Bay Nature magazineFall 2007


Book Review: The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area

October 1, 2007

The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area, by Richard A. Walker, University of Washington Press, 2007, 404 pages, $35

University of Washington Press

In his new history of Bay Area conservation and environmentalism, Richard Walker repopulates familiar landscapes—from Point Reyes to Big Basin—with both their citizen champions and the various forces at work in the other direction: logging, mining, orchards and their attendant canneries, housing developments and their attendant freeways and fill projects. This book delves far deeper than the stories of John Muir or David Brower fighting for wilderness protections in the Sierra or on the Colorado River. Instead, Walker gives us a nuanced vision of the Bay Area as a nexus of citizen activism undertaken by women and men of many social and economic classes, well before the 1960s.

Walker offers an enlightening review of local greenbelt movements and city planning, reminding us that such things had to be actively invented—sometimes against serious resistance. The book also covers efforts in industrial areas to halt, contain, or at least mitigate pollution, whether from Chevron’s refinery or from Silicon Valley’s chip makers.

Different images from the narrative will stay with each reader: Oakland’s Fruitvale district full of orchards and canneries, or Petaluma, famous for eggs, enacting the region’s first serious limits on new housing in 1972. Walker makes our landscape come alive as the arena of an ongoing struggle to figure out how to live lightly and well in this remarkable corner of the planet.[Dan Rademacher]

About the Author

Dan was editor of Bay Nature from 2004 until 2013, when he left to work for SF-based Stamen Design. He is now executive director of GreenInfo Network, a nonprofit mapmaking organization. A onetime professional cabinetmaker, he considers himself a lifelong maker of things and teller of stories. Dan has been working at the intersection of journalism and technology since, at age 16, he began learning reporting, page layout, and database design. His enduring interest in environmental issues crystallized into a career path in 1998 when he assisted former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass in a cross-disciplinary nature writing and ecology course at UC Berkeley, from which Dan received a Masters in English literature. In 1999, he became Associate Editor of Terrain, the erstwhile quarterly magazine of Berkeley's Ecology Center. In addition to editing and art-directing Bay Nature magazine, he was also Bay Nature’s chief technology strategist, fixer of broken things, and designer of databases and fancy spreadsheets. And he was even known to leave the office and actually hike outdoors.