September in Palo Alto. How Sweet!

May 15, 2007



Daffodils in January. Wildfires in February. Bermuda shorts in March.

Like seemingly everything in the environment these days, this year's SEJ annual conference has been scheduled remarkably earlier than usual: Sept. 5-9 at Stanford University.

The coals fueling your Labor Day barbeque will still be glowing as you pack for the pleasant climes of Stanford, heart of California's Silicon Valley.

As your telepathic conference co-chairs, Carolyn Whetzel (California Correspondent, BNA) and I have anticipated all your questions about the event in this handy FAQs:

Q. Will I meet the Governator?
 A. We are robotically exterminating, if not terminating, any possible excuse for him not showing up. We'll pull all our Kennedy strings if need be. (Carolyn, where are those pullstrings?)

Q. All things considered, wouldn't I rather be in San Francisco?
A. We figured as much. Check beginning in June for details on leading your own dinner or joining shindigs organized by others, be it carpooling 34 miles for Rice-a-Roni in The City or strolling to tony downtown Palo Alto.

Q. If I go to San Francisco, do I risk leaving my heart there?
A. Tony Bennett aside, the odds of that happening are about as good as a warm San Francisco night – global warming aside. With all we have planned for you – "Nuances of Nanotechnology Revisited," to name just one sure-to-sellout panel – you'll no doubt save your heart for high-tech Stanford over enchanting San Francisco.

Q. Seriously?
A. Seriously, if the sea otters on the Monterey Bay tour don't grab you, the Santa Cruz redwoods will. And if you're itching to take home a convention bag full of story ideas, you may opt for a day in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where more environmental issues converge than you can shake an oar at. (If you'd rather wield a paddle, consider our Kayaking a Coastal Estuary tour.)

Q. Is it worth my money to stay all five days?
A. Yes, especially if you're getting reimbursed. Seriously, folks, there's no wind up or wind down at this conference. The adventure begins right at the start Wednesday evening with a mixer among top media executives, scientists and Silicon Valley moguls, followed by an SEJ-organized public forum with visionaries and luminaries sharing their views on how to accelerate commercialization of clean, secure and efficient energy. The conference ends on a crescendo Sunday morning at Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, where you'll learn more than you could imagine about climate change and the ecological history of the American West – all from a single patch of oak woodland.

Q. Do I need to pre-register for anything?
A. Hello? Do you wanna have fun? Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours, not to mention our hearty breakfast plenary Saturday where you'll be served reporter tools a la satellite.

Q. Must I go back home Sunday and face the daily deadline grind?
A. Yes, if you work for a living. But if you want to do some real living on the job, you'll extend your learning adventure three more days – to Wed., Sept. 12 – by boarding the SEJ high-altitude bus for a post-conference tour at Lake Tahoe, elevation 6,225 feet (1897 m) above sea level. Don't book your return flights until we email you the airport drop-off times.

Q. Will I lose my job by riding this SEJ adventure all eight days?
A. Probably not. And if you don't expense the river rafting at Tahoe, you might even keep your job. And remember, visit often for updates.

Chris Bowman, a veteran environmental reporter at The Sacramento Bee, makes guest appearances in the newsroom these days while working overtime on SEJ's 17th Annual Conference. 

** From SEJ's quarterly newsletter SEJournal Spring, 2007 issue.

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