Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) are probably my favorite native wildflower in California. They’re so unusually blue and full of cheer. Every spring I plant a few in our yard and root for the seedlings to outgrow the slugs that seem determined to make a meal out of the tender white-speckled leaves. It’s a touch-and-go, fraught couple of weeks. I take real pleasure in the patches of blue blossoms that do wink open.
So what an otherworldly experience to see baby blue eyes for the first time in the wild this spring. Their abundance was almost obscene. If I could, I would use all the cliches to describe those blooming blue flowers and goldfields blanketing, carpeting, enveloping, no, painting! the fields and hillsides of Carrizo Plain National Monument in Central California. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about superblooms until living one.
A metaphorical superbloom is the subject of “Wild Billions,” a Bay Nature project debuting in this issue. The ongoing series will follow how a historic amount of money for nature shapes the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Approved in the last two years, nearly $1 trillion dollars in federal funding to address climate change and failing infrastructure nationwide is now rushing through the hands of federal agencies. At least $100 billion of it will pay for nature-based solutions and environmental justice, according to our estimate. That is big money.
I’ve been reporting on the environment for nearly 30 years, everything from ecosystems to energy, and this is the moment—the investment and national commitment—environmental thinkers have been fighting for since the early 1990s when the world began to grasp the threat of climate change. Remember when the United States failed to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997? As a nation we have floundered and squandered precious time since. We are now living those failures.
Wildlife, plants, ecosystems, and people in the Bay Area are all touched by those failures. They permeate everything this publication is devoted to caring about. So it is with excitement and clear eyes that we endeavor to help you understand what this unprecedented moment of federal investment means—for you, the nature and people you love, and this extraordinary region we call home.
If you have had a chance to see a superbloom, you know it can be fleeting. But it can also change you. I’ll never look at baby blue eyes in my garden the same way. I got a glimpse of what’s possible. Those little flowers have the power to transform a landscape.
And now, so do we.
—Victoria Schlesinger, Editor in Chief