Podcast – “Soul of California”

CSA colleague emeritus Richard Walker passes along this recommendation:SoulOfC.jpeg

The Soul of California podcast, launched over the 2015 summer, has included a number of California’s leading musicians, artists, architects, academics and advocates on a range of topics.

To close up 2015, podcaster Richard Dion put together a summary of some of the best stories and reflections thus far. This episode and previous episodes are available as a free download on iTunes here:
or here:

Upcoming podcasts will include photographer Kevin Break on LA’s 6th street bridge and Tom Williams on writer Raymond Chandler, amongst others.

California Studies Dinner: Dick Walker on The Atlas of California, March 18, 2014

Richard Walker, emeritus Professor of Geography at University of California Berkeley, will discuss his new book, The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era (co-authored by Suresh Lodha and published by UC Press) on Tuesday, March 18 from 7 to 9 p.m.  Far from a traditional atlas, the book presents California’s present and future social, economic, and environmental conditions and choices through maps, charts, and interpretive essays.  The dinner seminar, sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the Townsend Humanities and California Studies Centers, meets at the Labor Center Building, 2521 Channing Way (just east of Telegraph Ave.).  Free admission and dinner.

Please rsvp to Myra Armstrong, zulu2@berkeley.edu

Watered States

CSA steer Richard Walker contributed his perspective to this East Bay Express piece on the state’s water crisis last week:

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California’s Thirsty Almonds

How the water-intensive crop is helping drive the governor’s $25 billion plan to ship water to the desert.


Dan Errotabere’s family has been farming the dry soils of the western San Joaquin Valley for nearly a century. His grandfather primarily grew wheat and other grains. His father grew vegetables and other annual crops almost exclusively. But in 1999, Errotabere decided to plant his first almond tree. Today, almonds account for more than a quarter of his 3,600-acre farm.

“Out here it’s nothing but topsoil,” he told me during a tour of his property late last year. He added that his land is especially good for growing nuts.

If there’s enough water.

Errotabere’s farm resides within the Westlands Water District, a barren landscape southwest of Fresno that gets very little rain — even in non-drought years. The average annual precipitation in the district is just eight inches, and the region suffers from poor drainage, high levels of toxic minerals in the soil, and salt-laden groundwater. “It’s really an area that should have never been farmed,” said Richard Walker, a retired UC Berkeley geography professor and an expert on agricultural economics.

Yet Westlands is almost all farmland, thanks to water from Northern California and the Sierra Nevada that the federal government pumps out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and ships south through a series of canals and aqueducts. Throughout the 20th century, this massive transfer of water turned a large section of California desert into a bountiful — and profitable — farming region.

But ever since freshwater began flowing to the dusty west side of the valley, the landscape has been in constant flux.  …”  Read the whole article here….

California Studies Dinner Seminar: Spring 2014 Schedule

Thursday, January 16  TOMAS SUMMERS SANDOVAL, Pomona College, on his new book, “Latinos at the Golden Gate”

Wednesday, February 19  JOSHUA BRAHINSKY, UC Santa Cruz, on “Pulled Between Fundamentalist and Evangelical: Pentecostal Higher Education in Central California”

Tuesday March 18  DICK WALKER, UC Berkeley, on his new book, “The Atlas of California”

Thursday, May 15  PATRICIA WAKIDA, author and editor, on her Los Angeles Atlas Project

UC Berkeley Labor Center, 2521` Channing Way, 7-9 p.m.

Free admission and dinner

Contact Myra Armstrong, zulu2@berkleley.edu

23rd California Studies Conference

The 23rd annual California Studies conference, held 4/27/2013 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, was a rousing success. Photos below show the panelists Keally McBride, Richard Walker, and Waldo Martin laying the historical groundwork for understanding our current political landscape; cartography panelist Chris Carlsson talking about the community-building role of Shaping San Francisco; and the Berkeley history walking tour guided by Richard Walker and Chuck Wollenberg. The Carey McWilliams Award for contribution to California scholarship was announced for USC professor Laura Pulido for her work on the People’s Guide to Los Angeles.ImageImageImage

Jeff Lustig

Dick Walker, UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Geography and a longtime member of the California Studies Association, penned this retrospective on the life and legacy of Jeff Lustig.

Jeff Lustig was a stalwart of the Berkeley Left for almost fifty years and my friend, collaborator and comrade for much of that time. He was variously a teacher, union organizer, campus activist and scholar, and he excelled at all of them.

Jeff grew up in San Diego, then came to Berkeley as a student in Fall 1961. He was radicalized by a trip to Cuba in 1963 and then played a significant role in the Free Speech Movement of 1964-65. He went on to organize anti-war protests and other actions around campus. He received his PhD from the Political Science Department under Jack Schaar, but the conservative professors who dominated that department drove Schaar and other political theorists to leave and effectively blacklisted Jeff and other left students, like Frank Bardacke, from key tenure posts around the country.

Jeff took several itinerant jobs before landing at Sacramento State, including lectureships at Deep Springs College and UC Berkeley and Assistant Professorships at UC Riverside and Humboldt State. I met him in the late 1970s at Berkeley when he was teaching here, then serving as an organizer for the AFT on campus. Jeff couldn’t convince the faculty to unionize, but did get the ball rolling for librarians, teaching assistants and laboratory workers. We forged a close bond over our mutual love of California and distaste for the state’s agribusiness, water giveaways, and anti-tax movement, among other things. We would later write a tract in support of immigrants during the dark days of Pete Wilson’s Proposition 187 in 1994.

Jeff eventually secured a career position as a professor in the Department of Government at CSU Sacramento and appointed Director of the Center for California Studies in 1988. The next year he launched the annual California Studies Conferences and single-handedly created the California Studies Association; both are still going strong after two decades. They became the touchstone for all of us with a serious interest in what makes the Golden State tick. At Jeff’s insistence, California Studies featured an eclectic mix of writers, poets, activists, teachers and others of a progressive or unconventional bent – a refreshing alternative to standard academic fare.

Apparently, Jeff’s kind of progressive ecumenical spirit in California Studies was not the CSU President’s vision of what should be done with a staid center for government policy wonks in Sacramento, so there was always tension with the administration. But Jeff had a clear vision of what he wanted and was never one to be brought to heel, so at the end of the 90s he decided to go back to teaching full-time. He also decided to leave California Studies to others at the end of the 1990s – although he came back to help out with a couple CSA conferences in the late 2000s. For all his great work, the association gave him the Carey McWilliams Award in 2002.

Jeff had found a new outlet for his immense energies. His new mission was to reactivate a sleepy California Faculty Association, the union that represented faculty in the CSU system, and, naturally, he succeeded. That union is today a progressive force fighting for public higher education in the state.

Jeff retired in 2010 to work on a new book. Because he was such a committed public intellectual and activist, Jeff’s scholarship is sometimes overlooked. His first book, Corporate Liberalism, is a great read and an important disquisition on 20th century liberalism and its inevitable distortion by capitalist power. Jeff’s articles were always sharp and to the point, whether it was on the failure of Leninist parties, the tension between race and class on the left, on the legacy of 1960s communalism, or the decline of public higher education.

But Jeff’s great love was for California and the state’s politics. He put out a wonderful collection on the contemporary crisis in state government in 2010, Remaking California, and was well along with a book on the political history of California and the roots of the present impasse when he died. I discussed that book with him at length after his cancer was discovered, and his brother Steve and I will do our best to complete it in the near future.

I already miss Jeff’s razor wit and cackling laugh, and the way he tilted his head as he was about to speak. Jeff was a character, all right, with a certain western, folksy affectation in the way he talked. But he was a fabulous raconteur, always ready with a new story and a deftly delivered punch line. He was ever opinionated, never boring and forever engaged with ideas and the people around him.

Jeff’s passing this June was a great loss to me and to us all. Our hearts go out to his wife, Nora Elliot, brother Steve Lustig, sister Nancy Lustig, and son Jake Lustig, and their families. It’s hard to imagine Berkeley without Jeff’s presence in the old house on Roosevelt Street.

Dick Walker
July 11, 2012

Richard Walker on “The Golden State Adrift”

Prof. Richard Walker of the Geography Department at UC-Berkeley (and member of the CSA Steering Committee), has a new article in the New Left Review (#66, Nov.-Dec. 2010) about the crisis in California. In it he discusses how the mortgage meltdown and the housing crash are both symptomatic of problems created by a generation of neo-liberal policies and causes of further manifestations of those problems. A PDF of the article can be downloaded by clicking on this link.

What is California Studies? Answers from the California Studies Association

A new page has been posted on the California Studies Association’s website addressing the question, “What is California Studies.”  The page includes links to various reports about California Studies, including the foundational 1998 report on California Studies in the State University system , by Jeff Lustig.

On the webpage, Prof. Richard Walker writes, in part:

The problem is no more or less than the study of, say, ‘The United States’ or ‘France’. These are places, but they are taken as givens because they are nation-states. No one doubts that there is good reason to study them. California is only a subnational state & region. Yet some regions, like the American South, have a long and distinguished tradition of historiography and regional studies, without being national states. Why can’t California?