A photographic trip to 1970s California

In 1971, the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency announced a groundbreaking photo project designed as a “visual baseline” against which to measure progress on cleaning up our air, land, and water. Over the next six years, about 100 freelance photographers fanned out across all 50 states for the Documerica series, capturing the environmental toll of…

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The masquerading cell towers of the American West

A single pine in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Palm trees adorned with strange red beacons. A trio of cacti with green hues that seem just a little bit off. Since the 1990s, disguised cell phone towers have become a staple of America’s urban environment. Unlike power and landline companies, cell phone providers cannot…

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Signs point to a roaring 2020s in post-pandemic California

Lockdowns, mask mandates, defiance from churches, anti-mask protests, hotels requisitioned for the poor, a devastating winter surge. California’s coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has been, in many ways, eerily similar to the influenza pandemic of 1918. As the state’s Covid-19 cases and deaths plummet, many journalists and academics have been predicting that the similarities will persist…

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The curiously lopsided population of California

Half of Californians live below this red line. 👇   That may be hard to believe, but it’s more or less accurate, demographers say: Roughly 20 million people reside north of a line running through Los Angeles, and the other 20 million are squished underneath it. In the second half of the 19th century, the…

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San Francisco submerged

The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti once likened San Francisco to a place that “drifts anchorless upon the ocean.” The metaphor comes to life with the city’s signature fog, which pours over the hills in slow-motion waves of white. On the ground, the experience can be dreary, “like living inside a great gray pearl,” as Herb Caen…

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California’s 5 most wondrous forests, according to field atlas” author Obi Kaufmann”

The Oakland painter and poet Obi Kaufmann calls to mind a tatted-up, modern day John Muir, only with half of the beard and serious watercolor skills. Like the 19-century Scotsman, Kaufmann has become recognized for his explorations of California’s natural world in so-called “field atlases” that blend graceful prose with paintings of maps and wildlife.…

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Vintage-style photos showcase the women of skateboarding

Jenny Sampson, a Berkeley photographer, had been taking pictures of skateboarders for years. Then one day in early 2017, during a visit to a skate park in the Bay Area city of Emeryville, a new phenomenon caught her attention: about half a dozen young female skaters holding their own in a subculture traditionally dominated by…

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John Muir biographer: He was no white supremacist

Donald E. Worster is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Kansas and the author of “A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir.” Below is an essay he wrote in response to a Sierra Club initiative to reckon with comments by Muir that the group said “drew on deeply harmful racist…

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The next chapter of the California Sun

I’ve got good news. When I started the Californian Sun more than two years ago, there was no guarantee it would succeed. But it’s become popular, considered a must-read among California journalists, policymakers, and everyday news junkies. The Sun is now in a great position to thrive for years to come. But to make that…

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California’s ultimate outdoor bucket list: 45 natural wonders

The California Sun reached out to leading outdoor experts in each of nine California regions and asked the same question: If you had to name your absolute top 5 not-to-be-missed day outings, what would they be? Listed below are their picks, 45 in all, roughly north to south. Jump to: Far north | Northwest | Gold Country | Central Valley | Bay Area | Eastern Sierra | Central…

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Poignant daguerreotypes of California’s Gold Rush miners

The 1848 discovery of gold in the California hills unleashed a burst of industry that transformed the American West. It also coincided with the rise of photography. Among the entrepreneurs who spilled into California to separate miners from their pay were photographers, who opened daguerreotype studios in most big cities. Virtually every prospector who could…

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