On October 4, 2015, the Committee for Green Foothills honored Bay Nature co-founders David Loeb and Malcolm Margolin (publisher of Heyday Books) for their significant contributions to the Bay Area nature community, and donated a gift to the nonprofit Latino Outdoors in their honor.
“These publishing icons have challenged readers to see our landscape and our place in it with a fresh perspective. Though their work they have shaped and expanded the community of people who love and speak for nature.”
— Megan Medeiros, CGF Executive Director & Jeff Segall, CGF Board President
Following is the text of David’s acceptance speech:
Thanks so much Megan and everyone at the Committee for Green Foothills for choosing to honor me and Malcolm and Bay Nature at this year’s Nature’s Inspiration party – such a beautiful place, beautiful day, beautiful people.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been called an inspiration, at least not publicly, so I’m going to appreciate it, embrace it, and enjoy it.
Being called an inspiration is a big deal for me. Because when you’re inspired, you’re capable of doing special things. It was a sublimely gorgeous winter morning in the oak woodlands at China Camp State Park in Marin that served as the initial inspiration for the idea of a magazine about the natural world of the Bay Area. And it was the magazine News from Native California, that Malcolm had been publishing at Heyday for several decades, that inspired me to bring him the idea of starting a local nature magazine, which led to the partnership that eventually moved Bay Nature from concept to reality.
When Malcolm and I started down the long path of figuring out how to publish a magazine about Bay Area nature – a four-year long process — it was with the hope that we would be able to share our delight in the beauty and diversity of local nature. And 15 years later, we still say that the aim of Bay Nature is to inform and inspire: Inform people about the natural world of the Bay Area and inspire them to explore, celebrate, and protect it.
So it is immensely humbling and satisfying that our experiment in local nature publishing has survived and thrived for 15 years and is now, here today, being recognized by one of the Bay Area’s most venerable and effective conservation organizations as an inspiration to others in this field.
As part of our long drawn-out launch process, Malcolm and I realized we needed to reach out to some of the conservation groups working in San Francisco and the East Bay, to let them know what we were up to, and ask them if they thought it was a good idea. And the feedback was unanimous: “Go for it. Go tell the stories of the local landscapes and watersheds that we’re working so hard to protect.” And that’s been Bay Nature’s role ever since. We’re not a house organ for any single organization, or even for the environmental movement as a whole. We’re a voice for the natural world that seeks to win people over to the concept of stewardship not through a sense of guilt or obligation, but by appealing to their sense of curiosity about the world around them and their love of beauty. I couldn’t be more thrilled that this approach has resonated; and your recognition today tells me we’ve taken the right trail.
15 years and 60 issues and still going strong is indeed not a bad track record for an independent and local nonprofit media organization. But it’s not sufficient. The low-hanging fruit has been picked; we’ve found our comfort zone and we’re doing well within it. But staying in a comfort zone gets boring, and it can even be dangerous, given the turmoil in the world of publishing on the one hand, and the challenges of climate disruption on the other. That’s why at Bay Nature we’ve brought in a team of young environmental journalists who have their eyes on the future and on a wider reach for both the magazine and our recently redesigned website. And I assume that’s exactly why you at CGF have entered into an exciting new partnership with Latino Outdoors. Those of us in the “old guard” of conservation can’t afford to sit on our bay laurels! Let’s keep shaking things up!
And speaking of shaking things up, I’d like to talk for a minute about volcanoes. Why volcanoes? We don’t have any volcanoes here in the Bay Area. Well, we’ve got Round Top at Sibley Volcanic Preserve in the Oakland hills, but that’s a thoroughly extinct volcano that’s lying on its side and is covered with eucalyptus trees and transmission towers. Not very impressive. No, I’m talking about real volcanoes – like the ones I kept staring at on my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest as I traveled from the Bay Area to Portland, Seattle, Bellingham and the San Juan Islands. From Mt Shasta to Mt Hood to St. Helens to Rainier to Baker – these enormous, snow-capped monoliths that totally dominate the surrounding landscapes were constant companions as we got passed along from the realm of one to the realm of the next. We really don’t have anything like that here in the Bay Area, anything that matches the experience of coming around a street corner in Seattle, and finding yourself face to face with majestic mount Rainier staring down at you like God herself. Our local iconic peaks are great – Hamilton, Diablo, Umunhum, Tam. But there’s a question of scale here and the gut impact just isn’t the same.
So why bring this up at an event honoring Bay Nature for featuring LOCAL nature? Two reasons. One, so we don’t get too smug, and think that we’ve got it all here in the Bay Area. We DO have a lot to be proud of, but other regions have their iconic natural treasures as well. And that leads to my real point. Which is that the most important thing is to get to know, and embrace, the natural world where YOU live. It doesn’t have to include dramatic volcanoes or thundering waterfalls. It does have to include YOU. Don’t stand back from it in awe. Don’t just revere it. Get up close and touch it and turn it around in your mind and in your hands. Learn how it changes from season to season. It’s not necessarily all about grandeur; intimacy is important too.
And for human scale accessibility and intimacy, as well as grandeur, we do pretty well here in the Bay Area. From the dramatic 360 degree views at the tip of Tomales Point—with a herd of tule elk browsing on the hill behind – to the groves of ancient redwoods in Big Basin; from the colorful panorama of wildflower covered hillsides on Mount Diablo, to the intensely sensuous crimson curves of a manzanita trunk, we are so fortunate and blessed in our natural surroundings. Get to know what’s around you. Hold it dear. And share that with others. That’s the message of Bay Nature. Thanks for responding to that message and thanks for helping to spread it around.
Now Megan called me a few weeks ago and asked if I would introduce Malcolm at the end of my remarks, and I said sure, no problem. But it’s not so easy to summarize in a few words the life and accomplishments of this brilliant impressario of California history, nature, and culture.
There are some similarities between Malcolm’s life story and mine: We both graduated from Harvard, though he was nine years ahead of me. Then we both headed west from New York City and settled in the Bay Area in the early 1970s – a place and time of tremendous political and cultural ferment and freedom. We both thought we would probably wind up going back east. Yet we both ended up falling in love with this place and staying, when it was a whole lot cheaper and easier to do that. And we both made a place for ourselves publishing materials that reflect our love for this place.
But don’t let these similarities fool you. Malcolm has a special genius for finding beauty and distilling it and sharing it with the world. And for creating community around it. Over the course of his 40 plus years at the helm of Heyday, Malcolm has created not just an institution, not just a community, but a vital living organism that opens its arms wide to the creative genius of California and its diverse peoples, and reflects that beauty and diversity and genius back to us.
I’ve had the privilege of watching this alchemy up close, and I think the root of it is Malcolm’s fierce and unshakeable core vision coupled with an extreme openness to and wide-ranging curiosity about the world, and an ability to weed out the superficial and the superfluous and pick out the authentic gems. And a generosity of spirit that compels him to share those with the world. Malcolm has unearthed a lot of gems over those 40 years. Malcolm, please come up and share a few more gems with us now.