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Sun Worshipper: Berkeley resident David Clay passes through Santa Cruz on his solar-powered bike.


Here Comes the Sun

He was just passing through, but David Clay and his solar-powered bike made a small ripple in downtown Santa Cruz on a recent weekend.

With its solar panels mounted on a trailer, the bike is a bit unwieldy for tooling around town--more suitable for a cross-country trek--which is good, considering that Clay was on his way to Colorado from Berkeley.

Clay is leaving behind a job as a residential solar-panel installer to meet a June 27 date with Solar Energy International of Carbondale, where he will study renewable energy sources such as wind and micro-hydro. Eventually, Clay wants to work on international renewable-energy projects.

The solar panel he uses is made by a company called Solarex from glassless polycrystalline, and it stores the energy in a sealed lead/acid battery. Clay says he uses the electricity mostly as an assist on hills, but if he needs to he can run on electricity alone at 15 to 20 miles an hour on flat ground for about 75 minutes. The trailer, which also holds his gear, weighs about 250 pounds empty. The whole rig ran him about three grand.

How is he paying for all this?

"I've got my whistle and digeridoo, and thought I'd do some busking along the way," Clay says. He's also open to sponsorship offers and can be reached at [email protected]. He'll be hooked into the web along the way by wireless modem, of course.

Clay says that on May 1 he may take a small side trip--to England--to attend an event he describes as an "anti-capitalist, pro-sustainability celebration."

Sounds like he'd be right at home in Santa Cruz, which the Sentinel recently referred to as the People's Republic of Santa Cruz.

Produce House Rules

Sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword--or other sharp objects like shovels and rakes.

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed national organic standards enter the public-comment period, organic farmers are demanding certain changes be made to the regulations, and they are asking consumers to help out.

The National Organic Program Proposed Rule 2000 can be viewed online at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/. Comments can also be submitted via the Internet through June 12.

Local growers are concerned about which foods will wear the organic label, says Brian Leahy, director of Santa Cruz-based California Certified Organic Farmers.

According to the proposed standards, agricultural products only have to be 95 percent organic to earn the label.

"The way the rules are proposed, we could use a nonorganic product even when the same product is available on the organic market," Leahy says. For example, a consumer would not know that an "organic" cereal may not have organic raisins, although it is available. "That's not encouraging organic. And it's hurting our growers."

"They got about 85 percent of it right, but there are still some loopholes that need some work," says Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation of Santa Cruz.

Farmers also say they want the regulations to crack down on genetically modified crops.

"I'm concerned about zero tolerance for GMOs [genetically modified organisms]," Scowcroft says. "The proposal's rules say you can't have any, but they don't say how that will be enforced, how to discover if there are any GMOs and who is going to pay for that discovery process."

The debate over GMOs has become increasingly linked to organic foods, both on a national and a local level. Legislators in New York recently introduced a bill that would place a moratorium on growing genetically engineered crops. Closer to home, Monterey Bay RAGE (Resistance Against Genetic Engineering) pulled off an April Fool's prank to kick off the start of the international week of action against genetic engineering, April 1 to 9. About 20 green tricksters stormed Mission Street's Safeway, wearing wigs and costumes.

"A lot of people wore biohazard suits, and everyone wore a big patch on their back that said 'You've Been Fooled by the FDA,'" says RAGE member Craig Metz.

Costume-clad protesters labeled foods containing genetically modified products, such as corn oil and soy products, and performed a skit in the produce section before being asked to leave.

"Genetically modified foods have been slipped into our grocery bags without people being aware of them," Metz says. "We're putting labels on them so at least people have a choice."

Metz says the group will hold a similar demonstration April 9, meeting at 3:30pm at the Soquel Post Office before paying a surprise visit to an unsuspecting local grocery store. No previous acting experience is necessary.

Land Boone

Martin Boone of Boone Enterprises and Willow Canyon Limited Partnership, the owner of the 70-acre proposed development called Willow Canyon, may soon face a protest. Or not.

No one is claiming authorship, but a petition questioning the project, located in the canyon area surrounded by Vista Del Mar, Cuesta and Zanzibar drives, is being circulated to area residents.

"It's news to me," an astounded Boone tells Nüz. "I'm surprised that there was any specific organized opposition. It's hurtful. I think it would be much more productive to come to us and try to work these problems through."

Boone was also stupefied to learn his development was the subject of a three-page flier distributed a couple of weeks ago throughout neighborhoods surrounding his site. The author, Mark Vanderwoude, vice president of the Rio Del Mar Improvement Association, would only tell Nüz that the flyer was in response to letters sent to him by Boone.

"I couldn't find anyone in the neighborhood that could say they were kept apprised on an ongoing basis in the way he alluded to in his letters," commented Vanderwoude.

Voicing concerns about "greedy" developers, Vanderwoude's flier notes several comments about the project to the county Planning Department made at the Development Review Group's meeting last December. Among other things, his flier cited concern from the state Department of Fish and Game over a certain endangered area resident: "No consideration has been given to minimizing or mitigating for the effects to the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander in the development plan."

Boone says the "quotes were taken out of context," but admits, "there's some issues we've got to resolve."

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From the April 5-12, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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