On December 9 I received an e-mail from Guy Oliver at the Oceanic Society, announcing the appearance of the first gray whale of the season in San Francisco Bay, a 30-foot individual sighted east of Angel Island. The news came as an emotionally uplifting exclamation point to the process of working on this issue’s article about whales in the Bay. Even if I didn’t get to see the whale myself, I got goose bumps just thinking about her (or him) surfacing in the familiar waters of Raccoon Strait.
We in the Bay Area are uniquely fortunate to live in an urban environment where we can go not so very far from our homes and see whales and coho salmon and mountain lions; redwoods, bush lupine, and valley oaks. But this privilege confers a measure of responsibility on us, to make room for these plants and creatures in the human-dominated landscape that the Bay Area has become. What is it worth to us as a society to have gray whales in our midst? Can we be good enough stewards of the Bay to ensure that it will be a safe haven for them, given our past history of dumping toxic materials in and around it?
As we work collectively to undo this legacy, there are other ways we can act individually to invite the natural world into our lives. In this issue’s special supplement on “Gardening for Wildlife,” we explore the concept of viewing backyards—however small they may be—as part of a mosaic of potential habitat for native wildlife. Learning about the soil and sunlight around your house is a great way to begin a dialogue with your neighbors, human and otherwise. From the tiny native bees pollinating coyote mint in our yards to the huge whales surfacing below the Bay Bridge, we are being presented with an opportunity—working together—to re-create a region alive with an unsurpassed variety of native plants and animals.
Speaking of working together, I have two favors to ask. We’re about to launch a short readers’ survey on our website, to find out who you are, what interests you, and what you’d like to see—or not see—in Bay Nature. This will help us shape the magazine and attract advertisers who offer what you, our readers, are most interested in. Your time and feedback are very much appreciated. My second request: Take a good look at the organizations and businesses that advertise in our pages, and you’ll see folks who are in business to promote the same values of respect for the natural world that guide Bay Nature. I’m not asking you to buy more stuff. But when you find an advertiser in these pages offering a service or product that appeals to you, please mention that you saw them here. Because they, too, are part of the growing Bay Nature community that is going to help change the way we live in this place, our shared home.
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Veteran environmental activist, writer, editor, publisher, educator, and coastal wetlands scientist Phyllis Faber has made countless contributions to the Bay Area environmental movement.