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California Superbloom Is One Town’s #PoppyNightmare

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Poppy superbloom in Lake Elsinore, Calfornia on March 13. cultivar413 / CC BY 2.0

The hillsides dyed orange with poppies may look like something out of a dream, but for the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.

The town of 66,000 people was inundated with around 50,000 tourists coming to snap pictures of the golden poppies growing in Walker Canyon as part of a superbloom of wildfires caused by an unusually wet winter, BBC News reported. The visitors trampled flowers and caused hours of traffic, The Guardian reported.


"This weekend has been unbearable in Lake Elsinore," the city wrote on its Facebook and Instagram pages, according to The Guardian. "We know it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community."

City officials briefly closed access to the canyon Sunday night, but it was opened again Monday morning.

"The City continues to evaluate all possible options to reduce the strain on our community, the freeway, and local roadways. At this time, it is not feasible for us to keep visitors away from #WalkerCanyon," the city said in its post. "We are working on a new plan and new options for the coming weekend and will be sure to share this with our community as soon as possible."

Some have blamed social media for the crowds, as Instagram influencers posted selfies with themselves against a backdrop of flowers.

"We've seen much larger crowds this year because the bloom is bigger than ever," assistant to the Lake Elsinore city manager Nicole Dailey told BBC. "We're getting the crowd numbers Los Angeles gets for large sporting events," Dailey added. "Social media buzz has brought numbers that the city has never gone through before."

The incident began trending as #poppynightmare.

"One of our employees was hit and run by a driver. A rattlesnake bit a visitor. Residents have been screaming at the people directing traffic," Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos said in a Facebook post reported by BBC.

However, while the poppies are causing problems for Lake Elsinore, they are a good sign for California, since the bloom signals that the state is drought-free for the first time in seven years, according to a video by Now This.

The Sierra Nevada snowpack is now 50 percent higher than average and all reservoirs are full, Al Jazeera reported. Just last year, 70 percent of the state was still at risk for water scarcity. However, scientists have said that swings from drought to extreme rainfall will become more common in California with climate change.

The rain and wildflower bloom have also led to a massive migration of Painted Lady butterflies through Southern California.

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By Johnny Wood

The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.

The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.

Here are some of the challenges the river faces.

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Protesters gathered outside US Bank and Wells Fargo locations around the U.S. to protest investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Dec. 1, 2016. This photo is from a protest outside US Bank in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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