Bay Nature magazineJuly-September 2013

The Bay

Year of the Bay: Let’s put our backs into making a better Bay

June 30, 2013

This summer’s confluence of the Americas Cup races and the presumptive opening of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge (if they can figure out what to do about those pesky bolts) has some people calling 2013 the Year of the Bay.

At Bay Nature we say that every day is Earth Day, so we’d also say that every year is the Year of the Bay. But just as folks tend to take the Earth for granted—so a “special” day is probably a good idea—here we tend to take our Bay for granted too. We even complain about having to cross over or under it to get to work or a ballgame, especially if we’re late. But even as I’m griping about the traffic on the Bay Bridge heading into the city, the panoramic view across the Bay to the Golden Gate captures my attention and reminds me why I’m here. So maybe a Year of the Bay is a good idea after all.

There’s something special about a large metropolitan area centered around a shared body of water—a massive open space in the midst of seven million people. Many other cities have been built next to great bodies of water—Seattle and Puget Sound, New York and its harbor, Chicago and Lake Michigan. But I can’t think of any other U.S. city that has a large body of water like San Francisco Bay as its core geographic feature. That is, after all, why the region is called the Bay Area and why we named this magazine Bay Nature. It’s not that we cover only San Francisco Bay; it’s that the region is defined by this feature.

But cover it we certainly have and do, because one of the best antidotes for taking the Bay for granted is to learn more about it. In our January 2001 inaugural issue we introduced the topic of wetlands restoration—the ambitious effort to bring back some of the lost 150,000 acres of shoreline marshes that once nurtured so much life in and on the Bay. In this issue we head back to the shoreline to see how we’ve been doing at nursing our taken-for-granted Bay back to health. Turns out this job is going to be harder—and even more critical—than we thought: Restored wetlands might be our best defense against the rising seas brought on by climate change.

Of course, the very best antidote for taking the Bay for granted is to get out onto it. I did just that the other day, paddling out to Angel Island from Richardson Bay. I’ve made this trip many times, but each time is different because the Bay itself keeps changing with every shift and combination of wind and current and tide. The tide charts told us we could ride a gentle flood tide over to the island, but when we got out on the Bay, the water itself told us “ebb,” and we had to put our backs into it to keep from getting pushed back out toward the Gate.

Now it looks like we’re all going to have to “put our backs into it” to make our bayshore more resilient to the flood tides of climate change. The more we can learn and accomplish now, the better we’ll be a few decades down the road. As the old kayaker says, better to go with the tide than against it, and better to ride the wave than get drowned by it. Let’s not take the tides or our Bay for granted.

About the Author

From 2001-2017, David Loeb served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine, and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.

This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.

Now retired, David contributes to his Bay Nature column "Field Reports."