Beth Thornton


Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She is especially interested in how our daily lives are affected by the convergence of words, images, and technology.

Before radio, she worked in print and video for newspapers, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, she was the editor of Connections, a monthly e-newsletter published by the Center for Media Literacy that includes research and media activities for K-12 educators. Beth received her BA from UC Santa Barbara, where she wrote for the college paper, and also has a certificate in creative writing from UCLA Extension Writers' Program. She listens to public radio at every opportunity, and enjoys cycling on the Central Coast.

California Coastal Cleanup Day is Saturday, September 18, and thousands of volunteers are expected to participate by heading to local beaches and creeks to pick up trash. Activities on the Central Coast will continue throughout the month.

In a webinar Sept. 2, the UCSB Economic Forecast Project gave an update on current health and economic conditions for Santa Barbara County.

Museums for All was launched in 2014 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Association of Children’s Museums to remove barriers and increase access to museums for low-income families. Currently, more than 700 locations participate nationwide — including several on the Central Coast.

The museums offer reduced admission fees of $3 or less per person (up to four people) to visitors who present their SNAP/CalFresh EBT card. This means a family of four can visit for $12 or less.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District

As California students head back to school, they won’t need to pack a lunch. The new state budget for education allocates funds for universal meal plans for the next three years.

Beth Thornton

Working toward California’s legislative goal of diverting 75% of organic waste from landfills, anaerobic digesters are being put to use on the Central Coast. This technology reduces methane emissions and generates renewable energy.

Literacy For Life SLO

Beyond the Furrows is KCBX's 12 part series on farmworkers on the Central Coast, and in this week's episode Francisco Martinez reports on the efforts to vaccinate farmworkers as the Delta variant spreads. Literacy for Life in San Luis Obispo is a non-profit organization that partners with libraries throughout the county to teach adult learners English language skills. Ballots are being sent out to all registered voters in California for the recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom, and we’ll hear from Santa Barbara County Clerk Recorder Joseph Holland.

In recent weeks, the Central Coast has seen an increase in COVID-19 positivity rates due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, Cottage Health, monitors the variant in Santa Barbara County.

photo: Healthy People Healthy Trails

On Issues & Ideas we're exploring the history of farmworkers' rights in California, and how that history affects people on the Central Coast. We're also taking a look at redistricting on the Central Coast, and some of the challenges being faced. And, we explore the possibility of wind turbines in Morro Bay, and the reaction of some in the fishing industry. We’re checking in with Healthy People Healthy Trails is a community initiative in Santa Barbara County to promote health and well-being through the use and enjoyment of nature. Meteorologist John Lindsey reports that a serious decline in the sea star population has led to a massive die-off of the kelp forests along the Northern California coastline. And finally, the San Luis Obispo City manager Derek Johnson talks about job strategies and city projects. / Water Education Foundation

The Central Coast Water Authority has filed a lawsuit in Santa Barbara Superior Court against the County of Santa Barbara over how the State Water Project will be managed going forward.

SB County Arts & Culture

The Santa Barbara County government center in Santa Maria is being transformed by public art. The newest installation, just now underway, is called Valley of Light. The design includes solar-powered sculptures and is a nod to Santa Maria’s agricultural past and present.

Hollister Ranch Coastal Access Plan (HRCAP)

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newson signed legislation requiring an updated plan to allow public access to the beaches on privately-owned Hollister Ranch on the Gaviota Coast. If successful, the plan will resolve 40 years of disputes between state agencies and Hollister Ranch homeowners. The committee tasked with finding a solution, held a virtual meeting on June 16, 2021.

Honor Flight Central Coast California

The Central Coast Queer Archive Project collects oral and video histories of the local LGBTQ community and you’ll hear about the current state of the project. The EPA has awarded the Santa Barbara City College Foundation a grant for a project that will connect students and residents to a network of edible gardens. You’ll hear from local experts about vaccine hesitancy and how to talk to friends and family who are still undecided about the vaccine. Dr. Consuelo Meux has a conversation with the founder of Honor Flight Central Coast California, which takes veterans to Washington D.C. And finally, you’ll learn about the work done by the El Camino Homeless Coalition.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the Santa Barbara City College Foundation a sizable grant for a project that will connect students and residents to a network of edible gardens, and foster a connection to local ecosystems.

Courtesy of The Siren

On June 15, California will decide whether to lift COVID-19 restrictions and fully re-open businesses. For Central Coast music venues and musicians — who have been on hold since 2020 — preparations for summer concerts are underway.

Erika Mahoney

On this edition of Issues & ideas, you’ll hear about the UC Santa Barbara marine scientists who are currently on an international expedition to help them understand how the ocean will respond to climate change. The western monarch butterfly’s population has declined 99% percent since the 1980s, but you can learn to help them recover in your own garden. We’ll hear from Santa Barbara emergency physician Dr. Jason Prystowsky about what could be done to foster trust between marginalized communities and medical institutions. Father Ian takes us with him as he learns about Olive leaf Tea. Finally, members of The Molly Ringwald Project, a popular local 80s dance band, talk about performing again after the pandemic.

Photo: Deborah Steinberg /

UC Santa Barbara marine scientists are currently on an international expedition to study the ocean’s carbon cycle. The scientists say the data will help them to understand how the ocean is going to respond to climate change.

photo courtesy of KAZU

On this week's show, learn how sheep work to help prevent fires on the Central Coast. Also, after a wildfire in Santa Cruz County destroyed close to 1,500 structures, a local group experiments with fungi, which they say has the ability to remove and even heal toxic burn scars. You’ll hear about the traveling nurses who administer vaccines at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. Latinos make up the majority of the population in Fresno County, but they only account for about 36% of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine; we’ll explore some of the reasons why Latino residents are hesitant. There's a new monthly series of Zoom events put on by NAACP SLO County, called "Know Your Rights", and we’ll take a closer look. Finally, Cal Poly grad and author of the award-winning novel, “Prospects of a Woman”, Wendy Voorsanger shares insights about her work chronicling exceptional women throughout California's history.

Cuyama Lamb LLC

Livestock grazing services are becoming more widely used as a fire mitigation tool. Animals clear vegetation and reduce fire risk, especially in hard-to-reach places like the slopes and hillsides of the Central Coast.

photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Zoo

Learn about the author and editor of the book "Voices of the Grieving Heart", where forty writers share their journeys through loss, grief, transformation and healing. You’ll meet Monty the penguin, a new social media celebrity from the Santa Barbara Zoo who’s featured in a new children's book. You’ll hear from Heidi McPherson of the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County. And finally, we'll head to Fort Hunter Liggett, where an 80th anniversary Open House is planned for later this month.

Cover Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara have published the most extensive analysis to date on groundwater infrastructure across the globe. Their research calls attention to the high number of wells at risk for running dry, including along the Central Coast.

City of Santa Maria

There’s a public art boom going on in Santa Maria. It includes brightly painted utility boxes and murals celebrating the town’s culture and heritage.

A gray wolf made a brief appearance in Monterey County last week, and experts say spreading awareness about this protected wolf is essential in minimizing wolf-livestock conflicts. A new audio production called "Voices of the Earth" presents thoughts about the environment from across the ages. EcoSLO continues to advocate for the environment after 50 years on the Central Coast. We hear from Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong about covid testing on campus, and visions for the future.

On this edition of Issues & Ideas, we take a look at a new virtual art exhibit in San Luis Obispo, which documents the local Black Lives Matter Movement. In Santa Maria, local artists and advocates are working together to bring new art to public spaces. Santa Barbara community members gathered in solidarity with the Asian Pacific Islander community last month, after the violence in Georgia. San Luis Obispo County Public Health Director Penny Borenstein looks back at lessons learned about the COVID 19 pandemic. And finally, we check out the 36th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Frank Chen / Stanford Repertory Theater

On April 22, 2021, Earth Day will celebrate its 51st year, but environmental pioneers and poets have been writing about the need to care for our planet much longer. A new audio production called "Voices of the Earth" presents thoughts about the environment from across the ages.

Alle Pia

On this episode of Issues & Ideas: the Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery at Cuesta College is using virtual reality to bring the art to the people. We’ll take a look at some new trends in the local green building industry. The Foundation at Hearst Castle has an ongoing educational STEAM program aimed at inspiring and empowering young students from underserved communities. Finally, on “Playing With Food” you’ll get a closer look at a local artisan salumiere.

Beth Thornton

UC Santa Barbara issued travel guidelines during spring break and testing requirements before students return to campus.

PRJUSD livestream

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board of trustees moved forward with resolutions related to diversity and anti-racism at their March 23 meeting.



Digital Marketing is one way businesses can stay in touch with customers during uncertain times.

SLO Partners, a local nonprofit that supports businesses and local residents by aligning workforce needs with training opportunities, is now expanding their Digital Marketing Bootcamp on the Central Coast.

Beth Thornton

For the last year, art exhibits have been closed around the world, leaving museum spaces empty and art enthusiasts stuck at home. But now, some venues have come up with creative ways to bring the art to the people.

On this episode of Issues and Ideas: Direct Relief, headquartered in Santa Barbara, has a long history of providing aid for medical emergencies around the world, and you’ll hear from Thomas Tighe, president and CEO, about responding to the Covid19 pandemic here on the Central Coast and abroad. You’ll also meet Cal Poly faculty member Michael Whitson, to learn about Pacific Crest Music Festival, a summer program that takes place in Northern California. Donn Clickard, of the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation talks about how the organization has helped many young people in the community face the challenges of drug abuse through a variety of programs, and now, there's a book aimed at helping other communities find the same success. And finally, we take a quick look back to 2012, when KCBX contributor Tom Wilmer took part in Dublin Ireland's St. Patrick's Day Parade; this year the famous parade is cancelled due to the pandemic.