who are, who participate.

Speaker 2: 05:40 And, uh, Linda, when you hold discussions and events in the community, what are they like? What sort of feedback and enthusiasm do you get from people?

Speaker 3: 05:47 Well, we do a couple of things. Let me tell you about a couple of our recent field trips. One of them was to dr Jeff Severin house's climate ice lab at Scripps institution of oceanography where we got to see a real ice core and got to see how they measured co two emissions, um, through history as it were. Absolutely. And that was fascinating and we have taken a behind the scenes tour of the airport, San Diego airport and all the sustainability measures that place there, which was also enlightening and inspiring because you know, as you said, this is scary to think about things moving forward and our grandkids suffering all of the major consequences. But when we see all the good work that a number of organizations are doing, I am more hopeful. Our recent lecture was from dr Randerson from UC Irvine and he talked about wildfires and why Santa Ana's are so much more powerful now than they used to be. So those kinds of things really inform our members and all of them, you know, seem to really get a lot out of it. And we, and we enjoy that. We also do, you know, hikes in parks with grandkids, the King tide. We did a field trip where we had grandkids come with us, you know, to look at the King tide and understand what causes that. So lots of great things going on.

Speaker 2: 07:10 And David, uh, Linda touched on a point there where it's easy to get discouraged if you read so much of the studies and what the projections are, especially if you look at the more dire ends of things. How do you keep your, your own hope and enthusiasm up because you don't want to discourage kids and grandkids. They're the ones who have to take this a battle into the future. Uh, that's a difficult question. Truthfully, I don't always keep my spirits up. I do get depressed about it then. I think that's probably a realistic way to deal with it. But I do take heart and the fact that if we really do put our minds to it, there are solutions. And we can, we probably can't prevent what's going to happen, but maybe the worst of it, maybe the worst we can, we can lessen the worst of it. And that's what we really are focused on. I've been speaking with David angle and Linda Pratt of the organization. Stay cool for grandkids. Thanks very much. Thank you so much. Thank you, Mark.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.