By Beige Luciano-Adams

A concerned reader alerted us late last week to an alleged rodent extermination program in Palisades Park and its potentially dire ecological fallout.

In an email Monday, the city confirmed it had indeed been using Contrac, a poison bait that causes rats to bleed to death, since mid-March “because it is highly effective,” but acknowledged the likely harm to other animals and announced it would discontinue use the following day.

Well, that was fast.

Glendale already learned their lesson: In 2014 the city discontinued Contrac after photos of a mangy, bedraggled Griffith Park mountain lion known as P-22 circulated in the media. Scientists found the big cat had been exposed to rat poisons and said the toxicity easily spreads up the food chain to sicken other animals.

Santa Monica pointed to a need to curtail a recent uptick in the park’s rat population, but said it would replace all the Contrac with a milder bait, Terad 3, which poses a lower secondary hazard
to other animals.

“The city has been evaluating our internal processes regarding the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides so that products with the lowest risk are selected. While the use of Contrac at all is regrettable, we appreciate that this was brought to our attention and a more appropriate product was quickly switched out,” city spokeswoman Constance Farrell wrote in the email.

Burials Go Green with a Party at Woodlawn

Our cultural approach to death is due for an update. Dia de los Muertos and movie nights at Hollywood Forever are arguably a step in the right direction, bringing communion and celebration to spaces that typically reinforce the taboo of death. And while green burial prototypes — you may have seen Facebook ads for burial pods that become trees, or the “mushroom suit” — are catching on as a more (eco)logical alternative to the chemicals, concrete and metal associated with conventional burial, it’s a slow revolution.

Santa Monica is leading the way with Eternal Meadow at Woodlawn Cemetery — only the second in Southern California to offer green burial. This Saturday the city will fête the wildflower-strewn patch with a butterfly release, entertainment and food trucks from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cemetery Administrator Cindy Tomlinson said a 2012 conference sparked her interest in the idea as a “perfect match” for Santa Monica.

“I came back and pitched it, and it was like, ‘Well, what is that?’ So I had to educate my superiors and they were very supportive … but I think it’s going to catch on. I really believe other cemeteries will follow suit,” Tomlinson said.

Eternal Meadow has 360 green burial plots selling for $13,000 each — slightly higher than traditional plots at $9,000, but not that much more expensive.

“[People] should really come and see it,” Tomlinson said. “It’s just so tranquil there. We’ve planted it with California natives to attract the bees, birds, monarch and other butterflies.”

The mix of native grasses, wildflowers and plants are staged to bloom year round, “so you’ll always have that meadow-like atmosphere with color,” she said. Families are also given California wildflower seeds to plant on loved ones’ graves after burial.

The city also wants to correct the myth that the century-old graveyard is full; their “abandoned grave project” (wherein they reach out periodically to people who purchased plots more than 60 years ago and never used them), recently reclaimed about 300 plots.

Since becoming available last July, 10 people have purchased plots in the Eternal Meadow.

 All-in for Ethnic and Cultural Studies

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District last week indicated support for implementing an American Cultural and Ethnic Studies curriculum that will include “social justice standards … woven through all PreK-12 curriculum,” with a graduation requirement TBD.

Concurrently, a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year mandates a model ethnic studies program be added to the education code and utilized in public and charter schools for grades 9 through 12.

No word yet on details of Santa Monica’s proposed social justice standards, but school district spokes-woman Gail Pinsker noted that SMMUSD plans to take things further than state law requires by integrating its curriculum district-wide.

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