Book Review: Legacy: Portraits of 50 Bay Area Environmental Elders
Legacy: Portraits of 50 Bay Area Environmental Elders, photographs by Nancy Kittle, text by John Hart, Sierra Club Books, 2006, 156 pages, $29.95
It’s no accident that the heavily populated Bay Area is surrounded today by such natural beauty and vast green space. Long before the well-established environmental movement we know today, pioneering activists were working to protect natural spaces throughout the region. Those are the stories that John Hart and Nancy Kittle bring to us in Legacy, a collection of Hart’s inspirational character studies paired with Kittle’s rich black-and-white portraits.
The elders of Bay Area environmentalism we meet in Legacy came to activism in remarkably diverse ways. Lennie Roberts, who helped found the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, recalls writing a letter to Governor Earl Warren when she was in the seventh grade asking him to protect land near her home from logging. (She actually received a personal letter back!) Dairy farmers Ellen and Bill Straus used their skill at translating “agricultural reality to urbanites and urban environmental concerns to rural dwellers” to resist development near their farm on Tomales Bay. Lawyers Robert Praetzel, Doug Ferguson, and Martin Rosen created a formidable team that prevented the Marin Headlands from being turned into a new city. All of the subjects come to vibrant life as they share how specific moments of being moved by their natural surroundings became personal calls to action. Walk through almost any Bay Area open space, and you’ll see the results of those calls.