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Sunday Reads: Climate change video game, life after the Benchlands, trouble at the county fair

Welcome to ‘Earth Island’: How two Santa Cruz artists aim to fight climate change with a video game

Earth Island co-creator Eric Thiermann demonstrates the graphical interface of Earth Island.
Earth Island co-creator Eric Thiermann demonstrates the graphical interface of Earth Island, and its neon hummingbird guide, to an audience in Santa Cruz on Friday.

Can a video game save the planet? Eric Thiermann and Ethan Summers may not claim that lofty ambition, but the Santa Cruz entrepreneurs are hoping to harness the popularity of video games to find solutions to climate change. Their vision is Earth Island, a simulation game in which players can learn about real-world efforts to mitigate climate change and apply those tools to a wide variety of environments and ecosystems. Read Wallace Baine’s story here.

MORE FROM WALLACE BAINE: With nod to Quixote, Santa Cruz’s Elizabeth McKenzie takes readers on an adventure in new novel

Jazmine’s story: Where did the unhoused from the Benchlands go?

Jazmine is living in an RV after being moved from Santa Cruz's Benchlands homeless encampment
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Lookout has been wondering what happened to the 250-300 people who lived in Santa Cruz’s largest homeless encampment, known as the Benchlands, after the city closed it in the fall. Most are untracked and untrackable, as they didn’t utilize city services. But we kept asking and looking. In a new video, Community Voices talks to Jazmine, a massage therapist, whom we interviewed in August when she lived in a tent in the Benchlands. She now lives in a small trailer in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She tells us her post-Benchlands experience, talks about what it feels like to be unhoused, how easy it is to fall and how hard it is to get back up. Watch it here.

FROM AUGUST: Come with us to the Benchlands: Listen to five voices of Santa Cruz’s unhoused

Stop the inflammatory comments at county fair board meetings; let’s ‘right the fairgrounds ship’

The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Misinformation is causing “the recent, inflammatory public behavior at the fair board meetings,” writes longtime Santa Cruz County Fair volunteer Becky Steinbruner, who has attended meetings regularly since 2020. She insists new president Don Dietrich is doing a good job and has tough work to clean up years of neglect and lack of oversight. The fairgrounds has to follow state regulations, she writes — something she believes Dave Kegebein, the ousted fair manager and CEO, never did. Read her Community Voices opinion piece here.

PREVIOUSLY: Fairgrounds’ future looks fraught — lies, deception and personal vendettas are poisoning beloved institution

Test your newsy knowledge with this week’s Lookout news quiz

How closely do you follow Santa Cruz County goings-on? Our 10-question quiz based on stories from Lookout correspondents and contributors puts you to the test. Click here to see how you fare.

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