Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

San Diego battery industry gets federal boost

 January 17, 2023 at 3:16 PM PST

S1: The EV battery innovation happening in San Diego.

S2: These particular grants to these two San Diego companies come out of a $42 million package from the Department of Energy.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. A different kind of farming in Imperial County could repower the West.

S3: Whether the Imperial Valley can use less water is really critical to tens of millions of people all across the West.

S1: And tips on how to stick to those New Year health resolutions. Plus , a conversation with local author Marissa Crain about her new sci fi book. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Two San Diego based companies were recently awarded federal grants for their efforts to improve electric vehicle batteries. The money is part of a federal effort to boost innovation and manufacturing for EV batteries in the U.S.. Here to tell us more about it is Erik Anderson , KPBS environment reporter. Erik , welcome back to Midday Edition.

S2: Thank you , Jade.

S1: So the first of the two companies you reported on is South Technologies , who are taking a different approach , an EV battery production. Isn't that.

S2: Right ? Yeah , that's right. These researchers met at UC San Diego a number of years ago while they were researching battery technology. And what they decided to do is kind of take a different approach. Existing lithium ion batteries have liquid in between the two parts that transmit the electricity. It's kind of like the freeway for the electrons to move back and forth. It allows the battery to accept a charge and to release a charge. Well , they thought , well , instead of using a liquid which has issues with flammability , maybe what we can do is take a gas , put it under pressure until it becomes a liquid , and then use that pressurized gas to do that. And what they found was when they did that , it made their batteries a little bit better , quite a bit better , in fact , at operating in colder temperatures , which is a barrier that normal batteries still have to deal with. And it held a little bit more energy than the existing lithium ion batteries. And so they said , well , what are the applications here ? Maybe we can use this for batteries that they use in electric automobiles. And that's kind of what they're developing right now. And they're actually relatively close to market on this particular battery.

S1: Very interesting. And the second company you featured is Thai Fast.

S2: Fast is a company that's also working on different technology on the innards of the battery. Right. They're looking at ways that they can make batteries more efficient on ways that they can make batteries that store more energy and make batteries that work better in that EV marketplace.

S1: And this is all part of a sizable federal investment to build up EV battery production in the U.S..

S2: Right now. We have to go outside of the country for many of the batteries that are in EVs. The U.S. said , hey , as part of this inflation reduction Act spending , what we're going to do is create incentives that allow that battery technology to be built and put together here in the United States. It'll create jobs. It'll create a quicker path to EV batteries , and it'll build up the electric vehicle battery industry right here in the United States. These particular grants to these two San Diego companies come out of a $42 million package from the Department of Energy. It's called EVs for all. They're basically backing all different kinds of technology that is all designed to make EVs better , go further , store more energy , more durable , all things that will improve the technology that goes into electric cars and at the same time bring the price down.

S1: And let's talk about that more. I mean , it seems like there's a lot of different visions for EV battery technology at the moment.

S2: There's probably a group somewhere in the country that is working on it. There are a lot of different approaches to the same problem , but at the same time , we have a technology that's actually in the field and working in a lot of these new approaches are looking to kind of build on what's capable today.

S1: And here's what South Eight's Cyrus Rostam had to say on that.

S4: There are a lot of groups out there pushing for so-called solid.

S2: State batteries , which , as the name.

S4: Implies , it's a solid material which converts lithium ions , but that has many more years to go in terms of development.

S2: Yeah , solid state developments are kind of the holy grail of the electric vehicle batteries because they're just so much better than the existing technology that can hold two and a half times more energy , which means you can make batteries that are much lighter than the existing batteries. They don't have the fire risk. They can be recharged 4 to 6 times more than regular batteries , which really extends the life of the battery. And it doesn't contain any volatile elements. So but what what Cyrus is saying here is , is that that technology is not quite ready for prime time. And the technology that they're developing where they have this gas under pressure turned into a liquid and using that as the conductor inside the battery , that technology is almost ready to go. In fact , he says that. He thinks within six months it's going to be in some military applications and within a year it could show up in commercial applications like electric vehicles.

S1: You know , in another recent story you did , you told us about how a German company is linking residential solar batteries to better manage the local power grid. Do these investments and innovation , does that at all impact this effort to.

S2: No , not really. In fact , what this German company is doing is using lithium ion batteries , just like some of the existing band battery manufacturers like Tesla or LG Chem. It's using the same battery technology. What's unique about their approach is , is that they're not selling extra power to the local utility. Existing batteries by Tesla and LG Chem , you know , any power they send back to the grid goes to the utility first and then it makes its way through to the power grid. This particular German company is dealing directly with the California independent system operator. So the people who manage California's electricity grid hope at some point that there are enough of these batteries in play that they can have a significant impact on , say , flex alert day when they need more power. They may be able to draw this power directly from these batteries that are linked together via software and modems and help create a supply for the local power grid and avoid any kind of a shut off in that effect. But that technology , it's really a small number of batteries right now. It really needs a lot more customers to become viable and an effective tool.

S1: And you know , lastly , while California is looking to move to all electric vehicles starting in 2035 , some Wyoming state lawmakers are taking the opposite approach by proposing a ban on electric vehicles starting in that same year. Whether or not this goes anywhere , it does signal a deep resistance towards EVs in some parts of the country.

S2: You know , just briefly about the Wyoming measure. That's largely driven by the fact that Wyoming has a very large fossil fuel industry footprint in that state. And that's really what they're protesting about by using this EV ban. You know , can they ban the sale of EVs and in Wyoming ? Well , maybe they can. Maybe they can't. Something tells me that the marketplace will have something to say about that. If there's customer demand for for EV products , there's going to be a way to get them to Wyoming. As to whether or not we need Wyoming to be an EV state in order for us to reach our energy goals. I think it helps when more than just California are trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions , to reduce carbon emissions. It doesn't stop anything that California is going to do , and in fact , it's probably the other way around. The things that California is doing , including banning the sale of internal combustion engine cars in 2035 is probably something that's going to reach out to other states. It's going to work the other way. We're going to be the leaders on that.

S1: All right. I've been speaking with KPBS environment reporter Erik Anderson. Erik , thanks for being here.

S2: My pleasure , Jake.

S1: As a drier climate makes traditional farming in California more difficult. The remaining dry plots of land in places like neighboring Imperial County are often used for a different kind of farming generating solar power. While this shift can end up providing San Diego with valuable energy , it's also stoking fears over the future of agriculture and one of the state's major bread baskets. L.A. Times reporter Sammy Roth explains this and more in his ongoing series Repowering the West , and he joins us now. Sammy , welcome to the program.

S3: Hey , David , Happy to be here.

S1: So , Sammy , your latest article starts in the Imperial Valley , where hotter temperatures and drier conditions are changing the face of the region's agricultural sector.

S3: The Imperial Valley is by far the largest user of Colorado River water in the western United States. They use more water from the Colorado than the rest of California combined. They use that as much as the entire state of Arizona. And as you may have heard , this is a river that is getting drier with climate change and is still in severe drought. So whether the Imperial Valley can use less water is really critical to tens of millions of people all across the West. At the same time , they use their water to grow a lot of the food that we eat. Winter vegetables in particular , the bulk of winter vegetables in the United States come from the Imperial Valley and from the neighboring part of it , Yuma , Arizona. So it's it's this fine , you know , water , food balance , and then you throw energy on top of it. It's a lot of land out there. It's flat. It's very , very sunny. They have a huge potential to generate clean energy and help us deal with climate change and get off of fossil fuels , which would also save water , by the way. But then what happens to the agriculture ? That's the question.

S1: All right.

S3: And there's already a lot of solar that's been built there , and it's exporting clean electricity to San Diego , to the Los Angeles region , to other parts of the state. There's really a big potential for for a lot more there. But there's all of this pushback from some farming landowners in the region who think solar power is changing imperial into into something that it shouldn't be.

S1: And this transition from dried up farming land to solar farms is generating controversy within Imperial Valley.

S3: They see it as a threat to their way of life , to their their livelihoods , their lifestyle , and to the jobs that farming generates. There's you know , farm working is one of the main forms of employment in Imperial County. They're also worried about their water getting taken away. I mean , they use so much of the Colorado River water and they're extremely protective of it. They're suspicious that big cities are coming for more. So some of them see solar panel as a way to know solar power , as a way to dry up more farmland so that cities can take their water. You know , whether that's really the case is up for debate , but that's how it's viewed there.


S3: I mean , this is a farming economy and it's in the desert. It's extremely dry. They don't have very much natural water at all. And and the way this place got built out into such a productive farming region is by bringing in water from the Colorado River. And like I said , they use a ton of it. They use about 2.6 million acre feet every year. And as the West has gotten drier with climate change since the last 20 , 25 years , there's just been more and more efforts by cities outside of imperial cities like Los Angeles and San Diego and Phoenix to pressure them to use less water so that there's more for the cities. So , you know , anything in Imperial that that might result in them not having as much water there they're skeptical of and that includes solar power.

S1: And , you know , there are also some major political implications to this dynamic as well.

S3: Lake Mead and Lake Powell , the biggest reservoirs in the west are really perilously low levels. And the Biden administration is putting all sorts of pressure on California and the other Colorado River states to use dramatically less to make sure that those reservoirs basically are still usable. That deadline is coming up on January 31st when they've they've told the states , you need to figure this out. And imperial is really at the heart of that because like I said , they use the most water. So these questions about what is the future of farming , how to solar power play into that ? How much water can this region really continue to use ? These are critical questions , Like I said , for tens of millions of people across the western United States.

S1: You spoke to a lot of farmers and residents during your reporting. What are people saying on.

S3: It's a way to sort of hedge against the water problems and against what , you know , farming maybe being diminished in the future. It's a way to make additional kinds of income. And then there are others , you know , people who farm fields that are right alongside these solar projects who are doing everything they can politically to block new solar development. I heard conflicting opinions among the farm workers I talked with to some of them said , yeah , this is this is coming for our jobs , that there's going to be less farm work with all of this solar. And others said , I know people who have made the switch to building solar farms because it pays more. And I've thought about doing that myself. So it's there's there's divided opinion for sure.


S3: You see it all over the Central Valley in California , you see it in Colorado , you see it in Arizona and other states where there's just not as much water to farm as there used to be. And you've got solar developers coming in and saying , Hey , we've got another solution for you economically , and this is good for solving climate change. And you've got some farmers who are embracing that and others who think it's an invasion of their their communities. So this is definitely not unique to Imperial , but it's sort of a primary example of it just because of the huge amounts of water they use.


S3: And just the reason for that is Imperial Valley has relatively small electric use compared to the rest of the state. I mean , instead of 180,000 people in Imperial County , which isn't nothing , but it's when you compare to 10 million and L.A. County and , you know , close to 40 million across the state , the vast majority of this power is going elsewhere.


S3: I mean , they they grow everything. They're vegetable wine , not everything. They grow tomatoes , they grow alfalfa , they grow cauliflower , onions , wheat. Know a lot of a lot of cattle feed different types of grasses. Brussels sprouts. If you eat it in the winter , there's a pretty good chance it came from Imperial or free from Yuma , Arizona , right next door. That's that's not to say that if we stopped farming or farmed less than imperial , that all of those things would go away. Some of the production would probably shift elsewhere. But if you asked the farmers locally about it , they'll tell you that's going to make it more expensive. It'll have to be shipped further. And also the climate there is just so good for growing. I mean , it's warm all year. They don't have the water , but they've figured out where to get the water. There's a reason this place has become such an agricultural mecca. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S3: There's there's already 17,500 acres there that have been converted to solar , roughly. That's , you know , not even 4% of the close to half a million acres they've got. But it's not nothing. I think realistically , yeah , there could be more conversion to solar and probably most people aren't going to notice , you know , really significant changes at the grocery store. But the people in Imperial are going to notice it for sure because it's going to affect their their way of life.


S3: I mean , like I said , you've got farm workers who are very nervous about work getting taken away. You've got others who are enticed by the idea of building solar projects because it pays more. One thing to keep in mind that a lot of people pointed out to me is that the jobs are relatively permanent compared to the solar jobs. I mean , there are swings in agricultural economies that affect how much labor is needed. But but most of the solar jobs are construction jobs , which , you know , you build a solar project and then the job goes away. There's a lot of solar construction that's needed not just in California , but across the country. And , you know , huge financial incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed last year. So there's there's not going to be a shortage of solar work anytime soon. But , you know , this is kind of , you know , project to project , job to job. And it's not certain what's going to happen to you when the when the project gets finished.


S3: I think that's true across the clean energy spectrum. I mean , we need solutions to climate change , right ? I mean , it's getting so hard. Heat waves are getting worse. Drought is getting worse. The swings between drought and the intense storms like we've seen in the last few weeks are getting worse. Sea level rise , wildfires , etc.. But I think it's important and this is what repowering the West. The series has been about. It's important for us to understand that as badly as we need these clean energy solutions , they do almost always create winners and losers , whether that's agricultural jobs being lost or ecosystem damage from large solar projects or wind turbines or views of beautiful scenic views out in the open. Diminished by power lines crossing the landscape. There's nothing without cost here. We need to figure out how to share that sacrifice and share that cost. But it's not going to be a win win win for everybody all the time.

S1: I've been speaking with L.A. Times reporter Sammy Roth. Sammy , thank you so much for talking with us today.

S3: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

S1: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. Some of the most popular New Year's resolutions are ones about getting in shape , whether it's eating healthier or joining a gym. KPBS health reporter Mat Hoffman takes a look at how some are getting it done in talks with fitness instructors about how goals can help people stick to their resolutions.

S2: Inside the fitness center at San Diego , Oasis , people are getting their dance and exercise on one. This group class is called cardio drumming. It involves drumsticks and large inflated exercise balls. Fitness instructor Andrea Valencia leads the class.

S5: It's definitely a good cardio workout.

S2: Oasis recently held their annual fitness palooza. It's where seniors are able to try a variety of group exercise classes and plan ahead for any New Year's resolutions.

S5: I think it's always a good time to reset your goals for the year and get going as far as you know. Maybe we eat too much over the holidays this fall.

S2: While some people will drop off after the beginning of the year , but Valencia says cardio drumming is typically fully booked. She says when it comes to New Year's resolutions to get fit , choose something that's going to be fun to wrap it up.

S5: If it feels like it's a chore , if it feels like , Oh , you know , you're really struggling to get out and do something , just pick something easy and you know , something that you can keep moving.

S2: You've got to walk it back. Lisa Garvey from Santee came to check out all the different classes , which included Soul Line dancing and Zumba gold. She's here on a New Year's resolution to improve her health.

S5: My husband passed away last year , and so I had been a caregiver for many years to take care of him. And so now it's my I thought I have to take care of myself now.

S2: Garvey says she's tried gyms before , but they weren't for her.

S5: And it wasn't an environment that I really thought was that much fun for me. I kind of liked the camaraderie of the class because people are very supportive here. You know , if you've never done it before , somebody else think it's okay , it'll be great. Don't worry. Just watch everybody. And I kind of like that. That.

S2: It's that sense of community. That fitness instructor and personal trainer Russell Rowe says is key for long term results. He also says it shouldn't feel like a chore. If you can make it enjoyable , like bring music with you , talk to friends.

S3: Go in a.

S2: Nice hike where the scenery is beautiful , those kinds of things. Rowe says pairing a New Year's resolution with a long term goal helps people stay motivated. He also says people shouldn't be expecting results overnight. As a personal trainer , you try and get people not to focus on the weight so much as the behavioral changes that will.

S3: Bring the weight off gradually. Naturally.

S2: Naturally. So you're talking you're looking at more lifestyle changes.

S5: January is definitely the busiest time of the year for us. We typically start the year with an incentive , a promotion.

S2: Terry Moss is senior director of the Y experience at the San Diego YMCA. They do more than fitness , but there are 14 locations across the county. All have gyms and pools , and less than two weeks into the new year. They've had 2600 new members sign up.

S5: I think it's just a year of hope. People are hopeful for new things this year at 2023 , maybe habits they haven't had a chance to get to do in a couple of years.

S2: Moss says over the next nine months , they expect about half of those new members to drop off. They ran a promotion in January and are holding a challenge next month to help people stick with their fitness goals. At the Y , it's also about building that sense of community.

S5: We want to build a relationship with you , so you want to stay. We want to help you find a connection with your group exercise instructor or your swim instructor. Other people in the class. So the reason you stay isn't because you have to. It's because you want to.

S2: Have a better. Fitness instructor say people.

S1: Don't need to be part of.

S2: A class or a gym to start getting fit. Changing your diet and taking small steps like going on a regular walk or a hike can also help. Matt Hoffman , KPBS News.

S1: The Chula Vista Elementary School District is moving ahead with plans to convert two of its campuses to community schools. The California Department of Education has awarded the district a half a million dollar grant to add additional services at Harborside and Palomar Elementary School starting next August. That includes academic tutoring , more sports programs , a regular onsite pediatrician , along with cooking and parenting classes. KPBS education reporter MJ Perez spoke with Lisa Forehand , senior director of Student , Family , Community and Instruction for the District , about what this change means for the community.


S3: To address the systematic barriers that limit opportunities for families. Community schools are hallmarked by four pillars , according to California Department of Education. One pillar is expanding learning time and opportunities. A second pillar is that collaborative leadership and practice. A third pillar is integrated student supports. And the fourth pillar is active family and community engagement.


S3: For example , reaching out to vision clinics to come do on site vision testing , reaching out to , you know , beauty colleges to come and provide , you know , haircuts for students. So I'm sure organizations for shoes. So schools have been doing this in isolation with very limited resources on their own. And what this does is this provides two things. It provides a real district focus. We have a district steering committee. This is what a community school is. This is how we're going to support you. And it really allows us to have a district really schools coordinator that helps facilitate that at the schools. There will be expanded learning opportunities as far as , you know , bringing sports , bringing music lessons , bringing cooking classes for students , and then for parents as well. Parents are requesting help with English classes , also help with cooking classes , some parenting classes. So they will mark that first pillar of expanded learning time and opportunities. And then the collaborative leadership practices. And that's really a big one. It's no longer okay. We have the principal and the teachers making some decisions. It's we have the community partners involved making decisions. We have the student voice that we're hearing. We have the , you know , the parents as well. So all of these pieces working together to really think about what each school needs. And so and the other pillars as well , the integrated student supports. So how are we bringing together , you know , medical , dental , vision , mental health services for students , and as well as keeping that active family and community engagement component. So it is different because it's no longer piecemealing different community organizations , wraparound services. It's really weaving all these four pillars into making the school come to life.

S2: Lisa Funding is critical in education.

S3: The California Department of Education released billions of dollars for community schools. And so there are two grants. We are in the Phase one grant right now. There is a planning grant for a $200,000 planning grant to start the implementation of community schools. And coming out soon for next school year will be the implementation grant and the implementation grants , our $500,000 implementation grants. This is where some key differences are actually based elementary school district. We don't want to just label something a community school and call it a day. Know there's no cookie cutter and blueprint for the school sites because they are so individualized. So with these grants , whether it's a implementation grant or a planning grant , it helps us to provide some of those resources , especially for community schools coordinator. That's a requirement of the grant. And a site community schools coordinator to put these powers into action.


S3: You have to have 70% or above of and duplicated students and duplicated being English language learners or foster youth or students disabilities or students that are socioeconomically disadvantaged. And the first school we chose was Harborside Elementary. And I have to say that I'm a little biased there because I was the principal there for a while. Harborside is an incredible community with a lot of need. They have the highest number of students learning a second language or a third language. We have a high population of students. I'm experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. The second school we chose was Palomar Elementary. Palomar is a smaller school in Sheila Vista Elementary School District , but really had so much parent involvement and parent voice. And , you know , the tours were led by the students. They had so much to say about what they wanted to see for their school and for their community. They were definitely are ready to move forward in this work as well.

S2: One last question about your students.

S3: There's opportunity gaps for our lower income families and there are barriers that are there. And the community schools will allow us to close that opportunity gap and to remove those barriers so they can truly have access to discover their passions and discover their talents. To me , that's the most important coming from , you know , a child of poverty myself. I definitely. Know the reality all too well of how hard you have to fight sometimes to make your way and to move forward. And so if we can remove some of that fight and some of those barriers to move us. That's the amazing part of why I do what I do.

S2: Lisa , thank you.

S3: Thank you so much.

S1: That was Lisa Forehand , senior director of Student , Family , Community and instruction for the Chula Vista Elementary School District. Speaking with KPBS , education reporter M.G. Perez. And now we have an excerpt from the California Report magazine. This week , the show focused on a 2006 murder in Mendocino County. Journalist Sam Anderson was surprised to hear a high school friend from New Jersey was accused of the murder in connection with an illegal marijuana operation. The California Report magazine host Sasha KHOKHA spoke with Anderson about his wild experiences reporting on what really happened for his podcast , Crooked City , The Emerald Triangle. Here's their conversation.

S5: So you basically decide you're just going to get in your car and come out here to California and you get to Mendocino County and you're kind of an outsider.

S4: Yeah , and I had a lot of trepidations about that because I knew going into it that this was going to be a difficult story to report because most of the subjects or potential subjects would be outlaws , right ? These are folks engaged in illegal drug dealing. And now marijuana is legal in California. We don't think of it that way. Right. But back then , you know , these were still folks who were very closely guarded about what their activities were and were not friendly to outsiders. I had talked to a couple people who had experience out there and they were like , Don't tell anyone you're a journalist. Good luck with that man. You ever been.

S2: To the bar in Plainville ? No.

S6: You'll get chased. Yeah. It's no joke out there.

S4: And I was like , Oh , God , what am I supposed to do ? Plus , being a podcaster , you know , I'm walking around with this big microphone , right ? And one of the first places I wanted to go was this local bar called Wheels Cafe. I knew that Jeff Sattler , the victim of this homicide , hung out there a lot , and I thought it would be a great place to start. I step out of the car and pray that my jersey plates are invisible. Out on the porch are a number of characters who definitely look like they've spent a lot of time in the woods. As I draw closer , they turn their gaze to meet me. There's one guy with messy blond dreadlocks rolling a huge joint. Another man is drinking a beer while fingering the hilt of a very long and dangerous looking knife hanging from his belt. I've been. I step into the bar , suddenly feeling very self-conscious about my buzzcut and my jeans that are a little too tight and definitely too clean for this place. As the bartender pours me a beer , I spot another guy lingering in the corner on his own , staring off into space. He's tall and lanky , wearing a bright yellow tie dye shirt. Out of everyone , he seems the least threatening. So I walk over and ask him , How's your day going ? He looks up at me with glassy blue eyes as if awakening from a dream. I'm okay , he says. I was just at the cemetery , paying my respects to an old friend who was killed in this town. I ask him , Who's your friend ? He responds. Jeffrey Settler. Wow.

S5: Wow. You got lucky right away when you walked into that bar.

S4: Yeah , I really , really did. The very first person I met in late Annville was friends with the guy who was murdered. You know , I kind of was like , wow , maybe this town really is just incredibly tiny.

S1: You can hear more about what Sam Anderson found in late Anvil in this week's California Report magazine. Find it on your favorite podcast app. You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Marissa Crain is a San Diego writer who has had their short stories published extensively. And today ? Their first novel comes out. It's set in a dystopian future America that includes surveillance , public shaming and the marking of criminals. It's called I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself. Book Riot named it one of their top indie queer book picks of the season. Marissa , congratulations and welcome to the Midday edition.

S3: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.

S1: Can you introduce us to the world you've created ? And I keep my exoskeletons to myself.

S3: Yeah , for sure. In lieu of prisons , the Department of Balance , which is the government in this book , has decided to assign wrongdoers or , you know , quote , criminals with an extra shadow as punishment. And that extra shadow actually serves a few purposes. First of all , it's supposed to basically shame the person who did the wrong thing. It kind of follows them around forever. They can't ever forget about their crime. So it's really hard to heal and grow and move on and whatnot when this sort of actual literal shadow is falling around reminding you of what you've done. And then otherwise it also is this mark or warning for other people , you know , in society , if they see somebody who has an extra shadow on their called a shade star in this world , they might think , oh , you know , you know , I'm not too sure about them or I don't know what they've done. So maybe I'll try to stay away. And then on top of that , when somebody is given an extra shadow , they are denied certain civil rights and the sense of they have less access to nutritious food and health care and housing and other types of resources.

S1: So a future scarlet letter is what we're talking about. Yeah.

S3: Yeah. Yeah. I'm glad you picked up on that. I you know , I haven't read that book since I was a kid , like in school. But clearly something about it really resonated with me. I think in the long term , just in the sense of , you know , how shame Hester Prynne felt and being marked with this. This a I think it was just so vivid for me. And I really like understood , I guess like what that isolation must have felt like for her. And yeah. So people always ask if , you know , my dystopian influences , but like , actually I feel like Scarlet Letter is one of the major influences , oddly enough.

S1: Our narrator , Chris , is publicly marked with two shadows.

S3: For me , about eight or nine years ago , I wrote this very short poem that I shared on social media. And it's basically like what this premise of the book was. But the little poem more or less said , if the shadows of everyone you've ever heard have follow you around day in and day out , would you still be so reckless with other people's hearts ? And I had written that , like sort of to shame myself. I was carrying around a lot of guilt and shame and , you know , about hurting people in my life. And I very falsely believe that shaming myself would actually make me behave better when I think we all know that that that isn't really useful. So I wrote that a number of years ago , and then later on I came up with the first line of the book that just popped in my head and it's the kid is born with two shadows. And I was like , Huh , okay , that's kind of a cool idea. I don't know what that means. You know , I don't know whether this is a story , a book , or even what that's really supposed to belong to. And the line actually followed me around forever. Like , I couldn't shake it. And I slowly I connected it to that very old poem idea , and I was like , Oh , okay , maybe it's this world. But instead of the poem , I thought that it would actually be a helpful world. I quickly realized that it would be an oppressive and harmful world. So I kind of flip the tables on that , and that's where I combined that first line in that poem.


S3: You better believe I head straight down to the Department of Balance office to appeal their decision. It isn't right giving an extra shadow to a baby. It's not like she killed you on purpose , though. She's a newborn baby. She's basically a more sophisticated potato. And that's exactly what I tell the receptionist resting his boots on top of his desk. He is long and slender with a droopy face. Where's the father ? He says. I'm rather mother , I say , trying to study my. I always hate this moment of vulnerability of simultaneously waiting for and anticipating a reaction. Oh , I see. He clears throat , then lowers his boots and leans his elbows on the desk. Sorry. Those deaths are automatic shadow assignments , ma'am.

S1: You know , you were writing this book in the early part of former President Trump's administration.

S3: This president in the book is a fascist , but he also , you know , relies on a lot of rhetoric and scapegoats and just getting people riled up in the way that Trump does. And so I think , yeah , he has a lot of similarities in the way in which he gets people to blame others and buy into certain narratives. But at the same time , I didn't want this president to be so of that time and be so also even I didn't want him to be like a fully realized character. But I actually cared more about the people that it impacts versus this guy like , you know , fascists or often fascists. Like , maybe they differ in certain ways , but I didn't want him to be centered in the story. I really wanted to focus on the people that are affected and how deeply they're affected and write a compassionate story for them instead of centering him. So that was that was really important for me when I was drafting this.

S1: Well , let's talk about the backdrop. It's a beach town not unlike some parts of San Diego , but there are hints of a climate apocalypse going on.

S3: It's not too much further down , I think , from a lot of a lot of realities that we need to be facing , especially in California. You know , especially being a coastal city. I think that it's honestly , this book takes place in a world that isn't far off from our future. And that's probably the was the most terrifying part about trying to write. It was imagining these loving spots from this past person , both past sort of , you know , going underwater and and the cliffs sort of falling down and whatnot. Yeah , unfortunately , I don't think it's too different. Yeah.

S1: Well , a very interesting story and one that calls us all to reflection. I've been speaking with Marissa Crane , author of the new novel I Keep my Exoskeletons to Myself out today. They'll discuss and sign books tonight at 7 p.m. at the book Catapult in South Park. Marissa , thank you so much.

S3: Thank you.

Ways To Subscribe
A pair of San Diego-based companies were recently awarded federal grants for their efforts to improve electric vehicle batteries. Next, we talk to LA Times reporter Sammy Roth about Imperial County farmland being used to generate solar power. Then, some of the most popular New Year's resolutions are ones about getting in shape. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman takes a look at how some are getting it done and talks with fitness instructors about how goals can help people stick to their resolutions. And, the Chula Vista Elementary School District is moving ahead with plans to convert two of its campuses to Community Schools. Next, The California Report Magazine spoke with journalist Sam Anderson about his podcast telling the story of a 2016 murder in Mendocino County. Finally, San Diego writer Marissa Crane talks about their new novel “I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself.”